Category Archives: achievements

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, a big ol’ boring collectathon

I started playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate when I came home from the hospital last August; I’m still playing it. It’s a long one, bloated with things to collect and many uninspired missions that I no longer even care about completing the way the developers clearly want me to, but I like finishing things that I start, and so I’ve stuck with it still despite it being really boring. Those are both my words and Melanie’s word; the poor thing has had to endure watching me run around like a maniac in search of every single collectible. I’m currently in sequence 8, with one more sequence to go, along with a few Achievements to unlock because, at this point, I’ve put in a good chunk of work to unlock them already…might as well see them pop.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is set in a fictional history of real-world events and follows the centuries-old struggle between the Assassins, who fight for peace with liberty, and the Templars, who desire peace through order. The story is set in Victorian-era London and follows twin assassins Jacob and Evie Frye as they navigate the corridors of organized crime and take back the city from Templar control. Naturally, this being an Assassin’s Creed game, you’ll run into many a notable figures as you stab and loot your way to victory, such as novelist Charles Dickens, biologist Charles Darwin, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, political theorist Karl Marx, nurse Florence Nightingale, Duleep Singh (the last maharajah of the Sikh Empire), Sergeant Frederick Abberline of the Metropolitan Police Service (known for his investigation of Jack the Ripper), and Queen Victoria. Phew.

It’s an Assassin’s Creed game, which means it does all the same things previous ones have done, but on a grander scale, this being on the Xbox One and not the Xbox 360. It’s got main missions, side missions, a thousand collectibles, gear to upgrade, income to earn, gangs to upgrade, skills and perks to unlock, and so on, just like Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag–maybe the last one I’ve truly enjoyed–Assassin’s Creed II, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I wasn’t thrilled with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, and all I remember from it is that is focused heavily on bombs. Anyways, taking place in a bustling place like London, the buildings are bigger and more closely connected to each other; to help get around somewhat faster, both Jacob and Evie have access to a grappling hook device that shoots a zipline from one place to another. This still doesn’t make all the running around fun or that much quicker, as climbing can still be iffy, with the occasional leaping off of rooftops to your swift death below.

Here’s something funny I’ve been doing while running around from one place to another simply to collect a pressed flower, a poster, a beer bottle, or a chest full of crafting/upgrade ingredients. I’ve been telling Alexa–that robot lady everyone seemingly now has in their house–to play a playlist of polka music. Honestly, it makes all the to-ing and fro-ing much more enjoyable, because it’s not like any interesting dialogue is happening at this time, and getting from A to B can often take a couple of minutes, depending on where you are and whether or not there’s a fast travel viewpoint nearby. At some point, I have to give up the notion that I’m going to open every single chest in this game because…there are just too many.

Combat in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is still a button-mashy mess. You can string together a couple of combos, as well as counter an incoming attack from a different enemy, but only if you time it just right. Then, some enemies, require you to break their stance by stunning them before you can begin a new combo. This sounds par for the course, and it is, but things go sour real fast the minute you have four or more enemies attacking you at once, as well as snipers on rooftops that you have to dodge. I eventually began using hallucinogenic darts from a distance to get enemies to fight each other, with me sneaking in at the end to finish off the remaining survivors. It’s not the coolest way to go about it, but it works. Also, while the skill trees make it seem like Evie is the sneaky one and Jacob is the more aggressive combatant, both play exactly the same way and can unlock the same abilities for fighting…so there’s really no point in having two playable characters other than for story-related reasons.

Looking at my games to install list on the ol’ Xbox One, I still have Assassin’s Creed III to play. Also, this month, we’re getting a free copy of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue from Games With Gold. Ugh. I’ll never be done with this series. Plus, there’s the newest ones, Origins and Odyssey, which, according to podcasts I’ve listened, sound like they are too big for their britches. Can’t wait. Part of me enjoys the idea of a collectathon, but maybe only one that is both not this big or a bit more fun to play. Heck, I enjoyed collecting 10 eggs recently in Dear Cousin more than anything I’ve accomplished in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Please pray that I’m finished with this beast sooner than later.

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2019 Game Review Haiku, #14 – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Ungodly boring
Hate tail missions, save the Queen
At least there was cake

And we’re back with these little haikus of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

There’s beyond plenty to do in LEGO City Undercover

For Black Friday this year, I purchased three games digitally for my Xbox One–LEGO City Undercover, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Batman: Arkham City. Go me. And yes, I’ve technically already played Batman: Arkham Asylum on my PlayStation 3, but this came as part of a two-game bundle, and the price was too good to ignore. I think it was about $5.00. But I’m not here to chat about the Batman…instead, let’s get into Chase McCain and his big-city antics.

Naturally, LEGO City Undercover takes place in the vast LEGO City, with players controlling an undercover cop appropriately named Chase McCain. Chase goes on the hunt for criminals, with various moves at his disposal, such as swinging across poles and performing wall jumps. He can also gain disguises throughout his quest to take down Rex Fury that give him additional abilities, such as a robber disguise that lets him break locks, a miner that can use dynamite, or a firefighter to put out fires and chop down boards on doors. Chase can also pilot a number of different vehicles, such as cars and helicopters, and use loose bricks to build various special structures. It’s basically a severely toned-down version of Grand Theft Auto, but with more building and people jumping out of the way of a car driving down the sidewalk.

This is a totally original LEGO story, for once not based on any sort of previously established universe and/or characters. Upon McCain’s return to the titular LEGO City, the mayor reveals the city is in the grips of a crime wave, which she suspects to be the work of Rex Fury, a notorious criminal that Chase initially helped to arrest, but who has since escaped from prison. Chase is tasked with finding him. To assist him, Chase is joined by dim-witted rookie Frank Honey and police technician Ellie Phillips. However, McCain’s grand return is not welcome news for Natalia Kowalski, Chase’s ex-girlfriend, who was forced into the witness protection program after he inadvertently revealed her as the witness in Fury’s trial. I mention all these characters by name because they truly make the story work, fun, and engaging, and Frank Honey is just so goofy and dumb as LEGO bricks that you have to love him.

LEGO City Undercover is packed with humor, references, and silly gags, as one might expect from the folks at Traveller’s Tales. Some of these I think might go over many children’s heads, but I spotted several and smiled constantly. There’s an early level that is entirely a pastiche of The Shawshank Redemption, complete with a Morgan Freeman impersonator. Later, you have to follow the instructions of a construction worker who sounds exactly like one Arnold Schwarzenegger, with him even mentioning that we need to “get to the chopper.” The game definitely has its own voice and sense of style, and the writing is engaging and goofy, even when attempting to hit some emotional beats. There’s a redemption arc for McCain, but it falls a little flat with all the goofiness around his actions.

And now, the most daunting aspect of LEGO City Undercover is just how much stuff there is to discover. I’m talking collectibles here, and LEGO videogames have just continuously gotten bigger and bigger with each new entry. However, this feels like a bit too much, yet sadly I will have to collect every single one of them or forever not sleep soundly again:

  • 39 Red Bricks
  • 305 Characters
  • 120 Vehicles
  • 450 Gold Bricks

Now, those 450 gold bricks are tied to at least over a dozen different types of activities, such as punching ATMs, destroying boulders, doing time trials, chasing down aliens, watering flowerpots, and so on. Basically, if you do something special or attached to a specific character disguise for McCain, you get a gold brick. Hooray. Since beating the game the other day, I am just a smidge over 100 gold bricks and somewhere in the 35% completion total rate, which means I have a long road ahead of me.

Other than LEGO City Undercover glitching out on me a few times, I’ve generally had a good time with the game. I wasn’t too keen on having to collect building bricks along with studs, but it hasn’t been an issue, and once you beat the game you get an automatic x2 multiplier to the activity. Still, there’s lot of things left to build, so maybe I’ll end up hating the grinding for building bricks by the end. If you don’t hear from me in a month’s time, please send help.

Every day is “Demo Day” in House Flip with Chip and Jo

I never used to watch any of the many home renovation shows that are constantly playing on the television channel HGTV at every hour of the day, but then I met Melanie. She turned me on to a number of these shows, such as Love It or List It–I’m always rooting for David, though he seems to lose more often to Hilary, the queen of staging–Property Brothers, and, more related to today’s post, Fixer Upper. I really like the dynamic between Chip and Joanna Gaines; one is more serious, the other a loving goofball, and they pair off nicely when fixing up less-than-stellar homes and taking care of a swath of kids and farm animals.

Well, on a whim, after uninstalling Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery off my phone, I decided to download a game called…House Flip with Chip and Jo, developed by fun-gi and free for all to enjoy. Obviously, there are timers everywhere, and that means special currency–in this case, hearts and elbow grease–so there’s always the opportunity to spend real money on microtransactions, but the game is pretty good about not putting it directly in your face all the time and providing other ways to acquire hearts simply by playing the game. Gee, what a novel concept. My suggestion though is to save up enough hearts to buy a third construction worker, as it will help you do more actions each time you log in.

House Flip with Chip and Jo is naturally all about flipping houses. Chip and Joanna Gaines need your help to explore the world of renovation and design. You’ll assist them to renovate and decorate with a variety of construction and staging skills, discover new houses and architecture, and learn how to buy low and sell high in the cutthroat realm of real estate. You’ll do this in a number of locations, starting with Waco, TX, and then moving on to Kansas City, MO. There are other cities on the map yet to be unlocked, but it looks like you’ll be doing a bit of globe-trotting, moving from Phoenix to Salt Lake City to Seattle and so on. I mean, eventually, Texas is going to run out of homes to flip.

All you really do in House Flip with Chip and Jo is tap, and that’s fine. Most phone games are all tapping. However, when I start a timer to begin staging a bedroom or painting the walls in the bathroom, it’s nice to know that I can either return whenever I want to complete that mission, unlike in games in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery; those punish you if you don’t came back ASAP. Once you purchase a house and finish fixing up all its problems, as well as staging it just right in various themes, such as Mid-Century Modern or French, you can put it on the market and watch the bids come in. Sometimes you might want to reject an offer if you aren’t making a profit, and you can speed up additional offers by spending hearts. I do wish you could flip more than one home at a time in each location, but I get that that’s not realistically feasible for Chip and Jo to do, even in digital form.

However, I do have one major issue with House Flip with Chip and Jo, and it has to do with the in-game depiction of Chip. Look, I know the man has gone through several looks, but the one below just seems oddly off. Like a wax museum statue or something. Just not quite there. Though fun-gi did nail his blindingly white grin; don’t believe me, then check out this quickly Photoshopped image below that I have prepared for y’all:

I kid, I kid. Honestly, I’m having a good time with House Flip with Chip and Jo, and it’s the perfect game to check in on a few times throughout the day, start a bunch of new timers, and watch progress inch forward. I do wonder if I’ll grow tired of doing the same actions as more cities unlock or if there will be new sets of challenges to pursue. Either way, these houses need flipping, and I am the flipper. Well, timer tapper, really.

An abridged version of Final Fantasy XV that I cannot actually fit in my pocket

For a good chunk of my young adult life, I played every new Final Fantasy game that came out, starting naturally with Final Fantasy VII, then the underappreciated Final Fantasy VIII, and next to Final Fantasy IX, a game I only came around to seeing its conclusion a couple years back. I dabbled in a borrowed copy of Final Fantasy X from a friend in my sophomore year of college, but actually was more focused on schoolwork, dating, and being social than playing videogames. Shocking.

And so it went on, with me skipping out on Final Fantasy X-2 and the online-only Final Fantasy XI. I eventually returned to these hallowed grounds after graduating college, moving into a tiny studio apartment near New York City, and not setting up cable or Internet for a couple months because money was an issue. Thankfully, two games kept me quite busy–Final Fantasy XII and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. This is a lot of preamble just to say that the last recent Final Fantasy game I’ve played was Final Fantasy XII back in 2006-ish and that weird side-scrolling beat-em-up…until now.

Yup, move aside official release Final Fantasy XV, with your mega realistic graphics, hours-long epic plotline, and detailed character models and pictures of food that convince you this world and its inhabitants are worth believing in. Because I’m playing Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, which takes a 50-hour console JRPG and re-imagines it as a 10ish-hour mobile game. Except I’ll add one more wrinkle to the mix–I’m playing this on my laptop, not my cell phone. For this to happen, Square Enix naturally had to murder its darlings, cutting back on story, controls, and graphics to deliver a more shortened and laid-back telling of Prince Noctis’s journey to become king. It actually works though, surprise surprise.

Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition follows the same plot as the original game, as far as I can tell, but eliminates the open world aspect and many sidequests for a more focused experience. Exploration and combat have now been shifted from a behind-the-back view to an isometric overhead perspective with simplified controls more suitable for playing on a touchscreen…or using a mouse and keyboard, as I am doing. Music and voice acting was mostly kept intact, while the graphics were given a makeover with “chibified” character designs. The game is divided into ten chapters; the first chapter is available for free, hooray, and the remaining nine can be purchased individually or as a whole with discounted pricing.

The combat in Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition is more friendly and forgiving though maybe a little uninteresting. When the party enters a fight–no random battles here–the player takes control of Noctis only while his companions do their own thing. Noctis will auto-attack whatever enemy is nearest to him or whatever one you personally select, with opportunities to parry and dodge presented as timed button prompts. As the party gains EXP, Ignis, Prompto, and Gladio gain the same sort of special combat abilities they do in the core version, and there’s a skill tree to unlock other perks, such as using magic or enhancing how much damage your weapon does. Noctis himself has a very special ability called warp, jumping from one enemy to another by clicking on that enemy and holding down the mouse button, getting the drop on the unaware. You can also do this outside of combat, to reach certain areas.

Honestly, I enjoyed my free time in Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition‘s first chapter, but I’m not hooked enough to drop any bucks on it and see the remainder of the young prince’s plight. The combat feels inconsequential currently, though perhaps it gets more involved later on once magic and summoning show up. Still, it’ll always be a watered down version, and for some, that is ideal, and others not. I still find the idea of a boys’ roadtrip to be entertaining, even if it eventually does the Final Fantasy thing and end up being about saving the world from plunging into eternal darkness.

Anodyne’s dream world is perfect for wondering and wandering

Over the weekend, I beat Anodyne, and I still remain conflicted over how I feel about the game overall. I liked a lot of moments and puzzles and found others beyond frustrating; I had to look up several walkthroughs online just to keep going and figure out what I needed to do next, and that is something I desperately try to avoid doing when playing anything for the first time. I don’t know. It’s a strange game, set in an even stranger world, where characters say the strangest things to our leading lad Young, and it’s up to you to determine if what they say matters or not. I don’t think they did.

First, what is Anodyne? It’s an action-adventure game clearly inspired by the original The Legend of Zelda, or even The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, developed by Analgesic Productions, the same team that brought us Even the Ocean and All Our Asias. It was released on PC some years ago, but just came to consoles recently, which was a pleasant surprise. The game begins with little explanation as Young jumps into a dream-like world via a main hub area…for some purpose. Once there, a somewhat terse and shrouded Sage sets him off on a mysterious journey to open gates, defeat evil monsters, and collect a good number of cards. All right then.

Whereas the general tone of things like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and The Legend of the Skyfish are colorful and positive, upbeat, all about adventuring forward and seeing new sights, Anodyne is the opposite. The vibe I constantly felt as I put in over six hours into this dark adventure was one of unease. There’s an unsettling cloud that hangs over every screen, every word that these oddball NPCs spew out at Young, words that seemingly have no purpose other than to take up time or make you wonder. I always felt like I was intruding, disturbing the environment in some way, even on the screens that were complete dead ends. There are tormented characters, and I honestly don’t even know what Briar, the final boss, was all about, but he was certainly disturbed, along with a pain to fight.

Something I love is that Young wields a broom, not a sword. The broom can still be used to attack enemies, but it is also used for puzzle solving, picking up puffs of dust to use to navigate waterways. There are a bunch of upgrades you can get for the broom too to change how it functions, the last one being a real post-game changer. In terms of puzzles, you are usually looking for a key or a way to hit a switch or, even trickier, get an enemy to hit a switch for you. They are never too hard to solve, and I found the jumping parts in the acrobat dungeon to be the hardest to time and nail perfectly. Some frustration comes from the map and seeing rooms with exits you can’t seemingly reach.

The game’s retro look and subtle soundtrack works well for Anodyne‘s vibe. The 16-bit graphics–and, at times, 8-bit–will never blow your face off, but there’s a comforting feel to many of the screens, hearkening back to the good ol’ SNES days with games like Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy III. It makes exploring every nook and cranny worth it, even if all you get is a dead-end screen, and the sound effects of hitting a slime with your broom are satisfying. I did notice some weird flickering on the menu screen, especially when viewing the cards you collected. Other than that, Anodyne plays exactly like it looks like it should play.

I popped all but two Achievements, and I’m okay with that. One is for finding a bunch more cards, which is something you can only do post-game, but I’m not feeling the desire to look around this world more. The other is for beating the game in under three hours–no thanks. Still, in the end, I’m glad I played Anodyne, even if I might not ever truly know how I feel about the experience. That said, I most certainly will be playing whatever comes out of Analgesic Productions next.

You are designed for accomplishment, so says 100,000 Gamerscore

As y’all probably know, I’ve been at this for a while, slowly building up my pointless and inconsequential Gamerscore, trying to hit it perfectly on big numbers like 10,000, 20,000, and so on. It makes getting these silly things called Achievements fun and somewhat meaningful to me, especially the extra ones you have to actually work for, and I will most likely continue to go at it…though having now finally hit 100,000, I feel like I might not make a big stink of it going forward. I mean, sure 110,000 is a bigger and better number than 100,000, but it just doesn’t seem as cool. Weird.

Anyways, I was real close to hitting this mega-milestone mark back in July, but then some other things happened, and I was away from my Xbox One for a good number of weeks. Once I was back to recovering at home on the couch, I was able to play a few more titles and earn some Achievements, hitting 100,000 perfectly on the nose thanks to games like Death Squared, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and State of Decay 2. Woo, go me, big celebration.

As always, picture proof, though I only snapped this one photo of my cool-as-cool-gets number using my cell phone’s camera against my broken TV:

Also, I updated my avatar, something I didn’t think you could even do anymore.

A quick side note. One of my favorite things from this current generation of gaming is when a game, such as Gears of War 4 or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, comes out with new Achievements, recognizes you already did the work to pop ’em, and grants you them with glee from the moment you next sign into the game. That’s happened recently, and I’ve also been noodling away at Anodyne, which I will say nothing else of here except that is a game that deserves its own post and exhaustive breakdown because…hoo boy. Also, playing a bunch of Fortnite, but because there’s no Achievements for the Battle Royale mode, that’s not a real thing.

I’m currently almost a thousand points ahead of 100,000 and not even thinking about the next milestone. It’s been a fun journey, starting way back in February 2010 on the ol’ Xbox 360, but I have other issues to concern myself with at the moment. Thanks for coming along with me nonetheless. I’m sure I’ll find some other dumb thing to focus on down the road. Until then, readers…