Friday, November 18, 2016

Assassin's Creed III: an unexpected twist

Hang on, he was a Templar?

OK, the clues were there: generally unlikable; cold and calculating; trying to find things rather than prevent them.  The characterisation was painfully thin, once the twist was revealed. But it's made me quite unhappy that I have aided the wrong side for three chapters of the game.

And then his friend did this.


Playing as a kid for a chapter seemed odd, particularly because it seemed so insignificant. I suppose the idea was to set off the carefree nature of childhood against the pain of loss, but it just felt a bit stilted. Still, at least I know who I'm playing as now, and it looks like the rest of the game is going to have some spectacular scenery.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Assassin's Creed III: an unlikable toff

Progressing with the series, a change of time period, a change of location, and a change of console.  I'm not sure if the latter is a good idea or not, because the combat controls have changed a lot from previous games, and I'm not sure if this is a change due to moving away from the Xbox 360, or if all versions have the same changes.  I assume it's the latter, and that means the change is a good one since I now how a larger map available to me (although not separately zoomable, which is annoying).

I seem to remember Assassin's Creed Revelations ended with Desmond being trapped in the Animus, but here he is, walking around with his friends, going to the pub and the greyhound races, having a picnic in the local park, watching the X-Factor and eating crisps.  Well, he's in the real world anyway.  There was a very brief explanation of him getting out, but it felt pretty tacked on.


Oh, and his dad was there as well.  I don't remember his dad from before.  Have I missed something?

Anyway, the big glowy ball of wonder opened a door, and the animus was set up inside a big cave system with no obvious food supply.  The target avatar this time was Haytham Kenway, a British man sent over to the US at the time of colonisation.  The first mission, however, was set in the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (or, rather, the Theatre Royal as it was then known).  I was tempted to watch the play, but I suspect it would have repeated quite quickly.


I quite liked the effects of the world being built around you as you walked through the courtyard.

After assassinating in the theatre, I was sent to the US, and several missions aboard a boat.  It was only on arrival in America that the title screen appeared, over an hour into the game.


I don't like Haytham.  He is a calculating, mean, simplistic idiot who has no morality or ethics.  I didn't want to do half of the stuff he was meant to, particularly because it was largely directed against British soldiers who were innocent of malicious schemes.  That wasn't the only reason I struggled though; as mentioned above the controls have changed significantly, with aiming and combat 'simplified'.  There is no longer the need to lock on in hand-to-and combat, but this means you lose some control of where to direct your attacks.  Shooting is also much more difficult.


Assassin's Creed games were never about the shooting, though, so I wasn't too worried about that.  Except I should have been, because a few missions have almost depended on it.  Sigh.

Anyway, the changes don't stop at the controls.  Yes, there are still viewpoints ...


... and collectables such as note pages, but there is a distinct lack of the empire building from previous games.  No shops to buy, no assassin network to command - or even assassins to call on during missions, except in very restricted ways.  In a way this is good, since my main complaint about Revelations was that there was too much to do.  It may be that the game expands a bit, since previous entries introduced them gradually, but I'm now four hours in and it's still very linear.

It's lovely to look at though, certainly more so than Revelations, and there are some very nice graphical effects around the world.  I am currently hiking around the countryside in the snow trying to find out about the movements of someone called Braddock, and there's a real sense of inertia to movement.  As you walk, you dig furrows in the snow.  Unfortunately not everything is modelled with accurate physics, meaning that if you kill an animal (such as one of the wolves which are constantly attacking you) and then walk around its corpse, you can make it levitate.


Hopefully I will adapt to the controls soon.  The Wii U controller is great for the game though, and I like the larger map, especially for planning movements through lots of guards.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Game Boy Wars: offset grids

I love Advance Wars, even if Kieron always wins.  Since Nintendo seem to have forgotten the series exists, I decided to try out some of the original games from the NES and Game Boy eras.  The fact that they were only released in Japan is a barrier only in terms of language, due to the wonders of emulation - and even that isn't an issue if you find translated ROMs.

I didn't; I like the excitement of not knowing what buttons do what.  Not that there's much to guess here.  The main difficulty was finding which menu item progressed a turn.

Unfortunately the version of Famicom Wars I tried first didn't work, so I progressed on to Game Boy Wars.  The first thing I noted was that the map grid has each row offset - so effectively it's played on a hex grid rather than a square one.  When you select a unit to move, it's not clear initially where it can move to; you have to keep an eye on the "distance remaining" marker.  Some of the squares are different colours and it's not clear why.  The units aren't cute like in later games in the series.




But it's still fun.  The first map was actually relatively difficult, albeit mainly because I forgot to build units for a couple of turns after the first.  I'll come back to this some day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars: playing online

For something old, with a much-improved sequel, SARPBC has an active online community.  I hosted a game, and found five people joining me very quickly - and just as with Rocket League, playing online multiplies the fun several times.

While recording gameplay on the PS3 is still tricky, SARPBC does allow you to save replays.  I scored the overtime goal in this match - after many close calls.


Friday, October 07, 2016

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars: evolution of a masterpiece

I was surprised to learn that Rocket League was actually a sequel to a PS3 game by Psyonix called  Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars.  With such a catchy title, it's hard to see why it never took off to the same extent as Rocket League did.  Having said that, apparently it was downloaded on PSN over two million times, so if anything it just goes to show how I don't keep up with trends any more.

Anyway, when I found this out I saw it was on sale on PSN for £1.99, and since I got Rocket League for 'free' via PS+ I thought I would try it out.  It was only after I had bought it that I discovered that there's an extensive trial version which I could have tried for free, since the way PS3 games are sold on the store is ludicrously complicated.

It's ... not bad.  The essence of Rocket League is there, and many of the pitches and arenas are recognisable from the sequel.  There is a single-player mode which is different from the standard tournament I played through in Rocket League - here there are minigames and a tournament of varying rules and opponents, which I have already played through once but am likely to do so again.  As with Rocket League, the game comes into its own with the online side, which is great fun but finding a match is a pretty bare bones experience, reminding me of Half Life deathmatch servers from 2002.

But the cars feel less weighty and solid, it's slower and less precise, and there's either awful screen tear or quite a poor (and varying) framerate.  The controls feel a bit untidy, and aerials are much harder to pull off.  It is a great demonstration on how controls can make or break a game.

I'll probably complete the single-player game and play a few more online matches, but other than that it'll be back to Rocket League.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: a great witch arises

You know, this game was keeping my attention, but unfortunately Pokémon X intervened and took up the cartridge slot in the 3DS - and, of course, there was the perennial issue with the 3DS of picross games.  With the launch of the new Phoenix Wright game on the eShop, however, I thought I ought to go back to the Layton crossover and try to finish it.

When I last played, I had just defended Espella in court and she had been subsequently accused of not being just a witch, but the great witch.  And so I went off to examine the town for clues, solving puzzles along the way.  I searched for, and found, a cat, running into the High Inquisitor along the way.  Layton was summoned to the storyteller.  Wright went to see Espella, and then to the scene of a murder three months previous.


The storyteller appeared flummoxed on how Layton and Luke had appeared in the town; he hadn't written them into the story.  He was keen to write them out, though.


He hinted that he was going to kill Wright, so Layton sped over to the alchemist's house, where the murder had taken place.  It wasn't Wright that was cursed though; Layton has been turned into a golden statue.

Statue?  No, it's Layton.

So, off to court now to prove that Maya - the only one in the room with Wright when the witches appeared and cast the curse - isn't a witch herself.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

An old-fashioned game save

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Friday, August 12, 2016

No Man's Sky: Bangaio One

I started on Bangaio One, a forest planet with temperate climate, abundant flora and some fauna.  In fact, one of the first things I saw as I turned around the survey the land was a pair of tyrannosaur-type creatures on a nearby hill.  Luckily they didn't run over and attack.


There is little grass on Bangaio One, with the ground covered by short bushes and leaves.  Parts of the ground are more barren, allowing you to glimpse the orange and red dust beneath.  The air seems clear, although in the distance you feel there is a bit of a lack of visibility.


The relatively leafy ground made spotting some creatures tricky.  The Bangaioan Jawbreaker was well-camoflaged and hid in the bushes; the Thundercatian Bangaioese Boar was more visible.



As night fell, the sky darkened to a deep green; the two dinosaurs had not moved from their positions.  I crept near them to harvest some flowers.



After fitting up my ship, I went for a fly around the planet, watching the sun rise over a rocky outcrop.  And then I pushed off into space, looking back to see my planet as I did so.



I have already been back a few times but I know one day soon I shall say goodbye for good ... unless they can add the functionality to revisit places you've been.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Pokémon X: I may have the Rumble Badge

There was a bit of mucking about in Shalour City, running back and forth to the Tower of Mastery and the gym.  I was anticipating a long slog up the tower, similar to the ghost towers of other games, but after winning the gym badge and being told to go back up the tower, in fact it was a simple slope to the top.  There I was given a Lucario with mega evolution.  Mega evolution seems to make your pokémon change colour a bit and become stupidly overpowered.

Lucario in hand, I left the city and started to travel East, but in real life I got off the train and some time over night my 3DS ran out of battery.   I can't remember when I saved.  I hope I don't have to repeat the gym, although beating the fighting trainers only required one of my pokémon - Vivillon, who could one-hit-kill with a Psybeam.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Assassin's Creed Revelations: completed!

I actually completed this a while ago, but it's taken me ages to get around to writing about it - and getting the screenshots off my capture box.  Plus, you know, there were some after-game parts I wanted to get around to, including an achievement for catching the taxman which occurs once in a blue moon.  I may write about those separately.

The main game first, then.  The storyline, pulling together the missing parts of Altäir's life with the later years of Ezio, was probably the most coherent yet, although the modern-day parts, with Desmond in some sort of coma, were less successful.  The story missions seemed more varied and tighter than in previous games, but the amount of extraneous guff seemed too high - the tower defence games and constant need to send assassins to the Mediterranean were not optional enough and felt entirely superfluous.

The city of Constantinople wasn't as interesting as Rome, partially due to a lack of countryside and ancient ruins.  There was possibly more variety in buildings, but I found myself constantly having the refer to the map to work out where I was, whereas navigating Brotherhood's city was second nature by the time I finished the game.  The poor draw distance from viewpoints didn't help.


Having said that, the game on the ground is stunning to look at, and I enjoyed the parkour more than before, largely due to the hookblade which allows you to make large jumps with little fear of damage. I noticed I played the game slightly differently as well - making more use of the hiding places and running from enemies, rather than simply engaging in the fight until they were all dead.



The one weak point in the story was the involvement of Sofia Sartor, who came across as naïve and hopeless at several points throughout the game.  Her kidnapping was a cliche too far.  It wasn't made clear why she was so interested in Ezio's books, and the limited involvement the two of them had didn't establish any sort of relationship.  Ezio continued to ignore her and hide away throughout, which makes the idea that there would have been any sort of romance extremely unlikely.


But she helped him find random books, so that's alright.

The end credits went on for hours, over a dull background of the destroyed animus hub.  Which was then rebuilt, so you could continue to play and find stuff.


Which I did.