Musings of a Gamer XV


1. American Creed

Last week saw the much-hyped reveal for Assassin's Creed 3. Set during and just before the American Revolutionary War, it follows a new Assassin, a half English half Mohawk by the name of Ratohnhaké:ton, otherwise known as Connor (!). The trailer puts him firmly on the side of the revolutionaries, though it has been suggested that his allegiances are not quite that straight forward and that the Templar, Assassin divide will not necessarily run straight along British, US lines.

I am both intrigued by and wary of this shift in continent and time period. We must bid farewell to the sprawling and rather beautiful cities of Renaissance Europe that provided the cathedrals, ruins and minarets and that were the perfect climbing frames for our nimble assassin. The tree climbing shown in the trailer seems to offer a replacement, out in the expansive wilderness that stretches between settlements. AC does not strike me as a series that will benefit from large, unpopulated open spaces, unless there have been some major changes to the core mechanics. Perhaps the guys at Ubisoft have been playing too much Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption?

I do have a bone to pick with the choice of historical topic. I've been going back and forth over the last week with people of different nationalities and the consensus is that this is a very unfamiliar period to those of us residing outside the US. Studying history throughout school and then for a further three at university, not once did we study the American Revolution. Though I think it would be unfair to claim that unfamiliarity will put people off AC3, I certainly feel that the non-US audience will be less drawn to it. Once you have taken away the easily appreciated and internationally recognized charms of the Renaissance, a lack of familiarity will likely be more of an issue.

Lastly, with its flag waving and rousing speech from none other than George Washington, the trailer suggests that national identity will take centre stage. This marks a very real shift in tone from the previous games, which rarely concerned themselves with the politics of countries and the issues of nationality. The fact that AC2, Brotherhood and Revelations were set in Italy and Turkey was largely irrelevant to the overall experience; if anything these games were European and not Italian or Turkish.

Of course this is mostly conjecture, as for the time being we don't have a lot to go on, but I do think that this shift in tone and setting may not be in the series’ best interests. Then again, maybe I'm just pissed about the Assassins picking on us Brits!

2. Welcome! PlayStation Vita Game Heaven

I'm used to these kinds of events being anti-climactic and had prepared myself for games that would hold little appeal to the Western audience. Even still, last Friday's collection of Vita, video announcements was hugely disappointing. There was lots of vague discussion about future arrivals, such as an unnamed Keiji Inafune project that had already been touched upon at GDC; some DLC details for games that people will no longer be playing in three months’ time; updates for games we already know about, such as Sumioni and the MGS HD Collection; and further titles being added to the Japan only, UMD passport programme. Hot stuff!

There was footage of robots punching each other in the face as well as the standard baseball and football fare. Persona 4 the Golden will attract the series faithful, but that is still a relatively small if not passionate audience, and there was a handful of other lesser known RPGs that are unlikely to make it out of Japan. With no Monster Hunter and nothing whatsoever from Suqare-Enix, a port of Phantasy Star Online 2 ended up being the biggest announcement. The PC and Vita versions will share servers, but SEGA's latest is currently only 10% complete and won't be with us for a long time yet.

Vita Heaven was Sony's chance to map-out its plan of action for the next 12 months, to alleviate concerns about the viability of the platform, reassure current owners and win over potential customers with a collection of games to last into the foreseeable future. Instead, it left me scratching my head, unsure as to what exactly I’m going to be playing on my Vita in the second half of 2012 and beyond. Let’s hope that Sony has something up its sleeve for E3.

Kara

3. Kara

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of last week's Game Developer's Conference was Quantic Dream's (the studio behind Heavy Rain) tech demo, Kara. It is a hugely impressive introduction to the developer's latest motion-cap technology, which David Cage insists is already a year old and now even more advanced than the trailer suggests. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since first watching it Thursday morning, and I strongly recommend checking it out so you can join me in being excited for QD's next project, whatever it may be.

4. The Plat Ten

Forget Assassin's Creed 3 - by far the biggest reveal of the first quarter was the official PlayStation blog's list of the most platinumed PS3 games. Assassin's Creed 2 was number one, not surprising as the majority of the trophies are easily unlooked through the course of the game and the remainder just take time as opposed to any real skill. I must say that I’m surprised that inFAMOUS charted at number 6, as I didn't realise people were organized enough nor had the patience to seek out all those blasted shards.

Anyway, here's the list, based on PSN user information. I have five of the ten and stopped just short on two or three others. How about you?

1. Assassin’s Creed II
2. Modern Warfare 2
3. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
4. God of War 3
5. Resident Evil 5
6. infamous
7. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
8. God of War (GoW HD Collection)
9. Borderlands
10. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (The Sly Collection)

I bought the last good game, so save yourself a trip

6. Fire Sale at GAME

As European readers will probably be well aware, administration looms for the GAME Group (the owner of GAME and Gamestation stores). With creditors losing patience, many large publishers, including EA, have refused to deal with the troubled retailer, resulting in GAME being unable to carry a number of big releases, most notably Mass Effect 3. The only truly nationwide, brick and mortar, game dedicated retailer in the UK - the group also has store across Europe and Australia - is now at death's door and has begun offering huge discounts on older stock, in particular the used games that have become such a huge, and divisive part of their business over the last few years.

Like the gaming vulture I am, I visited my local GAMEs and Gamestation last Friday to pick at the carcass with other penny pinching gamers. Unfortunately, the sale was pretty underwhelming and they were still flogging new games for the kind of prices that'll quickly put you out of business (£44 for Uncharted Golden Abyss!). There was no wailing, no stomping and no Binary Domain for a tuppence but I did manage to come away with one, brilliant purchase: 50 Cent Blood on the Sand. GGGGG G Unit! It looks like Mass Effect 2-3 will have to wait as I help Fiddy reclaim his mutha fucking diamond skull, as you do.

Comments

  1. So what, we can't have an AC game in the US? Got to be on your side of the ocean? Just kidding :) I see where you are coming from. Revelations felt pretty stale to me, so I am open to some big changes. I do think I will miss the larger more recognizable architecture of the European cities, but hopefully they will do some cool new things with AC3 that make the change worthwhile. I like what I have read for the most part.

    That Kara demo was neat. Hopefully the tech leads to a cool new game. I admit I still need to play Heavy Rain. My aversion to QTEs has kept me from picking it up so far. I would like to see the story and I thought the one sequence in the demo was kind of intense.

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    1. Ha! Exactly, glad you understand that the US will ruin it :)

      I agree that ACR did start to feel a little stale, but it was more the gameplay that I was starting to lose interest in, not the characters and setting. It'll be interesting to see if AC3 will change any of the core mechanics.

      I'd definitely recommend Heavy Rain as a one off experience. The QTEs are a secondary concern and there is nothing else quite like it.

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  2. hmm not sure about AC3. Climbing trees sounds a bit boring compared to scaling cathedrals. Though i suppose it might be quite fun swinging through the trees - omg! iv just had a thought, imagine a Aztec AC with Spanish Conquistadors and temples and jungles! wow.... Anyway hope you have fun with Fiddy - iv heard its actually a pretty good game!

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    1. There are so many great, untapped periods further in the past that would be perfect for an AC game but Ubisoft seem set on moving ever closer to the modern day. Conquistadors would be great

      I played some Blood on the Sand at a friends house back in 2009 and we had a blast. Admittedly, most of the entertainment came from the ludicrous plot and dialogue but still, you can't really fault a game for being fun.

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  3. Daydream Drooler13 March 2012 at 08:57

    I with you, AC3 looks to disappoint but not gameplay wise. If your a history buff and follow the Hashshashin than you'll know how closely AC1 followed the real life history of the first and only assassin clan (creed). It was believe to be carried through the years after Masyaf fell but those years were the quietest and still debated over today. Some believe they remained near Islam well other believe they brought their creed to other regions such as Italy. As the years went on evidence of the creed faded more and more till there was nothing. Even with the little evidence we have of their creed nothing has ever suggested it ever reached America. their core creed and all they believe in would have them fighting all sides in the Revolution which is why I am against the time period. Ubi took one amazing concept plus real life history and one pretty dam good story line and is now blending it in places it shouldn't be, I believe they call this "jumping the shark". not sure if you've heard that phrase but basically its saying they've taken something loved and grounded and turned it into something hated and far fetched. I wouldn't go as far as hated but far fetched, yes. I like what I've heard of gameplay and how they are using the history but it just doesn't fit the assassin's history nor does an assassin fit the time period.
    Kara looks amazing, looking forward to seeing what QD is up too. that trailer was breath taking, I was blown away by the graphics and what the story could possibly be.
    lol, I can't believe Sony is tracking how many plat's people have, that's funny. only one I don't have on that list is the GOW ones cause I never got the collection and have no intention of picking it up

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    1. I'm afraid I don't know much about the Hashshashin, but I'll be sure to check it out. Looks really interesting.

      I suppose it was inevitable that one day we would move to the US, being that it is Desmond's home country, but I didn't think it would happen until we had a modern day AC, built around Desmond.

      Unfortunately, I think the Kara trailer was just a tech demo and not part of any future game. Still, very interesting to see the kind of things QD are capable of and the themes they are exploring.

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  4. I'm just not 15 enough to enjoy the one dimensional badassery of Assassin's Creed games. Like most games developed for the 360 demographic. Which is also why they aren't worried about alienating you guys. Their only real concern is that someone's mom will balk at having to drive back to Gamestop so soon after the Halo 4 trip.

    That Vita Heaven thing was dumb on Sony's part. It was far too minor of an event to warrant any real announcements. All it did was foment a sense of worry and abandonment in the already skittish Vita community. They should have trickled out that same amount of news over a period of a month or six weeks. A story every 4-5 days about some new Vita game in development, regardless of how obscure the titles were, would have given the illusion of the system garnering support, and bought them some breathing room between now and E3, which is when they'll really have something to say.

    I loved the Kara thing too. The sad part is that I've had to spend the last week explaining to less informed gamer friends, who saw it and swooned, that it's not a game, and they're not going to play it. Thanks, Quantic Dream. lol

    InFamous is the only platinum trophy I have. I found 297 of those shards on my casual play through. I can't believe anyone could sit through that much of Borderlands. After exploring their wasteland, I just wanted to go play Pac Man, so I could go back to dealing with a dynamic range of enemies.

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    1. When will mothers learn that they should just use Amazon?

      That is quite a large helping of Vita common sense. I have taken the liberty of emailing your comment to Kaz Hirai and expect he will be in touch shortly. Perhaps they still have something big up their sleeve pre E3? I somehow doubt it, though I'm surprised by the lack of details regarding 1st party titles (Resistance, LBP etc).

      I enjoyed Borderlands, but it was a bit much. I had the GOTY edition and barely touched anything outside of the main story.

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  5. Sorry I've been away for so long. I made a promise to temporally avoid the internet as much as possible. Also the IT guy at my job was threatening the "Firewall of Doom" on anyone goofing off too much. Now I get to play catch up.

    I'm an American and I'm not looking too forward to the next Assassin's Creed. That period of time just doesn't seem as interesting as what was seen in the games before it. I'll give it a shot though...

    Kara looked good. I enjoyed Heavy Rain and I can't wait to see what they develop next.

    I've only Platinumed 2 out of the 10 listed... I have some work to do...

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    1. Ha, no problem! I'm glad my blog was giving you respite from work, at least for a while.

      I'll definitely give AC3 a chance as I have really enjoyed the series thus far, even if it had started to become a bit stale. I still see more negatives than positives to the new time period though.

      Better get back to those trophies!

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