A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Assassin’s Creed

Aveline Assassin – Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD

Yesterday I picked up Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD on Steam and it’s incredibly fun.

I want to start out saying that the primary thing that attracted me to this game over AC3 or 4 is that the main character is a French-African woman, born of a slave, but saved from that life by a good father. Her mother vanishes one day and leaves a mystery that spans the game. Aveline is a wonderful character and is completely awesome.

Mechanically speaking, it plays just like I’d expect a modern AC game to play. It’s a significant improvement over the first couple of AC games as free running and combat are much more fluid and dynamic. It even has a nifty built in mini-game where you send trade ships with goods to varying ports and you can make quite a bit of money. I’ve only had a couple of issues playing, one being that the game locked up once and the other where the cursor vanishes if I try to do the trading thing using any of the shops I’ve purchased instead of the primary desk at my headquarters. I especially like the persona mechanic where you essentially change how your character is played and perceived in the world by switching between the Lady Persona, Assassin Persona, and Slave Persona. You generate and reduce notoriety differently depending on which persona you currently are wearing and it adds an incredible level of depth to the game (also satisfying my personal love for swapping costumes based on my mood).

Graphically, the game is beautiful and definitely holds up to its triple-A family members. I have all the settings maxed out and it’s just lovely. The draw distances are a little short, but I’m okay with that. I spend most of my time on the streets amongst the people anyway.

I have quite a bit of experience with the Assassin’s Creed series and I’m particularly thrilled to finally have a game where the main character is female. This is one of those games where the female protagonist really carries the story. She’s never portrayed as frail, weak willed, or any of those stereotypical feminine things that TV or some games likes to force feed us. She’s independent, headstrong, and she really knows what she wants from life. In the Lady persona, she uses men just like she uses the environment, as a stepping stone to another location or goal. In the Slave persona, she manipulates the public perception that a slave wouldn’t be smart or capable enough to slip in anywhere. She’s never attired in a way that would reveal too much of her form and she’s always dressed practically. I absolutely adore the character of Aveline. She’s quickly outshone Connor and Altair and she’s on par with Ezio for me (I really loved being Ezio).

Well done Ubisoft. Thanks for a quality story with a quality female protagonist. I can’t wait to get back to the game.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. “I stand with those who stand with me. I lure my prey through the guise of a lady. I escape unnoticed through the veil of a slave. And though I may conceal my identity, one thing is certain: commit injustice in this world, and I’ll send you to the next. I am Aveline de Grandpré, I am an Assassin, and I fight for liberation.” – Aveline de Grandpré


A Different View of XCOM

Yesterday I took advantage of a Steam sale to pick up The Bureau: XCOM Declassified and I’ve been playing it quite a bit. That said, I think I’ve almost beat the game and it’s only my second day of playing it.

I’ve noticed a few things about the games construction – mainly, it’s built with obvious inspiration from other games. Aside from the direct connection to the XCOM series and the obvious stuff that comes with that (Sectoid, Muton, Sectopod, Silicoids that don’t look like anything I’m used to, Laser and Plasma weaponry, the Vigilo Confido logo), there’s definite influence from Mass Effect (a squad of three people with different abilities and you can choose the two who go with you, as well as the dialogue wheel), but I’m also seeing a bit of Batman: Arkham Asylum in there (pretty linear storyline with a set progression of things you get to make your job easier) and a touch of Assassin’s Creed (mainly the later games where you can send assassins out to do odd jobs). The third person perspective is also evocative of the Mass Effect/Batman/Assassin’s Creed influence.

I’ve got a few small problems though. The main issue I have is that everyone seems to know what everyone else is talking about. It’s like everyone agreed to call the enemy communication network Mosaic, including the aliens. One of the major bad guys is named Axis. There was an Elerium-115 mine on Earth (which is a surprise to me and probably Doctors Shen and Vahlen in the XCOM Enemy Unknown game). Instead of this being a quiet background invasion, it’s full scale (as far as we in the United States know) and it feels… not rushed. Like, you have the time to walk around the base and talk to people and there’s no real sense of urgency except in the missions and even then I basically take my time. Much like in Mass Effect, every fight is kind of easy to predict since the battefield will be littered with cover objects. Oh, and the dialogues don’t seem to be scripted properly in some places… for example, the person you’re talking to will say one thing and the response just won’t fit right. Maybe that’s just me being weird.

A lot of things were nailed down pretty well. Combat is fairly robust (wish grenades were easier to use), the squad command system is pretty fluid and straightforward, the abilities do exactly what you think and tend to ignore terrain restrictions in a good way  when it really matters (the sniper critical strike goes through terrain but turrets have to be placed properly). The guns feel powerful and the ammo is plentiful.

A note on the weapons: I like the looks of them and stuff, but why do the aliens have laser weapons? XCOM designs them in Enemy Unknown. I shrugged my shoulders while I played, but still. Also, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough difference between weapons, and for that matter, the backpacks you get. Seriously, I got the Guardian Pack that lets you have more ammo and (I think) do more damage and I haven’t looked at any other pack since. They’re too spread out, the ones you find in the field, and they’re not significant enough. Mainly, my issue is, I have a problem with not seeing numbers or quality comparisons between items and it makes it difficult to care about the different pieces of equipment. I know this was released for consoles, but at least you got some ballpark comparisons in Mass Effect 3 when you were equipping a different gun or swapping out an armor component.

Oh, and why don’t we have some body armor? That’d be cool. Maybe medkits for the support soldiers? I’m just spitballing here really.

I remembered the early work they were putting into the game when it was supposed to be during the 1950s and mostly happening in suburbia (shifted to the 1960s in the final product) and I’m seeing all that stuff still there. The black globs are Silicoids, the big dish thing that shoots lasers was actually a boss for a stage, and the stuff leaking out of peoples faces and the like is some sort of alien disease they’ve put in the water supply. Pretty awesome seeing that now after seeing it way back during the initial development.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the game and I’m looking forward to playing the Hangar 6 R&D DLC later. I really hope someone revisits this model for the XCOM franchise, mainly because being able to walk around in my own base ala wandering the Normandy in Mass Effect and talking to people on my team is really freaking cool. All the throwbacks to the TBS XCOM games like calling the helicopter you use the Skyranger and the experimental ship you’ll use to take the fight to the aliens the Avenger. Pretty sweet.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. BTW, the voice actors for some Mass Effect characters are also in The Bureau. Namely, Brandon Keener (Garrus Vakarian) and Courtenay Taylor (Jack). No quote this week because I can’t think of anything super relevant.


A Seeming Lull in Game Development

Is it just me or does it seem like we don’t have much to look forward to in the near future regarding AAA game titles?

It’s certainly understandable… this year saw the wrapping up of the  Mass Effect trilogy AND Assassin’s Creed “trilogy” with their penultimate installments. Further, Star Wars: The Old Republic has just finished its first year (bumps and all), XCOM Enemy Unknown finally launched and became PC Game of the Year, and the next “super game” isn’t going to drop until 2014 at the earliest (Star Citizen).

I know we’re to look out for more in the Mass Effect franchise (a fourth installment has been announced) and I’m thinking it’s a safe bet that Assassin’s Creed isn’t entirely done yet. For me though, the near future is kind of empty on the game release front.

I’m looking forward to more SWTOR updates and I’ve already pre-ordered the expansion that’s set to drop in Spring 2013 dealing with the Hutt Cartel and adding 5 more levels to the cap and more storyline for every class. Star Trek Online has a story heavy Season 8 coming up with apparently 9 new ships ready to go by February (some are fleet variants though, so that number is probably 5 actual NEW ships).

I haven’t heard anything about the next DLC for Mass Effect 3 or XCOM Enemy Unknown, but I know they’re on the way. Further, I haven’t heard much about the game Neverwinter, I just know I’ve got beta access eventually thanks to my lifetime STO account.

It feels… quiet on the gaming front. Too quiet. I suppose every company is taking a bit of a break after they finally dropped their big titles and everything’s running kind of smoothly. Maybe.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “The future will soon be a thing of the past.” – George Carlin


Discussion – Awesomesauce Action Spectrum

As you can tell from my scientifically derived title, I’ve come up with a rather rudimentary scale for action games that shows a spectrum of difficulty for me. If I may, allow me to define a few things first, and then the scale.

So, the action category contains a wide variety of games. Just looking at the Steam Store, I can see: Scrolling Shooters, First Person Shooters, Third Person Shooters, Action/Adventures, and even some Role-Playing Games. I mean, case in point, on Steam right now are 22 single-player games with a metascore of 90 and above AND are under $20. Here’s that list:

Battlefield 2: Complete Collection

BioShock

Call of Duty

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Company of Heroes

Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition

Grand Theft Auto 3

Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Half-Life

Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Portal

Quake

Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

Street Fighter IV

The Longest Journey

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell

Unreal Tournament 2004: Editor’s Choice Edition

Unreal Tournament: Game of the Year Edition

Now, ignoring iterations on the same game (because there’s not exactly an appreciable play difference between some games and their sequels) we’re seeing a few different types defined as action. You have your third person shooters in Splinter Cell, first person shooters in UT, Quake, BioShock, and a few others, there’s the sandbox third person shooter/RPG in Grand Theft Auto, a platform beat-em-up in Street Fighter IV, and… I don’t know enough to say anything about The Longest Journey, but I do know the graphics look a bit funky (it was released in 2000, so I don’t really know).

So, I made that list to make another list… here’s my spectrum of action games that I find fun, interesting, and captivating all in order of the difficulty it provides for me:

Mass Effect Series

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Assassin’s Creed series

Splinter Cell series

These four games/series share many common mechanics and are all third-person with varying levels of environmental navigation, puzzle solving and so forth. For me, I think when Mass Effect landed in my home it became akin to catnip and I never wanted to stop playing it (my first run through the original Mass Effect was so thorough that a second playthrough later that month actually put me to sleep, but ME2 didn’t have that effect on me because it was more action oriented – something that Steam doesn’t really notice and has put the original Mass Effect in the Action category, but not ME2, which is odd considering the faster pace of the game). Assassin’s Creed requires a certain level of skill and drive to complete each game and contains a variety of methods for handling every fight and navigation puzzle thrown at you. Batman is some sort of hybrid between Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed in the way that you can navigate the world in pretty much any way you want, you can fight however you wish, and (unlike Assassin’s Creed) you can beat the game in rather quick order thanks to having a lot of free time and three days (tops).

Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed, being made by Ubisoft, are exceptionally similar in gameplay. Hell, if you look at Prince of Persia too, you can see all sorts of things being used between the three games. Prince of Persia aside though, Splinter Cell is a more difficult Assassin’s Creed. For one, you can’t just walk out in the open in Splinter Cell and expect to survive your stroll across the room and for another, Splinter Cell is a stealth-based game that relies on you solving puzzles through a judicious application of stealth and stealth-based kills whereas Assassin’s Creed relies on you solving puzzles by using a judicious application of terrain negotiation and any weapon that comes to hand. Further, as Batman contains stealth mechanics and the ability to track enemies, the Splinter Cell connection is obvious here.

However, I did point out that my scale was built on difficulty for me to play. Mass Effect just came easy to me. I pick up science fiction based worlds very quickly (but I’m a big fan of that sort of stuff and there isn’t a lot of really truly good sci-fi that gets made into a successful gaming franchise). Batman was one of those games where I played it on the console, didn’t do too well, ignored it for a while, then on a whim picked it up via Steam and beat the crap out of it in less than three days. Easy, but I did have some issues with certain fights and the game really did a good job of creeping me the hell out.

Assassin’s Creed games have always been difficult for me. I’ve never actually finished the original all on my own (it was too slow paced and a lot of the side quests seemed kind of frivolous to me). I have finished the second installment and I’m about halfway through Brotherhood (even though I know how it all goes and so forth). Assassin’s Creed bridges the work/play dynamic a lot. Sometimes I just suck at the “being publicly stealthy” mechanic that AC has and it frustrates me and forces me to put the game away for a few months. Likewise with Splinter Cell. SC is a case of “too much stealth” sometimes. If you screw up once, you’re done for, whereas in AC if you screw up once, you’ve got a good chance of recovering from your mistake.

I greatly appreciate the four franchises I’ve outlined above in my spectrum. They cover different periods, different genres, and take different approaches from each other (more or less) while maintaining a high sense of self/world. If I had to pick, I’d take Mass Effect any day over the others, but I’m silly that way. I’m quite happy ME3 is coming out in March (reportedly) as I dunno if a 6th playthrough of ME2 would be capable of sating me again. Further, now I’m looking forward to even more the release of Batman: Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Initially, I’ll just watch my friends play those last two, but once Steam gets its paws on them (and runs a sale of sorts possibly) then I may indeed jump in.

Until next time, keep enjoying awesome game experiences!

– Elorfin

P.S. My playthrough of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic continues! Considering that I’ve spent 30 hours playing it before, it’s going to be quite a few videos if I intend to finish the game and post it all online. Something like 180+ 10 minute videos. Sheesh, at least I’ll have plenty to post! Should keep me busy through the very near release of The Rise of Isengard expansion for LOTRO and the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

P.P.S. “Experience needs distance and what you write of at a distance tells not so much what you were like as what you have discovered since.” – David Wade


Discussion – The Older Things

Last night I caught The Comedy Awards and was struck by something when David Letterman got on stage to accept the Johnny Carson award: there are people who don’t know who Johnny Carson IS.

Allow me to explain the relevance. I have a young cousin who I love to talk to. She’s really smart and generally awesome. She knows nothing of X-COM, Civilization, Babylon 5, Star Trek, Star Wars, I mean, seriously an empty education. She MIGHT know Firefly, but she only knew of Assassin’s Creed because I told her. She’s grown up never knowing who Princess Leia is or even Queen Amidala. She doesn’t know of Captain Picard or that William Shatner is the original Captain Kirk.

It falls to us, the players of old games and purveyors of older cultural THINGS to pass them on to the younger generations so that they can see the joy inherent in what we love. We need to share our passions with our friends and our children (and our friends children) so that these things will flourish.

I’ve taken it upon myself to start sharing Star Wars with my cousin (among other things) and I’m struggling to do my part. I’m making progress, surely. A friend of mine has started his daughter on Star Wars at the ripe old age of something-under-2.

I think that the real impact that we could have here is that the old is never truly forgotten (unless it really really sucks).

Until next time, spread the good word!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Culture would seem … first and foremost, to be the knowledge of what makes man something other than an accident of the universe be it by deepening his harmony with the world, or by the lucid consciousness of his revolt from it. … Culture is the sum of all the forms of art, of love and of thought, which, in the course of centuries, have enabled man to be less enslaved.” – André Malraux

P.P.S. Oh, yes, also… TAGS!


Discussion – Player Character Gender

There are a great many games out there that allow you to choose your gender when you’re generating your character. In the game Mass Effect, Shepard can be male or female and you can import him or her into the sequel so you maintain your preferences. Some games have genders specifically picked out for what you want to do like in Diablo II where the Sorcerer is female but the Paladin is male. Still, there are other games where you’re stuck with the gender chosen for you like in Assassin’s Creed where you’re male or Tomb Raider where you’re female.

When playing games, I typically play a male character. I find it easier to identify with a male character, to put myself in their shoes, and wherever possible, that male character is an extension of myself. Coincidentally, I’m a male, so this is understandable.

The reason I’m bringing this up? Well, I was reading the news post that Tycho posted on Penny Arcade this past Friday. In it he mentions that he always plays females. He states his reason being: “These are truly alien experiences for me, and I’m exposed to them and enriched by them…” This makes perfect sense to me.

Let me put this another way… I play games to insert myself into the world and experience the world through some sort of extension of myself. I try to make characters that are like me or that I can identify with easily because that helps me to feel like I’m a part of the world I’m participating in and attempting to make a difference in. It helps me to become invested. I believe that Tycho is looking for new and strange experiences and in doing so he’s looking to, well, enrich himself through them. Neither is more right than the other and both are important to us. I very much respect his approach to gaming and readily admit that, from time to time, I have also built a female character or have played as a female character either through a desire to experience something very different or because the game forces me to (not in a bad way though).

When I’m playing games with my character-who-is-an-extension-of-myself, I become a part of the story, I become a member of the cast, a part of the team, and when I step away from the game, the experiences that I accrued while playing are a part of me. It gives me a great sense of being there, of connectedness… and that’s what I look for.

Until next time,

– Elorfin

P.S. “It reminds me of when I first saw Samus Aran’s face in Metroid: Prime, my face, flashed inside the visor, saw my eyes, which were her eyes, blinking at the brightness. These are truly alien experiences for me, and I’m exposed to them and enriched by them because I didn’t have to fill out some questionnaire before playing the game to make it aware of my sacred boundaries. I wasn’t given the option to check the “No Homos” box, or to choose an elf with a less bewitching accent. Instead, I was dropped hip-deep into the Inferno Round of a moral quiz show. I just want to shake these people sometimes. Hey. That feeling, the one that you’re feeling? That is the game.” – Tycho, Penny Arcade