Posts tagged #assassin's creed

Assassin's Creed: Unity - Initial Thoughts (PS4)

The day after the game's launch, I was finally able to boot up Assassin's Creed: Unity. I'll give a full review once I complete the game, but what do I think about it so far? Find out after the jump!

Last night, I played AC: Unity on PS4 for about 2 hours or so. To sum it up quickly, I'll just say that Ubisoft consistently screws up Assassin's Creed year after year. I don't know why; I just know that that seems to be the case. Since Assassin's Creed III, there seems to be at least one aspect of the game that gets pooped on with every subsequent release. This time, a couple of things got pooped on.


Man, the graphics are gorgeous... when you're standing still. The frame rate is atrocious 85% of the time. I had heard that the game would run at 30fps, but consider yourself lucky if you get that. In other words, it's not "locked" at 30 fps, and often dips below that target number, meaning the game chugs a lot . I even encountered a bug that dipped the frame rate to what seemed like 2fps as I was climbing a steeple and trying to jump off to the side! This literally happened every time I held the R2 and X buttons while trying to move off the steeple. If I climbed either up or down, everything was fine.

About a month ago, Ubisoft released the system requirements for the PC version of the game. I rolled my eyes when I saw that the minimum requirements involved having an Nvidia GTX680 graphics card. That's the same one I have, and it's still considered high-end/top-of-the-line! That particular card is also 4-5x more powerful than the two consoles the game was designed for. There is no reason whatsoever that Ubisoft couldn't have optimized the game to have minimum requirements of low-end GPUs. Given these horrible frame rate issues,it seems that they didn't optimize the game for consoles, either.


Even more so than ACIII and ACIV: Black Flag, the parkour controls are terrible. Let me clarify by saying that it's not necessarily the controls, but the detection on climbable surfaces. The game tries to make the decision of what you want to climb on, pulling you like a magnet towards a surface if you're just a little too close to it. The first two games, as well as Brotherhood and Revelations, didn't have these problems. I don't understand why this aspect of the game gets progressively worse.

Another issue in gameplay is the combat. While I felt the timing for countering enemy attacks was buggy in ACIII, IV, and Liberation, that has been fixed in Unity. Timing works fine, but combat is extremely slow and sluggish. Rather than feeling like I'm controlling a nimble, well-trained assassin, I feel like I'm controlling a mentally-challenged tank. 


A lot of the reviews out there have knocked pretty hard on the story. I think it's ok, even though it shares a lot of similarities with ACII's story. Even the main character, Arno, seems like a carbon copy of Ezio. However, the story is - so far - shaping up to be better than ACIV's, which I didn't care for much at all.
And again, the graphics are pretty when you're standing still.


I don't want to throw out an all-encompassing opinion until after I finish the game, so I don't want to say something like, "This is the worst Assassin's Creed game ever!" I don't think that would be fair, since I've only played roughly two hours of the game. Maybe I just have to get used to the gameplay issues. Maybe Ubisoft will release a patch that will clear up the frame rate problems before I write my review. These are possibilities I'm going to keep open, and I'll provide you with a more in-depth (or at least, as "in-depth" as I usually am) look at the game in the coming weeks.

Posted on November 13, 2014 .

Next-Gen Console Reviews Coming Soon

Just wanted to let you guys know that the next few weeks will probably see The Inner Dorkdom releasing a good bit of content...
I'll be getting the PS4 this Friday, along with Assassin's Creed IV, Battlefield 4, and Madden 25 (BF4 and Madden, thanks to a great promo deal through Amazon). So along with these 3 games (though there probably won't be a full-blown Madden review), there will be a review of the console itself, just like there was for the Wii U.

Next Friday, I'll be getting my Xbox One with Killer Instinct and the MadCatz KI Fightstick. I'll be doing a review of all three.

Get ready. There's gonna be a lotta readin' soon!


Josh's Inner Dorkdom Journal - Episode 5

This past week, I was still digging on the Assassin's Creed. Thanks to Todd, I got a look at the AC Encyclopedia 2.0 before mine arrives later this week. Man, that thing’s awesome! Just the fact that Ubisoft cares enough about the AC franchise to release an in-depth book on its mythology is great.

Also, I began reading Assassin's Creed: Forsaken, a pseudo-novelization of AC III from the perspective of Haytham Kenway. Quite an interesting book. I would suggest it to any fan of the series in order to get the backstory on an already great character. Speaking of books…

Thinking about buying a Kindle Fire HD. Was going to buy one last night, but some stuff is messed up with my Amazon account and my current Kindle. Gonna have to do some calling tonight in order to get it straightened out.

Over the weekend, I started watching Freaks & Geeks on Netflix for the first time. I can definitely see why it developed a cult following so quickly, and why people were outraged when it was cancelled. In a way, it’s kind of a more modernized (even though it takes place in the early 80s) version of The Wonder Years. Gotta say, I’m loving it so far.

One last thing: I’m glad to see Nic moving over into PC gaming, or at least moving into “core” gaming in general. There are a lot of franchises that I think (and he would agree) he’s missed out on over the years. I say that as an introduction to my article for tomorrow: What IS “Core” Gaming?
Posted on January 7, 2013 .

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation - Review (Vita)

Let’s be serious here - The Vita is a struggling handheld. In my opinion, there are only 2 games worth having (3, if you count Gravity Rush, which I hear is good): Mortal Kombat and Assassin’s Creed: Liberation. Personally, I think that the Vita is a great system, but the fact that Sony priced it so high crippled it as soon as it was released. That being said, Liberation is THE reason you should own a Vita.

Let’s get into it.

Story: 9/10
As with ACIII, the story takes center stage in Liberation. It follows the first female protagonist of the series, Aveline de Grandpre, one of the last members of the Louisiana sect of the assassin order, as she liberates African slaves from captivity during the same time period featured in ACIII. Some have complained about the story’s simplicity, but I rather enjoyed the tight, compact story offered in Liberation. It was a good change of pace from the regular, politically-fused, complicated plotlines of the console games. Also, Aveline is more of an interesting character than Connor – so much so that I find myself torn between who should take the leading role in a sequel. Perhaps both could share center stage? There are rumors…

Visuals: 8/10
For a handheld title, Liberation has the best graphics seen yet. Colonial-Era New Orleans is captured beautifully here, but the ambition of bringing a true Assassin’s Creed game to a portable is its own downfall. Because of the size and scope of the playing area, the framerate can get pretty chuggy at times. Contrary to what a lot of other reviews and players say, it is by no means unplayable and is otherwise quite pretty.

Sound: 9/10
While the sound design is nowhere near its console big brother, Liberation’s music is its shining achievement. Winifred Phillips, new to the series, perfectly captures the “bayou” feel of the game, all the while bringing in the epic flourishes AC is known for . In no way does Phillips ever copy or “rip off,” but she seems to draw several influences from classic videogame soundtracks to create something quite unique by mixing traditional game scoring techniques and flairs of the cinematic. Like the console game, the soundtrack is available for download at and is mandatory for folks like myself that love videogame music.

Gameplay: 8/10
Thankfully, all the changes to ACIII’s gameplay (the annoying “mini-games”) have been replaced by a system which allows the main character, Aveline, to switch between 3 different personas: The Lady, The Slave, and The Assassin. Switching between these personas limits her abilities as far as combat and free running, but grants her options for certain situations. By switching to the slave persona, she can infiltrate areas such as plantations without detection. If in the Lady persona, Aveline can charm her way past guards. The Assassin persona is exactly what you think it is: Aveline dons here brotherhood gear and gains the normal assassin abilities seen throughout the series, but also gains a considerable amount of notoriety and has a higher rate of detection. While this system is an excellent concept, it is unfortunately under-utilized except when the story dictates that you change personas.
There are a few things which use the features of the Vita’s touch screen and pad, but nothing which either detracts, or adds to the experience.

Controls: 5/10
Remember in the ACIII review where I talked about my ‘B’ button having problems? I have the same problem with the Vita’s equivalent (circle button), only here it’s 10x worse. I very seldom was able to land a counter and was forced to rapidly tap ‘circle’ in order to deflect enemy attacks. This made the combat in the game extremely frustrating throughout and is why the score is so low. Other than that, the control scheme and overall gameplay is exactly the same as its console counterpart, save for the new persona system.

Is Assassin’s Creed: Liberation worth the full price? Yes. Not only is it worth full price, it’s also worth owning a Vita for, as this is the best game for the system. A top-notch story, great graphics for a portable, and amazing music easily outweigh the gameplay and control issues. Also, it might be a good idea to pick this up if you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan – if nothing else but to see where the series is about to go now that Desmond’s story has come to a close.

Final Score: 8/10
I can't take credit for these screenshots. These were taken from Google Images because of the difficulty in taking screenshots of the Vita.

Posted on January 2, 2013 .

Assassin's Creed III - Review (PC)

This is going to be a “nitty-gritty” style review, in that I will assume anyone who reads this is already somewhat familiar with the Assassin’s Creed series.  The review is based on my playthrough of the PC version.

Differences between the PC and console versions:
Basically, it all comes down to graphics. The Xbox360 and PS3 versions are identical. Both contain some pop-in and the framerate tends to chug when there are too many citizens or enemies on the screen at once. The Wii U version, while otherwise identical to its console brethren, has an odd problem with the depth-of-field effect present through most of the game. It tends to make the background elements look weirdly stretched, rather than just “blurry” when the camera is focused on characters during cut-scenes. That’s not a slight towards the Wii U, it’s just a minor hiccup in that particular port.
The resolution is the largest and most noticeable difference between the console and PC versions. The consoles are locked at 720p (even the Wii U port), while the PC port is capable of displaying in 1080p and runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second, as opposed to the console’s 30 (approx). I don’t mean to sound like a PC elitist, but if you have a PC capable of running the game as the developers intended, the PC is the definitive version of the game. And hey, at this point within the first few months of the game’s release, it’s $10 cheaper (on Steam).

Let’s get into it.

Story: 9/10
The story was definitely the best part of the game, but it came with a price: The main character, Connor, is kind of bland. I remember playing ACII for the first time and thinking the same thing about Ezio, but by the end of the game, the character had gone from a spoiled rich kid to a noble, honorable warrior and an overall likeable guy. Connor has no such story arch. The character stays completely one dimensional throughout the entire game. Connor is always focused on one particular goal (which I won’t detail for fear of spoilers) and absolutely nothing else. He’s also a jerk and comes off as really stupid and ignorant at times. Part of his character is that he IS, indeed, ignorant of his surroundings because of being thrust into an unfamiliar world, but some of his personal decisions made him seem… well… dumb. Harsh criticism towards a videogame character, I know. Hopefully Ubisoft will take the same route as ACII and release more games with Connor as the protagonist. Maybe then we’ll see him grow more as a character.
Aside from the mediocre main character, the story is really good. The Colonial setting provides a lot of intersections with history in which the player crosses paths with real-life figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere. Finding out how they all play in to the huge “end-of-the-world” plot of the present is definitely interesting to see. And again, aside from the main character, ACIII has some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen in a videogame, particularly the villains.
The overarching story set in the present day and featuring Desmond Miles is wrapped up very cryptically, but I believe that it falls in line with the series’ previous entries. What the next game’s plot will be is only briefly hinted at during the epilogue, but it seems as though the series could be going in a pretty interesting new direction.

Visuals: 8/10
The graphics are like the rest of the games: gorgeous. The team behind the AC games has an unmatched ability in creating an open-world environment which feels as though it was plucked directly out of the past. From the Crusade-Era “Holy land” of the original game to the recent game’s Colonial American battlefields, the series always has striking visuals.
With that being said, the art direction is a little bland. That’s no fault of the developers to a certain extent, it’s just the time period in which the game is set. For the past 3 games in the series (ACII, Brotherhood and Revelations), the setting has been in and around Italy and Istanbul. While it could be that I’m simply partial to the beautifully elegant Italian/Roman architecture of those games, ACIII falls a bit short. Story-wise, the mid/late 1700s setting works great, but for a game, I feel it perhaps should have had a different setting.
The “frontier” areas which connect all the various cities and towns are all beautiful, albeit a bit void of any purpose save for small side-quests.

Sound: 10/10
Hands down, this is the best sounding game you’ll ever hear. I’ve never really taken notice of the sound design within a videogame, but in ACIII, sound is constantly driving the atmosphere. Whether it’s the bustling streets of New York and Boston, the wilderness of the frontier and homestead areas, or the ocean waves during Naval combat, the sounds of the game immerse you, I guarantee, as no other game has before.
Along with the sound is ACIII’s music. In my opinion, and no disrespect to original series composer, Jesper Kyd, Lorne Balfe has created the best score of the entire series. Like many of Hans Zimmer’s apprentices (Klaus Badelt), Balfe manages to have the same disease: He’s better than Hans Zimmer. I strongly recommend picking this score up on where it’s available as a digital download. You won’t regret it.

Gameplay: 6/10
I found the gameplay to be quite unfocused at times. The game constantly changes up your control scheme and play-style throughout its entirety. One minute you’re doing your normal assassin routine, the next you’re riding on horseback while yelling at 3 groups of soldiers to fire their cannons at redcoats in a “tower defense” mini-game.
And that’s essentially what most of the game felt like to me: A series of mini-games with normal Assassin’s Creed gameplay sprinkled in. You spend more of your time with these diversions in gameplay than you do being sneaky and “assassin-ing.”
Most gamers probably welcome these types of constant gameplay changes since it has been stated that the series tends to be “boring and repetitive.” This is a claim that I can agree with if talking about the first game, but I believe Ubisoft rectified the problem with the sequels from ACII through Revelations. In all fairness, it’s probably a good thing that Ubisoft did, in fact, change things up a bit to keep the series fresh, I just felt like the change ups seemed rather forced at times.

Controls: 6/10
Control is kind of wonky every now and then. Connor will sometimes get locked into position and unable to move. This becomes extremely frustrating when having to jump from rooftop to rooftop, or tree branch to tree branch in order to escape guards, or take out a target within a time limit. Although it could have been because I was playing on PC with an Xbox360 controller, it seemed like my ‘B’ button would occasionally stop working. This usually happened when I was engaged in combat and had to use the button to counter an enemy’s attack. I would hit the button to counter, but absolutely nothing would happen and Connor would just stand there like an idiot, resulting in a musket being driven into his face. Again, this could have just been a PC related issue or a problem with my controller, though I haven’t had this problem with any other games using the same one (including other AC games).

For the most part, I felt that Assassin’s Creed III was a decent entry in the series. It was good, but it certainly didn’t live up to the standards which I believe were set by ACII.
I always like to give an “is it worth $60,” or “full price verdict” and here it is:
Is it worth retail price? Maybe.
If you’re a fan of the series, full price is definitely worth it, but if not, wait till the price comes down around $30. Frustrating (at times) controls/gameplay and a main character that has about as much personality as a rock, might turn potential fans off if they haven’t spent time in the AC universe before. Only spend the full price of admission if you absolutely cannot wait to see how the Desmond Miles portion of the Assassin’s Creed series comes to an end.  
Final Score: 8/10


By the way, I take credit for these screenshots. All were done by me from my PC except the boxart and video/music. I'm slowly inching my way to fancier things! 
Posted on January 2, 2013 .

Blast From the Past - Pt 2

 Let's talk tutorials, shall we?

The old man says, "Back in my day we didn't have tutorials. You'd put the game in the system, turn it on (which immediately brought up the game, by the way), and there you'd be at the title screen, often with the first level already in the background. You'd hit one button, and you'd be in the game. None of this signing on with certain profiles, or making all sorts of adjustments to the controller or volumes or whatever. Title screen, and hit a button. That was it, and then you were in the game and you had to figure it out. No on-screen prompts. No "non-playable characters" telling you in some maybe-clever-maybe-not way what to do. Nope. Your character was there, a goomba was walking directly towards him, and you'd better figure out how to use that d-pad and those two buttons or the height-challenged plumber was toast. And as for the purpose of the game, the goal, whatever you want to call it, there was no need for a stinking tutorial. Your character was on the left of the screen, enemies were coming from the right, and there was a counter. Obviously you need to go right and reach some sort of goal before the timer runs out. We didn't need some snarky voice-acted polygonal "NPC" to tell us anything so utterly obvious. Tutorials...good grief."

Obviously video games have gotten more complex over the years, and with that complexity most would argue has come the need for tutorials. (Although there were some games back in the day that could have benefited from some sort of tutorial...I'm looking at you NES Rambo.) Objectives aren't always as obvious as they were back in the day. And certainly we have more buttons to deal with.

It seems to me that there's one thing a tutorial absolutely must do, and two things it really needs to do. It must actually show the player how to play the game. If it doesn't do that, then whatever it may be, it isn't, by definition, a tutorial. And it really needs to 1) be entertaining, and 2) not take the player out of the game narrative (if said game has one).

Game developers, in my experience, tend to do pretty well with the "show the player how to play the game" bit. But the other two elements...well, those seem more hit and miss. And I can see why. The mechanics of a game may be great fun in the game proper, but that's no guarantee that they'll be fun when being explained for the first time. Pushing Z to target an enemy, and then hopping around it before making a deadly strike is fun when out on the field. But if the enemy is just a block, and the environment is just an empty room, then hey, listen, it isn't so enjoyable. Making the tutorial fun requires some creativity. And preventing it from taking the player out of the game requires even more. Unless it's a zany, slapstick, fourth-wall breaking, tongue-in-cheek kind of game (I'm looking at you Mario RPGs, save the first one, I'm not looking at you, you can go about your business), you can't just have a character say "Push the A button to jump, Lara." That wouldn't make any sense to her. A button? She doesn't have an A button? And it's not like she's never jumped before in her life. Why is he deciding now that she needs to have basic movements like jumping, running, and opening doors explained to her? What is he talking about? Is he referring to her rear end in some way? That's it, she's got to get to the bottom of this. "What do you mean, push my A button?? No, I'm serious. What did you mean by that??" And the tutorial is derailed, with game characters suddenly talking about suing each other for harassment.

So in my first real Blast from the Past article, I'm going to offer a few observations on how I think Ubisoft did with the tutorial for Assassin's Creed, as well as some general comments on the game so far.

One thing that's clever about Assassin's Creed, and it really helps with the challenges of tutorial making, is that it's sort of a game within a game. Granted the Animus is not presented as a game system, per se. But you know what I mean. By having most of the game take place within the virtual world of Desmond's genetic memories, certain limitations of video games can be dealt with in an in-universe way. For example, in the first level you eventually make your way to the assassins' fortress. On your way to talk with the boss man you pass a tall tower. At the end of the level the tower comes into play, as you climb up it, and dive off a platform. But the game designers don't want you doing that when you're first going into the fortress. Rather than just placing an inexplicable invisible wall between the player and the platform, or having some random obstinate NPC standing in front of the tower and telling you that you can't go up, you need to talk to the boss, the game designers have the off-limits area become glitchy and hazy, as though for some reason the Animus is unable to allow Desmond to access that portion of the memory. Even the staple of gaming, the health meter, gets an in-universe explanation (the sync bar).

Applying such possibilities to the tutorial only makes sense, but this doesn't make the results any less enjoyable. When playing through the tutorial, I couldn't help but think about the tutorial in Metroid: Other M, as it's arguably the most modern core game I've played up until now. So I'll be referencing it for comparison here.

So how do you smoothly, in a way that makes sense from a story standpoint, introduce a tutorial? If the character is doing something he/she has never done before, the task is a bit easier, as both the gamer and the game character are doing something new. If the actions are supposed to be old hat, it gets more tricky. Other M falls into the latter category, and the designers dealt with the issue by having Samus test out her suit to make sure everything is working after her big battle with Mother Brain (who, oddly, didn't sound like Audrey II). Assassin's Creed is in the first category. Desmond has never been in an Animus before, so from a story standpoint a tutorial (the doctor and the Animus itself even call it that) makes perfect sense. Again, the game within a game set-up helps.

There is still deluge about pushing certain buttons to accomplish certain tasks, and I don't recall seeing buttons on the Animus. But at least the buttons are referred to in ways that make sense in-game (left hand button, as opposed to X button or square button).

In terms of the fun factor of the tutorial, both AC and Other M use the in-game technology the game characters are themselves using to make things more interesting that they otherwise would be. With Other M, it's the fact that Samus is in a training room with some holodeck tech in it. Virtual enemies are made to appear, giving her a chance to test the power suit. In AC it's our first look at the virtual world created by the Animus, with the blue, hazy, computer-y (that's a word) backdrop and the faceless people Desmond gently pushes, shoves, and assassinates. In both cases, art style (visual and aural) are integral.

It terms of effectiveness, both tutorials serve their function, although I had a bit more difficulty with the AC tutorial. However, that's probably more due to my playing it on the PC. I'm using an XBOX 360 controller, but the game's default button mapping doesn't correspond to what the HUD makes you expect. So it says use the head button to look around, and yet what should be the head button doesn't do jack. It took me a minute to figure out what was happening. But then the process of remapping the buttons is frustrated by the fact that the computer doesn't i.d. the buttons with their face names (X, B, L, etc.), but with totally non-descriptive numbers. But that was a minor issue that was fairly easily remedied.

One last thing. How long should a tutorial be? It's not something you can put a number on, but when one is too short or too long, you can feel it. I've found that for me the best tutorials are the ones that give me a firm grasp of the basics, but leave some moves to be explained later. The tutorial in Assassin's Creed does this well, I think. I wasn't sick of the tutorial when it ended. But I wasn't also like, "Come back! I need you!" About the only thing it didn't cover that I wish it had was the parkour stuff. But that's a minor quibble.

Well, there it is, my take on the tutorial from Assassin's Creed. See you tomorrow to talk about some about the ethical dimension of the beginning of the game.

Still trying to access my own memories, let alone some ancestor, I remain,
 - Nic

Posted on January 2, 2013 .

Josh's Inner Dorkdom Journal - Episode 4

Christmas time! I got an Nvidia Geforce GTX680 videocard (which came with a free copy of Borderlands 2!), Assassin's Creed III (PC), Battlefield 3 (PC) and Assassin's Creed: Liberation (Vita). Not too shabby… Not too shabby, indeed.

I’ll have my reviews of the ACIII games up later tonight. Honestly, the review for ACIII was the hardest I’ve ever had putting thoughts into written form. There were some minor conflicts I had with the game, but overall, I loved it. Been digging hard on some Assassin's Creed. Steam has been running their Holiday sale for the last couple weeks and I re-bought ACII through Revalations. I also bought the soundtracks for ACIII and Liberation from Amazon and the AC Encyclopedia from the Ubiworkshop. Now all I need is a super cool hoodie and a hidden blade…

Other games I got on Steam over the last couple weeks and my initial impressions:
Alan Wake – Played this before on the Xbox, but the PC version is prettier. Very interesting survival horror game.
Dear Esther – A unique first person game in which you walk around an island. No enemies. Just you, an island and a guy narrating. As boring as that sounds, it’s quite interesting. Check it out if you get a chance.
Lone Survivor – A side scrolling post-apocalyptic game done in a 16-bit style. Pretty cool, but I haven’t played it much yet.
Ys: Origins – Cool, anime-style, action/rpg. Nuff said.
Dragon Age: Origin – A fantasy Bioware game. Great so far.
Manhunt – Had this back in the day on the PS2. Awesome, brutal, disturbing game that’s definitely not for the kiddies.
Prince of Persia – Haven’t played yet.
RPG Maker VX Ace – Not a game exactly, but an engine with which to create your own 2D RPG. Great program. Couldn’t pass up since it was on sale for $30. The regular price is $70.
Sim City 4 – The most complicated Sim City game I’ve ever played! My city went bankrupt in 2 hours due to all the things that have been added to the game.
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition – The hardest game I’ve ever played… but also one of the most addicting. If I ever beat it, I’ll do a review.
Street Fighter X Tekken – Not a great fighter, but was on sale for $5.
I know this one was a bit short, but Assassin's Creed is the ONLY thing I’ve been really diggin’ on this week.

See ya next week! Well, except for the reviews tonight.
Posted on January 2, 2013 .