On Engaging Fictional History in Games

In a couple of weeks two new Assassins Creed games come out, Unity and Rogue, for the PS4 and PS3 respectively. I’m a huge fan of the series so I have both games on pre-order and am very excited to play through the story and meet the new characters as well as to see how it ties in to the overall story.

So in preparation of this I have spent the last few days replaying Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag (aka AC Pirates). I think I’m currently at the midpoint in the game. Far enough in that I have upgraded the ship and can handle most sea battles, which means I’m taking a break from the story to work on completion. While playing there was a cutscene involving a fairly minor character and I thought to myself how most of the characters are based on an actual person so was this person real or simply a fictional addition to aid in the story. It turns out that this particular character was indeed based off of a real individual who was alive at the time, and indeed was someone who turned to piracy.

This is what I find enjoyable about these games, that even though the game is a work of fiction it is set in a historic time period and the developers take the time to include people and events that are at least partially based in reality. Obviously the whole Templar/Assassin thing is fictional, but they put it together with real history in such a way that it piqued my curiosity.

I enjoy history for the most part. I like the History Channel, or at least like when they actually show HISTORY, but reading history books is pretty boring. Games like Assassins Creed give me the interest to go and at least read what is available online about the events. That does make the assumption that the articles are indeed accurate, but it is cheaper than going to the book store and buying volumes of history books.

I know that Unity takes place during the French Revolution, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Not knowing much about that time period I imagine I’ll do a bit of reading once I play through the game. I’m not sure of the historical period that Rogue takes place in. I know it falls between Black Flag and Assassins Creed 3, but I really don’t know of any historical events that happened at that time.

What this is really getting at is that I feel there should be more games like this. Ones that have some basis in factual history that are engaging enough to get the audience interested in reading more about the subject matter.

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On Destiny – Part 2

So now I’ve played a bit more Destiny I have a few more thoughts on it.

I mentioned the general belief that there isn’t much story in the last post, and now that I’ve finished it I can’t say that the thought isn’t entirely unfounded. I don’t think that the story isn’t good, and I don’t feel like the acting was sub-pair as people have mentioned. The part I agree with is that the story mode is short. You can probably burn through the entire main story in a couple days. I think that Bungie felt that there would be enough additional story through their online Grimoire or Strikes to make up for it. I haven’t done a strike yet so I really don’t know how much story is involved in those.

What I really want to talk about is post story content. Well, not that you have to wait till you finish to do it, but this is what I’m doing right now. That is PVP and farming rep. I don’t normally do PVP, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I played a console FPS multiplayer. That being said, the pvp that I’ve done is good. Personally I enjoy the map sizes. I feel like they are right for the game, not to small, but not large enough you run around for the whole match without running in to someone.

I do feel that they need to work on the matchmaking service though. Because if you go in and you haven’t obtained a really good weapon or some legendary gear you will be greatly disadvantaged. I believe that they normalize player stats so you can see a level 7 killing a level 20. For me the best part is that I can’t hear the other people yelling at me for not being very good. Now, surprisingly, I did manage to place first on my team in one match. So I was either really on my game that time, or my team wasn’t that good.

Other than doing pvp I’ve been trying to farm rep so that I can get the “Light” stat. This stat is the only way you can get past level 20 which unlocks raids and heroic level content. Post level 20 experience only goes towards creating “motes of light” which are used at one vendor to get exotic gear. The trick is to get a random stat piece one it costs 23 motes…

Purchasing legendary gear is also a task for the patient. I understand it might go quicker if you do the strikes, but as I mentioned I haven’t done those. Even if you do you need to get whatever faction up to rank 2 in order to by the gear in the first place. Then you need faction tokens to buy that gear. The pvp faction gives you precisely 1 token per match, and you need a minimum of 68 to buy a piece of gear. With a maximum weekly cap on 100.

There are other factions that you can level to get gear more suited to your character, but you have to buy a faction cloak in order to gain faction with them. The trick is that as you gain faction with them you aren’t gaining faction with the other groups. So any pvp faction or vanguard faction you get goes towards them instead. Personally I’m okay with this, but it does mean I will have to regrind pvp faction after I get the faction I want up.

So over this weekend I’ve played around 45 pvp matches, and done lots and lots of patrol missions to gain faction rep.

I am still enjoying the game, but I do hope to do strikes soon or that the DLC starts coming out so that I have more to play.

On Destiny

So as I sit here at work waiting on servers to come back up from monthly maintenance I feel it is a good time to try and do a little bit of writing. As always I’m citing being super busy at work as my excuse for not posting, but there has also been some lack of desire to try to come up with relevant stuff to talk about.

There hasn’t really been a huge shift in the games I’ve been playing lately. Mostly been back in Warcraft doing various things, watching lots of Hearthstone videos, and playing Diablo 3. I find it fairly difficult to juggle games. I started Last of Us only to have not played it in a month. Lately I’ve had so little motivation to do anything I usually just get home, complain to myself about apartment parking, eat food I shouldn’t be eating and then laying on the couch to watch Hearthstone videos until I pass out. Typing that out is also really depressing.

So, in the spirit of buying another game that I might not have time for I picked up Destiny on the PS4. Now here’s the thing. I never really got in to Halo. So for me this is my first real experience with anything developed by Bungie. I did play a little in the beta so I knew a little about how the graphics were and how the controls handled which made picking it up a bit easier. But the main thing that really sold me on it was a comment made that while it might not be the most story rich game, it is a game you can just pick up and play for a few minutes and put down.

Unless you’re doing a story mission, which might take awhile, you’re probably going to be doing free-roam missions on the various planets to earn money and maybe some better gear and reputation. Then there are times where all you want to do is dance.

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I know a lot of people are saying that the story is pretty weak, but I still enjoy it. I find it nice having something that I don’t feel like I have to rush through to the end. Sometimes I just like popping off a few headshots and yelling “BOOM HEADSHOT!” in to my empty apartment. Granted I’m sure my neighbors love that, but meh.

The only thing I don’t like about the game is the fact that in order to do a good portion of the group content you need a Playstation plus membership. Now, from what everyone tells me I should have had this already. I don’t do a lot of multiplayer and just didn’t see the necessity of it. I did finally break down and get it, and I have yet to do any group content so far.

What’s funny though, is that even though this was meant to be a “I’ll play on the weekend” kind of game. I’ve been playing at least an hour every day since I picked it up.

On Sniper Elite 3

So over the weekend I finished up Sniper Elite 3 on the PS4, and I have to say I enjoyed this game. It isn’t a long game, at least not for me. I’m used to playing RPG style games that take 40+ hours to complete, and I think my total campaign time for my playthrough was around 17 hours. According to How Long To Beat website, it is possible to burn through the story in 6 hours. I can see that happening if you know what you’re doing and you skip all the optional stuff.

Before I picked this up I played through Sniper Elite v2 on the PC and enjoyed it, so when this game was released I decided to pick it up. Comparatively speaking the games are pretty close to each other mechanics wise, and the graphics seem to only be slightly improved over the previous version. Not that the graphics are bad in either game, and 3 does look better, it just seems to me like they are pretty close graphically. The controls are the same as far as I can tell, I played Sniper Elite 2 with an XBox controller and Sniper Elite 3 with the PS4, but the layouts are close enough that it wasn’t confusing.

If you know nothing of the series, it is a 3rd person, over the shoulder stealth game. Well, you should stealth. You don’t get much ammo for anything other than your sniper rifle so it’s in your best interest to, you know, snipe. The feature that (as far as I know) is unique to this game is the x-ray kill cam. Most of the time when you snipe a target you are treated to a short cinematic of the bullet destroying your targets insides. For me this involved a lot of faces exploding, cause headshots. On most difficulty settings you have the option to have a form of “assisted aiming” that lets you see where your bullet will hit when you use the breathing technique button to steady your aim. There are setting to take this off, but I don’t think I’m that good of a shot.

Before every mission you can choose your weapons and items that you will start with, called your Loadout, of which you can save four different combinations. To be honest having more than one seemed a bit pointless, but might be more useful in multiplayer mode. I pretty much stuck to the same one the entire game, swapping out rifles as they were unlocked. You have three main weapons, sniper rifle, assault rifle, and pistol along with medpacks, grenades and a couple types of mines. I think throughout the game I used only 4 of the items, and I used my silenced pistol almost as much as my rifle.

The game is pretty challenging in that you can’t just fire a gun repeatedly without the guards coming at you full force. If you fire you have to move, and fire and move. The only way around this is the times when there is a loud enough noise that it will cover up your shots. If you find one with a good vantage point you can clear a good area of guards before you have to move. Since these masking sounds are not guaranteed you have to be extra careful. This usually led me to sneaking around using melee stealth kills or my silenced pistol. This becomes increasingly difficult when you start getting guys in groups.

Once you finish the campaign there is some replayability. Finding collectibles, doing challenge modes and multiplayer if you are a PS+ subscriber. I tried the challenge mode last night, but I don’t plan to play multiplayer at all, and I don’t think I’ll play through a second time. It’s not because it isn’t a good game, I just don’t feel like there is enough sandbox to play through a second time.

I feel like I had more to talk about here, but I got interrupted with work meetings so I’ve lost my train of thought. So I’m going to leave off with a video of me playing the “Hunt For the Grey Wolf” aka “Kill Hitler” DLC.

On Destiny

So, I’ve been a slacker and it’s been nearly a month since my last post. What can I say, things happened. I’ve been busy at work, and have been spending a good portion of my lunch breaks drawing which doesn’t leave me time at work to post. I could still post after work, but I’ve been doing kickboxing almost every day after work which tends to leave me a bit drained.

Moving on though, this past weekend saw two beta tests come up. The Destiny beta for those that had pre-ordered the game, or knew someone who had an extra code (like I did). The other beta was the first closed beta weekend for ArcheAge, a game I’ve talked about a few times. Today I’ll be talking about the Destiny beta a bit.

First off, I think Destiny has the potential to be a great game, maybe even a system seller. The graphics are amazing, and the soundtrack and voice over work was excellent. I did have a few issues with the game, and they are things I’m not sure are just due to the fact that this was a beta, or if this is how the game is.

I guess if you haven’t heard of Destiny you might not give two cents about what I’m saying so I’ll explain what I know. The game was produced by Bungie (of Halo fame) and is being marketed as an FPS MMORPG. I’m not super sure about the RPG part, as the beta doesn’t let you get very far, but the elements are there. Class selection, talent trees, gear and questing. Most of the questing only occurs when you opt to go to the open world exploration of the map, not the story missions. Non story missions are found by exploring the map looking for green lit beacons. These are your typical MMO style quests that give you some minor objective like retrieving some data or killing enemies. The story missions usually set you on a set path and ends in a boss fight.

There is a social hub called “The Tower” where you can go between missions to do social stuff and talk to faction vendors and upgrade your ship. The main difference between the two is that in the social area you are in third person perspective versus the first person you use 95% of the time when exploring.

The game offers three main classes. The Titan, which is your tank class and is there to absorb damage. The Hunter, which is your ranged dps with some melee dps. The final class is the Warlock which has some form of energy based “magic” attacks. These all have subclasses, and talent trees, but from playing the beta I didn’t get that far as the beta doesn’t let you progress past the level 5 story mission.

I have two big complaints about the game.

The first is a lack of extensive character customization. At least in the beta all you can customize appearance wise is your characters race, sex, and some facial features. You have your standard humans, elvish looking people and androids. You can’t name your character either. It is based on your PSN name, so whatever that is is what you will be displaying to people. Which makes me want to have a secondary PSN named YouKnowNothingJonSnow. I’m a private person so I don’t want my PSN being displayed publicly if I’m streaming.

The second complaint is essentially requiring the Playstation Plus subscription to do certain content. Playing in the beta this wasn’t really an issue, other than the one mission I couldn’t access because I don’t have a Playstation Plus membership. If I’m going to pay you $60 for your game don’t lock out dungeons until I pay a subscription.

While I haven’t decided if I want to pick the game up yet, the Playstation Plus semi-requirement is a big put off for me. I’ve been shying away from subscription based games lately and that is a big issue to hold off content that comes with the game. I don’t think they are required missions, and I may never do them, but that isn’t the point.

So I’m not entirely sold on the game, but it was fun to play. The controls were good, and I enjoyed the story. I might still pick it up, but I’m not sure yet.

On Gaming Roots

So one thing that I have seen other people talk about at some point is what games have been most influential to them in their lifetime. To be honest I’m not sure I could pinpoint exactly what games might fit in to that category for me. Certainly there are games that I just always remember as being my favorites, but I can’t really think of any that really changed my outlook on things.

So instead of writing about games that might have been super influential I am going to talk a little bit about how I got in to gaming in the first place. Keep in mind I’m 31 (for another month) so most of the games I feel got me in to gaming will have come out late 80’s early 90’s. Most of them pre Sony & Microsoft days.

The first time I can remember playing a video game is actually before I ever got my first NES. There was a mom & pop restaurant by where I lived at the time and they had an old 8 bit Mario arcade cabinet. This was the same game as the NES version, just with a different title, “VS Super Mario Bros.“. I don’t recall getting very far, but that isn’t saying a lot since I didn’t actually beat the original Mario game for a long time.

So as I mentioned the first console I ever had was the NES, and I remember having a couple games for it. Mario Brothers, and Track & Field that had the awesome floor mat pad that looked like the mat from Twister. We didn’t have many games, but back then I wasn’t cooped up playing them all the time either. I couldn’t say all the games I ever had for it, I just remember having the Mario games. I still love a good platformer, and that comes from growing up on that genre.

After the NES I got the SNES and the Sega Genesis (not the Master System). My love of platformers continued with both of these consoles but I got my first taste of the Zelda series when I borrowed a friends copy of “A Link To The Past”. I didn’t finish it at the time, though I did eventually. This was also the time when fighting games such as Street Fighter II and the original Mortal Kombat were seeing home releases.

Years passed by and consoles came and went. I can say I’ve owned or played at least a good majority of the various consoles that came out. At least the major brand ones from Sony, Nintendo, Sega and Microsoft. We didn’t really have the money growing up to buy a lot of games so most of them were borrowed or rented at blockbuster. Only in the last few years as I’ve finished up college and got a well paying job that I’ve been able to start buying games seriously.

I do still have an old SNES and Sega laying around. I need to find a good, legal way to play these on my tv. I know people always talk about playing ROMS and stuff on the PC but I don’t feel the same sense of joy playing an old game if it isn’t with the original console, or at least the original cart & controller.

I probably could have talked at length about this topic, but I feel like maybe various parts can be discussed individually.

That and I really need to get back to work.

On Murdered Soul Suspect (Review)

Before I start this up, I guested on my friend Bel’s podcast again this past weekend and we discussed some E3 stuff. Go and give it a listen here.

I’m going to be a bit direct here and say that while I enjoyed some parts of the game, overall I feel very disappointed in how this game turned out. From every video I saw prior to release the game seemed to be pretty cool, and I do think that the premise is original and interesting, but that doesn’t save it from a not entirely positive review.

So the structure of this post is going to be the things I like about the game, then the things I felt let down on and how they could have been done better. Keep in mind I am talking about the PS4 version, and as far as I know there is no planned DLC that might expand the game in any way.

Things I Like

So the graphics in this game were really well done. All of the main characters were well animated and looked good, and the transitions between cutscenes and gameplay were fairly seamless. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they used regular gameplay to act out the cutscenes but it’s really hard to tell. The game looks really good in 1080 resolution and there is a ton of details that make everything just look really good.

I also really enjoyed the ambient music because it always felt creepy. Now I can’t say there was a wide variety of music or anything, but I always felt like there was a sense that you needed to be careful while going through a level. The main “enemies” of the game are lost souls that try to “eat” you, and there were several times while exploring that the shrieks they make when they show up made me tense up a little bit.

The last thing that I really enjoyed are the side missions, or at least most of them. The background on the killer, as well as your characters deceased wife, and the ghost stories you unlock by collecting items in the levels are all very interesting to read/hear. Of those the ghost stories are the best because it provides a creepy ghost story to break up going through the level. There aren’t that many of these however, one per level (except for two I think). These are not always easy to find and require some amount of searching, or googling the last one you can’t seem to find and they are worth the effort of finding them.

Things I Didn’t Like

Ok so here’s where we get in to what I thought was disappointing about the game. I’m going to try to talk about what I expected versus the reality of the game.

First off, the game is short. And when I say short I’m talking I beat the game in roughly 8 hours (or less) without trying and I still almost got 100% completion. I think if you just ran through the story and didn’t try to do any collectibles you could beat the game in 3 hours tops. Once I play back through to get the stuff I missed I am seriously considering doing a speed run.

The second thing is the story. Now I will say that I enjoyed the premise, and the story is good, but it is not exactly hard to figure out what is going on either. Having read a lot of detective books in my time I had almost the entire plot figured out halfway through the game. This also makes me feel like the character was a pretty lousy detective before he died because of how obvious certain things are. Now I will admit that there were some things I wasn’t expecting, but the length of the story and the obviousness of it disappointed me greatly. I think that they could have done a lot more here and not only made the game longer, but a much deeper mystery.

The third thing is that you are a lousy detective and there is no real punishment for brute forcing your way through the solutions. The way the detective stuff works is you go around the area collecting clues, and then you have to select which of those are the most relevant. Each time you get it wrong you have to go back in to the “mini game” and try again. The problem is there is absolutely no risk here. There is a little rating system at the bottom that each time you mess up you lose a badge, but there is no reward for getting a 3 star rating either. So there is absolutely no risk in just picking items until you get it right.

The fourth thing is probably a personal opinion issue, but I felt the game was too restrictive. By this I mean the levels were very “on rails” in that while there was some exploring to find the collectible your investigations are restricted to the one room of the level. The most freedom you have is when you are exploring the town for side mission stuff. And that is there just to keep you from blowing through the game super fast. I feel like this is probably the worst problem I had with the game. I feel like if this had been a much larger, more open world kind of game that I would have enjoyed it a lot more. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the game, I just think there could have been a larger area to work with. I know the plot of the story revolves around the one town, but I am pretty sure the real city of Salem contains more than a handful of streets. The other thing is that for all the talk about freedom to move around buildings, you only ever have access to the handful related to the story. There is no finding ways in to other houses to do side missions.

The fifth thing is a specific type of side mission, and this is helping other ghosts move on. The way they made the game sound in the videos I’ve seen made it sound like this was going to be a larger aspect to the game. But here’s the truth. There are 4 ghosts you help out. That’s it. 4 (not including story, including story maybe 7). Almost every ghost you run across either doesn’t realize they’re dead or have no interest in moving on. You can talk to them and find out how they died, or why they’re doing what they’re doing (apparently most ghosts are stalkers). I was hoping for a greater amount of these types of side quests and the game would have greatly improved if there had been more of this.

The sixth thing is there is no map. This is a minor complaint though, as you can find maps online. But at the point where I was trying to collect stuff I missed it was very hard to find a specific location (the docks) because you get turned around easily. If you’re not looking for the alley that leads to it you’re going to miss it.

The last thing is that the game just isn’t hard. I mentioned this a bit with the there is no reward stuff, but really the game just isn’t challenging. You only ever have to deal with three of the “lost spirit” enemies at one time, which is only challenging in that if you get caught you’re pretty much screwed. But once you get the hang of it they don’t present a challenge anymore. All defeating them involves is getting behind them and doing a quick time event. The other type of enemy is basically hands that are coming up from the ground to pull you down. All you have to do is not walk on them. And that is not a hard task. The final level involves you having to get across the room in 20 seconds dodging these things, and you can do this without even running and still have plenty of time. I understand that maybe they were focusing on the story more but the game was just too easy.

I feel like I’m missing something but this already turned in to an essay.

Oh, and last thought, if you’re skills are supposed to be amplified in death, why couldn’t my character use the gun he had holstered to shoot the “lost souls”? I know it doesn’t fit the story or anything, but that just seems absurd that you can smoke as a ghost but you can’t shoot your ghost gun.

Maybe it’s because the killer pumped all your bullets in to your chest.

Final thoughts – I still enjoyed the story, and I think it is worth playing through once, but try to get it used or on a Steam sale for the PC version.

Final, Final thought – I would love to see this game done as a more open world type game. Even if the graphical quality had to be lowered it would mean a more interesting game.