The End of Payday 2

So, Payday 2 got its official end.

I only got the bad/non-Secret ending myself, and am nowhere near as good a player to get the good/Secret Revealed ending. While the game turning into a ridiculous wannabe-Assassin’s Creed mish-mash of every conspiracy ever might seem bad in isolation, in context it worked as well as it could have and showed how a little earnestness can go a very long way.

I feel bittersweet. I’ve been playing Payday 2 for a very long time. It’s (a distant) second only to Command: Modern Air Naval Operations, my dream game, in terms of actual time played. I remember playing it on a computer that could barely run it at all, and then seeing the contrast when I got a better system. It’s definitely one of the most mainstream games I’ve played and enjoyed. And the music-the music is incredible.

 

Skirmish Games

So, I’ve been fascinated by small scale skirmish wargames lately. Stuff like the ones in this excellent post. Why them?

Partly because a down-and-dirty infantry firefight is what I like in a story, having also read many small-unit action stories recently. Partly because it reminds me of XCOM, Fire Emblem, and other low-unit strategy games. And partly just because I can think of the figures more as individual characters than generic units.

The latest Nintendo Direct

So, I saw the latest Nintendo Direct. A lot of it was basic announcements, with the kicker being a new Animal Crossing game and Isabelle being a playable character in Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Still no focus on Fire Emblem Three Houses. Might just be IntSys wanting to be tightlipped or the game being tough to describe in a two-minute video without being either too spoiler-y or too redundant (ie, it’s a strategy game like the other fifteen games in the series before it). Oh well.

Xenonauts

So, time to use a weird analogy where I compare alien-fighting turn-based strategy games to cars.

The original X-COM is a quirky old British sports car. Yes, it’s unreliable and the dashboard looks like it was designed for some bizarre species, but it has an undeniable feeling of fun, with the strange suspension part of the thrill.

The new XCOM is a modern performance car. Still a premium, somewhat niche product, and definitely smoothed out compared to the old classic, but keeps enough of the “feel” to be both practical and exciting.

Xenonauts, the X-COM spiritual sequel, is an econobox without power windows. It’s still a car, and it’s ultimately filling the car roles, but it’s dull and tedious.

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Xenonauts ultimately isn’t a bad game, just as how a basic point-a-to-point-b econobox that’s reliable and has good enough cargo room and mileage ultimately isn’t a bad car. But it’s just… bland. I was “spoiled” by the new XCOM using the same basic concept in a “Streamlined” fashion. This is just the original X-COM with the worst excesses polished off.

There’s two problems with this mechanical approach. The first is that enough issues remain from the old X-COM-the two worst being garbage-tier rookies and a clunky “time units” system for determining what you can do in a turn-that the gameplay experience can drag. The second is that the very polish drags away a lot of the goofy charm of the original X-COM, where you start with rookies who exist as grenade tossers and stun-rod zappers and plan to lose half of them in every fight, and end with super-psychics who never have to leave their starting positions. Instead, it’s just-bland. Harder and blander.

And the visual design has to win some kind of award for being “bland”. It’s a combination of “as close as we can get to the original X-COM without legal trouble, but without anything silly” and “generic military base”. I generally don’t care about graphics, but this was still a big issue. The only good thing is the excellent music.

It’s playable, and something true X-COM style fans can enjoy as a part of the experience. But it’s just bland.

Nintendo E3

So, I saw Nintendo’s E3 presentation. Two things of note.

-We finally have something for Fire Emblem Switch/Three Houses, which is better than nothing, even if all I’ve seen is A: The characters are surrounded by NPC soldiers, and B: The game is unsurprisingly keeping Awakening/Fates’ art style mostly the same. (I could do a whole big post on how after Awakening, FE is a victim of its own success, but that’s for another time, and I don’t want to jump the gun when the game isn’t out yet).

-The reason everyone was here. SMASH BROS! Now I’m biased for two reasons. Melee and Brawl were my childhood multiplayer games of choice, and Smash Bros. fans have a reputation for being —picky— even by the standards of other gamers. So while a part of me wanted something fundamentally different from the “focus more on past characters than new ones” they’re going for (at least at launch), I can understand it. Still. New. Smash. Bros. It looked very good.

Playing Crusader Kings II

So, I played my first full game of Crusader Kings II.

I started in the safest part of the game, aka Iceland. I spent most of it ruling a county in one half of Iceland, but sometimes grabbed the other half and ruled it as a duchy. The only military interventions were ones of my own making, save for one. The game ended when I ran out of male heirs in the early 1300s.

The game is a little clunky and overwhelming, but it was still fun and I can see why its fans like it.