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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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A to Z – U is for U2.

U2 –

I have talked about U2 a lot before on my blog, they have been an almost constant in my life since I first heard Elevation in the back of my dads car while on holiday in 2001, I of course fell in ‘love’ with Bono and his voice and as it turns out his large nose too haha.

I have had a lot of criticism with my loving of this band, everyone I have known has talked to me in disgust about them and how snobby they are, telling us to donate when they sit in mansions.. and while I agree, these people often don’t see the side of them that shows how much they do for people.

I managed to meet many friends through the bands many fan websites back when the internet was more than just social media and some big money making scheme, I did manage to meet one of these wonderful people and got to see the band live together back in 2005 which I talk about here

Some girls had popstars, I had a bunch of rock stars with large egos, and I honestly don’t regret one bit learning and loving this band, who have kept me sane during bad times and helped me connect with thousands of people across the globe.

until next time

Mummy Cat

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14

A to Z – T is for Teen Mom.

Teen Mom –

Who doesn’t like a bit of trashy television, and to be fair, since the start of the Teen Mon franchise the series has gotten a lot more trashier as it’s gone along.

Teen Mom is a spin off from the MTV series 16 and Pregnant which follows the lives of four young mums as they deal with parenting and life… in the beginning of the show it was sort of realistic, struggles of employment and college but as the years have gone on it’s just become a ‘who can spent the most money’ show..

More babies have been added and plenty of drama to boot but why do people like watching it? For me I really don’t know haha.

And because they are on our screens all the super mums come out and share unwanted advice and hatred towards these mums.. no ones perfect and if these lot make a mistake hundreds of thousands of people are watching and judging!

Personally I couldn’t do that, it’s bad enough being on twitter!!

But I do love seeing the children grow up and become brilliant little people.

Until next time

Mummy Cat

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A to Z – S is for Social Media

Social Media –

Not a day goes by so I see someone complaining about social media, my mum for an example hates it and I can see why she does, she doesn’t agree with ‘sharing your life’ but I don’t think she understands that you don’t need to share everything you do online.

I use Facebook for family members who I don’t see often, it’s easier to share photos of the kids to their great nan on Facebook than it is just waiting until we see her.

With twitter I talk to new friends who I’ve found through blogging, some of who I hope to one day meet and talk in person with

And of course Instagram, which is full of inspiration, who doesn’t like Instagram?

Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit younger than her, I’ve been using the net for most of my life and I remember a time before social media and honestly nothing has changed, besides from the fact you couldn’t randomly tweet that celeb you sets your trousers on fire, I do sort of miss a time before social media, everything seemed less stressful and carefree..

….apart from the mad time of being in someone’s ‘top 10’ on MySpace…

But without social media, I would probably feel very lonely, which considering how everyone used to view the internet back ‘in the day’ isn’t a sad thing, I’m grateful for all my friends who I’ve made through the bright little electronic gadget in my pocket.

Until next time

Mummy Cat

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A to Z – R is for Rainbows

Rainbows –

They mean so many different things to many people, but to me they mean two things, one being ‘Over the rainbow’ from the film Wizard of Oz, 

I would watch that film whenever I had a chance  at my nanny’s house, she would always watch the beginning but never the end having needed to get up and go get dinner ready. When she died the family was stuck on a song to have at her funeral so I suggested Over The Rainbow and it stuck.

It took us all a very long time before we could listen to that song again but now we don’t feel sad hearing it.

A is my rainbow baby, I don’t often call her that but that’s what she is, before we conceived her we had a positive pregnancy test, not sure how far along I was but within the week of finding out about that pregnancy, I lost it and I later found out I had suffered a chemical pregnancy which is a lot more common than people think.. the next month A was conceived so really any sadness I felt from the loss was gone and I continued with my pregnancy with her.

I honestly don’t call her it, but she was a rainbow after a storm and if I’m honest it made me realise how fragile pregnancy can be.

Until next time

Mummy Cat.

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A to Z – Q is for Q and A.

Q and A –

Honestly with Q I didn’t know what to talk about, so i decided it would be a fun idea to do a Q and A instead, so I asked people on twitter if they would like to ask me some questions and here are a few of them..

  1. What is your favorite children’s show to put on for the kids Dinotrux, its a Netflix original that Mr S put on the once and the kids have been addicted to it ever since, its a pretty good show that covers that teamwork is sometimes best and that never judge someone if they look big and scary, you never know they might turn out to be the best friend you’ve ever had.
  2. Which show would you wish had never been made? – Topsy and Tim, I hate that show with a passion and its more annoying that the children love it, sometimes we avoid the t.v when its on so I don’t have to put up with being made to watch it.
  3. Whats the best tip you’d give to a new parent? – I have three, 1 is to get a routine in when you feel its time to do one, children LOVE routines and schedules and it really helps with getting a good bedtime down. 2 is to go with your instincts, if something feels wrong, make sure you are heard and 3 is probably never take anyone’s advice, each child is different and its hard to say ‘do this do that’ when sometimes it doesn’t work out that way :P.
  4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? – I’m a bit boring, to much of a homebody but I would love to travel to Wales and the east coast of England.
  5. Why did you start blogging? – I have always had a blog, it was on LiveJournal many many moons ago and I wanted to start it up again after reading a few mum bloggers, I said it was purely out of boredom but I think now I just really love doing it and I love having the routine of getting posts written and photographs taken.
  6. What is your favorite t.v show? – The X – Files, this one was really hard to choose as I have so many favorites haha
  7. Pineapple on pizza? – No! that shouldn’t be a thing! sorry!!
  8. what is your favorite candle scent? – I found it last Christmas, a little too late as I found it in the sales but Yankie Candle Candy Cane Forest! its minty and so lovely! I have stocked up this year haha, its just so good!
  9. what is your favorite flavor of tea? – Once again I am a bore, I love English Breakfast, Tesco does a lovely Finest range of the tea that I get a lot.
  10. where is your favorite place to visit? – A few minutes from our flat is this lovely little wood, in the spring its full of bluebells, in the summer its all dark and cool and of course in the autumn and winter its a bit muddy, but its literally my favorite place to go for walks and the children love it too!

bluebells

and that’s it, thank you to all those who asked me some questions to answer, I honestly wasn’t expecting to get any replies!

Until next time

Mummy Cat

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A to Z – P is for 5 Year Plan

5 year plan –

In five years time, I will be 36 years old.. I will be a mother to an almost teenager and probably a have another baby by then, here are my plans that I hope to achieve in these next five years..

  1. Go back to collage – I have been looking at doing a photography course for a while now, I love taking photos and I would honestly love to expand to a causal to something a little more.
  2. Get a job – I have been out of work for a while now, since I had my first child in 2010 and a part of me wants to get back into the job market and bring some money into our house and hopefully help towards..
  3. Owning our own home – we are council tenants, and its okay, its not great but I would love to one day, hopefully in the next five years to have our own home.
  4. Earn from my blog – when I started my blog, I never wanted to earn from it, it is and will probably continue being a hobby more than anything, but it is a little dream of many that one day have my blog earn me some pennies.
  5. Overcome my fears – there’s a huge difference with facing a fear and actually over coming it all, for example I went to Birmingham to meet some ladies but it required me to get onto a train, after doing that I realized I am afraid of the tracks and not the train itself and while my mother keeps trying to push a train again,I don’t want to get back on one any time soon.. I honestly would love one day to join Mr S in one of his events that he goes to for his site (and actually take photos for his social media as hes useless at that)

and that’s it, nothing great but I can see a few of them achievable, however the sheer thought of hopping back onto a train still makes my stomach drop..

One day eh?

Until next time

Mummy Cat.