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Gaming Retirement

Well. I thought I was able to wiggle out of that shitty AC: Odyssey purchase. I forgot that Steam has a refund procedure you can go through. Well. No. You can’t. Not really. It’s shit.

Anyway. I’m done. I’m uninstalling everything. I’m done with the hobby. There are a LOT of books I’ve wanted to read, and a LOT of movies I’ve wanted to see. I’m done. Thanks for the fish.

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Retiring from gaming, one genre at a time, thanks to WoW and AC… among other bullshit franchises.

Well. Originally I wanted to give AC Odyssey a “Let’s see how this pans out” early review, but I’ve already uninstalled it, and I’m not going back. Likewise, I’ve already uninstalled Syndicate (in spite of just having bought the pretty fucking boring and linear Jack the Ripper DLC) and uninstalled Origins, even though there was arguably (!?) still some really boring content to hack my way through.

Why uninstall after I just spent $60 on it? Well, I got a lot more joy from the fucking TEXT BOOKS (no joke) I downloaded today than  I did Odyssey. I think that means I’m becoming an old, crotchety curmudgeon. That really sucks – but I can’t help it but say “I didn’t enjoy my time with AC today”, and I spent probably 5 hours total between Origins and Odyssey and had almost no joy at all between the two of them. I finished off the Origins: Fart of the Faroehs expansion… and I started Beginner Island on Odyssey.

Well, the only thing at all that was really interesting in a story telling sense was in the EXTREMELY short Hidden Ones campaign. That was pretty badass. Fart of the Faroghs or whatever was just… only interesting in a historical sense. Like, the afterlife sequences were very surreal, which I enjoy, and felt like a mental sequence out of Psychonauts (also a fantastic idea of a game that played like utter and total shit), but it was completely, utterly out of the blue and disconnected from the AC universe as a whole. Bayek saying “Heh, well, it was in my head” is hard to explain away about 20 fucking HOURS of gameplay in those zones and fighting the CONSTANT reappearing pharaoh ghosts – it’s like, that mother fucker is tripping some SERIOUS balls if he’s literally at risk of dying from his fantasy (Freddy Kruger style) and sees people being murdered in front of him in the real world by these ghost pharaohs – the same that everyone else around him seems to be VERY worried about… but, it’s all just in Bayeks head, or some shit? I don’t fucking know – it made no sense. Anyway… the best part of that expansion (I’m so fucking sick of the term DLC) was the historical accuracy-ish of certain parts. Like, the fact that Tutankhamun’s tomb was basically a hoarders mess. It was an unfinished tomb hastily put together after the unexpected death of a feeble, diseased, inbred king – dying from one of many different possible causes (chariot crash? Complications from being inbred? Disease? All of the above? Murder?) – so they just slapped one last coat of paint on PART of his tomb, threw in (LITERALLY threw in) a bunch of afterlife shit he might want, and sealed it shut. I was shocked how accurately his antechamber was versus the photos and sketches of the tomb I could find online. When I first walked in to the tomb in the game I was like “what the fuck is this? What is all this shit piled up around the room? wagon wheels? Random ass chairs? Wtf?” – and I spent about two hours on the internet looking it up, and it was almost one-to-one perfectly replicated from the real life findings. It makes sense! From a historical context anyway – unexpected death of a pharaoh no one gave a shit about, and they just toss his traditional useless “next life” shit into his tomb and seal it shut. It’s very interesting to me that ancient people were generally as shallow as we are and had as little faith in their own religions as we do in the modern era. I mean, if they gave a fuck about Anubis and whatnot they wouldn’t have just thrown a pile of random wheels into the corner and haphazardly stacked a bunch of random furniture in the back room…  but no, they really didn’t give a fuck, and just threw it in like it was wood onto the fire, and sealed it shut like slamming the cupboard door on an overstuffed cabinet shelf with too many random dishes. That’s awesome. 

I’m rambling about the most interesting part of the game, which was in no way tied into the story or would get more than a glance from the average Kek gamer. When I was growing up Egyptology was “all the rage” with the nerdy kids. We even had to learn some hieroglyphics in my advanced placement class and develop a burial site for our opposite class to uncover (and they did the same for us), so we had to make cartouches out of clay and everything. We had to memorize all of the Egyptian gods, the basic mythology, and so on. I thought it was cool at age 11, so to actually run around in ancient Egypt and go through various versions of the Egyptian “afterlife” was pretty cool. BUT, the gameplay was route. By this point I’d already earned all of the skill points necessary to max out my skill tree, and I had the game down pat as to how to play – so I was in tourist mode. But, I still had to plow through some pretty broken ass quests – which included VERY poorly orchestrated chain quests that had multiple dependencies with NO indication as to what the dependencies were – so it was easy to hit many, many brick walls along the way.

By the last few hours I was very eager to just be done with the fucking thing. I was tired of clearing out outposts of idiot ass NPCs, I was tired of kiting those Egyptian fucking Pharaohs (the ONLY way to fight them was to KITE them, uggghhhhhhhhh), traveling infinite distances across fucking SAND and SANDSTONE. Note to Ubisoft and other gaming programmers / developers: you mother fuckers need to get outside more. You have no idea how fucking boring sandstone is – I get it, it’s fucking Egypt, but as a geologist I could literally not be more bored by fucking SANDSTONE. I’d put my fucking horse on autopilot and go AFK until I felt like I was probably there. That’s awful guys… that’s MMO “quick travel” style bullshit there.

Anyway. So I got done with it, and TBH I regret it. It’s the first full expansion that I remember actually totally regret playing. It had good moments, but it was so. mother. fucking. grindy…. omg. So much copy paste, so much useless backtracking. They really wanted players to just waste time at that point.

So. AC Odyssey. WTF went wrong? Well, first of all, it’s just “skin” or a “mod” on AC Origins. Everything, and I fucking mean everything is 1:1 ripped from Origins, right down to the fucking idle animations. Every. Fucking. Bit. of gameplay etc is just too similar to Origins – and Origins wasn’t good, so I’m dumbfounded why they copy pasted a very mediocre system. It wasn’t bad but it was so very far from their best that it’s not funny.

The thing that kills me (and caused me to uninstall) is the same bullshit mother fucking level system – but this time you get NO (and I mean zero, el zilcho, nada, nic, nicht, нуль, what the fuck ever word everyone uses for ZERO)  credit for anything you do between quest completions – as far as I could tell. I wiped out the same mother fucking outpost TWICE. I spent two hours total trying to 100% this fucking place, being level 2 and it being level 4. Both times I killed both captains, freed the idiot ass captives, and in the first instance I got all treasures but one, then got murdered by the roaming “bounty hunter NPC” that was 3 levers higher than me, and the second time I 100%ed that fucking joint, only to get 2-shot stunlocked by the same mother fucker. Okay, so I can sneak up on this bitch and neck-stab him FIVE TIMES and he’s still ready to party? Yeah, no. Fuck you Ubisoft. Fuck you. If I wanted imbalanced ARPGs I’d stick to the fantasy genre. Not the “Erm. kind of realistic historical thingie!?” genre. This is the second game ever (other than the identical Origins, which I also cannot recommend) where you can’t use stealth to just… win the game. Like, you arbitrarily MUST, MUST grind out levels. What this means is: going to areas that are slightly under your level or MAAAAAYBE at your level (provided you don’t have a fucking bounty or bad luck), or else you’ll get killed, and die, and start ALL THE FUCKING WAY OVER WITH NO CREDIT FOR ANYTHING EVER 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Yeah no, fuck you Ubisoft. Fuck you hard. That’s the last AC game I buy, the last AC game I play, and the last Ubisoft game I buy… mostly because their formulas are so route I feel awful. I feel like I literally could not be wasting my time more than to grind in a fucking offline MMO-wanna be game that grossly inflates their /played time (for investors) with shit ass tactics like this.

Unfortunately, as I go through my Steam profile and look at all of the negative reviews I’ve left over the past ~3 years, I can’t help but kind of realize that I’m…. not a gamer anymore. I refuse to play about 2/3rds of the popular games, because they bore and frustrate me… and it’s becoming clear that my heart isn’t in the hobby anymore. I find myself spending MUCH more time watching movies and “dragging myself” to play games. I think I’m really bored with games. And talking about games. Fuck it. :/ I guess it’s on to bigger better things, like learning languages. HEH.

Star Wars stuff

I’ll keep this brief, as I don’t want to get neck deep in a topic I only give half a shit about. Basically I overall liked The Force Awakens. I liked Rogue One even more, I think. And Solo wasn’t bad (but had a very B-movie feel to it). However I absolutely loathed The Last Jedi. Like, I wish I could go back in time and make it not happen – not because I’m that big of a Star Wars fan but because I think it was such a monumental waste of everyone’s time that it is one of those “if we had a time machine” kind of mistakes.

There are many many critiques of the film to choose from that word it much better than I could. The one that I’ve found that summarizes it the best can be found here. Awful writing, awful pacing, shitty characters with really bland “arcs” (if they don’t arc, is it a story line segment or a ray instead?), CGI heavy action sequences, over-reliance on WWII bomber analogy in the first space pew pew segment, and feminist “we are the world” agenda being absolutely crammed down our throats. I really like the short summary of the SJW / Liberalism / Feminism agenda being pushed on this page:

“One of the major aspects of Star Wars is that of individuals needing to develop themselves in order to meet challenges.

Rey, however, seems to get a pass on much of this. Despite being young and leading a humble, solitary life she can…

  • Beat the s**t out of two grown men using a staff.
  • Fly the Millennium Falcon like a stunt pilot on her first attempt.
  • Knows how to maintain the Millennium Falcon better than Han Solo. (Recall that her equivalent, Luke, in a similar situation, only managed to squeeze out, “What’s that thing flashing!?”)
  • Use force powers with no training.
  • Defeat the main bad guy in a duel, again, with no training.
  • EDIT: Speak Wookiee.

Meanwhile, the male support is kind of bumbling and has an episode of acute cowardliness.

The gist of the feminist propaganda is that she does not need to work at anything, she’s naturally awesome just by being a woman. Its a characterisation that tends towards idealism and grandiosity rather than realism.”

Even in TFA I was flabbergasted how Rey and Finn could wield a lightsaber with amazing proficiency, without having ever been trained in the use of one, or even having probably ever fucking seen one before. I know that I was given a long sword right now and told to go fight right away or compete I’d get my ass fucking handed to me. (That’s not me btw, I just had to find a HEMA buttwhoopin). Believe me, you’d get your ass handed to you as wellhard. I know, I know, it’s fucking scifi fantasy – right right, but it’s also super lazy writing. Terribad writing. More to the point it’s inconsistent with everything we’ve ever seen before.

I also found a lot in common with the views on and also this page.  There’s too much on that page to quote, and I don’t agree with everything there, but it generally rings true – it seems that The Last Jedi was written as a story about modern liberal values, especially about women fighting the manocentric manocracy. It’s just another day of the week if SJWs and feminists are standing up for themselves or for values they believe in – but I find it really distasteful, to the point of being repugnant, to forcefully shoehorn in patently opaque and obvious social and political themes of the modern era into a fucking space opera set in the past so long ago that they can’t even fucking date the thing. You’re right, it is “just a story”, it is “just a fantasy” – so, why the fuck does it have so much HuffPost bullshit in the story? Like, would it be fine if we throw that shit into Game of Thrones too? Have some overhanded commentary in the final season about voting laws and equal pay? That would fit about equally well into the GoT universe as the shit writing of The Last Jedi does in the Star Wars setting.

I got a bit off the rails there and focused a bit heavily on just the social themes and how much they bug me… but the film as a whole, even without the “WHITE MALES CAN FUCK OFF AND DIE” attitude throughout the story telling, the rest of the story is just garbage. The first link I posted most accurately echos my thoughts on the movie. It’s just…. bad.

Amazon: from fantastic to utter shit

I’ve been buying from Amazon since 2000. Back then it was basically just a book retailer. I was living in Europe at the time and it was the best way to get English language books – shipped straight from the UK to continental Europe. When I moved back to the US I didn’t use it much at all until the past 5 years or so. Being a father that lives and works away from my family (most of the time) it was super convenient to be able to shop for my family while I was away. About once a week I’d ask my family “want anything else when I order from Amazon?”

Yet, I found that over the past 3 years or so it’s been increasingly more difficult to find quality products, due to an absolutely massive deluge of shit products from no-name, fly-by-night “third party sellers” and garbage Chinese manufacturers. Don’t me wrong, most everything in the modern era is either built in China or has parts made in China, but there’s something about the cheapo knock off crap that really gets under my skin. Anyway – Amazon went from selling mostly name-brand products to selling mostly Chinese garbage from extremely weird and hard to look up companies. You know, those companies that have ZERO hits on Google other than their Amazon products? No company website, no product support, nothing. They are just a vendor of shit from parts unknown. And Amazon is their storefront.

Confounding the problem is the awful, and I mean fucking AWFUL review system Amazon has. While paid reviews aren’t anything new, it’s taken on an entirely new life on Amazon. There’s an entire industry designed to create fake reviews for products, especially on Amazon. So reviews absolutely cannot be trusted – yet with the absolutely insane amounts of trash products on Amazon it’s impossible to find what you are looking for, there’s no real information available on products. To their credit Amazon does sell normal, name-brand products – but for the most part almost all of their prices are at least as much as what you can find on NewEgg, eBay, Walmart, or other online retailers.

So over time I found myself getting duped into buying more and more Chinese garbage, literally throwing away about a third of what I bought because it was less money out of my pocket to just toss it in the trash than to spend my time returning it (given what I make in an hour, and how precious my time is when I’m actually with my family).

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I tried leaving a negative (read: scathing, but not profane) review of some awful cables I bought from a dishonest seller. My reviews got shitcanned, and when I tried to reword them to be more fluffy kittens and rainbows it disappeared into the void. So… fuck you Amazon. Fuck you straight up your ass. I contacted their support department, got a refund on the trash products (in this case I felt my time was worth it, to send a middle finger to that fucking retailer), and they said that my reviews would be looked at by the review department for posting. I never heard back. Seriously Amazon – go fuck yourself – you slave wage labor mother fuckers. 🙂 Even your own employes hate working there.

Apparently I’m not alone in my experience. I looked up reviews of Amazon, and was actually quite surprised how low they are ranked by thousands of reviewers. Take a look here, and here, and here. Those are just the first few hits on Google. Many of the experiences were similar to mine. Bad products, awful customer service from Bangalor-zbeki-stan-stan, where customers were LITERALLY berated then hung up on if they ask to speak to someone that does a bit better than Engrish. And yes – the person I spoke to had broken Engrish. Of course, per the modern custom, I was snowed with apologies before the conversation even started. Look, I don’t need you to apologize, I need you to fucking fix it, okay? Oh, you can’t fix it, you can only apologize? Heh. Yeah. Back to Bestbuy.com I go I guess.

I cancelled my Prime membership which was about to re-up in a few days. I sent a note to their “give us feedback!” department as well – and basically shit through the letter box. I know, I know – entitled consumer alert. It’s less that I’m entitled and more that I paid for product, did not get product, got fucked with instead, got the runaround from “customer service”. Really what bothers me the most is their customer service used to be in the US, used to be capable of fixing issues (without needlessly apologizing ten times in five minutes), and the products they offered weren’t absolute loose butthole.

It’s a totally different store now. Imagine if your favorite bookstore became a China Town flea market full of shady dealers and products from god knows where, and when you ask to speak to the manager Ya Habib (aka “Steven Jones”, or “Jerry Smith”) tells you he’s sorry and runs for the hills.

I won’t buy from Amazon anymore, even if it’s cheaper. A week ago I literally paid an extra 20% for sports products to buy directly from the manufacturer versus Amazon – because I really, really can’t stand Amazon.

Permanent WoW Retirement. RIP.

UPDATE: Well, Michael from Bellular has chimed in on the issue. While it feels good to have my views validated by someone that is so big in the fan community, it’s sad that even he considers the disdain of the loot the system (and more so Blizzards dismissive response to player unhappiness) obvious and a serious problem with the game at its core. 😦 Bummer deal. The link I provided skipped passed some commentary on other things not related to the broken gear system – but he had dropped several hints that he’s bored with the game almost entirely. And looking back, he’s dropped hints in almost every video for the past month or so, that he is just kind of done with WoW. I’m not sure if (for him) it’s BFA, or just WoW, but a video he made inspired my earlier post about choosing what activities to do and not do in WoW – because he was already cherry picking things to do, since so much content is just boring as hell.

UPDATE 2: Oh jeeze. Even TradeChat got in on the bashing. Many of her points are not repeats of Michael’s… and most of them I didn’t even think about. Gfdi bliz, you done fucked it up.

UPDATE 3: Fack. Even PREACH is shitting on Bliz’s response to the problem. Wow.

I had been following WoW to see if anything was getting better, and to see when Zandalari would finally be unlocked. Unfortunately I found this fairly hefty “Blue post” defense of the broken (and quite boring) Azerite system. This really crushed any hope I had of playing the game again in the future. First I’ll explain why that is in broad terms. In general the post demonstrates that Blizzard is unwilling to listen to customer feedback in order to improve their game. Instead, they double down on a bad bet and dig themselves deeper, bringing their customer base with them. The second thing that really disappoints me is how much grinding Blizzard wants us to do.

So first off – yes, I am a “content tourist”. Look, it’s the year 2018. There are far more games released every month that I’m excited to play than I would ever have time for. I have to pick winners and losers. Very few games outside of the MMO genre require “grinding” of any kind. That’s a passe form of inflating gameplay hours. I’m at the age where I’m painfully aware of my own mortality and what limited time I have on this dirtball before I am put inside of it. Games are a way for me to decompress from a stressful job and complicated home and social life. My relaxation shouldn’t ever feel like a second job. I shouldn’t be doing boring, repetitive tasks unless there’s some kind of psychological itch that it scratches. Grinding of any kind is something that instantly irritates me and is so glaringly obvious in some games that I avoid it as soon as I see it, to the point of just straight up quitting a game if it feels like it’s asking me to waste my time. It makes me feel that the developers don’t value my time – like they just don’t give a shit, as if WoW (or whatever grindy game) is the only thing in the world I could be doing right now. They want us to be on a slow, set path of progression so that we’re forced to subscribe, and play, indefinitely. From a business standpoint, I get that, even though I disagree with the logic. From an ethical standpoint I spit on them. That’s fucking ridiculous. Try to imagine this in any other medium; imagine this in books – that you can’t get to the next chapter of the story unless you re-read each previous chapter about 10 times. 8 if you are “elite” at reading books. Want to get on with the story? Well fuck you! Nope! How about TV shows. How about we make you watch the really boring part of the show for an extended 3 hours, just to get to the ending. Does that sound like fun? Or would you rather use the DVR fast forward button to get to the meat of the content.

I’m sure I sound “entitled” from a developer’s perspective. Possibly. Possibly I am. However I like to look at it as “my time is precious”. It’s already a guilty sin to WASTE it on gaming – but that’s the hobby I enjoy the most, and I’d rather not choose to waste it on a game that is stringing customers along, wasting their time, for no logical reason at all.

The it’s clear from the tone and the words that Blizzard is 100% aware of the customer dissatisfaction (EN MASSE, not even a minority of players) with the systems as they are now, and they really don’t give two shits. They even go as far as to blame the customers for not liking the system, comparing it to old, admittedly shitty, grindy systems that I thought Blizzard had evolved beyond. Yeah. Right.

The comments section below are a fantastic analysis of the Blue Post. In short: unfun, grindy system goes unchanged, and Blizzard DOES intend for players to “grind” (a lot) in order to get much of anything out of the game.

I’ve seen other threads where fanboys (mostly customer service reps that hate complainers) stick up for Blizzard, and I get it, players are feeling overly entitled. That doesn’t mean that a conversation can’t (or shouldn’t) be had about how things can be improved. Moreover, it is just a product. A single product. We can always chose to spend our money on other things; and that’s what I’ve done.

Two things stand out as greatly unfortunate about the direction WoW is going. First, there was so much potential, and it’s obvious that it’s never going to live up to what players hoped it would become. Years ago Bliz started trimming the fat, reducing grind, giving us more options of gameplay with less pointless grinding to get there. Items worked for multiple specs, stats had been simplified, earning reputation was getting easier and more streamlined. Then, all of that progress got flushed down the shitter. We are now back to several bags of gear for different specs (or even for the same spec but different situations! it’s literally in his post that is what they want! and they want us to fucking GRIND for each piece of gear at a MISERABLE drop rate!), back to shitty rep grinds, back to the extremely RNG heavy portions of the game that drove me to away from the game in vanilla. Hell even the PvP rewards have been changed so that it’s a huge, huge timesink now, and utterly incompatible with gearing up via PvE. They resurrected a substantial number of awful, time consuming, soulless aspects of the game that I have zero interest in.

The second reason all of this is unfortunate is because I have already invested so much time and energy into the game. I don’t mean just literally playing, but reading guides, watching YouTube videos, buying fucking merchandise, talking about the game with friends about WoW. At it’s artistic core, the story and “feel” of the game is amazing. While it’s not very unique – WoW mashes together so many different aspects of mythology, history, and fantasy that I find more points to connect with than any other IP. It’s hard not to get sucked into something that you connect with so well, and to want to spend time enjoying that. But, at the game design level it’s fundamentally flawed. It always was, but it kept getting better over the years. It looked like Blizzard was taking customer feedback and crafting a better experience for players. Now? Well, they shit on that. They went back to their roots, and decided that a blind time commitment with little (and random) reward was the way to go. Shame.

Anyway. I’ll likely revisit the game only during the “free week” they give former players every expansion; and I’ll have little trouble “keeping up” with the big news with the game since major game news outlets cover the key points every time there’s a big change.

Speaking of which, a little aside here, the first time I’ve ever seen a major gaming news outlet use the word “shitty”, ever, at all, was in a headline describing the aforementioned gear system. Cute.

AC: Origins. Oh boy. What a dud…. This and WoW have me on the verge of retiring from games :(

Well. I think I’m becoming a cranky old curmudgeon, because I’m actually about to retire from my favorite hobby… it seems games just aren’t fun anymore. I know that part of it is me and very obvious burnout playing games, but I know that part of it is a change in design philosophy guiding modern game development. I’m not having a good time anymore.  I find myself watching TV in the background and paying way more attention to that than the game itself. It used to be the other way around, where I would leave the TV on just for background noise and to “keep myself company” when I’m alone, usually out of town for work. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve started to watch “great TV shows” over the past year, like Deadwood, The Americans, Black Mirror, The Sopranos, and so on – but I think this has more to do with games being boring than it does with TV being awesome.

AC:O sales pitch: “Do you like grindy, GRINDY MMOs? Do you like the dodge-roll combat of The Legend of Zelda? Do you really dislike the core gameplay elements found in the Assassin’s Creed series? Then this is your game!” It’s a gorgeous open world game with the worst leveling system I’ve suffered through in ages. I got about half way through the game where I got tired of “please get my cat out of the tree” quests in order to level up in order to not get one-shot by same-looking enemies in the next zone. It had a very Vanilla WoW feel to it. Zones are gear and level gated, so you have to grind not only for levels, but also for items, and to upgrade those items. The grind gets very boring early on as a result of the grindy feel and the lopsided battles with either over- or under-leveled enemies. Either you are one-shotting them (which is pretty damn boring) or they are one-shotting you. It’s fairly uncommon to have a balanced, interesting fight, unlike every single AC game so far. There are no multi-kills, there are no combo assassinations (not in the sense the previous games had), and the exploration element is abused. You spend 85% of your time exploring and unlocking the map. It’s beautiful, but it’s samey. It’s all desert and sandstone, and same-looking cities and temples. The “assassination” part of the game is the weakest it’s been in the entire franchise. Some enemies are immune to assassinations and require you to KITE them for about 20 to 30 minutes around terrain to get cheap shots in on them. You basically have to cheese the AI and abuse it’s inability to deal with terrain and line of sight. You get to Benny Hill them around terrain (aka “Zombieland Rule #1: Cardio”) for half an hour in order to kill them. When I have to exploit shitty AI in order to progress in the game I realize the devs took a wrong turn in the process. The quests could not be more bland in most cases, and involve far too much travel time. You spend most of your game time travelling, be it exploration or getting between objectives. Very. Boring. There are THREE progression systems in the game. First is your skill unlocks, which are fairly conventional, but are frustrating because some core abilities and tools from the franchise you can’t unlock for quite a while. Until you unlock a few of the key abilities from each tree, each aspects that they cover (stealth, ranged combat, and melee combat) the gameplay feels underwhelming and incomplete. I get it, they want us to have a sense of progression, but they might as well have added a skill for “Push A to attack” to unlock as well, because it gets about THAT basic. Very unfortunate. The second leveling system is upgrading your passive bonuses to health, damage, and so on. It’s pretty unnecessary if you ask me, because the third leveling system is equipable weapons. So – you need to level up your skills, your items, and also your passives. None of it is exciting and the Diablo-ish element to gear upgrades can be disappointing when you get the fifth epic sword in a row, but no bows or shields. The rate at which resources are doled out are very clearly influenced by the cash item shop. If you don’t buy shit from the cash shop you’ll do quite a bit of grinding in order to unlock stuff, in order to progress in the game, in order to have fun. So, cash shop = fun… unless you like grind, of course. Overall I’m very disappointed by this title. It’s my least favorite in the entire franchise and the very first one that I almost didn’t complete – because it’s just too boring and too frustrating.

I’ll add that unlike other Ubisoft titles (old AC’s or the Far Cry series) you CAN’T just go on the main quests and ignore shitty side quests. The quests are level gated, so it requires you to grind to progress. Also, it’s not truly open world, because the game has about 40 player levels (and more with the expansions), and enemies that are 3 levels higher than you are will absolutely skullfuck you. Badly. And enemies that are 3 levels lower than you fall over if you look at them – so there’s no challenge and no entertainment in that. At any given moment only 1/5th or so of the game is worth playing, as the rest is either impossibly difficult (and frustrating), or it’s incredibly easy and provides poor rewards (in terms of experience or “resources” towards your character upgrades).

There’s also no side diversion, such as properties to own and upgrade, or troops to raise and train, or “robberies” to go on. So the only thing you can do is grind out “get my cat out of the tree” and “kill X bandits” and “escort this idiot NPC” quests in order to keep progressing on the main story line.

You can “complete” enemy camps and forts, but really don’t get anything at all for doing so as the enemies will respawn tomorrow with less loot (since you can’t get the chests more than once). And this gets really frustrating when you spend a lot of time defeating a fort only to have to return there and do the same fucking thing once or TWICE more for missions, and find ALL of the NPCs have respawned, except the captain – who is often barely harder than any of the other enemies. And that’s another thing – the “boss” enemies. Very few I remember or gave a shit about. They introduce them literally the mission before you kill them, and it’s just a chain of you killing various assholes in the government. Peh. Only one of them was memorable, because they have a long, drawn out questline about how she drowns a child – so she’s pretty deplorable. The rest? They do bad things, I guess? And they are ugly? And … stuff? I dunno. Kill em, right?

Speaking of bosses, the hardest fights are wandering anti-assassin Boss Mobs, called Phylofodopolis or something. They can respond to “alarms” (and are the only reason to EVER worry about an alarm going off). Each one of the Photopolysynthesis boss mobs has a preferred method of attack, which is neat – since it gives them a slight bit of character, but each one has about 50 times the health of generic enemies. I don’t remember the last time an NPC in one of these games could soak up like 50 arrows to the forehead, while being able to one-shot you. In the previous AC games bosses and sub-bosses had ways that you could get a one-shot kill on your target NPC, if you were crafty enough to sneak in a hidden blade attack. In fact, Syndicate set up very elaborate Hitman 47 style assassination missions, where you could choose your route to killing your target. Not so with AC:O. Newp. Almost all bosses are just a generic ass NPC that is surrounded by generic ass guards, all with shit AI. Cheese the guards then cheese the boss.

The combat between levels is extremely uneven as well ANY NPC (including fucking HYENAS) that are higher level than you can 2-shot you pretty easily (even with upgrades to health)…. And all of the Phylofodatyls are pretty close to level cap, so they are fucking Hulks until you are the same level as them. For fun I took down all the ones I saw along my way, even if it took a few attempts.  I prefer the stealth route in most games, especially one about ASSASSINS, so I had to constantly upgrade my shitty wrist blade so I didn’t get shrugged off by guards – but make no mistake, you will never be able to one-shot the Protractoromuses, even with all the upgrades. It’s just one of the design decisions – to have Jabberwockies that constantly patrol the world map, but don’t add to the story or to the overall content of the game, other than to be a boogie man. It kind of reminds me of the Amnesia games, where you are trying your best to progress while occasionally having to duck into a cabinet to let scary boogie man monsters walk past. The game even gives you an annoying air horn noise every time one is within half a mile of you. Since they have a loop that they patrol this can be like every five minutes as they pass by over and over. Super. Fucking. Annoying. Reminds me of the goddamn Firefighter air horns from Moonbeam City.

Then of course the elephant battles. Fairly straight forward Dodongo / Blind Berzerker bullfighting levels where you have to trick him into hitting a wall (what game DOESN’T have this section anymore?). Don’t bother with this until you are level +40 (even though it’s a level 30 zone, heh), and even then it’s a solid 5 minute, repetitive fight, with a bit of RNG involved since the direction the elephant attacks seems a bit random at times. At level 30 you will get one-shot by anything the elephant does, so it’s just an exercise in frustration to try it early on. Ask me how I know that. XD

The meta narrative in this one is EXTREMELY weak. It’s the first one in a while where you weren’t in the Abstergo Industries tower… instead your in some cave hooked up to a mummy. Unfortunately the Precursors section in this game are told mostly through audio-only “logs” left behind. They do the “we’re talking to the person in the past AND the person in the future, oooooh, spooky!” stuff that was common in the Ezio trilogy, but in this case it makes no sense since you aren’t playing The Chosen One(tm), making the whole “future person playing a VR machine” bit really unnecessary and quite played out. As with all of the post AC3 games the entire “meta” narrative is entirely needless. It introduces characters that you’ve probably never heard of, and even some new ones that probably won’t play a legit role in the story past this one game they are cameoing in. It’s just so hard to give half a shit about the precursor element if they are just treading the same ground again. And to top it all off, there is no conclusion to the meta part of the story. Like, the character’s friends all die, then she kills some goons, then she gets back in the animus, and……… that’s all. That’s literally all there fucking is to it. 100% pointless waste of my time.

I need to revisit the issue with the samey, uninteresting terrain throughout the whole game. I “get it” that they want to show a sense of immense scale and size of Egypt, even with a massive amount of compression of the real world locations… but, it doesn’t stop sand dunes and sandstone from being boring as fuck. Seriously. It’s super, ultra, mega boring to ride a camel over sand dunes for probably a total of 5 hours. There were either not enough fast travel locations, or the horses / camels were too slow, or the terrain was just too goddamn boring. Any combination of those. I don’t know… but it was bad. Real bad. I’ve never felt like I was totally wasting my time as much in an AC game as travelling in AC:O. I take that back, the AC1 collectables were a bigger waste of time, but that was optional. Galloping over hundreds of miles of sand dunes in AC:O is not optional. And it sucks.

AC:O is not really an Assassin’s Creed game in spirit. It feels much more like a Zelda game, and not in a good way. It takes all of the “meh” elements of Zelda and reskins it all as ancient Egypt, throws in some random Precurser story shit (which goes NOWHERE, btw, literally goes absolutely nowhere at all). Others agree with me on this, apparently. Including someone from Euro Gamer and this YouTuber. The former review has a view closer to mine, that the divergence the franchise has taken isn’t a good thing, and that the game lacks heart. To paraphrase, he too thinks it’s a fairly shallow third person action RPG that is similar to other AC games in name only – and I one hundred percent agree. The latter review is a much more upbeat, optimistic take on it – clearly someone that enjoys up-front action combat games like Dark Souls and Zelda. I’m not one of those people… I much more greatly enjoy stealth. As he put it very well, stealth is entirely optional, and rarely more satisfying that just going in swords-a-swingin’ hack and slash style. Given the pedigree of the game and the name ASSASSIN in the title I would assume that stealth would be assumed to be the default mode of play. I guess that’s one thing that really jarred me was it was a MASSIVE departure from the rest of the series. I had just finished two AC games that had a heavy emphasis on stealth throughout the game. Then bam, I get Dark Souls: Ancient Egypt Edition. Wait, what!? Yeah, I think that’s the biggest beef I have OTHER than level gated content. That reviewer noted it himself, that once you hit level cap nothing is challenging (except the expansion material, and even that doesn’t scale super well) due to lack of level scaling. That’s the whole issue – you are limited in terms of what content is CHALLENGING and FUN. Either it’s far too easy, or impossibly hard. Maybe, MAYBE 1/5th of the content at any given time is level appropriate. If they had scaled the whole game, or, better yet why the fuck have a leveling system at all but just have skill and equipment unlocks (like… I dunno, every AC game so far?) it would have been much, much more enjoyable. I know, I’m talking in circles here – but this is just so frustrating. I admire how they created such a beautiful world that begs to be explored, but it’s a huge cockslap in the face when almost all of that content is far too hard at the start of the game (unlike other AC games). Granted, older AC games you generally had to “unlock” sections of the map, and some games DID have harder enemies in some areas, but it was never 1-shot or 2-shot kind of bullshit. At level 20, you can literally stand on a border between two zones, and on one side you are one-shotting entire packs of hyenas and ragdollizing enemy soldiers. On the other side of the border (and these are artificial, political boundaries mind you, no believable reason why this should exist) the same enemies are 1-shotting you. Yeah. That’s realistic? Right? And… fun? So come back at 40 and both areas are totally fucking trivial. Heh.

Anyway. bleh. I feel like I’m just disliking gaming at all. I dunno. I really liked Far Cry 5 and had NO major gripes. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it had an atmosphere that seemed really legit and pulled me in. I’m a PNWer though, so it hits closer to home, especially since I work with some yay-hoos that aren’t more than a few steps removed from Seed family and cultists. I really liked AC: Syndicate too… and AC: Rogue wasn’t bad, but wasn’t really good… so I guess those are examples of me NOT being a curmudgeon, and more like establishing that my tastes do not agree with Metacritic, not in all cases anyway.

It’s late, that’s all I’ve got for now XD

Other gaming: Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry 5

It’s been an Ubisoft season for me. I beat FarCry 5, one of the DLCs, and had a pretty good time. I don’t think it’s a great game, it’s very much more of the same, but for FC fans it’s more than a worth yentry into the series.

I’ve also been catching up on Assassin’s Creed over the past few months. I was super excited about AC Origins when I heard about it, as I liked reading about ancient Egypt when I was a kid and I figured it would be a very unique setting for the series. I finally picked it up, on sale. BUT I am interested enough in the meta story of the AC universe that I wanted to “catch up” on the games I hadn’t yet played: Rogue and Syndicate. I hadn’t tried Rogue since it wasn’t well advertised and seemed like an expansion to AC4. Well, it pretty much was, but it wasn’t bad at all. A bit grindy at times to gear up, but overall not bad. I can only wholeheartedly recommend it for AC fans.

AC Syndicate ended up being quite the surprise to me. I’m not as interested in Victorian/Edwardian fashion, culture, or symbolism as most geeks are, and combat with a cane on top of a stage coach didn’t sound very exciting to me when I first read about it. Overall I actually enjoyed the story quite a bit and the gameplay was very good. I wouldn’t say “great” but very good. It had a Batman feel to it due to the grapple hook and dodge-based combat system. Almost all AC’s rely quite heavily on dodge combat, but this one had that particular Arkham feel to it. Lots of slow motion, flashy finishers and combo kills. The story was interesting, the gameplay was fun, and rarely got frustrating or boring. I even grinded out all of the side quests. I just bought the Jack the Ripper DLC, so I’ll give that a try when I can download it.

AC Origins is probably the biggest departure from the series. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s totally different. It feels more like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild than it does Assassin’s Creed. The very basics are still there – sneaking, cover, assassination stuff. But combat is actually more simple and Zelda-like than in previous entries. You lock on to a target, block, hit, and counter. None of it is complicated. There’s no combo system, and no multi-kill animations. The single opponent finishers are okay – not nearly as visceral as those in Syndicate. The world is absolutely massive, there are constant gear upgrades, and there’s a leveling system. Previous entries either had a”soft” leveling system (e.g. health upgrades, damage upgrades) or a simplified leveling system (like in AC Syndicate), but this is the first time where player health, damage, and so on scaled with level. It’s not bad at all but it feels out of place with the series. I dislike that parts of the map are basically off limits because random thugs and animals can one-shot you, even though 100 feet away in the next “zone” they cannot. Felt very artificial. Still, the world is huge, there are actually TOO MANY side quests, but at least they are mostly pretty interesting. The game isn’t as fantastic as reviewers indicated, but it’s not bad. I’d rank it as #4 in the series.

The order of my favorites are: 2, 4, Syndicate, Brotherhood, Origins, Unity, 3, Rogue, 1, Revelations. I googled the topic, and found out that Polygon largely agrees with my ranking. In fact, change just a few of those around and it’s identical. I largely agree with the comments. The reason AC2 is my favorite is because it was a fairly complete story arch on its own, establishes an interesting hero with clear motive, and the presentation is just air tight. The music by Jesper Kyd is some of my favorite, ever, and the setting of old Italy is just breathtaking – even on PS3 era graphics.

I just realized that I never did mention Shadow of War. Maybe I never even mentioned Shadow of Mordor… Hm. Anyway, I beat Shadow of War probably 6 months ago. I greatly enjoyed that. Much more than SoM. It felt very much like an Assassin’s Creed game however. Likewise another open world beat-em-up that I liked was Mad Max. I think the game was a lot of fun, in an arcade way.

Next up on the Play List is The Witcher 3 and Metro 2033 Redux. People just won’t shut up about The Witcher, so I need to play it. And Metro – well, I got to the end of it on my first play through UNTIL a section where you need infinity gas mask cartridges. I didn’t realize it at the time but there was a soft time limit on the game, based on how many gas mask cartridges you have.  Don’t have enough: you’re fucked. You are done with the game. You will need to go back much earlier in the game and go much quicker through areas with your mask on, or cheese the system by putting it on and taking it off repeatedly to maximize how long the cartridge lasts. I was having a decent time with the game (but not really a “good time”) and I was excited to finish it off, so I can play Last Light. Welp. No. I’m going to have to fucking start over, and do a speed run. Which is okay since I can skip cutscenes and sprint through levels – having already done it. But, it feels like a waste. Anyway… those are next up on the list. After I finish AC:O and get started on The Witcher 3 I’ll probably make another post.