Assassin’s Creed IV (Yet Again)

Some of you might be wondering why I’ve decided to write about Assassin’s Creed IV again, seeing as I’ve written about it twice before.

The reason for this little revisit is that I decided to play through the game again recently. And on a second playthrough, where I wasn’t distracted by the story and character development, I started noticing some new things about the game, which got me thinking.

Which brings me to the points I’d like to talk about today.

Now, one observation I planned to write about, but decided not to was that, to me, the Jackdaw seems a bit… small.

You can perhaps see my reasoning. After all, let’s go over, in brief, what the Jackdaw carries when fully upgraded.

  • 46 cannons.
  • 4 chase cannons.
  • 2 Mortars
  • Ammunition for all of those.
  • 40 Fire Barrels
  • Accomodation for 40 men
  • 1 heavy whaling boat
  • 1 massive metal diving bell
  • space for a total of 10 000 pounds (roughly 4.5 metric tons) of sugar, rum, wood, metal and cloth.
  • presumably supply storage for food, weapons etc

And with the exception of the mortars and 12 cannons, all that would be kept below deck.

All that, to me, seemed at best unlikely for a brig.

However, I’m not comfortable going into that in detail, because I don’t know enough about ships of the era to make decisive, informed statements.

(It doesn’t help that apparantly, standardization for ships wasn’t really a thing at the time, so researching it was a lot of effort that amounted to exactly fuck all…)

All I will say on the subject is that firstly, considering a cannon of the period required 3 gunners, and the jackdaw has 23 guns per side and a maximum crew capacity of 40 men, at least 9 of whom are needed to simply sail the ship?

By my count, I am missing at least 38 people for an effective crew. And that’s not counting officers.

And secondly, there’s the idea of a ”cargo upgrade”. Again, not an expert on ships, but how the hell would that work? How do you upgrade cargo capacity in a ship with a finite amount of space? Shouldn’t I already use the maximum amount of room?

Beyond those two points, I will make no claims in terms of the Jackdaws construction.

So, instead, I will talk about a point which, while admittedly unfair in terms of programming, at least is more valid in terms of logic.

And it is this: why can’t you switch ships?

In this game, you are playing as a pirate. A fictional pirate, I admit, but a pirate nonetheless. Now, we know for a fact that pirates didn’t just stop by ships, steal stuff and then leave. Many times, they would seize the ship, especially if they felt the new ship was superior to the old. It makes sense, seeing as a pirate can’t exactly pull into a wharf and comission a new ship when the old one is worn out.

The most famous historical examples of this would probably be Blackbeards ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, and Bartholomew Roberts’ Royal Fortune, a name that would often pass from ship to ship as they were seized. Note that both of these pirates appear in the game.

So you would think that, if anyone would follow a similar practise, it’d be Edward Kenway, who throughout the majority of the game seeks wealth and power, as part of his character arc.

Over the course of the game, Edward captures brigs, frigates and Men o’ War left, right and center, and in fact, he seizes several ships to form his own personal fleet.

And yet, over his 7 year piracy career, he sticks with the same ship, through hell and high water.

I mean, it’s not like the game prevents you from climbing onto another ship and kill all the soldiers on board without harming the ship first. At that point, I’ve captured the ship!

I’m just saying, it’d be a pretty cool mechanic, to be able to decide ”I don’t want to use a brig anymore. I want to use a Man o’ War now. Let’s capture one!

True, there are missions in the game that has you controlling a frigate and a Man o’ War, so clearly the mechanics are there. However, it’s just one of those mechanics you toy with briefly in the game, rather than something more incorporated in the game.

Now, you can see how this mechanic could work, right? Different ships would have different perks, of course. Bigger ships like frigates or galleons have more guns and armor, but are much slower and less maneuverable, and prevents access to certain areas because of size. Brigs would be faster and more maneuverable, but more vulnerable, with a ramming attack, and schooners would be very quick and nimble, relying more on darting in front of the enemy and dropping fire barrels.

If nothing else, that would actually give the fire barrels a legitimate use, whereas now, they’re more trouble than they’re worth. After all, you can either drop a fire barrel on a pursuer, hoping they hit it, or just turn the ship round and blast them with a few broadsides.

Not a difficult choice.

And schooners and brigs would of course be a bit too small for, say, a diving bell or for whaling. Decently balanced, no ship would be perfect, but all would be unique and useful in their own way.

And if you want to get another ship? Just head out and get a new one! You’re a pirate, it’s what you do!

And finally, I’d like to share another observation about the Legendary Ships, a subject I’ve mentioned on previous occasions.

Now, these ships are legendary and special and awesome, supposedly the most fearsome ships to stalk the West Indies. So surely, ships like that would be pretty famous, right?

Well, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only are they not famous, but there is no evidence they ever existed at all!

The only one vaguely related to a real ship is HMS Prince. There WAS a ship around that period with that name, originally the HMS Ossory, then renamed HMS Prince, HMS Princess and finally HMS Princess Royal.

And while that ship was around in the early 1700’s, it wasn’t sunk, but was broken up… in 1773…

Now, maybe this is just me, but wouldn’t it be more interesting to have legendary ships that actually WERE legendary?

In fact, I believed that was the plan when I first encountered a legendary ship, namely HMS Prince. In the game, the crew cry out that it’s a ghost ship risen from the sea. Of course, I got excited, until I realized that no, it just LOOKED like a ghost ship. That’s all.

But that begs the question: Why wasn’t that a thing? Imagine if, instead of El Impoluto, you fight the fucking FLYING DUTCHMAN? Wouldn’t that be pretty damn cool?

And yes, I know what some of you are thinking. This is supposed to be alternate history, not some fantasy stuff. Ghosts aren’t real, so how would they justify that?

Simple! The framing device for the game is that you’re working for a video game company. Just have an email or an encounter where your boss tells you the programmers have been working on some concepts for the ”Devils of the Carribean” game, and seeing as you’ve done such a good job, they’re giving you a sneak peak, which if anyone asks, they can just call ”Beta testing”.

Cue appearances of the Legendary ships on the map!

And finding examples of ghostly ships? Not a problem.

The Flying Dutchman

Palatine

HMS Eurydice

Caleuche

That’s four different ghost ships, and finding them took LESS THAN 2 MINUTES.

You literally just need a name, and the rest you can make up! The design, the quirks, the tactics… Even the fact they’re not accurate for the period can be handwaved by actually lampshading it in the game. Have an email where someone points it out, and a response that players won’t care about details like that, artistic license and/or ”the programmers just wanted to show off”.

And just like that, you have covered yourself, while simultaneously making some really interesting naval battles with legendary ships that actually ARE legendary! Worst case scenario, people fighting the Flying Dutchman get upset there isn’t an tentacle faced Bill Nighy on board!

Or… you know, make up a ship, call it ”legendary” and forbid us from replaying it, for no adequatly explained reason.

That works too, I guess…

Mortal Kombat

Today, I’ve decided talk briefly about what is perhaps the most infamous franchise in video game history: Mortal Kombat.

Now, I should make it clear from the start that when it comes to games, I prefer RPG’s. I am not denying that for a moment. With a few exceptions, fighting games usually bore me to tears (probably because I am so absolutely terrible at them). As such, I can’t say I have followed the franchise in much detail. Therefore, I will not jump to conclusions regarding the quality of the games.

However, I do believe that, while I am far from an expert, I don’t need to be, in order to notice when something makes no sense.

So with that in mind, I’d like to spotlight an addition to the newer games in the franchise that really annoys me.

That addition being the X-Ray moves.

As their name suggests, they are powerful attacks that feature a slow motion x-ray of the victim, showing their bones and organs breaking or rupturing.

Now, this kind of violence is hardly new to Mortal Kombat. I did describe it as “Infamous” earlier for a reason, after all. The term “Fatality” is all but ingrained into pop culture by now. People lose arms, blow up, are incinerated, crushed, beaten to pulps or impaled left, right and center in these games.

What, then, is so special about the X-Ray moves for them to annoy me?

The answer is that they happen mid-fight! The characters are subjected to them… and then get right back up again.

I’m sorry, but that’s flat out idiotic.

And I know what you’re thinking. These games are hyper-violent. That’s the point. Ridiculously over the top carnage with a side of magic and gore is the dish of the day for these games. I understand that. I know that I am being much more nitpicky than usual with this.

But even in the face of everything this franchise presents, like sorcery, otherworldly monsters, cyborgs, a literal god of thunder and fire-breathing skeleton ninjas, I have to call this out as insane. This is where I draw the line.

I’m not an expert on anatomy, but I’m pretty damn sure that if I kick you in the back, to the point where it shatters your spine like a bread-stick, or snap your femur like dry spaghetti, you’re not getting back up. You’re not standing, walking, running or bicycle kicking. You’re in a wheelchair, eating through a straw for the rest of your life.

And I promise that if a giant with four arms grabs you, lifts you up and squeezes your head so that your cranium cracks like an egg, there’s no “second wind” for you. That’s it. You’re dead.

Not dazed, not stunned, not unconscious. Dead. Game over. Fatality.

If I may borrow a phrase, you’re not passed out, you’ve passed on! You are no more! You have ceased to be. You have expired and gone to meet your maker! You’re a stiff. Bereft of life, you rest in peace. If you weren’t left in Outworld, you’d be pushing up the daisies! You’ve snuffed it! You have rung down the curtain and joined the fucking choir invisible!

YOU ARE AN EX-FIGHTER!

Take any X-Ray move in the game, and you’ve got something that, if it doesn’t kill you, will actually cripple you for life.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with these moves in and of themselves. But if you go through all that trouble, designing them and putting them in the game, showing us in such graphic, gritty detail exactly what just happened…

That has to have consequences! They need to have a lingering effect, beyond losing part of your life meter. If you just have them appear, but there are no discernible effects, then showing the x-rays is meaningless!

And the thing is, you CAN still have those in the game, without them be a wasted effort. You know how?

Just have the attack, without the X-ray parts. When you activate it, you unleash an incredibly powerful attack string.

However, if that attack string ends up KILLING the opponent, THEN you show the X-Rays. Because at that point, it shows that the characters are going all out, with their final attacks being so powerful, they shatter bones, split organs and crack skulls. You’d effectively combine X-ray moves and brutalities.

It’d make far more sense, and it’d be much more satisfying to see.

That’s really all I have to say about Mortal Kombat. Hopefully, people will not now hunt me down and beat me to a quivering pulp, for nitpicking a game they like.

Assuming that doesn’t happen, and they instead agree with me:

Travis Wins.

Flawless Reasoning.

Pedantry.

Dying Light

Today, I’d like to talk a little about the game Dying Light, and some concerns I have with it.

First, however, I’d like to get a few things out of the way. One thing I’d like to make clear is that I really like this game. It reminds me, in a way, of the game Prototype, in that both games are great if you just want to run around at random. It’s also fun to make weapons out of scavenged scrap, running around and fighting zombies. Somehow, throwing a machete into the cranium of a rotting, walking corpse never seems to get old…

The other thing I will make clear is that there will be plenty of spoilers, so if you haven’t played this game and don’t want stuff spoiled for you, you shouldn’t keep reading.

With these things done with, let the ranting begin.

My issue with this game concerns the DLC, “The Following”.

The plot of the DLC has protagonist Kyle Crane find a secret way out of the quarantined city of Harran, in search of a group of people who are said to be immune to the infection that is turning people into zombies.

The reason for this journey is that the research for a cure against the zombie infection, which Dr. Camden is working on, is seemingly yielding no results, and the people within the quarantine are rapidly running low on suppressant drugs.

Now, before we get to my main issue, can I just get a few things clear?

Harran is under quarantine. The entire city is in lockdown and nobody gets in or out. The only way out, as you discover, is deep within an old, disused sewer passage, which connects to an old cave system that finally leads out to the countryside. And finding this place required a map, which was taken from a delirious smuggler.

In other words, not many knew about this passage.

So why the flying hell is the countryside shock full of zombies!?

The fucking place is crawling with them! They’re all over the roads and fields and woods and bridges and beaches and god knows what else!

I mean, it makes sense that Harran is full of zombies, since it’s a city. This is farmlands, with just a small town to the south, which is far from big enough to support even half the amount of ex-humans running around.

So how the fuck did they get there? The point of a quarantine is that nobody is getting in or out! If more people are getting into this area, then the quarantine has been breached, and we’re looking at a fucking pandemic!

Now, on a side note, one would think that this being the countryside, we’d see more than just zombies and bandits running around, and actually find zombified animals. But no, the area seems devoid of animal life.

Now, this is perhaps because designing and animating  various animals is very costly and complicated. It’s also possible that it’s to maintain the ambiguity of the location, since Harran is obviously a fictional place, and could, from the looks of it, take place anywhere from Spain to Turkey.

So adding regional animals might be more trouble than it’s worth.

Not to mention that it’s possible that the infection doesn’t turn animals, and just kills them instead.

And of course, either way, I can’t say it’s a big loss. I’ve got enough trouble avoiding zombie mutants and freaks with machine guns and machetes. I do NOT need to worry about zombie gerbils gnawing my feet off or rabid, rotting mountain lions tearing my stomach open.

So, what is my big issue with the DLC, then? Well, It concerns the ending of the DLC’s story.

As you play through the story, you find that the immunity to the virus is connected to the cult known as “The Children of the Sun”, and especially with their leader, known as “The Mother”. At the end of the DLC,  it is revealed that The Mother, who’s husband was a colonel who died during the outbreak, had discovered what she believed to be a cure for the virus, inside a military installation. However, it turns out that if you find a cache of strange, non-labeled vials of serum in a locked crate requiring high level clearance, it is a VERY bad idea to down it like it’s a jägerbomb. Go figure…

Whether the serum reacted with the infection in her body or it was just inherently asshole science á la The Umbrella Corporation, it mutated her into a sentient volatile. While exposed to light, she would retain her faculties, and even be able to communicate telepathically to others who were exposed to the serum. However, once the light turned off, she’d devolve into a crazed, murderous monster.

Horrified at what she’d become, and having just murdered her companions under the aforementioned murderous frenzy, she resolved to make amends and “Become the Mother they deserved”, using the vaporized serum to grant temporary immunity to the members of the cult.

And after all this is revealed, you are given a choice. Fulfill your part of the Prophecy of the Sun, and cleanse the infection, or reject her offer in order to procure the serum for Dr. Camden.

Now, option A seems like the more sensible and kind option, right? Cleanse the infection is, after all, your end goal anyway, so everyone wins!

There’s only one problem. Her idea of “cleansing the infection” is to detonate a nuclear bomb, which will wipe out the countryside and probably Harran as well.

So, clearly then, option B is the better choice. So you reject her offer, since surely there is some suppressant within the serum that could perhaps be isolated and synthesized.

Her reaction? Sticking the vial down your throat and forcing you to drink it, to see things “through her eyes”.

And she then decides to fight you to the death. Her reasoning being that even breathing the serum will eventually result in more sentient volatiles, who will rip their own families apart once the sun sets. So she has to kill you to keep the serum from reaching anyone else.

Now, I have so many questions that I’m not sure where to start…

OK, so she doesn’t want more sentient volatiles, since they are a threat to everyone once the sun sets and they lose their minds. This, of course, is nothing like the regular volatiles who only come out at night, when the sun can’t burn them…

Oh wait. They’re exactly the same degree of threat.

And even if they weren’t, she doesn’t want you to leave with the serum, because it might create more sentient volatiles… so she crams the serum down your neck, to turn you into a sentient volatile… the thing she doesn’t want more of… And if that wasn’t bad enough, she then decides to fight you to the death.

AFTER she gave you the serum that makes you an equal match for her.

And then, let’s go one step further. In order to protect her children from the infection, she uses the vapours made from the serum to make them immune…

The same serum that she made clear still turns you into a sentient volatile if you breathe it instead of drinking it, just with a slower process.

Granted, it’s worth mentioning that we never see or hear of any other sentient volatiles, despite a lot of cult members breathing in the vapours over a long time, so what she bases that on, I’ve no idea.

But if she’s right, that means that to protect her followers from the infection, she exposed them to a substance that slowly infects them and turns them into the same kind of monster she is now trying to kill you to keep you from creating more of. 

HOW THE FUCK DOES THAT MAKE SENSE!?

You don’t want more senseless killing, so your plan is to expose people to a serum that turns them into monsters that kill people senselessly, until you can find a way to access the codes so you can nuke the entire region, killing everyone.

There’s being a religious fanatic, there’s being a genocidal maniac and then there’s being a complete fucking moron

Setting off a nuke because you don’t want people to die needlessly is absolutely idiotic! Especially if she’s wrong about the effects of breathing the vapours, since that means she fucks you over for having a good idea, in favour of her own plan that, like I said, is both counterproductive and idiotic!

Then again, I’m sure the people who survive will be thrilled! Sure, they are slowly dying of third degree burns and shitting out their entrails thanks to radioactive fallout, and you’ve made the entire region pretty much uninhabitable for about 20.000 years.

But thank fuck, now they don’t have to sleep uneasy in their pretty comfortable beds, with their books and games and music and their protective fences and UV lights keeping the volatiles away, eating candy bars and fruits and vegetables and food from disaster relief drops, waiting for Dr. Camden to find the cure for the zombie apocalypse…

Thanks a lot, Mother of the Sun. Truly, your plan was foolproof. What ever would we do without you…

And this brings us to the main issue I have with this ending.

It makes the entire story of the game fucking pointless!

Think about it. You’re here in the countryside, trying to find a cure for the zombie infection. You know, that thing you spent the entire end of the game trying to secure from Rais? The thing you used as leverage to make sure the GRE didn’t try to pull some bullshit like WIPING OUT HARRAN?

Turns out, that research was a dead end. All the people who died as a result of trying to reclaim it? Their deaths were in vain. Everything you fought and killed for was utterly meaningless.

And the choice you’re given is also meaningless! Both choices result in a crap ending! Even if you chose not to blow up everyone and manage to defeat the Mother, you’re still fucked, since now you’ve turned into a sentient volatile yourself, and arrive in front of a mother and her two children, just as the sun sets.

Fucking BRILLIANT!

I know zombie stories aren’t the happiest, but come on! This is just a slap in the face, it’s so bleak!

And the most annoying thing of all is that it’s all so pointless! Throughout the DLC, you get messages from Harran, telling you that the antizin is running low and that people have begun to turn.

Because hey, even though the GRE, corrupt as it may be, has a vested interest in the progress of that cure and by extension the well-being of everyone in the city, that doesn’t mean they will do something sensible like, you know… SEND THE MEDICINE SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO KEEP PEOPLE FROM TURNING INTO ZOMBIES!

Not a single air drop containing a single vial of antizin? All those air drops full of food and water and other disaster relief supplies, is missing the drug that is designed for this, exact purpose? That’s pure, unadulterated bullshit, right there.

So that’s my issue with this game. The DLC just ends up making you feel like nothing you did mattered.

They could have removed the choice at the end, and just have you fight the Mother for the serum, without her sticking it down your neck, since that is twenty flavours of stupid. The serum could then be the final piece of the puzzle to make the cure. That would have been triumphant and uplifting, you could have a nice boss fight and bring the story to a satisfying ending.

That would have been perfectly serviceable! And guess what! If you do that, it actually makes sense that the game keeps going after the final mission! As it is, you effectively die either way, and yet you keep playing like a normal human after the credits!

But hey, what does internal continuity matter, in the grand scheme of things?

Oh right, it means the DLC makes sense and doesn’t piss people off…

Fallout: New Vegas pt. 2

I’ve been debating about whether or not I should write this article for a long time. On the one hand, I am hesitant to nitpick a game I like a lot. On the other, I have never let that stop me from nitpicking other things I like, like Aladdin or Harry Potter.

You may say that this is silly, seeing as I’ve even written about Fallout: New Vegas once before. But that time, I was nitpicking a feature that had carried over from Fallout 3, namely the fact that you can’t smoke. With this, I would be nitpicking the story of a game I love, where the story is a big reason for WHY I love it.

But now, I have decided that I should indeed write about a few things that have been bugging me about Fallout: New Vegas. What changed my mind, you wonder?

Well, I’ll get back to you on that, but let’s cover the game itself first. I should warn you that there will be some spoilers involved, though.

Now, one complaint I’ve heard which I’m not completely agreeing with, is that the Mojave Wasteland is so small, compared to the Capital Wasteland from Fallout 3.

The thing is, I’m not so sure it is that much smaller. In fact, I think it’s actually slightly bigger. It feels a bit smaller, because there aren’t as many random groups of enemies spawning everywhere, and not as much open desert.

And I think that’s a good thing. After all, the Mojave Wasteland is not a wasteland in the same way the Capital Wasteland is. You can tell, because throughout the game, people switch between calling it “The Mojave Wasteland” and just “The Mojave”. The Capital Wasteland is a desolated, unkempt, hostile desert, where water is scarce and danger lurks beyond every hill. It’s name is describing what it is. A Wasteland.

The Mojave Wasteland, on the other hand, has an active military presence, thriving trade, several settlements that aren’t just tumbledown cottages made from scrap and, of course, Vegas itself. It is, while far from a civilized area, much safer than the Capital Wasteland. The name “Mojave Wasteland” is not a description. It’s just the name of the area.

So I don’t think that complaint is valid. Now, there are other complaints about the game that are more valid, like the voice acting being spotty at times, or the game being glitchy.

Personally, I never really care about either of those, unless the glitches are ruining the game, or the voice acting is truly appalling. But to others, this is a valid concern. When the character Benny, played by Matthew Perry, is supposed to be a suave, smooth-talking Vegas big shot, complete with Baby‘s and Ring-a-ding‘s in his dialogue, it can be distracting when he comes across as flat and uninvolved.

No, my personal issue with the game concerns the ending, or rather one specific ending. The game, like I’ve said, gives you a long slideshow upon completion, concerning the different factions or people you’ve met throughout the game, and how your actions have altered or affected them.

Now, if you finish the game in the Independant storyline, for example, you don’t get a slideshow about what the future will hold for NCR or Caesars Legion.

Of course, this is fine by me. We’re told that you’ve secured Vegas from the NCR, Caesars Legion and Mr. House, and from there we can make educated guesses. If you saved President Kimball, he is likely to be the scapegoat for the loss, and ousted from office, along with General Oliver.

And if Caesar is dead, which he’s likely to be, you’ve pretty much destroyed the legion, whether or not you kill Lanius. After all, if you talked the latter into withdrawing, convinced that taking Vegas is a terrible idea, he will return east. From there, murmurs will be spread among the generals of the legion, since the “unbeatable” Lanius retreated. Not only that, but he retreated from the campaign that killed Caesar, and it was Caesars will that the Legion take the dam. Is Lanius right to go against Caesars will? Distrust, doubt and infighting will likely result from this, eventually leading to the collapse of the legion.

(Probably not helped by the fact that as a result of one DLC, you have the option to drop nukes on Legion lands)

And unless you sided with Mr. House, you will be required to kill him, so his lack of ending is not surprising.

So, what ending, then, do I have an issue with?

The ending regarding the Followers of the Apocalypse.

See, when I played the Independent route, I had the option of asking them to support my cause. In exchange, I promised them protection in the form of robots patrolling the streets and to help them with supply shortages, all so they could establish a proper foothold in the region.

And when I finished the game, what was I told?

That the new, independent Vegas was even more unstable than before, and that the Followers struggled to provide even the most basic services.

What the hell!? Let’s make something clear! Vegas is not just a lawless area of violence now! It’s not without leaders! It’s just independent from Mr. House, NCR and the Legion!

Those robot guards I mentioned? There are a LOT of them, that we’re told are maintaining order and stability in Vegas now. After I made that promise, I would assume that would also include Freeside!

I didn’t just release Vegas. I took control over it, basically usurping Mr. Houses role of ruler of Vegas! The money and influence I now wield should be more than enough to help the Followers!

But now I’m told that I just took power, and completely went back on my promise to the Followers?! I had Good Karma when I finished the game! I know my fucking character, and I wouldn’t screw the Followers over like that without a damn good reason!

I was given the option in the game to enlist their support, so I assumed there would be some difference depending on what I decided, but either choice gets the same result.

It seems pretty likely that there was one ending missing here. They went to the trouble to put that choice in the game, so why the hell didn’t they add the result of the choice?!

Well…

Here’s where I explain the reason why I decided to write this article. That reason being that I found an answer to that question.

The answer, incidentally, addresses the other two complaints, about glitches and the voice acting.

You know who you have to blame for all the things missing from Fallout: New Vegas, the glitches, the lackluster voices?

I’ll tell you.

Bethesda.

And I know, I know. I sound like a broken record, saying that everything is Bethesdas fault. Here I am, saying that, had Bethesda never let Obsidian make the game, these problems wouldn’t exist, right?

Wrong.

Do you want to know why the game is glitchy, why parts seem to be missing and the voice acting is spotty?

Because Obsidian had to cut a few things to meet their deadline.

Now, this sounds like a stupid cliché of an excuse, and you would think that this is more Obsidians fault than Bethesda, seeing as the former were the developers, and they should know how to meet a deadline.

And had you given me that excuse two weeks ago, I would probably have said the same thing.

But that was before I looked into it, and found out what that deadline actually WAS!

You know how long Fallout 3 took to make? What about Skyrim and Oblivion?

4 years.

All three games took four years, from development beginning, to release.

Now, how much time were Obsidian given to complete the game? Because they weren’t given four years.

Three, maybe?

How about 13 months.

A little over a QUARTER of the time it took to make Skyrim. And of course, at least one month was just WRITING the game, and another month of gametesting!

Now, this is of course the point where I say that Obsidian, being excellent at what they do, rose to the challenge, gave it their all, and delivered the massive ball of greatness that is Fallout: New Vegas, just in time to meet the deadline.

Unfortunatly, real life isn’t a movie with a 1980’s training montage. Obsidian didn’t meet the deadline. Because of course they didn’t! It’s an insane deadline!

Luckily, the deadline was pushed back, giving them time to work out the issues. How much time, you ask?

5 more months.

What the actual fuck!?

Are you actively trying to shoot yourself in the foot?! This isn’t fucking complicated! Just give them a reasonable fucking deadline, so they can give you a great game! You don’t have to give them 4 years, but at least give them 2 years, not a year and a half!

But it turns out, those extra 5 months were exactly what was needed. The game was released, and not only equalled Fallout 3, Oblivion and Skyrim, but blew them all out of the water!

Which might explain why Bethesda took so long making New Vegas compatible on the Xbox One. I wouldn’t blame them for being a bit hesitant about it. I mean, here comes a game that proved that while Bethesda can make a world look good, they are terrible at using that world and its contents effectively.

If you were Bethesda, would you want people to play that game? They’d want people to play Skyrim instead. After all, there’s no way someone could come along and take that engine and humiliate Bethesda all over again…

That is, unless you count the upcoming “Enderal” RPG, which is taking Skyrims engine and attempt to use it properly. I have only seen a trailer, but it looks very interesting. And this is done by hobbyists, for free!

Unfortunately, it’s a mod for Skyrim, and like I said, I play on console, so I won’t be able to enjoy it even if I DID own a copy of Skyrim.

And while I am happy about the engine being used properly, it does also confirm what I’ve been saying all along. Skyrim requires mods to be good, and by the time it is good, it’s a completely different game.

This is just the final expression of that idea.

Now, on the one hand, as I’m writing this, “Enderal” has yet to be released, so I can’t say if it is any good yet. But on the other, it’s not like it could be much WORSE.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

Well, Halloween came and went as it is wont to do, so I think I’ll take this opportunity to talk about Castlevania, belated as it might be.

While I’m far from an expert, I have a certain fondness for this series. Castlevania for the Nintendo 64, as it happens, was among the first videogames I ever played, way back in the late 90’s. And call me an old nostalgic, rose-tinted-glasses wearing sentimental fool (which I am) but I still think it’s a very good game.

At some point in the future, I’ll talk about it in more detail, but for now I’ll just say that Castlevania for the N64, and the sequel/prequel/sidequel/remake “Legacy of Darkness” are among my absolute favourite games, with good music, good graphics (for the time) and interesting designs.

However, this article is not me gushing about a game I like a lot. After all, you’re not here because you want to read about stuff I like. You’re here because you want to hear me nitpick stuff. Besides, I’m better at nitpicking than gushing anyway.

With that in mind, I’d like to talk a little about the more recent entry in the series, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.

Now, I should point out that this is not a bad game. True, I didn’t find it as visually interesting as the previous game, but it wasn’t a bad game by any stretch.

So, why then am I talking about it?

Because, as with Alien: Isolation or Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, there are still things that I find confusing, things that I find don’t add up. No game is perfect, and this game is no exception.

And while my issues with the game are fairly simple, I believe they are still valid.

So, what are my issues?

Well, you play as Dracula. I’d call that a fairly legitimate issue.

Of course, I am not against the concept of playing as Dracula in and of itself, nor am I opposed to portraying Dracula as a sympathetic or tragic character.

(Which you’d think was a given, considering his role as the main villain of the series up until this point…)

No, my issues are far simpler.

See, this game is very similar, gameplaywise, to the previous game. That is to say, it is an action platforming game. Get from A to B by jumping, climbing, crawling or shimmying, interspersed with fighting strange enemies. And there is nothing wrong with that. With a few exceptions, that goes for most games in the series, not to mention other games such as Devil May Cry and Dantes Inferno.

However, the problem is that in this game, I am playing a platforming game, and I’m playing as Dracula.

DRACULA CAN FUCKING FLY!

Why the hell am I going around climbing walls and jumping chasms, when the character I’m playing can defy gravity!?

And if that wasn’t enough, if any of you have played a Castlevania game before, and fought Dracula in those games, what is the biggest, prominent trait about him?

Not only can he fly, but he can TELEPORT!

Now, of course, you might argue that this is a Dracula in a separate continuity, and this Dracula might work differently, with other limitations.

Which, of course, is complete bullshit.

In the games intro, we SEE dracula fly. Not the Double jump thing, but him turning into a cloud of smoke and shoot out over a battlefield like a giant, evil comet. We see him teleport around the battlefield and killing people by the hundreds with a single attack.

However, when you unlock the ability to turn to mist in the game, all it does is make you a puff of smoke that sloooooowly moves along, and after about 5 seconds, your stamina runs out and you turn back to normal. The only time you really teleport in the game is if you fall off a ledge and instantly teleport to a safe place to try again.

A process, by the way, that HURTS you.

(Oh, and don’t try to tell me the warp points is teleporting. That is not the same thing, and you know it.)

And before anyone points out that the game revolves around you rediscovering your powers and regain your strength, in order to fight Satan himself, you didn’t have those powers in the prologue either. The prologue which, need I remind you, IS THE SAME SCENE AS IN THE INTRO!

I hate when games do that! They show these awesome powers, showing Dracula as a demon, just an unstoppable killing machine, making you think “Wow! I can’t wait to rain down this kind of destruction on my enemies. This’ll be awesome!”.

And then the game goes “sorry, you’re not allowed to use those powers. Even when you unlock them, they’re not NEARLY as cool as when we showed them earlier”.

It’s not like it’s a trailer to make me buy the game! It’s the fucking intro! I have already bought the game! You don’t have to try and sell it to me anymore!

Now, some might argue that giving you those powers would be gamebreaking, and you can’t have a platforming game where you can just FLY PAST all the platforms, or battles where you kill enemies by the hundreds. That’d make the game completely meaningless. If you are this unstoppable force of nature, wreaking destruction on all around you, there’s no real threat.

Which is an excellent point, which raises a perfectly simple question.

Why am I playing as Dracula?! Why make the main character Dracula, and then not let me actually PLAY as Dracula?!

And if you’re not going to let me do stuff like that, the least you can do is NOT SHOW DRACULA DOING STUFF LIKE THAT IN THE FUCKING GAME!

It’d be like playing a superman game where you’re not superstrong or superfast, and you can’t fly!

WHAT’S THE FUCKING POINT?!

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for this game. Like I said, it’s very good game, with great visuals, interesting gameplay and top notch voice acting.

It’s just that the concept gives me a headache.

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

After a long time of arguing with myself, I have finally decided to write about Assassin’s Creed: Rogue.

When I first heard about this game, I was really excited. A chance to play as a templar? That would be interesting.

But then I played it, and I noticed several problems with the game. Some were problems I also had with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but some were brand new.

Let’s begin with the cover.

The cover features our protagionist, Shay Cormack front and center in his special templar armor, weapons at the ready, about to fight two assassins. Very striking. What is the problem, you may wonder?

Well, Shay looks very imposing and threatening, with his his face hidden in shadow beneath the hood of his black leather coat.

A coat which DOESN’T HAVE A HOOD IN THE DAMN GAME!

They fucking did it AGAIN! First with the flintlocks in Black Flag, and now this!

Just explain to me, when someone says “Hey, I’m gonna put this thing on the cover of the game”, what in the name of christ is so hard about telling them “Sorry. That’s not something that appears in the game”?!

I don’t know if it’s artistic liberty or editorial mandate for the sake of enticing buyers, and if I’m perfectly honest, I don’t give a shit!

Stop putting crap on the cover, if you can’t be bothered to put it in the fucking game!

Is it to show that Shay used to be an assassin? Is it to make a dark mockery of the Assassin look?

Because I can tell you something that also gives that impression.

The fact that Shay is wearing armor decorated with the templar cross, while also wearing a hidden blade. As in, the DEFINING WEAPON OF THE ASSASSINS!

You don’t need the hood to drive that point home! If it’s so important, just put it in the game!

Speaking of which, this game decides to add some things to decorate the ship, like special sails and figure heads. Nothing new about that, seeing as they did the same in Black Flag.

But among those decorations, we get a set of sails that once belonged to the Jackdaw, the ship of Edward Kenway.

A bit puzzling, considering there weren’t really a specific set of sails for the Jackdaw. I personally preferred the crimson sails, but other than that, they were standard white.

How does the sails look in Rogue?

What in the name of satans portion is that?! Those aren’t pirate sails! Those look like the kind of sails you buy to decorate a pirate themed birthday party for an eight year old child!

(And yes, I know it says “Black Skull Sails”, but trust me, they appear in this game as the Jackdaws sails)

I played as Edward Kenway, and followed his exploits over the course of almost 7 years, the totality of his pirating career.

At no point did I ever get the chance to outfit his ship with those sails! They only appear as a reward when you play Assassin’s Creed Initiates, but I call bullshit on that as an excuse! They are named as “The Jackdaws Sails” in this game, which I would take to mean as the sails the ship was known to have.

You would think the most famous set of sails the ship has (and I’d say sails decorated with skulls would be kinda hard to forget) would be included in the game without me having to buy another damn game!

Let’s move on.

Before we get into the real meat, the big problem with this game, let’s briefly go over some things the game IMPROVED from the last game. First off, they thankfully saw the light and realized that fighting with two swords was stupid, especially on a ship.

Now granted, they keep the same basic fighting style, but they at least have the good sense to replace one sword with a dagger or dirk. I personally would have preferred them skipping the second weapon altogether and just going with the sword on its own.

After all, I’d imagine that it might be a bit tricky to switch in the middle of a fight between a dagger and some other supplementary sidearm, like a pistol. But still, kudos for using some common sense.

Speaking of pistols, we have some more improvements on that point. In this game, they reduced the number of pistols you carry from four to two. Again, it takes almost no time to reload the pistols, but you only have two shots, instead of the (by comparison) hail of bullets you can unleash in Black Flag.

Some things are still lacking, like a helmsman and the ability to go below deck, but these are just minor luxuries, and are not really necessary in the grand scheme of things.

And of course, much like its predecessor, this game features legendary battles. You fight two historical battles, one at Labrador Bay and one at Qiberon, and you eliminate a remnant of golden age piracy during a battle with two Men O’ War, before finally going head to head with the Assassin’s flag ship, the Storm Fortress.

And unlike Black Flag, these aren’t just some ships that appear on the corners of the map. They are proper, bona fide missions, complete with descriptions and a warning that “these will be tough battles, are you really sure you want to do this, yes or no”.

And once you’ve beaten all four legendary battles, you are rewarded with a unique set of sails, a unique figure head and a unique steering wheel.

Can you play the missions again?

No, of course you can’t, because that would just make too much fucking sense!

Anyway, let’s get on to the real issue of the game.

But first, here’s a quick summary of the story

The story of this game follows Shay Cormack, an Assassin that becomes disillusioned by the methods of the Assassin’s Brotherhood, and their disregard of the damage they do (which includes destroying an ancient artifact and, in the process, all but wipe out Lisbon… oops).

To prevent future catastrophes, he joins the Templar Order and sets out to thwart the Assassins plans.

As a story, it’s pretty good. The problem is partly that the game is very short, compared to Black Flag. There are fewer characters and, much like AC III, the assassins all come across as stubborn morons. Couple that with the fact that the alternative is siding with the VILLAINS OF THE SERIES, and you end up with a game without anyone to relate to or root for.

And if this was some attempt to put the two organizations in grey areas, with neither side being more moral than the other, let me remind you that only one of these organizations actually have rules forbidding killing innocent people.

The game sees a return of Haytham Kenway who, as I’ve made clear before, was one of the best parts of Assassin’s Creed III, but he’s nowhere near as interesting or charismatic as he is in AC III.

But probably the biggest problem is that the game just feels pointless. The finale of the game has you uploading your findings to the Assassins, as a demoralizing message.

Now, either you’ve just struck a crippling blow to the Assassins brotherhood, in which case this is a real downer ending, with the villains winning….

Or (more likely) the assassins will ignore it, in which case you haven’t accomplished anything.

It just feels like, when the game is finished, nothing has been accomplished. Had this game not existed, I doubt anything would have changed in the overarching storyline of Templars and Assassins. Maybe it’s too soon to say, and the effects will not be noticed until much later.

But from where I’m sitting right now, it just comes across as a desperate attempt to squeeze the last drops out of Black Flag.

My suggestion?

Play Black Flag. It’s more fun, the characters are more varied, well rounded and likeable, and it doesn’t just feel like a watered down version of a previous title.

Bioshock Infinite

Before I start writing in earnest, I’m going to say one word.

Bioshock

If this word means nothing to you, if this blog post is the first time you’ve ever come in direct contact with that word, beyond some sporadic passing in a game store, then listen very closely.

You have to stop reading right now! Close this window down and go play Bioshock. If there is the slightest chance of you wanting to play that game, you owe it to yourself not to read any further. The same goes for Bioshock Infinite.

I would never forgive myself if I spoiled this game series for someone who’s never played it.

With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Bioshock Infinite casts you as Booker Dewitt, a man hired to find a young woman named Elizabeth.

Piece of cake, right?

If you agree, then you’re clearly not familiar with this game series. (which also means you shouldn’t be reading this.)

As it happens, Elizabeth is kept in Columbia, a fine city famed for its scenic views, it’s peculiar architecture and the fact it’s floating some 15.000 ft in the air.

After a murderous, violent bloody rampage, causing death and destruction throughout the city some minor issues with the local population, you rescue Elizabeth from her captivity.

As the game progresses, you find that she has a strange ability to open tears in the fabric of reality, opening windows to other worlds and bringing objects through those windows.

Hijinks ensue… and by hijinks, I of course mean a long, bloody campaign against Zachary Hale Comstock, the self-proclaimed prophet and agent of God, and his fanatical followers, and a revolution led by the equally merciless and devoted “Vox Populi”.

If it seems like I’m glossing over a lot of things, it’s because I’m assuming you’re already familiar with the game. After all, if you’re not, surely you would’ve listened to me and stopped reading by now, right?

And finally, after much blood, sweat, tears and gnashing of teeth, you reach the end, and you’re treated to one of the most mindblowing twists I’ve ever seen.

A large focus of the game, as illustrated and discussed by the twins and quantum physicists Robert and Rosalind Lutece, is the idea of probability, chance and choice. As we reach the ending, we’re shown that there are an infinite number of parallel worlds, for every probable outcome of every probable scenario.

Not only that, but Rosalind Lutece developed the ability to observe and travel between these different realities. Comstock was able to use these “tears” to see the past, present and future of any scenario.

As the siblings (in reality alternate counterparts) put it.

Lives, Lived, Will Live. Dies, Died, Will Die. If we could perceive time as it truly was, what reason would grammatical professors have to get out of bed?

The downside, as you learn during the course of the game, is that the side effects of the machine resulted in  Comstock aging beyond his years, and also rendering him sterile. Convinced that Columbia is doomed without his bloodline at the helm, Comstock demanded a solution.

The “Twins” came up with a plan: passing into an alternate reality, and take the child of Comstock’s alternate self. The child in question being Elizabeth. She would then take Comstocks place and fulfill his goal to rain down fiery death  on the “Sodom below“.

(After all, if you’re a fanatic religious leader with thousands of followers, you are contractually obligated to rain down fiery death on sinners. it’s part of the job description. Sure, he could choose not to, but then he’d lose his membership card, his discount at the local café and his parking space.)

You and Elizabeth both realize that as long as Comstock exists in any reality, this future will come to pass. As such, you have to kill him before he’s ever born.

To do this, you travel to his birthplace… the baptismal meeting where he went after the massacre of Wounded Knee. The place where he was reborn and abandoned his old name.

Booker Dewitt.

And the game ends with Elizabeth drowning you before you can accept the Baptism, preventing Comstock from ever existing.

Now, the more observant among you might be wondering why I’m talking about this at all, if I like this ending so much?

To which my answer is: Who said I liked it?

Ok, that’s not completely fair. I don’t dislike the ending. I just dislike the implication of the ending. This is partly because it renders every choice you make in the game pointless. Spare the couple at the fair, killing Cornelius Slate, picking the bird-locket instead of the cage…. it doesn’t matter, since somewhere else, you made the opposite choice.

And none of your choices affect the ending. At one point, Elizabeth flat out tells us that no matter our choices, we will always end up in the same place.

Of course, this in itself is the point. Having these choices and the alternate realities is really the focus of the game. My own disdain for the illusion of choice aside, what is there to dislike?

The answer: The fact that at one point, you arrive in Rapture, the City from the first and second game.

THIS is where I have a problem, simply because the philosophy and message of this game is violently at odds with the message of the first game!

The first game was all about choice, giving players a new perspective on the idea of free will, with one of the most powerful and astonishing cutscenes in video game history. I don’t even have to describe the scene. If you’ve played the game, I just have to say one sentence.

A Man Chooses. A Slave Obeys

By introducing the idea of alternate realities into the canon of the first two games, they’ve rendered the message of the first and second game completely meaningless.

Suddenly, there is no choice. There is no point in making a decision in the first or second game. Sparing the little sisters or harvesting them, murdering people or showing mercy, it’s all irrelevant. This has now been retconned and established as a FACT in these games.

Had they just left out Rapture from the game, and had this be a self-contained entity, I wouldn’t have minded it!

It could have sparked some debate about whether or not Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite takes place in the same universe. But the moment you see Rapture, that’s all destroyed.

They could’ve called it something different, but they had to keep the name “Bioshock” to make sure it sold well.

Of course, I’m not trying to say that I could do it better. I just feel it’s a shame to have the first game, that was so revolutionary and amazing in how it used cutscenes and the metaphysical concepts of “objectives” and “free will”, be swept aside with a game that’s essentially saying that my choices in that game were meaningless.

Now, I don’t think the game is bad! I know it sounds weird of me to say it, but I think the story is amazing! The characters are great. The visuals are stunning. But I think putting it in the same canon as the first two games was a big mistake.

Had they made it a standalone game, it would have been great, but as an entry in the series, I can’t help but see it as a failure.

Then again…

One goes into an experiment knowing one could fail

– Robert Lutece