Tag Archives: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

A tale of my most hated tailing missions in videogames

gd post worst tailing missions in videogames

Gather round, dear Grinding Down readers, and I’ll tell you a mighty fine tale…all about tailing. Whatever you do, don’t look up the urban dictionary definition for it.

For those that are lucky and have never played a game involving a tailing mission, you are basically tasked with following a non-player character to a designated area. This is either done on foot or in a vehicle. However, more often than not, your target cannot be alerted to your presence; if they are, that means your mission to be like a ninja failed, and you’ll have to start it all over. Like many, I do not enjoy these missions, despite being full of patience, and some are more loathsome than others, especially when silly things like artificial intelligence, geometry glitches, and randomness are actively working against each other. They are lengthy, generally due to the fact that you are often following someone moving at a leisurely pace, and checkpoints are usually non-existent.

Many bad tailing missions stick out in my mind after all these years of gaming, and below are a few that I’d like to highlight as particularly bad. In fact, I might even say I hated them.

“The Siege of Charles-Towne” from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

This is the one that got this nugget of an idea about a list of tailing missions started, way back when I was actively playing it. Sorry, I’m sometimes slow with these posts or lose interest only to come back to them much later with renewed vigor. I generally enjoyed my time with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag or, as my girlfriend calls it, “the turtle game.” See, one time she saw me playing it, and I was running around a beach area looking at the turtles scooting their way to the ocean, and thus the game will forever now be known as such. That’s fine, because this series is now 10+ games deep, and we need a better way to recognize them than just their generic subtitles. Honestly, I’m surprised it took us so long to use the word origins.

I know these games are pretty hit and miss with consumers, with ones like Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed: Unity definitely in the miss column, but I liked a lot of what Kenway could do and even patiently dealt with the handful of tailing missions thrown at the man throughout the game. Still, they all got rated one or two stars when completed, but they weren’t too bad, all in all. Not when you compare them with Sequence 6’s “The Siege of Charles-Towne”, which literally has you in a boat…stealthily following another boat. Ugh. I don’t really even know how that is possible, but I guess if you sail smoothly enough and don’t startle any dolphins, anything can happen.

To start, you are steering a large boat around a small swampy location, at night, with lots of things to smash into. It’s like threading the needle with the lights out. Also, not sure if any of you have every tried to quickly course correct and shift directions in a boat, but it’s not a fast affair. Throw in the fact that you must be cognizant of both red and yellow circles on the mini-map while trying to steer, and you’ve got the recipe for one bad tailing mission. On a related note, I’m currently playing Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, at about 25% synchronization for those curious, and have not found too many troubling tailing missions…yet. I’m sure one will rear its ugly head soon enough.

“The Set Up” from L.A. Noire

la-noire-the-set-up

Ah, L.A. Noire, you big, gorgeous, empty-as-heck modern adventure game. About midway through “The Set Up” mission, Cole must remain incognito while tailing a woman named Candy Edwards. See, she might have information about why the professional boxer Albert Hammond won a fight that he was supposed to throw, which angered a lot of bookies and people betting on the event. For those that don’t know, incognito means things like, sitting on a park bench and pretending to read the newspaper, as well as avoiding getting spotted when she turns around to examine her surroundings.

As Phelps is tailing Candy on foot, he has to keep his distance and maintain good cover. If he gets too close, she’ll stop and turn around. Phelps will also comment if he is about to lose Candy’s. It’s pretty straightforward, but it’s a whole bag of boredom and constantly worrying about being too far or too near the target. There are invisible meters and vision cones at work here, and I still don’t know if seeing them would be better or not. There’s also an Achievement for tailing Candy without using any incognito or cover…which I’ve not popped.

In the end, it’s a tailing mission, where your movement is dictated by the target’s movement, and I’d rather spend my time closely examining matchbooks or pieces of fruit or interrogating suspects. Or even searching for those well-hidden golden film reel collectibles.

“Act 3” from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

This one is still pretty fresh, seeing as I only just played Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the first time back in autumnal 2015. Earlier in the game, you had to track someone by their footprints out in the wild, and that was honestly fine. However, the streets of Eastern Europe are a whole different bag of messy worms, and Old Snake must tail a member of the resistance in hopes of him leading you to the hidden resistance HQ.

Now, if you follow him without being detected, he’ll lead you directly to the resistance HQ, which is where you can hopefully meet Big Momma. However, you need to keep a good distance away from him in order to avoid being detected, which means letting him get a decent head start and running into trouble. So, you not only have to follow this whistling fool without being spotted, but you also have to protect him from enemy soldiers piqued by all that whistling and various roadblocks. Frustratingly, he can’t witness you helping him either, otherwise he’ll get scared and run away.

I did not do well with this mission, and I felt like I stumbled the entire way through it, just barely surviving encounters and keeping the resistance man on track. It’s a major reason holding me back from ever revisiting the game.

“The Lost Pilgrimage” Korok trial from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Once you make your way through the Lost Woods and get to Hyrule Forest proper in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you can attempt to complete four Korok trials. One is given to you by a Korok named Tasho, who tells you about friend Oaki, who set off to find a shrine alone. Oaki really wants to make it all the way to the shrine by himself, but Tasho is worried and wants Link to follow along after him to ensure he makes it there safely. Alas, this is an instant-fail stealth tailing mission, which means the moment you are spotted it is over and you have to restart from the beginning. It’s a severely outdated design and a fun-sucking vacuum cleaner if I ever saw one.

Okay, so, some issues. One, Oaki is dressed mostly in bland, gray clothing, which makes him hard to see in the foggy Lost Woods. You have to rely on sound more than anything due to all the gear he is carrying. Two, this is still the Lost Woods, and so if you veer off the main path too far, the fog sucks you up. A kind soul might imagine this simply plopping you back on the beaten path to continue forward, but no, it just fails the mission outright. Gee, thanks. Okay, so these issues took a couple attempts to figure out and get used to, but then I lost all hope when, without warning, Oaki turns around and runs straight at Link, spotting him instantly.

Ugh. I attempted this mission three or four times, wasting a bunch of my stealth potions too, before giving up on it entirely to focus instead on rebuilding Tarrey Town. Y’know, an easier, less punishing task.

Well, those are the tailing missions that stand out in my mind as bee aye dee. That’s bad, if you couldn’t figure it out. What ones have you not enjoyed over the years? Or, if you are in the mood to play the devil’s advocate, tell us all about how much you love closely and quietly following someone around a limited environment without ever getting spotted.

Advertisements

2016 Game Review Haiku, #57 – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

2016-gd-games-completed-assassins-creed-4-black-flag

Pirate, assassin
Kenway breaks foul Templar plot
Big fan of shanties

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Forget pirating, there’s shanties to chase in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassins Creed IV Black Flag gd early impressions

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was given out to Xbox 360 players for free as part of the Games with Gold program back in…oh my, late April 2015. For some reason, I thought it had been sitting in my digital library for longer than that. At some point, it was also given out to peeps on the Xbox One, but I didn’t have the console yet and wasn’t smart enough then to know that I could still click download and tie it to my account for future use, which means I’m stuck playing the previous generation version. It is serviceable, though I’m sure facial expressions are a bit more lifelike on the newer consoles.

A reminder for any new readers here at Grinding Down on my history with the Assassin’s Creed series, which I enjoy from a somewhat casual perspective. Once I’m into one, I’m into it, unable to not climb to every rooftop and take care of each icon on the map until all that is left is a clutter-less picture. I got into the series like many did at the start, finding the first Assassin’s Creed impressive, but repetitive. Then, for some reason, I next played Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and absolutely loved it, both the single player campaign and the multiplayer, which is an aspect of gaming I generally steer clear of. Last year, I went back and played Assassin’s Creed II, which helped to make more sense of story details in Brotherhood though that’s on me for playing them out of order. And now here we are, skipping Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Assassin’s Creed III to do some hardcore pirating. Fine by me.

Black Flag‘s main story is set in the 18th century Caribbean during the golden age of piracy, people being smarmy, and lots of ships sailing to and fro. The plot follows notorious pirate Edward Kenway, the grandfather and father of Assassin’s Creed III protagonists Ratonhnhaké:ton and Haytham Kenway, respectively, who stumbles into the conflict between assassins and Templars after he is shipwrecked. In the present day scenario, you are a new employee working at the Montreal offices of Abstergo Entertainment—a subsidiary of Abstergo Industries—exploring its cubicles, eavesdropping on conversations, and hacking computers to uncover secrets about the sinister company. To be honest, I don’t care a lick about the storyline so far, in both realms; thankfully, the gameplay provides plenty to draw enjoyment from, and never demands you get on with the ruddy campaign.

In terms of gameplay, there’s all the usual elements from previous Assassin’s Creed games here: climbing, stealth assassinating, syncing, looting, running, hiring groups of people to hide among, trailing guards, and so on. The new stuff is mostly ocean-bound, with Kenway able to sail a ship, plunder and loot other ships, and explore numerous islands on the map that may house treasure and other goodies, like rare animals to murder for your fancy pouches and outfits. By far, my favorite advancement in this series is that everything is now available on your map after syncing a high view point, and then you can spend the next hour or so collecting each and every thing before moving on to do the actual story mission. Or collecting more from another synced view point. There’s little hand-holding, with the game treating you as an actual, capable adult–these decisions are yours to make. Plus, to catch shanties for your pirate crew to sing while sailing the ocean blue, you have to chase them down in the environment, which is way more fun than simply chasing a dude down in a race or for a few coins.

Still, it’s another Assassin’s Creed game from Ubisoft, and some stuff never changes. Like having your character leap from a building’s rooftop and lose half his health when really you meant for him to move a little to the left and travel along that rope tied to another rooftop. Also, and I want to do some more research into this, but the subtitles follow a strange style related to capitalization, where most words in a sentence are uppercase, but not all of them. Like so: “Avast, Kenway! Do you have Time to Make your crew a Large Plate of Scrambled eggs? We are Totes Hungry.” I don’t know, it’s very strange and hard to not notice since I enjoy reading words. Missions where you trail dudes and have to maintain a specific distance with them, but not be spotted return, though at least you can rate them one star at the end through Abstergo’s feedback forms. I still think combat is fairly button mashy and annoying, which is why I try to go for the stealth kills if I can.

The stats screen at the start says I’ve completed 15% of Black Flag so far, and in terms of story, I’m somewhere in sequence 3. That’s fine. I’m in no rush, especially when there are so many glyphs, treasure chests, and shanties to grab, as well as assassination targets and pirates to rescue and kitty cats to pet. Did I not yet mention you can press a button to pet a cat as it moves between your legs? And that it purrs affectionately? The best Assassin’s Creed game yet.

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2013

2013 top 10 games didn't play Sad-Puppy

Well, I’m not gonna deny it–this year went fast. Except for June through July, but that always seems to drag by due to non-gaming reasons I won’t get into, but otherwise, the months really did seem to slip by. This was extremely noticeable once I began to actually work at my “five games I want to beat in 2013” checklist, and it seems like I was only able to polish off three out of five: Chrono Cross, Silent Hill 2, and Primal. I’m pretty proud of that, but I probably should have started much earlier than the summer. However, I did complete a good number of games over the past three hundred and sixty-five days, and one might consider some of them big AAA titles that are probably going to be on everyone’s final praise list, such as BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V, though they absolutely won’t make mine. Sorry, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is my game of the year; just deal with it.

Once more, here’s what I didn’t get to play last year, the year before that, and the year before that:

Also, do not worry: I have plenty of sad puppy photos to do this kind of post for many more years, so long as videogames keep coming out and I keep not playing ’em. That sounded more threatening than I originally wanted. But enough behind-the-scenes talk. Let’s get into the meat of this yearly post, shall we? The meaty meat, I mean.

10. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

xl_Assassin's-Creed-4-3-624

Sounds like this is a return to form, though the last Assassin’s Creed game I played was Brotherhood, so hopefully people are meaning that game. I’ve kept my distance from the franchise since then for good reasoning, as the later games have seemed repetitive, clunky, and sub-par, but I do enjoy pirates and the ship-based combat looks kind of neat. I wonder if the multiplayer is still there, as that is surprisingly an enjoyable slice of cat-and-mouse. This could be a really perfect summer time-sink for 2014, though I still also have an untouched copy of Assassin’s Creed II in my backlog to get to as well. Hmm.

9. Saints Row IV

Saints-Row-4-Has-Character-Tailored-Alien-Abductions

Originally, the Saints Row series was just another take on Grand Theft Auto, if a bit more ambitious and zany. I never got into it until Saints Row: The Third, and that was only after hearing the Giant Bomb staff praise and praise and praise it. I’m glad I finally listened to them, as I absolutely loved my role as the leader of the purple-clad gang on the rise, but I haven’t made the jump to Saints Row IV yet, as this year I gave my time and money to Grand Theft Auto V instead. I probably choose poorly. In this one, you can literally jump up to rooftops, thanks to alien superpowers. However, the console versions don’t sound up to par to the PC, but I don’t have a great gaming computer so I might just let this one slip by entirely.

8. Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider trailer - video

Here’s a little known fact about me: I’ve only played the original Tomb Raider. That’s right. Just the first one, and I remember it fondly, despite it probably aging terribly. My copy sits proudly next to Suikoden and Suikoden II. The sense of exploration was fully realized–for the time–and I loved how the game slowly revealed its supernatural hand with each level. Like Indiana Jones, a perfect mix of serious and silly. This 2013 reboot looks gritty and grimy and throws Lara in one terrible situation after the next, but sounds well done. Plus, she can use a bow for stealth kills. Mmm. Stealthy. Rhianna Pratchett wrote the script, which gives me hope that Lara, as a person, is more fleshed out here as well.

7. Rogue Legacy

didn't play rogue-legacy

I enjoy rogue-likes because, for me, they don’t ask for much. You can do a run, and if things end terribly, then that’s it. Try again. Conversely, if you’re on a hot streak, every action, jump, and sword swing becomes stressfully vital. This is why I continue to poke at The Binding of Isaac, in hopes of hitting a lucky note and making it to Mom easily, brimming with powers and extra hearts. Alas, that’s not happened yet–but it totally could one day. Rogue Legacy seems to share a lot of that, with the neat mechanic of playing as the children of whatever character you just got killed. These kids acquire different traits–such as colorblindness and vertigo–which affects how you move through the main castle. It’ll probably end up in a Humble Bundle some time in 2014.

6. The Last of Us

the-last-of-us-joel-ellie

Look, I barely got through Silent Hill 2 this year. Horror-themed games are very difficult for me to keep my cool in, and it sounds like the majority of the combat scenarios have you creeping around enemies, trying not to make a sound. That sounds fine to me, actually, but the monster designs and sounds they make are very unnerving, and I just don’t think I could ever get through The Last of Us, which is a dang shame, as it certainly sounds like an amazing–if depressing–experience.

5. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

Mario-and-Luigi-Dream-Team-1

The last Mario-based RPG I played, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, and so I remained skeptic when a new one came out, even though it lives in an entirely different franchise. However, according to some reviews, it sounded like this one was maybe too hand-holdy, which is funny because Sticker Star couldn’t lift a finger to help you out. When I bought Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection, I also grabbed a used copy of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story on the Nintendo DS for free. I suspect I’ll give that one a go and if I love the mechanics and all that jazz will move on to the newer iteration.

4. Super Mario 3D World

Super_mario_3d_world_screenshot

Super Mario 3D Land is one of the rare 3DS titles that I continue to pop back into the handheld and fart around in for a few minutes, always with the hope of earning a couple more stars. See, I’m in the post-completion content, but only halfway through it, so there’s still plenty more to see. And it sounds like Super Mario 3D World is all that and more…and on a console, which is where I’d truly rather be playing my plumber-based platformers. Throw in a silly cat theme, and I’m salivating from the mouth. Alas, no Wii U in this house, and still no interest in getting one any time soon unless there’s a big price drop or more interesting games in the pipeline. Sorry, I have no interest in the Smashing Bros.

3. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

LEGO Marvel SHS_IronMan MK2-noscale

Love me my LEGO videogames, and I haven’t played one since LEGO Lord of the Rings, which means Tara and I are severely overdue for some co-op funtimes. Any will do, really, but I’d rather side with Iron Man and Wolverine over Batman and Superman. That’s right. I’ve always been a Marvel fan before a DC one. The formula doesn’t look to have changed one block–hub world, individual levels, a billion things to collect and unlock–but that’s okay, because at least I know what I’m getting here.

2. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

brothers 1920x1080

The subject matter of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, two siblings on a mission to save their deathly ill father, hits a little too close to home for me, and so I doubt I’ll ever get around to playing it. It’s not a direct parallel to my life, but there are enough elements present to put more weight on my shoulders, push me closer to the ground. Yes, I suffer from depression and would rather avoid mediums that enhance my feelings of hopelessness. I do love the idea of controlling two separate players with both analog sticks, but ibb and obb showed me just how difficult this could be for my brain to wrap its mind around. Also, Ni no Kuni did it first. I suspect the Giant Bomb podcasts will end up spoiling the story’s key moments and ending.

1. Gone Home

gone home did not play

Sigh. My gaming laptop is really great for playing indie Flash games or point-and-click adventure games that don’t require too much in terms of software. In the past, I’ve been able to play bigger productions, like Red Faction: Armageddon, but only if I turned down every setting, and even then it’s a bit rubbish. Same goes for Fallout: New Vegas and Skyrim; there is no draw distance because I can only see a few inches in front of my character. All of that is to say that I don’t think I can run Gone Home at the required settings to do it justice. Evidently, the game is loaded with high resolution posters, pictures, notes, and so on, and a big part is exploring the house and looking at stuff up close. I have no other way to play Gone Home, so hopefully it’ll come to consoles at some point, but I kind of doubt it.

Well, there you go. Or rather, there I go, not playing all these games. Of course, there’s more that didn’t make the list, such as Papers, Please and The Stanley Parable, but I had to draw a line somewhere. Given that I still haven’t played a few games from the previous lists yet–hello, Portal 2!–I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting to see me get to all of these next year. Maybe one or two. Plus a ton of older games. Can’t forget about the PS1 and PS2.

Anyways, what games did you miss out on this year? Shout ’em out in despair in the comments section below.