Jaded's Pub

A couple of days ago I wrote a ‘damning with faint praise’ kind of post about Destiny 2, saying it was fine. At the time I was level 11 or 12 and working through the campaign.

I still haven’t finished the campaign but I’m pretty close to the end, and I have hit level 20. Along the way I have unlocked a lot of content-systems. For the most part I still feel like the campaign itself is “fine” but all the other stuff is pretty good and for me at least, more fun than the mostly predictable campaign missions.

Content-type spoilers incoming. I won’t spoil the story but I’m going to talk about systems that are missing early on and get added later.

So the open world areas of Destiny 2 feel kind of more constricting than those in Destiny 1. I’ve yet to find huge open areas like the Cosmodrome or Mars in Destiny 2. Titan in particular is narrow and confusing and I die more there to “mishap” (falling off the edge of things) than to enemies. I kind of miss the big areas of D1.

But in pretty much every other way, the open areas in D2 are better than D1 once you progress far enough to unlock stuff. There are the Adventures which are kind of side-missions. Early on there are only a couple of these per zone but more get added later. There are the Lost Sectors which are basically semi-hidden mini-dungeons that you can do. There are scattered loot chests laying around, and “high value targets” which also drop a chest of loot if you (and whomever else is in the area) take them down. Public events return but you can see in advance where they’re going to happen and so head there to be ready for them (and there is Fast Travel to get you near very quickly). I wish there were more of these in terms of variety (frequency is fine but doing the same few events over and over gets old) but I’m betting we’ll see more added over time.

Patrols are missing in Destiny 2 until you get pretty far into the campaign. Then you get a mission like you had on the Dreadnaught in The Taken King to re-establish the patrol network. Once you do that patrols are back.

Bounties seem to be gone for good, but Challenges have been added. Challenges are pretty similar to bounties except you don’t have to go to an NPC to get them. When you land in an open world zone you’ll get 3 Challenges to work on. Stuff like “Kill X of enemy species Y” or “Find a lost sector in area X” So they feel a lot like bounties. You get a little reward for each one and a bigger reward (that you have to return to the Farm for) if you do all three.

Anyway, the point is that I still feel like the campaign is pretty “meh” but just running around doing stuff to earn loot feels a lot more diverse than it did in Destiny 1.

I’m SLOWLY coming around on the gun system. I’ve just kind of accepted that I’ll probably never use a sniper rifle or shotgun in D2. Kind of a bummer but oh well.

I STILL haven’t done a strike, though I have them unlocked. And after you get to a certain point in the campaign you have a lot more reasons to head back to the Farm so it no longer feels as deserted as it did on that first day.

If you hated Destiny 1 this isn’t going to sway you and I’m still not totally blown away but I’m liking it more than I was a few days ago.

TLDR review of Destiny 2: If you loved Destiny 1 right up until the very end, you’ll probably love Destiny 2 as well. If, like me, you eventually grew bored of Destiny, there’s not much here to erase that stale feeling. It all feels very familiar.

I got to level 11 and visited all 4 of the new environments, so clearly this isn’t a thorough review: keep that in mind.

You start at power level 100 but get cut back to 10 which is why my level 1 guys are the most powerful here

Basically Destiny 2 is Destiny 1 with new maps/story. They gave us 4 new locations to play in but took away the old 4. The same enemies return though here and there you’ll encounter a new type within a species, but it’s nothing earth shattering. For instance the Vex have a new unit called Fanatic who explode when shot. They’re basically Corrupted Thralls for the Vex.

The story starts out really strong and impactful but that quickly fizzles into a series of “Go here and flip that switch…oh wait, now there’s another switch.. oops and one more.” quests. Lots of pseudo-platforming. Environments that feel very familiar. Encounters that do too. So when you’re facing the Hive at some point there WILL be a wave of thrall screaming and running at you.

The big game play change is in the guns. Now your primary and secondary slots hold the same styles of guns, except primary is for purely ballistic weapons and secondary is for guns with elemental effects. So depending on drops (at the start before you really have much choice) you might be rolling with a ballistic auto-rifle as a primary and an auto-rifle with fire damage as a secondary. It’s kind of dull, IMO. Elemental effects do seem enhanced. If you match the element of your round with the element of an enemy’s shields you’ll tear those shields down really quickly.

But that means sniper rifles, grenade launches, shotguns and swords all go in the “special” slot and have very limited ammo. As someone who enjoys using a sniper rifle while heading to an objective and switching to a shotgun when I get there, this sucks. Switching loses the ammo in the gun and there’s not much to begin with.

On the other hand I feel like they improved beta issues with grenades being under-powered and special ability cool-downs being too long.

And the open world areas do have a lot more to do in them and I found them more interesting and fun than the Story Missions. This is fine since in the long run you’ll probably spend more time in the open world than re-running story missions.

I haven’t done any strikes yet; I’m sure they’re still fun but for the most part I play Destiny solo.

I’m the one guy who misses having to take Engrams back to the Cryptarch. I never had a reason to visit “the Farm” (the new social area) in my time playing and when I was there, only a handful of players were hanging around. There’s no reason to go there now.

For me, the minute-to-minute experience of fighting the same Fallen, Hive, Vex, Cabal and Taken enemies that I fought for years in Destiny 1 just doesn’t feel that exciting. I wish they’d given us a new race to fight. Maybe they did and I just haven’t gotten to it, but I don’t think so. I don’t have buyer’s remorse or anything, but I put Destiny 2 down because I’d had enough of it for now. It was fine. Nothing all that special for me.

Over the long weekend I spent a lot of time playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate even though I’d “finished” it a while ago. In particular yesterday I played all day, and I mean that as close to literally as I’ll ever get. I walked the dog twice (because canine biology says that’s not optional) and broke for meals with Angela, but otherwise played AC Syndicate from about 9 am to 11:30 PM. No social media, no surfing the web aside from getting some help on a couple of sticking points in the game. No checking emails or my phone. Just playing.

First I earned the Platinum trophy for the main game. I’d done most of that before yesterday and had just one super-grindy trophy to get (“Without a Grudge” which tasks you with smashing through 5000 objects while driving a cart). I’d been driving on the sidewalks through most of the game because of this trophy and it still took me an hour of driving around the same block (this track) filled with street vendors to get it to pop. That was a dumb trophy that detracted from the game because it forced you to act like a maniac, running down hundreds of innocent people. Exactly the opposite of how an Assassin is supposed to behave (according to the titular Creed).

Once I was done…I wasn’t done. For some reason I wanted more so I started up the Jack The Ripper DLC. Actually glad I played that as it was pretty good. Playing through the Ripper storyline was fairly quick and when I was done I only had a few trophies left to get so figured I’d try for them. And once again, one particular trophy was a serious grind. Ripperologist tasks you with getting 100% sync. In the main game there was a similar trophy but there the 100% only applied to the main story missions. I assumed the same was true here but nope, here it means everything. Full completion on the main story missions, all the side activities and get all the collectibles. Normally I would have bailed at that point but by the time I discovered this it was the last trophy I needed. So I spent another 4-5 hours doing all the side missions I’d skipped (some of which were fun, some I had skipped because they weren’t fun) and then running all over the game getting collectibles I hadn’t bothered with since they didn’t matter in the main game (not fun). And finally I got that last trophy and felt…pretty much nothing.

Actually I felt conflicted. On the one hand, for my whole life I’ve struggled with sticking with things. I get an idea, jump in and immerse myself but then get a new idea and tear off after it. This particular character flaw is why, when I’d dead, I’ll leave nothing behind. When I was young I wanted to be a novelist and fully believe I had the talent for it (a talent which his atrophied considerably since then), but I never stuck with it. I never had the required devotion to the skill. I also probably could have made a lot of money in the dot-com bubble if I’d had more ambition and stick-to-it-ive-ness. I was in the right place at the right time with the right skill set. But nope, didn’t have the drive/ambition/focus to take advantage of it. In both cases I let myself get distracted constantly and never realized my full potential in either field.

This has applied to my gaming as well. Before the last few years it was very rare that I would finish a game. I’m finally getting better about that; if a game is decent I try hard to finish it. Getting 100% of the trophies on the main game and the DLC is kind of one step beyond finishing the game and something I’ve never done before, so from that point of view I’m proud of myself. I stuck with it, didn’t let myself get distracted, and hit my goal even when my mind was throwing suggestions of other, potentially more interesting things I could be doing.

But on the other hand, I spent an entire day doing this and what do I have to show for it? A number somewhere clicked up a notch. So what? I could’ve done a lot of different things with that day. I could have actually been productive and cleaned the house or built a spaceship or something, but even lowering my sights from that, I could have played something else. Experienced some other virtual world. I think that would have been more fulfilling then running around London opening chests to get currency I no longer needed.

So I don’t think I’m cut out to be a trophy hunter. I have a love/hate relationship with Trophies/Achievements anyway. It’s cool to have goals beyond the storyline if you want to wring as much playtime out of a game as you can, and it’s fun to look at your friends’ trophies to get an idea of how far they’ve gotten in a game. On the less cool side, I kind of feel like the gaming industry has re-programmed me. If I’m not earning ‘gamerscore’ now I have this vague feeling that I’m wasting my time. I HATE that, but there ya have it. For example there’s still more content in the AC Syndicate main game. Side activities built around Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and a young Arthur Conan Doyle. But even though I LOVED AC Syndicate, I never did those side quests because they didn’t impact trophies. I could have been playing those (and no doubt having fun) instead of opening stupid chests.

And after ALL of that has been said, when I finally shut down the game after all that grinding, my last thought was “I’m going to miss this world.” So make of that what you will. LOL

Even though I now live in the south where summer starts in March and ends sometime after Christmas, I grew up using Labor Day as my end of summer marker (helps that I lived in a resort town and all the summer residents went back to wherever they came from on Labor Day). So some part of me has decided that fall is here.

I touched on how it’s going to be a weird ‘holiday season’ in my last post, but I’m just in the mood for blogging and don’t have any one thing to focus on so I figured I’d just spew out a “What I’m playing” post. I mean, Destiny 2 comes out next week and that MIGHT consume me (and I might meet it with a giant “meh”, I really don’t know) but there’s a long weekend between now and then.

So here’s what’s going on in my gaming world.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate — I’m still playing this even though I finished it a while back. I’m slowly working towards the “Get 100% sync on all story missions” trophy. If I can get that I can probably try for a Platinum. If you haven’t played AC, story missions generally have a main goal and two optional side-tasks/challenges. You can move the story forward by completing the main goal. That will give you 80% sync for that mission. Doing the optional tasks each add 10% to your sync. So to get 100% sync for all the story missions you just have to do all the optional tasks.

So far they’re not too hard during a 2nd play-through since my characters are so mighty compared to the enemies they face. Unless stealth is a requirement I can just stride in and kill everyone and then do whatever needs doing, usually. The ‘remain undetected’ tasks are harder. So we’ll see. I try to get up to 100% on one mission each day. If I try to grind them out I just get bored/impatient and start screwing up.

Next up is Everybody’s Golf, which I picked up due to lots of enthusiasm on /r/ps4 and the fact that I had a $50 PSN gift card burning a hole in my pocket. This is the latest in the Hot Shots Golf series, only now they’re calling it what it has always been called in Japan: Everybody’s Golf. So far, it’s a hoot. It uses the traditional 3-click golf swing system and, aside from the initial loading of the course, plays really quickly. As you play you unlock all sorts of character customization options. So far I’ve only played single player because I’m trying to unlock courses. Looking forward to the online mode which sounds wonderfully chaotic. You don’t teleport from hole to hole, you have to run. Along the way you can find items or even go fishing. Why? Who knows? It’s just a feel-good, fun kind of game.

But at the end of the day it IS a golf game and so it isn’t something I play for hours at a time. I jump in, do a tournament or two, and move on. I can feel my attention start to drift the longer I play and my shots get worse and worse. So not a “main game” but still fun and it was only $40 so I’m good with it. Also I spend way too much time messing around in the character creator:

I’ve always liked the idea of Monster Hunter games but have never really gotten into any of them. With Monster Hunter World coming out in 2018 I wanted to get some familiarity with the style of game. Last summer (summer 2016) for some reason I bought God Eater 2 Rage Burst for the PS4 and it came with a free copy of God Eater Resurrection. So I’m trying to come to grips with GER. There’re so many odd systems to learn and the controls are I guess deliberately bad? Is that how it works in Monster Hunter-style games? Y’know what’s hard? Moving the camera with the right stick (in order to aim) and then using the face buttons to fire. So you can aim or fire, but not both at the same time. Who thought this was a good idea?

I do like GER because there’s a story to it, and I love a story in my games. I’m not very far into it though. Doing Difficulty 2 Missions. Trying to figure out how to play beyond the ‘button mashing’ phase. Keeping the theme alive, I can only do 2 or 3 hunts before my attention starts to drift.

So after juggling 3 games that I’m playing a little of each night, I wanted something more narratively meaty to sink my teeth into. At the same time I was reading about this weird Assassin’s Creed/Final Fantasy XV cross-over and that it was time limited. I bought FF XV at launch and put about 15 hours into it before I stopped. My recollection was that I stopped after learning of all the patches/content that were coming to it, but I can’t be sure. I decided to give it another go. Last night I just had time to do the tutorials again, and start a new game. Now I need to decide if I should go back and pick up my 15-hours-in save, or just keep going with the new game. I think I’ll probably do that latter just because I have no recollection of the story. Mostly I remember Cindy’s boobs.

When I bought FFXV I sprung for the season pass and at some point they gave season pass holders a ring that gives the team protection from friendly-magic-fire. I feel that is going to be a game-changer. I never used magic when I was playing because my pals would always rush in after the mobs and I couldn’t hit the baddies without also hitting my allies. So I just never bothered. With this ring I should be able to toss spells around a lot more casually which I think will make the game a lot more fun. So we’ll see.

So yeah, juggling 4 games. I guess that’ll fill up my weekend. We’ll see how many of them gets pushed aside by Destiny 2 next Wednesday.

[I originally had this post scheduled for lunchtime on August 23rd but for some reason it never posted. So I’m posting it now!]

Yesterday [accurate when this was supposed to post!] Uncharted: The Lost Legacy launched. For some reason my brain has decided that means the “holiday season” has arrived when it comes to big game releases. Given that, I sat down to plan out my autumn and y’know what? There’s really not that much to plan. Plus even the games I’m interested in I probably won’t get on release day.

I do have Destiny 2 for the PS4 pre-ordered and that comes out on September 6th, and I pre-ordered the Horizon Zero Dawn expansion that comes out in November I think. Between these two the only AAA games I can think of that I’m really hyped for are Middle Earth: Shadow of War (October 10th) and Assassin’s Creed Origins (October 27th).

I know there are other games coming but I just don’t get excited about the latest Call of Duty. Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a maybe and I might get some more niche titles like .hack//G.U. Last Recode, but generally at this point in the season I’m thinking “How will I have time to play all these games?” and this year that just isn’t the case.

I don’t mean this in a ‘doom and gloom” way, just in a “what a strange season” way. Early 2018 seems PACKED with releases and that’s when I’m going to have to be really choosy and only purchase what I have time to play.

Compounding the weirdness is that I pre-ordered an Xbox One X which comes out on November 7th. I won’t buy Mordor or Origins until I see how they run on the Xbox X vs the PS4 Pro. I’m generally a Sony fanboy and I really feel comfortable on the PS4 in terms of the OS and sharing and the controllers and all that, but if these games run better on the XBX I’m going to get them over there. And they SHOULD run better but you never know, right?

Additionally there are some older Xbox games that I’ve deliberately held off on in anticipation of the XBX. When the 4K patches for Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 hit, I might be playing them. Maybe they’ll be my big “holiday 2017” games and I can pick up Mordor and Origins during a Black Friday sale or something.

While plenty of folks have commented on the lack of exclusives on the Xbox One, Sony has had a banner year for great exclusives on the PS4, but they’ve been spaced out over the entire 12 months rather than all being packed into the 4th quarter. Really I think this is a good thing and maybe how it should be. It’s just going to take a bit of a mental adjustment if this is how things are from now on. Or maybe this year is just an anomaly. I guess we’ll see.

PS: If you’re a fan of Uncharted, don’t miss The Lost Legacy; it’s really good so far even without Nathan Drake!

This afternoon I finished up the storyline of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. I was a little confused and baffled by the fact there were no ending credits, but after a while of looking for the next ‘story’ mission, I checked google and this seems to be the way it goes.

As is typical of AC games, my “Total Synchronization” is nowhere near 100% (it’s 59%) and there’s a lot of stuff I can do if I feel like I want to keep playing. Chase Trophies or whatnot. I might do a little more, it’s a pretty good game.

This time out we’re in Victorian England playing as Evie and Jacob Frye, twin assassins. If you played Black Flag, you know how it was kind of a pirate game and an assassin game stuck together? Same kind of thing here only Evie is the assassin and Jacob is the fighter. I mean both characters can fill both roles but each of them has a few unique skills that make them better at one thing or the other.

During open world stuff you can play as either one, but the story missions force you to play one character or the other (understandable). Evie is looking for a Piece of Eden while Jacob just wants to take over the gangs on London to weaken the Templar hold on the city. Each sibling kind of thinks the other is doing it wrong.

It’s one of my favorite AC games. I think I still like Black Flag the most, and AC2 was I think objectively a ‘better’ game but I liked this one more than AC2. Part of it is the setting, part of it the characters (Evie in particular I really liked and I played her whenever possible) and part of it (yes I’m shallow) the graphics.

The weird issues where you stick to things (due to the sometimes wonky climbing system) are still here but not as bad as they are in some AC games, and early on you get a grappling hook so you can ascend buildings really quickly and grapple between rooftops. In general I felt like I spent less time climbing around than I have in other AC games, and that was fine with me.

My biggest complaint is they’ve taken away non-lethal combat methods. If you sneak up behind someone you can knock them out, but once in combat you have to either kill your opponent, or flee. Considering there are times when you’re sneaking around places filled with ‘good guy’ guards, it’s kind of frustrating. In the end I just gave up and killed innocent guards just to get through the missions. If I could’ve at least attempted some bare fisted combat against them I think it would’ve made the game better, but there’s no way to unequip your weapon and fight non-lethally.

On the other hand, the GTA-esque sequences where you’re driving a horse and carriage were a complete hoot. Really fun, and a new thing for AC games. Side missions come from characters like Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and a very young Arthur Conan Doyle. There’s a good variety of side missions should you choose to do them but I didn’t feel pressured to do many of them.

Once again you never leave the Animus/Helix though there are some cut scenes showing what Rebecca, Shawn and Bishop are up to. (And of course they end in a cliff-hanger.)

there’s a good deal of RPG-ness to this one, too. You level up, gain and spend skill points, spend money and resources to craft gear and to get better control of the city and you have a selection of gear slots to fill with a pretty good stream of new goodies. I always enjoy that stuff.

Anyway, so that’s that. I’ve now played all the major AC games to completion except for the original Assassin’s Creed (which, long ago, I opted to experience via watching all the cut scenes on YouTube). And in fact played them all this year! In order I played Black Flag, AC 2, AC Brotherhood, AC Revelations, AC 3, AC Rogue, AC Unity and AC Syndicate. I guess I’m a fan.

Still curious about Origins. I wonder if they’re going to cut out the animus stuff completely? I guess Origins is about the Egyptian Magi forming the first brotherhood of assassins. I’m looking forward to it but still a little worried about how much of reboot it’ll be.

[UPDATE] After posting this I fired up the game to putter around some more. There’s a “rift” that opens somewhere around chapter 6; I ignored it until I was finished the game. It leads to a World War 1 level where you get play as Lydia Frye, the grand-daughter (I guess? The main game takes place in 1868 so you do the math) who is working with a young Winston Churchill. It’s a fun section of the game but it also is the only time in this game you learn more about the Isu (or precursors, if you prefer). So if you’re into the mythos of AC, e sure to play this section!

Here’s my quick and easy review of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

If you’ve played earlier Uncharted games and hated them, don’t play The Lost Legacy. There’s nothing here that is going to change your mind.

If you’ve never played an Uncharted game, don’t start with this one. Uncharted 1-3 are bundled for PS4 in The Nathan Drake Collection and Uncharted 4 came out on PS4. Play at least 2 & 4 first, probably 3 as well. Reason being the two main characters in this game, Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross, first appeared in Uncharted 2 and 4 respectively, and they were on opposite sides. Chloe was an ally of Nathan Drake, Nadine was his enemy. While Nathan Drake isn’t in this game the characters’ history with him is part of the story.

If neither of the above applies to you, then you owe it to yourself to play The Lost Legacy. If you were concerned that an Uncharted game without Nathan Drake wouldn’t be as good, put your mind at rest. Chloe and Nadine are just as strong a pair of characters as we’ve ever seen in an Uncharted game.

To be fair, this is a shorter game. I clocked in about 8 and a half hours but I took my time and did some side activities that weren’t required. I’ve heard that folks who just play the main storyline are taking 6 hours or so. (This is why it debuted at $40 rather than $60.) I think the length works in the game’s favor though. The pacing is excellent.

The gameplay is the typical Uncharted mix of gunplay, puzzles (none of them super hard), climbing, driving, sliding, swinging and exploring improbably large ancient ruins filled with mechanisms that somehow still work after thousands of years. You’re in search of an artifact and in a race against the bad guy to get to it first. It’s definitely a formula that Uncharted players are very familiar with, but it’s just fun in an Indiana Jones kind of way. (If you’re not a Playstation gamer the closest series to Uncharted, in my mind, is the modern Tomb Raider franchise, but Uncharted is a lot less somber.) If Uncharted The Lost Legacy was a movie, it’d be a summer blockbuster filled with spectacle; something you just sit back and enjoy rather than spending a lot of time pondering the morality of what is happening (though without giving too much away there’s more morality pondering here than in most Uncharted games).

I felt like there was less gunplay than in most Uncharted games but that might be because I spent so much time exploring. Some pundits critique the Uncharted games because Nathon Drake racked up such a large body count but keep his light-hearted tone throughout. I guess that’s a fair critique and it happens here too, but no one ever bashed Han Solo for trading quips after blasting a dozen Storm Troopers. For the most part the Uncharted creators set things up so you never have to initiate lethal combat. You can sneak past enemies or take them down non-lethally, but sooner or later you’re bound to be detected and then the bad guys start shooting and throwing grenades (or worse) and you don’t have much choice other than pulling out a gun.

Personally I kind of enjoy the combat. It’s cover-based but you never seem to have quite enough ammo so you can’t just hunker down (plus a lot of cover degrades as enemies fire at you). So it’s find cover, take out a couple of guys, make a run for some ammo, repeat. Health regenerates when you’re not taking damage.

The puzzles you’ll encounter are again, very reminiscent of Indiana Jones (or the earlier Uncharted games). Aiming beams of light, aligning statues or shadows, sliding bits around to create a complete picture. That sort of thing. For me they were just the right difficulty. You had to pause and fiddle with them for a few minutes but it wasn’t like you felt you needed to jump online and look up a solution.

It’s strange to admit this, but I don’t really play Uncharted games for the gameplay. I play them for the story and the spectacle and the characters, and Uncharted The Lost Legacy has these three things in spades. The locations are ASTOUNDINGLY beautiful, and watching Chloe and Nadine try to come to trust each other is endearing. There are so many little details, and please do try to snag all the optional conversations that pop up. My favorite detail: when you die in an Uncharted game, the screen washes out to black and white and another character will call out your name followed by “Noooo!” or something like that. Early in the game when you die Nadine yells “Frazer! Noooo!” but after traveling together for a while, going through the ups and downs of their new friendship, she eventually starts yelling “Chloe!!! Nooooo!!!!”

It’s a little tiny detail but it really warmed my heart. I just loved this game and damn did Claudia Black (Chloe) and Laura Bailey (Nadine) absolutely nail it, as did the writers. The banter between them is as good as you’ll find in any buddy movie.

Up until this week Horizon Zero Dawn was my personal game of the year, but now I feel a bit conflicted. Trying to choose between it and The Lost Legacy is like trying to choose a favorite child. They’re both remarkable games.

Tonight I finished the main story of Assassin’s Creed Unity. All in all, it was pretty good. Not my favorite AC game but still worth playing.

That said, it could have been REALLY good if the team had had more time for polish. Even with all the patching that they did post-launch, there were still more than the usual AC frustrations related to traversal. My favorite example was when I was chasing someone through the streets of Paris and got to close to a fountain and the game decided that what I really wanted to do was jump up on the lip of the fountain (maybe 2 feet high) and run in a circle around that while I frantically tried to get my character to jump off it.

This weird “sticking to random surfaces” thing is an issue in all AC games but it was really bad this time out. There were also more glitches than I like to see. Sometimes quests would get stuck and have to be restarted, and sometimes this kind of thing happened:

When a romantic moment is ruined by your big collar clipping through your face. SO EMBARRASSING!

Otherwise my only real complaint was a personal one: the setting. I’m not a Francophile and the French Revolution isn’t really a time period that interests me very much. Oh! Almost forgot to mention the voice acting. I have no idea why but a lot of the denizens of Paris sounded very British. But not all of them. It was like they recycled canned ‘British background conversations’ or something.

Not that they didn’t do a great job with the design of Paris. It was pretty damned fabulous. The streets were packed with people going about their business (and there’s a day/night cycle that changes the kinds of things you see), buildings could be entered and rummaged around in and there was a TON of stuff to do. So much that, well, forget about ‘clearing’ the game. No one has time for that. But as I’ve discussed before, I like that. The types of side jobs I didn’t like, I ignored.

There’s also a much stronger RPG vibe in this game. You earn Skill Points by doing story missions and co-op missions and spend those to unlock your skills. I wish I could’ve unlocked them doing side missions too. I only did 2 co-op missions, one actually in co-op and the other solo, and I still had enough skills that I was a bad-ass by the end of the game, so I guess the system works. But if I could’ve earned more doing side missions I might have bought some skills that I skipped over, just to play around with them. For instance I never bothered to buy skills related to heavy weapons and instead specialized in 1-handed weapons, because I was worried about running out of skill points.

If you’re brave you can turn off the hud and play like this. I wasn’t that brave

Additionally there were a lot of gear slots to upgrade. Arno (the protagonist) wears a hood, chest piece, leggings, belt and bracers, all of which can be upgraded. You buy new gear with gold and then can upgrade that gear via “Creed Points” that you earn by doing things like execution moves or eluding enemies.

I’ve talked a lot recently about how I enjoy progression so Unity scratched that itch pretty well.

Oddly your hidden blades are only used in automatic assassinations, and in general things like air assassinations seemed harder than they’ve been in early AC games; way too many times I dropped down onto enemies and just knocked them over. They’d get up and start fighting me and calling in friends.

There were no “out of the animus” bits here. In fact technically you’re not in an animus, you’re in a Helix which is the consumer version. You do get spoken to by “Bishop and Deacon” who are pretty definitely Rebecca Crane and Shawn Whatzit from the earlier games, but the whole ‘meta’ story is so flimsy I’ve already forgotten it and the credits are still rolling.

In fact in general the story was pretty meh. Arno, whose father was killed at the end of AC Rogue, is raised by a Templar who is murdered and basically the whole game is Arno and the Templar’s daughter Elise, (also your love interest, sortof) trying to get revenge. Along the way many people are killed, often then revealing that maybe they weren’t as bad as Arno had imagined.

As far as history, we meet the Marquis de Sade, Robespierre and Napolean Bonaparte who is really wedged in there in a way that makes no sense, but I’m pretty sure he nabbed a piece of eden at one point, the scoundrel.

So yeah, it was good. I’m not going to stick around for trophy hunting or anything, and I DO from time to time still fire up AC Rogue to whittle away at those Achievements, so I guess I have to say I preferred AC Rogue and Black Flag to this one. But I’m glad I played it.

And this is twice now I’ve been able to complete a post on an AC game while the credits were still rolling. SO MANY CREDITS.

A couple of times you have to go through rifts to briefly visit other eras

One of the things I enjoy about this game is how alive the streets feel. Sometimes I just take a leisurely stroll around the town.

Assassin’s Creed® Unity

The only thing I remember hearing about Assassin’s Creed Unity when it first launched was that it was a buggy mess best avoided. So I avoided it, at least for a year or two at which point it hit a super sale and was offered for $10 or $15. I polled my social circles and was told that Ubi had patched a lot of the issues and it was OK to play, so I bought it, then heard there were still framerate problems on consoles. That got solved (again, according to the hive mind) when Sony introduced Boost Mode for the PS4 Pro.

So with AC Freedom Cry in the books I turned my attention to Unity and oh my goodness does this game make a TERRIBLE first impression. The first thing you see is a menu offering you like 15 different “experiences” to choose from, all but one of them locked. It took me a minute to realize I was playing a game withing a game. Remember how in AC Rogue and AC Black Flag you were working for Abstergo to create historical entertainment products? Well in Unity you start off as a customer, using the Helix, which is the consumer model of the Animus. Your one unlocked experience takes you back to 1307 where you see the Templar Grandmaster Jacques de Molay entrusting a sword and book to one of his underlings before he is arrested and executed (you play the underling). The others experiences listed are just decoration, you don’t get to play all of them as far as I can tell. Tease!

At that point your experience is interrupted by “Bishop,” an assassin who has hacked into your Helix and who sends you off to France in 1776. Remember that last epilogue in AC Rogue where Shay kills an assassin who is looking for his son. There was no real explanation of that mission. Well when you get to France you’re playing the son in that same scene. He’s like 6 or 7 I guess. You’ve been lured away by a little girl who dares you to steal an apple so of course you do (this is the ‘stealth tutorial’) at which point you run away with the apple floating about 2 feet in front of your hand. Nice glitch. Then there’s a cut scene where the boy didn’t render at all so the little girl was talking to empty air.

It’s a short sequence that ends with your father being killed by Shay and you going to live with the little girl’s father as his ward. Flash forward to you as an adult and kind of a troublemaker. I won’t go into the whole story but pretty soon you end up falling in with the assassins (remember your father was one of them) and that’s the next story mission which also glitched out for me. I was supposed to follow an NPC but he was climbing a wall and fell and then he just stood there. Since he needed to open a door I hate to restart the mission to advance. So that’s 3 glitches in the first 2 missions/first 30 minutes or so of play.

At this point you’re just a French citizen with a flimsy rapier and some smoke bombs. You have no assassin skills to speak of. Unity gives both you and missions a star rating. At this point I was 1 star and the next story mission was 2 stars. When I went to do it the game warned me that it would be very difficult and that I should buy skills or improve my gear before attempting it. Problem was I had no currency to buy skills and the shops weren’t selling better gear.

So I decided to do a 1 star side mission that involved recovering 3 severed heads (!) for a woman who was supposed to be making death masks of the victims. I failed that mission HARD about 6 times. One of the heads was in a square surrounded by guards. I couldn’t figure out how to sneak past them and I couldn’t defeat them in combat. Between the glitches and the stupidly hard 1-star quest, I was super frustrated and on the cusp of doing the “Rage Quit flowing into Uninstall Angry Dance” when Angela suggested I look online to see if there were any tips. I did that and no one seemed to be having an issue with this mission BUT all the screenshots and videos I saw showed the player decked out in assassin’s robes. I was wearing a puffy shirt and old breeches.

So I said screw it and went back to 2-star story quest, ignoring the stern warning of the game about its difficulty. And it was a complete cakewalk. At the end of it I became an Assassin, or at least enough of one that I could buy a decent weapon and some armor, as well as unlock some skills. I went back to the severed heads mission and now it too was a cakewalk. I just killed everyone who opposed me out of spite for all those early de-synchs!

And at that point Unity opened up like a flower blooming. I’ve been really enjoying it since then. Yes it still is glitchy and I’ve had to ‘restart from checkpoint’ in a few missions. But when it isn’t being glitchy it is a beauty of a game. Paris is amazing just to roam around. There is so much happening on the streets and in shops. As my reputation grows I go from ignored to feared to cheered (there are little quick street-level events like saving someone being bullied or catching a cutpurse that seems to get the people liking you). The combat is different in a way I can’t quite articulate but once I got used to it I’m really enjoying it. The architecture is super fun to climb around.

The other night I was in my theater (yes my character runs a theater) when a pixelated ghost appeared and beckoned to me. It took me a moment to realize I was being invited into a co-op mission. Me being me I at first ignored it, then said “Oh ‘eck” and gave it a try. I found myself running through Paris with three other assassins. When everything was working it was really cool — I might go so far as to say breath-taking — though in other moments the lag would get so bad I’d be getting hit by enemies I couldn’t see (no dedicated servers). Overall it was cool though and I would do it again. I was by far the weakest member of the team, having just started, but I could circle the outskirts of battles and assassinate enemies so could still pull my weight.

I’ve been so busy exploring and doing side quests that I can’t really comment on the story yet, but overall I’ve gone from “Screw this game I’m going to uninstall it and I wish I had a disk so I could snap it in half.” to “Holy heck this is AMAZING.”

I share this just in case you decide to try AC Unity. Don’t judge it by it’s first hour or so, and don’t let the game decide what is and isn’t too hard for you. There’s a flawed gem to be found if you can get past those two issues.