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    dkirschner's Assassin's Creed Origins (PS4)

    [March 9, 2020 05:32:53 PM]
    Completed both DLCs, The Hidden Ones and Curse of the Pharaohs. They were both good, but I probably should have taken a break after beating the main game. The Hidden Ones is short (~4 hours with all the side quests) and told a cool story about the beginning of the Assassins after the end of Origins. The only distinct thing I remember about the game besides that is there were a lot of rock quarries and there were new roaming baddies called Shadows of the Scarab who were scary.

    Curse of the Pharaohs is much meatier. It also brings in the supernatural. You get to travel to the Duat (afterlife), which is so cool. There are three or four different parts of the Duat you visit, and you kill ancient pharaohs and other divine beings. The Duat looks incredible in each location. The boss battles, unfortunately though, are very samey. Every pharaoh takes their mortal form and they just come at you with different weapons. One is faster, one is slower...but they all have "red" attacks that you need to dodge, they all try to heal, and they can all be beaten using the same strategy. Despite how neat this DLC is, the very end is incredibly stupid. Bayek gives an ancient relic of immeasurable power to a guy who throughout the DLC is a petty criminal. He's scared of the relic, but Bayek shouldn't be giving that to anyone! He should bury it or destroy it or something. It's like giving the One Ring to someone and telling them to get rid of it. That's not how powerful ancient artifacts work!

    Anyway, both DLCs are "more of the same" gameplay, so play if that's what you want, if you want some more story, if you want to see some really spectacular locations in Curse of the Pharaohs, or if you want to keep listening to Bayek's superb voice actor. Odyssey is on the shelf, but I don't imagine I'll play it for a long while. I got my AC fix.

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    [February 28, 2020 08:01:01 AM]
    I'm done with the main game. All side quests are completed, I've killed 3/4 war elephants, explored every tomb I could find, completed about half of the treasure hunt riddles, found every view point I could, found every constellation I could, and spent a long time just admiring the scenery. It took right around 50 hours. The game is bloated, and I hear Odyssey is even worse. Side quests and "stuff" to do could have been halved and it would still be a lot. But, I'm going to plunge ahead into Origins's DLC soon, and I'll get in to Odyssey at some point because I am impressed with the slightly new direction of Assassin's Creed, despite its liberal borrowing from The Witcher 3 and Dark Souls. It still retains its own identity, and for all the questions I had about the game, the end resolves many of them.

    So, here are some thoughts on how the series has changed and how I ruined my playthrough.

    1. Change - As I noted previously, Origins borrows from The Witcher 3. Geralt, the titular Witcher, solves monster-related mysteries. Our new assassin, Bayek, solves assassin-related mysteries in exactly the same way. You enter an "exploration area" and pixel hunt for an little icon (never figured out what it was) or look for something out of the ordinary. I am surprised at how similar this feels!

    These genre shifts are part of why Origins often doesn't feel like an Assassin's Creed game. The setting is right, but the gameplay is more generic. I noticed that there are no "crowd assassinations," and really no assassinations at all! Yes, you can assassinate people according to the UI, but this refers to stealth kills. There are no true assassinations of politicians, generals, and so on, built up in the main story. Yes, you kill big baddies, but these more often take the form of melee boss fights. Rampaging through forts is easier than sneaking around. In fact, the crowd mechanics built up across previous AC games are not here. You don't trail enemies, you don't learn their paths, you don't eavesdrop on conversations. I cannot emphasize how the lack of these unique systems makes the game feel generic and (gameplay-wise) bland at times.

    There is, oddly enough, a compelling narrative reason for this, which is revealed at the very end of the game. (The hint is in the title.) I loved how the story concluded, but making me play as a half-ass(assin) for 50 hours first was a little overkill. I fully expect the DLCs, and especially Odyssey, to bring back more of the older AC games. I want to feel like an assassin.

    2. How I Ruined My Playthrough (Almost) - Origins is a ridiculously easy game. I played a lot after work because it was so chill. Why? Welllll...I might have realized halfway through that I wasn't supposed to have all legendary equipment from the start. I purchased a complete edition and it came with all sorts of fancy items. I didn't think it odd and assumed that the nice things I started with were normal to start with--a couple legendary swords, shields, and mounts. I never buy special editions so I don't know these things!

    You can upgrade your equipment in Origins, so if you really like the stats, you can keep boosting it to your character level. So The Fang (fast sword, huge critical hit bonus damage, poison on hit) just kept getting better with age! I contend it is the best weapon in the game except the one I just found (which apparently is a Final Fantasy XV tie-in--weird). Its stats may not be objectively better, but I used The Fang for the entire game and this FFXV sword sparkles. I upgraded my equipment every 10 levels or so to offset using legendary items, which means I was constantly underpowered. Still, I rarely died.

    I previously predicted that given the Dark Souls controls and new combat style, the challenge would ramp up; it never did until the last boss that Bayek fights. All of a sudden, the game introduces the supernatural. He was the only boss that felt like a boss, with the exception of the optional war elephants. Here's how much the game's ease lulled me into successfully spamming R1 for its duration: after attempting the boss a few times, I remembered that...I could use my shield to block. How novel! Yeah, I never used my shield the whole game! I beat him on the first try after that, but after I beat him, I realized that there were extra arrows in the room to restock during the fight. There are two phases where arrows are really useful, and I kept running out then. But I had never run out of arrows in the entire game before; therefore, I had never needed to pay attention to extra quivers laying around!

    The game throws another difficulty spike your way in the very last segment, but I won't spoil that here. Just get ready for some tedium and frustration before it's all over because the game forces you into a different play style with different weapon types than you might have been playing with. Also, speaking of tedium, the ship battles get old real fast. If I never have to sail another ship in this game, I'll be happy. Black Flag, this is not.

    The narrative is slow, but worth it, especially if you've played a bunch of these games. I really enjoyed the main characters. Bayek and Aya are more complex than I originally thought. There is some good foreshadowing (Bayek losing his ring finger is symbolic for different reasons that I initially thought!). You even learn where the Assassins symbol comes from! The Egyptian setting is phenomenal, and it's cool how it transitions to Roman toward the end of the game. I really felt like I was experiencing political and cultural change over the course of the game. There are a billion things to do. Side quests in particular add a lot of time to the game. They are never worth it for rewards, but I enjoyed the little stories. They do get repetitive in their objectives (rescue this person, eradicate this base, steal this thing), which is my argument for just reducing their number by half. The side quests are immeasurably better than side quests in previous Assassin's Creed games, but they don't touch The Witcher's. Hopefully Odyssey's will improve further.

    All in all, I'm glad I played this to see how the series is changing. I'll continue with the DLC because the first moves this story along and the second I have read is excellent for other reasons. I hope that Odyssey essentially picks up where Origins leaves off. But since it's even longer than this one, I am dreading the time sink. I suppose I could just...not play it...or just play the main quest. I would sort of like to wait until another entry comes out that gets overwhelmingly positive reviews before committing, but I do always enjoy these games, even for their faults.
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    [February 5, 2020 08:10:45 AM]
    Whoa, new Assassin's Creed! It's been a few years. I thoroughly enjoyed Black Flag (4), the last one I played. I miss my crew and the sea shanties and firing cannonballs at other ships. But my how the series has changed. My, how it looks and feels more like The Witcher 3 and Soulsborne games! Someone's aping trends.

    What's Witcher about it? Well, it's got the old Ubisoft map bloat with a million icons on it, but I notice question marks all over the place now. These points of interest encourage exploration, and when you arrive you will find a beast den, a stargazing area, a guarded fort, a treasure hunt, and so on, with little objectives (kill this, steal that) to complete for a small amount of XP and some treasure. Cool, but already those question marks feel like bloat. I remember the question marks in The Witcher revealing lots of really cool things, possibly because of the fantasy setting you never knew what kind of awesome thing you'd discover. Here, trekking across the map to shoot a ram with a bow-and-arrow just doesn't seem as appealing. My favorite are the constellation ones where you get some mythology and play with stars. I've pretty much started ignoring the question marks though. There are also more refined skill trees, and the gadgets tree feels very much like the Witcher's potions tree. Side quests are more fleshed out, which is certainly an improvement over previous AC games.

    What's Soulsborne about it? After just finishing Bloodborne, I was surprised that the controls and combat were so similar, as AC's combat before felt unique (even though it could sometimes be frustrating). R3 locks on to enemies, just like Soulsbornes. R1 is light attack, R2 is heavy attack, hold R2 for charged heavy attack. Press circle to dodge. I suspect that some later fights may be more challenging like in Bloodborne. So far, I'm kind of shocked at how much melee combat there is (this was always a weak point in AC games), though I did just get the hidden blade, so more stealth and assassinating is in my future.

    I'm certainly enjoying the game. Egypt is stunning, and thanks to my new PS4 Pro, I am playing a game for the first time in 4K. I see a future where I just walk around in a video game to marvel at the environments to relax after work. Sometimes when I climb up to a view point, I'll sit up there for 5 minutes just looking out over the landscape below. I mean, it's utterly beautiful. I would love to watch an Egyptologist play the game. I'm sure there's a YouTube video for that with a clickbait title.

    My only real gripe is the intrusion of Ubisoft into what I wish was a single-player experience. I mean, thanks for the amazing recreation of ancient Egypt, but would you just let me enjoy it in peace? The game constantly reminds me to check out the store, it forces other players' screenshots onto my minimap which clutters it even further, and it thinks I give a shit about avenging VapeMan69's death at the hands of a hyena. Look, I don't know VapeMan69 and I don't care what he was doing or why he was killed by a hyena, but can you kindly STOP CLUTTERING THE MINIMAP UBISOFT or give me more refined filters please and thank you.

    I look forward to playing more and continuing with the story, which has me oddly intrigued as far as AC goes (even the Abstergo part is neat!). I look forward to uncomfortably watching Bayek and Aya make out and have sex in weird places, and I'm already sad because there's no way they would show this much making out and steamy romance if they weren't going to kill Aya. Bayek has already lost his son and he lost is ring finger (symbolic for severing of the marriage??) and he's going to need some more motivation to keep assassinating for 30 more hours. WHAT IF the twist is that Bayek gets killed and you switch to playing as Aya?! That would be awesome.
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    dkirschner's Assassin's Creed Origins (PS4)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Monday 27 January, 2020

    GameLog closed on: Monday 9 March, 2020

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Seems cool, different combat from ACs. The super vision or whatever is already irritating though. ------------ Senu becomes endearing and her vision is useful! Game is too long, but enjoyable.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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