Sunday, 27 April 2014

Android: Netrunner #23: Fear and Loathing

I've fallen behind again. Two data packs to catch up on and a big box on the horizon! You know how this works by now - here are my picks from Fear and Loathing.


It’s a lot of money to install and I’ve found that once your Infiltrations and Satellite Uplinks have gone, the Corp can ride this out, but it is great fun to play and if you can get this out early its affect can be crippling for your opponent. Get into those servers when you have the chance though because Blackguard’s window of effectiveness is quite small.
This card has been been causing some serious damage in my local meta. If the Runner finds the Corp with a bunch of unrezzed Ice and at least one Bad Publicity, Blackmail is going to sale right through.
Trying to get that Ice rezzed in whatever way they can and getting rid of bad publicity where possible is the Corp’s only defences. This is a major card that will see a lot of play.
Pairing this with Alpha (the exact same breaker but for use on the outermost piece of Ice), Alpha/Omega decks could be a big thing at some point if the Runner can get around the cost.
In the short term though, I think this will mostly find its place with Kit. As her ability is to change the first Ice encountered to a Code Gate, once she has this and a decoder out, she's going to be away to the races, forcing the Corp to have 3 deep Ice.


GRNDL: Power Unleashed
10 credits to start the game is massive. Assuming you get an economy card in your opening turn too, it means you can rez some serious Ice for the Runner to face plant into. You’ll want to dump that bad publicity as soon as you can though or Blackmail is going to be all over you.
GRNDL Refinery
This card works great in Jinteki where the Runner may not take on a twice advanced card, thinking it’s a trap. Rez this on your next turn and advance twice more and you have 16 credits.
Wonderful Jinteki mind games. Have this over R&D, take a look at the top card - whatever it is you could leave it there and then the Runner may well just jack out if he thinks it's a trap. And of course, if is an agenda, you have the option of sending it to the bottom of your deck where he can't get it. But then you're probably not getting it either!

Coming soon - my highlights from Double Time, the final pack in the Spin cycle.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

What's yours is mine - Review: Thief

Rather aptly, Thief snuck up on me. I wasn’t following its production beyond a cursory knowledge of its development at Eidos Montreal.

Just before its release, however, I saw the video below and it immediately became a day one purchase. Stealth, amazing visuals and the ability to tackle each mission in a variety of ways - this looked right up my street, despite never having played a Thief game before.

When the game released, the reviews were decidedly mixed. Some complained about the controls and the lack of a jump button. Many derided the story and more still pointed out the lack of freedom compared to the previous games in the series.

I didn’t find the controls a problem at all and perhaps because I’d never played Thief or Thief II, my initial few hours with the game were good ones. No-one can deny how good the game looks and even though the environments rarely change to a great degree, the lighting and atmosphere of the game remains compelling.

As Thief progressed, however, things started to niggle at me. Unless I was being particularly unimaginative, I couldn’t see a variety of ways of navigating the area or completing the missions. The game seemed to funnel me in the direction it wanted me to go.
To be fair, if it hadn’t, I saw little reason to stray from the beaten track anyway. While “The City” of Thief had the feel of Dishonoured’s Dunwall, it lacked the latter’s detail and rich background.

It became apparent that the story was complete bobbins too, when I realised I wasn’t following it at all. Even now, having completed the game, I still have no idea what it was all about. Nevertheless, Thief wasn’t a write-off for me. I loved the visuals and enjoyed sneaking around, stealing trinkets and finding ways to distract guards. Ultimately though, the game failed to truly deliver on its promises. 

Without the ability to replay missions from the main menu, Thief’s longevity is dead in the water; but the game as a whole isn’t a complete waste of time if you can pick it up cheap. I suspect many will have traded this game in on completion and with the lacklustre reviews, you’ll probably be able to get it at a steal - rather aptly.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Android: Netrunner #22: The Chronos Protocol

The Chronos Protocol Internation Tour landed on the doorstep of Patriot Games Sheffield on 12th April and what a turn out it was. 51 players crammed into the venue making for a long but fun day of hard fought Netrunner. Here are the decks I took with me and how they did:


Andromeda: Dispossessed Ristie

Events (24)
Indexing*** x1
Sattelite Uplink x3
Inside Job x3
Easy Mark x3
Special Order x3
Running Interference x1
Infiltration x3
Sure Gamble x3
Dirty Laundry x1
Forged Activation Orders x3

Hardware (4)
Plascrete Carapace x1
Blackguard x3

Program (7)
Garotte x1
Gordian Blade*** x1
Deus X* x1
Corroder** x1
Snitch x1
Crescentus x1
Faerie x1

Resource (10)
Armitage Codebusting x1
Same Old Thing x1
Decoy x2
Mr. Li x2
Liberated Account** x3
Kati Jones x1

Total Cards: 45
Influence: 15

My second tournament with this Blackguard deck, but I’ve made a few changes. With 3 Special Orders I decided to risk taking out my spare copies of Corroder and Gordian Blade. This freed up 5 influence which I spent on a third Liberated Account and a single Indexing. I felt this surprise addition could prove it’s worth if I could use it early before Jackson Howard spoiled the fun.

Raymond Flint and Bank Job have been taken out and replaced with 2 Decoys. In the last tournament I was Scorched twice so I was going in prepared this time.
Finally, I added a Same Old Thing for a late game Satellite Uplink, Infiltration or Inside Job.

So how did it fair on the day?
I think I only got Blackguard out twice and by that time the Corp had all the Ice he wanted or was too rich to care.
In round 2, the Corp didn’t Ice up R&D and with Indexing in my starting hand, I decided to forgo the normal Andromeda 4-card opening and instead played Sure Gamble and then Indexing on the second click. This grabbed me an agenda and a Same Old Thing later in the game brought Indexing out again for another. Sadly, I still couldn’t bring it home.

In the game I did win as the Runner, it wasn’t anything special. I managed to pull two agendas from R&D in the first two turns and then a winning agenda from archives in the fourth turn after an Accelerated Beta Test for the Corp had failed to produce any Ice and dumped three cards.

Tournament MVP
Indexing. The late addition proved to be a nice surprise that nabbed me two agendas. 


Jinteki – Replicating Perfection

Agenda (11)
Clone Retirement x2
Gila Hands Arcology x1
Priority Requisition x1
Executive Retreat x1
False Lead x1
Corporate War x1
Braintrust x1
Nisei MK II x2
Fetal AI x1

Asset (12)
Shock x3
GRNDL Refinery** x1
Cerebral Overwriter** x1
PAD Campaign x1
Melange Mining Corp x2
Project Junebug x1
Snare x3

Ice (19)
Yagura x1
Eli 1.0* x1
Chum x1
Ichi 1.0** x2
Wall of Static x3
Chimera x3
Wall of Thorns x1
Hourglass** x1
Enigma x3
Neural Katana x3

Operation (7)
Precognition x1
Scorched Earth**** x1
Subliminal Messaging x1
Trick of Light x1
Hedge Fund x3

Total Cards: 49
Total Influence: 15
Total Agenda Points: 20

After the last tournament I added Subliminal Messaging, two 5-for-3 agendas and GRNDL Refinery for some money making goodness. Shock is in there now to tax the Runner on archive runs and - get this - a single Scorched Earth. If I was really thinking about flatlining the Runner I’d put more copies of False Lead in there, hoping for a Snare tag on click two and forfeit the agenda to take away the last two clicks; but instead the Scorched Earth was there as a cautionary deterant should the Runner come across it in HQ or R&D. And if the Runner was floating tags, well, the Scorched Earth would be waiting.

The deck worked out ok, flatlining the Runner on a Snare and sealing my win in round 3. But the real moment of the tournament for me came in round 4. I’d already lost as the Runner and several Account Siphons later, I was really struggling as the Corp. My opponent had pulled 6 points worth of agendas from R&D and it was just a matter of time. Except he wasn’t getting rid of his tags and had at least 6 of them.
Finally, the stars aligned. The Runner had 2 cards in hand and nothing on the table to protect him. I had just one credit to my name. Mandatory draw: Scorched Earth.
Click - Click - Boom.

Tournament MVP
Shock and Snare worked hard, but I have to give this to Scorched Earth. Just the one appearance, but it put a smile on my face. 


Blackguard is fun to play and I think I have a strong deck. If I don’t get Blackguard out I can use Infiltration and Satellite Uplink to check the Ice or servers before running, but the problem is committing to one of those plans early on rather than trying to keep my options open. Blackguard feels powerful, but a good Corp player can work around it. It’s time to try something new.

I’ve played Jinteki for the last three tournaments and had great fun with some success. With Honour and Profit just around the corner, I’m sure I’ll be back soon, but for now I feel like a change.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Call it when ready - Review: Titanfall

Some games ride in on a wave of hype and crash full on in our faces, trumpets sounding and champagne falling from the sky. Think Bioshock Infinite, Gears of War, any Grand Theft Auto.
Others they ride that wave in and it dribbles to a halt on the shores of disappointment - Look up Brink.

Titanfall lands with a resounding thump firmly in the former category. When its fast paced, epic moment filled gameplay was first revealed it became apparent we had something big on our hands and Microsoft’s exclusive deal on it was a potential game changer. This game would sell the Xbox One and they knew it.

Of course the PS4 camp took to the Internet and put the game down at every opportunity, decrying its lack of 1080p - the element by which all games should now be judged apparently. It all smacked of simple jealousy and there’s no doubt that when Titanfall 2 arrives on their system their tune will change.

But the haters’ efforts were all, inevitably, for nothing as Titanfall landed to fanfare and sold consoles by the shed load.

But is it any good?

Well the short answer is yes. A slightly longer one would be God yes.

The gameplay is fast, smooth and looks the business. But above all else - thanks to the variation between fighting on foot as a pilot or in the massive hulking machines of the titans - the game is just plain fun. Serious fun. The wall running mechanic for the pilots is a thing of beauty that has you navigating the environment in new and inventive ways not even seen in Halo.

Once you reach a certain level in multiplayer you will unlock the use of Burn Cards. These are earned after each game and you can use them for various effects like a longer lasting tactical ability, an improved version of your primary weapon or a reduced build time for your titan. 
While the Burn Cards are lost as soon as you die, you’ll find them to be surprisingly tactical and you’ll be saving particular ones for particular game modes.

The game modes vary from Attrition - your basic team deathmatch - through Capture the Flag and Hardpoint Domintion to the titan-only mash-up, Last Titan Standing.

The game encourages epic moments and feats of outlandish action and with the wallrunning, jumping and the calling in of titans you are given the tools to carry them out.

But is it all sunshine and rainbows?

There aren’t a great deal of customisation options for your character and not many weapons to choose from. In fact the gun you get at the start, you may well find you’re still using at the end. My main criticism of the game though lies with the campaign - or lack thereof.

Titanfall is an online-only game and the campaign consists of a series of multiplayer matches with a few events occurring on the maps or a bit of talking bookending the matches. I’d like to comment on the story, but without the cut-scenes and character development (however slim) that we are used to in games like Battlefield and Gears; the story of Titanfall becomes an incoherent afterthought. 
Winning these campaign matches means nothing at all and you are never punished, nor does the story change if you lose. The campaign marches on regardless.

If it wasn’t for auto-disconnects due to inactivity, a mate had it spot on when he said you could join the campaign, go and do something else for an hour, come back to the console and you’ll have completed it.

It says so much for how great a multiplayer experience this game is then that we can overlook such a lacklustre effort on the campaign. If you have an Xbox One or a PC that can run it, Titanfall is a must buy. It may well have changed the multiplayer arena. And if you’re still on the last generation, the word is the Xbox 360 version of the game is just as much fun.

Titanfall - It isn’t perfect, but it’s close. And it puts a titan-sized smile on your face.