Broken Age

Heh, another video game post. I’m a monster!

232790_screenshots_2015-05-05_00002

Broken Age was fun. Some of the later puzzles were frustrating, but otherwise it was pretty much how I pretend adventure games used to be.

Its big hook (aside from being a new adventure game) is that it has dual narratives that you can swap between at (nearly) any point. In one you play Vella, a girl from Sugar Bunting, who doesn’t want to be a sacrificial maiden for the monster Mog Chothra. In the other you play Shay, a boy alone on a spaceship, who wants to find something more in life. Vella’s pushing against people who want her to do as she’s told. Shay wants to get away from the infantilizing computer that controls his life. In other words, they’re both trying to grow up. (gasp!)

The two stories intertwine in unexpected and fairly awesome ways. The villains are a bit underdeveloped. Otherwise it’s good craic.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

AC3: Less than the sum

I like Assassin’s Creed games. I bought everything up to (and including) Assassin’s Creed 3 (AC3) in a steam sale several years ago, after I played through nearly all of the second game on my roommate’s PS3 at Fort Awesome. Recently I beat AC3 (actually the fifth game in the series, heh); here are some thoughts on the series and that game in particular.

Assassin’s Creed (the first) was a proof of concept, I think. The fundamental appeal is there: You’re an assassin, sneaking around these beautiful playgrounds of cities, fighting off guards and killing evil-doers. There’s something awesome about climbing to the top of a minaret and looking around (then diving into one of many conveniently placed haystacks). Likewise it’s fun sneaking around unseen and taking out your target unawares.

But otherwise it’s rough. The story is repetitive, building up to an end-of-game plot twist that was visible early on. The actual gameplay boils down to a couple different types of missions, endlessly repeated. As the game continues it gets frustrating, not challenging. In particular there are nuisance NPCs, beggars (all women) and lepers (all men), who spawn in increasing numbers and only target your character. (Video games have politics, and this one wants me to hate the poor.)

I just brutally slaughtered your men. Let’s rap.

I just brutally slaughtered your men. Let’s rap.

It’s sequel, Assassin’s Creed 2, is still my favourite. The gameplay is the same essentially the same, but it’s welded to a stronger plot, the amazing settings of Renaissance Italy, and an entertaining protagonist. You run around Florence and Venice, and in the end you try to kill the pope. What more do you need?

Pretend I have a better screenshot.

Venice! Pretend I have a better screenshot.

After that I went straight into its immediate sequel, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. It’s Ezio again, a little older, running around the streets and countryside of Rome. The plot was weaker, but it added all sorts of extra stuff: liberate the city by taking out Borgia towers, rebuild the Assassin Brotherhood, go through the thief / mercenary / courtesan challenges, complete the challenge dungeons, and (of course) buy up every piece of real estate available in the city. It’s still largely the same game as the very first, but it’s loaded with content.

Rome! Great setting. Better than Venice, 'tho it pains me to admit it.

Rome! Great setting. Better than Venice, ‘tho it pains me to admit it.

I still like that game, but that’s probably why I burned out on the series. It took a few years before I hopped back in, played the first game, and finally played AC3.

(I skipped over over AC: Revelations. Ignoring mobile-only games, AC3 is the fifth in the series. Yep.)

There’s a lot to like about AC3. I don’t particularly care about the revolutionary war in the US, but playing as Connor, a half-Mohawk man trying to protect his people, is a good take. There’s the “Frontier”, a large area with forest and villages that you can explore freely. The two primary cities, New York and Boston, are huge and varied. Several missions take place during big events, like battles or bombardments — entirely scripted, but dynamic. Plus you get to command a boat, and it’s awesome.

But the game didn’t click for me ’til very late. Partly because you start as Haytham, Connor’s father, and he’s a vastly more compelling character. When you switch to Connor’s boyhood in a Mohawk village, the game grinds to a halt.

But the biggest problem is that the game doesn’t come together at all. You’re given a wide assortment of weapons and tools that you can completely ignore. There are hunting and trapping mechanics that you have to learn, but are never asked to repeat. You can recruit assassins, and they’ll give you extra tactical options, but you’re never pushed into doing it. There are military forts to be destroyed (which I quite enjoyed), but only because they’re there. There’s a whole crafting subsystem that I used long enough to make a nice dagger, then gave up on. And there are brawling challenges, hunting challenges, all sorts of optional things to chase down that I couldn’t be bothered with.

The only optional content I particularly cared for was the homestead missions. At several points in the game Connor invites various NPCs to settle around a manor he shares with his assassin mentor. These missions are pretty much the only ones in the game where you get to relax and help other people out, usually peacefully.

Which brings me to another complaint I have. Yeah, it’s a series of games about assassins. There’s always been a disconnect between the pile of bodies lying around you and the NPC thanking you for rescuing them. In this game it was just too much. A couple of times I helped out a lowly farmer by protecting him while he’s harvesting his crops, meaning he puttered around a field while I slaughtered dozens of redcoats who are attacking because the game says so. And then he thanks you graciously. I recognize that the primary verb of the game is “kill”, but that’s not what I want. I like playing non-violently as much as possibly; if I’m fighting off the guards, it’s because I failed to be sufficiently sneaking.

I can see what they intended. There’s a lot of new stuff and content to keep players busy. But it’s bloated and lacks focus.

At least it’s pretty.

Haytham is up to evil, no doubt

Haytham is up to evil, no doubt

Connor was so cute when he was young.

Connor was so cute when he was young.

I'm on a boat!

I’m on a boat!

He knows he isn't going to win.

He knows he isn’t going to win.

This is what I wanted.  It just happens to be a sidequest.

This is what I wanted. It just happens to be a sidequest.

It could be worse. it could say "Press X to mourn".

It could be worse. it could say “Press X to mourn”.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Avengers 2: The Avengening

Not as good as the first movie. The Marvel movies tend to be overstuffed, and this was no exception. I kinda wish they’d cut back on some of the action sequences, particularly (mild spoilers) the Hulk’s brief rampage in a “African City” (end spoilers). At least they twisted it for the final fight (because, as a Marvel movie, there must be a climatic fight) where many of the Avengers were trying to protect people instead of, say, destroying a city (again).

On the plus side, it actually picked up on some of the plot threads left dangling by the first movie, like… Do people even like the Avengers? What happened to all the Chitauri tech left behind in New York? Is SHIELD good or bad? The movie makes room for some quiet character bits, which were all very groovy. I liked all the Black Widow, Bruce Banner, and Hawkeye stuff, and the recognition that being an Avenger (well, a superhero, really) takes a toll on people.

It’s biggest failing — entirely obvious, of course — is that it’s the transition between rounds two and three of the Marvel cinematic universe. It’s not so much its own movie as a set up for the next Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Avengers, (and hopefully) Black Widow flicks. The first Avengers movie was great because despite taking characters from the previous movies it was its own thing; this movie never had that freedom.

(But it’s still good. Go see it.)

Posted in General | Tagged | Comments Off on Avengers 2: The Avengening

The Gondoliers

So. What did I do after watching John Wick? I nearly forgot — why I should keep this blog up to date — but I saw a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers at the Gaiety Theatre in April.

First things first, the production was by the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society, which I think is an amateur society, and they’ve been putting on shows for a hundred years. (Dag.) And it was really good! Good singing, costuming, acting, etc. I wish I were better versed in the mechanics of theatre so I could go into further detail (likewise I wish I wrote this weeks ago when the memory is fresh), but I found it very well done.

As for the play, there were many laffs to be had. The plot was barely there, but the characters were entertaining. The jokes about republicanism went entirely over my head, as did some of the Irish references in a few updated songs. It was fun.

Posted in General | Comments Off on The Gondoliers