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A to Z – X is for XCOM.

X IS FOR XCOM

Hello, Dann here again. Yes—I’ve managed to sneak onto Sarah’s blog again, and this time for another entry in her alphabet thing! So obviously, being me,  it’s games again (it’s always games), and today is the letter X. Coincidentally X is for XCOM, and it’s a doozy.

I’m going to be talking about XCOM and X-COM, two sides of the same intellectual property. To clarify, I mean I will be ‘cracking open a nest of vicious history spiders’.

While it’s most definitely the more recent XCOM (2012–present) games which has generated the most discernible noise for the long running franchise, and even led to a massive surge of titles inspired by it, many of the elements from the title; the unforgiving combat, and careful resource management are faithfully transmuted from the old series, X-COM, to the new. As a matter of fact, the modern series (bar War of the Chosen) is at its worst a distillation of the memorable moments from the Julian Gollop led earlier entries.

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Later in the game you can have a mass of well-equipped meat-shields, survivability remains low.

The original title in the old series, UFO: Enemy Unknown (X-COM: UFO Defence in North America) was notorious for being ultra tough. You’d start the first mission with a dozen rookies, and most of the time you’d fail to get half of those —possibly very delicately named— soldiers off of the landing craft. It was then an uphill battle in order to gain a foothold, to build bases around the world and develop a force strong enough to push back against the alien invaders.

In a gaming age when people were used to having to get the most out of the games they were purchasing, plenty of people stuck with it and grew to love both the depth and extent of the game, and the volatility of your squad line-up; Colonel Howes could be torn asunder by an errant shot, and the onus largely fell on the player (with the rest on the random number generator).

It channelled both the scorching heat of conflict—of snap decisions both successful and not—while also requiring the player to take on the chilling gaze of the architect, of the general, of the merciless commander sending a unit to sacrifice as to flush out a location and secure a win for the many, for a future, for a chance to exist for a moment longer. Losing a soldier, even a valued one, could get enough people back to base in a good enough condition to weather another week — enough time to get a new plane in the air. It was a game of trying to control a rolling snowball, and if you made the right choices and the right sacrifices, then by the midpoint you could be actively pushing ack.

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Compare the above to this, a massive, multi-generational gap.

It was hard, but by gum was it rewarding! Every successful mission was an inch crawled towards victory, every soldier lost was a hero towards defending the human race, every movement taken was formative to the future of the planet.

Then, long story short, there were almost a dozen spin-offs, through various companies, including the curious Terror from the Deep —with it’s obtuse difficulty— and Apocalypse, which was actually from the original developers, but took on a political aspect, with multiple factions at play.

This all at a time when the industry was still trying to find its feet, with new genres springing up left-right-and-center and publishers and IP-holders attempting to swing their properties towards the next big thing. It must have been unbelievably hard to sell slower paced games in a time when the core audience were imagined as sugar-guzzling teens.

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A massive jump from projected 2D sprites to animated, cinematic 3D.

So, now we come to XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Launched in 2012, the rebirth of the series was spearheaded by a small team at Firaxis—a studio under Take Two and 2K Games who were best known for working on another favourite of mine, the Civilization series.

Where X-COM had sprawling maps and over a dozen units under your command, XCOM’s maps were smaller and more dense, but at your most you could only command six soldiers in any one battle. It made for a concentrated, sharper version of the first game, removing a lot of of the micromanagement (how many missiles to take,) and streamlining the base-building by making it more of an ant farm than a conventional base-builder. Importantly though, the tension of taking rookies on missions was still there, and the game’s ability to signal that the mission is going awry with brutal misfortune is still most definitely present.

An outstanding series of extra content followed the game’s launch, each slotting into the core game’s campaign, adding extra characters and missions to the game.

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Are we human, or are we danc… robots?

Then came XCOM: Enemy Within, which launched as stand-alone, although was much more like an old-school PC expansion pack. It added in a new resource, a bunch of new enemies, weapons, items, technologies, as well as a range of cybernetic, implant and psionic options for players. Once you’ve grafted Hernandez’ head and torso into a gigantic mech frame, and implanted Fitzwilliam with all sorts of strange creations, are you not as bad as the genetics-warping aliens you are trying to fight back?

XCOM 2 launched (on PC) early last year, and saw players switched from the defence against aliens to the offence as they organised an insurgency against a (XCOM:Enemy Unknown alt-history) victorious alien-human alliance.

What with the player being on the offensive, yet severely outnumbered, and fighting as a guerilla force the gameplay took on a variety of major changes. A stealth phase was added, a melee enabled class was added to the game, and a third layer of play which revolved around moving your base around the world to establish and connect with resistance groups, was added to the game. As expected, technology had shifted too, a lot of hacking elements were added, and the way that the aliens were set to bring XCOM to an end shifted as well.

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Oh, and the ‘thin men’ of XCOM turned out to be snake lassies.

New enemies were added to attempt to counteract the common tactics of players of the previous titles; a unit which could create deadly rifts which unload weapons in one turn and detonate the next, an enemy which disguises as innocents, and a hulking mechanical brute among other things.

Small expansions, as with the first game, added further enemies (in the form of alien champions) to this, as well as deepening the already impressive character customisation options which were available.

The motherload, however, came in the form of 2017’s XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. WotC was actually what I was going to write this piece about before I got carried away with background on the series. It’s an expansion by the traditional format, and it also launched at full price, and justifiably so — it contains changes and alteration to almost every aspect of the core game, completely reinvigorating a game which had yet to go stale.

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One of the chosen. Utterly deadly unless you have full control of your squad.

WotC adds a mass of changes including a zombie-esque enemy which serves as a deadly environmental hazard during a lot of missions, three new friendly factions (which are then like classes, highly specialised classes), and the three titular Chosen. Each of the Chosen are specifically tailored to fight effectively against respective new classes, but they’ll also grow in power the longer they remain undefeated. Not only are they an increasing threat in how they modify the campaign by tweaking and altering events, but they can also appear in almost any of the game’s missions — enough to turn a rough mission into an unforgettable one.

Most importantly for me, the new content changes the game from a game where you had time to carefully plan your next movement around the world map, to one where you were regularly being dragged around the map. The first six or so missions of WotC were each introducing new mechanics, one battle ending for another to begin shortly afterwards; no time for rest, and a heavy rotation for the surviving team members. With extra characters in the cycle of the front line the expansion’s bond and tiredness mechanics come in, the latter demanding people are rested (to keep that rotation going) and the former making allies who fight together be able to perform extra abilities.

The change of pace, the added variety, and the added danger, all worked together to somehow make XCOM even better, and WotC has easily helped further validate Firaxis’ skill with the XCOM IP.

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Where XCOM was always a struggle against a —strictly sci-fi— alien menace. Phoenix Point looks set to channel the body-shock horror movement.

Meanwhile, earlier this year Julian Gollop successfully funded his spiritual successor to XCOM: Phoenix Point. A game which combines XCOM Terror from the Deep’s underwater origins of the enemy with the very curious, and scientific reality, Pandoraviruses. In his new title players will fight strange mutated creatures which cover the land in a strange fog which infects life — leading a faction in the fight back against them (an attempt to discover a cure) you must also deal with other human factions who each have their own interpretation of the aliens role and how to address their presence.

As it turns out. Now is a very good time to be a fan of squad-based strategy games.

Recommended Reading:

Julian Gollop, creator of the X-COM series, on PC Gamer talking about how XCOM is undeniably a genre of its own now:

www.pcgamer.com/the-gollop-chamber-xcom-is-now-a-genre/

Rob Covell, one of the amazing writers over on a website I help run, writing on his own blog and talking through an XCOM 2: War of the Chosen Playthrough:

https://iplayedthegame.wordpress.com/tag/xcom/

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12 Days of Blogmas – Day Two – Worthy Charities

Worthy Charities –

I am going to make this post a short one, as I honestly don’t know how to place my words, but while there are many charities out there that are important and do wonderful work, I feel that my local one needs more attention than others..

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St Clare Hospice is a local charity that provides care for people with life limiting illnesses and support to their families, founded in 1990 and has provided care for thousands of people over the years in Essex and Hertfordshire, every year they do Santa runs and a local house in the town of Harlow overly decorates their house to raise money for the local hospice.

One of the main reasons why I choose this is because of my husbands sister and the incredible care she had at the end of her life.

If you wish to donate to the St Clare Hospice then please click here

Until next time

Mummy Cat

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12 Days of Blogmas – Day One – Tree Tour.

Welcome to the first post in a series which was created by Britt at Alternatively Speaking a wonderful blogger who I have really been enjoying reading lately, the first post in this series of this fun festive series is a tour of our small but mighty Christmas tree.

All the decorations that I am going to show you are picked by my children when we went to Van Hage apart from the other bits which I selected, the lights I found on amazon and are as retro as can be, no LED’s in this house this year and of course, tinsel.. some love it and some hate it but for me, its my favorite thing and looks wonderful with my retro lights!

and on top, a red star, I tried to find a fairy or angel but all I could find was this sparkly start but I think it really goes with everything else.

 

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Until next time

Mummy Cat

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SNOW DAY!

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Saturday night we all went to bed with a big warning that tomorrow there might be snow, now the last time we had a snow warning nothing actually came of it and when I was woken up at 4 am by Robin, it was raining.. so when 6 o’clock came around the children bounced into our bedroom declaring that

‘ITS SNOWING!!!’

I did say that it was raining earlier so don’t expect it to settle.. but how wrong was I!?

Now I am sure you are all probably sick of all the snow photos by now but I couldn’t resist getting out with my Nikon and taking lots of lovely ones

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They even managed a day of school because of it!

Until next time

Mummy Cat

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Trip to Van Hage and two lost teeth.

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This weekend has been a manic busy one, On saturday the 9th the plan was to get my hair done but because Mr S was busy in London for some website related business I decided to cancel my appointment to save my mum from having to deal with my children for an hour.

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Our main plan was to go to a garden center which is called Van Hage, I remember going there as a child with my gran and just being in complete awe of the decorations, the idea was to go there, grab some tacky tinsel and allow the children to buy their own decorations for the tree.. along with some plastic ones so Robin couldn’t break anything and we decided to head back there each year and once we get a bigger place to get a bigger tree and add more hand picked decorations onto it.

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Once we found what we was after, it was time to head back home and place everything onto the tree, which I will cover in another post, but when we headed back we sat down and enjoyed some tea while the children ate their candy canes, I told Amelia to go brush her teeth after she finished hers and she came running back into the front room to scream at us that she just lost another tooth, she had lost one on Friday while at school and had complained that the second one was just as wobbly… so the tooth fairy had to hunt around for some money in a hurry, I was amazed that her top tooth fell out first but all her first teeth appeared within the week of each other as a baby and they often fall out around the same time frame after they turn a certain age..

I don’t need anymore falling out anytime soon!

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Such a joker!

We had such a lovely time, I ended my night on some chip shop chips while Mr S was late back and even had a beer, which was gross but I still had some because the situation called for something and we didn’t have much else in the house I could stomach.

It is seriously feeling a lot more like christmas now.

Until next time

Mummy Cat

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Spoon feeding – Is it a bad thing?

Those that have probably been here for a while would’ve read a few post I have made about weaning and the struggles I have had with it, at first R just wasn’t interested in food even at the 6 month recommended age to start introducing food, I don’t think she was even on solid food until she was well into 8 months..

So our weaning in general has been delayed, we started of with traditional weaning, mushed food and spoons purely because I was afraid of her choking on her food, which is fair but as she got older I decided to move into baby lead, which is basically cutting up bits of bite size pieces of food and let them get on with it.. and it was going okay for a while..

Until I took her to get weighed, now shes a tiny thing, she doesn’t weigh much at the age of 19 months old, so any weight she looses I get worried and she had lost 4 oz since last time I went along to my local health center, they did mention it and I said that she was feeding herself but because shes a child a lot of the food ends up either on her, or just the floor..

Naturally I was worried, babies aren’t really meant to loose weight, and I know shes walking and moving about,but realistically her weight should level out or gain at a slower rate, So I decided to start back at the beginning and spoon feed her, to much of her annoyance..

So far so good, She has even lost her foul mood she seemed to have developed lately so she clearly must have been hungry.

I know there has been many talks from other mothers that they feel that spoon feeding will create fussy eaters, or lack the ability to even feed themselves as they get older, but to me right now all I am worrying about is just getting her to eat her food and gain some weight back, I still let her finger eat, she has snacks and eats her breakfast on her own and of course will make a good effort in eating her yogurt after dinner, but the worry in me needed to make sure she was getting food inside her little belly.

…and I think all the white shirts are thankful for the break too!

I really don’t see any problem with spoon feeding, if it means that you know completely that something is going in and not just being thrown on the floor.. I know many will judge me for my choice in going back to helping her, she doesn’t seem to bothered by it and I am not completely feeding her, she knows how to do it herself..

It really shows how different the years have been with baby rearing and weaning, I remember with my son, which was a good 7 years ago now, that baby lead weaning wasn’t even a thing and no one told me I could try it.. roll on 8 years with a new baby and the rules have changed again.

Has anyone had any experience with switching to baby lead and noticing some weightloss? or am I worrying about nothing and should’ve let her get on with it?

Parenting is a touch little cookie!!

Until Next time

Mummy Cat

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