Thoughts: Assassin’s Creed Unity

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So I guess it’s admission time: I would not have had anywhere near as positive an opinion of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue as I did if I hadn’t immediately gone on to play Assassin’s Creed: Unity afterwards. Rogue is a great game, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t until I experienced the series debacle that is Unity that I realised I’d been taking a lot of the good stuff Rogue was doing completely for granted. It turns out there’s a hundred little things about Black Flag and Rogue — from the ease of the movement to the speed of the combat (even if it is a bit button-mashy) to the sheer sense of freedom that having a ship gives you — that you don’t notice until they’ve been replaced with clunky, regressive mechanics that take the AC series back at least five years to a time when it was far weaker as a game and was coasting largely on the strength of its history porn and a charismatic main character. This was fine when the star of the series was Ezio and the games were all set in Renaissance Italy (and Constantinople) and abused the historical elements of that setting in a particularly egregious yet crowd-pleasing way. It’s less fine when you have a lead with all the charm of a particularly smart-ass 12 year-old; a locale that, while not inherently dull, is something that Unity summarily fails to do anything even remotely interesting with; and an additional half-decade on the clock that means your game comes across as a relic from the very historical time period it is supposed to be set in.

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Thoughts: Homeworld – Deserts of Kharak

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Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is Homeworld , in a desert, on Kharak.

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Thoughts: 80 Days

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If you grew up in Britain in the late 80s/early 90s there’s a fairly high chance you’ll have encountered the Fighting Fantasy series of Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks 1 at some point. They’re something that left a fairly deep impression on me – I still have basically the full collection sitting in a box somewhere – as their fusion of entry-level RPG elements (character stats, a player inventory, combat) with the CYOA format provided some badly-needed structure to something that even nine-year-old me felt was rather on the light side. The Fighting Fantasy series eventually succumbed to the vagaries of time and the whimsy of a young population that was increasingly drawn to video games, but I still remember them fondly. That’s why I was intrigued to see iOS developer Inkle attempting to resurrect them on the App Store a couple of years back, and even went as far as buying their version of Sorcery! for my ancient iPad Mini 2 to check out what they’d done. My conclusion was that while their conversion was solid and they’d even tried to innovate by including an actual honest-to-god interactive map to represent your journey across the continent (which any young player of Fighting Fantasy would have killed for back in the day), Fighting Fantasy itself has aged rather badly; it was one of the strongest CYOA formats out there and yet today it comes across as both childishly simple and incredibly dated in terms of its structure and design. There was nothing wrong with Sorcery! as a concept, but the reliance on a twenty year-old adventure really let it down.

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  1. Created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone after they sold their stake in Games Workshop. Ian Livingstone then went on to be president of Eidos Interactive, a UK developer/publisher who were responsible for some minor hits you may or may not have heard of. British gaming culture in general owes a lot to those two.
  2. I’ve declaimed against the tablet format a couple of times on here so it might be a bit of a surprise that I own one; however, while it confirmed my views on tablet gaming I found it to be an excellent format for viewing PDFs of old game manuals and gaming magazines any time I want a nostalgia trip. So they do have a use.
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Thoughts: Nuclear Throne

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Nuclear Throne is yet another entrant into the increasingly-crowded roguelike 1 genre, this time with the twist that it’s been spliced together with a twin-stick shooter. I find the recent glut of roguelikes (or games with roguelike elements) a little tiresome, especially since playing a bad roguelike is one of the most painful gaming experiences you can possibly imagine, but I do enjoy the good ones. Nuclear Throne is one of the good ones.

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  1. Which is a broad-brush term used to describe games with at least two of the following: quasi-RPG mechanics; procedurally generated, pseudo-random levels; and permadeath.
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Thoughts: Assassin’s Creed – Rogue

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It’s 2016 now, and I find myself suffering from the same bout of madness I did almost exactly three years ago: a delusional desire to play through all extant Assassin’s Creed titles in one fell swoop. I’ll stagger the reviews out over a few months so this blog doesn’t turn into all AC all the time.

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is a bit of an odd game. On the surface it looks like a shameless cash-in on the excellent Black Flag : it was released just one year after Black Flag and uses a reskinned version of the same engine and most of the same gimmicks (i.e. boats). It was also available for last-generation consoles only, which heightened my impression that it wasn’t really anything more than an attempt to squeeze one last bit of cash out of the 360 and PS3 install base before everyone’s attention moved on to the now current-gen Xbox One and PS4. I picked it up mostly because it was cheap, because it let me play as series bad guys the Templars, and because even if it was just a blatant reskin of Black Flag it wouldn’t be too bad because Black Flag was really, really good. I wasn’t expecting great things from Rogue at all.

Which is why I find myself somewhat surprised to be writing the following sentence: if Black Flag didn’t exist, Rogue would be the best game in the series yet.

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2015 End Of Year Roundup

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And so we stagger to the end of yet another year. Even by my high standards 2015 has been an excellent year for games, and the coverage on here has been spottier than I liked – I ended up reviewing a round thirty games, which is a solid effort but also the first time this blog hasn’t wholly reflected what I’ve been playing over the last 365 (and a bit) days. That makes this an excellent point to look back and consider the best and worst that 2015 had to offer — whether I reviewed it on here or not – and you know what that means: it’s time for the Scientific Gamer Totally Made Up Awards Ceremony 2015!

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Thoughts: Just Cause 3

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I wanted to see 2015 out with a bang. Just Cause 3 more than delivered.

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