Saturday, January 30, 2010

For Freedom! - Two Great Classic Game Deals at Steam!

Freedom Force: Freedom Pack

Freedom Force, the light-hearted real time tactical game based around Silver Age style super heroes, is on sale this weekend on Valve's excellent Steam service. Right now, you can get the Freedom Force: Freedom Pack, containing both the original Freedom Force and Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich for only $2. Such a low price for two excellent classics of the PC gaming genre is a real deal.

For those who have never played any of the Freedom Force series, this would be a perfect chance to get into it. The game stars a cast of heroes and villains reminiscent of what was known as the "Silver Age" of comic books which is defined as being the era between 1956 and around 1970. As such, they are over-the-top and bombastic in the most endearing ways. Perhaps the best example is the main character, Minuteman, a patriotic themed hero who wears a tricorn hat and belts out slogans about freedom and justice. Add in abilities with names like "Strike for Freedom" and "National Defense" to create an awesome retro feel.

The gameplay itself involves controlling a small group of individual super heroes from a zoomable isometric perspective. While the action takes place in real time, the game can be paused at any time to issue orders - something which becomes essential when there is more than one character in the team. Each super hero is colorful and features their own set of powers and weaknesses. The powers and traits are upgradeable through an point system, adding an RPG element to the game. Due to the varied strengths and weaknesses, each character has their own set of tactics to work with and the chemistry of your team becomes an important planning factor in each mission.

From a Catholic perspective, I have to say that I like the light tone and heroic theme of Freedom Force. I definitely enjoy some dark games - such as Bioshock or Resident Evil 5. However, it is good for the heart to get something light sometimes. Freedom Force definitely fits the bill there.

X-Com Complete Pack

Also on sale at Steam for the ridiculously low price of $2, one of the great legendary games of the PC genre - X-Com: UFO Defense - along with a collection of four other games of that series. Serious PC gamers will likely have least heard of this title from ye olde days of DOS games. Well, if you have played it before and you want to play it again, here is your chance. And if you have never played it, then I think that you owe it to yourself to check this out.

X-Com: UFO defense (originally X-Com: Enemy Unknown) is a turn-based tactical game released in 1994. As the name implies, the game involves fighting against an alien force. Aliens are making the first moves towards invading Earth and you are placed at the head of an international military organization known as X-Com, tasked with defending against the new threat. You begin with a base, a team of soldiers, interceptor fighters, a transport, and international funding. From there, how things proceed is up to you.

The game takes place on two levels. X-Com is commanded globally from a rotating globe map. The player oversees operations such as base construction, research and development, personnel, supply and equipment, and, of course, defense. UFO's appear at regular intervals across the globe. Depending upon radar coverage, which is part of base building, the player can detect these intrusions and attempt to intercept the ships. There are also cases in which the aliens actually land and must then be dealt with. Eventually, the player will have to deal with alien terror attacks, alien bases, and attacks on X-Com bases by the aliens as well.

It should be noted that speedy and efficient defense is crucial. The world's leaders will become upset if the aliens get away with too much in their territories. If they see X-Com as ineffective, then they will decrease funding or, worse, sign a pact the enemy.

The missions themselves involve turn based tactical from an isometric view. Once a team has landed, they are controlled by the player one by one, with the amount of action each can take determined by an action point system. Each team member may be armed with a variety of weapons, including heavy weapons and grenades. In the beginning, the X-Com forces are heavily outgunned. But, with time, captured weapons allow for the use of more advanced technology.

While the graphics and sound are quite primitive by today's standards, they still serve to create the eerie atmosphere which sucked me in the first time I played. There is a certain tension created when you have first landed and look upon the landscape of the mission map, then obscured by fog of war. Somewhere, in that darkness, aliens await your brave team of commandos. Life and death will depend upon sound tactics and careful planning. Around each corner, a hostile might be encountered.

Indeed, I would venture to say that the minimalistic nature of the game with its old technology perhaps adds to the creepier aspects of the game. There's something about that pc speaker style music which has its own effect. Even if someone were to offer me a remade version of the game with better effects, I do not think I would want to replace this original version.

Additional details tying the missions to the overall strategy game elements include a robust research system. If the player captures alien equipment or even live aliens (using stun devices), then they can research them. This is crucial to success, as it can lead to better technology and more information on the nature of the enemy. Not only that, but it adds just that much more flavor and enjoyment to the experience.

X-Com has a certain heroic feel to it which I think is a good thing to experience in a game. It features bravery, honor, and duty in the struggle against the invading forces. Even though your soldiers are not fleshed out characters in any way, you can easily begin to think of them as brave defenders of the innocent in your fight against the alien menace. I always hated to see one of the soldiers die and would always do whatever I could to ensure the survival each member of the team.

Turn based tactical games are not very common these days. However, there will always be a place in the hearts of many gamers for this tense, thoughtful style of play. X-Com is a part of gaming history and its place is well-deserved.

God be with you,

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