Monday, October 29, 2012

Medal of Honor: Warfighter – missing the mark

Medal of Honor: Warfighter, as a game, plays fine. The movement and shooting feels responsive, the textures look crisp and smooth, and there are some great standout moments like breaching doors and the driving sequences. However, Warfighter in it’s entirely feels uninspired and suffers from a lack of direction of where it wants to go.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Playlist – 10/28/2012

The great thing about the playlist is it’s open and free. I can write about my goals in a game, why I like a particular genre over another, the lifespan of a release, or certain mechanics that do and don’t work in a game. Like most people last week, I played Medal of Honor: Warfighter. I’ll have a more substantial article about it in general soon, but this week I wanted to talk about one of the best parts of Medal of Honor: Warfighter, breaching.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Diary of an Assassin – Second Entry

Oops, I already completed Assassin’s Creed. It only took me 15 hours, though I suspect further sequels will take substantially more time. The visuals and mechanics still hold up five years later, though it is not without faults, Assassin’s Creed is still a spectacular first dive into an open world setting.

The introduction and tutorial seemed exceptionally long, however. After the 17-part tutorial introduces nearly every weapon and technique, only to become available after you complete certain key missions, making me wonder why the tutorial is overly long in the first place. When each new weapon or technique unlocks, the option to practice them in training becomes available to get a feel of how they work in combat, making the first tutorial unnecessary.

I’m a bit sad after finishing Assassin’s Creed I won’t see Altair until Revelations. His character arc felt redeeming. When first introduced in Solomon’s temple, I didn’t like Altair. He’s a jerk playing by his own rules and didn’t seem to deserve the title of assassin as he strolled up in plain sight, not even trying to hide in the shadows unseen. Those first few moments took me longer than it should because I was looking around the room, thinking to myself, I shouldn’t just walk up to him, right? But when he’s stripped of his rank and title, his build up back to master assassin is earnest and not without effort.

Once I get out into one of the three cities, though, exploration shines. Free running through the streets of Jerusalem, galloping from rooftop to rooftop, and jumping into piles of hay is so satisfying. Comparing the difference between the old Tomb Raider games where most platforms were based on a grid cube system to seeing Altair run and jump off a building at angle, land on a platform hovering above the street, keep his momentum as he jumps off again, only to land in a roll on another rooftop is simply amazing.

I can plainly see how people describe Assassin’s Creed as repetitive. Effectively, each mission breaks down into a monotonous process: head into town, find the informant, climb towers until you can find and complete any three combination of pickpocket, interrogate, or eavesdrop, return to informant, assassinate target. While the PC version has a dash of variety for side missions with informant missions, they are often more difficult than your run-of-the-mill pickpocket or eavesdrop. Tearing down merchant stands while being chased by guards, losing line of sight with the guards, then making it back to the informant in time can be harrowing.

Besides the repetitiveness, pacing felt fine right up until the end. Making my way through the funeral was tense enough, but once I discovered my target had already fled I head off into the hills to find him, going through wave after wave of soldiers. Combat certainly isn’t the lowest point of Assassin’s Creed, but it still feels a bit clunky when taking on crowds of guards and soldiers. Then I still had to head back to my town to take out my master. It feels like a case of, and then, where each final objective delivers another final objective.

If this were 2007 I would talk more about the ending and the writing on the walls, but seeing as the series goes on and more of it is - hopefully - explained in later games, I’ll save that discussion until I have more information. Now that I’m done with Altair for a while, time to dive into the dark middle chapter of the series, Assassin’s Creed 2.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dragon Age 3 and the case of the missing platform

More than a month after their initial announcement, BioWare revealed some more details about Dragon Age 3: Inquisition over the weekend at Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo. David Gaider will return as lead writer for the game as players take control of a human character once again. Whether that human character will be Hawke, the grey warden, or someone new is unknown.

BioWare wants this to be the biggest Dragon Age yet, with a deeper focus on customization than Origins had for both your character and your followers. Players will be able to take control of a castle as seen in the concept art above. When BioWare talked about scope, they pointed out one dungeon in Dragon Age 3 is bigger than all of the dugneons in Dragon Age 2. They are also exploring technology to allow players to import their saves from previous games without actually transferring the save data.

Despite all this, BioWare was quiet on which platforms the game will appear. Dragon Age 3: Inquisition will be the first BioWare game to run on Frostbite 2, the same engine that’s powered Battlefield 3, Need for Speed The Run, and the recently released Medal of Honor: Warfighter. With a tentative release date of fall 2013, it’s almost a forgone conclusion we’ll see Inquisition on the PC and next-generation consoles, especially to take advantage of the Frostbite 2 engine that stumbles on current gen systems. However, with more than 130 million consoles in total, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Diary of an Assassin - First Entry

I never played an Assassin’s Creed game. Well, that’s partly true. I played about the first hour of the first game when it released in 2007 on my, at the time, single-core CPU and AGP graphics card. I only played the first hour because the game chugged along in what seemed like slow motion, effectively killing any exciting moments the game had to offer. The system I was playing it on was built before the transition to dual-core and quad-core chips, and before PCI-e cards were a thing.

Fast forward five years later, we’re barreling towards the release of Assassin’s Creed 3. In both an effort to catch up before the release of the newest game, as well as see if the games in the series still hold up, I’m going to be playing through the entire series leading up to the release of Assassin’s Creed 3 for the PC on November 20. That means Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed 2, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Four weeks, four games.

Going through previous entries in a series before the new one comes out isn’t a new thing for me. When The Dark Knight Rises released, I watched Batman Begins and The Dark Knight the weekend before. However, I’ve never done this with games. There’s a very real possibility I could totally burn out on the series before Assassin’s Creed 3 releases. I’m willing to take that risk.

I’ll be updating my progress through these entries pointing out what still works in each game, how the series changes from release to release, and how the meta-narrative connects. But first, it’s time to step into the shoes of Altair Ibn-La'Ahad.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Journey into Tyria: Two steps forward, one step back

It’s been more than enough time since Guild Wars 2 released to poke and prod at the way it handles genre conventions. Having played every weekend beta event up until release, and my time with it after, it’s evident to me this was not the second coming of MMOs fans were expecting. That’s not to say Guild Wars 2 isn’t a fun game. It is, but the design foundation seems to ask why certain genre-defining standards are the way they are with changes where ArenaNet saw fit. This works in some instances, but when all the game systems come together it feels like taking two steps forward and one step back.