Sunday, December 23, 2012

Week... Whatever

     So I haven't been keeping up with this whole blog thing for a number of reasons. First, it is difficult to chronicle a playthrough of any game over a number of entries without repeating praise or criticism. Second, I haven't really been playing as much as I would like.

Third, I'm considering sprinkling regular video game discussion in the future, and didn't really feel like writing another entry about Red Dead Redemption. Not that it isn't worth it, but I don't want to be written off as a simple fan boy who loves what he loves with no real insight into a game.

I'd like to get more topical with things in addition to keeping up with my playthroughs.

Part of me wants to abandon the replays and focus on the games I have not finished, but that wouldn't fulfill my desire to, for once in my life, have every game I own completed.

I've owned SNES, Game Boy, N64, Gamecube, PS2, XBox, and XBox 360. Across those consoles, I've played upwards of 250 games. In the early days, it was easy to finish a game because I didn't buy a bunch at once.

Once I got a job, I started buying games and it built up. I've never had a substantial backlog until the last couple of years and I hate it.

So what this boils down to is quite simple: I'm broadening the focus of this blog, and take a less linear approach to my backlog. If I get tired of playing a game, I'm going to move on. If I want to talk about a new release, something I'm looking forward to, something that bothers me in the gaming universe, I'm going to talk about it.

But who am I kidding, how many people are actually reading any of this?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weeks 9 and 10: Shooting Sh*t

     It would be wrong of me to try to cut corners in describing Red Dead Redemption. The world is wonderfully crafted, the story is engaging, the gameplay is straightforward, and like most of Rockstar games, you aren't tethered to one unbroken storyline.

Freedom is the name of their game, and Red Dead Redemption may be one of the best games at delivering on that promise.

At the most basic level, RDR is Grand Theft Auto without the crowded skylines and sprawling cities. I played Vice City and loved it. I played San Andreas and loved it. When I played GTA IV, I found it difficult to connect with the game.

I didn't care for Niko Bellic, despised the forced friend interactions, and found myself avoiding most of the missions to just drive around and create chaos on the city.

RDR, on the other hand, puts you in the shoes of John Marston, a man looking to right his wrongs for the sake of his family. A man who doesn't lie about his past, and knows he's damned for what he has done.

All he wants to do is close that chapter of his life and pick up his simple life on his family ranch with his wife and son.

I'll stop myself before I go into too much depth about the intricacies of the plot, though it is fairly straightforward. The gameplay is what really matters for me at this point.

Unlike the GTA series, you aren't given an array of weaponry and vehicles, nor a sizable population to terrorize or affect. You have a knife, a gun and a horse in a god-fearing, prejudiced world that is lawless at times just as it is strictly governed at others.

If you kill a man just to watch him die, the law will catch on to you and make you pay with blood. If you kill a man who has stolen your horse, or is beating up on one of the saloon ladies, you've got every right to take his life.

Then there's Thieves' Landing, where anything goes as long as your prepared to gun down everyone in town for one offense.

Some may lament the relatively barren landscape, but f*ck them. It's the early 1900s. Things are still spread out. It would remove the genuine approach to the game by putting in a bunch of bustling urban environments just to appease a few gamers.

I like the build to Blackwater, the one city with paved roads and a cosmopolitan feel.

Enough praise, let's get to updating what progress I've made thus far...

To be honest, I haven't made much of a dent in the game. Too busy enjoying things to speed through missions. I take my time, hunt a bit, do some gambling, but otherwise, I'm only just branching out from Armadillo.

Helping out West Dickens and Seth, while stealing the Gatling gun out of the mine.

Clearly I spent too much time gathering the heaps of praise, and lost track of what I've actually done... Oh well, I'm making my way through the game, and enjoying every second of it.

Part of me wants to take on some bears with nothing but a knife, but that's a ways away from where I'm at in the story.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Week 8: You Know What...

     I'm going to take a break from Deadly Premonition, making it two games in a row that I've left unfinished. In the case of Dishonored, I just wasn't up for more stealth action. In the case of Deadly Premonition, well... 

The game sucks. The charm does not excuse the frustrating gameplay or the slow progression of events.

With that in mind, I'm switching gears to a game that I will not only take a few weeks of playing, but will never bore or frustrate me to the point of "taking a break" from it.

Red Dead Redemption.

Expansive, enthralling, endless fun. RDR is a title that can go a long way in the argument for video games as art with the narrative. It just happens to be incredibly fun to play.

Given my time constraints, which limit me to only a few hours of gaming per night, RDR could, conceivably, take me to the end of the year. The main story takes a little over 26 hours, but it is not a game I like to rush through.

I'm going to take my time. Work up some achievements, spend some quality time in Thieves' Landing hanging around the docks, shoving people into the water.

I'll do my best to relay the pure joy I experience messing with townspeople...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Week 7: Joining the Cult

     As explained last week, I've abandoned my Dishonored playthrough for the time being. Instead, I decided to give Deadly Premonition a whirl.

If you are unfamiliar with the game, I suggest you either pick it up and play it or hit YouTube for some laughs.

Deadly Premonition is, for lack of a better term, a cult classic. Wikipedia, yes Wikipedia, classifies it as a "psychological horror open world cult video game" which is about as close to the truth as you can get without delving into the myriad of details that make this game so unique.

From any number of standpoints, this game is utterly terrible. The controls are clumsy, the graphics are awful considering it is a 2010 title, the story is disjointed, and the sound direction is borderline absurd.

But there's still something about it.

Maybe it is best compared to a trainwreck, something you can't help but experience knowing full-well it isn't going to be pretty. That may be an overstatement...

There is a certain charm to the numerous follies the game seems to embrace. The squirrels being scared away by York's car that make chimpanzee screeches as they flee, the music that rarely matches the mood (and is almost always the same three tracks), the ability to start discussions with what I have only played far enough to describe as an imaginary friend, about 80s movies while in the car alone.

The minute details of player activated headlights, windshield wipers and turn signals, sending clothes to be cleaned from your hotel room, smoking to pass time, SHAVING...

It's like Grand Theft Resident Evil: Life Simulator.

What few characters I've met so far are annoyingly charming. The sheriff is an a--hole with the fakest looking mustache in the history of video game mustaches, his deputy comes off as a halfhearted wet blanket, the station assistant is neurotic and creepily knowledgeable on squirrels, and York...

York is unique.

Aside from his conversations with Zach, the unseen individual presumably of York's own devising, York is sort of insane. He takes his job seriously, but in the creepiest, most lighthearted way possible, he is capable of ignoring almost all social comport in regards to an ongoing investigation to compliment a biscuit, and he sees things in his coffee.

And for the love of god, call him 'York'... Everyone else does....

The eerie charm makes it easier to overlook the overall crapfest the game embodies.

The controls are, at best, a poor bastardization of RE4, the story doesn't resonate in any way, and the living world is frustrating.

Cars drive a whopping 50 mph (a little faster if you hit X to turn on the siren), which makes the needlessly lengthy trips between objectives doubly frustrating. Cars can actually run out of gas. York actively requires sleep and sustenance.

On-screen cues to talk to the sheriff George and deputy Emily while they are in the car that offer only scraps of useful information, but only happen once per car ride because any attempt to talk to them again is met with orders to focus on driving, which as I have already mentioned takes FOREVER!!

The actual missions themselves are fairly routine. You go to a place, wade through 'mysterious shadows', find things to aid your investigation, which earn you bits and pieces of a frame-by-frame show of what transpired in the profiling segments that ultimately do nothing for the story in any way shape or form, nor do they provide any insight into the so-called Raincoat Killer.

The late last-gen, early current gen graphics can be distracting, from the stiff character animations and the creepy smiles to the bland environments and terrible cutscenes.

Combat can be frustrating because of the nature of the enemies. It seems cheap to hang back and take pot shots at the heads of the shadows, which sometimes means forcing yourself to pick up a steel pipe to wail on them.

In spite of the numerous complaints I can list about the game, I'm enjoying it so much more than Dishonored.

Sure, it lacks any sort of fine-tuning, if any tuning at all, but the decision to depart from an existing formula is commendable, if misguided.

I'm still very early in the game, still in the first chapter, but I don't expect much of anything to make any sense by the end of it all. Still, I expect to find new ways to enjoy the game for all of its flaws.

.... Or I'll just quit and start playing something that is much easier to make it through...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Week 6: Hurricane of Disappointment

     So there was a hurricane that kept me from playing Dishonored this week, save for one night. That one night of playing, however, may end up being the last one for a while.

I'm not quitting my backlog playthrough just six short weeks into it, I'm just quitting Dishonored for the time being.

Maybe it is because Dishonored is the third stealth-driven game I've played thus far, having trudged through Assassin's Creed, and sprinted through Batman: Arkham Asylum. Granted, they are very different approaches to stealth, with AssCree relying on blending and remaining inconspicuous as opposed to lurking in shadows, and Batman being more action oriented in the stealth approach.

I approached Dishonored wanting to go full stealth and not kill any guards, which is a pain in the ass approach, but the challenge is good.

I still can't get into the story, the pacing is miserable, and the journals, notes, etc. scattered throughout each area are wastes of time. 

I'm sure they are intended to add depth to the story or provide some insight into the world, but there is not real motivation to find and read through all of them.

The gameplay is still enjoyable, but I've mentioned before that there is more to a great game than interesting gameplay.

I know I'll pick it back up at some point, but I just don't want to do it right now.

With that in mind, 'that' being the fact that I am giving Dishonored a rest, I must choose my next game.

Deadly Premonition is next. A game that has become a cult classic, meaning it has crappy controls, outdated graphics, and absurd sound direction. I'm approaching this game looking for an experience.

Proof that gameplay isn't the sole driving factor in my interest in a game.

I expect to have something of interest to write about next week rather than spend so much time telling you I'm not playing a game and trying to show interest in telling the world the game I'm replacing it with.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Week 5: Dishonorable Discharge

     When I saw the Game Informer feature about Dishonored, I expected a unique experience with an engaging story and a near disgustingly detailed world, full of bleak and dreary back alleys, sprawling environments and abilities to aid in stealth as well as assassination.

The image of the tallboy intrigued me in terms of the challenge it may pose in the game, as well as the fear it may strike a player given the purported environment of the game.

I was excited for this game, so much so that I pre-ordered it, which for me is fairly rare. In my many years as a gamer, I have pre-ordered four games: Red Dead Redemption, Batman: Arkham City, Dishonored and BioShock Infinite.

Red Dead Redemption and Arkham City are masterpieces of gaming, between their visuals, their stories and their characters.

After four hours, or rather two playthroughs of four hours spanning four hours apiece, I would consider Dishonored a long ways away from a masterpiece in any sense of the word.

I won't say the game is devoid of fun, because it isn't. The swordplay is satisfying, the powers offer a variety of possibilities for the experimental types, and the game does let you approach it through pure stealth.

The swordplay is, however, very limited, the story and characters leave a lot to be desired, the level design is unimpressive, there is no pacing, and the attention to detail, or lack thereof, is distracting.

Maybe I'm overstating things a bit since I am just part of the way through the game, but given the short length of the game, I hold only the slightest hope that it will improve.

The story is uninteresting from the very beginning. As Corvo Atano, Lord Protector, you have a reputation that is never elaborated or given any weight.

Within five minutes of playing, your empress is killed, her daughter kidnapped, and you are thrown in prison for the crime.

If Corvo is so respected, why is he not given the benefit of the doubt, or the right to plead his case? Why go through the trouble of feigning an existing reputation if you're going to simply sh*t on it before we get a feel for it?

There is absolutely no basis for Corvo's reputation, which makes the apparent fall from grace that much thinner. We are informed of his importance by characters making vague reference to his reputation.

We never see Corvo triumphing in any way, or valiantly serving his empress before we see her cut down. And why should I care if she is dead, or her daughter is taken? Because it is implied that she trusts Corvo? Because Emily plays hide and seek for 12 seconds?

I could not care less about the characters. I didn't care when the empress was murdered, don't particularly care that the girl was taken, don't care about the self-important, and remarkably wooden, political figures who facilitated the Corvo's escape from prison, nor do I can't about their intentions to restore Emily to the thrown, using Corvo as a surgical strike to compliment their politicking.

Dishonored offers no reasons to care about Corvo, his plight, or the fate of the city of Dunwall.

The characters make it difficult to care about what they're asking of Corvo because there is no sense of urgency or emotion to it. They are very direct with their orders, and show little or no care themselves as to the fate of Emily or Dunwall.

     If they don't care, WHY THE F*CK SHOULD I?!??!?

Before I get carried away, I guess I should give my impression of the gameplay.

At first glance, the combat is very much like that of BioShock. A power in one hand and a weapon in the other. The key difference being the powers in Dishonored aren't so direct. You can't just electrocute an enemy and be done with it.

I do appreciate the subtlety of the powers, particular the possession ability. It is unique in the sense that you can inhabit the body of a rat, or a human if you upgrade the skill, and do as you wish with them. You can possess someone, leap out a window, then jump out of the body and watch them fall to the ground and die.

In terms of creativity, I have to give that approach a thumbs up.

The rats in the game offer an interesting wrinkle to things. You can dispose of bodies in a horde of rats, call on rats to take out a guard, attach a trap to a rat, possess a guard to walk into it...

So many possibilities.

But the creativity and intrigue from one aspect of a game does not make it a great game. A fun experience, but not a great game.

I'll save some of the other points for next week when I've had a chance to really get into the game. As of right now, I'm enjoying it, though I am disappointed in it. I expected  a lot of the game, and was encouraged by the early reviews.

Shame on me for getting my hopes up...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Week 4, Part 2: Batman Arkham Asylum

     Since I finished Assassin's Creed at the beginning of the week, I couldn't very well wait until the end of the week to introduce my next game and begin my playthrough the following week. That would be foolish...

You don't make your way through a backlog totaling over one month of playing time by taking a week off.

I had already made it past the intro/tutorial stuff a while ago, but put it on hold once I made the decision to start this self-indulgent blog chronicling my backlog.

So when I picked Arkham Asylum back up, I had already seen Joker escape into the asylum, and played through the first hour or so of the main story. Perhaps it stems from my feelings towards this game, or I suffered a memory lapse, but I started this game thinking it would take me through this past week and into next week.

The game was finished early Thursday evening, forcing me to cram two entries into one week.

I approached this game in a fashion similar to Assassin's Creed in terms of collecting things. Since I was more familiar with Arkham Asylum, and the execution is engaging, I gathered a decent amount of Riddler trophies without going out of my way to track down every last one.

When I finished, I had tracked down around 170 trophies, roughly half of the Arkham Chronicles and had a 77-percent completion rating.

Now that all the numbers and explanations are out of the way, I can move on to spouting my praise as if it means anything to anyone.

There is no way I can touch on every aspect of this game that I love, so I'll just hit the important parts. For starters, they set the stage perfectly by tagging the writer for Batman: The Animated Series, as well as the voice acting talents of Kevin Conroy, Arleen Sorkin, and Mark Hamill reprising their roles as Batman, Harley Quinn, and Joker respectively.

For anyone who grew up in the 90s, having what amounts to an interactive version of that show is a dream come true.

That may be an oversimplification, but with all of the attention paid to Nolan and Bale's Batman, and my general distaste for the execution, it is great to get back to what made me love Batman.

Arkham Asylum is, in a word, amazing.

The story is great, the characters matter, and the gameplay is phenomenal. Superheroes don't easily translate to video games (see Superman, Aquaman, Iron Man), which makes the triumph of Arkham Asylum so much more satisfying.

In contrast to the general glossing we have seen over the "World's Greatest Detective" moniker, Arkham Asylum offers a solid amount of detective work.

The player is responsible for tracking friends and foes throughout the Asylum, whether it be with tobacco from Commissioner Gordon's pipe, the alcohol on a guard's breath, Harley's prints. You get to see the brain that is often overlooked in the brawn of Batman.

Detective Mode is a great game mechanic, though the developers went on to lament player's playing through most of the game with it activated, as it left their meticulously detailed environments unappreciated.

The combat is one of my favorite systems in all of gaming. It is smooth and satisfying, yet challenging and varied.

One of my favorite things about this game is the numerous nods to classic Batman villains.

We see Basil Karlo (Clayface) taking the shape of Gordon, Cash and Warden Sharp, Ra'as Al Ghul's body in the morgue (which is missing upon your return), Penguin's umbrellas and hat, Mr. Freeze's holding cell, Scarface in a display case, Black Mask's mask, piles upon piles of files tagged to Hugo Strange, the tea set for Mad Hatter, the mention of Tommy Elliott aka Hush, Calendar Man's cell.

All the mentions of villains make up for the story focusing on Joker, with key roles played by Poison Ivy, Bane, Killer Croc and Scarecrow.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the absolute mindf*ck Scarecrow is responsible for.

The section where you walk a long hallway as a young Bruce Wayne when his parents were murdered is great. The stealth sections, having to avoid the gaze of Scarecrow, feature flashes where you ARE Scarecrow....

... Getting a glitchy screen... Then you're Joker transporting Batman into Arkham Asylum in the manner Batman escorted Joker into the asylum to start the game...being KILLED, and then a Retry/Quit screen coming up...

Never has a simple cough from Batman been so terrifying because it was a prelude to some craziness at the hands of Scarecrow.

I'm getting carried away.

There is too much to talk about with this game. If there is one gripe I have, it is that it isn't longer, but that is rectified with the sequel...

...Which is hinted at in one of the most impossibly hidden Easter eggs ever...

The final payoff leaves a bit to be desired, though Batman spraying explosive gel on his knuckles to deliver the knockout blow is beyond words.

I'll cut myself off before this gets more out of hand than it already has, and I become hyper-aware of everything I've missed pointing out.

Since I pre-ordered it, and picked it up the week after it was released, I will be playing Dishonored next. I don't know how long the game is since varying sources have the main story clocking in at less than 10 hours, while one of the level designers made it through a stealth playthrough in around 20 hours.

I'm excited for this game given the comparisons to Deus Ex and BioShock, two games I have enjoyed, though the former is on my to-do list...

So yeah, expect some Dishonored sh*t next week.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Week 4: Finally Killed Assassin's Creed

     It took longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished Assassin's Creed. I put other activities to the side and tackled the final three hours of the game in one sitting. I admit that I probably overlooked a great deal in this playthrough, and for good reason.

Interesting and well-executed game mechanics do not excuse a so-so, predictable story and repetitive tasks across a handful of cities broken into various stages themselves.

I love the living cities. The guards prowling the streets, the annoying beggars you can shove away, the merchants who get pissy when you leap through their set-ups.

I hate the formulaic approach to each assassination. Eavesdrop here, pickpocket those guys, do an informer's job for him, return to the Bureau, rinse and repeat.

The story played out in the Animus was predictable and did very little to engage me. As I've mentioned, I cared more about regaining all the rank and equipment the game teases you with in the first mission than carrying out the Brotherhood's orders.

[Here come some spoilers for all 17 of you that have not played this, though only one of you is likely reading this]

Can I pat myself on the back for calling the finale? Halfway through the game I could tell I was going to have to kill Al Mualim. When it came down to it, I didn't really care why and the reason given was pretty stupid.

The pieces of Eden were becoming more and more like MacGuffins, and the payoff didn't redeem them in any way. My waning interest in Altair's story, and my growing interest in Desmond's fate made it nearly impossible to care about them in the end.

I was let down by the way they ended things with Desmond, though I'm sure it feeds directly into Assassin's Creed 2. There was legitimate tension when Vidic put it out there that Desmond would be disposed of once they found the Templar's treasure.

The crazy writing on the floors and walls, the sudden ability to switch on the Assassin Vision as Desmond brought to mind some interesting directions for future installments...

...But to end it on that note is just stupid. Cliffhangers have no place in video games. Foreshadowing, sure. Not outright cliffhangers.

Now that I've finished the first, and arguably hardest, part of my backlog playthrough, I feel compelled to move on. I have abandoned my alphabetical approach for something less... rigorous. With my desire to game returning to respectable levels, I don't have to force myself to play anything.

For my next act, I have picked Batman: Arkham Asylum. A game I have played through just once, and have been meaning to replay ever since.

I'll save my personal feeling for this game until then.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Week 3: The End is Nigh!!!!

      Three weeks later, I'm actually coming to the end of Assassin's Creed. I'll save my final thoughts for the next entry, though it will likely be mixed with the first thoughts of the next game I play.

I've come to appreciate AC in a variety of ways. The story within the Animus may be the most hashed out, but it is the story unfolding with Desmond, Lucy, Warren and Abstergo in the real world that is the most compelling. In the thick of an assassination, I found myself wondering when my next out-of-Animus section would be.

Now I know Abstergo is in bed with the Templars, and they're using Desmond to find more Pieces of Eden to improve the world as they see fit.

Which, if I read Lucy's email correctly, involves mind control. Or forced complacency.

I also learned that Lucy is communicating with someone to get her, and presumably Desmond out of that place. I'm assuming it is a modern day Assassin's Order, though I may be wrong. The coded message was a nice touch.

After the first couple of executions, I all but did away with any attempt at perfect stealth with my assassinations. I grew impatient, and frustrated at times, with trying to find the right moment.

I was lucky when I killed William of Montferrat. He was sitting at his table after making an example out of two people, and I happened to reveal myself enough for him to notice, but not so much that he called for help. He actually climbed the ladder to me, and I was able to kill him without alerting anyone.

The same cannot be said for my assassinations of Majd Addin, Jubair al Hakim, and Sibrand.

With Addin, I made the mistake of not paying attention to my surroundings. Instead, I rushed the guards, which only pissed them all off, forcing me into a length fight with a dozen guards. It wasn't until after I had disposed of all of them that I noticed the band of scholars who walk a path up to the platform where Addin was preparing to execute four captives for various reasons

Al Hakim was a pain because of the five other targets the mission assigns along with him.

Damascus is already a dangerous place since apparently EVERYONE draws their sword when someone runs through the streets. I'm sure there was a stealthy way to go about it, but I went with brute force and killed each of the Illuminated and fled when guards reacted and engaged.

Sibrand was easy to approach, I just timed my leap poorly, and killed him in front of his guards rather than when he was firing arrows off of the deck of his ship.

My biggest problem got to be my need to complete the side missions, saving citizens, getting all possible information and view points. It helped, but as the game progresses, guards are on the lookout for suspicious behavior and seemed to go off at the slightest hint of my presence. Informer missions requiring the assassination of five Templars without alerting anyone got to be a nuisance.

If it wasn't guards going off when I climbed a ladder, it was the crazy or drunk people shoving me at inconvenient times. My efforts to remain anonymous led me to have some close calls with the time. Five minutes should be enough to take out five targets, but navigating the streets I hadn't familiarized myself with was difficult.

I blame myself for treating this playthrough like a Band-Aid, wanting to get it over with more than anything else.

My next session should bring my playthrough to a close which begs the question: What do I play next?

Contrary to my earlier intentions to approach my backlog alphabetically, I don't know that I can stomach a second entry in the Assassin's Creed series. I need a change of pace, though I don't know if I want to play something I have beaten before or start on a new title.

I may have to write multiple entries next week. Wrapping up AssCree, introducing the new title and settling in on my playthrough.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Week 2: Progress Is a Slow Process

     My Hunt for the Nine has been stifled by outside interests. I made the 'mistake' of dedicating a great deal of my time to reading, and the time I had allotted to my backlog was absorbed into personal growth.

I blame Patrick Rothfuss for his incessantly engaging storytelling. What an assh*le, right?

As for my progress, I made it through the rest of Acre, killing the crazy doctor-man and hitting all the memory glitches in the aftermath. The hospital he works in is a pain in the ass, for me at least. I have never made it out of there with perfect stealth.

I kill him while he is absorbed in his work, and am almost immediately discovered and pursued through the city.

Maybe I just suck at stealth...

The assassination of Talal is an interesting change to the formula, if you can call the two previous assassinations formulaic. Rather than stalking the target, he essentially leads you into a trap.

Instead of stealth killing him in the middle of a crowd, you have to chase him down and kill him. It added some tension to the process, with the potential for the target's escape sort of looming, but not really.

In restrospect, I think this could have been done differently. Rather than Talal waiting while his goons try to kill you, he should flee and it should fall to the player to hunt him down within the city with little more than instincts.

I understand that might be a difficult game mechanic, but that could be pretty cool if handled properly.

Even with my full attention, I cannot be brought to care about the plot being carried out with my assassinations. For me, the quest to reclaim rank supersedes the conspiracy developing across the land.

Since I've managed to avoid spoilers to this point, any speculation I offer in regards to the plot is genuine.

I get the feeling I will end up killing Al Mualim. He seems less interested in restoring Altair's rank and more interested in progressing his own agenda, or the agenda he sees fit for the Assassin's Order.

The interactions with Lucy and the opportunities to find information on her, Warren and, I assume, ultimately Abstergo, make the Desmond segments interesting. It is still jarring to go from leaping across rooftops and running through crowded streets to sauntering around a lab with no real options in terms of destination.

You can access their computers and you can go to your room. Hooray for freedom.

Again, I'm still very early in the game and I imagine it is all leading somewhere. I'm more curious about Abstergo's goal than the sub-plot in the Animus world.

I am fairly close to where I left off with my deepest playthrough in terms of story progress. I've been given the three assassination targets. Since I'm familiar with the guy throwing the party, I figure I'll take him out first, even if it is another chase down and kill target.

After him, William of Montferrat. He was the last target I assassinated in my previous playthrough and marks the furthest I've made it through the game.

I intend to reach that point midway through next week so I have something more than a review of previous feats to share.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Week 1: Assassin's Creed

     Part of me wants to provide a brief review of why it has taken my five years to play through this game. In the interest of brevity, it boils down to lost progress and a slew of other games that I found much easier to get into. I wasn't super excited for AssCree when it came out, and couldn't find it in me to give it a chance.

It didn't help that those other games forced me to start AC from the beginning four or five times, having lost sight of what the f*ck was going on. Having to play through the tutorial mission, and work my way back from demotion got old around the first time I had to do it, so imagine my attitude towards the second, third, fourth and fifth tries...

I'd like to say I made a lot of progress with AssCree (Yes, I fully intend to call it that throughout my playthrough), but I didn't. I only made it through one of the main assassinations, Tamir, and halfway through the Acre. 

Maybe I'm wasting my time, but my approach to the game is fairly simple, if a bit compulsvie. The memory sync bar is my primary goal, which means hitting all the view points, saving the citizens in need and completing the pre-assassination missions (pickpocketing, eavesdropping, etc.).

It requires time, but I prefer seeing the synchronization bar full.

With my renewed desire to complete this game, I have more of an appreciation for it. Assassin's Creed is a beautiful game, intelligently designed, with great gameplay. The whole view point thing feels an awful lot like the developers forcing players to take a look around, which I respect.

I admit there have been times when I have ignored my surroundings just to get through a game, and that is hardly fair to those who spent so much time putting minute details into everything.

The cities feel alive, making it easy to ignore the duplicated models and voices of the cityfolk.

The obvious appeal to the game is darting through the streets, climbing any and all structures, leaping across rooftops and descending on an unsuspecting foe. The process of reclaiming rank, and thus your equipment, is tedious, but doesn't last long.

Once you get your arm blade early on, it is easy to take a break from the mission and prowl the rooftops looking for guards to pounce on and jab your blade into....

... And then walking away like a badass.

Also, it may be because I have not made it that far in the game yet, but the travel between cities feels unnecessary. You gain a sort of fast travel ability eventually from what I recall, making the overworld a waste of space.

For completionists, there are viewpoints and flags, and such, but it doesn't add to the game from what I've seen. My two cents, I guess.

I hope to make more progress in the next week, though I make no promises to myself or anyone who may be reading this with some level of interest.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Man and His Backlog: A Hate Story

     I bought my XBox 360 at GameStop in the Spring of 2007 after my PS2, for whatever reason, stopped playing newer games. Since the 360 was refurbished, it had its quirks, but I was fine with it as long as it worked. In the five years since then, I bought, beat, and traded a great number of games, having plenty of free time neglecting a solid chunk of my college workload.

     From day one, the console made an intense whirring sound, which I chalked up to it being a bulky console requiring a bit of a wind-up before running smoothly. Where the average console would purr like a kitten, my XBox purred like a tiger, drowning out sound from the game.

Over time, there was overheating, discs scratched and ruined, and that damn sound. How can I immerse myself in an atmosphere like BioShock if I can't hear anything over the cooling fan?

     Still, I made due, reaching a point where I would limit the continuous play to an hour or two tops. In spite of my best efforts to provide ample space around the console, it overheated, and soon developed a knack for misreading, or failing to read discs.

     Three months ago, I had enough of having to curb my desire to play through my library because of the flaws of the original XBox 360. I took the unit, controller and hard drive to GameStop, fully prepared to trade it in, take what I could get and put it towards a new slim model.

In all the excitement of purchasing a fresh-out-of-the-box console, the first brand new console I had bought since Gamecube was released, I skipped a very important step in continuing my gaming unhindered.

My hard drive, gamertag and every achievement, progress and completed game was lost to me in the trade.

     I'm sure I could have recovered my gamertag to bring back all of the achievements I had amassed. A gamerscore of roughly 16,000 may not be overly impressive, but I was proud of it. I'm not an achievement hunter, but what I do, I like that I get rewarded for it.

     What I had now was a need to run through my library once again, to reclaim the progress I had put so much time and effort into in the last six years. Unfortunately, between old games and new games, my library had ballooned to roughly 40 games, requiring upwards of one month of actual playing time.

Between work, sleep and whatever other responsibilities or engagements arise at any given time, it is more than likely that it is going to take a substantial amount of time to work my way through my backlog.

Then there are the new releases I fully intend to purchase, which only add to the backlog and put that much more time between me and my goal of beating every game in my possession.

     However daunting the task may be, I have every intention of beating, not 100-percenting, every game in my library. To keep it simple, I have decided to take an alphabetical approach to my gaming, starting with Assassin's Creed, a game I have tried to play through on several occasions before getting distracted by other games.

     If I have it my way, I will provide weekly updates of my progress, noting difficulties I have with the endeavor, providing my personal thoughts on the game and hoping against hope that I do not tear my hair out in the coming months as I journey through my backlog.

I hope you'll join me.