So With The drought of January coming to a close, the true new year for gaming is about to begin, but before going into detail about all the things 2014 has to offer, I’d like to take a moment to remember the games of 2013. Now everyone knows that Call of Duty and Battlefield always do well, and GTA was probably the biggest title and most definitely the most anticipated game launched in 2013, the games that stood out for me personally were a little bit different.     First of all, I’d like to mention another highly anticipated game of 2013, which has recently been relaunched for PS4 and XBox One just last Friday, marking the end of the January Drought that tends to occur every year after the explosion of Christmas. Of course, the game I am talking about is Tomb Raider.   Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is an origin story, going back to the days before Lara had her amazing reputation, series of wild and supernatural encounters, and was still very much closed off to both the wonders and horrors that mankind had to offer. Starting with an expedition into a region, notoriously worse then even the Bermuda triangle, in search of a lost civilisation, the ship gets wrecked and Lara wakes up alone on fierce yet spectacular island. Parts of the ship and other vessels are scattered about and you are immediately plunged in to the typical Lara Croft style expeditions we have all come to love, wall climbing, mountain scaling and hanging over hundred foot drops on precariously placed aircrafts dangling in vines and scraping against rocks. You immediately get this amazing feel for the game, as the creators took extra care to show the struggles and pains Lara experiences in great detail, with every step, swing and slip. I can see why the game was hurried to the new platforms as the graphical capabilities will take an already beautiful game to a whole new level. I was one of the first players of Tomb Raider when it came out last year, and I had to say that I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was impressed by the action, visualisation, imagery and story, as well as the immaculate detail into how Lara’s movements and feelings were portrayed, and how fluid the opening to the game was. However, the game starts with a strong survival style gameplay, hunting for food, gathering tools, weapons and whatever you may need to build your first camp, elements I loved greatly, only to find out that you never need to do any of these things again. As the game develops and Lara sets off to find out more about the island, its current inhabitants, and the remainder of her crew, she only uses her hunting skills to gain combat experience and generic “construction credits” that are used to upgrade her weapons or get new equipment. I was really looking forward to having to hunt for food, build camps across each level to act as a base of operations until moving on to the next region, and find specific tools and materials (components) for different weapons and purposes, but that whole element shown at the beginning is gone, and I was really disappointed. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still a great game, and third on my list of releases last year, but would have easily been first if they had taken the time to add these features into an essential part of the gameplay, and I just hope that it was being saved for the sequel.     Next on my list isn’t really a game, but a DLC, but the DLC was so large, adding so much more content, story and game features, that I had to put it on my list as an entire game entity in its own right. The original release was my number one for 2012, and though it’s completely different from the Creative Genius concept “United They Stand” playing this game has inspired me greatly in ways to add depth and feeling to areas previously overlooked. The game I am referring to here is XCom: Enemy Within.   Like the original launch of XCom: Enemy Unknown, released in Autumn 2012, this is a turn based strategy game covering the first implementation of the “XCom” project. An organisation built through a collaboration of many countries and their resources, to be able to combat global threats that the nations alone could not handle. XCom starts when alien encounters and abductions begin to occur world wide, and your elite team of soldiers is sent to investigate. After defeating the enemy and returning to base, you are given options to research the alien bodies recovered, weapons fragments, or advance your already existing facilities and equipment. As the game progresses, you are put under more pressure from each nation to insure that the alien activity is suppressed, while simultaneously trying to keep up with your technological advancements, before your own resources run out. Enemy within brings several new elements into the XCOM universe. Rather then adding new content to the end of the already brilliant story, you can play from the beginning with these new features implemented across the game, every step of the way. Without giving away too much, I’d state that a new threat is involved, another human organisation that is piggy-backing the alien invasion, assuming that the war will be won, they intend to be the sole organisation to come out on top, using the new technology to advance their own agenda’s, with XCom the only other organisation on par with them, they quickly begin targeting you to weaken your efforts. Encounters with them exist in many ways throughout the game, on top of your alien encounters, and you must further split your thin resources to fight a war on two fronts. In addition to the new threat, the ability to harvest alien DNA and technological applications and use them on your own soldiers are added. “Meld” is a new alien element discovered, that allows you to incorporate alien abilities or technology (one or the other) directly into your soldiers. Upgrading a soldier like this can be expensive, but very worth it. The ability to sense alien presence, even when they are invisible (yes, invisible enemies are just one other new element), is one of the first I unlock on every play through, while having at least one mech trooper to serve as a tank and portable cover, saves me on missions where the going gets tough and you just need to blast your way through. I could go on for hours talking about XCOM: Enemy Within, but I would destroy the game for anyone who hadn’t played it yet, and I still would not have covered anything, so I will just summarise with this statement. If you like ANY kind of strategy game, from Final Fantasy Tactics, to Battlefield, you must give this game a go. Don’t even bother with Enemy Unknown, just jump straight into Enemy Within, since you get all the best parts of the previous, but so much more in the latter.  

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