Jaded's Pub

I’m a Playstation fanboy, and a bit of an Xbox fanboy. I am most definitely not a Nintendo fanboy, so when the company first announced the Switch I was pretty dismissive of the device. Didn’t pre-order, didn’t care. Then it came out and everyone I knew who did get one, loved it. Soon enough I was coveting my neighbor’s console, but by then it was too late. Nintendo, being Nintendo, couldn’t seem to keep the Switch in-stock.

I still think this is a marketing ploy because I acted immediately when I saw this tweet from the Amazon Games account:

I figured the only reason they’d be promoting ARMS was if they had the Switch to sell, given that ARMS had been out for a bit. I was right, but even after I saw the Switch was in stock I didn’t really trust it. I put it in my shopping cart and checked out immediately, half-thinking I’d get a “no longer available” error somewhere along the way. But nope, I was now a Switch owner.

Thanks to the magic of modern online shopping, the Switch was delivered the same evening. Right now I only have ARMS to play on it. ARMS is fun but not a system selling. Zelda, the game everyone raves about, is due to be delivered tomorrow, so for now I’m kind of in a holding pattern when it comes to “Did I make the right decision buying this thing?”

One thing that surprised me (though it shouldn’t have) is that the Switch is pretty big for a small device. There’re a couple reasons for that. First, in ‘console mode’ it sits vertically in it’s docking station. This makes it the tallest console I own (by a large margin). My TV sits on a table flanked by the PS4 Pro on one side, the Xbox One on the other (gotta keep the squabbling kids separated!). I had thought to put the Switch in front of the TV (I was swapping out the never-used Wii U and that’s where it was) but it’s too tall for that. Even though my TV is on legs the Switch in its dock blocked part of the screen.

Another possibility was in one of the 4 storage spaces under the TV. These are roomy enough (and open in the back) that airflow isn’t generally a problem, but again the Switch was too tall. The dock would fit in there but you need vertical space above the dock to lift the Switch out of it since the dock is nearly as tall as the Switch itself.

In the end I wound up perching it on top of the PS4 Pro. The Pro runs pretty cool and it vents out the sides so it should be OK (the Xbox One runs pretty hot and has cooling vents on the top surface), but it’s a little ugly sitting there. From the front it isn’t too bad (though apparently it’s a dust magnet given that it’s been there for less than 24 hours, but Angela WAS dusting during setup…I guess I’ll be dusting again today now that everything is settled):

But I’m not a fan of the cable routing when seen from the side. I might try sliding it back. I have it towards the front just for wireless connectivity and accessibility reasons. (The other box on the PS4 Pro is the Pro’s external hard drive, in case you’re wondering.)

The ‘size’ of the Switch doesn’t stop with the console itself. There’s also a lot of parts associated with the Joycons. The big thing is meant to convert the Joycons into something like a traditional controller, the thin bits slide on the ‘connection’ side of the Joycons when used on their own. So I’ll need to find a place to store these when they’re not in use.

The good news is that once I came to terms with all the stuff I had to find locations for, everything else went well. I ran into one glitch where the setup process asks you if you want to link the device with a Nintendo Account, but that won’t actually work until you do a system update. It wouldn’t complete and I couldn’t back out of it. Had to reset the Switch and doing so was accomplished the way I assumed it would be: by holding down the power button for a bit. Nice that I didn’t have to look that up.

Once I’d updated the system software (the d/l timed out once but took up where it had left off after I restarted it) linking the Nintendo Account was pretty fast. It’s nice that you can take the Switch out of the dock and use the touch screen for pecking in usernames and passwords. The Switch feels really good in handheld mode and I may find I use it more as a handheld than as a TV-based console.

I knew I had money in my Nintendo account but it wasn’t initially showing up. For some reason you have a separate step of “merging” your 3DS/Wii U wallet with your Nintendo Switch wallet. Weird, but no big deal as it was a 1-time thing.

Oh, and I bought a microSD card for storage. Happily I knew from reading reviews that the slot for the memory card is hidden behind the ‘kickstand’ for the Switch. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to find it otherwise.

My last concern is that Switch feels really loose in its dock. There’s a lot of wiggle room in there and it just kind of sits on the connector at the bottom. It doesn’t feel locked in. I guess it’s not a huge deal since once it is in the dock there’s no real reason to touch it much, but I still worry about the long-term life of that connector at the bottom of the unit. I worry a little about the Joycons constantly sliding in and out of things too, but I guess you can replace those. The little thin parts in particular seem pretty hard to put on and pull off.

So finally I had the thing set up. Now what? Now…not much. Without games the Switch doesn’t do much. There’s a “news” service that you can use to view some Nintendo videos from the Treehouse and stuff, but that’s about it. There’s no YouTube or Twitch to kill time with. No Mii Plaza to dork around on. Time to unwrap ARMS.

And ARMS, as mentioned above, is pretty fun. I was playing it using the motion controls, one Joycon in each hand, and it felt pretty good. Not as precise as a Playstation Move controller, but way better than the old Wii controls or the Xbox Kinect controls. Was it worth spending $300 for a Switch to play ARMS? No. But Zelda will be here tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and that Mario & Rabbids strategy game coming from Ubisoft: both of those are due in fall. I didn’t get the Switch in anticipation of owning a HUGE library of games for it. I got it to play games I can’t play elsewhere, and I’m looking forward to the experience of playing on the TV, then undocking and continuing to play in bed or (when the weather is cooler) out on the back porch or something.

I have to admit I almost walked away from Assassin’s Creed Revelations a few times. I found the gameplay super frustrating a lot of the time. But I stuck with it long enough to get through the main storyline and I’m glad I did.

My biggest issue with the game was the city it takes place in: Constantinople. This place is a maze of narrow streets and buildings constructed on top of each other, and the streets teem with people. For the first hour it’s an amazing place to explore. Then it starts to get annoying since the quests have you having to cross and re-cross the city. Normally in an AC game you’d take to the rooftops to make your way around quickly, but in Revelations the ‘roof guards’ are both much more numerous than in earlier games, they’re much faster to react and call for help too. As often as not heading up to the roof led to either a battle or a long escape sequence that wound up with me farther from my goal than when I started.

There are “fast travel” tunnels but they’re pretty spread out and so not as helpful as they might be. Having to travel around the city was not fun, and since it’s a huge part of the gameplay, it made the whole game not fun.

The ‘raising a guild of assassins’ gameplay returns in Revelations but the towers you have to use to send your assassins on missions are so few and far between that again, it all feels more like a chore than fun.

Then there is notoriety, which works differently than in earlier AC games. In Revelations there are two opposing forces that Ezio has to deal with. The city guard and the Templars. Notoriety only impacts the Templars. The city guards will leave you alone unless you set foot on a rooftop for 2 seconds, or you get into a fight on the streets. But if your notoriety goes up, the Templars will attack one of your “assassin dens” which you will have to defend via a truly awful tower defense mini-game.

What compounds the problem is how notoriety increases. If you renovate a building or buy gear, your notoriety goes up. It takes 3-4 actions to max it out and open you up to having to play the mini-game. To lower it you can bribe a herald or kill a Templar official if you can find one. (No more tearing down posters.) That led to a pattern of renovating two shops, then finding a herald to bribe to bring down notoriety. Repeat. Over and over. Very tedious system.

They added a crafting system for crafting all kinds of bombs. All the little treasure boxes you find hidden around the city contain components for building bombs. I’ve never done much with the smoke bombs in earlier AC games and wasn’t interested in this bomb system in Revelations either.

Lastly, I guess this reflects the values of the people of Constantinople, but after a fight if you loot the bodies of your victims people around you start hurling insults about what a vile piece of human filth you are. That got old really fast. I stopped bothering to loot soldiers or to loot treasure chests. I never upgraded my gear much and didn’t really have to. What money I needed I got via real estate or completing quests.

Look I could go on and on. I really didn’t enjoy the gameplay in Revelations.

Let’s take a break from the constant murdering to have a nice picnic!

As for the story. I spent next to no time outside the animus (you can collect items that let you do Desmond missions but I hate Desmond so I didn’t bother). Ezio, now a grey-beard, is in Constantinople looking for the 5 keys to Altair’s library in Maysaf. Each key he finds leads him into a memory of Altair’s. So we’re playing as Desmond reliving Ezio’s memories of reliving Altair’s memories. So meta. I didn’t play AC 1 so didn’t have a strong connection to Altair, but if you did you’d probably enjoy these bits. In each one Altair is older. We meet his wife, and his son, and eventually see his death.

Ezio meanwhile meets a woman named Sofia and falls for her. He also pals around with Suleiman the Magnificent back when he was just Suleiman, son of the sultan. And he fights the Templars. His story is kind of dull, though I liked Sofia quite a bit.

The game wraps up both Altair and Ezio’s storylines (I’m presuming that is the case for Ezio though he is still alive when the story ends) and we get another glimpse into these people who came before, but not until the very end of the game.

Really, the last “memory sequence” was what saved the game for me. And now I can say I’ve played all the Ezio AC games, I guess.

One who came before decides to explain it all to Desmond.

It took me like 3 weeks to play through Assassin’s Creed II and two days to finish Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Part of the reason is that ACB is somewhat shorter, but mostly it was because I was hooked on the story and skipped a lot of the side missions. Plus it being a long, lazy 4th of July weekend didn’t hurt, either.

I liked AC Brotherhood a lot. I liked how it continued the story of both Ezio and Desmond in a very “chapter 2” kind of way. This time around Ezio stays in one city, Rome, but it was large enough that I didn’t find that to be a problem. They also greatly expanded the system of upgrading your infrastructure. In AC 2 you spent money to improve your villa. In ACB you’re improving all of Rome. At the start of the game the Borgias have Rome in a vice-grip but Ezio and his fellow assassins can take back control by killing the Borgia Captain who controls a district, then putting a tower to the torch. Once that is done you can spend money to renovate stables, blacksmith shops, tailors, art dealers and the like.

The more shops you renovate the more income you earn and the larger the discounts you get. It was a fun system but I would’ve liked to see it taken even further. Aside from income there didn’t seem to be any gameplay benefit to renovating the districts. Fortunately my OCD just enjoyed improving districts for the satisfaction of doing it.

Another cool system was being in control of the assassin’s guild. You run around and save citizens from the Borgia, after which they join the guild. You then send them out on missions to level up and bring back goods and gold. If you’ve playing Black Flag it was like the system that let you send ships out on missions. The better part of the assassin’s guild was being able to call on them to help you. Target an enemy and hit L1 and suddenly from out of nowhere your assassins appear to take out that target. That NEVER got old.

I really enjoyed Ezio’s part of the story. Desmond’s was just so-so. I’m having trouble relating to Desmond (he’s the guy in present day who sits in the animus to relive Ezio’s memories). Part of the problem is that he’s voiced by Nolan North who uses the same voice he used for Nathan Drake. In fact there’s a section of the game where Desmond and Lucy (voice by Kristen Bell) are climbing through a ruin that felt very reminiscent of Drake and Elena (voice by Emily Rose) moving through Uncharted. It felt kind of unsettling to me.

Yussef is the guild master in Constantinople

Anyway, glad I played it. I have a lot of side content I can (and may) go back to still, but once the credits rolled I jumped right into Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. And honestly, so far I’m not feeling it. ACB felt like the end of Ezio’s story and so far Revelations kind of feels like an extended epilogue. Ezio is in Constantinople so we’re dealing with a fresh cast of friends and enemies. They’ve also changed a lot of the controls just enough to drive me crazy. L3 is now used where Triangle used to be, for instance.

They’ve also added bombs to the game. Ezio and craft and toss bombs, and at least early on there is a huge emphasis on this. Bleh. I played through most of ACB with a big-ass 2-handed weapon, cleaving my way through swarms of enemies. Now I’m supposed to hide and lob bombs? I say again, bleh.

Worst of all, they’ve managed to wedge a tower-defend mini-game into Assassin’s Creed. Ugh ugh and UGH. If I wanted to play a crappy Tower Defense game there are plenty to choose from. Hopefully I don’t have to do that too often.

We’ll see though. I’ve only got a few hours into it so far. Maybe it’ll get better.

Of couse Ezio has to find at least Western woman to romance

As of January 1st of this year I owned 6 or 7 Assassin’s Creed games for some reason. I’d never finished any of them so I’m not sure why I kept buying them, but I did.

Earlier this year I finally did finish Black Flag but at the time I attributed that to it being 1 part Assassin’s Creed, 1 part pirate game. But I did note that the sense of history grabbed me too.

Now I’ve finished my second Assassin’s Creed game, Assassin’s Creed II, and I think I’m hooked. Once again knowing the characters (and the locations) from my limited historical knowledge definitely played into my enjoyment of the game. I’m sad to admit that knowledge actually came from a couple of dramas I’ve been watching on Netflix (“Medici: Masters of Florence” and “Borgia”), but at least I knew the broad strokes about which families hated which other families and how corrupt things were. Borgia in particular taught me to dislike Ezio’s main enemy, Rodrigo Borgia.

Contessa Caterina Sforza

The writing/characters were great too. In one scene, hot-tempered Caterina Sforza is on the roof of her keep, shouting down at enemy soldiers. The enemy commander says he has captured her children and he will kill them if she doesn’t open the gates. She blusters back “Do with them what you will!” Then she hoists her skirts to expose her knickers and shouts “I have the means to make more!” And of course then turns away and bids Ezio to please save her children. When Ezio finds her daughter, the little girl has her mother’s spirit. She is constantly berating the soldiers keeping her captive and one of my favorite lines is “I’m bored! I need something to do until you are killed!” Minutes later Ezio, of course, kills them and saves her.

I dunno how well this translates, but even with the dated graphics I really felt attached to these characters and wanted to help them. I also found myself looking up the characters on Wikipedia to see what had happened to the real people these characters represent. Pretty cool stuff.

I remember when the first Assassin’s Creed was coming out, the developers talked about how they’d tried to make the city of Acre as historically accurate as possible. While I thought that was cool, I didn’t even know Acre had been a city. But AC2 goes to Florence and Venice; cities that have at least a bit of resonance with me. I think that helped too.

Leonardo’s latest work-in-progress

I don’t think I’ll ever play through the original Assassin’s Creed unless they do some kind of re-master at some point. People seem to think the series took a big jump in quality with AC2 and it’s hard to go backwards in a series’ history (for me). But after I finished AC2 I jumped right into Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood where Ezio continues to pursue the Borgia family, this time in Rome. Again it’s fun to be in this world…I mean I’m climbing around on the Coliseum right!? I’m notoriously fickle but as of now I intend to keep with the series through AC: Revelations once Brotherhood is complete, and I’m happy to know AC3, AC: Unity and AC: Syndicate are all out there waiting for me (though I only have AC3 as a backwards compatible title on the Xbox One so we’ll see if it’s actually playable).

Now all that said, I’m a little concerned about Assassin’s Creed: Origins coming out this fall, for a few reasons. First it’s set in ancient Egypt, which I know nothing about. I mean I know the pyramids and a couple of pharaoh names but beyond that? I fear it’ll be a bit like Acre was in not hooking me historically. Second, they seem to be veering away from the historical side of things. I’ve been watching some previews and interviews and the assassin in Origins has things like a shotgun bow (shoots 5 arrows at once) and weapons with elemental effects, like a knife that sets enemies aflame. There was also a monster in the reveal trailer iirc: a giant snake or something. Though that could have been in a hallucination or something.

Ezio and Machiavelli walk and plot together

I’m still looking forward to Origins but not so much from an “Assassin’s Creed” point of view as just for an open-world adventure point of view, if that makes sense. Other changes I’ve noticed are swapping out the mini-maps for a Fallout/Skyrim-style compass with icons, the addition of some kind of crafting system, RPG-style levels and a pretty robust loot system with tiers of rarity. So I think it’ll definitely be a fun game, but I don’t think it’ll have that historical connection that I’m suddenly enjoying in Assassin’s Creed games.

As always, I am late to the party. But at least I still have a bunch of the old AC games to play!

Ezio recruits for the Assassin’s Guild

Sometimes you just need to hit the taverns.

DaVinci’s workshop in Roma

In a way I picked the worst time to return to Final Fantasy XIV. There’s a new expansion officially out on Tuesday and early access started Friday, I believe. Not only does this mean the servers are congested with login queues and disconnects, but the game was down for a full day. Once you get logged-in, dungeon queues for us LOLDPS noobs are extra long since the expansion added two new DPS jobs and lots of people are trying them out, ergo more LOLDPS dorks fighting over the slots made available by the tanks and healers.

All this would be fine if I’d come back for Stormblood (the new expansion) but I didn’t. FFXIV expansions are aimed very squarely at level-capped characters as far as I can tell. I haven’t bought the last expansion yet (there’s very little in it for people like me) let alone the new one. So first I have to “finish” the base game and then I can buy and play through Heavensward and only then will Stormblood be on my mind.

That time I was a girl…until some creep started sending gross tells.

So that’s a lot of bitching in a post I wanted to write because I’m having so much fun! In spite of the crowds and all that, I’m really glad I came back to the game. I’m playing it mostly on my terms, which means I’m not racing for level cap as fast as possible. I play FF XIV because I’m delighted in the world. It feels a little like a virtual Renaissance Faire to me, with the NPCs and their overwrought dialog, and of course all the crazy costumes.

So sometimes I ride my chocobo from one citystate to another just for the fun of seeing what I’ll see along the way. Today I decided to take up carpentry, and one of my first tasks was making maple shields. I could have purchased the material but where’s the fun in that? So I went off to train as a botanist so I could go gather maple logs to make into maple lumber. Then I needed bronze rivets, which required becoming a miner to gather copper and tin ore, then becoming a blacksmith to smelt that ore into bronze ingots, and from there to bronze rivets. Then I finally went back to the Carpentry Guild and made my shields.

Now clearly that’s not an efficient way to play and it’s not something I would do if I seriously wanted to level up carpentry, but for me it was fun to do. That’s pretty much my FF XIV philosophy: do what’s fun.

Now I DID join a Free Company (guild) after one of the Mentors reached out to me. She happened to contact me just as the Novice Network that I talked about a while ago took a turn for the worse as more and more noobs/returners piled in and started treating it like general chat. She told me her Free Company was a ‘learning FC’ so I joined. I’ve since learned that she just trolls the Novice Network for warm bodies, but it turns out I don’t care. I interact with them very little — the odd ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ — but I get some buffs from being in the FC and now I don’t constantly have to deflect random FC invites. I know they’re recruiting in an attempt to get enough people to do Stormblood content and that’s never going to be me, so I might get booted. Or maybe not. They all seem pretty chill. Whatever happens is fine. I guess they have a guild hall and stuff but I haven’t gone looking for it.

I had to do dungeons in order to unlock the ability to ride this cute and cuddle mount

One of my biggest beefs with FFXIV is that it forces grouping on you in order to unlock stuff like Chocobo riding. This time around I’m trying to roll with this stuff and it’s working OK. I’ve done 5 dungeons now and each has caused a little less anxiety. I’m getting better at targeting with the controller (I’m playing 100% on PS4) and I’ve been doing my homework and reading dungeon guides before I go into each one so I’ve at least had a clue as to what, if anything, I need to do special. So far (knock on wood) the PUGs I’ve been in have been silent beyond maybe a “Hi” at the start. No one has been yelling at anyone else. So far.

I bought a 60-day time card which at the time was kind of a bummer because I doubted I’d use all the time (I couldn’t find 30-day cards at Amazon) but it turns out I might. I mean I’ve still got a ways to go in the first month so things could change, but FFXIV might be what gets me through the summer gaming drought.

I have the toughest time paying attention to the orders that Minfilia gives me.

With all the major press events over (Nintendo has some recorded thing they’ll let into the wild later this morning, but since they can’t manage to get their hardware on store shelves they’re irrelevant to me, and this post is 100% subjective personal opinion) I’m sitting her ruminating on E3 2017. I hate to admit it and give the nay-sayers lots of “I told you so” ammo, but I’m feeling a little let down.

Again, this is totally subjective. For instance Ubisoft showed Beyond Good & Evil 2 which was a huge deal for a large number of people, but I have never understood the fascination. I played part of Beyond Good & Evil but got bored/distracted and never finished, and never really cared that I didn’t finish. So BGE2 wasn’t a big deal FOR ME. If it was for you, I’m happy for you.

One issue I had was that companies had already tipped their own hands. EA showed us Star Wars Battlefront 2 but I didn’t feel like they showed us anything new about it. Ditto Bungie showing us Destiny 2 via the Sony presser, or Ubi showing us Far Cry 5. We knew about these games and didn’t really learn anything new. For me the biggest ‘surprise’ was Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I knew there was going to be an AC game this year but had no idea it’d be in ancient Egypt or that they would be changing the AC system so much.

The bigger issue is that I still don’t really know what we’ll be playing this holiday. Well I know we’ll be playing Destiny 2 and SW Battlefront 2, but again I already knew that. Assassin’s Creed Origins is this fall too, but the holiday season is feeling a little sparse. (And I do mean ‘feeling’; I haven’t sat down and made a list…I could be missing a lot of stuff.) I guess in some ways that’s good. We only have so much time to spend playing games and last year there were so many big titles that no one could buy and play them all, leading to quality games getting pushed out of our shopping carts and onto the discount rack.

What do I KNOW we’ll be playing this fall? Expansions. There’s the Uncharted 4 expansion, the Steep expansion, the Battlefield 1 expansion and the Horizon Zero Dawn expansion. Now lest you misunderstand me, this isn’t bad news and I’m super excited for more Uncharted and more Horizon Zero Dawn. My point is, all these expansions were featured in press conferences that already felt pretty short this year. The only really beefy press conference was Microsoft’s and they had to talk about hardware.

Now 2018 is already looking good. We’ll be playing Far Cry 5 and the new God Of War and I guess Bioware’s Anthem (which I’m withholding judgement on until we learn more) are all 2018. Holiday 2017 though; I’m just not that sure what to get excited about.

I’m waffling on Microsoft too. They stated that they were going to show 42 games in their press conference, 22 of which were in some way console exclusives, but y’know I can’t remember many of them. Crackdown 3 (which has taken a cel-shaded turn towards Borderlands town, much to my dismay), Forza of course. What else can I only play on Xbox One or Windows 10? I’m sure there are more but I’ve already forgotten them. So now I’m trying to decide if I REALLY want to spend $500 to play games in “true 4K” rather than 1800P on the PS4 Pro that I already own. I’m starting to think XboneX can wait for a price cut or an attractive bundle deal.

My other big disappointment with E3? YouTubers. Only we don’t call them that any more. Now they are called “Influencers” and I saw in a couple of demos when a professional journalist asked a question the game’s representative replied “We’re holding that back for YouTubers to share.” WTF? I can’t wait to see the game industry’s reliance on these childish, annoying “influencers” blow up in their faces. But I guess that’s the thing about the gaming industry: it’s determined to cling to being an industry aimed at 12 year olds. (I’m not dissing streamers in general. Some of my best friends are streamers. But the You Tubers that seem to get all the attention are the ones who are shrill, vulgar, entitled little punks. They are like the Jerry Springers of the streaming community.)

Yesterday Microsoft revealed the official name of Project Scorpio: the Xbox One X. They also revealed the price: $499. Of course everyone is talking about whether the console is worth it.

Funny thing about that question: “Is it worth it?” It can really mean two things. First it can mean “Does the hardware justify the cost?” In other words if you added up the price of the parts and factored in the cost of design and manufacturing, is the price roughly that cost plus a reasonable amount of profit.

In that context I think the Xbox One X is worth $499 assuming it works as advertised. In other words, if it really does “true 4K gaming” beyond the walls of Microsoft’s own development studios. As has been pointed out, you’d be hard-pressed to build a gaming PC that does native 4K for $499. Today. But prices are always coming down.

But the other context of “Is it worth it?” really boils down to “Is it worth it to me? Will I get value out of it?” and this is a lot more subjective.

Case 1: If you have a beefy gaming PC, why are you even here? You don’t need an Xbox of any kind. You’re NOT the target audience for the Xbox One X. I base that assumption on the fact that the Xbox One has nearly zero Xbox exclusives. When they say ‘exclusive’ they say ‘console exclusive’ and they really mean “This isn’t going to come out on the PS4 or the Switch.” Nearly every game that hits the Xbox One is also on the PC, though for Microsoft-published games they target Windows 10 only. There is very little reason to own an Xbox One or an Xbox One X if you’re a PC gamer.

Case 2: 4K TV owners considering Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro. When the PS4 and the Xbox One launched, the Xbox One was $100 more expensive and slightly less powerful than the PS4. Plus Microsoft botched the marketing of the Xbox One. We know what happened: Sony ate their launch. The PS4 has substantially outsold the Xbox One in the years since.

Now we have the PS4 Pro at $400 (as of right now; Sony’s E3 Press Conference is tonight and the price might drop) vs Xbox One X at $500. Again, a $100 price gap. The difference this time is that the Xbox One X is more powerful than the PS4 Pro and MS’s marketing is more on point.

This is where things get really subjective. Haters fault the PS4 Pro for not being native 4K. The truth is that PS4 Pro games fall all over the scale from native 4K down to 1080P, and the sweet spot for PS4 Pro support seems to be 1400P or 1800P (native 4k is 2160P). Here’s the thing, though. Jumping from 1080P to 1800P isn’t insignificant. PS4 Pro optimized titles look a lot better than the same games on a PS4. I think it’s weird that certain parts of the community dismiss a jump from 1080 to 1800 as meaningless whereas in the initial Xbox One vs PS4 days the difference between 900P on the Xbox One and 1080P on the PS4 was a huge deal.

So the question you need to ask yourself is whether spending an extra $100 is worth getting from 1400P or 1800P to 2160P. No one but you can answer that, really. I’m a graphics nut so I want the console that can squeeze out the highest resolutions and that looks like it’ll be the Xbox One X.

Case 3: 1080P TV owners considering Xbox One X or PS4 Pro: This is a much harder sell, in my opinion, but the Xbox One X might have the advantage over the PS4 Pro. When the PS4 Pro launched developers had to patch their games to take advantage of the improved hardware. A few did, but not many. Eventually Sony introduced “Boost Mode” which would let any game take advantage of the increased horsepower and it does help older games run a little better and load a little faster.

For the Xbox One X, Microsoft has baked-in improvements for older games from the very start. Combine this with the fact that the hardware is more powerful and I anticipate that the Xbox One X will do a lot more for older games than the PS4 Pro does.

That said, casual gamers who own a 1080P display probably don’t need either of these beefed up consoles. If you don’t really care if a game drops a couple of frames now and then or if objects in the distant have a little fuzz, then skip both the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X, at least until you get a 4K TV.

So those are my opinions. Oh one last thing: I saw some folks in my Twitter feed who were surprised that the Xbox One X had no exclusive games (ie games that only ran on the Xbox One X, not the Xbox One). That has always been the plan. For now at least, every new Xbox game has to run on the Xbox One and the Xbox One X. I expect that to change eventually, but not until there’s a solid install base for the faster hardware. MS doesn’t want to fracture their audience. For the record, same is true for PS4 and PS4 Pro. Games have to run on both. This isn’t a new console generation, its more of a refresh.

Last are the facts that don’t really relate to the hardware. You know, the same old stuff we always ask. If you’re a MP gamer, where are your friends playing? If there are exclusives you’re interested in, which platform has them. Stuff like that.

Me, I’m getting an Xbox One X. I upgraded from PS4 or PS4 Pro (I have a 4K TV) with no regrets and ever since MS started talking about Scorpio I’ve stopped playing Xbox One games, so I’m going to finally be playing stuff like Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 in 4K. But then I consider myself a pretty dedicated console gamer who doesn’t have a current gaming PC and doesn’t want one.

I also think the Xbox One X is great for PS4 Pro owners. Having more console gamers who can take advantage of post-1080P resolutions means we should get better support from 3rd party developers on both platforms.

If after this huge wall of text you’re still undecided, I would suggest waiting. Let’s see what actually happens when Xbox One X hits the market. Let’s see how well 3rd partys support it. If it doesn’t sell strongly at launch, by spring Microsoft will be sweetening the deal by bundling games with the console (or by an early price cut), and by then the first way of 4K titles will be available at a discount. There’s no good reason to be an early adopter for console hardware unless you’re a big nerd like me who has to have the newest toys.

There’s no denying I’m weird. After buying both DiRT 4 and a 60-day subscription to Final Fantasy XIV in the last 10 days, yesterday I suddenly had the thought: I should play Assassin’s Creed II. Why? I have no idea!

I started AC2 back on the PS3 but as is typical, never finished it. Last year Ubi bundled AC 2, AC Brotherhood and AC Revelations into the Ezio Collection and I snagged a copy for PS4 when it was on-sale. There it sat on my PS4 Pro until yesterday.

Sometimes things happen for a reason I guess, because I’m loving the game more than I did when I first played it. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I recently watched Medici: Masters of Florence on Netflix, and it takes place in the same time and place as AC2 does. Now the names that AC2 throws at me are familiar, as are some of the landmarks.

As an example, in the show they talk about the Santa Maria Del Fiore, a church that had never been completed because the architect died before the dome was built and no one knew how to build the dome without breaking some strange Florencian law against buttresses. In the show Cosimo Medici finds an architect who can finish the dome in order to try to curry favor with the people of Florence. I thought that was just made up for the TV show, but in fact the same story is mentioned in AC2, leading me to assume it’s true.

I mean neither the Netflix show nor AC2 are documentaries but both give you a sense of this time period and what people were like and when show and game agree on details it suggests that these details are taken from history, and then a quick Google search can confirm that. Somehow it makes the game seem more alive to me. Stuff that happens matters to me more now. For instance pretty early in AC2 Ezio’s father, older brother and younger brother are all hanged for treason. I don’t even remember this from the first time I played but now it really made me angry; his younger brother was maybe 10 years old! Why did it bother me this time? I guess because it now feels like the kind of thing that might have actually happened in those days.

The same thing happened when I played AC: Black Flag after watching the Starz show Black Sails. Again both are works of fiction based on historical facts and many of the names and some of the plotlines are similar. A bit of google shows they are similar because these events actually happened. These people were real.

I never really grabbed on to the historical aspects of the Assassin’s Creed games and I kind of feel bad for overlooking them until now.

Of course even in its re-mastered iteration AC2 looks kind of dated, but the voice work and the lore both still feel current, and that helps a lot.

Now I need to see if I can balance all three games without losing track of any of them!

Transitioning from rally racing to buggies on a short track was not without its challenges.

Through an unexpected sequence of events I won’t recount here, I’m back playing Final Fantasy XIV.

I have the weirdest history with FFXIV which I also won’t recount, but for all intents and purposes I went back to the game as a total noob. Couldn’t remember how to play so I rolled a new character and I’m playing exclusively on the PS4 (so far at least).

FFXIV has always indicated noobs (they use the more polite term Novice) by putting a little seedling icon next to the player name. You’re considered a novice for 168 hours (14 days) or until you hit some point in the story that I’ve already forgotten. I ~think~ it is the end of the main story questline from the original game at launch.

In addition to Novices, there are Mentors. Mentors are players who have offered to help Novices, but there are guidelines for who can become a Mentor. You have to have accomplished certain achievements in game and there are different types of Mentors (Trade Mentor, PvE Mentor, PvP Mentor or just plain Mentor). Here’s a list of Mentor requirements.

When a Mentor and a Novice group up, they both get a 20% experience bonus (up to level 20), so there’s an incentive for the two groups to interact.

Additionally there’s a persistent chat channel called the Novice Network. It’s only open to Novice players and Mentors. It’s supposed to be a channel for getting questions answered. The only flaw in the system I’ve seen so far is that a Novice has to be invited into the channel by a Mentor. My new character was level 20 or so by the time he’d encountered a Mentor to invite him in. I’m surprised Novices aren’t auto-joined to the channel.

There’s a new (to me anyway) NPC in the starting hubs called a Smith and they’ll tell you all about Novices and Mentors. At level 15 they’ll also direct you to the Hall of the Novice. This is essentially a series of solo mini-dungeons that teaches you how to play an MMO as your class. I’m an Archer so I got sent through the DPS series of tasks. The Hall taught me to avoid telegraphed attacks, taught me to attack the mob the (NPC) tank was tanking, taught me to pull adds off the healer, and so forth. I knew all this stuff but I imagine if this had been my first MMO rodeo the Hall would’ve been a great learning tool, plus you get some new gear for going through the mini-dungeons (you can do them all in maybe 30 minutes, tops).

If you don’t choose to do the Hall of the Novice at 15, you’ll get sent there before Sastasha, the first dungeon that you unlock. Since I’d already done the Hall, I’m not sure if doing it is mandatory before Sastasha or if it is just recommended.

In addition to being a Novice, you may be a Returner. A Returner is someone who has returned to the game. In order to qualify you have to have one class to at least level 50 and have been gone from the game for 45 days. Returners get the same bonus exp and access to the Novice network. They have a little flower next to their name.

I don’t usually interact with other players in MMOs (ironic, I know) but when I was randomly invited into the Novice Network I accepted. It’s a pretty active channel and at least for the short time I’ve been in it, quite civil. It’s definitely kind of chatty…I saw a long discussion about Pokemon games taking place in it. But when I did ask a question or two I always got an answer, and often several.

This experience drew me out of my shell a bit, and by Sunday afternoon I’d dug out a bluetooth keyboard so I could talk in the Novice Network more easily (typing with the controller isn’t ideal). I saw that there’s a linkshell that extends the Novice Network; I guess folks were making friends in the NN and then getting kicked out thanks to no longer being a novice, and so they created a player-run version to keep in touch.

This is the outfit that attracted creepy tells from some sleaze

I played a ton of FF XIV over the weekend and had 1 bad experience (playing a female character and having some creep sending my tells about how sexy I was) but other than that, my experience with the player base was very positive. I ran 3 dungeons, they all did not go perfectly, but no one was giving anyone grief about it.

Overall the way FF XIV welcomed me as a player kind of re-kindled my love of MMOs.

I switched over to a male character but I guess I just can’t help being dead sexy! 🙂