Currently Playing; Monsters, Alien Worlds and Moon Missiles

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I've stopped playing Destiny, at least for the time being. My reasons are best discussed at a later date, but its absence left a sizable portion of time open for other games to fill. Now that I've finished Inquisition, I've begun playing some other recent acquisitions on a rotation. Two of these I received as gifts over the winter holiday extravaganza and the third is a limited beta for a game I've admired since my first hands on time at PAX last summer.

About a week ago I loaded the Evolve beta on the Xbox One to see how much the game had changed from the few rounds I played at PAX Prime last August. I'm happy to report that the game is still as fun as I remembered it. The different classes play in ways that feel distinct and important. Of the four hunter classes, I never felt that any of them were non-essential. Each has a vital part to play in any match be it healing the team, trapping the monster, scouting the area or dropping massive damage on the monster. Playing as the monster is an interesting experience. The first few rounds with the Goliath I felt exceedingly vulnerable, but once I got the hang of chaining attacks and abilities and how to hide properly, that trepidation disappeared. Getting the drop on the hunters is a great feeling.

The only gripe I've had with the beta so far is the balance of the campaign mode. Over the course of five matches, the hunters and the monster fight for the fate of the last colonists on the planet. The dynamic element to the missions is interesting and the overall play is solid, but the odds can quickly stack up against one side or the other. It can be really difficult to recover a victory as the monster with a bunch of turrets on the map, leading to another loss and another disadvantage in the next round. In my experience, it seemed that the side that wins the first match is likely to win the other four.

To recover from the heart-pounding experience of Evolve, I've settled into a long game of Civilization: Beyond Earth. It's enough like previous iterations of the game to feel familiar, but never so familiar that I can let my guard down. The alien wildlife is a lot more difficult to deal with than the roaming barbarians ever were, largely because no one got mad at me for killing barbarians. I slay a few hordes of xenos attacking my workers though and suddenly I have three nations jumping down my throat.

The changes to the tech tree and the addition of the three "paths" to follow add an interesting dynamic to the game. Other civ games haven't made their nations' goals and ideals too obvious in previous games, but with the harmony/supremecy/purity strategies each colony wears its intentions on its sleeve. It becomes clear who to align yourself with early on and adds another dimension to the series numerous strategies. Considering which route to go can completely change your early game decisions in risky but often interesting and beneficial ways,

Finally, I've gone back to my RTS roots with Planetary Annihilation. The spiritual successor to Total Annihilation, PA offers a distilled version of that experience; a stout and strong spirit that takes all the good things I remember from the old days and strips out the unnecessary bits. This is a boiled down RTS, built for efficiency and ruthless speed. I've got a lot to learn before I can say that I've figured it all out, but it's a challenge I welcome.