apologies and eulogies

I was going to start this post by apologizing to Dishonored, but before I do I must address this news item that just appeared on my Twitter feed – Kotaku is reporting that as a consequence of the EA layoffs, there is no Tiger Woods game in production for next year, and that the franchise’s future is in doubt:

I have learned, from persons with knowledge of the series’ development, that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 15 is not happening. On any platform. EA’s plan was to outsource that edition of the game, to give the in-house team two years to make Tiger Woods 16, taking advantage of all the PS4 and the next Xbox would have to offer. When CEO John Riccitiello gave his resignation last month, that plan was scrapped as a cost-saving move. The game hasn’t been reassigned to the Tiger Woods team, either. Some of its personnel already have been sent to other teams in the EA Tiburon studio for the time being.

I went to an EA Sports spokesman with that rumor and was told they wouldn’t comment on it, which is not surprising. The latest game came out only a month ago, and publicly traded video game companies have investor relations divisions that don’t want people chattering about unannounced products, especially ones that have been unofficially canceled.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour is a 16-year-old annual series, one that presumably pays royalties to two parties—Augusta National Golf Club and Tiger Woods himself. It’s admirable that the development team got a two-year window to put out a game that would be truly distinctive, rather than incrementally updating or porting over something after publishing three titles in 33 months. But if EA Sports really does put it the series on ice for a year, that is a remarkable decision.

On the one hand, I think the Tiger franchise could actually use a year off, especially so as to really impress when it finally debuts on next-gen systems.  I distinctly remember Tiger’s first appearance on the 360, which was, to put it incredibly mildly, a half-baked piece of shit.  And while I’m enjoying this year’s edition – to the extent I’ve actually had a chance to play it, which admittedly isn’t much – it does feel a little stale.  But on the other hand, HOLY SHIT.  This is unprecedented.  This isn’t like the NBA Live fiasco, where the games themselves were utterly broken and the franchise needed to be shut down to get its shit together; Tiger might be stale but the game still fundamentally works.   If the franchise is being put on hiatus as a cost-cutting move… man.  That doesn’t bode well.

*       *       *       *       *

Last October, I had to put Dishonored away.   In this blog post, I went off a little bit.   I’d gotten frustrated by a late-game mission, and that was right after I’d finished the previous mission in a hilariously stupid, inept fashion:

The mission required me to attend a masked ball being hosted by 3 sisters, one of whom I needed to kill/abduct.  The recon work in determining which sister to nab was enormously fun, and the mansion itself was a wonder to explore and examine.  But then I actually had to do the deed, and it must be noted that the manner in which I knocked out the sister and carried her to her waiting boatman/captor resulted in one of the most unintentionally hilarious chase sequences I’ve ever had the misfortune of participating in.  Here’s the point, ultimately: while the poor execution in the woman’s abduction was undoubtedly my fault, it was the game’s reaction to what I did that made me wonder why I’d bothered being so careful and stealthy in the first place.   It’s actually a bit difficult to describe just what happened, except to say that in a game that at that point had been remarkably graceful and poised, the game suddenly became very artless and charmless and basically just turned into very obvious AI routines that ultimately were defeated with comically swift decapitations of startled guards.  I’m doing a terrible job describing what happened, I know.  The result, though, is the important thing – all the grace and skill I performed in my stealthy preparation were rendered moot; once everything went to shit I bulldozed my way to the ending and achieved the exact same result, since my mark was never killed.  So why even bother being stealthy?  Why bother performing well?  Suddenly the rich, detailed world of Dunwall instantly transformed into a clunky collection of polygons and AI scripts.

I didn’t actually explain what I’d done, of course; I set up the mission for you and then tried to explain how clumsy I was and how stupidly the game reacted to me, but I never got into the clumsiness.  Now that I’ve finished the game – and specifically completed that particular mission in a much less ridiculous fashion – I don’t think the game was prepared for how stupid I was.  Indeed, I give the game credit for at least letting me finish it in the clumsiest way possible.

So, then, let me explain what I’d done wrong, and then what I did right.  Slight spoilers ahead, but only slight – it’s less about the plot and more about the actual mission.  Think of this as less of a spoiler and more of a walkthrough / what-not-to-do.

As noted above, the mission asks you to attend a masked ball that is being held in a very elegant mansion.  Your task is to find one of three sisters who has committed certain nefarious deeds; as you don’t know what the sister looks like, and since they’re all wearing masks anyway, it is up to you to figure out which sister is the guilty one, and then dispatch her without being caught.  As with all missions, there is also a non-lethal way to solve this puzzle – the sister in question has a secret admirer who is also at the party, and he asks you to knock her out and deliver her unconscious body to her in the basement, where he will ferry her out on a boat, never to be seen again.

Now, the first time I’d done this mission, I’d done some recon work in the upstairs of the house, and I’d been able to figure out which of the three sisters I needed to nab.  And I’d also decided to knock her out and give her to the admirer, rather than just killing her.  But I didn’t quite know how to get her alone, and so, in my haste and growing frustration, I simply put a choke-hold on her in the corner of a dark room and then – hilariously – ran through the house, carrying her, fellow party-goers shrieking in panic, guards chasing me and shooting at me, until I somehow escaped capture and made it to the basement.  It was completely absurd and stupid and I felt dumb when I somehow managed to get credit for finishing the mission.

So this second time, I still did my recon work in the upstairs of the house, but this time I also managed to find (and actually read) the chosen sister’s diary, wherein she revealed her growing paranoia that someone was after her.  And so when I approached her at the party, a dialogue option appeared that wasn’t there before, and I managed to convince her to go with me to the basement so as to avoid being assassinated.  This, as you might imagine, resulted in a much more elegant solution; there was no panic, there was no comedy of errors.  We simply walked downstairs, and when we were alone, I knocked her out and brought her to the boat.  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

The rest of the game, at that point, was uncharted territory, but I was able to see it with a fresher perspective and much better mastery of my skills.  (And, it should be noted, I didn’t care as much if I had to kill someone.  I still stopped/reloaded if I found myself in a situation where stealth was not an option; I always prefer sneaking around to out-and-out combat, as combat rarely stays one-on-one – inevitably a swarm of guards arrives, and there’s just not much you can do at that point.)  The plot twist wasn’t terribly surprising, though, and the end of the game was actually quite anticlimactic – I sort of assumed that there’d be a big boss fight or something, but in the end I simply snuck around a room, opened a door, and then the game was over.

All in all I enjoyed the game – the art style is impeccable and “Blink” remains one of my all-time favorite modes of videogame traversal.  The story wasn’t as good, and some of the voice acting felt a little dull, but it was never distracting.  Steam usually has it on sale every other month; if you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s an easy recommendation at 50% off.

I am now very excited to play the recently released DLC, “The Knife of Dunwall” – indeed, that was one of the primary reasons why I wanted to finally finish the main game in the first place.   And now that I know who this main character is… well, that’s all the more reason to give it a go.

Author: Jeremy Voss

Musician, wanna-be writer, suburban husband and father. I'll occasionally tweet from @couchshouts. You can find me on XBL, PSN and Steam as JervoNYC.

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