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How to Fix BE (Why AC is a classic game and BE is not)

Discussion in 'CivBE - General Discussions' started by dwcole78, Apr 24, 2017.

  1. legalizefreedom

    legalizefreedom Inefficiency Expert

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    I think most everyone would agree that the writing could have been better, but I don't think it is as bad as all that. I get where you are coming from though, with the lack of hell bent personalities. Thing is, if they make all the leaders rigid in one belief system... number one people would criticize it for being too rigid :) and number two, it would rob the ability to make the leaders dynamic from game to game. I believe what they tried to do was have a random personality thing which I think is the right direction. Emergent gameplay and all. But the personalities aren't drastic enough. They all kind of lean instead of being hell bent. There is a little bit of defining personality with their lone unique trait, but that is ultimately not very impactful.

    I know it is a natural thing to compare BERT to SMAC, but they have somewhat different focuses and different mechanics. It's not an all together fair comparison. Maybe the best written game of all time versus a game that didn't even have enough (fan and/or corporate) support to be finished.

    I have to laugh at: "And what does her faction- uh sponsor- stand for? "Effective and transparent governance, political activism on behalf of the disenfranchised, and environmental resilience." Wow, riveting. Not to mention, completely inoffensive. So why would anyone not be in favor of them? (How would a proponent of such a boringly sensible platform be considered a "trivial clown"?)"
    Unfortunately, we currently live in a world where probably more than 1/4 of the people on the planet are firmly against boringly sensible. Boringly sensible as a platform isn't in a good place and we live long before the events of BERT.

     
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  2. beetle

    beetle Deity

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    I would happily pay full MSRP for something like “SMAC Remastered”.

    @MysticWind, I think the BERT writing is fine. My criticism is that the backstory does not seem any impact on gameplay and if the factions have personalities that are discernible from each other, I have missed it.

    I can appreciate the argument that SMAC/X factions were too over-the-top and too predictable, but I think that approach works just fine in a game.
    Agreed. That modest addition would at least get six more replays from me!
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
  3. MysticWind

    MysticWind Chieftain

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    I totally understand the dilemma. You can't just copy what AC do and make the factions about philosophies, because you're gonna get flack for it. In some ways, Pandora: First Contact did the right thing by just not taking it seriously and making everyone cheesy caricatures and thus ignorable, at least they don't look like pale imitations. But I think the problem is if you then world-build by having the sponsors revolve around fictional national blocs, you're kinda tied to your setting instead of something with greater aspirations. And BE's setting is kinda flat.

    I don't know what the solution would be within BE's context other than maybe make the sponsors a little bit more speculative, like they're mildly predisposed towards the Affinities and thus have characterizations that support that. Rather than their narrow Earth-based outlooks.

    That's the thing, it's not about necessarily being drastic or being ideologues like the AC leaders mostly are. It's simply not all being agreeable amiable "we can get along" types. None of the BE characters are confrontational, or scheming, or cold and aloof. Even Han Jae-Moon is described as "To his friends, he is a stoic and deliberate ally who treats his position in the Chungsu with the utmost respect." I mean, sure you can say that Yang or Santiago or Miriam or Cha Dawn at their best can be the same, but tossing in lines like that just shows that BE doesn't want to commit to giving their characters any sort of problematic aspect. Chungsu's profile reassures us that contrary to conspiracy theories, this sinister cabal is actually an "interstellar defense organization founded by ambitious futurists". So there's really not any factions that could even potentially have an evil agenda? If you can't find Chungsu to be sinister and Han as creepy, who can you? Not Kavitha and her legions of fanatical true-believers? Not Rejinaldo's miltarism?

    As an aside, I do have to say a few of the promo teasers do a better job than the bland polisci jargon streams of Lena or Hutama's profiles, or many of the others' bland speeches. Han Jae-Moon's is legitimately creepy and atmospheric, pun intended. Kavitha's is memorably haunting, or at least its last paragraph is. Arshia's isn't my cup of tea, but I can appreciate the innovative format.

    True, but I still think it's fun to critique BE's writing, because its failings are perversely interesting. And it also makes me wonder how could someone really try to make an AC spiritual successor, as I speculated above.

    A couple responses:
    1. In-universe, every faction is boringly sensible. They all have effective governance, just different priorities. No sponsor has hints of aggression or malevolence. So in theory, INTEGR's program could exist under any sponsor, in the sense that in practice most of them probably act like Lal's Peacekeepers- they would all be more or less multi-party democracies, open to dissenting sub-factions within them. Which makes their program even more bland and uninspiring, since each sponsor sounds like they're all on the same page as far as saving humanity goes. Refined and inoffensive and oh-so-civilized (13:02):
    2. Out of universe, BE was created in 2014-2015, which amusingly mirrors SMAC being a product of the pre-9/11 world, before everything got even crazier. So I think that could explain a bit the relative blandness, decorous, and non-confrontational manner of the sponsors- they written in a relatively stable time in society. That said, quite bluntly, a boringly sensible program, even if good in theory, is simply an uninspiring (and thus, often sadly ineffective) plan. And this is fiction! Why settle for the boring when you can have leaders who are heroic and visionary? Or villainous and insane? Or aloof and cold?
    They were over-the-top because the setting itself was over-the-top, Earth in AC was worse off than the Earth in BE and so the faction leaders scaled to the desperation and insanity of the times. Though things feel weirdly civil and stable in BE, despite the Great Mistake and cinematic showing sea levels rising to the extent of the pyramids being slightly flooded in Egypt.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
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  4. beetle

    beetle Deity

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    Thanks for that video! Spot on! BE review starts at ~11:30.
     
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  5. legalizefreedom

    legalizefreedom Inefficiency Expert

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    I think of the leaders agenda as similar to the diplomacy. It's all determined by the player based on their actions. Many of BERTs leaders are definitely cold hearted when you would expect them to be and sometimes even when you don't. Like the diplomacy, their true intentions come to you only after you put their actions together as a player. This style is more geared towards the role player who is used to imagining a lot of the details. Who knows whether that is intentional or not. It could also be seen as lazy.

    From a backstory perspective these leaders do need to be capable of a wide range of stances. It's kind of like writing a backstory for Homer Simpson when one week he is out on the street protesting and the next he can't be bothered to leave the couch. What he cares about in his canon backstory needs to be vague for it all to work. Also take into account these are leaders of people and while it would be understandable for people to follow dictators and madmen, it's not likely they got the opportunity to join the seeding by being extreme. They needed people who wouldn't crash and burn (literally and figuratively). That being said, I'm sure money would allow at least of couple of those types to be there. But even then, you'd expect their public "bios" to sound noble regardless of their agenda.
     
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  6. Guide-on

    Guide-on Chieftain

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    What the leaders need is something to fight for, or against. The U.S. got into Vietnam to defend democracy, and you have seen what happened after 9/11. BERT should have corrected this by having a leader dedicated to each of the affinities and hybrid (with a name) affinities. Diplomacy should be affected by your affinity the same way it was (apparently -I have never played SMAC) it SMAC. According to earlier posters on this thread, you had to make choices that would make an enemy out of at least one faction. BERT needs that, and the hybrid opposite of the base affinity would be that. You would have leader that would fight for "Purity" (seems like I have already seen that in history) or "Harmony with nature" (Green party) etc. This would give built in enemies.
     
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  7. SupremacyKing2

    SupremacyKing2 Deity

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    What was great about the original SMAC factions is that they had clear ideological camps but also very clear gameplay strategies. So, each faction fulfilled a distinct gameplay role. One faction was the "wide civ", one faction was the "tall civ", one faction was the "science civ". etc... But also, each faction had a natural enemy and social engineering choices that they hated. So picking certain SE choices would alienate certain factions and often lead to war. This was great for gameplay but also for role-playing as it was a great way to implement ideological wars. And the diplomacy text was well done, as faction leaders would berate you for picking a SE choice that they hate or praise you for picking a SE choice that they love. So gameplay, diplomacy, role-playing, strategy, were all interconnected.

    I agree with @Guide-on that BE could have implemented something similar by connecting each Sponsor to a preferred Affinity. I think this would have made diplomacy more interesting. In fact, if I am remembering correctly, BE did not really tie diplomacy into the Affinity system that much. With 3 Affinities, you could have an interesting rock/paper/scissors type relationship. Purity hates Supremacy, Supremacy hates Harmony, Harmony hates Purity. This could create interesting Affinity alliances. And I would make the "hate" stronger the deeper you get into an Affinity. So a level 8 Purity would hate Supremacy more than a level 1 Purity. This would make Affinity wars more common and more fierce as you get deeper into an Affinity. It could spice up the late game as all players would have a lot of Affinity points so it would cause all out Affinity world wars in the late game. Of course, getting some points in other Affinities could mitigate things a bit. So if I am 8 Purity but 3 Supremacy, the 3 Supremacy points could earn me some "brownie points" with Supremacy civs.
     
  8. legalizefreedom

    legalizefreedom Inefficiency Expert

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    But does all of that allow for peaceful games?
     
  9. SupremacyKing2

    SupremacyKing2 Deity

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    It could in some cases. For example, if all the Sponsors on a continent share the same affinity, you would have peace on that continent. you could also focus on affinity points in the same affinity of your neighbor to help keep the peace with them. You could also trade and give in to their demands to keep the peace. I don't think the diplomatic affect of affinities should be so strong that it automatically pushes you to war.

    But frankly, I think games that are 100% peaceful are boring and bad design even. The fact is that some type of conflict is often needed to push the player. There has to be some type of obstacle or challenge for the player to overcome. That conflict could be aliens attacking you, it could be the planet itself fighting you like in SMAC, or it could be wars with other players. I am not suggesting that games should be total wars from start to finish. But I think having aliens fight you from time to time or a short war or two from time to time, would make games more interesting.

    You also need something in the late game to solve the "dull end game" problem in civ games. I know SMAC had the planet get increasingly hostile in the late game to create a ticking clock and create pressure on the player to win. I think having affinities become more antagonist towards other affinities in the late makes sense in the world building but also could serve a similar purpose. It would create pressure on the planet to win which would be a good thing.

    I know one complaint that some BE players had is that the AI would not do enough to stop you from winning. With my idea of late game affinities becoming more hostile towards opposing affinities, it could serve that purpose. For example, if you are late Purity and you are close to finishing the exodus gate, it would make sense for Supremacy or Harmony to become hostile and probably go to war with you. This would create a late game challenge for the player so that they don't just hit end turn until they win.
     
  10. MysticWind

    MysticWind Chieftain

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    Yeah, I do understand the difficulty, and sympathize. I think it's possible to have strongly-motivated characters and still be able to imagine them as existing in a range of personalities- you can have good Yang the true selfless collectivist who truly is doing it all for the many and builds a strong authoritarian state that eases up after a while, or you can have bad Lal who legalistically sticks to a dead document from a dead planet and indulges in moralistic wars for "peace" as justified by it. And so on, people have had many conceptions of the SMAC leaders. But it does hamper the play style a bit. It certainly could get boringly predictable to be stuck near Believers and feel a need to have to crush them in the start game, lest they devour you first. So you really do need to write something more open-ended.

    I think the problem for BE is the problem of characterization. And while these characters have had a lot of lore written for them, of debatable quality, they end up all being a little too open-ended. And that's a problem. Barre is an African who remembers the imperialism his continent faced at the hands of both the Europeans and the Chinese. But in-game he ends up just being a jolly trader and a great food producer; he doesn't have any sort of mistrust in, let alone aggression towards, the Franco-Iberians nor the PAC. So again, I must reiterate that any suggestion of confrontational behavior, of having convictions that could lead to being in opposition with other sponsors for reasons beyond realpolitik, is just absent from the game. And so the mechanics end up characterizing it- your sponsors like or dislike other simply on the basis of resource competition. And yeah there's affinities, but that's really justified only by your own interpretation and nothing the game really provides to you in terms of lore.

    And to really step away from SMAC, there's a comment I've been trying to find that stated that someone would have preferred if it really was "Civ in Space." As in Space Alexander the Great, Space Genghis, Space nuke Gandhi duking it out on an alien planet. And you know what, that would have been more interesting. It's a bit of cheat. All of the historical nations comes with context and lore for free. So if you see these historical figures and countries in the far future, you already know what to expect. But that's fine- it's entertaining to be able to see what Space Elizabeth I would fare against Space Cleopatra would do in the far future. And of course, these are personages who are often not really that much more crazy or radical than the AC faction leaders. These were people with destiny, who did brutal things, but also accomplished great things.

    Of course, Firaxis is unlikely to actually make a game as gonzo as Civ in Space, but they made Sid Meier's Starships with the BE sponsors so hey anything is possible.

    I think the idea is that most, if not all leaders, should have the potential to become dictators and go mad. Most history-making leaders were a little mad, or grandiose, or egotistical, or zealous, or psychopathically detached, or delusional. And yeah, the BE sponsors didn't have to be presented as such, but they could've used at least a hint of the dark side. As presented they're just too clean, refined, polite. Like I said since even Han or Kavitha get their ominous aspects sanded down in the lore, meaning the writers are going out of their way to erase any potential problematic traits.
     
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  11. legalizefreedom

    legalizefreedom Inefficiency Expert

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    To some degree, this is in the game already. Every game, no matter how peaceful I'm feeling I get in a couple of wars and I'm never the one to declare. Well, almost never. Sometimes someone pops up a victory wonder when I haven't even started mine yet, so...

    And even if it isn't me, the AI are certainly fighting with one another. Sometimes a lot.

    There are, without fail two civs that get pissed when i build a victory wonder and then again after it is built or activated. I can occasionally get away with no end game wars, but I have to be really tight with the two civs that eventually get pissed. In addition to that, anyone who is deep in another affinity is also very likely to declare in the end game. It could have used more tweaking, but it is there.

    Something that would help are settings for various aggressions. Like the disaster setting in VI. Want mild personalities? We can do that. Want a planet full of maniacs? Yep. Everyone random? That would be my favorite.
    Some people play it as a war game. Some as a role play experience. We need sliders dag nabit.:old:
     
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  12. vorlon_mi

    vorlon_mi Just One More Turn

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    Few of the leaders in the Civ games are ideologues. Strong, driven leaders, yes, but not as over-the-top as you seem to be advocating. I wonder if the SMAC developers were going for extremes in their leader choices and descriptions.

    I have similar experience to @legalizefreedom in that I get two AI who are willing to declare war on my as soon as I start construction on an end-game wonder, and the same two are angry when I finish it. I get DOW'ed nearly every time. I'm a little surprised that they don't declare sooner, during construction, to try to prevent me from finishing. I can think of only one game where I got the achievement for "Never declaring war", meaning I never declared first. But I was declared upon, in that game.

    As I progress in one affinity level, usually as I pass level 7 or so, one leader will say something like "Our beliefs are too different. This makes things difficult" because they are pursuing a different affinity than I am. To your point, I can usually stay Cooperating with them and trade with them.

    I don't want exaggerated, caricature leaders. Everyone who plays Civ 4 makes fun of Toku, Mansa Musa, and Montezuma because of their tendencies; I want leaders in games in this franchise to have tendencies, but to be able to achieve the different victory conditions. Part of the attraction of the series is to "rewrite history," not just relive it. Other games have radio button choices for AI aggression and barbarian (here, alien) aggression. Those would be great. I would like more transparency in why an AI likes you, or dislikes you, as they have in the Civ games. That view lets me make choices about who to offend, and by how much. How close is Kozlov to declaring war? How likely is it for Hutama or Kavitha to backstab me?

    I want the *option* to be a peaceful builder, or pursue military aggression. I don't want every game to be just peaceful expansion, nor do I want every game to be a war game.
     
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  13. MysticWind

    MysticWind Chieftain

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    But that's the thing. C:BE leaders don't have to be ideologues, especially if the game isn't about philosophy, to avoid being a retread of AC. But they need to be strong, driven leaders. As presented, they aren't because as many heroic and decent qualities you ascribe to the BE leaders, they don't really reveal what leads them to conflict, whether military or otherwise. Civ leaders were, you just need to look at history. The BE leaders are more like leaders who got into power because they're careerists who are good at their jobs. Administrators and managers. Not leaders who are willing to kill or coup. So it makes the conflicts that ensue sort of boring because then it just ends up being driven by realpolitik and resource concerns. Which is a universal motivation for conflict, but also sort of boring within the context of a speculative sci-fi story about colonizing a new world.

    Yes, there are also affinities, but none of the characters are even a little predisposed towards any of them, so that means their character fluff is just fluff and doesn't even determine the in-game mechanics. Franco-Iberia isn't more likely to embrace Purity because Elodie's a snob obsessed about the cultural legacy of Old Earth. It's just window-dressing.

    And tbh, the extremes in the AC leaders are less because of the lore, and more about the in-game mechanics. AC drives inevitable conflict because of agendas and aversions. Which like I said, you might not want in a modern spiritual successor, because it can get old being University and having to worry about spawning near Believers. But that's because of game mechanics; if you look at the old Firaxis faction profiles you get the impression that they're all shaped by their philosophies, but only Santiago and Yang are the ones who are truly ready to use force over it.

    Yeah, those would be pretty useful additions. Another crazier one I was thinking of was being able for the game to have a meta-log of how your different games went. So if you spawn near a more aggressive/antagonistic country in one game, the next one might move that one away. So you can get more varied experiences each time. Or I suppose there could just be preferences for things like, "more peace at game start" or "more conflict at game start" that determines who your early neighbors are.

    But why would they? As problematic as it might be to make essentialist generalizations about historical nations, at least it gives more character. Why would Kozlov or Hutama or Kavitha declare war besides "gimme that land!"? Kozlov loves rockets, Hutama loves trade, Kavitha loves faith. The lore as presented doesn't really provide any room to interpret them killing over it, even Kavitha's zealotry is presented as wholly peaceful, unifying, and constructive. All too positive.

    I guess my point is that BE goes out of its way to present its leaders as without any negative downsides other than maybe you lose out on this modifier or that one. No actual character flaws, just different sets of positive ones.

    Sure, but you could probably still have a lore where the factions are still on less immediately positive terms with each other. There were certainly stages in history where rival nations were in bitter competition that didn't result in massive warfare with one another- take 19th century age of imperialism, for instance. As it stands the BE sponsors don't even seem to be all that competitive with each other. They have stuff that they like and they're good at doing, that's pretty much it. And the societies they want to build are mostly similar to each other.
     
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  14. Protok St

    Protok St Chieftain

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    At some point, it may seem that BE is just about greedy corporations (Apple, Virgin, Amazon, Google, etc) sending to a space with their fresh franchise branch managers.
    But this is a very simplified impression. There are many defining moments in the history of the faction and the leader. Although, still not enough the key turning points.
     
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  15. vorlon_mi

    vorlon_mi Just One More Turn

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    I do agree, @MysticWind , on many levels. We are left guessing which leaders would be land grabbers, which would be warmongers, or which would be peaceniks. The leaders of these factions were chosen for a one-way mission to a faraway planet, with the brief to create a new society. The Germanic leader likes order, the Chinese leader likes organization, the American leader likes commerce, but we don't know anything about their *political* strategy, which is one of your points.

    Consider the different leaders the Civ franchises included to lead France:
    Civ3 had Joan of Arc - religious fervor, military leader
    Civ4 had Louis XIV, Napoleon, and de Gaulle
    Civ5 had Napoleon again
    A variety of approaches to statecraft, and more importantly, the Civilopedia was up-front about the leader traits.
    Does Elodie resemble any of them? If she has traits like "Industrious" or "Commercial" or "Organized", we can't see them.
    I was disappointed to not find any resources on this site to describe those traits in the BERT leaders.
     
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  16. Guide-on

    Guide-on Chieftain

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    Since BE and BERT use the Civ V engine, it would not have been hard to let Civ V leaders to port over the BE/BERT if they had the spaceship victory. Fraxis decided however to send it as a stand alone instead of a DLC. The use of affinities killed any chance of adding it. We can hope that they will have some DLC for Civ VI that will allow you to play for a starship victory in civ VI, and then start a new game on the new planet similar to the way they did Starships. Any leader that you had not destroyed in Civ VI would be following you with the same relations they had in VI.
     
  17. vorlon_mi

    vorlon_mi Just One More Turn

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    That's one way to do it. But I'm OK with new leaders -- consider that I didn't know very much about the Civ V leaders for Sweden, Ethiopia, Thailand/Siam, or other countries. We didn't study them in school. We can learn about these new leaders' habits, patterns, and preferences through repeated play, or by viewing XML content.

    What I don't understand is why we don't *see* more of the information that the Civ V engine is using, in game, through the user interface.. Diplomatic modifiers, tendencies/flavors, which are holding grudges. Mousing over the right fields shows more details in Civ V, but is absent in BERT. As we've written before, BERT wasn't finished.
     
  18. Kaushad

    Kaushad Chieftain

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    I'd like the hypothetical 2nd expansion to focus on two things (besides a few new sponsors). One would be making the sponsors more varied, by giving them more distinct features and aesthetics. The other would be optionally more extreme planetary conditions. I've been playing Mass Effect lately and while some its ideas are a bit limited, it says quite a lot about adaptation to different planets, whereas every planet in BE is what they call a garden planet. Although the problem with that approach is that planets without extensive native life would have nothing to offer the harmony affinity.
     
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  19. MysticWind

    MysticWind Chieftain

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    Also, they need to add climate change effects. I understand why there's never been a true SMAC sequel; I don't get why the environmental effects introduced in that game has never appeared in another 4X. Are they even present in Civ VI? Anyway, BE could definitely benefit from them.

    They could always have weird extremophile silicon rock creatures or some other alien
     
  20. Buster's Uncle

    Buster's Uncle AC2 Co-Owner

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    Well you know, what always sold it for me was the story - it's what sisko calls "a transhuman epic." I've always emphasized the creative end in my faction modding - I suppose there's something to be done with stats and playstyle, but I was always satisfied with that out of the box. No, it's a pretty solid game, just, so many years later a new set of players can still give the old thing a little life.
     
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