Recently, I’ve been discussing Violence in Video Games, and Assassin’s Creed is a prime example of where a game can go over the top with violence, but it’s not without merit because there’s also an educational element to the game, and it has a diverse background. That’s not for now, though… I’ll come back to the overall topic soon and will use some of this game to illustrate points, but for now, let’s just talk about the game itself.
Assassin’s Creed games run the range from weak to incredible and it’s not as simple as the first to the most recent. The 3rd game was almost unplayable and halfway though, you change the character you’re playing which derailed my enjoyment. So much so, I didn’t bother getting game 4 until my friend (and sometimes blog writer) Paul told me I needed to play it. (Despite all the teasing I do of Paul, he’s actually got decent taste!) The fourth game, Black Flag, reinvigorated my desire to play the Assassin’s Creed games. By the time of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, I felt the game company, Ubisoft, really mastered their product but then Odyssey came out and went even bigger – possibly too big – losing me a little yet again! (You may recall my write up, here.) Not so much that I didn’t immediately buy the latest chapter! How did this one fare?
I don’t know if someone actually read that write up, but it seems the game came much closer to mastery than their previous one addressing some of my issues. Oh, it’s still enormous and I again put in 3 months of gaming from just this one game (over 120 hours), but there seemed to be a finite amount of quests. Finite can still be quite daunting though! You play as Eivor but whether you play that character as male or female is your choice. You start in Norway for the first part of the story before traveling to England. I can’t help but laugh how Eivor can run from the north of England to the south in just a single day but then my geography is a bit weak so maybe that’s doable. (He says, in jest!)
Picking up from the most recent games, there’s still that awesome “boss list” that you have to track down cultists and you can find clues to locate them throughout the lands. To be honest, this is one of my favorite aspects of the game however, this is also the area that goes into that questionable realm of overdone violence. It’s bad enough that you play an assassin, but when you kill these guys, you get a swords eye view as it goes into the body, ripping tissue and muscle apart. Oh, make no mistake, it’s cool as hell, and gratifying after a tough battle, but necessary? Absolutely not! Still, I loved every one of those battles. (If it’s of any consolation, if you kill civilians and other non-combatants, the game will desynchronize and drop you out of it forcing you to reload; so it’s big on what I’ll call the Christopher Walken principle: you should only kill people who deserve it.) ((King of New York… no??))
I would say if there’s a weak part of the game, it’s in the amount of video clips you are subjected to. I always believe in watching a cutscene all the way through because I invest in the story, but I was frequently itching to get back to the game instead of watching Eivor run from A to B to A again, to then talk to B… This was the problem that game 3 suffered as well. At least this isn’t as bad as that one.
The amount of different missions types and locales also keeps the game fresh. Like the last game, I am totally tired of the stuff taking place outside the Animus, in the “real world”, but then that takes very little time. I really don’t even see the need for it. But Valhalla was amazing as we traversed the Bifrost. England was gloriously beautiful and watching light stream through the treetops was picture worthy (if only I could take screenshots). Norway was cold and desolate and tremendous fun to explore. There are special animals to hunt as well; a handful of super-boss animals. One really gave me a run for my money but most just needed a mix of patience and observation.
Perhaps one of the best things about this game was that it has a sense of humor. There’s one mission that has a man working on the perfect sauce. He wants to call it Ledecestrescire Sauce but can’t get the mix just right. After helping him he calls it a day and heads off to another town to work on it but he can’t imagine it being any good. He’s off to Worcestershire. There’s also a very insignificant mission that brings me to a town wherein I could bob for apples. This is a moment where patience really pays off, because once you commit, you can sit back and watch; it’s all scripted but watching the person hosting as he pushes Eivor becomes increasingly funny. The two go back and forth shoving one another and I can’t deny: I took extreme delight in watching this.
There’s also an in-game game. For those of you who played Gwent in the Witcher series, you understand the value of a good in-game. This has you trying to outplay your opponents, bringing their counters to zero using a mix of dice rolls and special abilities. I became quite proficient at this! There’s also an in-game challenge where you find standing stones with strange markings on them. You have to make the camera hit them in a way that displays a certain image. (This is where I needed the most help from the walkthroughs!) Another in-game challenge that I hated was the cairns! You had to stack rocks to a certain height. One got me so angry, I asked my wife to try – she has patience I can only dream of. This game also has a whole portion dedicated to base building, where you setup a town and build it up over time. I mean, the sheer volume of activities is daunting.
Overall, the game is fantastic and does have an ending. It’s worth the retail price; it more than pays for itself. One item of note that put me off was that the game was not, and apparently will not, be sold on Steam. While I don’t know the details behind that decision, whatever it is, it’s a bummer, because Steam makes screenshots a breeze and there were some genuinely stunning images I’d love to have, as I mentioned above. Try as I might, I was unable to get them from the Ubisoft launcher; I couldn’t even find a setting to allow me to do it. In fact, when I tried the F12 key to snag a shot, it froze the whole game and I had to use Task Manager to get out of it. Considering how long every loading screen was, that was painful.
The game is not flawless. Long loading screens, some items that require you to be past a certain part of the game to be able to access, and some very long cutscenes do interfere with the overall enjoyment, but it’s a small price to pay for such a fun game. In fact, I can’t say enough good things about it despite those few gripes. If I had found the TARDIS, as I had in Origins, that would have been the icing on the cake. Without that, it was still an incredibly good game. It’s a winning formula that has me coming back for more, again and again. Check out the trailer, below. ML