Assassin’s Creed Origins: Finished and Mini-Review

A picture of Bayek with a white hood, shield, and bow standing in front of a golden wall of Egyptian Hieroglyphs.
Image Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2017/10/28/ten-things-i-wish-i-knew-when-i-started-assassins-creed-origins/#65554fcb6eb8

While these mini-reviews for finished video games (recent) that I’ve finished never do all that well (in terms of people reading them), I still enjoy writing them because my goal for most of my games is to finish them (i.e., to see the credits roll), then reviewing/explaining the good and bad things about them is a fun way to recap my experience with the game and to reflect on why I felt the game was fun, effective, etc. (or why not). This game review is for Assassin’s Creed Origins which tells the “origin” story of the Assassin’s Guild. I actually like the formation of “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” so that’s what I’ll use for this review.

The Good

The characters are really well done in this story and when I say characters, I really mean the main characters, Bayak and his wife Aya, and the other main protagonists in the story. They are from Egypt and their coloring indicates they are of African Descent. As they work towards self-determination (although it is through violence, using assassinations to accomplish their goals), I would still argue that this could be seen (in a less restrictive canon) as an Afrofuturistic text. This, however, is not central to the storyline; at heart, this is a revenge tale, pure and simple along with the ramifications of what happens to love and life when a “bad thing” happens. I also like the fact that the narrative is fairly strong and kept me interested throughout the story. The graphics were also well done along with the gameplay systems. I only ran into sporadic instances of glitches and I don’t think it ever froze on me, although it did push my Playstation Pro fairly hard and made the system rev up as if it were an airplane engine on idle.

The Bad

So, much of the bad will feature into “The Ugly” section as well, so I won’t go too deeply into it here, but length is a definite problem. Simply put, it was too long and took too long to complete. Also, the fact that some story elements are gated off by level, meaning that one needs to “grind” (there’s that word again) and do side quests to build up his or her level in order to tackle ever increasingly difficult story elements. Thanks to “training” open world games (like the InFamous series), I’ve learned that it is a good idea to do a good mix of side quests before going back to the main/story quests, but here it is required. Unless you are within at least a two to three levels of your opponent, the difficulty of the encounter will be close to impossible, especially early in the game. The side missions are of varying quality, but you’ll need to complete them in order to advance, no matter how you feel about them. You just have to hope that you don’t get too many average ones (esp. in a row).

The Ugly

This game is subject to Ubification and/or “Ubisoft Bloat.” Like most recent entries of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, there’s simply too much in terms of “map clutter.” The game litters the map with a ridiculous amount of content for you to engage with, and to be honest, most of it is simply “clutter.” Ubisoft wants you to engage with it as a “games as service.” They don’t want you selling the game back to used game/used book stores, they do want you buying their DLC and interacting with their in-game store, and they really want you putting time into the game world for this reason. Now, to be fair, you can do everything you need to without spending additional money (well, except for the additional story missions unless you get the Season Pass or whichever “Super-Deluxe” edition that includes the season pass. There’s simply too much clutter and things to do. I will probably work on it periodically (just to earn the “Platinum” trophy since the requirements aren’t too onerous this time), but this game wants to be the only game you play for 6-8 months, whether or not the content is actually compelling enough to support it.

Overall: B (85)

I liked this a great deal–they just need to do something that Ubisoft never will: they need to shorten the game and tighten its focus. While I don’t mind that they’ve turned it more into an action rpg rather than a strict stealth game (I actually like action rpg as a genre more than I like the stealth game genre), there’s just too much “padding” and “clutter” to make the game artificially long and artificially extend the game’s shelf life so that one can’t trade it in quickly and there are more opportunities to sell (either overtly or implied) more content to the game player. This game could have received an A had it treated game players as actual players and not consumers and tuned the experience accordingly.

Sidney

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  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

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E3 and Me–Color Me Intrigued

Toddler with a quizzical face with the caption "I'm intrigued: Do tell me more!"
Image Source: https://memegenerator.net/instance/75937215/thinkingbaby-im-intrigued-do-tell-me-more

So, now that E3 is over and the “dust” has settled, this post will be the last one to feature me talking explicitly about the conference. I may reference games/press conferences at a late date, but for the most part, this will be the last one devoted to the conference itself. Today, I wanted to briefly talk about the “maybes” of the confernce–games that I’m intrigued about and would like to learn more information about in order to make a more informed decision as to whether or not I will (at some point) get them. If nothing else, they have my attention–which, to be honest, is the whole point of E3.

Outriders

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoSin_yLyYI

This is probably the game I’m most intrigued about at the moment. Besides the fact that it is using a word that I’d like to use for my own project (but may not get to do so due to American Trademark laws), it has a very visual style and is something that looks unique and fun to play (based on the trailer). It is a very visual world, and characters that may have both powers along with gun play. Also, based on the number of characters in the trailer, it might also have a co-operative element where different players might be able to play together. This looks very interesting to me.

Deathloop

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgiMSSl2rZ0

So, this one is much more of a wildcard. I’m not so sure about this one. This one only showed a trailer, so I’m not sure what to make of this one. I think this one could be good as it looks like something that could have some interesting dynamics and it is made by a designer that is very invested in narratives so we’ll see. The problem is that cinematic trailers, without gameplay, doesn’t illustrate what gamers will be doing in the minute-to-minute action. As such, it is very hard to be more than intrigued until I find out more about the game.

Marvel’s Avengers

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZh4uQYDlsA

So this one is the one that I was most excited for when E3 started, but while the trailer is excellent (in terms of visuals), I’m much less interested in it than all the others on this list now that I’ve seen it. For one, even though it is less than a year away (11 months approx.), it has very little in the way of gameplay, which is a red flag to me. The short snippets of gameplay inside the trailer seems to be what I’m looking forward to in a game, but I’ll only know once I see more. Also, there are rumblings (rumors) that this game will be structured much like Destiny, Destiny 2, and Anthem. While (unlike some gamers), I’m not opposed to an online, co-op, Avengers game, I wish that it was structured differently.

Cyberpunk 2077

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2bFDPWOq5A

Lastly, this game is one that quite a bit of my enthusiasm has fallen for thanks to how hard CD Projekt Red, the development studio loves Microsoft and continues to use this game as a premiere game on their stage (even though it is for Playstation 4 and the PC as well). Even without that disadvantage out of the way, I’m not sure that the first person perspective is the best for this game. I really liked the 3rd person perspective of The Witcher games, but first person doesn’t really sell me on game. Also, the female protagonist version of the main character was shown the first time the company demoed this game, but it was the male version this time and the male version was the “generic guy” that we see in many sci-fi universes. Not very interesting.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

E3 And Me–2019 Edition

Final Fantasy VII Remake characters looking out at the audience--Cloud and Tifa.
Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/10/18660638/square-enix-e3-games-trailers-announcements-final-fantasy-7-avengers-e3-2019

So, this is my annual look at E3 and the new games that are coming out over the next year. I’ll try to be more consistent in putting up the games that I’m interested in than I was last year (2018), but I won’t take over the blog with them like I did in 2017. I’ll probably just do one or two (at the max) per week.

However, based on what I’ve seen so far, this year seems to be more of a “winding down year.” Both Playstation and Microsoft have “talked about” (not formally announced, but discussed in fairly candid details) of the new systems that they are working and that are rumored (and expected) to come sometime in 2020. I think I heard one of the correspondents on YouTube refer to E3 this year as “lackluster.” However, there were some games that excited me, so I’ll talk about them briefly here.

Watchdogs Legion

Source: YouTube (Watch Dogs: Legion)

This game is a continuation of the Watch Dogs franchise. I’ve bought and played the two previous entries in this series. The 2nd game seemed a little cramped and I never finished it, although I still intend to go back at some point and seriously try to finish it. However, Watch Dogs Legion intrigued me because it shows not only the detailed open world that Ubisoft is known for, but also showed that the game allows you to recruit (supposedly) anyone from the game world to become part of the resistance. The premise looks cool as does the setting (the near future city of London), so I’m most definitely intrigued.

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

Source: YouTube (Star wars: Jedi Fallen Order)

Okay, so this one is by EA and my disdain for some of their practices is well known. However, this one actually looks like it might be fun and interesting. I think that it really helps that it is a single player game and is focused on a strong narrative. Depending on how this development goes for the game, I’m may not pick it up immediately, but I actually may give it a look (which for a game published by EA) is an accomplishment.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Source: YouTube Final Fantasy 7 Remake

This is one that I’m personally looking forward to simply because, while I was around and knew about the original FFVII, I never played it–in its proper game form. I actually played a demo of it from a demo disc (remember those old things?). However, both my uncle and I had noticed the (unfortunate) tendency of JRPGs of the time period to follow the same “young boy who saves the Earth” motif. As such, I decided to pass on the series until FFXIII (I did also play the demo for FFX, and I really liked it and played it multiple times, but ultimately decided to pass on it). However, having put time into the Final Fantasy series, I’d like to see what this game has to offer. Yes, I know it doesn’t accurately replicate the original game, but I just want to get a sense of the story and characters (and for me, getting that in a new, shiny wrapper, just seals the deal).

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel (Sci-Fi)
    (Current Longer Work-in-Progress) 
    Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Gaming Diary–Week 20

Weekend Gaming: Classic video game characters, Ms Pac-man, Goomba, ship from Space Invaders, ghost from the Pac-Man games, and a PlayStation-like controller
Image Source: https://mashable.com/category/weekend-gaming/

Today is a simple one: just what I managed to play over last weekend. I get a email every week from Playstation Network and in each email they give me the number of trophies (in-game achievements) that I’ve earned and how mcuh time (in hours) I’ve put into online gaming on the PSN Network. I bring this up because every since I joined PSN way back in 2006 with the Playstation 3 (even though I didn’t really play online until 2007 for the most part), I’ve racked up an impressive (or ridiculous, depending on your outlook for online gaming) over 16,000 hours of online play. That equates to roughly 667 days (or roughly 1.8 years) of online play. Now, understand that this is over 13 years of being connected online and also playing games like Mass Effect Andromeda or Assassin’s Creed Origins for over 100 hours while being connected to EA’s servers or Ubisoft’s servers even though I’m playing the game in single player mode. My total actual online play (where I play with/against other humans) is probably about half that number. And that’s just two “generations” of game systems–imagine what my gaming life is like through all systems.

Still, I bring it up because it puts into perspective how much time I’m putting into games. Imagine if I’d put that much time into my writing or my schoolwork; I’d have at least one novel finished, possibly more. So, seeing that number has been an inspiration to me–not to do less gaming, but rather to do more strategic gaming and to put as much time and effort into the things that I really want to make myself just as successful in real life as I am in my “gaming” life.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

I put more time into this game than I had intended, but I was able to finish off a major storyline in the game and then a related secondary storyline. One of the reasons that I put so much time into it was that the enemies in the game managed to kill me due to an unforeseen occurrence in the scenerio (the rebels that were supposed to aid me by causing a distraction died way too quickly and I was caught out alone against an entire garrison of enemies). Well, I couldn’t let that stand and, when the game reloaded, went through the process of (laboriously) taking down the (many) enemies of the base one-by-one. Took about 2.5 hours all told, but as the cliche goes, revenge is a dish best served cold. I cleared the base of all targets by any means necessary. Now that 2.5 hours was in addition to the time I’d already spent completing the Main Quest of taking down the “Crocodile” (a major enemy in the game), but it was still worth it and I’m currently in between missions for the next major story arc of the game.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 20th Anniversary Edition

This is a game I got for Christmas. While I wasn’t really entranced with the “Reboot” of Lara Croft’s adventures with the less than stellar (& overly praised Tomb Raider game from a few years ago), I’ve found this one to be a much more refined and stellar game. Had this one been the “reboot,” I might have been less dismissive of the need for a reboot because so far, this one is far more like the original Tomb Raider games that the crappy reboot even though this share’s that games basic design philosophy and graphical skin. There’s just something about this game that compels me to move forward, where the Tomb Raider reboot game from 2013 did everything to push me away and made me want to gag every time I played it.

This session consisted of me completing all of the challenges in the first two areas of the game (except for one that I don’t have the right arrow skill for and will have to return to when I do). I then did my first “Challenge Tomb” (which is an optional tomb that I can explore and figure out how to complete for extra rewards and experience). I’m early in the game–the game internal tracking says I’ve completed 12% so far), but if the rest of the game is like this first bit, I think I might like it quite a bit more than the Tomb Raider reboot that I absolutely destested and still don’t feel is a worthy game in the TR universe. I’ll keep playing and let you all know if I still feel this way as I go through the rest of the game.

Well, that’s it for now. I did play a few other games, but I didn’t put near the amount of time in to any of them as I did these two, so I hope you enjoyed this post! 🙂

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Using Games to Finish Stories

Four soldiers in a desert landscape with a mountain backdrop.
Image Source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/24/ghost-recon-wildlands-hands-on-with-the-future-of-military-shooters

So, this is one of those video game posts that do from time to time. Some times I do them while playing the game, some times I do them to point out the glitches, some times I do them to point out broader practices in the video game industry, and some times I do them just because they are fun or rewarding or have some sort of meaningful accomplishment for me.

For me, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands falls into this latter category.

A Year of Wildlands

The game is one that I’ve been playing for about a year–I got it for Christmas 2017. I’ve played it pretty much every weekend for a year. I wanted it for a while and I asked for it. It was a good story, but I didn’t think that I would finish it, but it turns out that after assidously playing it for a year, I finished it in late Oct./early November. I’ll do a Mini-Review for it soon, but today I just wanted to talk about the power of making an accomplishment.

Today, I finally “got back on the horse” and wrote part 1 (of 3) of a Revision to an older project entitled, “Rocket-Man.” I’ve submitted that story several times, but it has never been sold. I went back and reworked the character and the situation.

The Key to Writing (for me) is the Key to Gaming

So, today I just tried to do what I did when I played Wildlands. I found a day to try to write. Today I have class, but I have time after the class where I can simply sit down and draft. That’s what I’m doing. I have 3 projects currently on the hopper (4 if you count the graphic novel), but my goal is to completely finish one project by writing them in 3 stages (beginning, middle, and end) and then moving on to the next one. However, I’m going to do this on a weekly basis. I know I should probably be using this time to read (& I hope using it in this way doesn’t come back to bite me in March), but I really feel useless if I don’t write. A writer writes and by putting 2-3 hours on a project (with music) and without distractions (such as video game systems, tv, and the like), I’m able to be as productive on my stories as I am when I game. Hopefully, in a year’s time, my diligence will pay off (as it did with Wildlands and I’ll be able to share successes with you in this blog.

One More Thing . . .

I was going to close the blog out, but happened to click on an email that I receive monthly from Playstation that tracks my gaming time and number of gaming “trophies” (accomplishments in games) for the month and for December, I logged 43 hours of online gameplay and earned 19 trophies. Now this is well above my average of 4-5 hours on a Saturday afternoon/evening for about 20 hours a month, but just think of all the projects that I could write if I devoted the time that I do for gaming, or more importantly, what I could accomplish in my school related endeavors with the same amount of time. I used to do that for reading–now I just need to get there for school work and writing.

The only problem I see is that somewhere in there, I’ve got to find time for sleeping. 😉

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

One Day a Week Gamer

PlayStation-4-Games
Playstation 4 Controller and several Playstation 4 games (I’ve owned and played all of these!).  Image Source: Pixelkin.org (click for more information)

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 12
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)

Goal = 3 Pages a week.  Working on Rough Drafting a Graphic Novel Page on one day and then writing the page on an alternate day.
Actual = Finished page 12 on Ship of Shadows and then finished a “Rough Draft” page where I wrote out a rough draft for page 13.  I actually think that I did page 12 already and sent it to the artist who agreed to work on this project with me, but I think that somehow it got lost/deleted from the Simplenote app somehow.  Anyway, I did it over again and I’m working on new material.  Think I might outline/rough draft a screenplay version as I go along, but haven’t yet decided if that is a good idea or not.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: I started this a while ago as a book that I was reading just before bedtime, but I didn’t really make much headway.  I restarted it and I’ve just finished the introductory character generation section and I’m now moving on to the skills section and will be soon moving into the “lore” section.  This is a revamp (rules 2.0) of an old school British RPG from the 1980s.  Updated for modern times, this fairly short book still gives a great set of rules, game system, and lore that I hope will serve as inspiration for new sci-fi works in my own writing life.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Six Days of Gaming Down into One

I used to game on a regular basis.  All the time that I worked at the Library and as a teacher, I have taken an hour or two after work (usually after dinner or just before bed) and played a video game or two.  I didn’t often game for that long, but I didn’t need to as I was only using the gaming to wind down from the day.  For instance, as much as people denigrate Knack for the Playstation 4, I played it over and over during the first year of the PS4‘s lifetime because it was one of the few games out at the time, but I only played it for an hour or two after school.  However, even with just that short amount of time, I was able to play it through six (!) times total and to get the Platinum Trophy for it.  My point is that even with a short amount of gaming time in one day, over time (six days) it actually is an impressive amount of time in order to make progress in games. Now that I’m in school, however, I don’t actually get to game except on the weekend and it really is affecting how quickly I can get through my backlog.

Longer and Longer Games

I think part of my issue is that not only is my gaming time seriously curtailed, but also that games are getting longer.  Video game publishers do not like the “used game” market, so longer, more complex open world games, while giving value to players who want these longer games, also have the consequence of taking players longer to finish and keeps the games out of the “market,” so they have a vested interest in creating longer and longer games (i.e., game extension).  Now don’t get me wrong, I love single player games, I like cooperative games, and I tolerate (for the most part) multiplayer games, but long games just to claim that your game is long, doesn’t necessarily make it a good game.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

I’ve been playing this game since late February/early March and while it is a good game, it has outstayed its welcome.  My goal with games is to see the credits roll, but even after all this time, I still have several territories left to “liberate” that have a 5 star difficulty (the hardest difficulty in the game).  I’ve not looked at how many hours I’ve put into the game, but if Sony does a year-end summary as they did last year, I fully expect that it will be the longest game with a 100+ hours invested (so far).

You might ask, then, why are you still playing?  Well, last year I put over 120 hours into Mass Effect Andromeda, but I didn’t do anything with it.  This year, I want to write scholarship on every game that I play as I’ve pretty much decided that I’m specializing in Video Game Rhetoric and New Media as one of my two specialty areas.  It would be an absolute tragedy to have spent all of this time playing the game, but without being able to use it for school too–remember, work smarter, not harder.   Ah, well, I guess I’ll just have to power through until the end.

So, maybe I’ll be able to give you a Mini-Review of the game in a month or two (or three or four or five or . . .)

Well, that’s all I have time for today.  Have a great day!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

Game Mode On: Artificial Game Extension

ghostrecon_tier1_gamespot
Tom Clancy Ghost Recon Wildlands Tier 1 Mode. Image Source: Gamespot

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 121 words (5000 words by July 1).  Currently at approximately, 4800 words
Actual = 500 words Monday & Wednesday morning/.  So, Monday night I managed to hit my Scrivener goal of 127 words, but didn’t make my 250 word goal.  I was too tired to work on this Tuesday night, but did work on it 4th of July (morning) and got about 

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
    Finished this last night.  I’ll write up my impressions of this title and post it for a blog entry next week.  Look out for it.
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua FractalA Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.  Finished a Book Review for it on Friday for class.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Games Played on June 30th

Hello, and welcome to my inaugural weekly post on the games that I’m playing on the weekend (really Saturdays as I don’t really have time in graduate school to devote the entire weekend to gaming).  I’m going to try to position this as a “bonus” post that goes up on a Saturdays in order to fill out my goal of posting six (6) days a week.  This post will 1) highlight some of the games I’m (currently) working my way through (i.e., playing), 2) offer criticisms and trends that I see based on the actual gameplay and 3) highlight avenues of scholarship that I’m currently pursuing as a rhetoric scholar in video games.  Yes, I know the last one if fairly “nerdy,” but it may spark other rhetoricians to cover games that I’m not going to cover (for instance, while I might get a Switch and cover Nintendo games at some point, I don’t intend to ever own a Microsoft console and will not be covering/featuring Microsoft games (not until they completely overhaul their corporate culture, at any rate, something that I don’t see happening in the near or far future, but I digress).  Most of the games I will be focusing on will be Sony exclusive games or 3rd party games that are on the PlayStation format.

So let’s get started, shall we?

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

So, this one is vexing to me.  I like this game, but I feel that it has gone on waaaaayyyy too long.  It is an open world game and it has this conceit that you have to take down Sicarios in the open world to get to the main villain.  However, what it does to extend gameplay is that it has a rating of up to 5 levels for each region and each region is rated 1 to 5.  I’ve worked by way through the game and I’m currently in the last of the ⅘ difficulty regions, and will be moving on to the 5/5 regions soon.  The problem is that not only does the difficulty spike, but the game adds in an external Tier system that forces the game’s difficulty even higher if you want to move up to the highest “level” so not only do the regions become harder, but so too does the game itself.  This slows down progress immensely and makes it difficult to progress through the game.  I’ve been playing this one since February and it has delayed me from getting back to Horizon Zero Dawn, The Witcher 3, and into another Ubisoft game, Watch Dogs 2.  I don’t mind a “meaty” game, but this trend towards extending gameplay just to keep players from playing other games is annoying a best.

Until Dawn

So, let’s establish something right from the outset: I don’t really like horror.  I like tension, I like action, I like drama, but I don’t really like horror.  Yes, I will sometimes dabble in that genre, but usually it has to be fairly mild, the original TV version of Stephen King’s It, and of James Herbert’s novels, some of Dan Simmons novels (specifically the “horror” ones) among others are somethings that I enjoy.  Right now, I’m playing Until Dawn by Supermassive Games for the Playstation 4 (PS4 Exclusive), and it is seriously creeping me out.  It uses ALL of the horror movie “tropes” to try to elicit “jump scares” from the player (and with me it is succeeding big time!).  Stingers, dark environments, limited viewpoints, etc., they’re all there.  If horror is your thing, then you have to try this game.

Basically, the story revolves around these teens who reunite after a tragedy occurred one year ago.  Like an 80’s horror movie, you’re tasked with controlling one or two of the teens and trying to make story decisions that will keep them alive.  Well, I’m not doing so great.  The character that I have just got surprised by a wolf/large dog after having to have his fingers amputated to get out a trap.  I’ve lost at least two teens so far (and if the wolf is any indication, its about to be three!).  The graphics are very well done–while there are times when “uncanny valley” does affect the character models, but only slightly and not enough to take me out of the game (just enough to notice it).

I’d really like to put this game in conversation with Scream.  While older, the Scream series has many of the same tropes, but Scream is self-aware in a way that Until Dawn isn’t, even though UD is a newer game.  I’d really like to examine both how those tropes play out in the two works and why the game’s developer, Supermassive chose to minimize/ignore some of the newer, self-awareness of the conventions of the horror genre.  Right now, horror as a genre, is making a resurgence, and I might even (if I have the courage) to add in more and newer examples in the horror genre (ItGet Out, and even A Quiet Place–as much as I’ve railed against it) to examine the rhetorical nature of UD.

Costume Quest 2

This a smaller title and it is a one that is based on monsters taking over halloween.  It features simplified combat and a fun art style.  The story is also pretty good as well.  It doesn’t look like it will be a very long game, but it does look like it will be a quality game. I’m trying to get through some of the “free” games that I’ve acquired through Playstation Plus.  I’ve got about 30 smaller games that I’ve downloaded over the past three years and I’ve not really played them, so this is my attempt to try to eliminate my backlog of games.  I’m about halfway through (as best I can tell) and I’m having fun with it even though it is starting to get challenging.  Looking forward to seeing how it ends.

Well, that’s all for this week–have a good weekend!

Sidney




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E3 2018 Conferences Review

E3

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3365 (+324)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Changed the way I write.  I moved back to Scrivener in order to utilize the word count tracking feature in the program.  I tried to find a web version (& I did), but it seemed silly to try to wrangle three different websites when I have an all-in-one solution in Scrivener.  Once I did, I was able to to get writing done.  I also reconfigured my workspace so let’s see if that helps.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 700s in terms of page count–more than half way finished.)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’slibrary and I’m reading it now.   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.

    Still working my way through–I’m trying to clear out a province a week, but because I’m catching up from E3 so I only got to clear about ½ of the province I’m currently working on.  I was planning on finishing that province today, but I have far too much to do today, so I’m not going to get to play it next week.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”I got further along, but now I have a decision to make: do I let the “creepy” best friend die, or do I let the character’s potential girlfriend die.  I decided to stop right there.

Bethesda

Fairly disappointed in Bethesda’s conference as the games that I really want to play are Starfield and the next Elder Scrolls game, Elder Scrolls VI.  Both were teased with basically an environment and a logo, but did not show anything even remotely like a cinematic or gameplay.  They are also at least another year, probably two years away.  Their main game this year was Fallout 76, an online game in the Fallout universe.  That means that there have been (or will be when F76 comes out) two games in the Fallout universe this generation and none in the Elder Scrolls universe.  While I don’t begrudge other players their Fallout high, I’m not really a Fallout player.  I’m intrigued by Starfield as it is a new IP in what seems to be a Sci-Fi (spacefaring) setting, but as it is an unknown quantity, it is hard to get too excited for it.

C

6/19/18 Edit: I forgot that Bethesda also released a trailer and gameplay for the game Rage 2.  Having played the first Rage, I found it fairly interesting so I’m looking forward to this game, so I’m raising the score from its original C- to C.

Square Enix

So, the new Tomb Raider game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks pretty good as did the trailer for a new IP called The Quiet Man.  I’m also interested in the new Dragon Quest game as I’ve not yet played a game in that series.  Still, it was a short conference (half and hour) and its main claim to fame, Kingdom Hearts III, already had a trailer to drop before E3 started, so it was a bit of a let down.

C

Ubisoft

I though Ubisoft had a particularly good showing.  Their conference was fun and had a lot of energy and they had a mix of games that I’m interested in playing among the ones that I’m not all that interested in.  The Division 2, The Crew 2, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are all games that I’m looking forward to playing, although I’m one Assassin’s Creed game behind and I need to catch up.

B+

Sony

So, Sony showed the best games and gave the most detailed look at their upcoming portfolio for their various studios/projects, but they only went into detail about four games: The Last of Us, Part 2, Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushumia, and Spider-Man.  Each of these projects got an extended look and they all look fantastic.  The problem is that Sony only showed these four major games (in addition to several lesser trailers with Control being the highlight of these trailers).  None of these games are listed as coming later than 2019 (although a couple had no date whatsoever, but I have a feeling they will also be 2019 games).

I’m guessing (and ONLY guessing) that Sony’s strange conference is due to the fact they will probably be “reloading” in 2020 with “next generation” games (perhaps even hardware–aka the “PS5”–as the system will be six years old in 2019 and seven years old in 2020).  My best guess is that 2019 will be the last major “swan song” for major releases for the PS4.  Bold prediction, perhaps, but that is the only thing that makes sense given both the age of the console and the paucity of gaming announcements at Sony’s conference.

B- (A- for the in-depth look at the games, but C for the overall showcase in general).

Winner

Ubisoft–while I didn’t like all the games Ubisoft debuted, they had the most eclectic mix, the strongest conference, and provided the most fun out of all the E3 Press Conferences that I watched.  Hopefully, Sony will get there act together next year (hopefully, with next generation games/hardware)

Sidney




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The Crew 2: Beta Impressions

crew2_steamcommunity_dotcom
The Crew 2 Cover Art (Racer with car, boat, and motorcycles with U.S. landscapes in the background).  Image Source: Steamcommunity.com

Word Count

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 (+613)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

So I managed a whopping 613 (!) words today.  I wrote for longer than I planned (about 20 mins longer than I planned), but I got into a real groove once I got the ship names down.  This is a first draft, but right now, I really like the way it is coming together.  Now, I need to stop and read for school.  

Currently Reading

  • For Fun: Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novella)
  • For School: Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
  • For Research/Personal Development: Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  It’s a book that I have to read for my History of Rhetoric class.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

First Impressions

After getting into and playing The Crew 2 Beta this weekend, I thought I’d give some general, overall impressions–nothing major as it is still a Beta after all and things could conceivably change (not likely, as the game is due to release in under a month and it still has to be “locked down” to be manufactured on the disc).  Still, as longtime readers will know that The Crew 2 is one of the games that I was most looking forward to at last year’s E3.  I really liked the original game even though it only got mediocre reviews (mostly due to the average “revenge” story and not necessarily next-gen graphics) and I find myself “tooling” around the “open world” of the U.S. map on a regular basis.

The Crew, Upgraded

Long story short, I liked the Beta.  Basically, this seems like a really upgraded version of the original game.  Strange to hear it described this way, perhaps, as it is a sequel, but the game plays much more like the first game, but with the added disciplines of air racing and boat racing.  The air racing sections means that you can fly over the entire map of the highly condensed map of the U.S. and they’ve taken creative liberties with the American waterway system so that you can essentially boat the length of the U.S. just as you can drive it, so essentially you can drive, fly, or boat in their sandbox.  It effectively triples the “sandbox” in which you play the game–instead of just driving, now you can drive, boat, or fly around the map.

Not Perfect, However

So, I was planning on buying this one as a “reward” for myself for getting through my June classes as it releases on June 29th and my classes end on July 6.  I may still get it, but after playing the Beta it isn’t a slam dunk as it was before for this reason: The Map is EXACTLY the same!  After playing the original game for so long, I have the majority of the map memorized, so I can tell that they’ve not changed their original road structure significantly based on my time with the beta.  Now, to be honest, they revealed this when they revealed the game, but it seemed like they were upgrading the map (roads) for the additional modes, so I thought they’d change the road system and add new cities, but that’s not what they’ve done.  They did upgrade the graphics and added in a more robust river system (& it looks like the events are greatly expanded), but the road systemcities are exactly the same as the first game.  I was hoping to visit new cities and drive on new roads–for instance, a greatly truncated Nashville, Tennessee and Chattanooga Tennessee are in the game, but not Atlanta, Georgia.  Now, I’m all about my home city (Chattanooga) being in the game, but realistically, Atlanta is a major metropolitan area that rivals New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Dallas as a major component in the country.  It is essentially the “New York” of the South and deserves to be in the game.  However, The Crew 2 still does enough new things that I’m excited to see the new interpretations of the places that I’ve already seen a ton of times in the original game.  I’m just not sure if it is worth full price based on the fact that the road system is pretty much the same–still, I will be getting this game, but I have to decide if it is worth an immediate summer purchase, or if it would be better as a “Christmas” game.

Sidney




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