This week I played Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Assassin’s Creed Origins, DOOM, Super Mario Odyssey, Skyrim Special Edition, and Battle Chef Brigade.
Last week’s summary can be read here.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PC)
I finished the game this past Sunday, a little more abruptly than I would have liked. I’m thinking about playing through it again but choosing to save the other character at the beginning (saying anything more might be spoilers) on a higher difficulty and see how the playthrough is that time around. I had heard complaints that the ending was abrupt, but I still wasn’t quite prepared for how abrupt it really was. This game definitely suffers from middle-of-the-trilogy syndrome.
All that being said, overall it was an immensely satisfying game. It does give you a chance, after the final credits roll, to go back and mop up the remaining collectibles (not sure if you can get all of them), but I don’t think the gameplay is good enough to draw me back in that way; I played this game for the story, and got my fill. I’ll probably go back in and read all of the newspaper clippings that I found, which really help outline the alternate history that they’ve created and provide some nice, concise world building.
Recommendation: All of my previous complaints stand: while the game is one of the best stories told in the medium, it certainly doesn’t hold up on the gameplay front, and suffers a bit for it. It would be a near-perfect package if it could really nail down or expand upon the mechanics that are there. Still, I think it’s well worth picking up.
Also available on: Playstation 4 and Xbox One (Switch version announced but not yet released)
I have to be more specific, here. I’m playing through the 2016 iteration of DOOM, on PC this time. My first playthrough was on PS4 and, while I adored the game, I could tell that it would play better with the versatility of a keyboard and mouse setup. DOOM was one of the first games I bought (for the second time; it’s that good) when I built my PC just to test out what it looks like on the most powerful platform available, but I didn’t play through it all the way as it was still pretty fresh and there were other fish to fry.
It looks real nice, y’all. It runs real nice, too. My play through of Wolfenstein, while good for the story, made me pine for the fast-paced run n’ gun action of DOOM. Playing them both side to side made me realize just how incredible DOOM is and, unfortunately, how much more fun it is to play than Wolfenstein. It also has a decent story, if you engage with it through the various collectibles, but that aspect of the game is somewhat optional and takes a backseat to the heart-thumping action.
It also looks every bit as good as Wolfenstein; as I mentioned last week, they run on the same engine. Where Wolfenstein is all blood red, concrete, and dark metal, DOOM is dark hallways, the reddish orange of Mars, and the fiery demons of Hell. The lighting in DOOM is one of the more impressive elements of the visual design. Lights flash, illuminating dark hallways, steam billows from broken pipes, and an orange glow punctures the darkness as demons materialize around you. The guns sound good, too. Everything has substance, everything has weight to it, making the action satisfying and, to use an overused word, visceral, in ways that few games have ever achieved.
Recommendation: You haven’t played DOOM yet? Go play DOOM.
Also available on: Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
Super Mario Odyssey
I went back to the first level post-story, and a lot had changed. One particular thing opened up a shocking amount of moons throughout the whole level. I knew there was a lot of post story content, but it still surprised my to see just how much more there was.
Still, I think I’m satisfied with this game for now. I think it will be a game I play sporadically here and there; eventually I’ll probably grab most of the things, but it will take months to do so. Most of my incentive moving forward will be to deck out the Odyssey, Mario’s ship, with all the fun collectibles that can be bought with each level’s unique currency. That aspect of the game really makes it feel like Mario traveled the world, and it’s great fun.
Recommendation: Like I said last week, this is Mario at his best. Definitely pick this one up.
Assassin’s Creed Origins (PC)
I haven’t played an Assassin’s Creed game since Black Flag. None of the games after then appealed to me in any big way. Some of them were hot messes; the infamous Unity was a huge debacle, and after that I swore off the franchise until they could take a year or two off to rethink their gameplay and get their shit together.
Origins is exactly that. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to. There’s a reason Assassin’s Creed does so well: at its core it’s a really good franchise, one that I used to have a lot of fun with. Even just inhabiting those worlds from long ago, the historical aspects, is super cool. Origins knocks it out of the park in that regard. Their vision of ancient Egypt is beautiful and fun to explore. People ride horses and camels from bustling cities across red dunes, and sand storms bring visibility down to zero.
They revamped the combat system, as well. Rather than the easy-to-abuse counter-heavy combat system from before they’ve mapped the attacks to the right triggers, with the bumper being light attack and the trigger being heavy. It’s a sort of Dark Souls lite system. I haven’t completely gotten used to the flow of it, which is strange because I am pretty decent at the Souls games. I think it has to do with the enemy attacks being telegraphed strangely, like their movement is almost too fluid, but I think I also just need to spend more time with it. Overall it’s a very welcome change, as the old combat system was becoming trite and too easy.
They’ve added a gear system that’s pretty cool, too. It reminds me of Destiny, actually. Your main character has multiple slots for weapons and armor, and each piece of gear has a level associated with it. The weapons even have a damage per second number attached to them, which seems very out of place in this universe but actually works, given the gamey nature of the franchise.
The story itself is a pretty standard revenge tale, but the sidequests and the way our character interacts with the world are both very well written. You play as Bayek, a Medjay of Egypt. As the Medjay, he is the protector of his country, and as such people will constantly approach him to help solve their problems. It’s a role that makes sense for a game, and it provides good incentive to play those side quests. The characters you meet along the way all have some interesting depth to them and, while the gameplay usually boils down to “go here and retrieve/kill this thing,” the framing of the quests makes them more fulfilling to finish. It is incredibly similar to the Witcher, and it’s a welcome change to this franchise.
I’m playing on PC on high settings. I have a pretty beefy PC, and I’ve heard that people are having some issues with hitching. For the most part it has run fine, although on my last playthrough I left it paused for about an hour and when I started it back up it was hitching a bit. It may have been the sandstorm that blew through which, while very visually spectacular, was probably quite taxing on my PC. I’ll continue to update on that front as I play.
Recommendation: This is a very strong return to form for the Assassin’s Creed franchise. It borrows many elements from many games, but it does it in a way that fits the franchise, and the world is so beautifully realized that the complete package feels like more than the sum of its parts. If you’ve been tepid about Assassin’s Creed, this is a great time to jump back in.
Also available on: Playstation 4 and Xbox One
Skyrim Special Edition (PC) (Modded)
I’ll try to keep this one short, because everybody who has any interest in it has had a million opportunities to play Skyrim, but I got into it in a big way this weekend and I can’t really put it down. I didn’t actually play it super hard when it first came out; I think when it came out I wasn’t really into slower, more quiet gaming experiences. Well, I am now.
It’s a perfect bit of escapism. I can’t think of many game worlds that are more fun to just inhabit. I added about 40 mods (which, in the modding community, is probably on the lower end), most of which were centered around further realism and fleshing the roleplaying aspect of the game. It’s a really beautiful game. I’m going for a more realistic playthrough, trying to really explore the world, and I made a backstory for my character and everything, so I can actually, you know, play a role. It’s satisfying an itch I didn’t know I had, and I’m excited to go back for more.
Recommendation: Skyrim is one of the best selling, most critically acclaimed video games of all time. If you don’t know your stance on Skyrim by now I don’t know what to tell you. All I’ll say is there is a reason it has such enduring popularity, and if you can play it with mods, do it.
Also available on: Playstation 4 and Xbox One
Battle Chef Brigade (Switch)
This is something I hadn’t heard about. I saw the page on Steam and had a passing interest, but it flew under my radar until Ben Pack talked about it on the Giant Bombcast a week or two ago.
I’m really glad I gave it a go. From a gameplay perspective, it mixes a bejewled-esque puzzle section with a Smash-Bros-lite brawler. You play as Mina, a scrappy young girl who works as a chef at her parents’ restaurant in a small town. Mina dreams of taking part in a grand competition where chefs face off trying to make the best dishes and prove themselves. Think Iron Chef meets Anime meets Puzzle-Brawler.
It’s sort of a hard elevator pitch, but each of the pieces play out pretty simply. The main chef battles give you a few minutes to cook up a dish by matching elements (red, green, and blue or fire, earth, and water, respectively). In order to get ingredients, you have to go out and fight monsters, Smash Bros style. There are lots of modifiers you can add, such as a pot that will let you only need to match two reds instead of three, with the caveat that it only matches reds. The judges will give you a theme, such as fire, and/or a main ingredient to use.
It’s a lot of fun. Between missions you get to talk to other characters in a sort of slice-of-life segment, and all the characters are written and voiced quite well. The art is beautiful and the tone is very optimistic. I haven’t gotten super far, but I’m glad I downloaded it. The Switch is an ideal platform for it. I love being able to take smaller games with me.
Recommendation: Go look up a video of it. I’m not sure that I did an adequate job of summarizing what this game is all about. I’m really enjoying it so far. It throws a lot of interesting curveballs at you on the puzzle end, and going and hunting for ingredients adds some action into the mix. I think it’s definitely worth looking into.
Also available on: Playstation 4 and Steam
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That’s all I’ve got to say this week. Stay tuned for more weekly updates.
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