Microtransactions in console games? Aw what the crap.

Dead_Space_moneyI got bored long before I finished Mass Effect 2 and Assassin’s Creed II so I never played the “final” installments in either series. Had I done so, Eurogamer informs me, I might have noticed a sinister conspiracy taking shape on my screen. No, not some convoluted Illuminati and/or Illusive Man nonsense. Something seriously nefarious: microtransactions that allow players to skip past grinding and upgrade their gear more easily.

THE FUCK?

In the crowded mobile gaming market, I get it. With so many zillions of apps, you need to be inventive to successfully monetize. You sneak into a gamer’s pocket with the promise of free-to-play. Once they’re hooked, those innocent looking in-app purchases drain their unsuspecting bank account 99 cents at a time like the Pied Piper of Wallet. I never make in-app purchases but some do and I can’t blame them: if you’re having fun, a few dollars is a fair price to unlock a free-to-play game’s full potential. I’d prefer to know up front how much it’s going to cost me to enjoy a game but whatever, that’s the nature of the beast.

But this shit? You’re already paying a hefty price for console games, and now they’re basically offering to sell you cheat codes to get unlimited in-game supplies if you have sufficient real world coin. This is a slippery fucking slope people.

Deadspace 3 is the latest game to announce such a system. While Visceral Games swears this demonic form of “downloadable content” can’t be used to get the best guns right out of the gate, the game that will allow you to do just that can’t be too far off. After that, I can imagine console and PC games intentionally being made too difficult to be fun without additional money spent on power-ups. “Just a little taste,” they say. “Just this once. It’s only 99 cents, and it’ll feel…so…good…”

[Eurogamer via Kotaku]

Done & Dusted: Why I’m Glad I’m Not Playing Assassin’s Creed 3 Anymore

I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe the month where I didn’t pick this game up once and didn’t feel like I was missing a thing? I try to squeeze in a some game time when my schedule allows but nothing about the last 1/4th of ACIII made me want to play it again. I’m pissed, too, because had I known how terrible it was going to get, I would’ve quit playing it for the proper reason: IT WAS HORRIBLE. I should have realized it was terrible when I started a mission where I had to find Sasquatch for Davy Crockett. Yes, you read that correctly. SASQUATCH. DAVY CROCKETT.

I went through the last three or four chapters, skipping the cut scenes and just playing the main missions. At that point I didn’t understand what was happening in the story and I didn’t care, because the entire thing had all stopped making sense.  Maybe I’m being too harsh; maybe there are people out there who really got into every eight minute cut scene and really followed the story. Good for them, I don’t judge. But too me? Gibberish, plain & simple.

An example of the inanity that eventually drove me mad: After the final act in the Past, you’ve returned to the present and the animus.  Here, you’re directed to do something with an apple in a big cave.  Yes, that’s about as descriptive as I can get.  Seems fairly simple right? Walk over to a large big screen, plug-in the apple and you’re golden. WRONG. So very WRONG. What I didn’t know (and what there was no indication of) was that you had to connect three power charges to turn the screen on. Then every time you got near a power charge-thingy it would trigger an immensely long cut scene, which featured a woman explaining (or trying to explain) something. At that point she could have spilled ancient secrets of wisdom, I just did not care. Let me plug these goddamn power charges in and keep it moving, lady! I mean, it doesn’t help that you can’t skip these cut scenes. Once you finally plug the apple in the screen another cut scene (of course) comes up that I think shows you the apocalypse. Maybe? Here, you try to figure it out. After another six-minute scene the credits finally roll. Game over. HA HA NO, you have to wait until all nine minutes of the cut scene end before you can collect your trophy and end the game.

I’ve stated before how much I’ve loved the Assassin’s Creed franchise; I really thought that ACII  was the pinnacle and they’ve been steadily going downhill since then.  Well, Ubisoft should congratulate itself with Assassin’s Creed III;  not only have they ruined my love for this series but they’ve also hit the complete bottom of the barrel. Who knows what the future holds for the series besides yearly editions with some minor tweaks here and there while sales continue to drop, therefore necessitating an endless string of reboots.  Welcome, Assassin’s Creed, to Tomb Raider territory.

Not once did I see anything resembling this image in game

Not once did I see anything resembling this image in game

Assassin’s Creed III Review

What is it about the third and final act of a trilogy that unfailingly seems to disappoint? You’ve seen it countless times: The Dark Knight Rises, Matrix Revolutions, Spider Man 3, Return of the Jedi… (although, in the interest of full disclosure, the nostalgic chewy center of my heart will anachronistically rope-log-smash your big stupid head if you talk too much shit about Jedi).

Is it a result of the unfairly high expectations that the first two entries in the series have set up? Or perhaps it’s that all the best ideas have been used up by the time the third installment rolls around, and it’s less a matter of inspiration and more about getting it out the door and moving on?

My point being: Assassin’s Creed III snugly fits into the time-honored blueprint – the third (numbered) entry of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is indeed the one with the hairy chest.

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AC III starts out promisingly enough. After the obligatory future-science-conspiracy plot introduction starring series protagonist Desmond Miles, you are whisked back in time to inhabit the life of another one of your ancestors, who at the onset of the story lives in 18th century London. You play through a super cool tutorial mission involving an assassination at the Theatre Royal during a performance of “The Beggar’s Opera,” and soon find yourself on a ship headed for The American Colonies. A few more tutorial-style tasks later, as your journey nears its end, you climb the ship mast, the music swells and the title card appears as The New World rolls up on the horizon. It’s pretty stirring, and it represents the best of what the Assassin’s Creed series has to offer: a sense of historical majesty that makes the games’ settings so unique.

However, another of the series’ trademarks is its open-ended nature — the ability to travel about a series of lovingly crafted historical settings as you wish, completing missions, getting into trouble or simply exploring the sights, and I was puzzled at how limited I felt during the game, post-introduction. You are given one straightforward mission after another, and while you can veer off the path a little bit, the game’s structure feels very linear at first. In fact, without giving too much away, it’s a solid 4-6 hours of gameplay before the story really kicks into gear and the world truly opens up. As a longtime player of the series, I knew this was coming, but I fear that a newcomer might be tempted to give up after such an extended prologue, not knowing that the true game was still hours away. It’s a bit of a puzzling barrier to entry from a design standpoint.

But once the world of Assassin’s Creed III does open up, it does so in a big way. In addition to the bustling colonial settlements of New York and Boston, you are also free to explore a huge Frontier area packed with animals to hunt, trees and cliffs to climb and secrets to uncover. It looks gorgeous, especially when the seasons change from summer to winter and back again, and the tree-running controls are smooth and intuitive, allowing you to cross long stretches of land hopping from branch to branch without touching the ground. There’s also a huge Homestead, AC III’s answer to AC II’s upgradeable Villa, which functions as a kind of home-base hub that features plenty to do on its own, including settlers to help out, a manor to decorate with trophies and a ship to upgrade.

Speaking of the ship, from your Homestead you can access an entire suite of sea-based side missions, in which you pilot a fully-equipped war vessel and take part in naval battles that require strategic maneuvering in order to get into good firing position while trying to avoid being outflanked yourself. These naval missions are a hell of a lot of fun and easily one of the highlights of AC III… I could play an entire “Assassins of the Carribbean” spin-off game based around this concept alone. (You’re welcome, Ubisoft).

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Back on dry land, you of course find yourself involved in the American Revolution for the meat of the game, a setting that is both uniquely fascinating and surprisingly limiting, as you tend to Gump your way from one famous set-piece to the next without it making much narrative sense. One moment you’re sharing a horse with Paul Revere, the next you’re suddenly present in Philadelphia for the signing of the Declaration of Independence and then you’re holed up with General Washington at Valley Forge. While it’s true that any Revolutionary War story worth its tea needs to include these moments, I really thought that they could have been done better and linked together more coherently. I often felt more like a historical tourist as opposed to a force of nature shaping the course of history, like I did during the Italian Renaissance in the best moments of AC II.

Ultimately, the story as a whole lacks urgency. It’s hard to feel like you’re shaping the course of a Revolution when Samuel Adams tells you the only way to fight for freedom is to run out and collect 10 feathers or deliver 5 telegrams or some goddamned mundane thing. The third act to a trilogy should feel impossibly epic, like the culmination of every story element that came before it coming to a cathartic head, but instead AC III seems to rely more on your previous knowledge of this period of history to fill in the dramatic blanks, which I felt was a huge miss and the game’s biggest flaw.

The gameplay itself is fine enough. The running and climbing works as well as it always has, which can feel insanely smooth and fast, and yet you’ll sometimes catch a wall at the wrong angle which will stop you dead — sometimes literally if you’re being pursued by a gang of uppity Redcoats.

The combat still relies on the same block, counter, retaliate pattern from previous games, where you’ll be surrounded by a group of guys that will idiotically attack you one at a time. The combat animations have been spruced up, though, and after a little practice you’ll start chaining together some super cool combos. My favorite involves blasting a guy with his own musket and then using it as a melee weapon against his buddies. You can also do a sweet counter move where you block musket fire using some poor sucker as a human shield. The combat is visceral and crunchy and splattery and fun, although to be honest it feels a tad slower and off-step from its smoother cousin, that of the Arkham series.

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Still, though, the best part about any Assassin’s Creed game is running around the open world, exploring and collecting and fighting, and there’s plenty of that to be done here. I continued to play AC III after I had finished the story to go after more side-missions and collectibles, and I tend to use that as a personal measure of the enjoyment I find in a game.

Perhaps the reason it’s so difficult to knock Assassin’s Creed III is that there’s nothing outright bad about it. Most of the individual aspects of the game are either good or good enough. I suppose that, ultimately, it just kind of ends up being worse than the sum of its parts. Which, when you’re trying to stick the landing of a potentially epic trilogy, can be disastrous.

Bottom line: If you’re already in the Assassin’s Creed fan club, then you’ll definitely find plenty of elements to like here – but will ultimately be let down. If you’re not already a fan, but are curious about the series, play ACII instead. It’ll make you one.

Modern Borefare: What We’re Looking Forward To in October

ImperviousRex
Well, definitely looking forward to New York Comic Con ’12! Speaking of, look what arrived today:
it's mah badge

The best part of the Pro badge is being able to access the show floor on Thursday before a large percentage of NYCC attendees,allowing me to  roll around the floor in a barely controlled frenzy, grabbing everything that isnt nailed down and gawking at everything before it’s been spoiled by the masses on Friday. I’m a Con snob, I’M SORRY.

Two weeks after that I am surrending my singlehood and getting married then jetting off to exotic locales for my post-wedding vacation (honeymoon is a dumb name. Deal with it).
In between, I am definitely looking forward to the end of Marvel’s AvX, the start of Rot World in DC Comic’s Swamp Thing and Animal Man, and Dishonored & Assassin’s Creed 3 on the PS3 while trying to wrap up Borderlands 2. Are you playing Borderlands 2? If not, you should be. We’re going to attempt another Modern Borefare Game Club for Borderlands 2, so grab the game and participate!
Perhaps my iPhone 5 will show up. (UPDATE: It arrives tomorrow! Fuzzah!). Also, I’m fairly excited for Looper, one of the few movies this year that I’ve actually been looking forward to (the others being, Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers, The DarkKnight Rises and The Master).
Adam
What am I excited for in October? Oh, nothing much, just EVERYTHING.
As I do every year, I’ll be celebrating the Halloween season by completely ignoring my family and friends in favor of watching 31 scary movies and blogging about every unholy one of them at 31 Flavors of Terror. I’m setting myself up for a letdown but I’m particularly optimistic about SinisterFrankenweenie and maybe even Silent Hill: Revelation. Last year I overextended myself by mixing in three weekly TV shows and a bunch of other random crap. This year I don’t have time for that nonsense because the wife and I recently produced our very own little monster, who I’m excited to see turn 6 months old in October. But, yeah, mostly excited about the movies.
thegreekdog
I’m looking forward to my second child.  Before that happens though I’m literally working day and night in the office (regular work) or at home (getting ready for Baby #2 work).  Definitely looking forward to playing Madden more (yeah right) and the return of the Joker in Batman (the only comic I get monthly).
Vicious Pjurahead:

On the game front I’m pretty solid right now until the end of the month. I’m playing Borderlands 2 and FIFA 13. I don’t know why but I just rented Tekken Tag 2 but I can’t see playing it much as long as my FIFA career is thriving. Towards the end of the month we have Medal of Honor and Assassins Creed 3. Also, sneaking might be the possible PSN download of Jeopardy. Knowing that its connected to the PSN it might have multiplayer and it might also update its questions (or answers in this case) often is appealing. That’s  await and see though.On the music front nothing other than Muses The 2nd Law. As for movies Argo looks solid and hopefully next week I will be checking out The Master and Looper. Anyone wanna come to England with me the end of October for the Skyfall premiere? If you buy the flights, hotels and pay for me to miss school those days I will buy the movie tickets and a small popcorn we can both share.

And finally, my boy ImperviousRex is getting married and I’m a groomsman! Couldn’t be happier for him. Drop him a line and make sure to congratulate him.

Trailer Park, E3 Edition: The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, Assassin’s Creed III’s Naval Battles, Star Wars 1313

The Last of Us – Naughty Dog’s follow up to the Uncharted series. One word: gorgeous. Beware, salty language. I can’t wait to quit my job and just play this game.

Beyond: Two Souls – From the makers of Heavy Rain, which if you haven’t played, take a chance on a new style of game and pick! it! up! Think interactive Se7en with a slowly unfolding story that can unfold in any number of ways.  Seriously, so good.

Assassin’s Creed’s  taking the stabbing to a new location and a non-terrible Star Wars game after the jump!

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