BACKLOG: 1/31/18 A month of… slaughtering occupied Ancient Egypt, Monster Hunter World’s JRPG Jurassic Park, and deleting Dota 2, again.

BACKLOG is a bi-weekly (every two weeks) update column on how I’m progressing through “old” games that have been stuck in my ‘backlog of unfinished games’. Here I’ll generally update my progress in any and all games I’ve touched in the past two weeks, updates on reviews I’m writing, games I’m looking forward to, thoughts I’ve had, and things I’ve purchased. 

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

 

Oh man, oh why did I get sucked into another Assassin’s Creed game. I knew this wall was coming, but the beauty and grandeur of Origins was so captivating that it took about 45 hours before my completionist tendencies began to burn me out. I’ve spent a total of nearly 50 hours scouring Ancient Egypt of it’s tasks, quests, battles, and curios… yet I’m really only about 60% done with the actual map and I’ve reached the base game’s level cap of 40. I’ve purchased all equipment and damage boosts available, I’ve got all legendary gear and weapons of choice. I’ve maxed out most of the skill tree excepting the majority of the skills that cost 3 skill points, and I’ve got 18 more viewpoints to synchronize Senu, my falcon, with. I’ve started to think that the only reason I have stuck with so many Ubisoft games in the past because their completionist tasks might be numerous but they are always attainable.

The quest design in Origins was initially compelling, not too far from the detective work of Geralt in The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt. Movement, combat, and exploration were all up to that standard yet the world building of Assassin’s Creed is still lazy and the details become less personal as I progress. Every part of The Witcher felt customized, personalized, and no quest in Origins has come close to humanizing the scared and generic characters of it’s world. The voice acting is stiff and bland, seemingly using the same actors from past games who are at their worst in ambient dialogue. I run past children and they scream, I walk past adults and they gasp if I run. What the fuck is with the people of Egypt (or the crowds of all Assassin’s Creed games) that they fear any man who runs along their streets? No matter what I do the populace cringe in surprise and fear as I walk around, though I am a benevolent ranger who saves children and acts as Robin Hood for the masses. It is an old, stupid atmospheric interaction that needs to die off in Assassin’s Creed since blending into a crowd and other stealth elements left the series long ago.

Assassin's Creed® Origins_20180131000428
Don’t fight it baby…

I’m going to finish Origins soon, as I can feel myself losing interest in side-questing and extraneous plotlines, but the main story feels like it is leading up to unsatisfying forays into present day as well as science fiction that has stained even the best Assassin’s Creed games. I have not yet decided if the game is worth such detailed exploration so I’m giving myself a deadline of the second week of February to review it, because I’d like to start Kingdom Come: Deliverance once it is released.

> Assassin’s Creed: Origins (PS4) 20 hours ~60%

Monster Hunter World

For about a decade I’d been asking why this series never came streamlined on the PS3/360 generation of consoles, the online infrastructure was there and proven by man similar MMO style co-op series like God Eater. I played a decent amount of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the Wii U when I had one and it really felt like a Playstation 2 game made for kids who liked to fiddle around in menus. It was overly complicated, and this is coming from a guy who eats up over complicated menu-heavy RPGs like Nioh. I decided to buy this game in good faith that the creators had suggested this game would be more accessible and streamlined. Well, after playing the tutorial and the first two assigned missions it seems that they’ve updated it to last generation’s conveniences alone.

Coming off of Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Elex, games where picking up loot is fast, it still seems like Monster Hunter wants me to collect bones and scales while holding down a button. I can’t stand this as someone who grew up tapping away at buttons with responsive actions. Monster Hunter has not yet dealt with their obscure control schemes for weapon types and the game does an incredibly poor MMORPG style job of explaining the nuances of each weapon. I of course chose the Charge Axe weapon type without knowing that it was both complicated and sluggish compared to others. Not only did the tutorial explain literally nothing but movement and combat basics it’s explanation of how quests work was brief and confusing.

So, I fought some small Jagras and tracked down a giant Jagras on the first couple missions. It is an iguana pelican, basically. I died a few times in the second major quest because I hadn’t yet figured out the healing item use situation. To put away your weapon and do other actions you press R1 but to do special actions with your weapon you hold R2 but if you hit R2 by accident you attack sometimes if you’ve charged your weapon by accident. Well, you have to hold L1 and a button to heal but if you accidentally hit that button you attack instead of healing and draw a weapon which slows your running speed. Clearly I have not adapted to the controls because they’re absolute bullshit. So, while figuring this out I not only had my rewards for the quest reduced twice but the third time I failed it and would have to retry. Well, retrying means eating another meal that costs money. So, this dinosaur game is a grind already and I haven’t even had fun with it yet. It is incredibly disappointing that I will have to read a guide and watch videos to prepare myself to enjoy this game. It has not been streamlined outside of a few time savers and the tutorializing sucks ass.

Because I’m using a PS4 Pro I was given the choice to focus the power of the console on HDR or not, and then had to choose between graphical quality, frame rate stability, and resolution. Well, choosing frame rate stability actually made the actions of enemies LESS stable looking and the game runs best when focusing on graphics oddly enough. It appears the game was not animated in a way that would best run at 60 FPS and I’m guessing that will come later?

> Monster Hunter World (PS4)  1% (Tutorial, intro)

DOTA 2

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Ah, well I put about 10-15 hours into Dota 2 since they updated with new heroes and a new ranking system. The map has also changed a bit and they’ve introduced a new mode called Dota 2 Turbo which shortens game times to an average of about 15-30 minutes. Dota 2 Turbo mode is fun and plays a bit more like Heroes of the Storm in terms of greater EXP gain and faster falling towers, it allows for a lot more focus on team fighting and raises the tension of the game quite a bit. It allows for less time spent suffering fools who try to farm for the majority of longer running games. It took I think 10-20 matches but my first ranking was actually higher than I had expected with Crusader [3] which is the third of six rank categories which each have 5 rank levels. So, I’m an average player.

Then came the next 10 matches! What the fuck Valve? Every single match I played after becoming ranked was spent with players in Herald and Guardian ranks, the two lowest ranks, and most of them were in the lowest (Herald) ranking. I was playing with severe beginners despite ranking in the middle of the pack. It felt a lot like being in low priority matches with kids who get banned for bad behavior. Every match seemed to be full of players who don’t chat, don’t have microphones, don’t care about strategy, and don’t function well in teams. Of course, this is what everyone thinks all public DOTA 2 games are like, but really once you’re in a higher bracket you find players who at the very least understand basic strategies for ganking, lane combinations, phases of play, grouping up, pushing together, placing wards, and above all knowing the value of turtling up on high ground when you’re at a severe disadvantage.

I tried to be a leader in this case and suggested strategy across several games but ultimately I decided that you can’t teach folks who already have bad habits in strategic games. The matchmaking kept placing me with low skill or new players and it was too much work to try and convince the team how we could win. My long-standing frustrations with Dota 2 began to resurface and I stopped having fun as soon as I realized my rank meant nothing if I couldn’t play with contemporaries. So, I deleted the game for the 10th time and I’ll pick it back up again either next seasonal ranking reset or never again.

> Dota 2 ~2950 matches across 2814 hours…

And that is really it for now. I mean I spent more time with SteamWorld Dig 2 but there isn’t anything really compelling to say about it so far. The game’s systems are streamlined and it appears the game is much, much bigger than the first one. I will likely enjoy it more than I thought I would, though I still hate the voices they use for characters. I’ll mostly be working towards finishing Assassin’s Creed for a couple of weeks just to get it off my plate before I burn out on it and give up. Monster Hunter World might require dipping into the online modes for a bit, I only wish the tutorials were a bit more involved. I’ve made no progress in South Park but will likely rip through the rest of it once I’m done with Origins, I’ve been told there are only about 10 hours worth of content beyond where I am.

BACKLOG: Unfinished titles, in order of importance. % progress noted.

  1. Assassin’s Creed: Origins (PS4) ~60%
  2. South Park: Fractured But Whole (PS4) 50%
  3. The Technomancer (PS4) ~5% finished introduction
  4. Persona 5 (PS4) 10%
  5. Dishonored 2 (PS4) 0%
  6. Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PS4) [pre-ordered]
  7. Monster Hunter World (PS4) ~1% (tutorial, first two quests)
  8. Tales of Zestiria (PS4)  ~1% (in first town across bridge)
  9. Arcania (PS4) 0%
  10. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (PS4) 0%
  11. Thief  (PS4) 5%
  12. Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PS4) 0%
  13. Mass Effect: Andromeda (PS4) 0%
  14. Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4) 0%
  15. Batman: Arkham City (PS4) 3%
  16. Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition (PS4) 0% tutorial
  17. Divinity: Original Sin (PC) 0% (restarting)
  18. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4) 60%
  19. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4) 10%
  20. Hitman: Absolution (PC) 0%
  21. Pillars of Eternity (PS4) 1% Tutorial
  22. FEZ (PC) 20%
  23. Metro 2033 (PS4) 0%
  24. Metro: Last Light (PS4) 0%
  25. Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC) 0% (restarting)
  26. The Witcher: Enhanced Edition  (PC) 0% (third restart…)
  27. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (PC) 0% post-tutorial
  28. Dragon Age: Inquisition  (PS4) 0% tutorial
  29. Dust: An Elysian Tale (PS4) 0%
  30. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (PS3) 0% waiting for PS4 remaster
  31. Bioshock 2 (PC) 0%
  32. Metal Gear Solid 2 HD (PS3) 15%
  33. Guacamelee! (PS3/PS4) 0% (restarting on PS4)
  34. Prototype 2 (PS3) 0%

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