I woke up early this morning, feeling decidedly unlike P-Diddy, and poked around on the internet for a while. I was surprised to find wonderful news regarding the X-Com franchise: A new game is coming out, and it’s going to be a lot like X-Com: Enemy Unknown. I’m not talking about The Bureau: X-Com Declassified; I haven’t played it yet and from the reviews I need to wait until it goes on sale. If you think I’m wrong, tell me in the comments section. Anyways, back to the new game: Currently titled X-Com: Enemy Within, the previews boast a new mechanized class for the X-Com troops and a slew of new upgrades, enemies and weapons. In my head, I immediately had to rearrange my “Charlie’s Top 5 Most Anticipated Games” list:
1) X-Com: Enemy Within
2) State of Decay (For PC, I refuse to buy a HD for my X-Box just for this game)
3) South Park: The Stick of Truth
4) Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix
5) Dragon Age: Inquisition
Are these games going to be the best ever? Maybe, but I think with only one Next Gen title on the list it is safe to say that my excitement is based on chronological proximity as much as any perceptions about quality.
What this new X-Com news got me thinking about is the turn-based tactical gameplay of Enemy Unknown and how the simple feature of being able to name my soldiers meant the world to me. It wasn’t just John and Jane Doe out there fighting aliens, and I wouldn’t give a crap if some generic “Larry Smith” guy took a few plasma rounds to the face. It was THE Sergeant Lance Bass and his fellow operative Lieutenant Joey “Bulldog” Fatone taking point for their squad against an alien threat, taking orders from their commanding officer, Colonel Charlie “Ghost” Mike. Anytime I had a doubt as to who would win the skirmish, I would sing “It’s gonna be me” as I waved bye bye bye to the charred remains of the alien scum (When nobody was around, I called them the Backstreet Boys).
The lame plot in X-Com: Enemy Unknown serves as an explanation as to why you were getting better gear and the enemies were getting stronger, and not much else. Despite the flaws in the storytelling ability of developer Firaxis I had plenty of tales to tell regarding my squad, the men we lost, the battles we won and the glorious final victory against the Backstreet Boys (when people are around, I call them the Alien Scum).
When a game gives you the opportunity to tell your own story, it can become a very special experience. For me, it’s like playing with toys when I was young: my version of the characters didn’t exactly represent the version I was shown in books, television or movies. My Lego characters had to constantly endure their arch-nemesis, who took the form of an evil die-cast Batman twice their size. Matter of fact, the only toys that DID get used the way they were portrayed in their source material was the Jurassic Park playset and the dinosaurs that came with it. The added twist was that, unbeknownst to the G.I. Joes in charge of maintaining the facility, there was a DinoBot with evil intentions inconspicuously living amongst the dinosaurs. Ahh, those were the days…
When a game allows me to similarly create my own characters, and doesn’t impede on the creative process with an overbearing amount of story and cutscenes, I am extremely excited to play that game. Think of it as the difference between the Bauldur’s Gate series and the Icewind Dale series. Bauldur’s gate is known for the well-presented story, intricately interesting companions and a fun tactical turn-based combat system. Icewind Dale is known for having a lackluster story, a totally customizable party of six, and a fun tactical turn-based combat system. Most people sing the praises of Bauldur’s Gate, often calling it the best RPG ever made. Those same people will tell you that Icewind Dale doesn’t match up, and I disagree. The stories that my characters endure, while subjective to the non-invasive overall arch that serves as the reason you are fighting all of these bad guys to begin with, are much more personal and valuable to me than anything Bauldur’s Gate had to offer. By no means am I trying to demean the storytelling in Bauldur’s Gate, but I am saying that I feel a lot less involved when most of the elements of the story are chosen for me.
I wonder why more games don’t allow for some creative investment on the player’s part, and I have decided that the reason behind it must be “Not all gamers are creative.” So this whole standpoint might just be me…though I bet you that there are a ton of MMORPG players that would subscribe to having more creative control over their characters and the stories they become involved in.
What’s the point behind this piece? Do I intend on changing the video game world? Am I waging war against games that have stories? Am I a total hypocrite for saying I like these types of games when my “Top 5 Most Anticipated List” has games in it that will spoon-feed me my experience rather than let me decide it for myself? None of the above, good sir or madam. I’m just leaving some Brain Droppings on the carpet for you to see.
Remember: Use the comments section; it doesn’t bite. Tell your own tales, say hello, give me your top 5 anticipated games list, whatever. Just damn use the damn comments section, dammit!