This week I played Skyrim Special Edition, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Super Mario Odyssey and Elder Scrolls Online.
Last week’s post can be found here.
Skyrim Special Edition
I’ve been a Bad Blogger Boy. As we approach the end of the year I feel obligated to knock off some of the 2017 games that I have on my backlog so I can be as educated as possible when considering my games of the year list, but I just find myself being drawn back into Skyrim. It’s just a really engrossing game, even after all these years.
Something that strikes me about Skyrim is that it’s sort of a dying breed. It feels like big, quiet games like Skyrim aren’t really being made right now. The Witcher 3 is the closest I can think to it, but even that has a certain amount of bombast to it, a specific framework, that Skyrim doesn’t have. Skyrim feels almost minimalistic compared to a modern open world game, but not in a bad way, at all. Exploring the world, finding small inns filled with people who have unique stories, finding random caves filled with treasure and zombies quietly roaming the decrepit halls, is all very… pleasant, for lack of a better word. It’s an easy world to lose yourself in. There aren’t any collectibles, or checklists of enemy camps; the enemy camps are just there, and you stumble into them and find their secrets, even if those secrets are just some weapons and gold.
I think I need to slow my roll on Skyrim a bit, though. I have been on vacation for the past few days, and Skyrim made up the majority of it. I don’t want to get burned out on it.
Recommendation: If you haven’t played Skyrim yet, you’re missing out. Go play it. It’s available on every console imaginable.
Also Available On: Everything. If you can play video games on it, you can play Skyrim on it.
Assassin’s Creed Origins (PC)
I finally booted up Assassin’s Creed again after tearing myself away from Skyrim, figuring I should probably, you know, play the game I just bought.
Let’s get the ugly stuff out of the way: my computer is having trouble running this game, and it really shouldn’t be. I have a GTX 1080, 16 gigs of RAM and an i7-6700 CPU. I’m not trying to brag, but my PC is top of the line (I spent a long time saving to make sure that it was), and it should be able to run pretty much anything I throw at it. On Ultra settings Assassin’s Creed started hitching with disturbing regularity; about every five seconds the frame rate would drop below 12. 12 frames per second. You don’t need to know technology to know that’s abysmal. It would only happen for a second and then come right back up, but it was ridiculously choppy to the point that I nearly couldn’t play it. I tried multiple things people suggested online to little avail. Finally I capped the frame rate at 60 and turned VSync on and that seems to have (mostly) alleviated the issue. It’s not ideal, and it really sucks that that’s a thing that I have to do to play the game, but it’s fine for now.
So what about the game itself? Well, I’m really loving it. The first and most striking thing about the game is that, performance issues aside, it is one of the most graphically impressive games I have ever seen. The architecture, the way the sun shines off the dappled stone surface of the pillars of marble and the carved stone statues of Egyptian deities, all of it looks amazing. The sheer amount of detail packed into this massive (and I mean massive) world is absolutely astonishing. One of my favorite things to do is to play as Bayek’s bird companion and fly as high in the sky as I can to admire the impressive draw distance and look at the beautiful scenery down below. The clouds even realistically refract light depending on where the sun or the moon are in the sky, adding depth that wasn’t possible in games just a few years ago.
The gameplay is finally beginning to click with me, too. I reached the big city of the game and things are starting to pick up. It’s the first place where the franchise’s trademark parkour system really begins to be utilized. That system hasn’t changed much, and as fun as it is to run nimbly across the rooftops of ancient Alexandria, it’s often frustratingly difficult to get Bayek to do exactly what you want him to, and often when trying to escape pursuers or chase someone down Bayek gets stuck in some kind of dumb loop, or climbs the wrong building facade; twice now he has hilariously jumped to his death, ragdolling in front of shocked onlookers. Most of the time it works great, though. I can’t help but notice, as someone who has been absent from the franchise for a long time now, that the focus in this one is straying farther away from the flow of the parkour. Early games in the franchise felt designed around it; stacked crates gave your character quick ways to ascend to the rooftops, long wires snaked across rooftops to make it easier to get from one building to the next, and the density of the city was so packed that you would almost never hit a dead end. Those things are all still there, but this time around they feel much more infrequent, and as a result I find myself hitting frustrating dead ends where the only way down is to slowly and awkwardly descend the face of the building. None of these issues are new to the franchise, and I’m beginning to think that they aren’t solvable without making the controls needlessly complicated.
I’m finally beginning to “get” the combat, and I think that largely has to do with me switching to a quicker, less cumbersome weapon that favors getting close and doing chip damage before backing off and avoiding enemy attacks. Avoiding enemy attacks, though, feels much more inconsistent, and I’m beginning to understand why. Their quick attacks happen too fast, and with too small a wind-up, to react properly. Before doing a heavy attack, the enemy’s weapon will flash orange, but there are a few seconds between the flash and the attack, making predicting when they will hit an uncertain affair. It doesn’t help that Bayek’s dodge move feels cumbersome and useless, not really getting him out of the way of enemy attacks. It feels like the game heavily favors using your shield but, as a Bloodborne veteran, that’s not how I like to play.
That’s a lot of negatives, it would seem, but on the whole I’m actually enjoying the game quite a bit. When the parkour works it feels as excellent as it always has. Now that I’m beginning to get the flow of combat, it feels fun to play. Entering enemy camps and stealthily picking off soldiers one by one feels awesome, and fighting your way out of those camps when stealth fails is tense and exciting. I got to a point in the story where a band of very powerful bounty hunters called the Phylakes are hunting me, and with the new level system they can take out 90% of my health in one hit. That sounds terrible, but it adds a layer of excitement to exploring the world; they randomly wander the map, and when one is close by a message saying “Warning! Phylakes are near!” pops up. Theoretically you can take them down at a lower level, but you have to be real good, and they are immune to the one-hit assassination that every other enemy in the game is susceptible to.
Recommendation: That was a lot of complaining I just did, and it’s all valid, but like I said last week, this game is greater than the sum of its parts. Roaming ancient Egypt is pretty special. The world they have created is vibrant and alive and, once you get the new combat mechanics down, fun to explore. It is very Assassin’s Creed. If you’re a fan of the franchise, definitely pick this up, and if you’ve been waiting to see if this is the year to finally get back in, or to try it for the first time, this may be the best time.
Also Available On: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Elder Scrolls Online (PC)
So this weekend was a free weekend for Elder Scrolls Online, and since I’ve heard surprisingly positive buzz surrounding it lately I figured I would give it a go. Before I say anything I would like to put it out there that I’m not really an MMO kind of guy, they’re just not my jam, so take that into account when hearing what I have to say.
It’s pretty good. I mean, it’s an MMO-ass MMO, so that hinders my enjoyment a bit, but the combat is infused with a tinge of Elder Scrolls style and as far as I can tell the levelling system is very open-ended, meaning you’re never completely locked into one play style as long as you’re willing to put the time in to level up some new skills. The story is very MMO, as well; large scale battle, end of the world stuff. It’s not as if that’s out of character for Elder Scrolls lore, but like I said about Skyrim, the games have typically been a bit quieter on the whole. You remember the bombast I talked about modern open world games having? ESO is full to the brim with that bombast, and I’m not sure that’s what I want from an Elder Scrolls game.
I’m having fun with it, though. I just got past the tutorial area, so there’s not really much to say. It looks nice, for an MMO. The world is huge, so far as I can tell, and they’ve done a good job of recreating Tamriel. The quest writing is quite good, as well, and the voice acting keeps up with the writing in terms of quality. Every now and again Michael Gambon’s ghost pops up and tells you he needs help saving the world, which is always fun.
I’m playing with a controller. I wasn’t at first, but the keyboard mouse controls felt clumsy, as I couldn’t move and cast spells at the same time. It feels uniquely tailored to console play, which is fine, as it simplifies the traditionally obtuse gameplay of MMOs.
Recommendation: It’s pretty good. I have enjoyed playing it so far. It’s probably better with friends, but I like to play games alone 90% of the time, so that’s not for me. If you enjoy MMOs and think you can get a group of friends to play, or you have a group of friends who have been pestering you to try it, go ahead and give it a try.
Also Available On: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Super Mario Odyssey
I thought I was cooling down on this game, but then I sat down and actually played more of it. I think there’s more content after you “beat” the game than there was before it, and the challenge really starts ramping up in the later levels. I’m beginning to get good at stringing Mario’s moves together in creative ways to reach hard-to-reach places, which is immensely fun and satisfying. The game feels good to play. The art style is beautiful, the music is incredibly catchy, and it’s a wonderful experience all around. It’s definitely going to be on my best games of the year list.
Recommendation: It’s Mario. If you like Mario, get this. If you don’t, get the fuck outta here.
* * *
Writing a blog takes time and video games are expensive. I do this purely for fun, but if you want to see me do more live content or game capture, head over to my slightly revamped Patreon page and shoot me some support. For only $3 a month you gain access to my Discord channel where you can directly influence what sort of material I write, such as suggesting games for me to play or game-related topics for me to write about. You’ll also get access to regular pictures and videos of my adorable cat, Meelo. And you’ll also, of course, receive a big shoutout on my next blog post, or whichever post you influence. Any money you give me will go directly to paying for capture equipment such as microphones, capture cards or cameras that I will use to generate more content for my blog. I appreciate you and all your feedback so much. Thanks for reading, and Stay Optimistic.