This Week In Gaming – 05.04.2019

This week Jason Schreier, the best journalist in the gaming industry drops a huge story about Anthem, Borderlands 3 gets a release date and the next Assassins Creed may have been leaked in The Division 2. All that plus the usual waffle this week in gaming. 

What I’ve been playing

I’ve had a busy week, so I have only really played more of the same. Apex and The Division 2 continue to dominate my gaming time, although I am getting the hankering for a single player experience. With Days Gone just weeks away I am trying to hold out for that, but some of my old favourites are calling me.

All the Borderlands news has made me tempted to jump into Borderlands 2, but on top of that my all time no.1 favourite game of all time Skyrim is sitting there on my Xbox and PS4 dashboards, tempting me to dive back in and replay through all of the stories I know back to front. I think I can hold out for another few weeks, with the satisfaction of those sweet sweet Apex Legends Wins and the satisfying grind of The Division sustaining me.

I look forward to updating you on my 500th Skyrim play through next week.

Kotaku Anthem Article

If you are reading this you probably have somewhat of an interest in the Gaming industry. If you do, I suggest you follow Jason Schreier on Twitter. He is the top journalist in the gaming industry in my opinion. His latest excellent story comes from Anthem developer BioWare, and 19(!) anonymous sources who detailed the troubled development of EA’s much maligned game.

I encourage you all to go over to Kotaku.com and read the article, but the general story is that the game suffered a very confusing production process, with several decisions not being made until as late as 12 months before the games release. These important creative decisions combined with the problem that EA’s game engine Frostbite brought with it made the game a development nightmare. The issues are plentiful, but not particularly new to the triple A game development world. The story sheds light on the conditions that people are working in within the games industry and that sometimes the heads of these companies need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

BioWare is a studio that has the potential to produce the very best games we see. They created the excellent Mass Effect series as well as the Star Wars epic Knights of the Old Republic. They then saw more success with Dragon Age Inquisition, which insiders cite as the worst thing that could have happened due to the incredible crunch the studio went through to produce the Dragon Age game.

Crunch, if you don’t know, is the name for the big push developers make to finish a game by a deadline. It’s been a part of the games development cycle for years, but over the last few years we have been seeing a swell of discontent towards this process, as it really does have an effect on the mental health and happiness of the people who make the games we love so much. It’s a huge issue, and I personally think games should be given as much time as they need to be complete. If stories like this lead to better decisions from the people in positions of power at the big companies than I am all for it!

Borderlands 3 Release Date & incredible box art unveiled

With last weeks PAX event confirming the existence of Borderlands 3, 4 days later Gearbox have revealed that the game will be in people’s hands on 13th September 2019. Just 5 months away. This is excellent news to me, and I am glad they are going with the unveil and quick release approach being my preferred method, against the “Tease a game for years” method adopted by games like Last of Us 2 and Death Stranding.

They dropped a new trailer online, which showed off the characters and the villains, along with more shots of the environments we will be seeing in the game. Borderlands 3 looks like it’s going  to be by far the biggest one yet, and Guns with Legs certainly does seem cool, but I am not sure we are getting anything really new aside from the planets and the characters. My only question is; Is that Enough?

I love the borderlands games, they’re great fun and at the time were groundbreaking for the Co-op RPG genre. However so far Borderlands 3 seems like they are just giving us another Borderlands 2, but with more guns and more locations. To me, that kind of update is DLC level content not enough for an entire game.

I am assuming there are going to be a lot of small touches that will make the game smoother and more diverse in terms of class choices and gameplay styles, but so far we haven’t seen anything that’s made me really think this is a PS4/Xbox One game rather than a PS3 or 360 one. There is a gameplay demo coming in a few weeks so lets hope we see something then that wows me a little.

Assassins Creed Ragnarok

What a name that would be. One of my personal favourite games of 2018 was Assassins Creed Odyssey, and I have been toying with going back to the game regularly to see whats ben updated. Ubisoft confirmed there wouldn’t be an immediate follow-up, as they were focused on supporting the world they’d built with that excellent game.

Eagle eyed gamers have spotted posters in The Division 2 picturing a Viking holding a globe like ornament. Nothing in that right? except when you zoom in you can see the ornament is the infamous Apple of Eden from the Assassins Creed franchise. This poster along with concept art leaks with the title “Assassins Creed Ragnarok” attached to them have led to the assumption that the next game in the time hopping series will be set in the norse world of the Vikings.

On paper, it all makes sense. They are some of the most famous sailors in history, so the boat mechanics perfected in the last few AC titles are easily implemented, and the norse mythology is some of the most epic and ripe for storytelling we have available to us. On top of that, they were famously savage fighters, meaning the hack and slash gameplay perfectly suits the style of that time period. Comparisons may be made to the masterpiece that was God of War, but I think they are to wildly different games. AC has evolved into a sprawling, multi layered, branching story role-playing game set in a huge world with a hundred of hours of gameplay there for the audience’s enjoyment. God Of War is a much smaller story and I expect the follow-up to be a similarly intimate in nature.

I really hope this turns out to be true, but time will tell. Ubisoft have a history of hinting at future games in their current releases, so I think this has a pretty good chance of coming true.

Until next week!

 

 

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Assassins Creed (2016) Review in time

Having adored the last Assassins Creed video game, when I saw the movie on a streaming service I decided to jump in and see how the film turned out. I hadn’t heard good things from when the film was released and I never got round to seeing it in cinema’s, but I always hope for a film to be good. 

I loved the director and actor combo of Justin Kurzel and Michael Fassbender (as well as Marion Cotillard) work on 2015’s Macbeth. A film that was true to the Shakespeare story but with some really stylish action that promised much for this more action heavy film. I will go in-depth on my thoughts of the action later, but I was expecting some great action at the very least from Assassins Creed.

As a fan of the games, I know the lore and long running story behind this film, and that did help me to understand some parts of the film. It did make me think that someone watching this with no prior knowledge may think it’s a bit over complicated and there may be a lot of unexplained plot points and information that would be really useful to the viewer. The film has several easter eggs and hints at the franchise’s gaming heritage, but it never commits fully to that lore and there are no name drops for franchise icons Ezio or Altair. They are hinted at, in one particularly odd scene specifically, but it feels like this film is set in the world as well as separate from it, as no game has mentioned any of the events that take place here as far as I am aware.

Fassbender is in the lead role, and is fine. Which I think is a good word for every performance in this picture. Nobody stands out, everyone is just playing the part they’re given and doing what they can with some questionable dialogue. Nobody feels fully invested in their role and that disappointed me a little, as I felt there was a lot of potential with the cast they put together for this one. Cotillard and Jeremy Irons have an interesting dynamic that is touched on but then falls into the generic roles of the sympathetic villains daughter and the irredeemable evil man.

The lack of meaningful character development we do get with the main character, Fassbender’s Cal Lynch, doesn’t seem to go anywhere and then magically something clicks and he’s a new man. I know video games have had some ropey character development in them over the years, but this script doesn’t give anyone enough to really go on an arc that is worth watching.

The other side of Fassbender’s role, as Spanish assassin Aguilar, is intriguing, but that is it. We don’t learn anything about him, why he does what he does, except from a cursory line thrown in to explain why he is who he is. From then he has action scene after action scene, with no explanation or motivations given for why he is doing what he is doing. For me this films divided and broken by the jumps between time, even with action scenes cutting between the two.

The biggest departure from the lore of the AC games is the way the Animus is shown. Every incarnation to date has been a headset or a table you lay on and essentially view through the eyes of your ancestor, with no physical interaction in the current day. For some reason, the film makers behind this film decided to scrap that, and put Michael Fassbender on a giant arm that flings him about as he is living through the eyes of his ancestor Aguilar. The decision to cut between this and the historic time just did not work at all for me.

The action scenes, and there are plenty, are all well shot and in particular the hand to hand, blade to blade combat in ancient spain is brilliant. however we rarely get an entire sequence of action without being shown that Cal is doing it on the giant arm at the same time. The film constantly reminds you there are no stakes here, it’s just a video essentially. That, combined with the complete lack of character development for our ancient assassin make every action scene feel hollow, no matter how cool it looks.

Assassins Creed is a brilliant premise, one ripe for the picking of any film maker to produce gold with. But for god sake, commit to it. We have 100s of hours of games and stories, all set in ancient history. Over the years the modern-day side of AC has largely become a side plot, with 99% of the games being set in the chosen historic setting. For three games we learnt about Ezio, and was hooked on his story, all whilst there was some side stuff happening with Desmond that nobody really cared for. This film should have learnt from the AC games, and whilst it’s clearly inspired by them, I can’t help but feel they missed the mark this time round. There is so much potential here, but I am not sure any studio will attempt it after this mess.

Good: Some cool action, Excellent landscape shots, and PARKOUR!

Bad: Throwing away a premise with so much potential should be enough to put the script writers and directors in movie making prison.

3/10 – One of the most disappointing films of the 2010s.