So.. Assassin's Creed Origins
Here we go. The hiatus is officially over, the team at Ubisoft Montreal is back at the helm, and we have a new Assassin's Creed title coming down the pipe for this fall. Time to see what the people behind the historical stab-em-up franchise have been cooking up over the last two years. Other than yet another re-release of Ezio-related titles, further confirming he's still the golden boy over at Ubisoft despite not being featured in a new title since 2011, and the release of the bad 2016 film which wasted both Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Irons in a movie that probably could have been better.
As with all good franchise reboots, either of the soft or hard variety, this game sets out to be an origin story for the titular Assassins and their entire order. Fittingly, the game is called, as you already read in the title and have seen everywhere for the last two weeks, Assassin's Creed Origins. Had the numbering convention not been dropped after Black Flag, it is likely this would have been the seventh or eighth numbered entry in the series. Honestly they should have kept it, as it would have given some idea of the order in which to play the games.
This time we're taken all the way back to Ancient Egypt, around the time of the rise of Cleopatra to the throne. Expect pyramids, small cramped villages in the style of the original Assassin's Creed to juxtapose seemingly-endless desert and oases found in-between. You play as Bayek, the last of the Medjay, who themselves were a sort of special forces of the time. With a subtitle like Origins, you know this is going to involve a series of events that either lead to Bayek's hand in or viewing of the creation of the Assassin Brotherhood we have seen in games for the last ten years.
Unlike previous entries where the game is set in major cities with some connecting countryside in between, or a case of multiple islands and cities connected by a vast body of water, Origins is set across the entire nation of Egypt. Reportedly the game size will be that of the Caribbean from Black Flag, and is predominantly on land, despite seeing some boats and seafaring sections. There is this little body of water called the Nile River. You may have heard of it. It's more or less the source for a lot of the life in not only Egypt, but a solid chunk of Africa as well.
Being so far set in the past, you will be losing many of the gadgets and weapons you may come to expect from AC titles. Guns in any fashion are right out, instead going back to bows and arrows as the main form of ranged combat. All is not lost, as you have the ability to fire multiple arrows in multiple directions at once. In a strange move, the map is out as well. In its place is a pet eagle, Senu, you can send up, control in some capacity, and use it to scout out locations, enemies and other items of interest. Being an Assassin's Creed title, expect at least two types of collectibles and some form of chests as well.
Being much more focused on melee combat due to a lack of ranged tools, Bayek also comes with a shield to block and parry incoming attacks. This is much more realistic than using the Hidden Blade to do everything in previous titles, which at the time rendered all other weapons pretty much useless. Weapons also now have rarity tiers, tying into the leveling and progression system first seen in Syndicate. Full disclosure: I haven't yet played Syndicate: but I hear it's excellent, even underappreciated, so this addition to that system should come as welcome by nearly everyone.
It is not often a series has enough self-awareness to know when to take some time off, refresh everything they can, and really put their all into the next game. Ubisoft probably could have released Origins last year, and while some people would have complained the series was getting stale with a new game every year since 2009, a less-than-stellar Origins could have rode some of the goodwill earned by Syndicate. Things could have kept going like that for who knows how long, maybe even long enough to give players the Feudal Japan-based game they have wanted for at least six years now.
Some other interesting additions include boss fights against people and creatures alike, expect at least one of the final sequences to include some sort of arena-style fight against a boss and a small army of other guards. The ability to toggle your hood has also been added. This will likely have some impact on the cities you visit and NPC you pass by, as they may have a different opinion of Bayek based on how he is seen in public. These all feel like welcome additions to the series and do make it feel that much closer to an open-world RPG than just a stabbing simulator.
Time for some opinion. My last encounter with an AC title is Assassin's Creed Unity, after the game had been fixed and patched to the point of being playable, with only a few minor hiccups here and there. That game was fine, and known to be a test bed for a lot of features considered new and experimental to the franchise at that point. Those features, most notably a fast-descent option instead of just dropping off a roof and hoping for a soft landing, were likely refined and added to in Syndicate, the next year's game, but I haven't played that one so I don't know for sure.
One thing I do know for sure is the franchise has a lot to prove at this point. 2016 was the first year since 2008 where there wasn't a new Assassin's Creed title to pick up in late October, and back then was only because they were expanding the universe for Assassin's Creed II, still considered by many to be the best game in the franchise. Being away for this long, all the while with the public knowing there was a new game in development, creates a lot of expectations, some likely too high for the game to fully deliver. With this in mind I'm concerned for the franchise.
Origins could be make or break for Assassin's Creed. Ubisoft Montreal seems to be throwing a lot of weight and money behind this game with the expectation it will do well. An argument could be made that Ubisoft doesn't need to release a new Assassin's Creed title every year, since there are many other open-world franchises they can release instead, like a Far Cry title or anything under the Tom Clancy umbrella. I want this game to do well. Probably going to buy it not long after launch and see from there.
What are your thoughts on Assassin's Creed Origins? Let me know in the comments if you're excited, indifferent, or already have the super deluxe $800 edition pre-ordered.
Coming up on Monday: Square Enix Shenanigans.
Posted by CyberPunch83
on 30 June 17 at 22:31
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Now that the E3 pre and post-analysis is finally done, we can get back to more meaningful content. Mostly reviews of older games I am now just getting around to playing, and opinion pieces on some facet of Xbox gaming that gets dangerously close to just coming off as a rant about something I don't like, with a few facts thrown in for good measure. Just enough that the resulting blog doesn't need to be specified as a rant. None of the latter today, instead just two of the former: a pair of Progress Reports for your Monday viewing pleasure.
Tomb Raider Progress Report: This happens all the time. I start a new game, fully plan on writing a First Thoughts entry on the game, but for any number of reasons, it keeps getting bumped back to a point where I have played enough of the game to move into Progress Report territory, an area that is not left until the game is entirely completed, at which point I'm done with it and on to the next one. Regardless of that, Tomb Raider is a reboot of the veteran franchise, and under the third-person action-shooter surface is one of the most character-driven games I've played.
This time around, Lara Croft is on her first self-led expedition, to an area not far from Japan known as the Dragon's Triangle to solve mysteries, uncover the secret of an elder god, and maybe even raid a tomb or two along the way. The entire previous Tomb Raider series always painted Lara Croft as some unbeatable badass, which as far as female protagonists go, more power to them. In this game we see Lara Croft the human, full of self-doubt and concern for everyone around her. Being the first game in a reboot series, we see Croft cutting her teeth in the inhospitable terrain and ruthless enemies.
Through the campaign, you will see Lara come off as very vulnerable and exposed, as this is her first real expedition of her own, and it goes terribly wrong nearly right away due to forces outside of her control. Despite the initial setback, she truly comes into her own as she fights for survival and to rescue her crew. It's a coming-of-age story told through harsh environments and intense action. Full credit to Camilla Luddington who voices Lara in this game, for conveying her real emotion and intensity in not just the dialogue, but every aspect of the character's voice.
If you can't tell from the previous paragraphs, I really enjoyed this game. I have completed the campaign 100%, and all that remains is the multiplayer, which I plan to complete over the coming weeks. For a cross-platform title, Tomb Raider is very pretty and the game contains a wide variety of both environments and engaging setpiece battles against enemies. The characters are all fleshed out and don't really fit known stereotypes. It could probably be argued this was the Tomb Raider games we should have had all along, but now it's here and a very enjoyable experience.
Layers of Fear Progress Report: I am officially considering myself lucky with this game. For those that don't know, and I don't feel as though this counts as a spoiler, Layers of Fear has multiple endings based on how you play the game. Bet that came as a surprise. What also won't come as a surprise is there are achievements for reaching all the endings. What a shocker. The game is split into six chapters, and the game can be ran through in a few hours if just sticking to the main story. The game also has chapter select to facilitate picking up any missed collectibles.
Generally speaking, in order to see each different ending for a game, this will require as many playthroughs as there are available endings, with each ending requiring a different playstyle. This remains the case with Layers of Fear, with one minor shortcut. Chapter select in this game uses checkpoints from your first run of the game. Assuming you got ending either A or C of the three available, you can earn the other two by going from Chapter 5 and playing a specific way, outlined in the achievement solutions here on TA.
With this in mind, I managed to earn the remaining base game achievements all in one day, despite only planning to earn two of them when I set out. The last two chapters of the game are relatively short if you know where to go and what to do, as these are meant more for the visual and the narrative than gameplay. All that remains now is the remaining achievements in the Inheritance DLC, of which two runs of that extra chapter are required to finish everything off. That could also potentially be done in one day with a decent guide at hand.
Quick note about Inheritance: I would recommend using an off-site guide for this DLC chapter. While the main game's walkthrough here on TA is excellent, after going through Inheritance once with my girlfriend, we found the walkthrough there to be lacking in both clarity and detail as far as indicating where to go and what to do. Perhaps combining this text with a video walkthrough, would make it easier, but you run the risk of everything being spoiled at that point. Proceed at your own discretion with that one.
Coming up on Friday: a look at my most-anticipated game this year.
Posted by CyberPunch83
on 26 June 17 at 16:09
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It's Just Cleaning Up
This is the third and final part of this blog's E3 2017 post-mortem. Looking at the last of the major publishers relevant to the Xbox platform and what they brought to the show this year. Over the last week, we have looked at the showings from EA at their own event, Microsoft's Xbox One X-dominated conference, along with respective game reveals and live demos from Ubisoft and Bethesda. It has been argued this was a somewhat weak show overall, however in the last few years we have arguably been spoiled as well. But I digress. Let's begin with Activision.
Everyone's favourite game publisher only brought a few large games to the show this year, but they were arguably enough to carry their respective part of the event quite well. No real surprise here that the main titles shown were Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: WWII. Each could have arguably been the lone focal point of its own show, but here they were alongside one another. Let's start with the game franchise I have the most contempt toward: Destiny. There is a blog in the works about my strange relationship with this title since its September 2014 launch; expect that sometime in July.
In grand Activision tradition, there were few surprises at the show, rather showing off what had already been both revealed and confirmed prior to E3. This ties in nicely with the company's apparent tradition of showing off gameplay at the event, both in the pre-rendered and playable format. The campaign was playable, or as much as Destiny can have one given what passed as single-player content in the first game. Bungie seems to have listened to this, and the campaign missions they did show off seem like Bungie knows what they are doing this time around.
Like Halo before it, the real long-term draw of a game like Destiny 2 is in its multiplayer, which seems to have no expense spared this time around. Far more polished than its predecessor, controls are reported as much tighter while also being more responsive, and the new classes and subclasses do not immediately seem overpowered or broken in any way, based on what was shown and playable at the show. Bear in mind these same controls are also being tweaked to work as smooth as possible on the PC as well, a platform the first title skipped in favour of console exclusivity.
The other non-surprising game being seen is Call of Duty: WWII. In an era of crazy parkour moves in shooters, guns that practically aim and fire themselves, and every game trying to sell you on some new gimmick, it's almost refreshing to see a game strip all that away and bring the genre right back to where it started, and certainly where this franchise started over ten years ago. The hands-off likely-cinematic gameplay showed the protagonist Red's squad trekking through ruined Europe and engaging in some gunfights with German forces.
What will be known as the biggest change for this series, is the removal of regenerating health. For years now Call of Duty players knew that as soon as the screen started to get covered in strawberry jam, they needed to find and hide behind some cover as soon as possible to get back into fighting shape. Now you have to wait for one of your squadmates to come and heal you up with a first aid kit. Said squadmates are AI and can die, leading to replacement troops to fill the ranks. Keep that in mind before you send someone on a potentially-dangerous mission.
Moving from one of the largest western third-party publishers to one of the largest eastern publishers, by way of absorbing another studio from North America. Not that there's anything wrong with this. Square Enix had a pretty clear message from their show, and that was Final Fantasy. Looking at the official E3 schedule put online by the official Square Enix blog before the show proper, you will see many mentions of Final Fantasy all the way down, either in looking at main numbered entries in the series, or side games in the franchise.
Non-Final Fantasy games were slightly few and far between, comprising mostly of racing titles. Specifically F1 2017, MotoGP17, and MXGP3 from our friends over at Codemasters. Being yearly franchises just like your Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed, there are iterative changes across all the respective games, and if you are a fan of any of these titles or their respective franchises, then you should be excited for what they have to offer for you there. For PC players, they also had a presentation with NieR: Automata and that game's protagonist, Emil.
One subset of Square Enix that was surprisingly absent from the show was Eidos. With no new games to show from any of their main franchises, it seemed like a relatively light show for those of us who aren't fans of turn-based RPG combat with characters whose outfits occasionally resemble those designed by a rabid blender during its death throes. While there was more than enough Final Fantasy to go around, a little attention to Deus Ex, Tomb Raider, or even Hitman wouldn't have gone unappreciated. Granted the now-independent IO Interactive is still pushing updates to the Hitman episodic title, but some sort of attention.
Fear not, there is still a sandalone blog in the works detailing exactly what happened with that studio, their new relationship with their former publishers, and where their flagship franchise could possibly go from here. This is a very interesting situation, since the last time a major studio went independent from their original publisher, their IP and franchise they created and nurtured over that decade stayed with the publisher and no control went with the developer. Obviously this is the opposite case and one we haven't seen as such before, so be sure to look out for that soon.
Just like that, E3 is gone as soon as it was here. Nothing really stands out as a game or moment that will always be tied to this show and will live on in memory, possibly save for Skyrim being announced for its 27th different console port. Pretty sure some brands of toaster can even handle that game now. What was your favourite game or moment from the show? Drop a comment and let me know. I'm always interested to hear what the community has in mind.
Coming up on Monday: something that isn't E3-related.
Posted by CyberPunch83
on 25 June 17 at 03:11
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After the Party
This is my second in a series of E3 coverage, looking back at the games, the press conferences and everything in between. On Friday we looked at EA and their standalone EA Play event and Bethesda's showing at the main show. In keeping with the order of how I looked at the publishers and their games, this time we will be looking at Microsoft and Ubisoft, two of the largest publishers on the Xbox. Going into the show, we knew what Microsoft would be showing with regards to hardware, and they did not disappoint in that category.
Welcome to the Xbox One X. Formerly known as Project Scorpio, the so-called most powerful game console ever made will be available November 7th in most regions for $499 or your local equivalent. In a way, I'm not surprised about the name, keeping everything consistent with the naming style started with the Xbox One back in 2013, then followed on with the Xbox One S, and now the One X. The other name I had heard thrown around as a possible candidate is the Xbox One Elite, similar in nature to the Elite controller and like the old Xbox 360 Elite console from back in the day.
The biggest claims for the console are processing power and 4K output, to sets that can output in 4K. As someone who doesn't own a 4K TV yet, I won't exactly be rushing out in November to replace the Xbox One I have now. There are probably at least a few people who may regret buying an Xbox One S when they were new, knowing full well this one is around the corner now that the stats and price are known. The funnest and likely unintentional takeaway from this conference is if you plug 'one x' into Google, you get a 2006 studio album from Canadian band Three Days Grace.
The second hardware announcement is original Xbox backward-compatibility. This is a huge deal, since the 360 had the same capabilities, and since the Xbox One is a more powerful console, there is no reason to not have it available. Plus there has always been cries from fans to bring back or reboot some franchises last seen on the original Xbox. This is Microsoft's big chance to gauge the actual fan support and maybe even bring some of those games back in an HD remake, or just a long-awaited sequel. I am very excited to see where this can lead for Xbox as a platform.
Game-wise, the largest announcement from the show was Forza Motorsport 7. Proving the rumours false for now that there won't be a third game added to the Forza development cycle, 7 is putting the Motorsport series back in territory it has not seen since 2011. Porsche has, or possibly had, an exclusive license deal with EA for their vehicles to prominently feature in their games. Everyone else that wanted them had to make a DLC pack, which was the case for Motorsport 4 through 6. Now, Porsche seems to have returned to the fold, with a 911 GT3 featured on the reveal and maybe even on the cover art.
Moving from a first-party publisher to arguably one of the largest third-party game pushers, Ubisoft. Starting off the show with a brand-new logo seems like a bold move, especially when said new logo is the old one with the colour removed and the inner swirl pattern changed to an unfortunate extent. The single biggest announcement from the French publisher was an official announcement and confirmation of Beyond Good & Evil 2. Rumoured to be in development since 2007, BG&E2 finally is here, real, though not with any sort of concrete release date or other important information yet. That likely comes later.
For those of you who play other console, a Super Mario and Rayman universe crossover game is now a thing, called Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Don't expect to see that one on an Xbox One X. Transference is a VR-exclusive game introduced by Elijah Wood, and we all know how well tech and games fare when they are introduced by Frodo. That's about all we know about that one. The Crew 2 was revealed and appears to be adding boats to the sequel for the cross-country racer we all have only because it was free on Games with Gold a few months back. Also seen was a pirate game called Skull & Bones that totally isn't aping Assassin's Creed IV.
Speaking of historical big, open-world games, Far Cry 5 got its share of attention at the show. Bringing the setting home for many, to the US, firmly setting the game in modern times and adding new features like planes into the mix. As soon as a fast-travel option like aircraft become available, expect the map to grow exponentially in size. After a lower than expected reception for both Far Cry 4 and Primal, one must wonder of this series is due for another year off as well, similar to Assassin's Creed, which is only just coming out of its own hiatus this year. Don't worry, I have a standalone blog in the works for that one.
Coming up on Friday: the last of the E3 coverage, and a return to our usual programming.
Posted by CyberPunch83
on 19 June 17 at 18:12
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The Dust Begins to Settle
The Electronic Entertainment Expo has come and gone for another year, and in its wake lies game trailers, announcements, vertical slice, and some of the worst merch and swag a marketing team has ever come up with. With the annual party and celebration of all things new and upcoming out of the way, it's time to round up what was seen this year, in the same order the games were previewed here over the last couple of weeks. This means we start away from E3 itself and at the other games event held at the same time, EA Play.
Sure enough, FIFA, NFL and NBA Live all got some attention and love at the show, showing off cover athletes and some new features. No mention on NHL 18, apparently that game will be getting its own showcase come June 21st. It gets harder and harder each year to iterate on annual franchises like these, and as much as the sales are always pretty strong, it gets to a point where you may need to take a year off and really innovate the game. When this current generation started would have been the best time to do that, but that likely won't be happening at all now. However that's another blog for another time.
Other news from the event included some surprising news about Star Wars Battlefront 4.. I mean Battlefront 2. Not that one. This game is very closely following the Titanfall 2 approach of the second game containing everything the first game should have, namely a single-player campaign and free DLC. Better late than never only goes so far. There will still be microtransactions, but for the most part these remain optional. Free DLC means no Season Pass as well, since frankly the less of those we have, the better games are as a form of entertainment and as an industry.
Two new games were also announced at the show as well. A Way Out, from the developers of Brothers is a co-op title based around escaping from a prison. Looks interesting enough, and relatively unique because co-op focused games like these aren't really seen on consoles much anymore. The larger game announcement from this show was Anthem, a brand-new IP and franchise from BioWare. It's a game where you pilot and fight mechs. Forgive me for saying I've heard that pitch before. However with Mass Effect in slightly unknown, probably-hiatus status after Andromeda, this could be the title that gets BioWare back on track.
Back to the actual show itself after that small detour, and now looking at Bethesda. Their 'Bethesdaland' teaser poster came true, with The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus being announced. Those must have been the two 'Under Construction' places on the poster. Both games getting sequels is hardly surprising, since both games did well in their respective genres and were well deserving of sequels. Oddly, in the case of Wolfenstein, for a game franchise that's been around since 1981, this is the first game to be called Wolfenstein 2.
Also announced was a new Dishonored game, not even a year after the release of the second entry in Bethesda's second-newest franchise, behind The Evil Within. I"m honestly surprised Called Death of the Outsider, this game follows Billie Lurk, who will be familiar to players from the last two DLC released for the first game, The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches. She was the second in command to Daud, the protagonist of those two DLC chapters, and now she gets to star in her own game. Whether or not this game is effectively Dishonored 3 or 2.5 remains to be seen. Expect this game mid-September.
To the disappointment of many, Elder Scrolls VI was not announced at E3, and for that reason, some people are saying Bethesda's show was weak overall. I don't think that's the case, since not every year can have a Fallout 4-sized announcement. Speaking of Fallout, you will soon be able to play Fallout 4 and DOOM on VR for those that wanted support for those games on those platforms. If you're one of those people, go nuts. I'm sure you will find a lot to enjoy there, especially when using those paid mods you will now be able to purchase for Fallout 4. Yeah, I'm not sure about that one either.
One last note on Elder Scrolls: yes, it will be coming to the Switch. We basically already knew that from the reveal trailer for Nintendo's latest console that Skyrim will be getting full Nintendo integration, or at least the closes thing to full Nintendo integration without being Japanese and being at least 30 years old as a franchise. You can use a Link Amiibo to dress your character in-game as the hero from the Legend of Zelda games. A nice way of welcoming this game and indeed this franchise to a Nintendo console, since this is their first taste of the Elder Scrolls series.
Coming up on Monday: part two of the E3 2017 debrief.
Posted by CyberPunch83
on 17 June 17 at 02:27
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