Tag Archives: Ubisoft

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.

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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.

Trying my best to be a team player and not get hypothermia in The Division

tom-clancy-the-division-survival-gd-impressions

Tom Clancy’s The Division sure has had an interesting year and change, and I’m actually quite mixed on the game. Like a piece of delicious chocolate that is marred by the powerful taste of disgusting coconut, there’s good and there’s bad. It did make my list of my five favorites for all of 2016, but I know that a lot of that backing had to do with simply just how much time I put into it over the few months I dug deep over getting all them dumb collectibles. However, I quickly found that the end-game material was less appealing and eventually drifted away from snowy, apocalyptic New York City as my shallow pool of online friends greatly dwindled, returning briefly to play a bit of Underground, its first expansion last summer.

Since then, two more expansions have dropped, namely Survival and Last Stand, bringing about a number of changes to The Division‘s inner workings and plethora of systems involving math, as well as making running around the Big Apple worthwhile even after hitting the level cap. Well, not entirely worthwhile, but more. There’s still a hollowness to the running around, but at least new meters are filling up and check-boxes are being checked on a frequent basis. I’m really good at the daily challenges involving destroying weapons and gear for crafting materials that I’ll never ever use; I can hold the stick in for days.

Well, instead of devoting a post to each piece of DLC and clogging up Grinding Down in all things The Division, I figured I’d lump everything together for one single critical damage attack since I’ve now gotten to dabble in every expansion though I do not claim I was often successful. In fact, I mostly died a bunch. Still, there are thoughts, so out into the contaminated snow we go…

Underground was the first expansion released for The Division and focuses on exploring the uncharted underworld of New York City. Players are tasked with chasing after enemies with up to three other Agents through a maze of tunnels and subways. Or, if you are like me, you’ll play it solo and on the easiest difficulty in hopes of finding all the collectibles which, thanks to the randomly generated levels, are found only on a wing and a prayer. I think I’ve collected five of one type and four of another so far and have leveled up my overall Underground rank to about 13. As you level up this rank, you can modify each run with restrictions, like being unable to use your abilities or even have a mini-map, and being successful with these turned on results in greater rewards. There are a few scenarios you can play through, and a solo run with no modifiers can easily be completed in 10-15 minutes, which, when there was not much else to do in The Division, was enough to occupy my brain and hands for a bit.

In the Survival expansion, players must–and hear me out first–survive as long as possible after a horrible helicopter crash. I’m not sure why I included the adjective horrible there, as if there is such a thing as a delightful helicopter crash. Anyways, this expansion is quite different from Underground, as well as the main campaign. You are alone in an extremely hostile environment, and the only way to continue breathing and making it back to safety is by gathering essential supplies and high-tech equipment to call for help and get your frozen butt extracted back to your base. It is without a doubt my favorite mode to play, as it feels extremely fleshed out and there’s a lot of tension in every move you make, considering the longer you hesitate the more likely you will die.

Now, by essential supplies, I’m talking about scarves and jackets and, I guess, weaponry, but this mode is all about the clothing on your back because you not only have to worry about being hit with bullets but also hypothermia; you combat the elements by dressing appropriately and huddling near trashcan fires. This mode makes clothing matter and exciting, though the fact that you are sick and in constant need of medicine can be too stressful. This is why I don’t play things like The Long Dark or Don’t Starve–there’s too much to worry about, and I really just want to wear comfy clothes and walk slowly from one waypoint to another, enjoying the view. Still, Survival is exactly what I wanted to see from The Division‘s DLC–a unique endeavor that forces you to think strategically instead of simply hiding a wall or car and blind-firing until all the enemies are on the ground.

For Last Stand, things become a little more traditional. This DLC pits teams of eight against one another on a section of the Dark Zone where the goal is to capture and hold as many terminals as possible. Naturally, the team that holds more terminals builds up their score quicker and wins. Sounds both simple and familiar, yes? Well, there are a few wrinkles. Such as the fact that enemy mobs still roam the battleground area. Players can eliminate these scrubs to earn a currency used during the match to build defenses like turrets or scanners that detect enemy movement in a designated area. Lastly, all gear is normalized to make things as fair as possible…if a bit uninteresting.

I’ll probably continue to poke at The Division throughout 2017, especially since Ubisoft plans to remain supportive of the game for the near future, even offering up two more expansions for no cost to the player. I suspect I’ll revisit Survival the most of the three DLCs as it offers something very different from the standard experience. Look, this game has been and remains often confusing and clunky, and yet I enjoy the firefights, dressing up my avatar, and the idea of having a full gear set that really plays to my strengths, which are healing other players and taking potshots from a safe distance. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but the dream is enough to keep me logging in now and then.

War is about repeatedly killing a man for an Achievement

valiant hearts healing hero gd post

I watched Karl bleed out more than a dozen times before finally saving his life. It is by far not my proudest accomplishment to date as a grown man that plays and enjoys a wide variety of videogames, but it is one that has stuck with me since popping this Achievement in Valiant Hearts: The Great War:

valiant hearts healing hero achievement icon
Healing Hero:
Save Karl for the third time without making any mistakes (60G)

You’re welcome. Also: I’m sorry.

In Chapter 4-5: Saint Mihiel, you’ll be playing as Anna at Emile’s farm. She discovers a badly hurt Karl and immediately goes into nurse mode, which is represented as a…rhythmic quick time event. Not sure how else to describe it. I imagine it’s a bit like playing Guitar Hero, but instead of all the button prompts falling from the top of the screen to the bottom, you are working left to right, along a path emulating something like a heart rate monitor. The desired button presses start out simple, but quickly escalate in variety and amount as you get further into healing Karl’s wounds.

Here’s the rub. The Achievement’s description is not crystal clear, and you have to make it through all three of the healing QTEs without making a mistake for it to work. If you mess up on one of them, your best option is to let Karl bleed out–in other words, purposely miss the button presses until it fails. Thankfully, you don’t have to go back and redo all three instances of the QTE, just the one you goofed. I ended up having to kill Karl a bunch on the third and final QTE, which is naturally the most difficult of the trio. You also do all this to a glorious soundtrack of a child screaming and Karl’s failing heartbeat. Over and over. Yup, it’s brutal for all parties involved.

Fast forward several months from abusing poor, weakened Karl, and I’ve also gone back and found all 100 collectibles in Valiant Hearts: The Great War. Yes, a hundred pieces of actual history, such as urine-soaked rags, periscopes for use in trench fights, and numerous hand-written letters home from soldiers. It turns out that I hadn’t missed that many during my initial playthrough, but in my silly and sometimes too dramatic mind, the act of going back and finding these hidden items seemed like a real arduous task. It was not. I grabbed everything I was missing in a few hours over the holiday weekend, and it was nice to see that the game autosaves the moment you find a collectible, which meant I didn’t have to finish each and every level I dropped into…as that might’ve been too much.

With that, there’s nothing left in Valiant Hearts: The Great War for me to do. That’s fine. I need to begin clearing up storage room on my Xbox One. Yes, already. I do hope to see more unique, small titles like this from Ubisoft. It’s a somber adventure, quite different from a lot of the company’s other output, but the industry needs more unique takes on tough subjects. This could have easily been a quickly forgotten third-person action game or, worse, a lackluster first-person shooter that did what it could with the war’s weapons and tactics (hi, Battlefield 1!). Thankfully, we got something more memorable.

Grabbing all of The Division’s collectibles so you don’t have to

gd post the division all collectibles and jackets

Maybe this says a lot about my personality or how I’m wired, but I can’t not collect things in a videogame if there are things there to be collected. Especially if all you have to do is run around a map and pick up said objects with minimal obstacles in the way, and that is most definitely what you can do in Tom Clancy’s The Division. There’s even a great perk that unlocks all the collectibles as icons on the map once you finish all the missions in one area, which I purchased as soon as humanly possible. The feeling of euphoria is strong both when the map updates with a dozen icons to pick up and after I grab them all for my greedy, self-serving purposes.

There are a disgusting number of collectibles in The Division. A total 293 items to be exact. Here, allow me to break them down for you…

  • 24 Survival Guide
  • 130 Phone Recording
  • 40 Incident Reports
  • 16 Crashed Drones
  • 20 Missing Agents
  • 63 ECHOs

Last night, I finished getting them all. One after the other after another, and this is after a couple weeks of plugging away at this task while friends in my gaming group were killing rogue agents in the Dark Zone or bashing their heads against walls in the ultra-difficult “Falcon Lost” Incursion mission, which, they quickly gave up on after learning that Ubisoft is not giving out mission rewards for it due to people glitching their way to victory. Hmm. See, once I begin collecting collectibles, I can’t stop until I have them all. Especially if there’s a bonus reward to boot, such as an Achievement and special piece of cosmetic gear.

Without any further delay, here’s my level 30 character (level 37 in the Dark Zone, pfftt) wearing all the different jackets awarded for finding sets of collectibles spread across New York City’s disease-ridden map:

Meadow Jacket, for finding 24 Survival Guides

Meadow Jacket, for finding 24 Survival Guides

Highland Jacket, for finding 40 Incident Reports

Highland Jacket, for finding 40 Incident Reports

Sierra Jacket, for finding 20 Missing Agents

Sierra Jacket, for finding 20 Missing Agents

Rose Jacket, for finding 63 ECHOs

Rose Jacket, for finding 63 ECHOs

Frost Jacket, for finding 16 Crashed Drones

Frost Jacket, for finding 16 Crashed Drones

Shoreline Jacket, for finding 130 Phone Recordings

Shoreline Jacket, for finding 130 Phone Recordings

Look, the majority of the clothing options in The Division are drab and nearly identical. I try to make my outfit as bright and stylish as possible, and it’s quite challenging. So it is a great disappointment that three of these reward jackets–Shoreline, Highland, and Meadow–look almost exactly the same. Ubisoft has some gall to ask the player to collect 130 cell phone recordings, many of which are uninteresting, throwaway bits of story and banter, and then give them a jacket that is barely indistinguishable from the one you get for collecting a fraction of those collectibles in a different set. I personally think my character looks best in the Rose Jacket and don’t plan to change out of it unless something else nicer appears in future downloadable content.

That all said, I really can’t recommend anyone going out of their way to get all the collectibles in The Division. If one of these jackets strikes your fancy, then sure, focus on it and grab just those items to unlock it. I’m sure many of the other players out there, like me, beat all the story missions and hit the level cap before beginning to tackle these checklists, so it’s not like the XP you gain for getting them even does anything. The collectibles are definitely not scattered along the main roads/areas, meaning it is unlikely you came across many as you fast-traveled from your Base of Operations to whatever mission you wanted to do next.

I suspect I’ll not be dipping into The Division as much going forward, having completed a big part of it now besides Dark Zone stuff, raising my gear score (I think it’s around 178?), and missions on crazy hard difficulties wherein I die a whole bunch. Which is weird, because I worked so hard to get a fancy new jacket, and I have no future desire to wear it out in the world, to strut my stuff. Perhaps I’m ashamed of what I did, of the ridiculous lengths I went to. But I had to know, and now you know–choose wisely.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #30 – Valiant Hearts: The Great War

2016 gd games completed valiant hearts

Enter, the Great War
Full of puzzles, trench combat
Disharmonious

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.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War can bloom even on a battlefield

valiant hearts gd early impressions

I don’t know much about war, but I suspect I’m more knowledgeable when it comes to details related to World War II than World War I. Mind you, this is not me saying I’m knowledgeable at all. Just more familiar with how things went down from 1939 to 1945. Blame it heavier on popular entertainment media than my limited history school lessons, as I probably absorbed more from things like Band of Brothers and The Saboteur than anything else. As for World War I…well, I know it was one of the deadliest conflicts, with some absolutely terrifying weapons of war used. Like severe mustard gas.

So, naturally, there’s not a plethora of games based on this happy-go-lucky time period, though I did recently puzzle my way through Covert Front‘s alternative take on World War I. Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts: The Great War is also a puzzle adventure game, released in summer 2014 and developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, and walks the path of being both fun to play and educational. Evidently, the game was inspired by actual letters written during World War I and focuses on four different characters: the Frenchman Emile, his German son-in-law Karl, American soldier Freddie, and Belgian nurse Anna. It’s a heart-twisting story of love and survival, sacrifice and friendship. There’s also a dog you can continuously pet.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is divided up into four chapters, and each chapter is split into several sections. Most of these sections you to clear an objective in order to progress through the story, like solving environmental puzzles or acquiring specific items related to the situation. Other sections mix the action up, such as surviving heavy gunfire, stealthing past enemies undetected, and, my personal favorite, rhythmic car chase scenarios set to classic songs where you have to avoid obstacles in the road. Also, each of the four characters is able to interact with the world based on who they are, such as Emile shoveling through soft ground, Freddie cutting barbed wires with his shears, and Anna treating patients’ injuries through a mini QTE. When available, the characters can order the dog to carry objects and push levers.

Despite the tone and horrific historical details, I’m really enjoying my time so far in Valiant Hearts: The Great War. It’s got a fantastic, cartoonish art style, and the puzzles have not gotten too complicated to the point where I’d want to throw the controller away. Even if they do, there’s an in-game, timer-based hint system, if you need an extra clue on what to do with the dog or how to sneak by that watchful sniper in the tower. Toss in some relaxing piano tunes for when you are reading up on days past, as well as a soothing narrator, and this is a strangely tranquil gaming experience amidst all the explosions and mortar shells. I’m somewhere in the middle of chapter two currently, so I don’t expect this to last that much longer, but that’s okay. It’s bite-size, but so far quite filling.

Lastly, I keep thinking from its title that Valiant Hearts is somehow related to Vandal Hearts, a PlayStation 1 tactics RPG that I regret trading in back when I was young and dumb (but haven’t written about yet). Alas, the two are no more related than…well, I tried for the longest time to think of some witty war comparison here, but came up empty. Germany and Canada? Meh. If you’ve got a killer line, drop it in the comments.