Why I’m Excited for anything Respawn Entertainment Develops

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Titanfall came out in 2014 and was a super intriguing concept that was largely underutilized and unsuccessful. Flash-forward to Titanfall 2, the second excursion for the series and also one of the highest highs for the shooter genre in recent years, and all of my hopes were realized. Respawn handled Titanfall 2 in almost as perfect a way as Infinity Ward (and many of the same staffers) handled Modern Warfare 2 back in 2009. Titanfall 2 is sadly not as popular nowadays due to EA’s piss poor handling of marketing and them trying to cram Battlefield 1 down our throats instead of letting players enjoy Titanfall 2.

In terms of a shooter offering a solid, fun campaign and an epic multiplayer experience, Titanfall 2 is hard to beat. It’s original in most respects but even where it mooches off of other concepts, it remains fresh. Perhaps the reason I respect Respawn Entertainment the most and am infinitely excited for what they could do with the Star Wars universe comes from how they handled DLC and the multiplayer component of the game. For the most part, the majority of the experience was always free and unless you wanted to shell out at most two to four dollars for skins and optional add-ons, it remained that way. That’s how microtransactions should work, not like Black Ops 4 and its effort to monetize every gimmick and gameplay addition.

I always respected DICE for their efforts in the Battlefield series, even up to 4, Hardline, and somewhat 1 and beyond, for having rich customization and unlocks that weren’t necessarily locked beyond paid progression like other titles have been. Of course, that kind of went by the wayside after two botched attempts at marketing through Star Wars Battlefront 1 and 2. Respawn has two interesting projects on the burner right now and that’s of course Fallen Order and Titanfall 3 (prospectively). I could see a great experience mixing the action elements of the Titanfall series as well as potentially some of the powerful and unique force elements we’ve gotten a taste of through The Force Unleashed and Knights of the Old Republic.

In my mind, Titanfall as a series should be handled much like the Modern Warfare trilogy was. Develop it in three parts and go out with a bang. Don’t make it a semi-annual series like Call of Duty or Battlefield. Let it have its highs and then let it go and move onto developing other excellent titles. Titanfall 2 reminded me so much of Modern Warfare 2 in how it upped the ante on its predecessor in literally every conceivable way. Modern Warfare 3, despite all of its development issues, remains one of my favorite Call of Duty games to date for all of that and if Titanfall 3 can one up Titanfall 2 then it’s well on its way there as well.

That’s largely it for my short little thought-blog today, but if you have your own opinions about Respawn and why they could do the Star Wars brand some justice it deserves, feel free to say so. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they’re easily the best group underneath the EA banner at the moment. DICE might still have a claim to that title but their treatment of fans lately leaves a lot to be desired. Criterion has always had plenty of talent as well however. Cheers.

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Activision has become Just as Bad as EA

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Electronic Arts has been notorious for being one of those huge money-grubbing corporations that doesn’t care whatsoever for its gaming fanbase and only looks for the next big paycheck and cash haul. Activision, until relatively recently, at least seemed to care about the fans despite still cashing in on plenty of expensive DLC. No more.

Black Ops 4 in its entirety has been an experiment in monetizing games. I remember several years ago when Dead Space 3 (courtesy of EA) was getting tons of critiques of how it had made microtransactions such an integral part of the experience. Black Ops 4 launched with less microtransactions in it in order to sneakily get great reviews, then slowly but surely has added more and more as the weeks and months have gone by. Black Ops 4 quickly became ‘Spend Extra Money on What Should’ve already been Included in the $60 edition: The Game.’

Battlefield V has largely been a flop so far for EA in terms of sales so perhaps they’ll actually rein themselves in on the whole ‘spend this to get this to get this’ mindset. Black Ops 4 has been a flop in terms of quality and yet the money is still gushing so Activision could care less. Gone are the days when Infinity Ward and Treyarch- especially Treyarch, would listen to the community and implement features or fixes as necessary. I’ve seen the same problems talked about since LAUNCH that have yet to be fixed as of right now. Literally to this moment. Server disconnects with absolutely no warning? Still an issue months later. A horde of minor inconveniences and issues that add up to completely ruin the fun? Also still present.

The developers have spent apparently no time whatsoever in fixing the issues that still plague the game and instead push out DLC and monetized content at an unprecedented pace. Oh, you want us to fix the servers and the glitches and the lag and the actual gameplay balancing issues inherent in the game? How about we offer you some reticles that you can buy for real world money with points you can only get through spending your money? Why even put CoD points in at all when there’s no way to earn them? Just tell us how much $$ the downloadable content is and be out with it.

Admittedly, even I am not helping the case because I have purchased several items and points. However I’ve already clearly got it in my head that because this specific CoD title seems to be getting plenty more money out of me even beyond the season pass and maps than in the past, I will not be pruchasing the next several entries into the franchise until the quality improves or they remove useless editions and additions. I think it’s less an issue on Treyarch’s part and more an issue of Activision instructing them to charge gamers an arm and a leg to recoup money they might’ve potentially lost in Destiny 2 (where Bungie actually cares about the community and even went so far as to leave Activision).

Typically in the past, it seemed as if Treyarch and the other developers actually stuck up for fans and would push as much content into each DLC pack as possible and limit the additional payments outside of those expensive packets. Those days have been gone for a while now with the whole supply drop debacle (thanks Sledgehammer) between the Advanced and Infinite Warfare games. Black Ops 3 was a taste of what was to come and despite being a fun game Black Ops 4 is the worst the series has yet to see in terms of decision making and easily avoidable design flaws. I’ve never seen a game so promising held back by the sheer need to make an exorbitant amount of money.

Call of Duty, like an sports franchise, is a series built upon success through first quality and now just name association and money itself. Since Call of Duty: Ghosts, the quality in the titles have been largely lackluster and hit or miss. Franchise fatigue is to be expected in a series that’s been going almost annually since its inception, but Activision has really determined that they’re going to run the juggernaut into the ground and reap the benefits. If the issues that persist in this title in terms of quality aren’t addressed in the next several patches, I am positive that there will be a much more noticeable dip in player numbers.

Bringing things back around to why EA is so notorious for not listening to its fans- look no further than the annual installments of Madden. Each year they take away popular features, add the tiniest adjustments and proclaim that they are valuable updates, and charge the same full price despite the barely cosmetic increase in quality. They could easily produce the same rushed content as DLC for a few years until an actual technically advanced engine or other fresh ideas emerge and then create a new version of the game that’s more than an update and rinse/repeat. Call of Duty can’t follow that formula and they definitely shouldn’t follow in any of EA’s footsteps. Listen to the fanbase to a degree. At least in terms of fixing issues in your game.

I laughed at an article I recently read from a big name industry outfit that proclaimed “Black Ops 4 had the smoothest first quarter and launch of any Call of Duty game ever.” Not only did that elicit a chuckle from me at the sheer irony and wrongness, but it made me wonder just how much Activision shelled out to get good reviews before completely shitting on the fans of their game. Implementing a tier system based upon time and not actually upon skill, experience, or gameplay? Check. Giving casual fans the option to purchase the additional weapons and whatnot locked behind that tier system that should’ve been openly included in the DLC packages they already purchased? Check. In Black Ops 4, unless you have no job or social life and are able to play a year’s worth of games in the one to three month time period of each ‘season,’ you will not unlock content without paying for it. You’re paying for a game in order to pay for a season pass and playlist locked maps and content in order to pay for already purchased content you now have to either grind or purchase to earn.

Do better.

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Gaming Thoughts 1/3/19

Ring in the New Year! I’m back with a short blurb on why TWO games that have a massive following are absolutely broken and bonkers at the moment. The first is old hat Black Ops 4. The second is also old news in Destiny 2.

Black Ops 4 has ISSUES. We’ll leave that at that. However, despite things operating fine for me up until literally yesterday, after downloading a tiny 37MB patch today and hoping for the best… Well, that’s not at all what I received. Here I thought perhaps it was some minor tweaking and balancing. Instead, now the already abominable servers regularly boot me three quarters of the way through absolutely tragic levels of lag in matches.

Take all the connectivity issues the game already has and magnify them tenfold. That’s the garbage this new update gives you. Stacked on top of the fact that it answered absolutely no preexisting issues. Many players have been experiencing issues with equipped items and outfits being magicked away and their specialists being reset to whatever the base camo is for that category. I only have this issue on Recon and Ruin personally but it’s a pain in the tush because I’d love to see the Samurai and Viking outfits in all their glory for once.

Some have mitigated this through a sort of workable workaround- quickly changing outfits in the match lobbies and hoping it sticks for one game. Since I can’t even get through a game and can’t even play, that’s a bit difficult at the moment as well.

Onto Destiny 2. Destiny as a whole has had plenty of issues appeasing fans (in the first) and technically (with the second). However now you can add broken and deleted content to that list. It’s been quite some time since I’ve dipped my toes in Destiny 2 and I wanted to see what some of the new hubbub was about. Sadly I never made it past several infinite loops of the opening load screen. At first I just thought it was taking ages as always, until I received several Boar, Bird, Bee, etc error codes and would restart the loop once more.

The fix “supposedly” is to redownload every single scrap of data and somehow hope that it works the second time around or to uninstall it from the external drive, move other games around, and reinstall it onto the hard drive and hope for the same result. That is absolutely insane and a waste of time. I did manage to finally get to one of my characters even after being hit with an error that told me all of my downloaded content was either missing or damaged. So that’s just wonderful news.

Players don’t spend $35 or more on your ridiculous Annual Pass that is so convoluted in how it can be purchased and in what bundles it exists, just to get the proverbial runaround on errors and issues that should be fixed. And on top of that, any networking issues you might already be having will pretty much guarantee you can’t get off the load screen without a hiccup or ten and it hitting you with the error code all over again. It’s a mess.

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On the State of Black Ops 4

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Treyarch is no stranger to Call of Duty. What is strange however, is some of the decisions they have made in the past few months since Black Ops 4’s release. Add to that some of the other decisions they have not made and despite the game being a commercial success (as always), it should receive some backlash as well. Developers should listen to criticisms and adjust accordingly and for the most part that is not happening. So-called balancing has yet to address several issues that have plagued the game since its infancy. Multiplayer will be the predominate focus of this post, however there have been some issues addressed already with the newest patch in Blackout. Zombies is largely an okay experience save for some server issues. Roll the tape!

Whether you like it or not, it seems the whole idea of ‘specialists’ is here to stay. Introduced in Black Ops 3, largely continued in Infinite Warfare in the forms of ‘rigs’, and now continued in Black Ops 4. Specialists both elevate the excitement level of matches and ruin them, somehow simultaneously. With the addition of Zero and the fact that several specialists have yet to be truly nerfed or handled in a way that makes them not overpowered outside the realm of possibility (Ajax, Nomad, Prophet, and Battery especially), the game hands noobs and experts insane amounts of strength with no required skill. The cheapness goes both ways- on one hand you can wait a few minutes and get a guaranteed killfest if you’re running a specialist such as Ruin, Prophet, or Battery, but on the other some specialists require much more skill than others and their special weapon feels hard earned rather than a one hit instakill spammed across the screen.

Zero messes with the balance even more. The hacker has some good equipment in the EMP nade and the ‘Ice Pick’ is interesting in theory but provides more balance issues than the game already has in execution. I have few qualms with the effectiveness of the Ice Pick outside it making no sense that it has no impact on RCXDs whereas it will effectively dismantle tougher rewards and killstreaks. Why its effects persist after death for opposing team members is beyond me and should be addressed. I’ve run into lobbies upon lobbies of players running the maximum number of Zeroes and it is as annoying as you’d imagine to get hit with four to five Ice Picks in one match and on top of that have hard earned killstreaks effortlessly hijacked.

Back to the other Specialists though… Let’s run down the list of grievances with all of them and whether they have yet to be addressed after the game has been out for several months. Ajax still has an overly effective 9-bang but still my biggest complaint despite a so-called nerf is the shield he carries. If you run into Ajax and you don’t have a readily available explosive powerful enough to do AoE damage, you are guaranteed to die. The only true counter is a Hellstorm. Battery is a noob’s wet dream. She has a cluster grenade that with equipment charge effectively grants you five or six grenades every three minutes or so. It does insane damage for free. The War Machine is the most broken idea in the game at the moment as well because whereas it used to be a hard earned killstreak you can now earn it three or four times a match and go on an absolute rampage. It does amazing damage to enemies and barely scratches your own dumb self in most situations. Crash doesn’t offer much to complain about and despite not having a “weapon” is handy especially when combined with Recon in objective based modes.

Firebreak takes actually a surprising amount of skill to effectively play, at least until you earn his specialist weapon and can burn your enemies out. The Purifier is ridiculous in that it can literally barely touch you now and you’re instant ashes. Thankfully it has its limits in range and Firebreak’s nuclear ability can be avoided sometimes as well or this specialist would be oh so tiresome. Recon is his own worst enemy or greatest friend depending upon whether an experienced or inexperienced player has the reins. Vision Pulse is super handy but can be somewhat mitigated with perks. The dart is likewise handy but easily destroyed. Ruin is not broken at all and can theoretically be countered with headshots but will still decimate an entire room with ease. Despite that, he’s not unbalanced and the grappling gun is an interesting addition to his arsenal as well. Seraph might have the single-most powerful weapon in the game but it requires skill to aim correctly and take out enemies and scorestreaks. Otherwise it might be much more annoying than it is. Likewise, tactical deploy beacons are easily destroyed.

Torque is perhaps one of the weakest specialists in that his ability and equipment is easily countered with explosives and tactical masks. If you lack either, he will decimate you, but if you possess them then he’s cake. Nomad can be infuriating to play as and play against. On one hand, somehow your dog finds ways to die easily by walking into a hail of bullets, yet on the other hand Juno on the opposing team could very well go on a tear and rampage across the map and get to impossible to reach locations. It’s broken in nearly every way despite being easy to counter in theory. The trip mines are considerably less of an issue. Prophet has somehow gotten worse over time in terms of balance. You might think the Tempest is the issue, but really it’s the effectiveness of the Seeker mine which you may as well not bother trying to counter because it doesn’t recognize half your button inputs or attempts to slowly shoot it as you stand transfixed for a ridiculous amount of time waiting to be put out of your misery. And now we have Zero, who I’ve already discussed.

Moving beyond the obvious, let’s discuss the other issues that plague a game that nixed a single player campaign in favor of “more polish” on online aspects. First of all, that’s garbage as the end product has thus far seemed rushed and the developers would rather work ahead on new content than fix what is already out. At least, that’s what I gather from the neverending forum posts of issues that have yet to be effectively addressed.

My three other big issues are spawns (the horror), gun balancing (or lack thereof), and server issues. On the subject of servers first- how do you craft a triple-A franchise and still use horrible server bandwith and control? No matter what speed you operate at, the servers seem to roll through molasses behind you. It’s really quite impressive how horrifyingly behind the times the game is in that aspect as I’ve routinely had better connection in previous games in the series than this one. Address it.

Spawns are quite simply broken. And to clarify that, in multiplayer matches, you should not be spawn flipping so hard to the point of spawning into a stream of enemy fire, spawning instantly ahead of an enemy and being shot in the back, or any other ridiculous outcomes that lead to a once held area being compromised due to unfair spawns. This isn’t “keeping us on our toes” it’s lazy scripting and poor decision making in the gameplay department and it ruins it quite effectively. I have mostly no problem with objective mode spawns at the moment but team deathmatch modes are severely broken and must be addressed.

The most overarching issue that seems to plague the game is the gunplay. Some of this may of course be due to the increased time to kill (which ruins half the fun as is, but really what can we do about that). Snipers are largely obsolete except in the hands of infuriating quickscopers you will never beat even if you get the drop on them. This factors into the problem of balancing as well. Gone are the days where getting the drop on somebody meant something. Now, if you’re not using the gun with the highest damage and fastest rate of fire, you are going to inevitably lose ninety percent of your battles. Stims and increased health only add to it. SMGs shoot pudding and only become an effective weapon choice if you progress painfully through several tiers and unlocks. Assault rifles are largely the way to go in all situations unless you’re a prodigy with tactical rifles. Anything with a burst ability will win every time. Rockets do absolutely no damage despite being able to take scorestreaks down with one or two hits. Direct impact is the exception but surely a rocket blast to your immediate right would harm you rather than doing no damage at all (one would think).

There are so many more thoughts I could put on paper and yet I know this is more a stream of consciousness than me expecting changes to be made in a timely fashion, if ever. Most issues have yet to be addressed and we’ve all discussed them since launch. A new patch released today and it still leaves most issues largely unanswered and focuses on bringing yet more half working half broken content to the game instead of fixing what already exists. Blackout works despite some game breaking bugs popping up randomly over time. Zombies I have no real issues with besides connectivity, which leads us back to the servers. Multiplayer however, is a different, tragic story.

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Exploring the Best Ideas that Assassin’s Creed Has Had

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Assassin’s Creed has been running around in cloaks and hoods with hidden weapons since 2007. Although the whole hood thing may be out the window in favor of plumed helmets this year, the sentiment stands. The series began in 2007 and from 2009-2016 had fairly uninterrupted content on an annual basis. Prior to the break before 2017’s Origins pushed the Creed into a new direction and breathed some new life into the semi-faltering saga, there were plenty of overused ideas and tropes that came to be anticipated and expected of each year’s title. This particular post is going to explore some of the interesting ones- for better or worse in terms of how they fared, in every title from the original to Odyssey.

Assassin’s Creed (2007): Ironically my choice for the innovation in the very first historical fiction game depicting the shadowy war between Templars and Assassins is the story/lore itself. For the most part, the integration of the modern day and past settings into each other (some times more seamlessly than others) stood the test of time from AC1 through Syndicate, prior to the semi-reboot of logic and lore with Origins and Odyssey adding their own ancient ideas to the mix and already intriguing but confusing story. With Assassin’s Creed 1, we were first introduced to the Assassin and Templar orders and also to the concept of a ‘precursor’ or first civilization. It was unexpected and it was cool. Until Desmond had to go ruin it all for everyone later.

Assassin’s Creed II (2009): Like any good sequel, Assassin’s Creed II is grander in scope and scheme and builds upon the foundation, lore, and innovations of Assassin’s Creed in quite literally every single way. It is very much the series’ best interpretation of ‘Empire Strikes Back’ in that sense and although some could argue that its follow-on Brotherhood is the highest point (or Black Flag for other reasons), I disagree. Outside of directly building upon all mechanics in the series and diving fully into the lore and intrigue while getting the whole assassin thing kick-started from the get-go in memorable fashion, Assassin’s Creed II’s biggest addition to the series is the overall world. From architecture to sprawling countryside to the amount of people and fascinating backstories and evidence available, Assassin’s Creed II was the first to truly create an immerse and large, believable and living world. It wouldn’t be the last game to do so.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010): Ezio Auditore is a name that is synonymous with the series as a whole and for good reason considering he is the only player outside of Desmond Miles to span several core installments as a significant character. His second game built in many ways upon the Italian’s first adventures and show him in his prime as a tried and true Assassin Grand Master operating his newly built network in the hub city of Rome. Brotherhood didn’t build upon ACII as much as the former did upon the first title, however the additional tweaks that Brotherhood brought to the core formula make it one of the most highlighted games in the series and also most critically acclaimed. Perhaps its biggest innovation, at least in terms of lasting effect and impact (for better or worse) was the introduction of a multiplayer mode that had surprising depth and unique gameplay. It would later be seen across several other games in largely similar format- from Brotherhood to Black Flag.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (2011): Although Revelations is the end point for Ezio Auditore as a series protagonist and capped off the so-called ‘Ezio Trilogy,’ is it also the black sheep of the family for many. Revelations actually has quite a few contributions to the series however many are so experimental that they haven’t ever quite come back and were met with mixed reviews from the start. While den defense ‘tower defense’ like mechanics might be perhaps the strangest and most unique, they don’t operate well enough to be classified as perhaps the “best” mechanic or idea in such a game. What I will say however is that in terms of adding necessary new content, Ezio’s new hookblade weapon/tool is a sweet addition in both locomotion and combat. It has a multitude of uses and upgrades and can be combined with devastating effect during fights as well as escapes. It may seem like a simple gimmick such as bombs were, however it drastically changed the game in a way that hadn’t been done since parachutes and counter kills.

Assassin’s Creed III (2012): Many would regard this moment as one of the darkest for the series because of the initial outcry over bugs and quality of content. I actually disagree and think, even more so in retrospect, that ACIII stands as one of the most unique games in the series for its new ideas (many of which have since been iterated into games since). Although it features one of the least memorable or interesting main characters, the supporting cast, time period, and overall gameplay make up for that along the way. The particular innovations I’d like to highlight here are something which Black Flag and several subsequent titles build up and effectively hone in on: the sailing and frontier mechanics respectively. Black Flag especially dives into the survival aspects in the wild and on the high seas and ACIII is to thank for coming up with those ideas. Crafting takes on a whole new meaning and navigating deadly waters as you build your crew and upgrade your ship play into it as well as farming loot and resources on land does.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013): Desmond’s story largely played out across the first five games and while it’s arc had finished by the time we arrived at Ubisoft’s first pirate excursion, the lore and backstory still stood strong after. Black Flag builds upon nearly every aspect of Assassin’s Creed III and is ironically seen as the modern pinnacle for what the series can be and is known for. Who would’ve thought that ironically the least ‘Assassin’ of the Assassin’s Creed protagonists would be the most popular assassin by user and player consensus? For it’s innovation I’d have to highlight the much broader and richer combat experience which is in some ways a more developed build of both Brotherhood and ACIII in a weird sort of way but in others an entirely new concept as well. Familiar aspects as always with this series make a return but fighting more as a pirate than as an assassin makes for a wildly different experience from any title prior. It may even be one of the most gruesome and violent entries in the series as well.

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (2014): Just as its very title would suggest, Rogue is perhaps the rogue game in the series and also the most likely to be forgotten. Although you could argue Revelations could take that title, Rogue came out in conjunction with Unity which was released for the then-next generation consoles while Rogue was destined for the back burner on current generation consoles. Rogue is not a bad game and in terms of launch actually fared far better than the mess that Unity initially was. However it, like Revelations, is the victim of fatigue and doesn’t have much new content or ideas to thrill us with. It instead opted for combining characters from ACIII and Black Flag into a narrative that bridged the gaps and provided some backstory as to their motivations later on as well. It also marks the first time we truly get to see things from a Templar perspective, which is conveniently its major innovation. This would of course also be semi done with Unity in the same cycle and has since been done through Odyssey now as well. Shay Cormac through no fault of his own is one of the most forgettable characters in the series and outside of being truly wronged by the Assassin order, he has no purpose in it.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014): Unity was a mess upon launch but over the span of several months it grew into something that I actually found myself immensely enjoying. It has since become one of my favorite ugly ducklings in the series despite still having several mechanics that just don’t age well and weren’t great to begin with. It’s world (of Paris) is still one of the largest and most interesting time periods we’ve yet to visit in the series and also one of the most compelling in terms of exploration. Although Arno Victor Dorian isn’t the most capable or memorable of assassins, the sheer level of customization and ability to influence his growth is admirable and well thought out. One of the most unique aspects of this title is its brand of multiplayer which is actually cooperative heists. Being able to work cooperatively with assassins in such as way that we have yet to ever see again is memorable even though now it is largely impossible since the game is several years old. That is just one of the many things that Unity did that other titles have yet to build upon, but another fundamental change would be to the free-running system which they rebuilt to be even more fluid and believable.

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (2015): While many saw the series running itself ragged and were growing fatigued with its overused tropes and same old ideas, Syndicate simultaneously provided a little respite and also allowed Ubisoft to refocus on what to do for the future of one of their flagship titles. It marks the last installment that went further into the future than titles before it and also the last annual installment, although we’ve since had Origins and Odyssey released back to back (despite there being no sequel planned for 2019 since Odyssey will be continually supported). Syndicate does a number of fresh things for the series: it marks the first time there are two playable protagonists, it marks the first time that such technically advanced weaponry and gadgets are available to assassins, and it also utilizes a complex yet navigable ‘mob’ system of gangs and crime bosses that you can build up or take down. It did many things right, built upon old ideas well, and also pushed the quality back up after a few perceived ‘down’ years.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017): Origins is not a reboot but it stands as a stepping on point for a new generation of players should they wish to start now. Between Origins and the games that came before, there are a multitude of differences but there are also the same similarities that will probably persist in the series until its death. Origins is so-called because it depicts the first time we see a shadowy order of assassins come together to combat the period’s version of the Templar order. It adds a bit of fan service in traveling to Egypt and it changes the scheme of the game to a degree that it plays more like an open world RPG than it does an outright action-adventure game at times. Perhaps the most unique element of all is that it features all of these things that directly overhaul the series as we’ve come to know it. And although Odyssey follows in mostly the same stride, Origins is also the first time we’ve seen a progression system with the depth it has as opposed to the sort of progression system featured in Syndicate previously.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (2018): To the naked eye, Odyssey was developed largely as a clone of Origins it might seem and you may already worry that the next five years worth of Assassin’s Creed games will all be clones like the previous core installments seemed to be turning into of each other. However there are still plenty of fresh ideas to be found in Odyssey despite the elements introduced in Origins being cloned to a degree as well. Odyssey embraces role-playing much more than Origins did and dives deeply into that side of the adventure saga spectrum. It looks almost akin to Destiny in the loot, gear, resources, and weapons respect there as well as having a fully realized skill tree (or three). It also features a rich world not unlike Origins’ Egypt, however the setting (if you couldn’t tell) is Ancient Greece this time around. The newest elements may be unique in aesthetic only but they are unique nonetheless- there is a dynamic weather system, city state / leader system that you can fully impact, and also a truly living world with people and animals fulfilling their daily tasks as they see fit. It’s the first time we’ve seen this attention to detail in this series pretty much.

Honorable Mention: It wouldn’t be an Assassin’s Creed post without also mentioning one ‘game’ tied largely to lore and one tied to piggybacking off of Assassin’s Creed III. First I’d like to address Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation which combines elements of ACIII and Black Flag in terms of story and world building (and mechanics), but started as a port prior to becoming a console version of the title. Liberation has one of the most intriguing characters in terms of backstory but is also largely forgotten despite having an interesting conflict of Templar/Assassin ties. In terms of lore, I’m actually speaking of the Facebook game ‘Project Legacy’ which was an interesting deep dive into memory and intrigue back in 2010. It embellished upon some backstories and crafted others for characters we would actually later see as well.

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Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s ‘Worst’ Ending Might be its Best

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In a game where you’ve spent countless hours upgrading your character or their companions, having the opportunity to see all of your hard fought progress go to waste in the blink of an eye because a beloved character is killed by events in or out of your control is enough to make the hardiest of players grieve. If you had spent countless hours building relations in The Witcher 3 only to receive one of the ‘worse’ endings to the game and find out not many main characters survive, you’ve be shocked and saddened I’m sure. Odyssey includes enough RPG elements of choice and branching storylines that similar outcomes can and will occur at its climax as well.

I’m here to tell you that while you should grieve for your lost and / or loved ones and while you should pity the mistakes your earlier self made when you thought you wouldn’t have such an impact upon the Greek world, all is not truly lost. That’s not to confuse you and make you think you will somehow get your friends and comrades back if you fail to make certain choices or complete tasks and quests- the most certainly are doomed and gone. However I think perhaps the most authentic experience to the Greek myths and histories of old is the tragic route. While I would much rather see my characters lavished with adoration and pride from their friends, companions, and family members at the end of their literal transformative odyssey, I know that is not always the Greek way and may also be out of the realm of possibility at some points.

I think perhaps the truest ending to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey may be the one in which you suffer greatly for the duration of the game. This is the part where I tell you to shield your eyes and cover your ears because there are plenty of spoilers to come.

If you make certain choices throughout your playthrough as either Kassandra or Alexios in Odyssey, you can affect the entire outcome of the separate storylines- from the main ‘Odyssey’ to the outlying ‘Cult’ narrative. A few prominent examples would be whether or not you spare some plague stricken villagers in the tutorial island section early on in the game- a decision with surprising ramifications later on that could lead to the plague engulfing the entire island or no issues at all. A second example is whether or not you choose to spare the Wolf of Sparta- a general of significance to your character that has a shared history and comes into play later in the story unless you choose to slay him early on. Even if you dare not slay him earlier, you can extinguish both his life and many others later on as well. There are obvious and less obvious choices that will ultimately shape your experience in ways you may not expect.

To cut to the chase and talk a little bit about the ending without spoiling it outright in its entirety, there is a way to effectively ensure  the majority of your companions and all of your family members die. Throughout your quest(s) you will encounter certain opportunities to slay a few prominent characters and you will also be unable to prevent the deaths of others. Based largely upon these choices or the consequences of other actions, near the end of your game you may encounter a battle sequence in which several of your faithful friends/rivals/lieutenants are slain by a brainwashed Deimos and then you are able to exact a measure of revenge against the backstabbing Athenian, Kleon.

Depending upon how these (and other) events play out, you will regroup with your Mother later and relay the news to her. Here’s where things really heat up. You choose to return to the mountain from your childhood where so many things changed forever and you run into none other than Deimos (who will be of large significance throughout the story for reasons you’ll immediately realize upon playing the game to that point). After a tense conversation, if you’ve made some questionable choices or perhaps just been a hard ass in your playthrough, Deimos will grab your mother and run her through before becoming a boss battle and difficult end game encounter. Depending upon a multitude of other options and also that conversation, you could’ve potentially talked Deimos down instead. After defeating Deimos, you’re treated to a lengthy amount of end game scenes through encounters with your surviving companions such as Barnabas or Markos and then also shown the empty dinner table where once your living friends and family could’ve sat instead.

It’s tragic, it’s brutal and it’s true to Greek lore and legends as most stories do not have a happy ending. You’ve still saved Greece no matter the true end here but whether you’ve done it at the expense of your morals, family, and sanity is another question entirely. I have actually enjoyed how each ending to Odyssey is crafted and despite there at times being some character differences between aesthetics of Alexios versus Kassandra, the experience with either character is the same and has just as much weight, impact, and overall finality. The world of ancient Greece is an epic place to explore and I can’t wait for future content and story information and lore as well in order to see what happens in the wake of the ample devastation or hopefulness that can come from both the good and bad endings for good reason.

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Thoughts on Fallout 76

fallout-76-camden-park

I will definitely be getting Fallout 76 upon launch, however that is not to say I have any superb expectations of it. I think it will at least be as good a game as Fallout 4 despite some admitted issues to be expected regarding framerate and servers with it being a multiplayer online game. It’s going to be weird to simultaneously not have much story of NPC-interaction and to also have MORE story in the sense that you can role play as you see fit for the first time (seeing as you always fit a pre-established archetype in previous games).

I do not think it will be the greatest game in the series but I do expect it to be a fairly solid title and also to get better with time as Bethsoft is pouring plenty of time and resources into the game and obviously sees within it a viable future for the franchise for several years. I’m curious to see Fallout’s take on the RPG-MMO genre and I’m sure it will constantly be fine tuned as well along the way. Perhaps my biggest gripe outside of little kinks and details here and there, is the fact that without humans and other NPCs readily available, the game world while magnificent to look at feels much more desolate.

I don’t expect a relatively recently destroyed world to be bustling with people but when you think about the thousands of lines of dialogue in Fallout 3 and New Vegas alone, it’s definitely a part of the game that I will miss. Getting to interact with real human beings will be infinitely interesting I’m sure and although it strikes me more as a large scale social experiment, I’m game. It’s interesting to think about how the human element will quite literally be shaping this particular game in ways we haven’t really seen from the franchise before. It’s also neat to be afforded the opportunity to play cooperatively although I’m sure I will still stick to lone wolf status for the most part in homage to past games.

Another aspect of the game I’m particularly interested in is the lore and how it will be handled. I’m actually okay with plenty of exposition through audio records and terminals, as I think that adds some further mystery to be explored and exploration factors overall. I’d much rather wonder Appalachia in search of knowledge and cool sights than battle it out constantly with other like-level scavengers. In fact, I’m most interested in a pacifist approach in this game as opposed to my typically destructive ones in the previous three titles (because it was easy to do). The human interaction and the attention to detail in the environment could make for some interesting roleplaying and self tailored stories ranging from vampire cannibals to cultist zealots and I’m eager to see that at work.

Some of the detracting factors (at least as it stands currently, largely with a lot of the unknowns) could be such simple things as lack of activities outside of the gimmick for musical props. Give us board games and fishing and sports and any other random downtime hobbies you can think of and I’m sold. I also don’t know if hacking, a longtime staple of the series, has been left by the wayside in order to make the lore much more accessible to players of all skill levels so long as they go looking in terminals for it. That hasn’t been very clear, although I have seen lockpicking make its return.

Besides this brief little snippet, I have plenty of thoughts about the impending release and I’m eager to see how things continue to play out up until then. As always, it’s been my pleasure and I welcome any and all conversation.

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