It's no secret that I'm a sucker for these kinds of city-building strategy games. Or however you want to define them. I absolutely adored Cities Skylines. I played a ton of Planet Coaster. I just really get hooked on these kinds of games.
After reading some solid reviews of Islanders, I couldn't resist downloading it for $5. But after a week or so of playing, I couldn't shake the feeling that this felt like a mobile game I just happened to be playing on console.
Now that's not a knock, exactly. Earlier this year I played Mini Metro for many hours. And I thought it was great. That game was sort of the epitome of mobile-game-on-console. But it was really, really good.
Meanwhile, Islanders felt pretty shallow to me.
Whereas Mini Metro took the concept of a huge time-sink like Railroad Tycoon and condensed into a satisfying arcade experience, Islanders fails big time. Mini Metro tasked you with starting small and building outward until your train system just couldn't keep up. Islanders on the other hand gives you small goals to achieve, AND the ability to outgrow your island, thus starting with a clean slate.
This sort of breaks the experience for me. I'm not asked to think all that far ahead, because I know that eventually I'll be able to ditch the island I've congested and have a fresh start on a new island. So it becomes a game of just kind of doing good-enough, which doesn't really suck me in.
It's certainly possible that I'd enjoy this game more if I hadn't already played better alternatives. But there's the above-mentioned lack of complexity, along with the fact that the game really doesn't feel all that great to play with a controller. Everything feels really imprecise. It's an odd example where touch controls would truly benefit the experience - made even more glaring when I'm playing it on a tablet via Remote Play.
I will say that the audio is surprisingly good. There's some great atmosphere that comes through with the birds chirping and the low key music. Though, it does - once again - make me think of the soothing white noise that your citizens make in Cities Skylines. So once more, I'm left thinking about another, better game.
A couple weeks ago I realized that I really missed my Xbox One. My wife and I went to this huge neighborhood-wide yard sale, and I kept stumbling across cheap Xbox stuff. So I grabbed some and kind of got the bug. I've been gaming on my Switch for the past couple years since my daughter was born. It's easy, and portable. But I don't know. All of a sudden I really missed my Xbox.
I started thinking about it. The Blu-Ray player in our living room broke. An Xbox One would remedy that. Remote Play has been extended to Android devices, so I could run it on my Chromebook or phone. And games are dirt cheap. I mean, the Nintendo tax is no joke. $60 Switch games are like half the price... or less.
Of course it turns out this global chip shortage doesn't just affect current gen consoles. No. Finding an Xbox One console at Best Buy or Gamestop is impossible right now. So I lurked eBay, threw down some bids and found myself in easy possession of a new (old) Xbox One console, along with eight games. Plus the ones I found at the yard sale.
And yet, I wanted a legitimately new game. Something that would remind me of what I had been missing out on in the couple of years I was without an Xbox. And then I remembered that I'm a HUGE fan of the Alien franchise. And there's a new Aliens game. So here we are.
I've been playing Fireteam Elite all week and I have a lot of thoughts on it. It's not really a good game, honestly. But I have a lot of thoughts.
As a total Alien geek, there was zero chance that I wanted to miss out on this one. The last proper game in the series was Alien Isolation which is a bonafide masterpiece. That game completely nails the vibe of the first film. It's about ONE xenomorph. One unstoppable and perfect killing machine. It's a horrifying experience.
For some strange reason, Fireteam Elite is basically a sequel to Colonial Marines. They're just not going to tell you that because Colonial Marines is a game that lives in infamy. In fairness, I think CM is a way better game than it's given credit for. I mean, it was linear. It treated Xenos like popcorn. It was glitchy as hell. But overall, it was a fun experience.
Fireteam Elite I can't really say the same about.
Oddly, all the complaints about CM apply here. It's as if the developer took nothing from Isolation. It's super linear. Like, it's just "hey, here's a waypoint. Get there. Hold ground. Repeat." And Xenos - my goodness, they are in constant supply. It's wave after wave of shooting these bug-like enemies. This could be any other horde based shooter, be it Left 4 Dead or Killing Floor. It doesn't really matter. They just landed on this license.
There's very little story here. And actually you're just doing a mission then returning to the hub base to up your weapons and perks and cosmetics and going on to the next. It's just a weird setup for an Alien game.
One good thing I'll say as that the settings are legit. I really appreciate the atmosphere and the fan-service of throwing in things from Covenant and Prometheus. I'm one of those obsessives who actually really likes those recent movies. Like, I'll argue that Prometheus is actually one of the top tier Alien movies. So I dig this. And it's one of the only things keeping me interested.
But the biggest hang-up for me about Fireteam Elite is the base of the game itself. This is meant to be played in co-op. More importantly 3-player squads. I have to think that if I had two friends as into Alien as I am, and more importantly friends who could share the same open windows of time to play as I do - then this game would be way better. But I don't.
As a solely single player experience, Fireteam Elite is severely lacking. You're given two faceless/nameless squad-mates. (They're actually just labelled as Alpha and Beta - my gawd). And they're dumb as rocks. They shoot stuff - mostly. But overall they're just there. There's no tactics to speak of. They don't heal you or strategize in any way. They sometimes get you up, slowly, if need be.
This game just feels like kind of a mess. I think it could be good, but not for me. And bear in mind that I'm a huge Alien apologist. I'll go to bat for the Alien franchise all day. I celebrate 4/26. I HAD to own this game. I'm glad I played it. But... it's just not very good, at least for a solo player.