Thursday, October 11, 2012

X-COM Enemy Unknown: Cracks In The Armor, or Calm Down, It's Not That Good

I often find myself wading against the sea of common thought and/or behavior.X-Com released to many a great review (too lazy to link) and I agree with most of them. It's a good game but it has some very, very maddening design flaws and bugs which are 'bugging' me very early into the game. For the record I am a fan of the original, and no, I'm NOT disappointed it's not a clone. I like a fresh take on old games and enjoy modern graphics. In any case, here it is in brief, mostly to get it off my chest, as it were:

1. No inventory

This is ridiculous for a squad-level turn-based strategy game. Unforgivable really. I get that maybe the developers didn't want; you blowing everything up since the game is a cover-based offering, but come on. It's up to the player, not the designer what they blow up and the constant war against me using grenades is maddening (both in inventory and the annoying b**ch from research who continually tells me to stop blowing things up......piss off Research Nerd, unless you want to come out to the battlefield and take care of things). It's no just that you are limited to a single grenade per soldier (two for some with advanced skills later on) its the whole idea that you can only put one item in your backpack (which doesn't seem exist as it isn't visible).

So I can carry a scope for my rifle OR a grenade because why exactly? Shouldn't the scope be, um, oh I don't know...on the fucking rifle? And the first extra protective armor you can make gets put, you guessed it, in your backpack.

One extra item per soldier is stupid, and thanks for giving me unlimited Frag grenades. It's kind of like teasing  really: Hey you, look at all these grenades, oh, no, can't have more than one!

2. You can't carry your mates.

What ever happened to 'No man left behind?' Since the dawn of armies men have been risking their lives, and dying, while attempting to get wounded comrades off the battlefield  Not so in the future, it appears, because although you can stabilize a wounded mate if you can't revive they are left to die if you have to run out on a mission. Once, long ago (4 years ago) I was training to join the Army (long story- I never actually did). I had never ran before in my life but I knew it would be a major part of my life from then on. One of the motivation techniques I used when my legs were weak, and I was out of breath and ready to give in was to think that within 6 months I could be in a war zone. Someones life could literally depend on me being able to carry them to safety, and so I would force out another mile for the sake of that unknown soldier I may have to save.

Here we are in X-Com and that whole idea is thrown out the window. Here you go, mate, all patched up, but sorry I'm just gonna leave you here to get captured and probed by the aliens. Ta ta!

3. Bugs aren't just from space.

I never, ever forgive a AAA title with a price tag of $50 or above developed by a major studio for glaringly obvious and repetitive bugs. These should have been found in the testing stage or did Firaxis cut that department. Glitchy graphics when trying to rotate around the battlefield, especially when buildings/roofs are involved, soldiers animations firing through walls, and my favorite, soldiers facing backwards but shooting forward in some scenes. Nice touch.

4. The base is built.

Why start me with the first floor of a base? I want to design my own and make use of the proximity bonus' thank you very much. Oh, and while I'm on about customization why not let me choose more details about the soldiers? Home town, starting weapon, that sort of thing- I know eventually we will all be sporting alien lazer cannons but at the start why not let soldiers come geared up with country specific weapons and armor instead of 'sniper rifle' and 'assault rifle'.

5. Can you say console?

I know it's hip for PC gamers to complain that games made for consoles aren't as good, but if the shoe fits...... It's glaringly obvious that this game was made for consoles and many great features that could have seen the light of day in a PC game are not included. Can't we all just get along? What about compromise? Balls to that. I have a PC, not an Xbox so I don't give a shit about making it console friendly.

6. The game feels dumbed down.

All in all it feels like the game has been dumbed down. The hard levels are hard, not because the AI is better, but (it seems) that aliens do more damage, hit more, and are more aggressive in attacking (on Classic mode anyway). Aliens still tend to stay put until you 'discover them' and then they come at you. Till then they seems to be immobile even if a squad of their green-skinned buddies is getting slaughtered in the next room. Maybe that changes on Impossible level. Don't get me wrong, you will lose a lot of guys, but if you stay in a group, and move together instead of worrying about the entire map, you will find you succeed more often.

You can also change difficulty levels mid-mission. I know "Ironman" is a personal choice, but if you select this mode of play should you be given the option (which I have done in my current Normal Ironman game) to lower the difficulty level in a hard mission? I still lost my whole team, though, due to the aforementioned attempt to cover all my flanks instead of sticking together.

That's it, rant over. You'd think I'd give up in disgust but I am still playing and, generally liking, the game so far. Why bitch then? Well, hopefully some of the bugs can get patched and who knows...maybe an expansion pack could change a few things. Either way I like to complain...I'm a blogger after all!

This may make me take a closer look at Xenonauts, however, for a more faithful re-creation of the X-Com feel.

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