Assassin’s Creed Origins Has Some Fresh Ideas For The Series

Assassination station

In an interview with Kotaku posted this week, game director Ashraf Ismail discusses a number of the changes being made to the Assassin’s Creed formula for the new iteration, due out in October. Of particular note is that day/night button; sounds like an interesting mechanic that will hopefully add some much-needed tactical elements to the game.

I’d really love if they could take a few notes from franchises like Hitman; I want my Assassin to do proper Assassin-y things, like poison soups and hide in cupboards for weeks on end. Origins sounds like it’s taking a step in that direction, with its busy, scheduled world moving around your character as you plan your attacks. Very exciting, and I hope it rejuvenates the venerable series.

That Games Blogger Guy Reviews An Oldie: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Learning from the past

 

 

Game: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Developer: Crystal Dynamics

Released: 13th November 2015 (Xbox 360 and Xbox One), 28th January 2016 (Microsoft Windows), 11th October 2016 (PS4) 

Played by that games blogger guy: June 2017

Available on: Xbox One (version reviewed), Xbox 360, PC. PS4

The moments of solitude are the best. When the only company Lara has is the mountain, and the pitter-patter of water dripping from the gleaming ice. This game, like the 2013 reboot before it, excels when it strips itself back to basics; when it returns to the component parts that made the original Tomb Raider so thrilling all those years ago. When it’s just you, Lara, and a mystery to unravel.

There really is so much to love about Rise of the Tomb Raider. From the subtle nods to the series’ roots (Lara’s swimming animation is spot-on), to the wonderful punch of the weaponry on offer, the game is presented exquisitely, and seeks to dominate your attention with its varied gameplay elements. That this is a labour of love is obvious; time has been spent on every aspect of the game, and nothing feels bolted on or rushed.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Let’s talk graphics. Running on Xbox One, Rise looks absolutely stunning. The first light of a sunrise peeking out from over a mountain top; the dark and dingy ruins under the earth; the metallic glisten of a spent shell falling to the floor; Rise consistently delights and surprises with its views. The game takes place in just a handful of locales (in modern-day Syria, interestingly), but manages to differentiate itself through the varied fauna and flora, and the constant switching between claustrophobic caverns and wide-open vistas. It truly is a sight to behold, and does wonders for drawing you in to its story.

That this is a labour of love is obvious; time has been spent on every aspect of the game, and nothing feels bolted on or rushed.

We join Lara as she hunts for an artefact her father was obsessed with before his death; the Divine Source. Lara has grown since we first meet her in 2013’s Tomb Raider; gone are the struggles and emotional turmoil of having to kill for the first time, and in place is a confident, highly competent adventurer with a knack for survival. The body count is understandably higher this time around; thankfully the game provides ample entertainment in the form of its weaponry. Fully upgradeable yet again through Red Dead Redemption-style hunting and gathering, the arsenal is nothing too surprising (pistol, shotgun, rifle, bow, etc), but it is rendered superbly, with wonderful sound effects to boot. The pump-action shotgun here is easily in my top-3 gaming shotguns; the delightful snap never growing old as it blows away Lara’s foes.

Rise of the Tomb Raider (5)

The cast of characters Lara meets along her way is sparse but fairly strong. Jacob provides an interesting older figure for the hot-headed young Lara to spar with, but the two antagonists steal the show. Saying any more would be too much of a spoiler, but they are very interesting characters indeed; if you take the time to explore the extra content in the game, they have a deep and engaging backstory that further promotes the strong narrative.

Exhilarating climbing and platforming take centre stage over combat again; the developers have managed to recreate beautifully the feeling of traversal that old-school Tomb Raider was able to invoke, but in a modern way.

The game plays in a very familiar way to the first instalment. Exhilarating climbing and platforming take centre stage over combat again; the developers have managed to recreate beautifully the feeling of traversal that old-school Tomb Raider was able to invoke, but in a modern way. The game is certainly at its strongest when Lara faces a puzzle to solve or cliff to climb. However; the combat and upgrading systems are no slouches, and compliment the main adventuring well.

The music is used sparingly but appropriately; highlights include the introspective camp fire theme, and the bombastic score used in one of the many chase or escape sequences. Speaking of those sequences, the cinematic elements in this game have been ramped right up, even over the first instalment. This feels even closer to an Uncharted now. Wonderfully scripted, highly polished and thrilling from start to finish, your humble Games Blogger Guy only wonders whether the game may struggle from lack of replayability; to take the surprise from the cinematic elements would be a considerable detriment to the whole.

Rise of the Tomb Raider (3)Rise of the Tomb Raider (2)

A note must be made about the sheer amount to do in Rise. Whilst the main story could be breezed through in as little as 8 hours, the number of collectables, upgrades, hidden tombs, puzzles, and side missions included is simply staggering, and in fact is a little overwhelming. The game unfortunately suffers a little with Crowded Map Syndrome*, occasionally trying to tug you in too many places at once. Every room and area is stuffed with collectables, and this may frustrate completionists as they are held up in advancing the narrative.

This is a highly polished and enjoyable package, easy to recommend for lovers of single-player adventures and shooters alike.  Indeed, if you are an Xbox One owner, I would go so far as to say this is a must-play, being as Xbox is so starved of the kind of quality cinematic experiences that Playstation 4 gleefully revels in. The mix of platforming, gunplay, and story, has been carefully considered; the game oozes playability, and is deserving of your time.

Lara has firmly modernised herself and cemented her place in the upper echelons of gaming nobility. I’m excited to see which tombs her thrilling adventures have us plundering next.

 

Positives –

Stunningly presented

Thrilling and varied gameplay

Stunning to look at

Negatives –

Too many collectibles

Limited replayability

 

9/10

 

* Is this a thing? If not, it is now.

Adventures in Clash Royal: Part 3

Ladder anxiety blues

Good news: since the last update, I’ve absolutely smashed my targets; I’ve reached over 2500 trophies, I’m in Arena 8 and I’ve also leveled up to 8.

Bad news: Nobody warned me about the CRIPPLING LADDER ANXIETY.

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It’s becoming a problem. As the caliber of opponent improves, things are starting to get dicier in ladder matches. It’s very hard to predict a battle at this stage, and people are generally making fewer mistakes; for my humble little deck this means a swing of anywhere up to 200 trophies once the dreaded tilt kicks in. Then, when I get back on track and start making gains, the ladder anxiety is compounded. Oh, strategy games.

My trusty deck has evolved once more, with the subtraction of the 1-elixir Skeletons, and the addition of the 3-elixir Skeleton Army. My rationale for the choice was to provide more cover for the legions of Hog Riders coming my way, whilst also increasing survivability a bit against AoE. Initially, the extra elixir cost was difficult to play with – I found myself down to 1800 trophies at one stage early on in my climb – but once I’d gotten used to it, I was able to offset the elixir cost with more strategic split pushing that could occur with leftover Skeletons. Chucking a cheeky Knight on the opposite lane to the Skellies can sometimes work wonders. Along with level-ups for most of my other cards, the trajectory has, until recently, been pretty much consistently upwards.

I’ve been lucky enough to get my first two Legendary cards in the past week or so; Graveyard and Miner. I haven’t been able to slot them into my deck, but I feel like Graveyard is just begging to be tinkered with soon. Opening it up gave those serotonin receptors a nice little treat; I’m looking forward to more of this now I can start entering Tournaments and the like.

Still, getting over that ladder anxiety is proving to be tough. I reached my lifetime-best 2509 trophies, then spent two days not playing at all. What did I do, my first three games after? Lost.

Next goal is to conquer the ladder fear and kick on to 3000 trophies. Hoping to get some card levels in the double figures sometime soon, too.

What a game, though. The beauty is in its speed; a game takes just two minutes, but in that time is distilled all the strategic planning, mini-maxing, resource management and bad manners deflecting that you could ever want. The gotta-catch-em-all monetization factor with the Chests doesn’t hurt its appeal, either.

The quest continues.

Atari Returning With A New Console?

Wood you believe it

As Gamesbeat reveal here, it would seem venerable games company Atari are getting involved in hardware once again. According to Atari CEO Fred Chesnais, the new console is based on “PC technology”, inciting rumours that the box will be some sort of emulation player similar in fashion to the NES Classic  Mini, which sold very well last year, but on which production has ceased, seemingly due to Nintendo oddness protocols.

My Most Anticipated Game Shown At E3 2017 Is Actually DLC

Expanding the legend

Note: minor spoilers for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild follow.

With E3 firmly in its refractory period, it’s time to take stock and assess where our money is going to go over the next year or so. Whilst the conferences were fairly mild in terms of hype-inducing announcements, there were still a good many titles of interest showcased. I’m incredibly excited about Sea of Thieves, Destiny 2, Super Mario Odyssey and Ashen, to name a few, but this year the E3-shown game I’m most enthusiastic about isn’t even a game proper; it’s two DLC packs; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild DLC 1 and 2, to be precise.

I felt there was potential for a modern classic here; within two hours, I knew that to be the case.

Breath of the Wild really is something quite special. The game arrived along with the Nintendo Switch console on March 3rd 2017, sending shock waves throughout the industry. Prior to launch, my own speculation was rife; sure, it’ll probably be good but nothing on Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask, my anxious internal monologue went. However, as I slid the cartridge into the Switch (following the customary tasting), and began to play, I felt there was potential for a modern classic here; within two hours, I knew that to be the case.

BOTW 6

Breath of the Wild is an adventure that holds both gaming past and future in equally high regard. It’s impressive architecture, graphics and wide-open world provide the modern slant; perfectly vast without being overbearing, full of quality-of-life nuances and with buckets of added activities. In sweet juxtaposition with this is the tried-and-true good versus evil narrative that the series has always delivered so well, with the focus yet again on the gradual building up of ones’ arsenal of abilities before taking on the bad guy. The painstaking manner the developers have gone about polishing and presenting all this, is nothing short of superb; the game oozes quality, and received the review scores to match (if you care about such things).

Breath of the Wild is an adventure that holds both gaming past and future in equally high regard.

An oft-discussed and much lauded aspect of BotW’s gameplay is the brilliant Shrine puzzles. The first DLC pack, The Master Trials, looks set to deliver more of these in abundance, with a long questline of Shrines to go through to power up a certain well-known piece of equipment in the main game. With new armour to collect, the addition of a hard mode, and other bits and bobs such as new map features, the package should look very tempting to fans. Just getting more of this stunning game is enough for me; I’m ready and willing to drop yet another 40-odd hours in to it, no problem.

BOTW 7

The second DLC pack looks to be an even meatier package. Entitled The Champion’s Ballad, details currently are scarce, but the pack appears to be a story sequence set before the events of the main game, possibly at the time of The Great Calamity. The four Champions who were such focal points of BotW return and look to take centre stage, alongside Zelda herself. Could we be playing as a character other than Link in this DLC? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure; more story for this game can only be a good thing. I won’t even discuss the four new Amiibo that are set to release alongside it; that is not a rabbit hole that would be sensible to tumble down, despite my yearning heart/wallet.

Famously, Nintendo are often late to the party when it comes to what are widely considered to be industry standards. DLC was a concept mostly absent from their systems until late in the 3DS and WiiU lifespans, and whilst some may scoff at the concept (and Nintendo’s typically hefty price tags), with packages like the two discussed for BotW, I’m hopeful that consumers are getting their monies’ worth (although let’s not mention the crap pre-order bonus for BotW’s season pass, shall we). I, for one, am happy to spend my hard earned on a game such as Zelda; a majestic labour of love, that took ages to come out because the developers gave a shit about its quality, and its place in series legacy. Here is a work of art that will truly stand the test of time; for me, a season pass is but a small price to pay to squeeze even more player experience out of it. Link’s adventures in Hyrule are only just getting started.

Take-Two Interactive Declare War On Modders, Internet Declares War On Take-Two

No liberty city

Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive has started issuing Cease and Desist instructions to hugely popular modding website OpenIV, and the GTA community have not taken too kindly to it at all. Indeed; as Rockstar Games have often encouraged the development and use of mods in their games, this sudden attack by Take-Two has incited angry reactions from many in the wider gaming community too; Jim Sterling of The Jimquisition fame is particularly scathing (and hilarious) in this episode of his popular Youtube show.

Personally, I have to agree with Jim and the many GTA players voicing their concern. It’s not on that the modding community who for so long have enjoyed creating and sharing content should now be persecuted for it. I also feel a bit miffed with Rockstar, who admittedly are likely to be caught in a litigation and moral minefield, but are attempting to justify Take-Two’s actions with somewhat flimsy-sounding excuses. With Bethesda’s very recent attempts to bring back paid mods (paid fucking mods!), Take-Two’s timing here certainly seems a little odd.