I knew the moment the tide had turned. It was 15 hours into my first XCOM: Enemy Unknown campaign, and I’d just outfitted my squad’s psychic soldier with psi armour. I’d only discovered Major Tom’s latent mindbending abilities a few missions before, but he’d already proved himself a devastating anti-alien defence in the field. Kitted out in this gear, he was near unstoppable.
Earlier in the game, I’d hung back. I’d waited it out, luring aliens into laser crossfire, overlapping vision cones and overwatch orders, patiently, eventually clearing out XCOM’s alien infestations. Now, I could sprint psychic Tom out into the open, call out those unknown enemies in droves, and melt their puny brains. I revelled in it. I started talking at the screen. “You think you can run, you horrible bug? I’ll make you eat your friends. I’ll make you stand in the open, rip your disgusting body open with hot plasma. I’ll make you die. I’ll make all of you die.” Then I’d start cackling.
I’d invented a fiction. My soldiers were my action figures, I’d made them run and hide and shoot and watch their friends die, and I imbued them with the heroism and pathos of those events. Graham Smith had been impetuous and aggressive. He died when he strayed too close to a burning – later exploding – car. Owen Hill, once carefree and cheerful, was calcified by his death. He became a dead-eye sniper, silent and stoic, and able to lance a Muton through the eyes with a snapshot from half a map away.
Marsh Davies was relentlessly helpful. My team medic never missed a mission, and reinvigorated everyone else when their resolve slipped or their blood drained out. He never once panicked. Richard Cobbett was insane: a close-range monster, he’d hurtle into combat, heavy alloy cannon acting as far-future shotgun and drawing enemies out for easy shooting. He somehow survived the entire campaign.
Until the turning point, I imagined my women and men daunted by the task of saving humanity. After, with the psychic in their midst, I imagined them standing in XCOM’s home base, grinning. They had it in the bag. They were too powerful, too well-equipped, knew too much about their enemy. Enemy known, now.
I’d led them all the way, but I didn’t feel like it was my victory. It was theirs as much as mine. These action figures were alive. XCOM: Enemy Unknown seduces players with attachment, making you know and care for your soldiers. When they die, a tiny part of me dies. Sometimes they live. I love it when they live. Without that attachment, XCOM is merely a mechanically superb turn-based strategy game that I’d suggest everyone plays. With it, XCOM elevates itself even further, forging player memories that’ll live as long as you play and care about games.
At the end of each year we hand out awards to honor the experiences that live in our best memories of the preceding months—the games that moved us with their ambition, quality, and pioneering spirit. None of the decisions are ever easy, and there's no secret formula: we pit opinion against opinion with straightforward, old-fashioned arguing until one winner is left standing in the GOTY battle cage. Look below for the first landmark of that exciting week-long debate: a list of our eligible winners in 11 categories, including Game of the Year.
Beyond recognizing what games we loved most this year, though, it’s crucial to call attention to a truth that connects them all: PC gaming is exploding. Our hobby is many-tentacled and unbridled—practically every niche, genre, and business model mutated in a meaningful way this year. Two shooters built on new, PC-only technology released (PlanetSide 2 and Natural Selection 2). Dota 2 grew into its adolescence. League of Legends’ Season 2 Championship drew an audience of 8.2 million—the most ever for an eSports event. Modders resurrected content that was thought to be lost. So many remakes and spiritual successors to old school PC games got crowdfunded that we're sure we’d miss some if we tried to list them all.
That said, the following list marks the peaks of this mountainous year, and you'll find out which games won in the next issue of PC Gamer, and here on the web soon.
Dota 2 Dishonored Mass Effect 3 PlanetSide 2 The Walking Dead Tribes: Ascend XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Crusader Kings II FTL: Faster Than Light Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Guild Wars 2 PlanetSide 2 Rift: Storm Legion World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition Diablo III Mass Effect 3 Torchlight II
Borderlands 2 Dishonored Far Cry 3 Max Payne 3 Spec Ops: The Line
Spaceborn mega-RTS Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion has just released its 1.1 patch. The update adds a massive amount of changes, including over forty new maps. No that was not a typo, I really meant forty, four-zero. Given the average length of a Sins game, I estimate the time it would take you to learn all these new maps as slightly longer than than the lifespan of the universe.
Many of the new maps are balanced for competitive play, meaning that resources and starting locations are mirrored, making sure no-one has an unfair advantage. Perhaps Sins is attempting to become the world's slowest e-sport? I can imagine it as the test match cricket of the internet world, where tournaments take two weeks to complete and the audience spends most of their time having a nice picnic.
There's also big changes to the role of corvettes, who had previously found themselves as a ship without a role. Now they're immune to many of the nasty effects that the enormous Titan class ships can deploy, turning them into the game's designated giant killers. Now instead of responding to a Titan with one of your own, you'll be able to send a fleet of plucky corvettes to pop a torpedo down its exhaust pipe, making guarding your biggest vessels far more important.
You can find the full patch notes on the Sins of a Solar Empire forums. If you don't yet own the game, you can find out why you should in our Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion review.
Stardock Entertainment and Ironclad Games are happy to announce v1.1 for Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. This latest update adds dozens of new maps, balance changes and bug fixes as noted below. Version 1.1 is save game compatible with the previous v1.041.
[ Gameplay ]
New Maps! We've added dozens of new maps, including competitive multiplayer variants which normalize resources, militia and other factors (thanks to Pbhead and GoaFan77 for these). New maps include: The Art of War Competitive Battle Lines / Battle Lines Competitive Blitz / Blitz Competitive Close Encounters Competitive Crystal Storm / Crystal Storm Competitive Double Cross Competitive Empires at War Foreign Invasion Competitive Fractured Lands / Fractured Lands Competitive Gemini / Gemini Competitive Hostile Orbits / Hostile Orbits Competitive Kabel Competitive Maelstrom Competitive Melting Point Competitive New Dawn / New Dawn Competitive Pandemonium Competitive Quick Strike Competitive Random - Huge Multi-Star Competitive Random - Huge Ring Competitive Random - Huge Single-Star Competitive Random - Large Multi-Star Competitive Random - Large Single-Star Competitive Random - Medium Competitive Random - Mini / Random - Mini Competitive Random - Small Competitive Random - Vast / Random - Vast Competitive Razor's Edge Competitive Storm Front Competitive Tempest Competitive The Void Triple Entente Competitive Twin Empires Competitive Typhoon Competitive Unstable Alliance Competitive Whirlwind Competitive All corvettes are now unaffected by most harmful Titan abilitiesExceptions are Explosive Shot, which will still knockback corvettes in the AoE, and The Maw, which will still potentially draw in corvettes in the AoE (but won't specifically target them). Ships should no longer try to use abilities on invulnerable targets. Corvettes will no longer be explicitly targeted by Cleansing Brilliance or Reverie abilities (but may still be affected by them). Corvettes are no longer affected by Magnetic Clouds. Adjusted relationship bonuses per Pact with allies to grant a 0.2 Diplomatic Actions bonus per unique Pact (to a maximum of 2.4). Adjusted relationship penalties per Pact with enemies to grant a -0.5 Diplomatic Actions penalty per unique Pact (to a maximum of -6.0). TEC Loyalists Titan: Can now cast Group Shield on itself. Titan: Increased started HP from 5400 to 5500; increased starting Armor from 11 to 12. TEC Rebels Titan: AutoCannon damage increased from 110.5 to 121.52; Missile damage increased from 127.5 to 140.25. Advent (General) Deliverance Engine Balance Changes: Cannonshell speed increased from 12000 to 36000 (moving at the speed of thought!). Culture Spread effect increased from 5 to 15. The 25% damage buff to Advent player owned ships will now affect incoming ships as well as those already in the gravity well when the shot hits. Deliverance Engine shots will now reduce an enemy planet's Allegiance by 10% (stacks 3 times). Advent Loyalists Global Unity now adds a 5% bonus to max. planet allegiance in addition to its other effects. Advent Rebels Wail of the Sacrificed has been changed to affect all adjacent planets, ships and structures regardless of ownership. Titan: Chastic Burst antimatter cost increased from 70 to 80; cooldown increased from 20 to 30. Titan: Side Beam damage reduced from 130 to 117. Fixed Expulsion tech to properly give its 20% culture spread bonus. Vasari Loyalists Titan: The Maw will no longer explicitly target corvettes (though they may still be affected if caught in the ability AoE). Titan: Increased the cooldown on The Maw from 175 to 210. Titan: Starting HP increased from 4802 to 5042; HP per level decreased from 459 to 436; starting Shields increased from 2567 to 2696; Shields per level decreased from 533 to 507. Vasari Rebels Titan: HP per level increased from 405 to 445; Shields per level increased from 529 to 582; Armor per level increased from 0.58 to 0.64. Rebel Starbases will now suffer from additional debuffs after a phase jump: Passive shield regeneration is decreased by 50%, Armor is reduced by 1.5 and weapon damage received is increased by 25%. Negative effects after phase jumping a Starbase now stack 3 times; debuff duration of all effects increased to 600 seconds from 60. Armor Restoration technology bonus reduced from +25% HP / +5 Armor to +15% HP / +3 Armor. Pirates Ships spawned from bounty raids made less random and weaker earlier in the game. Pirate raids spawned via Diplomatic mission costs adjusted for revised raid levels above (i.e., much cheaper). [ Misc. ]
Fixed reported null pointer crash related to buff spawning (thanks ezeltje299). Fixed reported null check on first spawner buffs (thanks ateague1987). Fixed broken Pirate Exterminator Steam Achievement. Fixed broken Outstanding Resume Steam Achievement. Steam Cloud Saves re-enabled and should now work as intended in multiplayer games. Checksum detection added on multiplayer saves to validate that saves aren't corrupted. Fixed Pact related crash that would occur if a player had more than six unique Pacts established. Fixed null pointer crash related to Wail of the Sacrificed. [ Modding ]
Added new icons to Galaxy Forge for competitive map types.
Stardock has released an update for the popular The Political Machine 2012. The Political Machine 2012 allows players to hit the virtual campaign trail by creating your own custom candidate or choosing from a variety of candidates, such as Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton or Ron Paul.
This update brings new issues into the game based upon recent political events.
Firing Big Bird
Arming Syrian Rebels (new issue corresponding to broader middle east crisis)
Obama's charisma stat lowered from 9 to 8 (based on debate performance)
Chik-fi-let issue now has lower national importance