Thursday, 26 March 2015

Remember Me





                Remember Me, the 2013 videogame from DontNod Entertainment, is a frustrating experience. On one hand, it’s an interesting high concept game that actually raises comments on interesting philosophical and psychological ideas.  On the other, it’s a clunky, mediocre at best platform-brawler in restrictive environments.
                Remember Me follows Nilin (Kezia Burrows) an Errorist who wakes up in a prison cell with little to no memory of who she is or why she’s there. After being contacted by an man known as Edge (Nathan Nolan), Nilin is able to escape the prison and finds herself in beautiful Neo-Paris, the home of Memorize, a vast company that specialises in the storing and removing of memories. It is this company that Nilin and Edge strive to bring down, as the prison Nilin escapes from – La Bastille – is in Memorize’s hands, and they use their advanced technology to torture and reform their prisoners.
                But that isn’t what you first see. Instead, the game opens with an advert for Memorize and the Sensen (a device that stores your memories and allows you to access them). This opening shows you the positives of Memory Manipulation – soothing a tragic one, reliving a beautiful one – and wins you to the side of Memorize, only for the game to immediately present you with the stark opposite – torture and the loss of identity, with people barely able to function. It’s actually a very smart way to open the game and cement the idea of the duplicitous nature of Memorize, and makes you err on the side of caution as you never know if what you’re doing is right or not.
                That sense of moral confusion pervades through the game. Nilin spends the moments before each chapter reflecting on whether this is the right course of action, and you often see the after effects of your actions, including some scenes that render your actions in a new light. It’s rare for a game to acknowledge that what you’re doing harms people as much as it saves them, and you are never given the answer as to whether you’re a terrorist or a freedom fighter (until the end, of course).
                There are flaws, however. Many secondary characters are clearly written as being nothing but evil, and are never given any sort of development beyond their crimes. It should also be noted that they also happen to almost all be much less attractive than the morally grey characters or our hero, which leaves a bitter taste. Dialogue can occasionally come out as being forced or bizarre, and on occasion steps into being cheesy.
                That being said, the amount of detail DontNod has put into the game is exceptional. Throught the game you find ‘memories’ that detail the history of the story, the technology and the characters, as well as notes on design and architecture. A lot of thought and love was poued into the concept of the world, and this shines through in the visuals as well, with Remember Me being one of the best looking games on the PS3/ 360. The environments and character models are incredibly detailed far beyond the average game. Hell, even titles released two years later don’t look as good.
                And then everything grinds to a halt the moment you play the game.
                To be fair – the gameplay is not bad. It’s not good either.
                The overall quality of the gameplay is adequate. Exploring is slow and dull due to stiff controls, a too large turning circle, wonky jump mechanics and the game’s own limitations in level design, not to mention the game doing its best to wrest control from you. Jumping is often blind luck as to the direction you’ll leap in and the distance, with the game occasionally forcing you to one side or another, and it’s incredibly hard to be precise with the movement controls. Nilin can only walk or jog, making avoiding moving obstacles a massive chore and an exercise in frustration, especially when being chased. Speaking of, there is no unique animation set for being chased – Nilin will still only jog and climb up obstacles slowly with way too much weight added to character movements.
                The climbing becomes even more frustrating when you realise that you can only climb designated objects, marked out by the game. You have no real control over your direction, and have to follow the preassigned paths. This is made more frustrating by the knee-high obstacles that litter levels, which Nilin can easily step over but can’t. I understand that levels cannot be infinite, but games such as Uncharted easily demonstrate you can have linear levels and still allow the player to run around to their hearts content.
                Combat is also problematic. Remember Me’s combat is very similar to the Arkham games, though simplified somewhat. You have a light and heavy attack, and the ability to dodge, and enemies telegraph their attacks with a red exclamation mark over their head or in the area of effect. In general, combat works fine when against one or two foes – there’s the right amount of weight in character actions and everything seems to run fine.
This changes when you’re faced by more than a few enemies at a time, especially in narrow areas or with ranged enemies. The camera will often pull far too close to Nilin, obscuring enemies from sight and preventing you from seeing alerts to attacks. This is especially true of ranged enemies, where you’ll often be hit by something you had no idea was coming. Matters are made worse by the inconsistency of the dodge mechanic – sometimes your dodge will work and you’ll leap out of the way, others you’ll be hit by the attack you’re avoiding or another attack that activated a second later that you cannot dodge because, well, you’re dodging. Then there are the times where you dodge into the enemies attack as the game gets its directions confused.
This is made much worse when the combos are taken into account. Unlike the Arkham games, you have preset combos that you unlock throughout the game (3 hit, 5,6 and 8 hits). In order to pull these off in a group, you have to dodge enemy attacks and continue with the combo as though nothing ever happened. Here’s the problem – this doesn’t work when in a large group. The dodge, already unreliable, will occasionally cancel the combo you were performing, or it’ll cancel because it didn’t accept the dodge. You have to immediately go back to attacking the same target to continue the combo, but most enemies look identical and can get easily confused in a crowd. If you happen to hit the wrong enemy, you lose the combo, even if your attack also hits the right enemy at the same time.
Did I mention that you can only regain health or lower special attack cool down timers by using combos?  Or that the only way to hurt certain enemies is to pull off combos? For the most important aspect of combat, the implementation is terrible.
You also have a projectile weapon at your disposal called the spammer. It works simply enough - lock on with left shoulder button, shoot with the right, or empty your ammo gauge all at once for a stronger attack. This is the only way to harm robots (other than a special move), and is actually really useful for attacking regular enemies as well. Oddly enough, the game is really touchy when you can use it – you can’t shoot patrolling drones that insta-kill you with it, but you can blow up parts of the scenery and random enemies (yes, you can fire something that destroys a metal grate at an enemy, and it will only knock them unconscious).
The special attacks are more interesting. There are five moves that unlock through the game, and all are useful to various degrees. There’s a stun attack, an area of effect bomb, a speed/ strength boost, temporary invisibility (with optional insta-takedown) and the ability to turn robots into allies. These all add a great deal of variety into the combat, but it’s rare to use them as you have to build up a focus meter in order to use one, and then they all have long cool down timers (going up to several minutes).  They can be handy in a pinch, but you’ll often not use them unless you have to.
Another cool feature in combat is the ability to change the effect of your combos. You have a selection of different attack types that can be slotted into your combos. Whilst the combo will be the same button wise, your attacks secondary effect can change from a damage boost, healing or reducing cool down timers, or even giving the previous effect a boost. This means you can effectively change combos to your play style, but I resorted to simply having a high damage combo, a healing, a cool down and a mix, and never really varied them all that much. The idea is a good one, but the game never does much with it beyond the initial concept.
Ultimately, one large problem with combat is that it ends up being quite slow as you wait for timers to tick down or struggle with the games controls to lower those timers and rebuild focus. Much of combat is waiting for the chance to use an ability, or wait for the spammer to recharge (a pain when fighting robots). This is made more frustrating in encounters where you need to use abilities but cannot build the focus/ perform combos to lower timers, such as bosses.  This isn’t helped by the recovery animation for being knocked down taking several seconds as Nilin slowly pulls herself to her feet whilst enemies surround her.
The absolute worst part of combat, however, is the alert for enemy attacks. The alert is a bright red exclamation mark or warning that pops up above an enemy’s head when they’re going to attack, and should easily be noticeable.  Unfortunately, it isn’t, as the specific shade of red has a tendency to blend into environments, especially in areas where you’re fighting large crowds. This is more frustrating when you realise that the alert doesn’t always appear and will often be absent entirely.
And we come to the most annoying part of the game – Loading screens. Remember Me has very long loading screens. Some of them are almost a minute long. The game requires a loading screen every time you die, and you will often die due to the jump mechanics or instant kills by the environment, forcing you back into an exceptionally long loading screen. Sometime the loading screen was longer than the amount of time I played the game before I died due to insta-kill robots.
This is made worse if you die with a cutscene/ dialogue exchange in the next scene – you cannot skip these. You cannot skip anything – the game makes you re-watch every scene and listen to every piece of audio again. If you grabbed a collectible, you will have to get it again and hope that you don’t get caught off guard by the insta-kill robots that move faster than Nilin can turn.
The one gameplay element that really shines, though, is the remixing. At certain points throughout the game, you get to remix memories. This is done by watching through a sequence, then rewinding it and change a few select pieces, changing the scene. Sometimes it’s a minor change, overtimes it can change everything. These sections are highly imaginative and interesting, and make for some of the best parts of the game. Unfortunately, there are only 4 remixes in the game, leaving much more to be desired.
These segments also lead to my biggest issue with the story. As interesting as these sections are, these sequences have a much more disturbing element when you realise that what you’re doing is literally changing a person’s personality to suit your needs. There are moments when you see the ramifications of this (one of which explains why Nilin was imprisoned), but it isn’t until the end of the game where any character remarks on this, and it’s brushed off like its nothing. Ironically, this comes after a remix where you have to convince someone they killed their child – one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a parent – and then they brush it off as though it was nothing.
 I’ve already touched on this before, but the game is beautiful from a graphical standpoint, and it actually does a decent job of visualising abstract concepts such as memory and confusion. The art team behind the game must be congratulated endlessly for their beautiful visualisation and designs. The soundtrack also deserves praise as it blends genre and styles together to create something fresh yet familiar, and manages to create a distinctive theme for the game.
As I stated at the beginning of this piece, Remember Me is frustrating. There is a lot to like about the game, yet the actual gameplay is so underwhelming and barely adequate that I can’t recommend it from that perspective. Had this been a TV series, a comic, book or film, I would instantly recommend it for the high concept story and visuals. But it’s a game, and one that doesn’t play all that well. So I will say this – play it once, purely for the story. Struggle through the game so you can be rewarded with a rare, high concept sci-fi game, and then pretend like the gameplay never happened.
Or watch a play through on youtube. That works as well. 

 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Sketches 27th Feburary - 19th March 2015



          Much belated post, so you get three weeks of sketches instead of one!
          Effectively, I decided to stop posting here briefly so I could focus on finishing my animation. And then I took a break for awhile after I finished.
        Anyway, lets get to it!




27th February pt 1 - Hand and feet practise. I'm usually not too bad at hands, but practise is always helpful, but I suck at drawing feet. Even with the reference, I still screwed up more often than not. Truth is, these were only 30 seconds sketches, so there's not always time to fix mistakes. 

27th February pt2 - Animals! I'm not good at non-humans, so this was a good challenge. I need to do more practise though. 
Sorry for the faintness of the image - the scanner was having problems. 



 28th February - Rough mockups for a sniper. Nothing particularly great or notable. The more detailed face in the bottom right was based on actress Sara Ramirez.


1st March: Trunaround of the large Elf warrior.  Still trying to work out the body shape. 



 2nd March: A rare location piece. It's a mix of weird ideas. Originally it was going to be a Fallout-esque piece, but it changed as I drew it into this. The idea of ruins and a living city in the same place makes me think of places like Detroit, where the city has a very clear divide between  ruins and intact buildings. It's even visible in plenty of English towns.


 March 3rd - Expressions and perspective work. I need to work on my down-angled faces.


March 3rd pt2: Working out how the armour conforms to the character's body. The chest piece changed size from the original drawing to take up more if the body. I've also begun to work out the body shape a bit more.


March 4th: Monster design. I liked the idea of a body being dragged around by tentacles as it swings through hallways. It'll grab you with its arms and the face will split open.


5th March - Painting practise. Starting to work out colours and shading. I need to shade darker at points. More practise needed on eyes. Also, I gave up on things like hair and lips before I really started.


6th March: I had this idea fro a dragon hunter whose armour was made from the skeleton and scales of dragons. I didn't get that far into the design. 


7th March - sketching practise. Nothing more to really say. I was testing a different sketching method here - using 2H as a base, then go over with gradually softer pencils. Unfortunately, never got to that second part.

 8th March - Another 2H drawing without the extra shade. I actually really like this one. There are a couple of bits that need fixing, but I otherwise quite like it.





9th March - This is what I meant by going over with softer pencils, resulting in a smoother shade. If you're interested, the irregular growths were based on Epidermodysplasia verruciformis aka treeman disease. If you do a search for that, be warned the images aren't particularly pleasant.




 10th March pt 1 - Initial sketches for the title card to my Game Grumps animated. Danny Avidan and Ross O'Donnovan. Poses are based on the Cowboy Bepop title card.


 10th March pt 2 - Same as above, but for Arin Hanson & Suzy Berhow and Barry Kramer. 



11th March - Kinda cheating on this one, but here's the finished title card. I'm going to redo these later.


12th March: Profile of Elf warrior. Not much to say on this one. 


 13th March pt 1 - Working out character posing. Going from hunched to standing tall.


13rd March pt 2 - More posing practise. That hunch posed started creeping back in. 
 




 


13rd March pt 3 - Armour and tunic design. Not quite final, but getting there. 



14th March pt1 - Working on improved sketches for Danny Avidan for the next game grumps animated I'm working on.


 14th march pt2 - Costume design. The is Danny's Ninja Sex Party leotard, and I've made a couple of changes to make it more fit for boxing. Going to remove the cape, though.


15th March pt 1 - just a girl with headphones. Nothing particularly interesting.


 15th March pt 2 - Town designs. Perspective is a little weird.


 16th March - Mood piece. Desolate, dark and dreary.


17th March - Young and old(er) versions of Elf Warrior.  They aren't in scale but the jist is there.

18th March pt 1  - Direct comparison between the ages.


18th March pt 2 - The difference in posing. Younger version has a high but lose guard, more akin to a fencer. The Older has a lower, but stronger guard. 
 

 18th March pt3 - dodging/ blocking poses. Nothing exceptionally noticable or important to note.


19th March p1 - Mr Sandman from Punch Out! Wii. I wanted the design to be similar to the games, but also has elements of my style.  Mr Sandman will be a key part of the new Game Grumps animated.



19th March pt2 - Profile and expression for Mr Sandman. Thrre's a noticable size diffenrnce between him and Danny. 


ANd there we have it! Everything should go back to normal from this week. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Game Grumps Animated - Vaginal




        I finally managed to finsih that damn animation...

Here it is!
              Game Grumps Animated - Vaginal!

 
 
(or watch it on youtube via this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpwalffPD3I)


Yes, this was the reason that there were no posts in the last week. They'll be up next week.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Knytt Underground





                I usually do not play indie games all that often. I don’t have anything against them particularly, but I rarely find them worth playing for more than a few minutes, let alone sinking hours of my time into them. I’ve made exceptions, here and there – Fez, Rouge Legacy and This War of Mine to name a few, and Knytt Underground joins their ranks.
                Knytt Underground is a 2D open world platforming game, and the fourth game in the Knytt series (though it is the second full game) It follows a mute sprite (aka Human) called Mi, who is destined to ring 6 bells to prevent the end of the world. Tagging along with her are two fairies called Dora and Cillia – the former a cheerful sun fairy, the latter a bitter and sarcastic moon fairy. Mi can also turn into a ball named Bob after an accident combined the two (not that this is ever mentioned in game).
                The game’s story is split into three chapters and an interval, although there are some bonus stories scattered around. The above synopsis is actually only the story of the third, longest chapter, whilst the first two are introductions to the characters and the games controls and platforming challenges. In all honesty, the first two chapters aren’t particularly relevant beyond the tutorial, as they do very little to actually build the world or characters beyond their basic personalities.
                The gameplay is a twist on basic platforming. You can run and jump, as expected, but you can also climb objects and use your height and surroundings to gain more height, or clear more distance, by transforming into a ball. You can also get a variety of temporary upgrades that will boost jumping or help against enemies, though these can only be used once. This all makes for a surprisingly interesting puzzle-platformer as you spend time working out the correct path to get into new areas, or find new ways of getting into older ones.
                These mechanics are also combined with some basic enemies, block puzzles and death traps to create gradually harder puzzles, which usually hide rewards and items necessary to enter new areas. Since Mi can only survive one hit, you have to carefully make your way through these rooms and plan your strategy accordingly, especially if a fall will result in a lot of backtracking.
                Thankfully, the game is often rather lenient on checkpoints, often restarting you in the last safe place you were standing, and usually on the same screen where you died. This isn’t always a bonus, as it also resets enemies and puzzles, so one false move can lead to having to redo a difficult puzzle, causing some frustration.
                There are also bonus areas where this check point system is removed, which are incredibly frustrating as you will fail every time you enter a new room, only to be thrown back to the beginning of the gauntlet. These rooms test not only your platforming skills, but also your patience.
                For the most part, though, the game is never particularly challenging if you’re just playing through the main story. It is only whilst hunting the hidden items and paths that the game becomes difficult, and it’s very possible that you’ll never see most of those. In fact, I routinely walked past a great many hidden areas and items during my play through, and resorted to using a guide to working out what to do for a lot of the bonus areas.
                A big problem with Knytt is that it is a game where you will struggle to find a lot of the content unless you’re looking for it and have help.   This is especially true of the games trophies, which are all very cryptic at best, with a great many hidden from view. Almost all of the games bonus areas require more exploration and time to find than most people would be willing to give, or even have, and some are downright diabolical in nature (although it will never be as aggravating as Fez was).
                The games graphics are a mixed bag. The environments of the game are often very minimalist but incredibly beautiful, with a lot of the art assets being actual real-world objects combined with lighting effects or photo manipulation. The results are incredibly pleasing to the eye. The character art, on the other hand, is very lacklustre. All the character have unnaturally large, dead eyes, and all the graphics are poorly drawn. I understand this is an indie game, but the art looks atrocious at times.
                The games sound and music, on the other hand, more than make up for it. With the exception of the repetitive footsteps, the games sound and music is almost on par with that of major studio releases, and even better than some major titles (such as Assassin’s Creed). The lack of any voice acting, whilst mostly a practical choice (actors are expensive) lends to the games SNES era charm, and actually helps the game.
                Speaking of which, the games character writing is actually incredibly high. I had very little faith in the writers ability after the first two chapters (where dialogue is serviceable), but the quality in the third chapter took me by surprise. The main characters are actually quite well layered and likable, with Mi coming up slightly short in this regard (due to her inability to talk). Whilst a lot of the dialogue is hidden behind certain prerequisites, it is well worth hunting out a lot of it, as the game touches upon matters of religion, race, sexuality and equality, to mention a few. There are moments where the dialogue doesn’t quite match the overall tone (seeing exceptionally cartoony characters harshly swear is a little jarring), but the overall quality is very high. There are even moments where the game flat out addresses the games issues (such as the story and some character moments), and even mocks tropes that are overused in the industry.
                There is one last thing I would like to address and that is the games occasionally odd mechanics. Whilst the platforming works well enough most of the time, there were plenty of times where the controls seemed either unresponsive, over-responsive or flat out confused. Trying to jump from one wall to another, for example, does not require the jump button. Instead you push diagonally in the direction you want to go (so up/ right or up/left). Except, occasionally, just pushing left or right will make you jump. Over times it’ll make you fall. And the down button just makes you drop, unless you press down on the d-pad where you drop slightly rather than just let go. It’s all a little odd and inconsistent.
                There were also several occasions where the games collision detection glitches. There were several moments where I would entire a tunnel, only to find that I was caught in the ceiling or floor, and could not continue unless I progressed as the ball in a tunnel designed for Mi to walk through. There were times where I would land on a slope and be unable to move up the slope, only down, or I just got stuck and couldn’t move at all. This was fine in general exploration, but in sections where precision platforming is required and the game glitches preventing that precision, and a death sends you back through an insanely hard obstacle course, then this becomes a large problem.
                But, overall, I actually really enjoyed Knytt. It was a charming and interesting game, and the platforming was incredibly fun, and there was a real sense of achievement when I succeeded at something. The games writing and sense of humour made it a truly charming experience. However, I would say that, after seeing everything in the game, I would not go back.   

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Sketches 20th February - 26th February




          This week was about gradually getting over the animation loss of the week previous, and getting back to actually doing some work. Well, that was the idea, anyway. What actually happened was me becoming incredibly frustrated by Assassin's Creed and pushing through the game to see if it was worth it (spoiler alert: It wasn't). So here, have my sketches for the week. 



February 20th pt 1: Intial sketches of the elf warrior idea that was from the previous thursday. There were two inital ideas - the rectangular armour and the diamond armour. I also did a couple of sketches of trying to work out how the gauntlet would appear on the arm.


 February 20th pt2: Refined designs. I went with the diamond armour design, and spent most of these sketches working ut how it would conform to the shape of the body. I also went through a couple of pauldron (shoulder pad) designs. I still need to work out how these work in 3 dimensions.


 February 21st -Working out poses and facial expressions. Some how my face drawing skills temporarily left me with that left most image. Theres also a much stockier design here.


February 22nd: Monster designs. Trying to design more animal-like creatures, rather than my usual humnaoid monstorities... I still drew one of those anyway.


 February 23rd: Height chart of my current fantasy character roster. Notice how there is a tiatl of one mae character who isn't completely designed. I also gave up on the legs. There's a lot here that could be worked on, mostly legs and posing. Also, You can see that I've opted ot use the stockier version of the diamond armoured elf.


 February 24th: I wanted to draw a set of characters in a natural postion, ad decided on drawing some friends playing games. I really need to work on my sitting poses, especially cross-legged poses. A part of this was also trying to draw several characters with different facial shapes and features. Whilst I got the features right, I need to put more effort into altering facial shape and structure. 


February 25th pt1: Some photoshop drawing. Guide drawings of the heart-knight so I could practise colouring. 


February 25th pt2:  Colour practise. I really need to learn that it is acceptable to go to dartker shades when painting, and that I can increase highlights. I never finished this as I had to go to a job-hunting thing, and was definitely not in the mood to continue when I got home. 


 February 26th pt1: Face practise, especially focusing on angles. I struggle with drawing heads angled up, so I spent a lot of time working on that pose. Still not happy with this.


February 26th pt2 - pose practise for action shots. Not much to say about this, but there was one guy dressed as scarlet spider, whcih was kinda cool.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Assassin’s Creed





               Assassin’s Creed is one of the most popular videogame franchise currently on the market. With eight core entries in the series, as well as another coming this year, and about as many spin offs, novels and a movie in production, it is almost impossible to ignore. Hell, it was hard to ignore upon its initial release, with the first game being hyped up to be the greatest open world game in history where you can climb everything in sight and stealthily assassinate your targets however you chose, all combined in a thrilling, emotional storyline that weaved between past and present.
                I brought this game from a friend about five years ago for about £4, as he wanted to get rid of his least liked games (I also got the Turok remake from him as well). Eagerly, I went home to play it, ignoring the school work I was supposed to do. I turned it off after an hour. My experience in that hour made me never want to touch the game again. I played it again, a few years later when my brother tried to get me into the series. I made it further that time, but still not all that far. I only played it to completion this week as a way of procrastinating from animating, lest I suffer another heartbreak of losing footage.
                This was to be the wrong choice.
                Assassin’s Creed is a 2007 game from Ubisoft, and follows the assassin Altair (Philip Shanbaz) after he hastily breaks cover during a mission in an idiotic attempt to kill Templar Robert De Sable (Jean-Philippe Dandenaud) and steal a strange artefact from him. This results in the death of a fellow assassin and another losing his arm, as well as Sable leading an army in a failed attempt to kill the assassins. As punishment, Altair is punished by being demoted and forced to kill nine targets, doing his own legwork, so that he can once more become a full-fledged assassin.
                 Except the fact that the plot is actually about Desmond (Nolan North), who has been kidnapped by the company Asbtergo and placed in a machine called the animus so that Warren Vidic (Phil Proctor) and Lucy Stillman (Kirsten Bell) can read his genetic memory and find out where the Templar’s treasure was hidden and how to use it.  You are simply controlling a memory of Altair.
                Here-in lies one of my biggest problems with Assassin’s Creed – it’s too serious. The plot synopsis above is laughable, but is treated with the utmost seriousness and leads to several boring sections of the game where you have to play as Desmond be monologue at with pseudo-intellectual bullshit which is groan worthy at best and honestly feels like it belongs in bad sci-fi comic. An instant way of improving the game would be to simply remove the entire sci-fi element, or at least acknowledge that the entire thing is a little silly.
                The game is, as mentioned above, an ‘open world’ game where you can climb anything. Except that you’re limited to certain parts of certain cities and a relatively boring and empty hub world for most of the game, as you have to progress in the story to unlock new areas. As for the climbing mechanic, it holds true unless you’re intending to climb trees, rock faces or certain buildings which are, for no reason, not climbable. It also depends on if the game is willing to let you climb things.
                The game divides its controls into 3 sections. The basic controls feature an attack, a first-person view if you’re standing still (therefore it is never used), an option to gentle push people aside whilst walking and an option to ‘blend’ into the crowd. By holding down the R1/ RB button, you enter into the running mode which is basically the same, but the blend button now acts as either a jump, or, if held down, activates free running, allowing you to climb things. The controls also change if you’re locked onto an enemy, with most of the button commands now being attacked based.
                This is all needlessly complex, and simply makes the game harder to play. With several buttons on the controller not being used, it would make sense to simply change the control scheme around to make the game feel more natural and play better. Unfortunately, you cannot change controller settings, and the game insists you use its stupid button layout and three tier system.
                The basic mechanics of all of this are severely hampered by the game having inconsistent logic. Free-running and climbing will occasionally no longer function as intended, with Altair often unable to grab onto ledges or objects, and occasional catapulting himself off in the complete wrong direction. The Jumping will switch from being the direction the control stick is pointed in to the direction the camera is pointed, and then switch back at random, making it infuriating to make precise jumps. This is made worse by the occasional moment where the game will launch you in an almost random direction instead of the one you have chosen. Platforming also often demands pixel perfect placement in order to grab onto a specific ledge, which is nigh-impossible to do, especially in situations where you’re trying to outrun guards.
                The combat mechanics are equally as flawed, with the block switching between being held down and needing to be perfectly timed, combined with a counter system that has no distinct timing involved in parrying and countering attacks. Combo and counter attacks are never guaranteed to be fatal to opponents, and more often will simply push them away from you. I actually spent a while trying to work out the mechanics of the counter attacks, and nothing made sense as to whether it would kill or push the enemy away.   
                Combat in general is actually very boring, which is unfortunate giving how many times the game forces it upon you. There’s only two enemy types in the game – archers and swordsman – but all inevitably result in a sword dual which involves a lot of waiting. Since enemies have the same moveset as you, much of a battle is waiting for a guard to attack so you can counter, or hoping that they lower their guard.
                You can also try to outrun guards, but this is often fruitless. Guards all seem to be expert climbers and impossibly good shots, always managing to knock you off of buildings you’re trying to climb or reach the same location as fast as you can. It is also far too hard to break their sight and hide, and I often grew bored and decided to simply kill them all.
                The Guards are also very odd when it comes to recognising you. Sometimes they will chase you regardless of whether you’ve raised suspicion or if you’re blending, other time I murdered people right in front of them and walked away without them noticing. Guards will occasionally attack you simply for running, other times will ignore it. Several times I was caught by a guard in a stealth mission by being attacked by drunk/ crazy people, which is apparently enough to warrant Altair’s death.
                The missions to gather Intel are all dull, and all are repeated several times with little additional challenge. These including eavesdropping, pickpocketing, beating people up, the occasional assassination mission and collecting flags. These are interesting the first time you do them (except the collecting flags, that was never fun), but are repeated far too often.
                Side quests exist in the form of saving citizens from guards (which, for some reason, you cannot do if you’re being chased by guards), climbing viewpoints, collecting flags or killing Templars. There is no reward for doing the last two, and the first two give you 1/15th of a new health bar. The can be easily ignored with no problem.
                The actual assassination missions – the big draw of the game – are the most disappointing. All too often, these are simply prolonged combat missions or dull chases, and there is very little in the way of planning and preparation that goes into them. You are not punished for being obvious and rushing you’re target, and too many missions involve exactly that. This isn’t helped by the unstable Guard AI, as they will often detect you the moment the game gives you control, forcing you into the bad combat sequences. These missions are disappointing, bland, boring and often frustrating as you wrestle with the controls whilst trying to stab with your hidden blade.
                It is here where I get to talk about my least favourite part of the game. All of the assassination targets are one-note characters that appear for about a minute before you kill them, and then proceed to monologue after you stab them in the neck. The monologues themselves are all dull and attempt to raise moral questions (often pointing out the hypocrisy of your actions), but the problem here is that most of their crimes are simply informed attributes, or introduced in a single sequence then forgotten. Hell, half of them don’t actually have anything of worth to say and simply ramble for a few minutes, and they all say more or less the same thing.
                This all threads into the overall story, a story in which you play no part. Too much of the plot revolves around a character appearing and saying ‘hey, I just found this piece of information that explains the story’, and Altair’s actions have almost no influence on what happens. This is ignoring the obvious gaping plotholes that are littered throughout the games long runtime, and the fact that the dialogue is so stilted and forced that most of the actors seem to be struggling not to laugh.
                Speaking of, the voice acting in the game is terrible. Too much of it sounds as though it was ripped from a worn VHS from the early 90s, and too many actors seem to be sleep walking through their roles. This is especially apparent with Shanbaz, who gives a dull, lifeless performance for Altair, and is never given enough material to flesh out the character’s personality.  This is all topped off with lacklustre and lifeless character animations that loop too often and seem to have been motion capped from an amateur theatre troop that enjoys eating too much scenery. None of the dialogue ever matches the characters movements, and every dying monologue is spoken as though the character were in the best of health.
                The only thing I can really praise the game on is that the environments look nice. Well, the cities look nice, though the games colour palettes and many filters tend to render everything as a dull brown or grey. Character models look as though they were taken from a late generation PS2 game, and the animations are often stiff and awkward, with too much clipping and body distortions. Of course, at least the models bother to appear, unlike Assassin’s Creed Unity’s.
                I do not understand why people like this game, how they can claim it to be good. This game is boring, bland, repetitive, broken and badly written. The idea behind the game was interesting, but the execution is poor. When my only compliments are that the game is stable and looks pretty, there is something seriously at fault with the game. Assassin’s Creed is a game that should be skipped over and forgotten about.


                Spoiler warning: The paragraph below talks about the end of the game. You are warned.

                As much as I have ranted above how much I hate this game, the biggest kick in the teeth emerges at the end of the game. After a last minute declaration that the obviously evil leader of the Assassins is, well, evil, the game forces you into a very frustrating final encounter. The final level of the game is almost in black and white, and you have to fight an enemy that teleports around every time you hit him. This would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that he also robs you of all your health when he teleports away, and the only way to regain health is by hitting him, leading to an annoying sequence where you are instantly killed by a boss that has your moveset and doesn’t have to deal with the terrible controls and inconsistent game engine.
                Killing the boss causes him to drop the piece of Eden, the cause of this entire mess of a game, which is a glowing ball that does… something, and reveals a world map with glowing dots. You are then forced back to Desmond, where the game just ends with the promise that Vidic will be back to probe your mind some other time. There is no ending. There is no emotional climax. There is no conclusion, or even a cliffhanger. There is no drama here. The game just stops.
                This is the worst thing any story can do. No story should just stop at random, no game should force you to spend hours playing through a dismal collection of stories for no reward. This is the worst possibly way the game could have ended. It is akin to Ubisoft saying ‘you want more, give us more money!’. This is an insult to gamers, and insult to consumers and an insult to anyone with half a damn brain. No, Ubisoft, you do not get my money. You had the gall to create a bad game, and the sheer nerve to end it by demanding more money. Fuck you Ubisoft. Fuck you.