Archive for August, 2013
I played XCOM: Enemy Unknown quite a bit and (surprise) was addicted to it, so that’s the obvious hook for The Bureau, because this different perspective on the already known elements of Enemy Unknown has a high probability to appeal to all these players. It’s a franchise. A series. A bunch of loosely connected games. […] Thankfully it shares more with XCOM than just enemy models. What, at first glance, might look like nothing but another 3rd person shooter, somehow also inherited some tactical features, with which William Carter (the player character) can command his squad mates. Carter and squad mates can level up and learn several abilities (sometimes choosing one skill locks another), using those during fights works quite well and IMHO successfully adds value to the experience. I can’t say that I use the squad features in most games, all too often I just charge into battle and do everything myself and just ignore the AI characters and what they might be doing (that’s how I typically played all the Mass Effect games – hardly ever ordered anyone to attack a specific target, let alone where they should take cover). In this game I actually used AND liked these options. Lucky me, because often fights can’t be won without them. It’s really designed to require these features – the squad is not a mere gimmick.
The game is set in the sixties and that def met my taste, I was also into shows like Dark Skies (don’t know how I would like it today) and seeing an untattooed Jack (with a 60s haircut :D) amused me more than something like that should (I’m pretty sure it was Courtenay Taylor, love that voice). I wondered at first if this game’s plot is to be seen as a reboot or what intent they might have had, because the attackers are clearly the same aliens as in Enemy Unknown, but EU takes place after The Bureau. I kinda decided it was taking place in an alternate universe, although it might be possible the XCOM operation in Enemy Unknown new nothing, because the evidence of earlier encounters was kept from them? But no matter, once I got into the game a bit, I immediately forgot all about that.
I liked the dynamic a lot, of doing missions and returning to the XCOM base in between, then interacting with all the folks there. I read all the notes, letters […] that were lying around and appreciated it, that those were renewed after every major mission. Said missions are started using a map in XCOM operations and are divided into 3 categories, besides the major operations, there are smaller, optional missions and even some that can be dumped upon other agents. These agents then will be unavailable for the next mission (with Carter) and return with a reward after. It does the game credit, that the minor missions are shorter than the major ones, but just as good in every other regard. It’s horrible to me, that there are players who just play the missions that are necessary to finish the game.
The story let me down a bit in some regards, some points are brought up but nothing essential happens with them, they are simply abandoned. There is this agent who can easily be counted among the most important characters in the game and it’s possible for him to die, but even if you save him, he still just vanishes and that’s it. He isn’t even mentioned anymore, let alone shows up again in the agent roster as a potential squad mate. So why did I put in all this effort to save him? There was no pay-off. I guess such things were the parts that had to be cut for some reason. The game is still big though, especially for a shooter. It took me ~17 hours to do all missions and I didn’t replay the last missions to get all the 4 possible endings (the endings too don’t care all that much about many earlier decisions – it’s no Fallout 2 epilogue, not that I expected one).
During Knife of Dunwall I still thought that these DLCs are as good as the already great Dishonored, but after The Brigmore Witches I can’t help myself but to think, that at least this one is even better. Everything that was awesome in Dishonored is still present, but now there are also elements like “favors” available before missions and Granny’s recipes, a sort of minor puzzles. The known formula wasn’t just kept alive, it was improved, refined and expanded upon. The possibilities for exploration are at an high and discoveries often feel like a noteworthy payoff. I bet I spend 4 times as much time in these levels as the developers intended. :D The amount of detail is astonishing (I love the architecture and all the art is very engaging) and the equally rich gameplay only further amplifies the experience. I really appreciate it, for one, that they still put these books everywhere. The context is much needed and really helps to make this setting work.
Despite (or because?) all the good, I’ve always seen Dishonored primarily as nifty, solid gameplay. The core story wasn’t that deep (the already mentioned books usually suggested much more elaborate stories, IMHO), “only” the immersion into the well thought out game world was. So as in Dishonored, I was a little disappointed in the ending. As soon as the gameplay stops, the DLC is pretty much over. I didn’t exactly expect big reveals or anything, but I still hoped for something (more). And, of course, nothing new on the Outsider.
Whoever liked Dishonored should absolutely play this too, they put in the same effort and quality the original game received (something that is hardly common for DLC) and it shows constantly, that these guys now know very well how to build content for this game. Going through all the DLC in my mind I’ve ever played, The Brigmore Witches is as good as it gets in this field.
This was also the last DLC for Dishonored, so there is nothing left to do until Dishonored II comes out – except maybe for playing the new Thief, something that might feel quite weird (at first), after Thief’s formula now was already revolutionized. If the coming Thief is going to stick to its predecessors all too much, it’s possible that it will be upstaged by Dishonored quite a bit. But since the vids so far are only pre-rendered stuff and no actual gameplay, it’s too early to tell.
I actually could go on about TBW, but sneaking through this world and discovering all its elements all by one’s self is, to me, what’s most fun about this game first and foremost.
We’ve all read the articles “fighting feels like shitty batman” or “although memory remixing should have been the focus, it was heavily underused” (4 times in the whole game I think)… But what I never saw, was any description that did the beauty of this game proper justice. Because that’s actually one of the major hooks of this game. Most locations just burst with incredible details and many prompted me to stop for a while, to just look around. Moving on right away feels like a crime. Their artists hardly could have done a better job. I wish I could do anything remotely similar to this. I’m reminded of Binary Domain, another game that was so stellar in the art department (amongst other things) and yet players usually had to run super-fast through all the levels. Sad!
This game would have been an ideal candidate for the type of structure a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution had. I’m talking about these hub cities, that allowed free roaming/exploration between major story missions and which featured at least some characters, players could interact with. For me, those points were the sole real letdowns of this game. The story was alright, handling too… It’s the game ending without a word about most of the characters one meets during the adventure and about whose fate nothing is revealed. This other memory hunter must have been pissed, IF she ever learned that Nilin only remixed her memory to make her believe her husband was dead (and frankly he NOW could be, because she certainly stopped paying the bills for his treatment after thinking he was gone). BUT NOTHING. I guess this is what is to be expected, if a game has to be “actiony” above all. Boring me probably would have ended the game in this bar of Nilin’s friend with them having a drink (they seemed to be on friendly terms and he should have wondered what became of Nilin).
Whatever the case may be, I’d love to play a sequel, because anything like this, with some improvements thrown in (something I somehow expect from sequels), can only result in another good (or maybe even great) game. And of course no one should miss this game because the developer might have spent less money on marketing than some others.