XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Steam sales are so frequent that I rarely buy games that aren’t at least 50% off. Usually I just ignore the hype that surrounds new games, and just wait for the inevitable price decrease. More often than not the game a year later is not only half price, but also better than at release due to patches. Having said that, there are a few exceptions where I want to have a game on release day, at full price. The most recent example of that being XCOM 2: War of the Chosen for €39.99.

Now there are two main things to say about War of the Chosen. The first is that it is a very good expansion of the original XCOM 2 game, providing a lot of fresh fun with new maps, new aliens to fight, and new game mechanics. The second is that it is after all only an expansion, and to many people will not be worth 40 bucks. The expansion really improves the basic game with a wide range of options, but at two thirds of the price of a triple A game the thing appears rather expensive. Waiting for example for the Steam Christmas sale and hoping War of the Chosen will be cheaper then would be a completely rational decision.

One thing I liked about War of the Chosen was the advanced options menu, which now gives a wider range of choices than the original basic options menu. You can for example decide that you don’t like to be rushed through the game, and double the timer of the avatar project and/or of individual missions. Of course that does make the game easier, but not everybody appreciates the sort of difficulty which arises only from being forced to rush through content.

From the new monsters I probably like the zombies the most. They appear in large groups, but have a special feature where you get an additional action if you kill one. That allows for very satisfying chain kills, but carries the risk of you missing your shot and being overrun by a horde of zombies. I am less a fan of the new “chosen” aliens, which can be even more annoying than the previously patched in “rulers”.

The new factions which give you access to new soldier classes with a different system of talent tree are interesting. You probably appreciate them more if you always only used the 4 original classes. However I already used mods to have a wider choice of classes, and so that was less a drawback of the original game for me.

I started a new campaign because of War of the Chosen. However I can’t say I’m very much hooked. I have a range of other projects in my life currently, and playing XCOM 2 isn’t always on top of the list of my priorities. That is especially true on weekdays after work, as I find that the game requires some concentration. If I’m too tired I prefer more casual games, or even passive entertainment via Netflix. So I probably overpaid for the expansion, even if I don’t really regret it.

If We Don’t Address Poverty, We Are Going to Lose Our Country

If we are to save the soul of this country from the poverty that is killing us, we must act, we must agitate, we must cause some righteous trouble.

In March of 1968, as part of a tour of US cities to shine a light on poverty and drum up support for the recently-launched Poor People’s Campaign, the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr visited the northwest Mississippi town of Marks. He saw a teacher feeding schoolchildren a meager lunch of a slice of apple and crackers, and started crying.

Earlier this month, officials from the United Nations embarked on a similar trip across the US, and what they observed was a crisis of systemic poverty that Dr King would have recognized 50 years ago: diseases like hookworm, caused by open sewage, in Butler County, Alabama, and breathtaking levels of homelessness in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, home to 55,000 people.

“I think it’s very uncommon in the first world,” UN special rapporteur Philip Alston said. “This is not a sight that one normally sees. I’d have to say that I haven’t seen this.”

The morally troubling conditions Dr King witnessed across the country cemented his call, along with leaders in the labor movement, tenant unions, farm workers, Native American elders and grassroots organizers, for a campaign to foster a revolution of values in America.

Half a century later, the conditions that motivated the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign have only worsened, making the need for a new moral movement more urgent than ever. Compared to 1968, 60% more Americans are living below the official poverty line today – a total of 41 million people. The gap between our government’s discretionary spending on the military versus anti-poverty programs has grown from two-to-one at the height of the Vietnam war to four-to-one today.

That’s why, this month, poor and disenfranchised people along with clergy and moral leaders nationwide launched the Poor People’s Campaign: a National Call for Moral Revival, to challenge the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and our distorted national morality.

The observations by the United Nations published this week are an urgent alarm bell for the moral emergency facing the country. As King did 50 years ago and Alston did earlier this month, we will travel the country to make sure the poor are not ignored. But it is not enough to bear witness. If we are to save the soul of this country from the poverty that is killing us, we must act, we must agitate, we must cause some righteous trouble.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, which will be highlighted by 40 days of direct action and nonviolent civil disobedience this spring, is not a commemoration. It’s an acknowledgment that, 50 years later, there is still so much work to do to foster a revolution of values in America.

There’s a strange irony in America when it comes to poverty. The states with the highest poverty rates are in the south. And those same states have the highest rates of voter suppression of black people. Through this racialized voter suppression, politicians who support policies that hurt the poor get elected. While a larger percentage of black people are living in poverty, in raw numbers, there are actually more white than black people below the poverty line.

So-called white evangelicals are omnipresent in the poorest areas of our country, and they say the least about systemic poverty, which is the foremost issue in authentic Christian religious theology. After our denominations splintered over the moral question of slavery and the nation stood on the brink of civil war, Frederick Douglas said“Between the christianity of this land and the christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.”

Sadly, his observations ring true today.

These so-called evangelicals should listen to Pope Francis, who called poverty a “scandal.” He said, “In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?”

The most radical, progressive shifts in our country’s history occurred when concerned citizens across racial lines come together. This was the case after the civil war, during the civil rights movement and today, in the Moral Mondays Movement and the Fight for $15.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will unite Americans across all races, creeds, religions, classes and other divides – because it’s going to take all of us to revive the soul of our nation.

 

 

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7th Continent First Impressions

Only 3 days to go on the 7th Continent Kickstarter rerun and I finally managed to actually play the game to confirm if it is really as good as evertybody says. Good news: It is! Furthermore it turns out to be one of those rare board games that are ideally played with your significant other, which is exactly what I have been looking for. A “game” of 7th continent can last 15 hours+, but there is a very fast “save” mechanic which allows you to play in a series of short sessions. That would be difficult to pull off with friends you don’t see every day, but works great for me and my wife.

“Saving” the 7th Continent is actually a strategic move by itself, because you don’t save the map you already explored. This represents time passing in the world while you sleep. If you were to backtrack after restoring the game, the basic geography remains the same, but you might get different events happening while exploring. In our first game we saved when we successfully left area I and reached area II, which involved removing the map of area I anyway, so the save didn’t change anything for us. Of course at home you could just decide to leave the game set up on the table instead of saving, if you have a dedicated game table.

*Spoiler alert*

Just like a YouTube gameplay video it is hardly possible to talk more about the game without revealing some of its contents, so don’t read on if you want to avoid spoilers!

We played the first “curse” of the 7th Continent, curses being basically scenarios that give your exploration a starting point and a win condition. The one recommended to start with is called Voracious Goddess. But don’t expect any major storyline connected to that. The 7th Continent is a survival/exploration game, the stories that happen are about what you decide to do and how that worked out, not some scripted storyline to follow.

The core mechanic of the game is that the tile you are on and the cards you already found give you various actions you can attempt. Each attempt consists of drawing a number of cards and counting the number of successes on these cards. Each action tells you how many cards to draw, and how many successes you need, but various rules and cards can modify those two numbers. If you succeed something positive happens, if you fail something negative happens. Often you are allowed to draw more cards if you want, which makes success easy. But the deck of cards also represents your life, so if you draw cards with reckless abandon you will run out of cards. And then you need to use the cards from the discard pile instead, and if you draw a curse you are dead and the game ends.

What you are supposed to do to survive is to find places where you can hunt and find food when you are getting low on cards. Food puts cards back from the discard pile into the action deck, which allows you to keep playing. It is all nicely balanced and doable. Some people do complain they die too often, but there are several solutions to that: Either you handle the loop of goin exploring and taking care of survival by hunting better. Or you change the rules, which is something that doesn’t come natural to board game enthusiasts. But really, the game already does have an official easy mode which starts you with card 777, which allows you to basically ignore your first death. It isn’t such a stretch to expand that to unlimited uses of that item and literally “cheat death”. Instead of “survive or die” the game then becomes one of minimizing the number of times you use the cheat item.

On the other hand I can also see the interest of starting over. The Voracious Goddess curse we are playing starts you off on a small island. As it gives you a rough map, we went more or less straight towards the way off the island. But it turned out that this way we missed an essential item and couldn’t use the submarine to get off the island. Instead we decided to use the costly alternative option of swimming, which ended us freezing on some beach. So our success on the starting island, area I, determined where exactly and under what initial conditions we get to tackle area II. If we restart and play area I again, we’d use a different strategy. Furthermore on the first exploration you end up doing things in which the success isn’t all that great, or not essential for progress. So the next time around you just skip the non-essential parts and thus get to the next area faster and with less of your cards used.

I really like the 7th Continent, and I am looking forward to playing this with my wife for a long time. If ever we find the survival part too harsh, we’ll just change the rules to a more casual version. The fun of this game really isn’t just about winning or losing.

Former Fox News Analyst Tamara Holder Shares Explicit Details of Sexual Assault

She spoke out after claiming Rupert Murdoch violated the terms of her settlement.

Former Fox News analyst Tamara Holder publicly revealed the details of her workplace sexual assault to CNN, because she believes Rupert Murdoch violated the terms of her settlement agreement in an interview where he described sexual misconduct allegations at Fox News as “nonsense.”

“Fox News ruined people’s lives,” Holder said. “He [Murdoch] ruined my life. I don’t have a job in TV anymore because the place that he has secured down like Fort Knox allowed abusive predators to work.”

She excoriated Murdoch for trying to downplay the pervasive culture of sexual predation at Fox News and dismiss some accounts as being “flirting.”

“Let me be clear. I had a man pull out his penis in his office and shove my head on it. That was not flirting, that was criminal. That was not sexual harassment,” Holder explained.

She said she expects to be sued for speaking out about the culture of sexual misconduct at Fox News, but believes she hasn’t violated the terms of her settlement.

“What Mr. Murdoch said, in my opinion as a lawyer, not as a victim or a survivor, as a lawyer, is that this gives me a legal right to respond,” she said. “And I’m responding not for myself, but on behalf of every woman in America who has been abused.”

Watch the full segment below.

 

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Test Your PL/SQL Fundamentals

In Oracle database management, PL/SQL is a procedural language extension to Structured Query Language (SQL). The purpose of PL/SQL is to combine database language and procedural programming language. The basic unit in PL/SQL is called a block, which is made up of three parts: a declarative part, an executable part, and an exception-building part.
Test your PL/SQL knowledge by solving following 49 MCQ’S

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