This last month's post is running late and I've come up with no real theme to talk about, so here's a few scattered thoughts on some games I played recently, as if anyone actually gives a shit.
Assassin's Creed IV surprised me. I was a fan of AC from the first up to Revelations, but then III turned out to be kind of shit and I basically lost any hope for the series. Along came IV, where they took the few things that worked in the previous one — like tree climbing, human shields, and sailing — and polished them so they became something you actually wanted to do. Pretty much everything in the game works really well and I don't think I've ever been this fond of an Assassin's Creed game before.
What's more is the refreshing take on the protagonist. He's not even an assassin, he just stole the clothes off one and bluffed his way through a bunch of tutorials. I also found the outside-Animus world with its clever jabs through the fourth wall much more interesting than the Desmond Miles story. I've always felt that the whole Animus deal was unnecessary — why not just be an assassin rather than a simulation of one? — but now we're kinda stuck with it so anything that shifts the story focus to the part of the game everyone came to play is a plus in my book.
As for Watch Dogs, I initially thought strategic hacking would be the only viable way to progress, but it's really more of an additional tool in your toolbox. At its core, the game is just a pretty good shooter/stealth game that also just happens to contain hacking. I had hoped for a hacking mechanic that entailed more than a contextual button press, but I guess it's hard to make the Unix terminal exciting and I guess what we got is good enough. For a first try, I mean.
I like how, in classic video game logic, you can carry around all the weapons you've found, but it never gels with the rest of the game trying to be a Hollywood movie. There's one cutscene where Aiden is forced to hand over his weapons and he gives the guy one measly handgun. The only thing I could think of was the truckload of assault rifles and shotguns I had been lugging around for the past few hours. Considering he passed the subsequent metal detector scan, the guy could probably make a pretty good living as an arms smuggler.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was better than I thought it would be. Gameplay is nothing to write home about, but the charming protagonists and colorful world are what sets it apart from being just average. I thought the facial animations were pretty spectacular, and they really helped bring some life to the characters. What a strange ending though. It looks like the game was nearing release and Ninja Theory went "fuck it, just put Andy in front of the camera and have him explain."
I enjoyed Miasmata. Let it be known that there are problems with many aspects of the game, but one absolutely stand-out feature is the exploration. Finding your way around the island and mapping it out yourself is a really solid concept and I do wish more games would use something like it. I found the panther-cow-goat thing creepy the first few times but then it became more of a temporary nuisance than an actual threat, and I don't think the game necessarily needed it.
One of my tensest moments was when I got lost in the middle of the woods at night and couldn't find any known landmarks. The tension undoubtedly came from the knowledge that at any time, the creature could appear and kill me, costing me valuable progress, but had the fever and thirst been fatal, it would have the same effect. The game needs some sort of danger to provide consequence, but whether that comes from an aggressive creature or your own body turning against you is less important.
The bundle that included Miasmata also gave me Spate, which is one of those games few people ever hear about. After completing it in just short of 90 minutes I found out it was Kickstarter-funded with what looks like a fairly limited budget in this day and age. The game turned out alright, I guess. There isn't much to it apart from some gorgeously weird set pieces, though I have to admit I also liked the tall robot dude who just seemed like a really nice guy. And ironically this next statement is coming from someone who is himself demonstrably bad at writing, but I do think the script could have used some work here and there ("having that moment of regret that hits a man right before the ground hits him" is an obvious candidate).
So I guess that's a recap of the last couple of months. I've been spending lots of time with Golden Sun: The Lost Age as well. Hopefully I'll get to complete it someday.