Heroes of City 31

The road to acceptance is long and paved with insurgents.

Chimera Squad may be formed of aliens and humans alike, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have the best interests of City 31 at heart. Even Torque. Under that scaly exterior is a heart of gold which desires nothing more than affirmation through unrelenting savagery. But, regardless of their reasons, these brave agents vowed to protect City 31 and they’ll do just that. XCOM: Chimera Squad is a wonderfully exciting departure from usual strategy mechanics, that foregoes dozens of highly trained soldiers for a handful of individually talented agents. Each brimming with a charming personality.

Each more capable than ten regular soldiers.

Through a time-based approach you’ll need to complete missions and situations alike to earn myriad rewards. Or visit the Scavenger Market when available to buy the rarest upgrades. Or assign agents to Spec Ops to influence how City 31 develops, and to quell the growing unrest in the city.

When not doing that you’ll also be training agents, researching new projects, and wishing you had more credits than you actually do. Besides the eight (mostly) randomly generated agents, you’ll also be able to purchase two androids. Each can replace an agent if they’re critically wounded in an encounter, however, unlike agents who recover at the end of a mission, androids are destroyed upon taking lethal damage. So be sure to look after them. The aforementioned will take place during the main campaign which spans three branching investigations, each affording new enemies and steadily increasing difficulty. Making the best use of each passing day is instrumental to your success but so incredibly difficult to do at times. When everything is a critical mission- which is the critical mission crucial to my success?

Rather than destroy it, we should modify it and ride it into battle. Just a thought.

My only (minor) criticism is that the main campaign progresses too quickly. I’m not sure if it was because ninety-three days had passed, but it rendered the rewards from the last investigation, those of The Progeny for me, completely useless as I couldn’t research the projects in the Assembly. I didn’t have enough days left. This could become annoying when you consider the overwhelming number of scars that my agents had received, but it didn’t adversely affect me. I just felt slightly rushed towards the end, and would’ve preferred having a few more days to finish things off.

Not that the time-based nature wasn’t explicitly stated from the beginning.

However, it is slightly disappointing having rewards that can’t be earned. But maybe there’s a limit to the overall campaign length. Maybe ninety-three days is that limit. Maybe that’s the long term trade off for delaying earlier campaign missions for greater rewards. I can’t really say for certain.

XCOM: Chimera Squad is still an incredibly engaging strategy experience, though. It just feels counter-intuitive to rush into things when you’re accustomed to taking your time. Breaching presented a unique approach to missions which allowed you to fire the first shots, and utilise unique equipment to gain an advantage. Most agents also had unique abilities available when breaching, such as Claymore, who could destroy a wall akin to a Breaching Charge, but would also surprise all enemies during that breach. Not that I’d feel any differently about that situation. Seeing a burly man with a shotgun blowing a hole in my wall would inspire many things in me, mostly confusion as to what was going on. That said, I can easily recommend XCOM: Chimera Squad to any who have enjoyed the modern instalments in the XCOM series.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Endlessly Spawning Reinforcements

The challenge we crave.

Just as we crave the delicious genetically modified sausage-y taste of NotDogs, which are fun for the whole Chimera Squad. I could see Cherub throwing a few sausages on the grill when this all over. While Verge telepathically tastes burgers, and Claymore brings a curry along for some reason. He’s my kind of guy. Promotional jingles aside, I’d been looking forward to experiencing XCOM: Chimera Squad and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a fresh approach to familiar mechanics. Exchanging unit classes (and generated soldiers) for specialised agents, and allowing aliens to join the fight.

Their individuality makes it difficult to decide who to take on a mission.

Claymore, Godmother, Terminal, and Torque is one of my preferred compositions. But Verge is an appealing substitute for Torque. They both occupy a similar role (for me) by controlling enemies. Verge is better at controlling multiple enemies at once, but is less defensive and much squishier.

Torque is able to dodge more effectively and can spit poison at groups of enemies, but can only control one enemy at a time. But she’s able to completely remove that enemy from the encounter. Whereas Verge can stun for multiple turns- and can stun multiple enemies- but isn’t as effective at removing enemies from encounters. Torque is definitely better suited to organic enemies, too. Given that poison doesn’t affect robotic enemies. Which could also be said for Verge as he can’t control robotic enemies, but he can affect enemies that Torque can’t. Claymore does have (explosive) crowd control, but I prefer unleashing a barrage of explosives instead. Especially once we acquired plasma grenades. Terminal likes to Safeguard. She’s neat. While Godmother usually subdues multiple enemies (with a shotgun) by utilising Scattershot.

I’m not sure how I’d feel if I looked outside my window and saw this…

Thankfully, you’re only able to allocate four agents (out of eight) to a mission. So you’ll always be plagued by indecision. Those who aren’t on a mission will remain at headquarters and attend to various duties, such as researching new technology or training to unlock their latent abilities. Everything is strictly time-based and you won’t be able to grind endless missions for constant rewards. You can stall for a few days but no longer than that. This reinforces the sense of urgency present throughout the main campaign, and encourages you to adapt to new situations as they arise.

As an agent will inevitably be unavailable when you need them.

Verge has spent an absurd amount of time being treated for various scars. Godmother, too. But Claymore, who has taken more damage than either of them, and who usually soaks up bullets like an insane meat sponge, has remained unscathed. Not that I want to lose Claymore for two days.

XCOM: Chimera Squad certainly introduces numerous new mechanics and is as self-contained as its nature would suggest. I doubt that we’ll see these mechanics as they are in a sequel to XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the developers incorporate something similar but better suited to a longer experience. Breaching works incredibly well when missions are segmented into multiple encounters. But it’s unlikely that it would work as well when missions are more complex and take longer to complete. Which is not to suggest that it couldn’t work, just that it needs to be implemented properly. I’d love to see unit classes with the individuality of these agents. Self-sufficient and capable of working alone, but equally as capable at working alongside others, allowing you to utilise truly diverse synergies.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Last of the Medjay

He who swore to protect all of Egypt.

Devastated by overwhelming grief and unrelenting in his vengeance, our remorseful protagonist, Bayek, tenaciously hunts those responsible for the death of his son. Once the proud Medjay of Siwa, now the unyielding protector of the oppressed throughout Egypt, he remains noble in his intentions despite bloodying the sands. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is an extraordinarily satisfying narrative-driven RPG, which is experienced through the breathtaking scenery of ancient Egypt in an ever-evolving open world. You’ll find outposts to infiltrate, caves to explore, tombs to raid, and dozens of snakes in jars.

Snakes in jars that wait endlessly with no nourishment.

Snakes in jars that require someone to actually smash the jar before they can be released. Yet, somehow, innocent bystanders manage to be bitten (and killed) by these snakes. There are many mysteries- the Papyrus Puzzles and Myths of the Pharaohs- but this is the greatest mystery of all.

Mysteries of the snakes aside, Assassin’s Creed: Origins has been a truly magnificent experience. I never grew of tired of exploring Egypt and I spent over a hundred hours doing so. Even when exploring the Sinai and Thebes during The Hidden Ones and The Curse of the Pharaohs, respectively. With the latter being a perfectly executed supernatural excursion, allowing you to venture into the afterlife and face the newly-risen Pharaohs. They were challenging boss encounters, too. I could have easily been defeated were I to make a mistake while fighting them, despite being Lvl 55 and having fully upgraded legendary equipment. That’s not something I’ve said about many RPGs. Especially when fully upgrading Bayek takes considerable effort, as Carbon Crystals and Shards of the Star are not exactly easy to acquire.

The Pharaohs have been roused from their eternal rest.

The Hidden Ones also reintroduces numerous characters from the main campaign which creates excellent continuity. Rather than being an entirely unrelated expedition, travelling to the Sinai builds on the character traits exhibited by Bayek prior to this point. Weaving more tales into his rich tapestry of human experiences. I had wondered if certain characters wouldn’t make an appearance if you hadn’t met them prior to starting to the DLC, but I doubt that they would (or could) as each character holds a certain significance in the story to follow. Which wouldn’t be as engrossing were they to be replaced.

Regardless, they’re both among the best DLC that I’ve ever played.

I’ve written before of the absurd attention to detail present in the world and the interactions with other characters are no exception. Seeing how certain characters develop throughout the story is as fascinating as exploring any tomb, and seeing how Bayek responds to that is just as fascinating.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Assassin’s Creed: Origins but I couldn’t have imagined that it would be as astounding as this. You could tell that the developers were passionate about their creation, and that they were intending to create a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Perhaps not just with Assassin’s Creed: Origins but with the entire Assassin’s Creed series. While I enjoyed much of the experience The Curse of the Pharaohs was definitely my favourite DLC, and it makes me more hopeful for the prominently featured mythological beasts of Assasin’s Creed: Odyssey. But I’m also excited to be exploring the colourful locales of ancient Greece. If you enjoy deeply engaging RPGs with meaningful character development then I can’t recommend Assassin’s Creed: Origins highly enough. It really is something special.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Creativity (Or The Lack Thereof) (Pt. 1)

How things were and hopefully will be again.

I’d originally intended for Moggie’s Proclamations to be somewhere I could share and talk about my creative content. However, over the last eighteen months or so, the posts have (somewhat intentionally) become skewed towards gaming content. There are many reasons why I decided to take a break from creating anything new, but I hadn’t anticipated that I’d be away from it for this long. Which is entirely my fault. Regardless of the reasons that I may give and how understandable they may be, trying to attribute blame to something won’t change the widening deficit of new creative content.

I need to actually do something about it.

These posts are the beginning of that. I’ve not really got a way to casually discuss creative content as I do with gaming content in posts such as Crawling Through Dungeons. I’ve not really got a way to discuss the near-endless flow of updates to social media sites and my personal site, either.

Prior to this I would discuss any updates in a consolidated fashion through a post such as Further Integration. Which is still an appropriate approach when a number of significant updates have been completed, but when they’re minor or aesthetic updates I’m less inclined to write a whole post about them. For instance, I’ve recently updated the thumbnails for various creative content posts. I’ve also spent some time updating and standardising the layout of various pages on my personal site. I always assume that I’ll eventually write a post which I can discuss these things in, but I rarely do nowadays. Which means that some updates are never discussed. Or that they’re discussed at a point when they’re no longer relevant.

An ever-evolving conceptual approach.

These posts are not intended (nor designed) to contradict Material Studies posts. Which will still serve their original purpose of discussing works in progress or any unusual approaches that I’ve taken with different materials. Hence their name. But they could include creative content that I’ve not shared on Moggie’s Proclamations before, as this one does, and could illustrate (pun intended) my development as an artist, or highlight something that I like which doesn’t fit on my personal site. As is the purpose of this particular sketch. I’ve never been able to successfully refine the concept, but I like it.

So much so that I’ve been trying to refine it for nine years.

I’ll likely attempt it again once I’ve relearned that which I’ve forgotten in the last eighteen months. Not that I feel that I’ve regressed too far. Much of what I do seems to be habitual, which makes it difficult to forget how to do it. But that also makes it even more difficult to adjust old habits.

It is through that adjustment that I’m hoping to share pieces that better represent what I’m trying to accomplish. I’ve been thinking that I’ll need to alter the creation process with traditional pieces, as these are currently at a distinct disadvantage to digital pieces. But a lengthened process could result in more mistakes. So it’s not entirely without risk- which is understandable- as everything that you create represents who you were at the moment you created it. Lengthening that process adds unknown variables. Which could be advantageous, as it could allow for the creation of more complex pieces. But it’s a start. One that I haven’t had in the last eighteen months as my motivation waned and my technique dulled through disuse.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Having Too Much To Do

It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Artificially extending the existing content of video games to lengthen the overall experience is nothing new, and seems to be increasingly prevalent in some modern releases. But it doesn’t really add anything to the player experience. It’s not satisfying having to sit through repeated content over and over again, nor does it feel particularly engaging to continually grind to no discernible end. Having numerous mechanics to understand can be enjoyable, though. It just depends on how these are presented to players, and how natural it feels to interact with them on a regular basis.

It should never feel particularly forced.

Which it usually does. Whether it’s a tedious repeatable (or daily) quest that offers a paltry reward, or a dungeon that presents no inherent challenge but is integral to your eventual success. There are so many awful ways to do it. But there are some video games that have done it really well.

I’ve recently been playing Assassin’s Creed Origins and I’ve been continually surprised by how wonderful the overall experience is. Hundreds of question marks litter the world map signifying new cities to discover, tombs to explore, war elephants to challenge, and much more. You could also partake in gladiatorial combat in two different arenas, or race for glory in the Hippodrome. Not to mention there’s a compelling main campaign to follow. Something I need to remind myself of when I’m working through the absurd amount of content that there is. Yet I’ve not once abandoned an optional objective because I’ve grown tired of it. It’s slightly ludicrous how enthralling I find exploring the vast sands of Egypt to be. I also can’t wait to sail to Thebes and experience the majesty of the otherworldly The Curse of the Pharaohs DLC.

Found a bowling alley. Never leaving.

Yakuza 0 is another outstanding example of this. There were so many things you could do as either protagonist besides the two substantial minor campaigns, all of which would contribute in some meaningful way to their character development. There were also far too many mini-games to learn. I didn’t even attempt the majority of the optional challenges, as I likely would’ve spent hundreds of hours doing so. I know that I spent far longer in the bowling alleys than I should have done. I even acquired a chicken that helped me conquer the Kamurocho Real Estate Royale.

They certainly didn’t cluck up their job.

There are many other excellent examples of this. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, Disco Elysium, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order to name but a few. It’s so refreshing to have single player experiences which aren’t mindlessly lacklustre, featuring compelling main campaigns and optional objectives.

Most of the aforementioned video games have interesting and ever-expanding open worlds to explore, too. Which seems to be something that I’m drawn to nowadays. I’m not sure if that’s a conscious decision as I’ve had many good experiences with them recently, or whether it’s a mere coincidence and doesn’t influence me in any way before purchase. But whichever it is I don’t mind. I’m just glad that single player experiences haven’t entirely disappeared in modern releases. Not that I’m entirely opposed to co-operative experiences, as I’ve got quite a history with MMORPGs which are inherently co-operative. But single player experiences shouldn’t need to suffer (or disappear) because of those. Both can exist independently of one and other, and each provides their own benefits and drawbacks to their respective genres.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie