Sunday, September 1, 2013

Don't look at what I wrote, that's cheating!

Having finished The Bureau I can safely say that it was either written be people who were not allowed to talk to one another or the individuals levels were assembled into a game by a random number generator. It is somehow less than the sum of its parts, and that is with a fourth wall breaking twist that was actually surprising until it stopped making sense.

Endgame spoilers incoming, but you shouldn't bother with this game anyway, so read on.

The opening sequence centers around Carter and a case that he is supposed to deliver to XCOM. He has no idea what is in it so when an alien shows up to steal it he is understandably surprised. The outsider shoots him, the case explodes and Carter is healed, after which it is never spoken about again. I called it a maguffin and let it go.

It's my career, mother fucker, look at it and weep.
Three quarters of the game later, as it descending into space marine territory, Carter finds himself on the outsider home world in a fight with Origin. Origin controls mosaic: think of it as an in skull internet connection that you cannot refuse. Mosaic is powered by an Ethereal, a creature made entirely of energy (remember this point) that chooses a host and influences and augments their abilities. Carter correctly deduces that the ethereal is the real problem, steals it (TECHNOLOGY!) and then blows up Origin's base.

Problem solved. Or not.

XCOM gets the ethereal into a containment area right before it wakes up. The outsider ethereal calls to another of its kind: this one was assigned to Earth and was in the case from the beginning of the game. Outsiders arriving on Earth had awoken it and it had chosen Carter as its host. Through some clever use of camera angles it becomes clear that the player is actually controlling the ethereal, not Carter, and had been doing so the entire time. This explains Carter ability to see the entire battlefield and issue commands without actually talking to anyone.

So far, so good. I was actually on board with this right up until the twist twisted.

The older ethereal tells 'Carter' that everyone on Earth must be destroyed to prevent the spread of mosaic. The ethereal in Carter doesn't like this idea. In fact it says that it will not destroy Earth. The real Carter who apparently has not been listening to any of this breaks free from his ethereal's control and shoots the older ethereal. He kills an being made entirely of energy with a handgun.

It was at this point that it all fell apart. Carter did not like being controlled and in spite of his ethereal's promise to not destroy Earth forces it out. The player, in a shocking moment of consistency, goes with it and has to choose a new host. Origin comes back, blah blah, final encounter, blah blah, the good guys win.

What the hell happened? Did the writer's cubicles not have doors? Did they hate one another so much that each tried to invalidate what the last one wrote? Or was the game stitched together from disparate ideas left over from previous versions? 

Don't bother with The Bureau. It is not a good shooter, not a good strategy game, and it certainly squanders the few good plot ideas it had. From what little I know of the XCOM universe I think that a good action game can be mined from it, this is just not that game.


Tales of Xillia, which I do not know how to pronounce, is an exceptional JRPG, assuming you enjoy that kind of thing. Stores do not automatically get new merchandise, you have to level them up. Weapons and armor are not level capped, meaning that it is theoretically possible to grind like a mad man and get weapons that far out class what you are fighting. I guess I know what I am doing tonight.

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