more AC3 talk, and some other people’s brilliance

I’m having one of those afternoons where I’m just kinda restless.  The day job has been a source of enormous stress and anxiety over the last few weeks, and yet I’m not feeling like I’m as busy as I should be, which makes me feel even worse.  Today, for example, I’ve basically been waiting for the massive workload that I know is coming, but I don’t know when, and I don’t know what it’s going to be.

I’d much rather be writing, but as you might imagine, I’m not really in a position right now where I can shut out the rest of the world and really get into it.  I mean, I played Assassin’s Creed 3 for a few more hours last night, and I’d like to continue talking about it, even though most of the 2000+ words I wrote yesterday cover pretty much everything.  Could I expect you to keep reading?

In any event, I realize now that I forgot to mention the meta-challenges, which are perhaps the most irritating thing about the game (and yet which, ironically, are in the game specifically to induce replayability).  These challenges basically ask you to complete each mission while also fulfilling certain requirements, such as only killing enemies with a certain weapon, or to kill enemies without using a certain weapon, or other such random nonsense.  I tried paying attention to them at first, but soon found that they hampering my natural gameplay rhythm; why couldn’t I just complete the mission the way I wanted to, responding to the way the scene naturally unfolded?  Of course, after you complete each mission, the game “grades” your performance, and each missed challenge shows up in bright red text.  This is bullshit.  I mean, I get this “grading” thing, and it works in certain contexts.  But not here.  After all, I don’t give the game a grade after each mission for how many times the broken AI prevented me from doing what I needed to do, right?  Or how often the controls don’t actually do what I ask them to, such as when I’m attempting to climb a tree but instead accidentally jump 50 feet to my death?  (That sentence would be ironic if I were a professional game critic.)

Anyway.  I did a few more missions, and then I spent around an hour in the Boston Underground, unlocking the rest of the Fast Travel locations (or, rather, as many as I could find – I think I’ve gotten 6 of the 10 available).   And it was in these quiet moments of exploration and occasional parkour that I remembered why I still love this franchise.   My favorite bits of the previous games were those side areas that eschewed combat entirely and instead focused purely on climbing, exploring, and puzzle solving – in short, the parts that reminded me of Prince of Persia.  The Boston Underground is pretty underwhelming in that regard, as it’s less about gigantic ancient buildings and more about mostly narrow tunnels and a few lever puzzles that can be solved in around 15 seconds, but it’s at least sort of scratches the relevant itch.

So, there.  There’s some words for you.

I really started this specific post, though, to highlight some other excellent words written by writers far better than I.

1.  Last week I wanted to write a big response to the Eurogamer mini-scandal, and about the ethics of game journalism, and what exactly a “mock review” is and why it’s so terrible.  And then the brilliant Leigh Alexander went ahead and wrote this, and that more or less took the wind out of my sails.

2.  My good friend Carolyn Petit over at Gamespot wrote this lovely story about a woman in Pittsburgh trying to build an arcade, and the struggles she’s run into.

3.  Brendan Kough, over at one of my new favorite sites, Unwinnable, has a great appreciation for the irreverent storytelling of Borderlands 2.

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