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"It All Led in the Direction of 'Natural Selection'"

Max Plays 'Natural Selection 2'

Natural Selection 2 Concept Art, courtesy of their official website.

Natural Selection is the differentiation of individuals in a species, leading to those best suited to the environment being able to pass their genes on down the line. It is a key element of evolution, the feature that proves most adept at surviving in the biome is passed on to its children and so on and so forth.

Natural Selection 2 is a video game. A bold decision to make the sequel a completely different medium in my opinion.

The game's a combination of real-time strategy and first-person shooters. The big difference is that in RTS you have total control over every individual unit: every soldier, tank and building is yours to command. In Natural Selection 2 the combat units are under the control of individual players. As a result, whenever I was the commander I didn't get to do what I normally do in an RTS (build up a colossal army, point at the enemies base and say "kill"). This was actually pretty good, as it had me thinking on my feet. You're giving orders, placing buildings for your team to set up, occasionally dropping health and ammo for them.

There's two factions, the Marines (TSF) are a ranged combat faction who have a small advantage in how quickly they can deploy and adapt to the enemy and the Aliens. (Khaara) are a melee focused team with an edge in stealth and maneuverability. A lot of work has been put in to making the two sides distinct and balanced, even their similarities are varied, (the Khaara must control a room by spreading spores all over it before they can build structures, the Marines need to just plug the power on, the Marines have flashlights, the Aliens have night-vision) or balanced (the Khaara can move through air vents and small gaps, but the Marines have access to teleportation).

The biggest factional difference is how they vary their weapons and load-outs; resource gathering grants both commandeer their resources, but also give some of the points to individual players who can use them to tailor their weapons to the approach they want. For the humans you just go to an armory and buy the weapons you want: shotguns, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, a variety of grenades, and even some power armor at later levels. The aliens have to stop where they are and mutate into another form, they also get a little more flexibility with their upgrades, with each player picking up to three additional powers, ranging from invisibility, enhanced speed, even regenerating health.

This is definitely the sort of game that you want to go into knowing the mechanics, luckily there's four tutorials teaching you the basics on being both commander and infantry for the Marines and for the Aliens. As well as one that goes more in-depth into two of the Alien sub-classes, the Lerk who excels in aerial attacks on ground units and the Fade who are a stealth based assassin. I say tutorial, its basically a survival/ horde mode with you playing as whichever of the creatures you've picked (at time of writing my high score is 15, as a Fade and three as a Lerk). While I would have preferred a more in-depth tutorial on how to make best use out of these two creatures, I did appreciate that there was a game mode where you could get the hang of them in the first place, as getting to grips with a class or character I'm unfamiliar with puts me off going out of my comfort zone in a lot of games.

Another fun not-quite-tutorial mode is a gametype where you race Skulks (the starting Khaara lifeform). I found this a lot more fun, as it's giving you a few more tips, a little bit more encouragement and giving me a little more fun getting to grips with the controls, rather than frustratingly killing me over and over again, as marines attack me while I struggle to find out which button turns me invisible...

I mean, I still died a lot on that mode...

The nature of the game, needing to coordinate with your teammates, especially your commander meant that I was having to do something that I never do in games: I had to use voice chat. The game's definitely one of the few multiplayer games (at least multiplayer games that I've played) where you need to use the voice chat. As a commander you need to coordinate and order your troops, and as a troop you need to ask for help and reinforcements. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there wasn't much of a "Git gud scrub" attitude, and even when my newbie ass was in the commanders chair I was getting good advice and requests from my team on what to do. Whether I was lucky or this is how this game's community is I have no clue.

Either way I enjoyed Natural Selection 2 an awful lot. It's a fun game, with a genuinely fun concept that led me to some fun moments when I was playing it. It's weird to think that this game is the sequel to a scientific theory that governs where we got to today...

Sorry, I have been reliably informed that there is a video game called Natural Selection, and that's what Natural Selection 2 is a sequel to. It's available on Steam or you can find out more from the official website.

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