Monday, 31 March 2014

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

I've been wanting to play the new XCOM games since they were released, but until very recently I haven't had a good enough PC to run them at anything even close to playable. I now have a decent GPU, however, and The Bureau happened to be the game I chose when I got to the X section of my A-Z backlog challenge. I knew full well what to expect from the game, and given it was a 3rd-person shooter with RPG-lite elements ala Mass Effect I figured it suited me perfect, though now having finished it I'm left with mixed feelings.


The Bureau follows William Carter and an organization known as 'The Bureau' as they attempt to repel an alien invasion of Earth sometime in the 1962, at the height of the Cold War. The plot moves about how you'd expect just by reading that one line, with no real surprises until literally the very last mission of the game.

I thought the setting was fairly unique and neat, and I did enjoy wandering around the base/quest hub listening to all of the filler dialogue and looking for notes and such with bits of lore in them. Sadly, most of the characters were generally unrelatable or just plain unlikeable, with the one big exception essentially getting killed off early on in the game. The main character himself starts out reasonable, but due to a plot bit that I won't spoil turns out to be the worst character in the game.



Gameplay in The Bureau handles quite similarly to Mass Effect, with the player splitting their time between cover based action sequences and exploring a central hub with NPCs who all have dialogue wheels to go through between missions. As I said, the combat and mission structure is downright identical to Mass Effect: Pick your team, get dropped off, move from setpiece to setpiece while engaging groups of enemies at points between that are conveniently peppered with chest-high walls for cover. This isn't bad, mind you, I had a good deal of fun with the missions until they startted throwing shielded-armored-super enemies at me in groups at the end.

However! There were waaay too few optional missions considering how short they are. I think there were maybe 5 or 6 in total, when there should have been at -least- twice as many. The game felt short, really short. Add on to this that the dialogue segments did little more than flesh out the lore (whereas in Mass Effect or Dragon Age they may have opened up new side missions, etc.) and I had reached the final mission and the aliens were leaving Earth before I knew it.


Given how much this game apes one of my favourite franchises in gaming history (Mass Effect), I should have adored it. It ended up being only average due to the strange pacing of the game and the fact that I didn't really like any of the characters at all. If you, like me, enjoy a good 3rd Person Action RPG, there's no reason not to at least give it a try, just don't expect it to be up to snuff when compared to some of the better ones.

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