Resident Evil Revelations 2: The Penal Colony

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He’s not stoned or anything…

Time to pump out another quick blog post, because the next installment of Revelations 2 is going to be out in only 2 more days! At least Telltale Games gives me a month to play their game and get around to writing a review post.

In case you somehow haven’t heard, Revelations 2 is being released episodically, with 4 episodes total. Price wise, you’re looking at about 6 bucks an episode. If you’d rather wait and have a hard disc, you’ll be forking over a considerable amount more: $40 total for the validation of a physical disc and “extra exclusive” crap that I can’t say I care too much about.

In Revelations 2, you’re thrown into two separate co-op or AI partner stories. The first pair you get to play as is Claire Redfield (Finally!) and Barry Burton’s daughter, Moira. The second pair consists of Barry Burton (the man!) and a young girl named Natalia. Both scenarios are developed so that the first player is the main attacker, while the AI or second player serves mainly a support role.

First you get to see what Claire Redfield has been up to recently. The opening cutscene features an awesomely cheesy commercial for Terra Save, which seems to be what Ms. Redfield has been putting her energy into recently. Camera pans into some sort of company banquet or PR event. Moira Burton approaches Claire and talks about wanting to join the company. Then BAM! SWAT-looking guys with guns storm in and the next thing they know is that they’re captive in a grungy dungeon wearing techy mood bracelets.

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Like, seriously? Who the heck is this?

I’ve gotta get this superficial complaint out of the way: Claire looks terrible. For being a CG character she hasn’t aged very well. Oh, and Alyson Court, who has voiced her for everything up until now didn’t return. Very sad making.

Moira will probably annoy a lot of people, but I really like her. Mainly because she is a potty mouth like I am. Not only that, but she comes up with some pretty memorable lines. When you escape the first zone, she says something like, “Well f*** that place very much!” I’m counting the minutes until I can use that line in real life.

In terms of gameplay, Claire’s scenario felt like a snippet from The Evil Within. If Sebastian had a teenage partner who swore like a sailor, anyway. In case you  haven’t read Steve-O’s The Evil Within Review, the comparison is not made in a flattering light. You’ll find yourself stuck with typical survival horror puzzles, cheap one-shot deaths, and zombies that take 10 bullets to kill that you can’t reasonably escape from. Unless the game specifically directs you to do just that, anyway.

The idea, when playing co-op, is to blind an enemy with Moira’s flashlight, dropkick them with Claire, then do a crowbar finishing move with Moira. You could do it single player as well, if you actually find swapping between characters ever 5 seconds to be a fun experience. We didn’t find blinding enemies to be particularly reliable. The zombies (or whatever the hell they’re supposed to be called nowadays) would literally be in the “OhEmGee I’m blind!” pose, covering their eyes and everything. So Steve-O would shoot it in the head, only for the zombie to pull him into a “zombie hug of death” out of nowhere. Like most survival-horror-action-whatever games, they’re evidently immune to being shot in the head.

Moira’s flashlight serves a dual purpose. Not only does it sometimes blind enemies, it also makes loot shine. I’m such a loot whore, I happily obliged playing in the passenger’s seat to uncover all the goodies. Plus she gets a crowbar, which was good enough for me.

Commenting on the story in a Resident Evil game seems like a wasted venture at this point, but I will make one small comment: Throwing Kafka quotes around like candy does not add depth to your shallow narrative, okay? And while their “cliffhanger” ending wasn’t remotely unique, I’m still curious to see how the girl power duo will make their escape.

In Barry’s scenario, he’s being a good daddy and tracking down the whereabouts of his missing daughter. Fortunately for him, he has a pint-sized sidekick named Natalia. Natalia uses a point feature to uncover loot and “sense” monsters. You’ll probably be sick of hearing “There’s a monster coming” at the end of the hour it takes to play through this. Instead of being able to beat enemies over the head with a crowbar like Moira, Natalia can stun enemies with a brick.

Stunning enemies with bricks? Sounds a bit like The Last of Us, doesn’t it? The similarities don’t end there, my friend. Like Ellie, this small girl is also a useful “Crawl through this small space” bot. I’m tempted to call up Naughty Dog and suggest they call a lawyer for a free consultation to see if they can get Capcom on plagiarism.

Uncanny Last of Us deja vu moments aside, Barry’s portion will be more fun for you if you’re one of those weird people who likes feeling like you’re hurting things while pumping a dozen bullets into them. He comes packed with a sweet handgun, assault rifle, and a magnum. Don’t gotta wait until the end of the game to get your hands on one of these babies. And you can upgrade it relatively quickly as well.

If you end up riding shotgun during this game like me, don’t let player one bully you into rushing. Make sure you take your sweet time searching every nook and cranny for shinies. Your loot sense will pay off, rest assured. For some ungodly reason, there are valuable gems just hanging around. They don’t convert to moneydollarbillsyall like you’d suspect. Instead they equal BP, which unlocks skills! In terms of skill trees, you’ve got the standard fare like more melee damage and faster healing. But then you’ve got some interesting higher tier skills that I’m pretty excited to test in combat.

A lot of reviewers commented on the drab environments and enemy designs. And I guess they’re right. Most of the environments certainly didn’t stand out to me, unless we’re counting the narrow hallways that made evading monsters about as simple as doing walking handstands. There are a couple of enemies that, while not entirely creative, are grotesquely satisfying.

For $6 an episode, I’m content with the pricing, and definitely see myself in this for the long haul. This isn’t even including the Raid mode, which is the online multiplayer that can potentially give you dozens more hours with this game. A lot of people aren’t into the whole “episodic release” marketing ploy. I certainly understand their reasoning, but I’ve enjoyed all the Telltale Games series that I’ve played, and find myself being equally satisfied with Revelations 2. $6 for about 2-3 hours of story mode and the potential for endless hours of online play? No complaints here.

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Until next time…

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Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Lost Lords

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This image is so boring I can’t even come up with a witty caption for it.

 

The Lost Lords continues Telltale Games’ foray into the Game of Thrones universe. It picks up where Episode 1 left off, and continues most of the same mechanations. Mira is still getting wrapped up in King’s Landing politics because she’s a naive idiot, the Forresters keep getting crapped on by the Whitehills, and Tyrion still lives to piss Cersei off. I didn’t find this episode to be as enthralling as the first one, but that’s probably because no one interesting dies. In fact, it doesn’t end with a cliffhanger at all; more of a touchy-feely montage showing all the playable characters in their respective situations.

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My new favorite playable and NPC characters on the right.

 

In fact, the most fun I had in this episode came at the very beginning, where we’re introduced to Asher Forrester, the exile turned sellsword, and his pal Beskha. She’s definitely one badass broad who I would not want to get in a fight with. I kept hoping the episode would come back to them, but thusfar he and Beskha had their obligatory intro scene (which ended up being a great fight scene) before being recruited by his uncle to return to Westeros.

Episode 2 features one addition to the list of familiar HBO series faces. This time it’s Jon Snow’s turn to make an appearance. Gared Tuttle arrives at The Wall, where he’ll participate in big dick contests with the other new recruits and get roped into a fistfight no matter what dialogue options you choose. Boys will be boys, I suppose. Jon Snow fans of the world can rest easy: he’s just as brooding and boring as he is in the TV show.

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Behold! Endless miles of white stuff.

 

 There are a few more characters you’ll meet as well. None I like so much as Beskha, but I do like them more than some of the cast from the previous episode.

This episode was about as long as its successor. While it’s a lot more of the same GoT politics with the unfortunate Forresters, there’s just enough of a spark of hope to keep the player crossing their fingers that all will end well for their favorite characters. While there wasn’t a big shock moment like the end of Episode 1, I’m still eager to see where Telltale Games will lead us.

 

 

Dying Light

DyingLightCoverArtThat’s actually the most accurate video game slogan I’ve seen in a while.

Let me start by saying that Steve-O and I love us some zombies. One of the few things we love more than zombies is gratuitous zombie gore in an open-world environment. The Dead Island games are favorites of ours. I didn’t really follow the drama between Techland and Deep Silver, but when I saw that Techland was releasing what I took to be a Dead Island game with free-run mechanics thrown in, I thought, “What could go wrong?”

The answer is, unsurprisingly, the free running mechanics. I came to the game fresh off of Assassins Creed: Unity, so adjusting to the different button assignments took some getting used to. On the PS4, R1 is jump/grab, while running requires clicking in the L-stick. Weird combination. Not very intuitive if you ask me. Plus it is in first person, which was a little adjustment. I really liked it after I got used to it; it adds a whole new element to parkour that I never really considered before. Climbing structures takes some extra thought and consideration when you can’t see outside of your character’s POV. But, and there’s always a but, the free-running is even less predictable than most other games of this genre out there. I keep coming back to these games because I keep thinking, “Surely, one of these developers is going to figure it out and get rid of all the kinks.” Not sure why I do this to myself. I mean, hell, Ubisoft has done how many AC games and they still manage to flub it up?

I mentioned in my AC:Unity review how previous AC games had the parkour system basically dumbed down to “Hold down R1 and pray he goes where you want him to.” After the parkour in Dying Light, I promise never to complain about dumbed down parkour again. In Dying Light, you have to screw with clicking in an analog stick to make him run on top of pressing a separate button to grab onto things, never knowing whether he will continue to sprint after landing or not. He’ll also refuse to grab a ledge for no reason, causing you to plummet to your death and sometimes respawn halfway across the map (that has no fast travel during your first play through), only to grab it just fine the second, third, or fourth attempt. Damned if we could figure it out. Chances are you’ll die more to fall deaths than zombies.

The agility challenges can be immensely frustrating if you decide to take them on. I’m okay with optional challenges that require you to explore different paths until you memorize the correct one to use. But I’m NOT okay with having to cross my fingers in hopes that the game responds to the buttons I’m pushing, and relying on the uncertainty that he’ll keep sprinting when he lands. The main story doesn’t require precise parkour skills. Until, that is, the last half hour or so of the game. We came to the conclusion that the developers don’t want you to pick up and play the game again. Because after dying repeatedly thanks to all the aforementioned causes, your desire to play the game again will fall faster than a zombie that just took a katana to the throat.

The other major gripe we had was with the piss poor shooting controls. Click in the right stick to look down a scope? WTF? There’s a reason no other games do that… because it’s dumb! We flat out didn’t bother with the shooting challenges because it wasn’t worth having to pop a blood pressure pill. The guns in this game are painful to use. We only used them when we were fighting other humans and basically didn’t have a choice. The good news is once you get OP enough, you can usually get away with running up to a group of 3 guys and killing them via your favorite melee weapon. When fighting hordes of zombies, pulling out a gun really isn’t worth attracting more of them when you can rely on your fun melee weapons, molotovs, or grenades. After Steve-O suffered through the terrible parkour section while approaching the final boss fight, we joked that next we’d be expected to participate in a terrible shoot off because the developers seemed to have a hard on with accentuating the worst parts of the game at its conclusion.

We were wrong, but not thankfully so. Instead, we were treated to a bizarre (albeit, short) sequence of quicktime events. FOR A FINAL BOSS FIGHT! In a game that has NO quicktime events at all!! The closest Dying Light has to QTEs is when you have to mash X to open doors or panels. That’s it. Then its like, the developers had absolutely ZERO good ideas for how to pull off a a fun, engaging final boss fight against a human. The conversation must’ve went something like:

“Well. The player has been using melee the entire game. Let’s do something different.”

“How about a shoot off?”

“But the shooting sucks in this game.”

“Got a point. How about they fight through waves of zombies and soldiers to get to him?”

“But they’ve been doing that the whole game….”

“I know! Let’s make them suffer through half an hour of demanding free-running that our game can’t support. And they can’t use the grappling hook, because that’d be like, cheating or something, and it’d be way too quick if they didn’t keep reloading due to cheap deaths.”

“Okay… but what about the final boss fight?”

“Oh yeah. Uhh… Quicktime events. Isn’t that, like, all the rage now?”

Indeed. QTEs ARE all the rage. But only because it’s like the go-to solution for developers with writer’s block! Can’t think of a meaningful way to engage the player but want to pretend they’re “playing” and not just watching a movie? Put in QTEs! This simply cannot be justified in Dying Light. It came out of nowhere and was extremely disappointing, further souring our final night with this game.

This is all a shame, because it really overshadows the fun we had with it. Dying Light started off with so much promise. It was like the Dead Island game I’d been waiting for. In terms of the battle system, I preferred being able to use whatever type of weapon I wanted, unlike Dead Island where each character specializes in one type or another. I realize having different characters to play through the game as adds replayability, but I don’t care because I rarely have time to replay games, no matter how much I like or don’t like them.

The 3 skill trees were also brilliant. Basically, you gain experience to Power, Agility or Survival, depending on your actions, and each levels separately. No juggling which tree to spend a skill point on when you level. You gain agility experience while climbing and leaping across buildings, power while slaying enemies, and survival while doing quests and surviving (shock!) the night.

The risk/reward system for exploring the city at night was a great feature. When night is approaching, you’re given a warning to seek out shelter, which you can do by going to a safe zone and sleeping the night away. But if  you’re more curious (or just a masochist), you can brave the darkness. Going about your business at night rewards you with DOUBLE the agility and power experience! That’s right, DOUBLE. And when dawn finally arrives, you get a chunk of Survival experience points. The amount depends on how many times you died.

What’s so bad about wandering around at night, you ask? Well, besides relying on only your flashlight or a special potion to be able to see, these adorable undead roam around:

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Say hello to my little friend.

They’re called Volatiles. Near the beginning of the game, they are truly a nightmare. Its the only time this game starts to feel like a survival horror game. They’re basically unkillable until you are substantially leveled and get at least a shotgun. When a Volatile has you in their sights, it begins a tense chase sequence that will either end in death (and a loss of survival exp.) or a crap-ton of agility experience if you play your cards right. Needless to say, we became denizens of the night to earn experience quicker. The lure of extra experience, and actually being fearful of death, kept us coming back until we were maxed out.

Another aspect that I know can be make or break for some people is weapon durability. Yes, it is in this game. Weapons degrade as you use them, and each has a certain number of repairs. The higher tier the weapon, the more repairs you can give it. There is also an unlockable skill that will sporadically give you free repairs on weapons. A must have, in my opinion. I didn’t really have an issue with it; we never ran out of melee weapons. And we killed a lot of zombies. More frustrating to us were the negative repercussions of modifying weapons. Like Dead Island, you can add fun effects to the weapons. We have fire, toxic, and electric effects to add to weapons. Watch a zombie puke itself dead, run around on fire, or be zapped to death is all in good fun at first, until you realize that going anywhere near it will damage you as well. Which doesn’t bode well if you’re backed against a wall or in a corner and chopping them apart as a group runs at you. Or if you want to loot the bodies in a timely fashion, because you have to wait out the effect before looting the corpse without taking damage.

Dying Light’s story is painfully cliche. And the sad part is, it tries to be all serious, so it doesn’t have the laugh factor that the Dead Island games have. Instead of poking fun at itself, which is almost the only thing the worn-out zombie apocalypse genre has going for itself anymore, the game churns out almost every cliche in the book with a straight face. From “This evil company doesn’t want to find a CURE, they want to WEAPONIZE the virus!” (Surprise!) to “There’s a maniacal lunatic taking advantage of the chaos!” (Bigger surprise!) to my favorite, “We have to go save the only hot chick left who doesn’t eat brains for breakfast!”

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If there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, I hope I still have access to my eye shadow…

To make matters worse, the meat of the game turns you into everyone’s errand boy. This is something else that drives me crazy. It’s like, to add more gameplay hours to make us feel like we’re “Getting our money’s worth,” every sandbox game throws in dozens of repetitive, boring fetch quests. I can’t quite pinpoint why, but it was really getting to me about halfway through this game. Every single NPC would say, “Yeah, sure, but first do this and this and this for me. Then I’ll tell you/give you whatever it is you want.” Eye-rollingly predictable. I guess 20 hours in I felt like we’d experienced everything the game had to offer. One good thing I will say about the side quests is how they developed into chain quests, affecting future events in the game.

I’m sure this goes without saying nowadays, but the game has its fair share of glitches. Humans with guns will shoot you through walls. Zombies will hit or grab you through them as well. Some other bizarre things happened as well, usually giving us something to chuckle about.

I can see this game being more fun while playing online co-op. Co-op always makes bad story and repetitive quests less painful. I mean, yes, the gratifying decapitation of multiple zombies with the swing of a hatchet does help lessen the blow, but even that only carried me for so long before the game started feeling stale. Looking back at our experience, I’ll say that Dying Light adds hours of gratifying zombie gore at the expense of being repetitive and frustrating at times. Which makes it Dead Island. Except not humorous.

Hyrule Warriors

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Link is the same silent protagonist we all know and love…Except this time around he’s rocking a clashing blue scarf!

Are you a Legend of Zelda junkie? Are you prone to nostalgia feels? Do you enjoy the battle-simulator, hack and slash craziness of Dynasty Warriors? Enjoy babysitting incompetent AI and juggling which pathetic ally you’re going to save next? How about repeating the same attack combo about 50 bajillion times to kill roughly the same number of rehashed enemy types you’ve already seen in every LoZ game? If so, you’re in for a treat! Hyrule Warriors is everything I just mentioned, and more!

All joking aside, we had a lot of fun with Hyrule Warriors before moving on. There’s still a lot of grinding to do and Majora’s Mask DLC that just released on February 5, so we’re probably not 100% done visiting it.

Back in the day, Steve-O and I had a lot of co-op Dynasty Warriors fun. I can’t recall exactly which ones we played, because there were a few, but I do remember the co-op craziness and general feel of the games. When I found out the same company worked with Nintendo to create what is essentially a Legend of Zelda skin, I was all for it. If you’ve never played one of the Dynasty or Samurai Warrior games, they’re basically a battle simulator where you run around capturing enemy keeps, killing enemy commanders, and fulfilling other stage-specific goals while keeping your bases from falling to the enemy. In games like these it’s not uncommon to slay 1,000+ enemies on a single level. And, thanks to the jumps in technology, the lag is considerably lessened compared to the old days of playing DW. Not that it’s non-existent, but it doesn’t really hinder gameplay.

Instead, you have bad decision making hindering gameplay, like cutscenes cutting in on the action (see what I did there?). Even turning them off in the main menu doesn’t stop opening treasure chests from being a drawn out affair that ruins the flow of battle and lets enemies pop cheat shots off on you. Not a big concern during the Legends story  mode, but when trying to achieve A rankings to unlock goodies on Adventure mode it can make or break your progress. Another one of our biggest gripes worth mentioning is button-mapping for selecting items in your inventory. Stupid gimmicky LoZ bosses show up repeatedly, and certain items are needed to defeat them. But in order to look through your inventory to use things like bombs, potions, or the hookshot, you literally have to take your thumb off of the joystick you’re using to move the character around. So yeah, stand still amongst piles of 50 enemies at a time to find the item you need to use. Granted, the general cronies suffer from a severe case of the derps, but still. Every little bit counts when trying to unlock stuff.

Hyrule Warriors doesn’t take place in LoZ canon. Not sure at this point it really matters, since Nintendo can’t even figure out their own timeline. During the main campaign, you’ll gradually be introduced to both original and returning characters and unlock them as playable. Some you need the DLC for. You’ll get your merry band together and traverse a few Zelda worlds. Most of the time you have to play as a specific character. One of the great things about playing co-op is that the second player can be whoever they want: You can have Princess Zelda and Sheik fighting side by side, consistency be damned! One of you will have to make the sacrifice of playing as the mandatory character while the other picks their favorite and goes to town. Each character has their own flair and style, but swapping between them doesn’t take all that much to grow accustomed to because all the combos are the same. Literally. Leveling up character abilities requires giving them “badges” by using items collected in battle, and they all add up to variations of pressing Ys and Xs. That’s it. If you’re playing as a new character, it’ll take you all of one minute to test out all the combos you have unlocked. Then you’ll pick one or two favorite moves and just stick with them.

The variety mainly falls with weapon types and character style. On his own, Link can equip like, 6 different weapon types. Each gives him different moves and flashy things to look at. As you can imagine, his style will be entirely different if he’s on Epona compared to say, wielding the Master Sword or Magic Rod. Make sure you try each character’s weapons before dismissing them entirely. I tried Zelda’s Dominion Rod first and absolutely hated it. Yet later on she got a decent Rapier and when I tried it out I loved it. I tend to lean towards magic users while playing video games. In Hyrule Warriors I became smitten with DLC character Twili Midna. She’s slower, but her attacks cover such a large area, and her special move literally creates an enormous black hole under enemies’ feet. Another new mage is Cia. One look at her and you can tell Nintendo’s getting desperate enough to get a little risque:

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Boobs in a Nintendo exclusive game? I know, I was confused too.

 Other favorites of ours included Link, Impa, Lord Volga, and Sheik. However, I encourage you to try them all out. Some characters are insufferably annoying to the point where you won’t want to play as them (Lana and Agitha, that is), but I’ll begrudingly admit they have some cool combos as well. At one point or another you’ll be forced to play as them anyway.

Once you’ve completed the nearly pointless meanderings of the “Story” mode, you’ll want to go spend time in the nostalgic grindfest Adventure maps. It’s 8-Bit Zelda map glory, where you have to complete challenges and collect Item Cards to discover hidden goodies.

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Somehow, your fires never seem to spread from that one bush.

 Adventure Mode maps are maze/puzzle hybrids that require you to go all over the map and follow various paths to tredge your way to the weapons or hearts you want for characters. I’m certainly not the authority on this as it’s a bit grindy for my current tastes (Ok more like ‘it takes up too much of my free time to play video games’) but it adds a lot of life to the game for those who have that itch to max out their characters. The DLC maps even add more costumes for characters as well. Truth be told, I had no use for other alternate Link costumes after I had him decked out in purple. The Adventure Mode maps also add more Gold Skulltulas to unlock and collect. There’s over 100 of them. Again, lots of extras for those so inclined.

Like Dynasty Warriors, Hyrule Warriors is a game I was in for the co-op fun, not the engrossing gameplay and story. Which isn’t a bad thing, just the nature of the beast. Throw in a Legend of Zelda theme and you have a formula for hours of nostalgic fun. If you’re in it for the co-op like I am, prepare yourself for some co-op annoyances. Aside from the cutscene interruptions I mentioned earlier, there’s one other decision that constantly irked me. There is only one menu where the second player is able to join. And they have to do so every. single. battle. Firstly, nowadays it should be possible for local co-op to jump in at any time. Secondly, if I say I’m playing, keep me there until I opt out. I can’t count the number of times the second player would forget to join, making us have to suffer loading screens to turn around, back out of the battle, and start again. I also wish the second player could jump in the bazaar, where you level characters and smith gear.

And as a final note, I want to know who the hell has been designing Zelda bad guys for the last few games. Zant and Ghirahim look so terrible! Just… ugh. Do video game designers in Japan hold contests to see who can draw the fruitiest or wackiest looking villain?

 

Assassin’s Creed: Unity

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Unity = More co-op player crap.

Another year, another Assassin’s Creed game. Well, two games last year, but I’m no fool. I’m not buying Rogue for the PS3 because I just KNOW there will be some HD remaster/remake for the new-gen consoles in the next year or so. No thanks, Ubisoft, I’ll wait it out. You aren’t catching me on that one.

This game’s release is yet another Triple A launch disaster. Lucky me, I didn’t play the game until after the patch that fixed most of the issues. Part of me is a little sad I missed out on the hilarious face glitches. I  mean, look at this!

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Comedic gold, this is! …And yet, even I can admit it’d get real old after the first five minutes.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t experience any glitches. This is an Assassin’s Creed game, after all. Check out this video I posted on Youtube that made me chuckle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1eUZrgD3W4

While I missed out on all the release day drama, I can say this entry in the series is polarizing for me as well, just for different reasons.

My main issue is the constant need on the part of the developer to inject stupid, desperate micro-transaction cash grabs into the game (especially a game like AC where they feel completely out of place). Ubisoft thinks I need to spend real money to hack an upgrade on a piece of gear when I could easily get the currency the legit way? Or, what’s worse for me, is realizing that there are gamers out there who actually DO cough up the dough! After spending full price for the game. When the real money “cheat” is nowhere close to necessary to beat the game! I mean, I zoomed through the game in 20 hours and didn’t feel like I needed those real money “hacks” to feel like I had a chance beating it.

My other annoyance is how they added icons on my map that could only be cleared by using the outside companion app. No. Just no. After what Bungie thought they could do with Grimoire Cards to make the players use their stupid app or website to find out key aspects of the game, I decided to take a personal stand against the practice. Granted, in AC: Unity it’s nothing with that much impact on the overall story, but I’m still against the whole idea. Instead, they should have put an ad on the opening menu or load screens to inform me about the app. And, if I so chose to download and use the app, THEN have the icons clutter up my beautiful map of France. It irritated me to no end that I’d never clear out my map because of the extra missions and chests I wouldn’t be opening. I realized early on that I wouldn’t have a cleaned up map by the end of the game, and it was probably a large part of why I didn’t even try.

Stupid developer money-grabbing decisions aside, I actually liked this game a lot more than I thought I would. When I read reviewers’ skepticism regarding how much the formula was being changed, I was a bit concerned. But then I said to myself, “Wait. Every year I complain the games are more of the same. Therefore, shouldn’t I be embracing the chances? Maybe this game will feel like a fresh experience.” And you know what? Overall, I’m happier with the gameplay in this one than the last few installments.

I have one big like and dislike when it comes to the changes. What I liked, no, LOVED, was how they changed most of your story assassination missions. I can’t recall how much I hated the very strict rules taking place during story missions in most of the series. The annoying follow and chase sequences. The fact that you’re not given any freedom to carry out the mission your own unique way. Sound familiar? Well, I’m  happy to report that the main assassination missions allow you to be a lot more creative in Unity. Once triggering the mission, you’re given an informational screen that tells you helpful tidbits about the area, such as; number of guards, hidden entrances, and alarm bells in the area. Then, the world opens back up and you get to do some investigating to decide the best way to attack the mission. Yes, you’re given nearly free reign to approach the target how you see fit. I was tickled pink when I used Eagle Vision to find a person I could tackle to reward myself with a key to get in a hidden entrance… If I so chose. If not, I could go about my business in another fashion. I thought this method was more in line with my vision of  how a game as an assassin should play out.

Part of the reason the game plays out this way is because at no given point in time are you guaranteed to have a certain skill. Which ties into one of my dislikes about this game. Instead of having every skill an assassin may utilize after finishing his training, the main character Arno has to unlock skills with Sync points. The concept of unlocking skills isn’t where my beef lies. My annoyance is in how they approached unlocking skill points. Like Ubisoft’s other series Farcry, skill points are locked by story progression. Pretty lame in sandbox games, if you ask me. In every other AC game I enjoyed opening treasure chests as I made my way across the map, clearing out one section at a time. Not possible anymore, because now there are locked chests that you need to level up your lockpicking skill to open… And you barely get enough Sync points in the main story to bother. Passing by treasure chests is a painful experience for me. Between the locked and Nomad treasure chests I couldn’t open my heart was literally aching. My title is “Loot Whore” for a reason. Yet I can acquiesce that Unity beat it out of me. It was just hard to care about spending skill points to be able to open chests that only rewarded me with money that I was already earning at a stupidly high rate due to my property allowance.

To acquire Sync points, aside from completing main story missions, you need to complete online Co-op missions. Which is bogus and pisses me off. The real reason it made me mad was because they didn’t balance it out for those of us who don’t/can’t play co-op. Why couldn’t some of the Assassination side quests also reward the player with Sync points? There’s no reason for it. If you don’t plan on doing any co-op missions, you’ll maybe unlock about half of the available skills in one playthrough. A very big turn off for me.

New and typical Assassin’s Creed gripes aside, most of what Ubisoft does with this game’s aesthetics and writing is done rather well. The city and locations are absolutely gorgeous. While Arno, your Assassin du jour, is a bit dull and follows the over-worn “I wanna be an assassin because revenge!” line, the supporting cast is great. Elise is probably my favorite Assassin’s Creed female character.

Arno_and_Elise_-_Unity_Promotional_Art

Yes, her personality is as fiery as her hair.

If you check out the finer details of the image, you’ll notice she has Templar insignia on. Yes, here we have an Assassin in love with a Templar! Oh, the shame! The Star-Crossed lovers thing serves to move the plot forward and creates a pretty interesting dynamic. Unfortunately, the greater implications of creating a truce between the two ideological camps never gets fleshed out in this game. It basically starts and ends with Arno’s personal quest. I probably don’t need to tell you this either, but don’t expect the present day parallel to get anywhere. Because, again, it doesn’t. I’m getting the impression Ubisoft throws in some dialogue because they have to acknowledge that aspect of the modern-day tensions and the Animus crap. But it’s quite obvious the writers couldn’t care less.

I have to give them credit for trying something new. And, to be fair, this is probably my favorite Assassin’s Creed game since the Ezio days. While I didn’t dislike Black Flag, spending all that time sailing on the open seas wasn’t the magical new formula for me that everyone else found it to be. I thought Unity was a bolder two steps forward for the series, even if it still took one step back.