Archive for Games

Mass Effect 3

Posted in Games, Mass Effect with tags , on May 3, 2014 by pieman70

And so, dear Friends we come to the final part of the Mass Effect trilogy.  Many of the choices you make will have consequences here and one way or another the fate of the galaxy and the reapers will be decided once and for all.  No pressure.

As always, this article will contain Spoilers.  Avoid until you play Mass Effect 3 and also if you haven’t played the first two games.

The game follows the same format as the last two, a third person shooter with RPG elements.  The game kicks off with Shepard facing a court martial after being suspended for a period of time. I initially thought this was for joining cerberus in the previous game but it seems to be due to the events of the Mass Effect 2 DLC “Arrival” which culminates in Shepard destroying the Batarian Mass relay, and most of the system, to slow down the reaper advance.  During the court martial the reapers attack earth En Mass and, with the help of Anderson, now returned to military life apparently, Shepard escapes on the Normandy while Anderson remains to co-ordinate resistance on earth.  Your mission is to unite the races of the galaxy and find a way to defeat the reapers.  In your way are the reaper forces, mercenaries, Geth and a more aggressive and amoral Cerberus.

As always there are tweaks to the gameplay.  These are less major than previously, there is a larger selection of weapons and armour, essentially bringing back the system from the first game, however they have kept ammo types as standard which is something.  In the game there is now jumping, but it is used as an action, similar to vaulting cover, rather than an unwelcome foray into platform games that tends to happen.  There are also occasions where you can take control of turrets and mech suits.  Outside of combat the system is pretty much unchanged, Paragon and Renegade interrupts remain but I have to say I found the conversation options less ambiguous.

The scanning of planets has been altered again.  Now you enter a system and have to set off sensor “pings” to find supplies, objects and sometimes reinforcements for the galactic fleet or parts for the Crucible (A device that may defeat the reapers)  this is actually pretty tense as the reaper alertness only resets after a mission.  I found myself barrelling the Normandy through systems, pinging madly, pursued by reapers, trying to catch that last object.  It really adds to the tension and the feeling that the reapers are unstoppably marching through the galaxy.  Any player will be hard pressed not to jump every time the loud horns sound heralding reapers arriving in the system.

And so, to the most important part; the story.  This is always the strongest suit of the mass effect series and this one doesn’t disappoint.  As stated previously, the story involves Shepard trying to defeat a full on reaper invasion and liberate Earth.  To do this you have to unite the council races to commit assets to the fleet that will free earth and to the crucible project.  A prothean device that is the key to defeating the Reapers.  Through this and some side missions you will bring your crew back together and encounter all of your surviving allies from previous games.

The story can almost be split into three acts.  The first involves recruiting the Taurian fleet to your cause.  To do this you must persuade the Krogan to help the Taurians fight the reapers on their own world, and to do that the Krogan want the Genophage cured.  The second involves you intervening to stop the war between the Quarians and the Geth.  Finally you have to take the fight to Cerberus before launching the assault to re-take Earth.

Each act runs the theme of victory at a cost, be it the bittersweet cure of the genophage at the cost of Morden’s life or the freeing of the Geth and the return if the Quarians to their homeworld at the cost of Legion’s life no victory comes free.  The game does do a great job of building you up over the first two acts, between the main stories and the side missions, and despite the losses of some friends along the way you feel invincible.  You regularly achieve the impossible and you feel like an all conquering hero.  By the end of act two you feel lime you’re going to give the reapers a good thrashing.  Quickly kick the illusive man in the nuts and back home for tea and medals.  Act 3 brings this crashing down when you loose the Asarii homeworld to the reapers while searching for a prothian archive.  It really helps to take you down a peg.  It also adds to build up a villain called Kai Leng, a dark mirror of Shepard working for the Illusive man, as he is responsible for you failing to get the archive and loosing the Asari homeworld in the process.  There is also another worthwhile point before we reach the endgame.  The Reapers are hard.  They have minions which you fight normally, but when an actual reaper shows up it is properly terrifying.  You actually down 3 over the course of the game, but each is such an achievement you never feel the threat diminish.

Procrastinating from the end game a little more, I was given the choice to re- kindle your romance with Tali or Ashley (or indeed start a new one). I chose to stick with Tali and I’m bloody glad I did.  You are rewarded with some lovely moments on the Quarian homeworld and a romance plot that feels genuinely affectionate.

Also, I should mention the extra colour you pick up on as you travel around the citadel, be it an alliance soldier wanting to change assignments as her brother has joined cerberus or the salarian who finds out his new armour was bought from his friend selling her car, combine this with catching your engineers snogging below decks (not a euphemism) and the universe seems fully fleshed out.

So, to the end game, the invasion of Earth.  Starting from a lovely cut scene of the combined citadel races, plus the Geth vs the reapers you are quickly thrust into a ground assault through the streets of London.  In the middle is a short break where you catch up with everyone, featuring a touching scene with Garrus, and indeed a general feeling of the positive impact you have made in the lives of all these people.  However it was at this point I got the distinct impression old Shep wasn’t going to make it through this one.

The final mission initially continues the battle through London as your forces push towards a transport beam to the citadel, now under reaper control and in earth orbit, and being the last piece of the crucible.  This culminates in a really hectic battle as you try to defend missile launchers poised to take down the reaper guarding the transport beam.  Once downed a mad dash to the beam begins.  I took garrus and Tali with me on this.  Representing both the people who had been with me from the beginning and my in game best friend and girlfriend.  Half way along this dash through exploding vehicles Tali is hurt.  There is a heartfelt goodbye as the Normandy picks her and Garrus up for you to go on alone.  It is at this point where things take an unexpected turn and indeed where I suspect the controversial part of the ending begins.  Caught in a large explosion shep comes to burned and bruised and you take control and limp to the beam.  Yes, the end game eschews combat for talking.  I love it.  Your final confrontation with the illusive man is verbal, there is some real pathos as Anderson dies next to you and then you finally you activate the crucible and are given three options.  Destroy all artificial life, which will kill the reapers, but also wipe out the Geth, Edi and of course yourself.  Control the reapers, which will still kill you or option three use your half artificial form as a template to make all organic and artificial life part organic, part artificial.  And of course die in the process.  This was my choice, and I found the ending both hopeful and satisfying, and the memorial service on the Normandy for shep and Anderson may have made me shed a small tear.

Now, to address some of the criticism, the lack of a boss fight and your character dying, frankly get over it.  I’m sure some would have preferred an ending where you kill the reapers and waltz off to victory but I thought the direction the game took was more interesting and original, and worked better.  Second, the criticism that in a game where it stresses choices having consequences everything boils down to a choice of three endings, first what the hell did you think, that they’d programme a thousand different options for every combination of events?  For starters, we know that while choices influenced events through each game only 3 or 4 transfer between games.  Also, look at the game as a whole, your choices counted.  Was a character dead?  Who trusted you?  Just because the ending doesn’t represent every conversation tree doesn’t mean each choice was for nought.  I thought the ending wrapped up the story and left a hopeful note for the future.

So, to summarise, a barnstorming story, good gameplay, were there any issues?

Well, I wasn’t too happy with adding the complexity back into weapons, and instead of being able to keep a heavy weapon at all times those were now things you pick up at certain points but drop if you select a different gun.  Finally, a rather minor point but worth mentioning.  During the game you meet the crime lord Omega from the previous game on the citadel.  She is in hiding after Cerberus took over the Omega satellite.  You run a few missions and she says she may ask you to help when she re-takes Omega.  I wondered when this mission would appear and it never does. Turns out the Omega mission is DLC which I felt was a bit of a swizz.  I don’t mind DLC adding extra to the experience but to have a section highlighted only for it never to appear feels a bit like a cheap in game plug for DLC.

Overall though this is a fitting end to the trilogy.  The story grabs you and the gameplay entertains.  Highly recommended.  As I have said previously, I am developing an itch to re-play all three games.  I may get the DLC first and comment on the differences when I manage to do that.

Advertisements

Mass Effect 2

Posted in Geek Stuff, Mass Effect with tags , on April 17, 2014 by pieman70

Continuing my review of the Mass Effect trilogy I will now cover Mass Effect 2.

As before I will be revealing spoilers for this and the previous game.  If you have not played or finished both Mass Effect 1&2 I would advise you to go no further.

There is no real need to describe the mechanics, gameplay largely follows on from the first game with some differences I will cover later.

The game begins explosively when an alien ship attacks the Normandy, ultimately the Normandy is destroyed and Shepard is killed rescuing Joker.

Jump several years later and Shepard is revived by a militant, pro-human group called Cerberus, who were encountered as antagonists ins side missions during ME1.  The base you are being revived on is attacked and Shepard has to team up with Cerberus agents Jacob and Miranda. In this sequence there is an interesting scene where you are interviewed regarding key events of the last game.  This was to allow people who were not importing a Mass Effect save game to set up the required history for the current game and does show what decisions actually carry over.  Namely, who you romanced, Did wrex survive, who died, did you rescue the council and who you recommended as the human council member.  Basically 5 decisions.  Take note here because I will re-visit this in te next game.  Anyway, basic plot is that human colonies are being attacked by a race called The Collectors, who are abducting the colonists and vanishing.  The Alliance is not taking action and the citadel council don’t believe the near legendary collectors are involved so Cerberus are going to deal with the problem independently leading Shepard into an uneasy alliance.

More on the plot later, first I will talk about some of the gameplay tweaks.

First, the MACO tank is gone.  Planets still have to be explored for side missions and to collect resources for upgrades, but this is done from orbit.  To explore systems costs fuel and probe that have to be bought, and I couldn’t call planet scanning interesting but it is strangely addictive.  Do a mission in a system and you may find an hour slip away as you scan each and every planet near the relay.

In the main part, guns now have ammo, so clips need to be collected, but are universal for all weapons.  There is also the option for a heavy weapon, different types of which become available through the game and require separate ammo.  There is also limited melee combat.  The weapons upgrading has been massively simplified.  Ammo upgrades are now gained through your character levelling, so you can now swap in ammo types mid combat which adds a good strategic element.  The weapons now get one upgrade through the game and a second upgrade can be found on one weapon later on.  I actually preferred this, possibly because I’m not a hardcore RPG player and so hunting for the ideal combination of ammo, weapons and enhancements holds little appeal.

Finally the conversations have been tweaked a little, the wheel is still there but it isn’t always obvious which answer will be paragon and which will be renegade.  In general I like this but at times you pick an option which seems reasonable only for Shep to say something really evil on occasion causing much shouting at the screen.  There are now also paragon or renegade interrupts where a mouse click can force a paragon or renegade action which I quite enjoyed.  As always decisions made have plot consequences.

To the plot, this game is very well written.  It uses familiarity from Mass Effect to really involve you in the characters plot.  For starters each squad member has a loyalty mission, an optional quest to aid one of your team mates.  Again this helps in the final mission and nets extra upgrades.

There is also a neat bluff.  The video that runs if you leave the start screen up shows only the new characters like Jacob, Grunt etc but none of your previous crew.  You even meet Tali on your second mission but she doesn’t join.  At this point I really thought my previous team mates would only appear as characters to talk to and I would be dealing with an entirely new crew.  Accepting this I went to start gathering my new squad, first trying to find a vigilante codenamed “archangel”. As you hear more about him he sounds faintly familiar.  When I finally realised that Archangel was Garrus I took on the mission with renewed enthusiasm and finally meeting him genuinely felt like meeting an old friend.  While ultimately Garrus and Tali rejoin your crew you will meet everyone who survived and each reunion is emotional and satisfying.  The new characters develop and, partly thanks to the loyalty missions you will bond with them as well.  In fact the Loyalty missions are worth a mention in themselves.  Each character will ask you to do an additional optional mission.  In the game this makes them more likely to survive and unlocks some extras, but it works narratively as well.  You are working for Cerberus and need your crew to be loyal to you, not the organisation.  Ultimately only Garrus and Tali join your squad and there is a lovely moment on teh citadel where they joke about the long lift rides of Mass Effect and start trading banter.

Overall the game is a vast improvement on Mass Effect.  The tweaks to combat mean that gameplay is enjoyable and no longer something you tolerate to see the story.  Voice acting is of the usual quality, and the pacing works well.

As for my specific path, everyone survived the suicide mission and I destroyed the collector base.  I also preserved the geth heretics.  Finally for romance, after being dumped by Ashley for joining Cerberus there were several options.  Eventually I went for Tali.  It was odd how involved you get in the story.  Initially thinking of who I would romance with my new in game single status I was surprised when I realised Tali was an option.  It was like having a good friend who you suddenly see in a different light. Made for a much more satisfying sub-plot than the more basic romance of the original.

On DLC I actually didn’t net much but you don’t seem to miss much.  Apparently much of the DLC can be done after completing the game which Seems fair.  I do consider this run done for now but may run through all 3 with all the DLC at a later date.

So, we end on a cliffhanger with the reapers on their way we will see how Mass Effect 3 goes.

Mass Effect

Posted in Games with tags , on March 27, 2014 by pieman70

What? Two posts? Madness.

So, years after the event I finally got round to playing the Mass Effect trilogy. Did it live up to the hype? Do I now describe Garrus as my best mate and was I corrupted by the alleged wall to wall alien rumpy?

I will cover all 3 games but in individual posts, so for the moment, Mass Effect.

This post will contain Mass Effect spoilers but none for 2 & 3.

For those living in a cave, Mass Effect is a Sci-fi 3rd person shooter with RPG elements. You play Commander Shepard chasing around the galaxy in pursuit of a rogue agent who is trying to bring a race called the reapers back to the galaxy to wipe out all sentient life.

So, how was it? Mass Effect is a definite flawed gem. A distinctively average game salvaged by a decent story and interesting characters. Gameplay flaws mainly centre around repetitive side missions. The idea is many systems can be visited and their planets explored. Sometimes this can be through a specific side quest but also just by tooling around. The downside is that this ultimately means driving around a planet in your tank, occasionally encountering near identical structures. In short it gets boring. The RPG elements were a bit too hardcore for my tastes as well, each weapon can be upgraded and modified as can armour for your whole party. This means you often spend ages trying to work out which combination of weapons & mods suits.

The story however is compelling, your team builds up with likeable and fairly well rounded characters and the actual missions are entertaining and well structured. The game also uses a system where your interactions have bearing on your character, with the much vaunted paragon/renegade system. Indeed the interactions are one of the best bits of the game and I spent many hours wandering around the citadel chatting with people. Again, decent writing and a good voice cast pay dividends here.

I was slightly spoiled on ME 1. I was told one of your party died. When that mission started It managed to sell me a few dummies. The game gives you options of who to sacrifice, but it is never put as “send X to their doom” to the extent that I really thought I could save everyone and so was rather crushed when I lost a man.

Overall this is an average game built up by good writing creating investment in the characters. It also constructs a complex and textured universe full of interesting alien species that would not be out of place in a major Long running TV space opera. Weakest of the series but as we will find out in future posts the small gameplay issues are addressed in the sequels.

The Mass Effect series is as much about the journey as it is the destination. So, for those who have played, I was pretty much all Paragon. My Shep was a male, soldier war hero. I romanced Ashley, saved wrex and sacrificed. Kaiden. I chose to rescue the council in the final battle and at the time didn’t pick anyone to be the human council member.

Next Mass Effect 2

A Belated Farewell to City of Heroes

Posted in City of Heroes, Games with tags , on May 29, 2013 by pieman70

A Belated Farewell to City of Heroes.

It was near the end of last year City of Heroes closed its doors.  So I’d like to take a bit of time to look at the game which held my attention for around 6 years.  For those who didn’t know, City of Heroes was a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Game, or MMORPG based around Super-Heroes.  Initially the game only supported Heroes but eventually expanded to include Villains.  Create a character and go off to fight/commit crime.

Off the bat I will say that Villainy wasn’t all that great, however it did inadvertently give a very good reason why the myriad of baddies never sweep over the heroes, quite frankly a good chunk of your missions are in-fighting with other villainous factions.  Saying that while more raids on Paragon city would have been nice in general the Villain faction was at least as well realised as the Hero.

One of the ways City of Heroes stayed fresh was by constantly changing, while City of Villains and the later Going Rogue were bought expansions (Admittedly both were eventually merged in to the main game) subscribers could still enjoy regular “Issues” which would add in game content, from the minor, such as Power Spectrum which allowed players to change the colouring on the effects of some powers, to others that opened up  whole new mission areas and game play systems like crafting.  This was usually enough to bring people who had let accounts lapse back into the game if nothing else to check out new content.

One of the biggest shakeups was when the game went free to play under the banner of City of Heroes: Freedom.  Arguably, one of the better executed free to play systems.  While most content was available on micropayment, and features like new costumes and power sets were now bought add-ons, a VIP member (One still paying a sub) got a monthly amount of in-game money which covered most new additions, plus free VIP exclusive costumes through veteran rewards.  VIPs also got automatic access to the Going Rogue expansion.

Going Rogue was very interesting, taking place in Pretoria, what should be the “Evil” mirror universe of City of Heroes.  While undoubtedly the main heroes in Pretoria are definitely more villainous, the choices you are given are much more morally ambiguous.  While your faction choices of Loyalist and Resistance sound pretty straight forward the game included a “Power or Responsibility” arc, basically you could be a Loyalist without being evil, instead you try to keep order and help people but from within the confines of a potentially corrupt system.  Similarly a Rebel may be more like a rabid terrorist than a noble freedom fighter, not caring too much about civilian casualties.  These shades were well realised and made for interesting game play.

Similarly the alignment system released with Going Rogue allowed your Hero to act more like a Vigilante or villain less villainously and all this made the basic grind-emup game play more textured.  There were also attempts to make missions more varied and interesting than merely kill all mooks, press a button etc.

For me, while City of Heroes was definitely a grind at times the setting and feel of the game usually made up for this, plus with my altitis there were always new characters to create and new parts of the game to explore and when all else failed, new costumes to create.  In fact arguably the strongest part of the game was costume creation.  A part that was further enhanced in freedom which took away the faction binding to classes.  While most classes were similar, there were subtle and often not so subtle differences, for example a Scrapper and Stalker do the same job in a group but are pretty different beasts.  To be able to create a heroic mastermind was a real bonus.

While Star Trek Online has now filled the CoH hole in my free time I do miss roaming the streets of Paragon City fighting the various forces of evil, it was my first MMO, and while even playing STO has highlighted the flaws in COH I still have a soft spot for the game play and plotting that kept my attention all this time.

Elite Revisited

Posted in Computers, Games with tags , on July 1, 2010 by pieman70

Back in the mists of time, nearly 30 years ago, it was the 80s  Some people regard this as a golden age of video gaming, where you couldn’t sell a game on looks alone and playability was everything.  To be honest this is rose tinted glasses thinking most of the time, many games were simple, on occasion addictive but ultimately disposable, requiring far less commitment than the modern equivalent.

Elite wasn’t one of these, it was miles ahead of its time and did amazing things with the very limited resources of the BBC micro.  Elite was one of the first “sandbox” games.  The premise, you are someone with a spaceship; it has some weapons, a cargo hold and an engine, keep it flying and earn credits to buy add-ons and extras.  How you earned money, up to you, you could mine asteroids, hunt pirates, raid other ships, trade legitimately or trade in contraband.  Best of all you could switch as the mood took you, although another nice touch was that piracy and smuggling tended to get the attention of the space police which could make your life far more difficult.

After seeing a few documentaries about Elite, I decided to try and find an emulated version to play.  The Easiest to find was Elite: The New kind, seemingly a port of the PC version, featuring solid 3D shapes as opposed to the wireframes.  There is an old adage of never meeting your heroes, particularly when they’ve aged over 20 years.  Elite, I’m proud to say is not this sort of game.  Despite the lack of a premise, Goal or score beyond your credits it instantly draws you in.  Controls are simple although the keymapping of this particular version isn’t particularly intuitive and you find your hand having to shift between setting speed and firing when a better layout it could have done both.  Gameplay is repetitive, but no more than some modern MMOs, you jump to a system, fly to the planet, avoiding/fighting anyone who tries to rob you on the way, dock with the space station and take on fuel/cargo/upgrades as required.  Once you get the fuel scoop buying fuel can be replaced with skimming the sun in the system.  The look of the game, the lack of any in game music helps the atmosphere, silence as you fly towards a planet broken up by the noise of lasers if you get attacked.

I generally find I play as a trader/bounty hunter, since carrying cargo of any value attracts pirates and fighting them off can sometimes be more lucrative than the cargo run.

It is odd how you get drawn in to such a simple world, you feel genuine joy when you manage a steal on some cargo (Finding something dirt cheap somewhere and selling for huge profit) and similarly the relief when a hard fight ends and you’re left waiting for your power cells to recharge.

The funny thing is, it is truly sandbox, you can (Within the limits of what the game actually contains) do anything, where as modern sandbox games sometimes try to hold a narrative (GTA, I’m looking at you) for progress, in Elite the universe is there, you just have to spend the time exploring it.

I hear that if I like Elite I’d love EVE on line, essentially modern Elite as an MMO, and indeed I can see how well it would work as one, but I encourage any readers to give Elite a go.

Doom Revisited

Posted in Doom, Games with tags , on February 7, 2010 by pieman70

I recently found the shareware version of Doom as a flash app.  This in itself is mind boggling as I’m old enough to remember when Doom was “it” and required a decent computer and all that jazz, hells I remember playing the SNES version and being slightly disgusted by how pared back it had to be.  Now I can have it in a window while running something else, a fabulous modern age indeed.

Anyway, in its day Doom was groundbreaking which is odd, it wasn’t the first FPS, it had no look up or down and only managed a true 3D environment (compared to Wolfenstein’s flat rooms) in a graphics trick (It looked like there was an up and down but the effect was purely visual compared with later games such as Dark Forces and Duke Nukem 3D.  What Doom had was atmosphere, first the setting, initially a rather standard “Abandoned base” SF setting slowly descends into a full on gothic hell.  However this was only part of the atmosphere.  Doom used darkness and light to great effect.  Areas would be in near total darkness, or with flickering lights and often enemies would appear seemingly out of nowhere as the lights flicker on for a brief moment.  This was helped by the extra trick of hiding enemies in secret rooms, often triggered by certain switches or passing over a specific area of floor, this meant that an area previously cleared may still be dangerous later on.  Finally doom would also on occasion jump you with a small onslaught of enemies which gave a nice balance between a near survival horror experience of the one enemy in the dark and the full forces of the unread walking into your chain gun.

It’s odd to think, but Doom even had an effect on FPS weapons, it was one of the first to include the shotgun, groundbreaking at the time, hard to imagine these days not switching between machine gun and shotgun depending on the closeness of combat.

Doom was a massive success, which is odd.  Not because it wasn’t that good, it was excellent, but because I never knew anyone who had bought a copy of Doom, Seriously pirate copies were swapped in every school playground but I never saw, heard of or even heard a rumour about anyone who actually purchased a copy.  It must of happened, where did all the pirate versions come from, but I can’t fathom how it managed to be such a success with this level of illegal redistribution (Unless piracy isn’t as bad a thing as the companies selling games would have you believe eh?)

Now, this is the modern age, games are undoubtedly better looking, more cinematic and more complex, so how well does an old warhorse like doom fare in this age of motion captured 3D and near photo-realistic graphics.  It fares very well, even in a small window you quickly get sucked in and soon forget that the foes on your screen are dumb (oh, very dumb, no intelligence at all) 2D sprites occupying a 3D world, no soon you are jumping as one of these sprites appears from the dark.  Yes, you don’t need the spiffy graphics with a game as atmospheric as doom; in fact I think this is where many modern games are going wrong.  Many games seem to lead with spiffy visuals and often gameplay suffers, developers may want to consider if the game would still be fun if it looked like Doom.

So, this has wetted my appetite for more old FPSs.  Once I have my games out of boxes I may well look to playing Duke Nukem or Dark Forces under emulation, as well as hunting down Doom, hell I may even pay for it this time.

Games that Stole My Life: X-Wing

Posted in Games with tags on December 19, 2009 by pieman70

Back in the mists of time LucasArts was virtually a by-line for excellent game.  They really couldn’t go wrong and obviously Star Wars Licences were a big draw.  In 1994 they released every fan’s dream.  X-Wing, a space combat simulator that put you in the cockpit of the mighty X-Wing Starfighter.

X-Wing

The basic concept of the game is simple; you play a rebel pilot flying various missions for the rebels.  The core game contained 3 Campaigns, leading up to the Death Star mission as seen in Star Wars Episode IV, and was followed by two expansions, Imperial Pursuit, which focused on the evacuation of the Yavin Base (Just because they lost the death star doesn’t mean the empire is just going to leave it there) and B-Wing, which focused on the development of the B-Wing Starfighter and the relocation to Hoth.  These expansions were later available in a collector’s edition.

It was great, addictive fun, on top of the campaigns there were training missions which simulated real missions, or flight training where you flew down an assault course.  This meant that I spent a lot of time on X-Wing.  In fact, I never finished the B-Wing expansion (one really tricky mission) but overall it was great fun clocking up medals and the like.  These were then displayed on your Rebel uniform which could be viewed on the menu screen.

X-Wing allowed you to fly The X-Wing (All rounder), the A-Wing (Nippy interceptor) and the Y-Wing (Heavy Bomber) with the B-Wing being introduced in the B-Wing expansion.  Sadly it lacked the option to select the craft for the mission (Not really a biggie) and the weapons loadout (A bit worse); your wingmen were pretty useless as well.  Also, while there is a fanboy thrill flying the trench run, I would have actually preferred it as a training mission since it kind of made you Luke Skywalker for the mission.  I generally try and justify it by saying I was the guy who missed first, see I used my targeting computer rather than the force.  Still, a few annoying missions aside it was a great fun game.  The sequel was even better

Tie Fighter

Tie Fighter was a sequel in terms of technological advancement and release date, but didn’t technically follow on from X-Wing (This could be argued it does, as X-Wing ends prior to the battle of Hoth and Tie Fighter picks up just after) Instead it put you in the post of an Imperial pilot.  Tie Fighter was bigger, more campaigns, more ships (With expansions up to 7 compared to X-Wing’s 4) and in general a more involved story.

A notable point is that you spend very little time doing “evil”; instead you fill the empire’s general role of keeping order in the universe.  In fact an early mission has you performing customs inspections at an imperial post.  The interesting part comes from the side missions, issued by a mysterious cloaked figure which allow you to progress through the ranks of the secret order of the empire.  These uncover the imperial coups that feature prominently in the campaigns.  For fans of the expanded universe you also get to serve under Grand Admiral thrown and fly on the wing of Darth Vader.

A criticism of the game would definitely how the game develops.  It starts off being a different game to X-Wing, with the Tie-Fighters being flimsy beasts you really rely on your piloting Skills as the Tie fighter can take about 2 hits (And that first will fry half the systems) and the hardiest is the bomber (4 IIRC) but aside from the odd missions in the Assault gunboat (Which sacrifices speed and manoeuvrability for shields) and the Tie-Advanced (Much rarely deployed), you graduate on to always using some craft or the other which possesses Shields, letting the game fall into a more X-Wing like mould.  It also has a little too much love for the Missile boat but that’s a personal preference.

These don’t get in the way of what is an awesome game.

The success lead to two sequels, the first, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter was based more around Multi-Player gaming, and while it did feature a proper soundtrack (based on the CD) I really wanted (ideally and orchestral version) of Tie-Fighter’s specially created soundtrack included, sadly not to be.  By this point it was beyond my machine and while it was popular, it sacrificed story for multi-player.  However it is still played online.

Finally X-Wing Alliance, which went back to a single player focus and featured the opportunity to fly the Millennium Falcon, however it included some unpopular tweaks and failed to capture the imaginations like the predecessors did.

Still, like X-Com, if stable versions were released on Steam, I’d be very tempted to pick them up.