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Putting The Bureau Away

My game development efforts remain stymied and, with them, my sense of self-validation.  Two days off may not have been enough, as I'm still not back to my jovial old self: a fellow who was only too happy to be working considering the alternative was moping around the house waiting for his support structures to drop out beneath him. I might be quite polite at work, but I'm feeling a bit surly right now.  I think it may be wise to keep my hours scaled back until I either find an acceptable home:work balance or build a better understanding of how to juggle so many needs.
I was up until 10pm last night finishing The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, just as I thought I would.  I am honestly not sure what Jim Sterling was complaining about: the Bureau was fine.  For the most part, it's a game with a great combat mechanic that not only imitates Mass Effect, but improves upon it considerably.  Sure, your NPC partners need to be babysat, but they're babysitting you, too: it's a teamwork mechanic that is no more heavy-handed than it is enriching.

At worst, perhaps the worst sticking point for The Bureau was the down time between these action sequences ran a bit long.  Walking around the secret X-Com base chatting up NPCs was not particularly entertaining because the travel time was long and what the NPCs had to tell you was usually obvious.

I thought the story was alright.  Sure, it was clique in places, but it got the job done.  It had the interesting plot twist in that (spoiler space, highlight to read:) the actual protagonist of the game you play is an ethereal, a floating energy being with tentacles that allow them to control others. You don't know this right away because the ethereal is born at the beginning of the game, when a mysterious artifact Carter is transporting explodes in a scuffle.  The ethereal (and you) then takes control of Carter, bringing him back from the brink of death (much to his confusion) and the symbiotic relationship is such that it (and you) does not know of its own existence outside of Carter until he learns of it.  Soon afterward, Carter goes AWOL, struggling to free himself from the ethereal, and this disgorges you from him controlling him.  You actually end up finishing the game with one of the other characters while Carter acts like a real pest, introducing characterization to him from an external perspective you'd not normally get in a game like this.  Well, I thought it was cool, but this would probably go over most peoples' heads.

It only took me about 17 hours, according to Steam, to finish The Bureau.  That puts this $50 game in clear violation of my, "$1 per 30-60 minutes of gameplay" investment strategy for entertainment.  Even replay value seems unlikely, as the game is just a gauntlet of completely static scenarios separated by a map screen, and there's virtually nothing left of it that I did not see the first time through.  In the end, I can't say my time was wasted, but I might as well have waited until the game came down to $20.

Well, now that The Bureau is done, what next?  I could get back to trying to develop some games, or...

Given how unlucky it's been, perhaps this should have been the 13th Final Fantasy..

Considering what I've been through lately, the desire for escapism runs rampant.  To these ends, I'm considering whether I should give Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn a serious shot.  Being the newest MMORPG cut from the cloth of being largely without instances, and perhaps the most atmospheric we'll have for half a decade, it's certainly a good choice in the genre for me... assuming I even have it in me to go through the same old MMORPG grinding experience again.  
Why do I even need to update the server list?!  Can't you remember it
from the last time I looked at the server list?!  Apparently not.
As it happens, I am being rescued from my desire to procrastinate by Final Fantasy XIV's launch-week woes.  The problem is that the developers grossly underestimated the number of players who would be slamming their server, getting ten times the expected players.  Consequently, Final Fantasy XIV's server problems seem to be getting worse, rather than better.  In the last entry, I complained of being unable to log in to a server of my choice, only logging in successfully once in many attempts.  Now, I can't even pull up a list of North American/Europe servers anymore.  So I'm basically being prevented from even trying to log in.

Eventually, these issues will be ironed out... but I'm on a time limit!  Final Fantasy XIV is running a welcome back program for players like me, who bought the original box: we get to play, subscription free, until September 9th.  If the servers are going to be slammed from now until then, I'm going to have to shell out a monthly subscription to even try to get into the game.  As badly overloaded as the servers are, the developers may well choose to stay the course with this plan, thereby shutting out the freebies and seeing what remains.

Despite these issues, this game has some really awesome cinematics, decent gameplay, and an overall production value that makes me really want to keep trying to play, even if the game itself is so inaccessible.  Others, less jaded about gaming than I am, may feel this even stronger than I do.  No wonder the servers are getting such a pounding this weekend.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is going unplayed tonight.  I barely made enough time for it last night to dig up a few fossils before the Nookling's store closed for the night.  I'm updating this entry now just 7 minutes from closing, and I decided a good night's rest is more important.  I suppose it's a good thing I'm running the beautiful town ordinance, as who knows how long it will be until I return?


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