Tag Archives: Ubisoft

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Cloudberry Kingdom

Here’s a rare happening when it comes to all these PlayStation Plus Purge posts–I’ve actually already played a small bit of Cloudberry Kingdom already, our topic du jour, but I naturally remember nothing more about it other than that. A quick search on Grinding Down shows that I definitely didn’t have anything to say about the game whenever it was I last touched it, and I don’t know how much more I’ll have to say about it now because…well, it just kind of is what it is. Still, let’s find out together.

First, some pertinent stats upon returning to Cloudberry Kingdom after what I can only guess is several years; my PlayStation 3 says I installed it on June 2, 2015…yup, so there ya go. I won’t go into them all, but here a few standouts:

  • Levels beat: 54
  • Jumps: 761
  • Score: 284575
  • Coins: grabbed 602 out of 637 (94%)
  • Total deaths: 40
  • Trophies unlocked: 1

Cloudberry Kingdom is an action platformer created by Pwnee Studios and published by that lovable French fatcat Ubisoft. The game uses a set of algorithms developed by Jordan Fisher to create procedurally generated levels that can be adaptive to the player’s skill level, in-game character abilities, and alteration of game physics. Whatever that means. Basically, the levels change based on how you play, which is neat, but I probably wouldn’t have known that unless I read it first before playing. To me, the levels in story mode feel mostly handcrafted, so if it is changing based on my lackluster jumping skills, that’s kind of cool. If it’s not, oh well.

There is…a story to follow. Or try to care about. Something called The Orb resurfaces and, with it, comes Kobbler with his mania and Princess with her endless boredom. It’s only a matter of time before Bob, Cloudberry Kingdom‘s hero, shows up to put order back to madness. Three powers struggle for victory, and the fate of Cloudberry Kingdom hangs in the balance. I really don’t know what to make of all that. Honestly, it’s like reading a short summary of something in a different language. Wait, wait a freaking second. I just discovered this major factoid–Cloudberry Kingdom touts celebrity voice actor Kevin Sorbo, the star of hit TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

I’ll be honest with y’all; I don’t dig Cloudberry Kingdom‘s look. It hurts to say because, obviously, I love cartoony styles, but there’s just something ultra plain vanilla about the graphics here. They look like stickers atop a muted piece of background art. The jumping is a bit floaty, but it’s functional enough, though the story levels don’t present much challenge; I’m sure if I got further into the campaign mode I’d come across some real zingers, but that won’t ever happen, at least not in this lifetime. In addition to the main story, there are four additional modes: Escalation, which throws increasingly tough levels at you; Time Crisis, where there is a timer that is draining gems to time to the clock; Hero Rush, another timed mode where you play as different character types; lastly, Hybrid Rush, an absurd amalgamation in which you’re afflicted by multiple abilities simultaneously.

Cloudberry Kingdom has a neat idea behind it, but it lacks polish and imagination. You can’t rely simply on Kevin Sorbo to sell your game…though I am interested to here some of his voicework now. I’d love to see the notion of randomly generated platforming levels explored further, as this is clearly just a nugget of an idea here. It’s just not enough currently.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

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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.

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.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Mad Riders

I’m tired of talking about racing games. I already did this recently for BlazeRush, for Monster Jam: Battlegrounds, and for Midnight Club: Street Racing, and…I’m just exhausted when it comes to words describing a game where you race around a course a few times and aim for first place. There is nothing exciting to it; instead, give me a Super Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing, where, sure, you want first place, but there are more creative ways to get there, such as launching torpedoes at enemies or dropping banana peels behind your vehicle to cause some accidents. I understand the purpose of going from point A to point B, over and over again–it’s the shortest route–but it ain’t interesting.

Well, Mad Riders is about off-road racing. Players control an all terrain vehicle, or an ATV if you are down with the lingo, and race against other ATVs around a series of tracks. You can collect coins placed along the way to activate a short boost in speed, and blue tokens allow players to temporarily access shortcuts, though I never found any of these myself. When in the air, players can perform tricks, which also provide a bit of boost so long as you land them safely. Naturally, there are obstacles both on the ground and in the air to avoid. Other than that, it’s lap after lap, all while trying to maintain the leading spot. Cue the uproarious applause from the audience.

Mad Riders features 45 tracks that can be played over five different race modes, including a time trial mode and another where players try to score as many points as possible by performing stunts. Races can be done either individually or as part of longer tournaments, so you have options how you want to spend your time. Naturally, everything, even racing games, incorporate RPG-like elements, so you gain experience points for both completing races and performing stunts, and this glorious trick of XP is used to unlock new vehicles and color schemes. Ya-hoo. The game also has a multiplayer option with races containing up to twelve players, but I didn’t bother trying this, seeing as I’ve had bad luck finding anyone else to play online on many of these older PlayStation 3 titles.

That’s it. I have nothing else to give Mad Riders except a hand-wave and pushing the uninstall button. A-buh-bye.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Space is totally the place for Starlink: Battle for Atlas

I’ve been itching for a space game lately, and two kept floating in front of my eyes as top choices–No Man’s Sky and Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Now, I promised myself I wouldn’t purchase one of these until I rung Mark of the Ninja: Remastered completely dry, which I did recently, and so it was upon me–the decision. Also, part of me felt guilty about purchasing a new game when I knew that I’d be picking up Spyro Reignited Trilogy in just a few days. Anyways, I went with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the digital non-toy version, and I’ll explain my reasoning below.

No Man’s Sky is a big game, possibly endless, and it’s gotten a number of major updates since it originally launched to help expand it into something more. This is both cool and daunting. To me, it feels both a little too open and a little too much to take on; I love the idea of flying around a planet, examining the flora and fauna, and getting into a few dogfights, but that game now also wants you to be creative and build bases and really show off your imagination. I’m not ready for that, with my limited gaming time and attention. All I really want is a checklist of things to do, and the ability to go forward and do them. So far, Starlink: Battle for Atlas is accomplishing that greatly.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an action-adventure title developed by Ubisoft Toronto and published by Ubisoft for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game also features optional toys-to-life elements. For those not in the know, toys-to-life uses physical figurines or action figures to interact with the game of choice. These toys generally use near field communication, radiofrequency identification, or image recognition data protocol to determine the individual figurine’s proximity, and also saves a player’s progress data to a storage medium located within that piece. However, toys-to-life has been losing popularity over the years, so to ensure that the game is consumer-friendly, this aspect of the game was made optional, meaning that players can play the game digitally without purchasing any of the toys. That’s what I did as I do not need to clutter up the townhouse with plastic stuff.

Right, let’s get to it then. Starlink: Battle for Atlas has a story y’all. After an amnesiac alien fell to Earth, a secretive benefactor named Victor St Grand forms the Starlink Initiative to search for its origins, leading them to the Atlas system. Alas, Victor St Grand goes and gets himself kidnapped, and you, as part of a group of heroic interstellar pilots, are now dedicated to free the Atlas Star System from Grax and the Forgotten Legion. This will involve traveling to a number of unique planets, pushing back the Legion, and growing alliances with allies to bulk up your chance to take down Grax for good. The story, so far, is well told, through a mix of CGI cutscenes, art stills cutscenes, and solid voiceover work. Also, this has been driving me mad since I started playing, but I finally just figured out that the character Kharl Zeon is voiced by George Buza, mostly known to me for his work in the early 1990s on X-Men: The Animated Series as Beast/Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy. That’s one iconic voice.

Swapping is a thing you do a lot in Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Now, I’m mostly only swapping out my weapons based on enemy types or a specific puzzle to solve; I prefer to stick with one pilot, namely Razor Lemay, a trained fighter pilot and self-professed metal-head, and one ship, namely the Zenith, and level them up as much as possible instead of having a bunch of lower-leveled pilots and ships. This may or may not put me at a disadvantage later, but so far it hasn’t been a problem on the default difficulty. For weapons, I really like the Flamethrower and Shredder, and Razor’s pilot ability, which is called Power Chord, can clear an entire screen of enemies in all its beautiful Guitar Hero-esque glory. Playing digitally makes this quick and easy; sure, having the toy in front of you to reflect these changes might be neat at first, but I could see it also becoming cumbersome to change things around every few minutes, especially in the middle of a big battle.

Everything is pretty chill in Starlink: Battle for Atlas, all in all. You can zip around a planet, scan animals, collect strange fruit and resources, upgrade refineries and other buildings, clear out imp hives, protect something as hacking begins, do missions for strange, alien-people, and simply discover everything there is to discover. If you want, at any time, you can fly up into space and go to another planet or get into some Colony Wars-like skirmishes, taking down raiders with style. Each planet contains a list of things to do, and the more you do, the more that planet’s people like you and will support you in taking down Grax. Honestly, it’s been a great game to pop into for an hour or so, do a few things, and see that you are making progress, inch by inch.

Currently, I’m trying to gain support from a bunch of planets before I take on the Dreadnought, a large enemy ship that Victor St Grand is hiding out in. I’m sure he’d like my help as soon as possible, but I’m not in a rush. Thankfully, neither is Starlink: Battle for Atlas, and there’s always something else to do if you don’t want to take on a campaign mission. Heck, at any moment, you can even generate a random mission to do…though they are mostly fetch quests or something easy like that. I do wonder how much I’ll play after completing the storyline and checking off each planet’s list of things to accomplish; I’d love to try out some other pilots and weapons, but not enough to max out each one. Or maybe I will…later in 2019. For now, I’m having a great time zipping around these strange, new lands.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #17 – Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Bombs are a big deal
For an older Ezio
Nothing new divulged

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

In Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, you fight ideas with bombs

I’m continuing to work through the Assassin’s Creed games…well, the ones I have anyways. Left to go in my current collection are the topic du jour (psst, that’s French for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations), Assassin’s Creed III, and two entries from the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles sub-series, which I’m lead to believe are a bit different in structure and style. I’ve already played the first game, the second game, the sequel to the second game, and the one featuring pirates and battles at sea. I like each of them to varying degrees.

All right, here we go. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is the third and final chapter in the so-called Ezio trilogy. It picks up right after Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, which, I had completely forgotten, ended with a big ol’ killer twist. Anyways, spoiler alert for a 2011 game…in three, two, one. Desmond Miles has fallen into a coma due to the stress of being forced to kill his ally Lucy Stillman while being controlled by Juno, the hologram attached to the Apple of Eden. In an effort to save Desmond’s mind, Rebecca Crane places him back in the Animus, in the machine’s safe mode called the “Black Room”. Alas, the only way to repair his mind is by reliving his ancestors’ memories until there is nothing left for them to show Desmond, at which point the Animus can separate Desmond from Ezio and Altaïr and awaken him from his coma. Er, yeah–it’s not at all confusing. And so, you jump back into the perspective of the still suave but older Ezio Auditore. Four years after ending the life of Cesare Borgia, Ezio has traveled to the former Assassins’ fortress in Masyaf to discover the secrets Altaïr had previously unearthed and find the true purpose of the assassins.

Phew. Look, at this point, I’m not really paying all that much attention to the plot, especially since I’ve already heard that, despite the game’s boasting subtitle, there are very few revelations to learn in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. I’m here for the running around, rooftop climbing, knife throwing, stealth stabbing, hay jumping, bomb tossing, collectible finding antics. Also, buying different dyes for Ezio’s outfit always makes me happy, especially the green-themed ones, and watching Constantinople grow due to his influence and the money roll into your bank account in larger amounts is extremely satisfying.

As far as I can tell, this plays just as well as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. I think by this point in the series Ubisoft tightened the controls and really made everything feel both good and natural. I’m finding myself not making as many  jumping mistakes when climbing up tall towers, and the hookblade upgrade really helps move things along quicker, with Ezio now able to leap higher and use ziplines conveniently placed around the city. Otherwise, it’s an Assassin’s Creed game, and so you probably already know what you do in these games, generally. Strangely, there’s some optional first-person platforming sections when playing as comatose Desmond, and they are about as fun as you might initially expect. I’m going to finish them all for the sake of Achievements only. Also, if the Templars become too aware of your actions, they will attack one of your dens, and the only way to get it back is through a tower defense minigame, which I do not like one bit.

As of this writing, I’m somewhere in…sequence 5 (of 9) for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. I’ve only seen two or three instances of tailing missions so far, and they honestly weren’t that bad compared to others. Otherwise, everything has been par for the course, with some fetch quests, some platforming challenges, some hidden murdering, some open murdering, and a whole lot of collecting treasure, purchasing shops, and completing challenges. For some reason, I really like these kinds of games because there is always something to do, a goal to go after, not just the main quests. Even standing around idle will eventually help, with money being deposited in your bank account every twenty minutes.

Perhaps the thing that separates Assassin’s Creed: Revelations from others in the series, at this point in its release, is its focus on bombs. For those that don’t know, bombs are explosive weapons used by assassins from as early as the High Middle Ages, and they can be employed for a variety of tactics, including escape, assault, and distraction. Ezio can craft his own bombs by looting dead soldiers for materials or he can purchase them from illusive shopkeepers, and I have found myself using them more than expected; if anything, they are great distraction items, especially if you need to make a quick getaway. Still, the controls for them can be fiddly, and trying to use them effectively in the middle of an eight-on-one sword fight does not always work out right. It does add some variety and options to the missions though.

I don’t expect to learn much by the end of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, but coming to it many years later, and not right after the previous game, wherein many were beginning to suffer from Ubisoft fatigue, I’m having a fine ol’ time. I also have to wonder how many, if any, are even playing this game’s multiplayer; I’ll give it a try after credits scroll, but I won’t hold my breath.