I’ve Been Playing – Episode 11,209

I’ve now completed the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider. I have been trying to write a piece about why it’s so disappointing and why everyone who likes it is wrong, but it turns out that it’s hard to write something like that without sounding like a pretentious wanker.

I run into that problem a lot and it doesn’t usually stop me though, so here’s a short blast of my noise.

I worked through it in four bursts of 2-3 hours each over the last couple of months, coming back to it with less enthusiasm each time. The fiddly combat sections reliably got in the way of any fun I was having exploring the island setting, while the joylessly nonsensical plot and po-faced dialogue offered up by a cast of stereotypes capably killed off any notion that the destination was going to be worth the journey. For a game praised for bringing maturity and grit to the franchise, it sure was immature and insubstantial stuff. I’d rather have Uncharted‘s campy knockabout charm or Tomb Raider: Underworld‘s focus on traversal and exploration next time, rather than a failed combination of the two.

Although it is highly recommended if you really really really like escaping from exploding buildings. Which I guess we all do in fairness.
Although it is highly recommended if you really really really like escaping from exploding buildings. Which I guess we all do in fairness.

Beyond that, I’ve been trying to finally complete XCOM: Enemy Within. Ordering a bunch of super soldiers about never truly gets boring for me, but after what is going to be my 4th run-through of new XCOM, it is starting to wear a little thin. Each playthrough veers sharply from the steep challenge found in the first half of the game, where money is tight and there aren’t enough resources to protect every country in the game from the alien menace, to a total cakewalk in the second half where your squad is tooled up with guided rocket launchers, sharpshooting snipers and telepathic warriors. The alien forces simply never adapt to your increased capabilities and, as long as you concentrate, there’s little need to evolve your tactics beyond careful scouting and solid formations.

The new XCOM is still a fine game, no doubt, but it’s not so tough to master and once you’ve done so there’s not much reason to go back to it. I feel like the truly great strategy games (er…Civ II? Chess? The game of love?) will never let you feel like you’ve truly mastered them; they should still be able to surprise you after 300 hours. New XCOM runs out of tricks in a sixth of that time.

Still, check out the rad haircut I gave this guy. Seriously.
Still, check out the rad haircut I gave this guy. Seriously.

Any other recent gaming time has been spent getting back into Mario games. I’ve re-bought Mario Galaxy and its sequel and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in. I never got to play much of Super Mario World back in 1948 when it was originally released, so I might buy a copy for my Wii on Nintendo’s online store, should such a thing exist.


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