Saints Row IV

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That’s an enormous energy drink can, in case you were wondering.

Over-the-top violent and sexual humor, super powers, and a whole lotta purple. My three favorite things.

Also, Saints Row IV in a nutshell.

If you played Saints Row The Third, you only need to imagine more of the same type of gang violence and humor, except now your character is the President of the United States and imbued with superpowers in a sort of Infamous knock off kinda way.

This is all possible because… *Cue spoiler alert* EARTH IS DESTROYED!! By this jerk:

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Meet Zinyak, destroyer of worlds.

The game opens with a bang. Quite literally, actually, and removes trite things like reality to offer a radical evolution of the series. Much of the gameplay takes place in a simulation created by Zinyak. Think of him as a collector of humans, placing his toy-things in an artificial reality to play in. The simulation is basically a replica of Steelport. I know it was supposed to be Steelport, but I was so busy sprinting at the speed of light and flying without a cape that I hardly noticed it was the same place. After the obligatory tutorial quests that introduce you to vehicles and aside from the side missions, I never touched a vehicle. I know it’s hard to believe… I couldn’t believe it myself. But with all the crazy upgrades with sprinting, jumping and gliding, there is no reason to drive a car.

You will obtain superpowers that will aide in creating Saints Row-style mass mayhem and slaughter, but they didn’t stop me from using guns. In this regard, the abilities act more as a supplement than a complete replacement. Besides, the team came up with some crazy new weapons that you’ll love to play with. Our favorite? The dubstep gun.

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This is only the first of many models you can choose from.

The dubstep gun fires waves of sick dub beats to dance your foes (and their vehicles) to death. No exaggeration here. In fact, there’s a few different types of music you can choose from too. Other weapons include guns that disintegrate your foes and create black holes. Even the tentacle pr0n melee weapon can knock cars across the map when it is fully upgraded.

All of these fun guns don’t help the battle system for me. I don’t find it intuitive or very responsive. Thankfully, me sucking at the controls didn’t ruin the game for me. Saints Row IV is kind enough to allow the player to become ridiculously OP from the start. Especially with all these crazy new super powers. Becoming OP also happens to be Steve-O’s favorite thing to do, so he pounded out all of the side missions ASAP. Fun side missions such as tank mayhem and insurance fraud from the predecessor are still here. Insurance fraud is great for some flying ragdoll action. The amount of cache you can rack up for upgrades doing these side missions is immense. On top of all the side missions spread across the map, there are also clusters to collect for upgrading abilities. And trust me, you will want to get upgrades and be the most OP MFer out there.

I’m a bit saddened about certain characters from The Third not being included. I read a blurb about all the DLC and it looks like they can be downloaded, but even then it sounds like they won’t have much to contribute to the story. The characters who do return do not disappoint. Their personal quests and loyalty missions (A la Mass Effect 2) are hilarious for the most part. None of them felt like a chore. There’s even some character growth in this game with some background information; helpful for players like myself who weren’t around for the first two games. Hell, all I knew of Johnny Gat was his death scene in The Third.

I can see how longtime fans of the series could have been turned off from this entry. It’s even more over-the-top than The Third (Hell, it has a STREAKING mini-game). The flying, gliding, and overall alien invasion takes away from the gang violence the series began with. Personally, I liked all the new additions… they allowed for much more creativity during exploration and combat. I think the next entry will be a bit more level-headed. Which is fine… I GUESS. It does make me glad they went ahead with this idea, even if it amounts to nothing more than a fringe entry that only weirdos like Steve-O and I enjoyed.

And on that note… we’re already knee-deep into the Gat Out of Hell DLC. Keep your eyes peeled for that review!

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Telltale’s Game of Thrones, Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness

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Finally, some fire-breathing action going on this episode!

The halfway point in Telltale Game’s Game of Thrones series is more engrossing and entertaining than the previous episode. There were some interesting goings-ons, what with the purple wedding and Daenerys making a cameo appearance at the end. At the Wall, we were also treated to an interesting reveal from one character before Gared found his balls and finally gave someone something they deserved.

The same cannot be said for House Forrester. Episode 3 continues with the Forrester family taking it up the butt from the Whitehills; who are, at this point, becoming more cheesily over-the-top insulting than the jocks in Glee. It’s starting to feel forced at this point. Yes, as lord of the house you can talk back to them, but it serves little purpose besides saving the player’s ego  before getting thunder-kicked to the floor again. I’m hoping against hope that we can start giving the Whitehills a bit of what they deserve starting next episode, because the high school level bullying is getting old. I get it, they’re being jerks, can we move on now?

As with Episode 2, Asher’s screen time was the most entertaining for me. He has another fun battle scene, except this one is flavored with a hint of dragon. Daenerys’ missing dragon, to be precise. Spoiler: Daenerys is this episode’s famous face. And her character model looks really good. Like, really, really good. There’s something about the other HBO show characters that are off to me with this art style, but Daenaerys is perfect.

We accidentally played on the wrong save file, and I actually want to play it again to see how one crucial aspect differs. Normally I shrug and say, “It all melds together in the end.” But this time I’m actually anxious to see the difference. If that doesn’t show I’m invested in this game, nothing does.

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.

The Walking Dead Video Game- Season 2 Episode 5: No Going Back

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Ah, another great ending.

I can’t contain my happiness anymore.

This post will be rife with spoilers and I don’t care.

You have been forewarned.

But before I talk about the amazing ending (Which has me jubilant, not depressed like season 1’s ending) I have one little thing I’d like to rhetorically ask:

Does no one who made this video game have a baby? I mean, Rebecca sort-of randomly turns into a zombie with a newborn on her lap, gets shot by Kenny, thus igniting a big shoot-out during which everyone on my side manages to not get killed. Luke survives getting shot in the knee only to drown in zombie-flavored water. I won’t lie, that did make me a little sad, especially since Jane came back and they maybe (?) could have worked on having a not-awkward relationship. So anyway, we’ve got a ragtag group of wandering adults, a teenage Russian hostage, and Clementine taking care of a newborn baby.

None of them are capable of making milk for said baby, in case you were wondering. And yet, the baby somehow doesn’t starve to death. It hardly makes a peep, actually. “AJ” also manages to not freeze to death during the winter nights despite only being wrapped in what appears to be a thin blanket without his face being covered. Newsflash: newborn babies are on the boob. Constantly. It helps increase milk production, assists with mother-baby bonding, and obviously keeps baby full and happy since their little digestive systems can only hold so much food at once. The game shows everyone taking turns holding the baby, yet no one is ever feeding it. Since there’s no Mommy Milk, the baby would have to drink formula, which is never seen or spoken of until near the end. “Look, formula!” … Great, where’s the clean water and bottles? Sorry, but it’s just so unrealistic. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that baby wouldn’t have survived long enough for Kenny to turn it into his new reason for living. Which, by the way, he changed more often than he changed his underwear at that point.

Now that I have that off of my chest…

KENNY IS FINALLY DEAD!!! AND I GOT TO SHOOT HIM!!!

Judging by the stats provided at the end of the episode, I seem to be in the minority here. I absolutely hate Kenny. I’ve hated him ever since Season 1, when after my Lee spent the entire season kissing his ass, he refused to help go save Clem. Yeah, he can suck it. Not only that, but he has proven time and again to be an unstable time bomb that brings chaos into every group situation. I don’t agree with what Mike and Bonnie did (I called Kenny and Jane for help when I caught them trying to sneak away with Arvo), but I can see why they did it. Kenny was a cancer, plain and simple.

Jane’s little ruse was justified. Kenny needed to die, and I was more than happy to pull the trigger. If you shoot him, he even tells you that you  made the right choice. I don’t need more validation than that.

I assumed that if you opted out of shooting Kenny, Jane would win the scuffle and pretty much the same ending would occur. After reading online, it appears I was wrong. There are two very different ending scenarios, which intrigues me because season 3 has been announced and there can only be VERY different experiences based on how season 2 ended for you. It’s actually enough to want to play again with the other scenario, which I can’t say I’ve had the urge to do up until now.

Season 2 had a great ending, but it was a “Great” ending in a completely different fashion than the first season (for me, anyway). I’ve enjoyed my experience with Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead series so much that I purchased the first season of “The Wolf Among Us,” on sale on PSN over the weekend. I plan on starting that if I can tear myself away from playing Diablo III: UE on the PS4 with my hubby long enough to finish Ni No Kuni. I’ve half a mind to post a separate rant about that game, but I’ll refrain for now.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons

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Well, it’s not ONLY on Gameboy Color anymore…

Remember that post I wrote a month or so ago about my frustrating forgetting to save “oops moment?” Well, it was in regards to this game, and I finally went back to it after reading a novel in the interim. I faced my stupid mistake, sucked up my pride, and re-did the dungeon/dungeon and a half that I evidently forgot to save after. I was mostly annoyed with myself for not only forgetting to save, but also for forgetting to abuse the awesome virtual console features on the 3DS. The 3DS has the ability to create a save state on the retro game you’re currently playing, which totally reminds me of playing NES and SNES games on a computer emulator. Nostalgia feels.

This whole game was one big nostalgia feels session for me. My favorite GameBoy game ever is Link’s Awakening. And Oracle of Seasons is stupidly reminiscent of it. I haven’t played its partner game, Oracle of Ages yet, but I suspect its quite similar. The map, menus, and music are all too familiar. Especially the recycled music. Normally I’d complain about recycled music, but I like it so much I don’t even care. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, I tell you.

Oracle of Seasons is named thus because, well, the oracle of seasons has been kidnapped and needs to be rescued. Din the oracle is the damsel of distress du jour that Link has the pleasure of rescuing from Dark Lord Onox. Why? Well, because.

Anyone who has played a LoZ game knows primarily what to expect; 8 dungeons, a world map that is a PITA to explore, and pointless nods to Hyrule and Princess Zelda. Yes, there is a super-hot princess in a faraway kingdom. I get it. But that’s neither here nor there. How about the NPCs spend their one to two lines of dialogue telling me how to get to the next dungeon instead?

Oracle of Seasons is puzzle-heavy, making exploring the world map more of a chore than it really needs to be. On top of using power bracelets, Roc feather and cape, and a metallic glove (basically this game’s Hookshot replacement) to traverse obstacles, Link also acquires a “Rod of Seasons.” This special rod can change the season which alters how Link can interact with the landscape. The Rod of Seasons only works when Link is standing on a special stump. I still can’t wrap my head around why that is, but whatever. So you’ll wander around the map, looking for a stump to change the season to whichever new one you unlocked, without really knowing what you’re looking for. It’s kind of hard to know where the ice will appear or where the snowbanks Link can walk across will show up until after you change the season. Expect to do a lot of semi-pointless wandering around unless you don’t have time for that crap like me and use a FAQ.

A big tree that can’t see to stay awake is always asking Link to save the Essences of Nature between yawns. There are 8 of them (imagine that) and collecting all of them unlocks the final dungeon. As you can probably tell, I’m not too enthused about the “story” (This is Legend of Zelda, after all) nor do I remember much of it after only beating the game last week. Basically after defeating the Dark Lord there is a teaser to the companion game, Oracle of Ages. Then there’s a special code to input when you load up the new game. And vice versa if you start with Oracle of Ages then play Seasons second.

Retro Gameboy games only hold up against the test of time so well. The 3DS save state feature (that I am an idiot and kept forgetting to use) helps immensely. However, aside from adding more buttons to map items to, nothing can be done about the annoying amount of times I had to go into my sub menu to change my equipment. During more than one boss fight I found myself relying on 3 different weapons and tools which required so-many-pauses. THEN, on top of that, if you’re using a slingshot or a seed from the satchel, you then have to select which of the four options you want. And this will happen for more than one boss fight. It’s like, “So… wait… I need to use my sword, and my fire seeds, and my Roc cape, and Pegasus seeds? HOW?!” You get the idea. Not being new to old Zelda games, I expected it, and I’m sure you will too, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.

Another feature different from Link’s Awakening is the incorporation of pretty jewelry for Link to wear. Just rings, unfortunately. Every ring Link finds has to be taken back to Vasu the jeweler to be appraised. Only then can you find out what useful or useless feature it has. Thank the gaming gods Gale Seeds allow for fast travel in this game or I probably would’ve been walking around with a couple dozen unappraised rings for half the game. Once Vasu tells you what the ring does, you pick from your ring inventory which ones you want to carry around (up to three) and even then you can only equip one at a time. There’s a ring that grants times two sword damage with no repercussions, which makes it hard to care what the other rings do. But a certain ring that takes care of electric damage proves useful during the final encounter.

Not only is there the main world map that’s a bitch, er, puzzle, to explore, this game also has an underworld called Subrosia. I liked this area. It was full of cute, charming creatures who either helped Link along his quest or created mischief. This underworld correlates well to the corresponding map above ground. Navigating in Subrosia was relaxing because there wasn’t really any season crap to worry about. Subrosia mostly has mini games and cutesy chase sequences that are a fun break.

Pretty much everything else is what you’d come to expect from an old Zelda game, recycled music and enemies included! The usual frustrations aside, I couldn’t help but enjoy my time with this brainteaser action-adventure game. If this happens to be a Gameboy Legend of Zelda title you haven’t played, download it for cheap and do it! Me? I can’t decide if I want to download Oracle of Ages or play Link Between Worlds.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

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Jaysus, lookit dem guns!

I’ve finally completed a (somewhat thorough) playthrough of Black Flag! I don’t say “finally” as in I’m especially happy to be done with it. I say “finally” because I got the game for Christmas and it’s now a month and a half later and I’ve only finished one of the pile of games I received. Having all of a few hours a week to myself to play a video game isn’t the most conducive lifestyle for playing sandboxey games like the AC series has become. Ironically, it wasn’t until I was pregnant and playing Skyrim that I realized I enjoyed games like this. Granted, I could have absolutely bulldozed the plot, but I felt almost guilty doing so. Black Flag is so much more than the basic Sequences. In fact, if someone told me they had more fun during the overdone, lame plot missions, I’d suggest they get their head examined.

I stand at odds with how to rate this game. On one hand, the open sea beckoning me to explore its uncharted lands never got old. I found myself distracted for hours and hours of gameplay sailing around, looking for trouble. Well, mostly loot, but trouble was always closely tied to filling my purse. The Templar Hunt missions, naval contracts, forts ripe for the conquering, animus fragments and treasure chests waiting to be collected, and whales to harpoon can keep any gamer busy for countless hours. There are also animals to hunt like in ACIII, except this time around you actually have incentive to do it. Animal pelts and other hunting goods are used to upgrade the main character, Edward Kenway’s, gear. To upgrade his ship you NEED to conquer other ships and steal their booty. Awesome. And, like I said, it doesn’t really get old. I  enjoyed all of these optional features (I wouldn’t have committed like, 30+ hours of my life if I didn’t).

However, there’s always a butt. And my “butt” is, well, the rest of the game. If you’ve been with the AC series since its inception, the “trail so-and-so without being seen” and likewise missions won’t do much more for you than elicit big yawns. Then they had to go and incorporate the same stuff into the ship missions. I liked captaining the Jackdaw, but navigating a big, clunky ship when you have to try to remain hidden or sail quickly to not loose sight of another vessel is annoying. Call me a simpleton, but I’d rather stick to blowing the other ship up and killing the target on it, thanks. A new added feature to make the game feel more piratey are treasure maps! Dead cadavers throughout the world have treasure maps on them that are ripe for the picking. Each map has a crudely drawn picture of the hidden treasure’s whereabouts and the coordinates. Sounds easy enough, but I found the pictures to be pretty off sometimes, or hard to find in a big settlement area. I only got the treasures that were easy to find or gave upgrade plans for rewards.

As expected, the same old frustrating free-running mechanics exist. Enemy AI is weird and inconsistent. There are glitches abound (though I won’t pretend some of them didn’t work out in my favor). Like with every other AC game, you’ll swear at your avatar because he just won’t cooperate even though you KNOW you’re supposed to climb a certain ledge. They just like to pause mid-walk or press against a wall instead of moving for some reason, especially when guards’ detection bars are filling up and you’re supposed to remain incognito. I liked the little tweak to Eagle Vision Ubisoft incorporated. When you’re tailing a golden target, after you use Eagle Vision you can see them through walls and other barriers which is pretty useful.

The battle system is largely unchanged. You purchase or unlock swords and guns. You can create holsters, carry  more pistols, and perform devastating combos. The swordplay remains unchanged for the most part. It is a relatively simple game of waiting for the counter prompt and pressing the corresponding button, then hitting attack for a fancy insta-kill animation. Once in a while you’ll stumble upon an ‘especially’ difficult enemy that requires a Break Defense button press instead of Counter to do damage. And… that is about as complicated as swordplay gets. To make things even easier, you can toss a smoke bomb and kill 4 or 5 people while they’re hacking their lungs out. The other tools you receive are sleeping darts, berserk darts, and rope darts, which are all in good fun. The troublesome enemies you’ll come across are the stupid axe guys, only because if you let them get a hit on you because they do a ton of damage. The snipers are frustrating because if you don’t have goons to use as human shields they’ll keep popping you with bullets until you can get to them.

Okay let’s talk about the story and characters for a little bit. I often joked that most of the AC games had main characters driven by pretty similar factors: mean Templars killed someone in my family and I want revenge. Well, this time around, Edward Kenway really only cares about one thing for 75% of the game, and that’s moola. He wants money. Yeah, he says it’s to have a comfortable life with the woman he loves, but he leaves her for years on end and only writes once a year after she begs him not to go. Anyway, the only thing keeping your main character going is the prospect of more money, which is how he gets wrapped up in the entire Templar/Assassin conflict in the first place. I also have a little bit of beef with calling this an “Assassin’s Creed” game, as Edward never actually recites the creed or become inducted into the Brotherhood. Edward is pretty shallow, but predictable. I’d argue that this is the first AC game to have supporting cast that I found more engaging than the main character. You’ve got infamous Blackbeard, a former slave first mate who finds his convictions way before Edward does, and the series’ first transgender character! Very interesting cast, most of whom were way more fascinating than Edward.

The present day characters are not nearly as engrossing. For reasons you’ll learn about if you hack Abstergo’s computers, Desmond Miles is no longer with us. The new protagonist is a faceless, character-less entity who only exists to tap into the animus for me. To increase immersion, I assume, you explore Abstergo Industries in first person POV. You carry around a functional tablet; using it for opening elevators, hacking into Abstergo’s PCs for supplemental information, and probably even using the loo. Your character is a faceless Abstergo employee, never even earning themselves a name. I suppose I’m supposed to feel like it is actually me running around and diving into the animus. But no. Just, no. It didn’t do that for me. Because I would never keep my mouth shut while being bossed around by some douche without even asking why.  There are collectibles in the present day too, but they’re strange post-it notes scattered around that were clearly written by a deranged First Civilization worshiper who should’ve gotten themselves fired. I don’t know if I did something wrong but there was little to no conclusion to the present-day story arc. Basically the aforementioned douche gets what he deserves, but a couple other loose ends don’t even get mentioned or teased. I’m wondering if they plan on the next game taking place in the same building with the same main character and returning characters (like how Ezio’s arc was a trilogy) but Edward Kenway’s story seemed pretty  solidified.  Ubisoft has remained true to their pretentious formula of continuing the AC series as an annual cash cow, from the looks of it.

Annual cash cow that Assassin’s Creed has become, I’ll  admit I had way more fun playing Black Flag than ACIII. The biggest open-world exploration system to date served the series well. ACIV was my first Playstation 4 game completed. I can’t complain about the graphics, but the game had the usual glitch-fests known to the AC series. I think Ubisoft should definitely continue on the path of making bigger, better, more involved worlds, but they really need to find a way to jazz up the main story line because the formula is getting stale and I found myself dreading going back to it at times.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

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I don’t remember it raining that much…

For a mere $5, I downloaded this gem from the Playstation Store during their Steam Summer Sale knockoff. And boy, was it well worth my lunch money. I’m not a Batman purist or anything. The extent of my Batman knowledge comes from the latest Christopher Nolan trilogy because I tagged along with my husband to see them. Therefore, I’m in no position to comment on how this game follows the comic lore. I’d heard the Arkham games were fun, and for $5 I was willing to check one out.

I have little criticism for this game. I’m going to come out and say the graphics and visuals were great. I loved the voice acting and designs for the characters as well, even though Harley Quinn looked like a super skanky cheerleader on speed. She was hilarious, by the way. I was sad when she bowed out of the narrative. While the bosses and Batman staple characters looked great, Joker’s goons that you fight throughout the entire game were pretty boring.You seriously fight them all the way through, even during the final boss fight. I was hoping for more interesting Titan transformations I guess.

The surroundings managed to stay relatively fresh, even when I found myself revisiting the same areas through the narrative. Instead of being really lazy, they made changes or cut off certain areas to force you to explore more. And no glitches! None! The game ran smoothly, with understandable loading screens. The music wasn’t very impressionable, I will say that.

I enjoyed the gameplay and battle system. For video games that I play on my own limited time, I am relieved when I can pick up the controller five days later and still remember how to play. Look at it this way: it took me a month to finish an 8-10 hour game. When fighting goons, you have two primary attack buttons. When leveling (a simple, to the point leveling system, might I add!) you can slowly add variations to the combat. I flung out my batarang during battle just for fun. The batclaw was great for taking down the annoying goons with the stun rods. I got the inverted takedown, which is really situational so I didn’t get to use it as much as I would’ve liked. You basically have to be perched on a gargoyle, undetected, and wait for one of Joker’s henchmen to walk underneath you. Then Batman strings them up in the air, which almost always made me chuckle.

Speaking of gargoyles, I’m not entirely sure how swinging back and forth between them makes the enemies lose track of Batman. It’s pretty obvious he’s there. I mean, just look at the big black cloak flapping in the air. I’m sure it was the best improvisation they could come up with at the time. Otherwise, enemies will just shoot at you until kingdom come because Batman won’t use a gun for whatever reason.

During Arkham Asylum you fight toe-to-toe with many Batman baddies, who even I recognized. I found the boss fights to be experimental and different, but not in the frustrating way. The encounters with Scarecrow were my favorites. I enjoyed each one. I’m not entirely happy with how he was “defeated.” Aside from the Scarecrow encounters, expect to be using your batarang a lot.

Batman’s arsenal of gadgets and tools was fun to tinker around with. I upgraded the batarang a lot because I wanted to be able to hit 3 goons at once and I also wanted to control it as it flew just like Xena’s chakram in her PS1 game. Batman’s tools do have some battle applications, but the bulk of their usage comes with exploring the asylum. You can grapple and blow walls up to your heart’s content. Why would you want to? Well, all sorts of goodies are scattered and hidden throughout the game in places like alcoves and sewer grates. You’ll find patient files (There’s a Calendar Man? Really??), Chronicles of Arkham tidbits, interview tapes (some of them are pretty disturbing) and, my personal favorite, Riddler trophies. Collecting trophies and solving his riddles elicits some great responses from the Riddler. It was a great distraction. I would try solving his riddles just to hear his snide comments. Collecting Riddler’s hidden goodies unlocks different Challenge modes and stuff that I admittedly didn’t experiment with.

Batman: Arkham Asylum was an entertaining game to pick up and play for an hour or so whenever I had the time. It isn’t a long, involved game, though it does have a plethora of extra things to do if you’re willing. I, for one, enjoyed my brief time with Arkham Asylum and am totally open to experiencing the other game as well.

-Shena