Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I played a lot of Blanka last night

It didn't go well. There were personal ultimatums, near tantrums, a whole lot of ugliness.

I am too old for this shit. On to Evil Within 2!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I guess I am a romantic, after all

I was not expecting Assassin's Creed Origins to have another four hours left when I starting playing last night. It was time to finish the game and save it from other distractions (#BlankaChan) so I soldiered on. I have a few problems with the game's resolution and it is old enough that I am going to spoil the ending freely. Chance just started the game (and will never finish it) and Alex intends to purchase it, so to my podcasting partners, a general spoiler warning.

If Pikachu was a car

One of my original posts on Origins lauded Aya as a character. She's cool, she's collected, everyone loves her but only Bayek can get close and even he is left behind eventually. Part of her mystique is that you never actually play her. Yes, there is a ship battle sequence at the midpoint of the game where she it at the helm, but you never control her in combat. She is doing the same kind of missions as Bayek, successfully, but her actions are more in line with an actual assassin while Bayek can bull his way through any encounter.

Seriously, my Bayek had a flaming sword but the time I was done with him. Not much silent and stealthy about enemies screaming as they burn to death.

This changes in the last act. You take control of Aya and are immediately stripped of all of Bayek's cool shit. No eagle eye view that can track enemies. No shield that can block incoming projectiles. No more being deliciously over leveled and therefore careless and malevolent.

I understand precisely what the game is going for. Aya said it herself before heading off to Rome to kill Caesar (I warned you that there would be spoilers): she had been too careless with their killing and they needed to work from the shadows. This was part her bringing the hammer down on Bayek and part reminding the player that this is an Assassin's Creed game and you are going to play at least one level the way it is intend, damnit. Aya's approach to kill Caesar is a throwback to the first few games: stealth required, unforgiving of failure, death waiting if a mistake is made.

I get its point, I just didn't like it. I had spent damn near sixty hours buffing Bayek so I could roll the final boss is a very un-Assassin's Creed like manner and was denied. I will admit that it made sense, and that for some people it may even be refreshing, but my Bayek and I were let down.

Speaking of things going poory for Bayek...

He doesn't die, which is good, but his motivation in the final hours swings wildly between his own 'HE KILLED MY SON HE MUST DIE' and Aya's 'we must work from the shadows, whisper, whisper.' It doesn't work. If this were a movie I would blame it in reshoots or poor editing. In one scene, after all appears to be lost (Cleopatra has betrayed them, the final targets have escaped to Rome, Flavius has the apple of eden and is doing all sorts of evil shit with it) Bayek gives a rousing speech that yes, he had been wrongly motivated by revenge and was too quick to trust Cleopatra, but even the failure had a silver lining as it brought together a new group to fight the Order.

He uses the word 'creed' like a dozen times. It's painfully obvious where he is going with the speech.

Less than an hour later he is back in the 'RAWR KILL' mindset. Then he is angry with Aya for leaving for Rome. And then he is at peace with the two them splitting up as being together reminds them both of what they have lost. For all but the last act Bayek was ruthless but still quick to smile and help those who needed help. His personality was part of why exploring was so much fun. He was there as a guardian of Egypt, to help people, and when he discards that for the new creed it feels like too big of a change.

I would almost have preferred that he die as he was, holding on to the dream the he and Aya could return to Siwa and just be husband and wife again. To hear him say 'I am not longer a mejay. I am no longer a father or a husband. I am of the shadows.' was heartbreaking. I wanted the character to have a happy ending and he did not get it.

...they saved that for the DLC. Fuckers.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Closing in

The map is filled in. All but one side quest is complete. Every question mark has been explored, every activity completed, save for fighting the elephants, because again, fuck them. I think that I am just about ready to pass the point of no return and run through the final story quests in Assassin's Creed Origins. This is the most time I have spent on a game since Tales of Berseria. Before that was The Witcher 3, which Origins will not equal.

Before that was Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, whose play time topped one hundred hours, something that is likely to never happen again.

There are warts and I have mentioned them. To mediocre combat and the level cap I would like to add shitty rewards for long quests. Give me a weapon, not an outfit that doesn't do anything. The game has pulled this several times and each was more disappointing than the last.

But Bayek is the best protagonist in an Assassin's Creed game since Ezio and the game as a whole is second only to Black Flag in regards to be honestly enjoyable to play. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to beat sea shanties and Blackbeard and simple but enjoyable ship to ship combat, but Origins has certainly tried harder and had more success than Syndicate or Unity.

It even almost, almost, makes the overarching narrative of the impending end of the world that was stopped by Desmond, or was it, interesting. Origins steps right up to the line of a cool idea, that there is no proof that the character looking into the past via an animus is not him or herself just being looked into by someone a layer up, thus the 'nothing is true, everything is permitted' mantra of the Assassins, but it doesn't do anything with it. So close, still so much extraneous bullshit. It would be a better game without it.

Just let me be Bayek, mejay of Siwa. Let me wander the banks of the nile before hopping on my camel, taking a ride to Giza and spelunking the pyramids. Let me be the good guy and help the oppressed Egyptians and Greeks.


Speaking of oppression, I find it surprising that, if one were to follow nothing but but the story missions, the Romans would not be encountered. I did not run into them until I was filling out the map and holy cow, they are motherfuckers. The whitest people in the area are also the worst. This checks out.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Ubigame problem

The complaint that I am about to air is not unique to Assassin's Creed. It appears it most open world Ubisoft games, namely all of the Far Cry's and, if I remember correctly, both Watch Dogs games. There is more stuff to see than there is stuff to earn. And the problem's corollary: fuck level caps.

Assassin's Creed Origins caps Bayek at level 40. He still earns points for skills, albeit slowly, but he is done getting more powerful or gaining hit points. I hit this last night and, while I do not have all of the skills unlocked, I have all of the ones that I am going to use. My Bayek has peaked in power. The game graciously gave me a point of no return warning on a mission so I turned around and looked at the map. About half of it was still empty. The main game was in its final act and half of the world was unexplored.

In my opinion, as a person who plays open world games in a almost completionist manner (not quite 100%, because fuck those elephants, but pretty close) this is poor balance. Do not leave the player with nothing to do to their character when there is still hours and hours (and hours) of stuff to explore in the world. Exploration can be it own reward, I suppose, but it is even nicer when I get a cool sword for the trouble or a few hit points or something tangible for the effort.

This would be fixed most easily by removing the level cap. Allow the player to built Bayek into an over powered, straight up broken killing machine. Reward the player tangibly for taking the time to explore every corner and every cave and every tomb.

It is especially disheartening in Origins because the cap came so early, real estate wise. I do have around 44 hours in on the game but there is a lot of territory left to cover. My need to check all of the boxes will pull me through for a while but my other need to see numbers grow larger is going to be severely neglected.


Did the Egyptians use the work fuck? Cleopatra dropped an f-bomb and it sounded really weird.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Yes, I am still playing Origins.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. I am quite annoyed with myself for falling into a very 'Chamberlain' trap twice this week, wasting about an hour each time. Twice I have found optional war elephant bosses. These war elephants are definitely not to be fucked with but because of the rigid way in which I play open world games - open area, clean out area, move on - I felt compelled to get that check mark on the map icon stating that I had finished the area.

The first time it meant fighting two war elephants. It took about an hour of retries but I eventually did it and the reward was a bow that I still am not a high enough level to use. I should have retreated from the area and returned later with more health and higher damage weapons but no, I saw it so I had to do it.

Again, last night, I wandered into a war elephants pen. There was only one this time but this one is far more difficult than the first two. For three quarter of his health bar he attacks predictably but his pattern shifts so dramatically, so quickly at the tail end of his health bar that I had no idea what to do. The correct answer would have been to walk away, level up, and come back. NO! For forty five minutes I was stomped to paste beneath this bastard's feet. I never did beat him and this unchecked box is going to drive me crazy.

I may have a sickness. That sickness is called Assassin's Creed.

Chamberlain and Chance - The comfort of a good game

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Same old problems

After damn near forty hours of Assassin's Creed Origins I do need to level a few criticisms at it. Being fair and balanced in important, yes?

Complaint the first: who in their right mind mapped light attack to the right bumper and the heavy attack to the right trigger, then set the special attack to hitting both at the same time? Dodge us on X and guard is on the left bumper, which is fine, but the finger gymnastics required to pull off a special attack in the middle of a fight is olympic. It may be possible to remap the controls but I have gotten used to it in the same way one would get used to a pillow that is a little too flat or a lump in a mattress. It hurts but you are too lazy to do anything about it.

Complaint the second: why is Assassin's Creed still forcing the modern day nonsense into its story? No one, and I mean no one in the entire world, cares about it. For example: Bayek tracked two mercenaries that be believed drowned a little girl (the game actually showed the girl underwater, tied to a stone. It gets dark.) to a newly opened colosseum. He is refused entry without a sponsor and coincidentally runs into a fighter from his hometown of Siwa, an old friend that he does not fully trust. Bayek omits the part about tracking down child killing scum bags and joins up with her and the two of them kill a whole bunch of nobodies.

Bayek and Kensa are finally matched up against Bayek's targets with the express limit of not killing them, just hurting them. They win, Bayek interrogates one of the gladiators and finds that they did not actually kill the girl but one of the patrons of the colosseum, an old woman who just happens to be in the audience, did. Bayek leaves and Kensa is furious at him for not telling the truth.

The old woman, the crocodile, hides out in a giant granary compound north of the colosseum. Bayek finds her with a brand new bodyguard: Kensa. Ok, this should be interesting. I had no interest in killing Kensa so I separated the two, killed the crocodile, and then waited to see what would happen next. Kensa stopped, squared up to me to get ready for a fight, and...

...and the game dumps me out back into the real world. I do about two minutes of bullshit before returning to Egypt and the event is over. Kensa is nowhere to be found and would could have been an interesting moment was ruined.

That's the best I can muster. This game is really good and I do not think I will be done with it any time soon.