Sunday, August 03, 2014

Assassin's Creed 3

I play video games on a PlayStation 3. I really enjoy them. I play third person shooters. I like Open World best. A first person shooter is kind of like a cheap virtual reality. The game behaves as if the player is using the weapon. A third person shooter is where the player controls a character that is using weapons. They are called shooters, but, the weapon can be anything. In the game Infamous the weapon is electrical discharge. In the Uncharted series the weapon is usually a gun. In the Assassin's Creed series the weapon is usually a knife or sword.

I don't like the God of War series, or Devil May Cry, because I am not into chasing around the power-up jewels or beads that are bouncing around. I like Uncharted, Assassin's Creed, Battlefield, Call of Duty, The Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, even Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is okay.

Open world means the character can go anywhere in the game world. Closed world means the character has to follow a particular path.

I was just recently introduced to the Assassin's Creed series and I really liked it, until I got to AC3. What a crappy game. I played for a few days and somewhere in the 60% completed I asked myself why I was playing a game that just wasn't fun. I shut the game down, ejected the disk and I will return it to the person I borrowed it from. I have never done that, just quit playing a game.

Sure, I have set games aside for a week or even a month or two. Stuff happens, life happens, we run into game play that becomes frustrating. I would bet almost everyone has set aside a game or two for a while. That is not what I am doing with Assassin's Creed 3 (AC3). I doubt if I will play it ever again.

Game play can be difficult. Assassin's Creed took game development to a new level of stupidity.

Essentially, to complete any task in any video game, the user has to perform a series of button pushes in the correct order within a developer specified time limit. If the focus groups playing the Alpha versions and the Beta versions complain about the game play being too easy there are three ways to make it harder really cheaply. These are things the developers can do without delaying the game release date too much. Sometimes these are frustrating, but, they can also enhance game play when properly used. Improperly used they make games suck.

The first way is to over-ride the user set controls sensitivity setting. This makes the character suddenly more difficult to control. Making the time between button pushes really short is another function of this. The game becomes harder, but, not because the game is actually harder, because the developers mucked with the controls.

The second way is to change camera angle suddenly. Since character control is based on the view, changing the view makes the character more difficult to control. Again, the game is not more difficult, character control becomes more difficult.

The third way is to eliminate hints on what actions are required to achieve the developer set goals.

Here is an example of “hints”. In Assassin's Creed 3, there is a “lock picking” function. The user uses the left and right joy sticks to control the lock picking tools and then, when the tools are correct, the user presses the R1 button (on PlayStation) to pick the lock. Every time the user goes to pick a lock the screen provides hints on what controls combinations are required to pick a lock. It is always the same control combinations.

But, this is the exception in Assassin's Creed 3. Most of the time users are left to figure out what combination of buttons are required to achieve the developer set goals. That is frustrating enough, then add tons of weird camera angles, control sensitivity over-rides, ever shorter time limits on button events, software bugs galore and the game goes from being tolerable to the point where it just isn't fun to play.

There are other stupid things too. For example, I have every “Treasure Chest” in the game, except for one chest in Central Boston. People who have played the game know that this is because this chest isn't identified on the “Treasure Chest” map. This is caused by “removing hints”.

Then there are the software bugs. I cleared Fort Division 5 or 6 times before it actually worked. Don't get me started on every other bug I encountered. When I say cleared, I mean walking around in the fort after I had my character kill all the “bad guys”. I kept wandering around looking for more to kill even after I took the treasure.

The hunting stuff was a little bit of a pain to get at the beginning, but, at least they used button hints so that eventually I became really good at it. I was able to hunt bear, wolves, bobcat and cougar pretty easily, except, when they made it near impossible to react fast enough to the key hit prompts. I have arthritis so moving fast enough for the wolves on Oak Island was difficult. Oh, and find Captain Kidd's Treasure just to have it destroyed by the explosion used to clear away the entrance to the treasure. Dumb. Once I got the hang of it, making money by hunting down thirty or so bears, wolves bobcat or elk was easy. That is how a game should be, tough at first, then fairly easy when you get the hang of it.

In Uncharted the “Crushing” difficulty adds more bad guys and makes aiming a little more sensitive (I think). The enemies also seem to be slightly harder to kill. Not in AC3, enemies require weird and undocumented button combinations with weird timing.

The actual story history is pretty bad too. The history is from a typical grade school history book. Adding in some Howard Zinn, “A People's History” and information from a history book called “American Insurgents” by I forget who and maybe the history lesson in the game would have been okay. At least it would have been much more realistic.

Okay, so cheesy bad game development, poor overall history, poor story line, tons of bugs and the end result is a game I really wanted to enjoy and ended up hating.

Truthfully, it seems like the developers at Ubisoft took the best cool features from Uncharted, Red Dead Redemption and some other games by other developers, incorporated them into the Assassin's Creed series and then, at the last minute, tried to make the game more difficult by eliminating hints, screwing with control sensitivity. The changes probably created a ton of the bugs in the software. Stupid development.

There are things I did like about Assassin's Creed 3, the hunting, the lock picking, task lists. Red Dead Redemption needed better task lists to help users achieve 100% game play. I don't think I ever got to 100% on Red Dead, but, I did in the 90s somewhere. AC3 had good task lists. Like all the games there was a good way to earn money, although, in other games it was easier because there was less user involvement. The buying and selling goods worked well enough once the user has the hang of it. I liked that the apprentice assassins never died, they were just unavailable.

I liked Assassin's Creed 2. I even liked AC Brotherhood, even though I suddenly found myself in the end game with a world's crappiest weapon (The Apple of Eden) and armor that didn't work, well before I had acquired the best armor or weapons through game play. The game was fun, and the next time I play it I will avoid taking on the end game until I want to. Sure, I beat it first time through without dying, but, I would rather have gotten to that point after I had the right armor and weapons and all my assassins ready. Even if I can't use my assassins or weapons during the end game.

I am looking for someone to borrow Assassin's Creed 4 off of, since I don't want to spend money on a game after the disaster Assassin's Creed 3 was.

Assassin's Creed 3 will probably go down in history as the defining way “not to sequel a game”. Assassin's Creed 5 is coming out soon and that is a game I am not looking forward to. If someone I know buys it and loans it to me, okay, but, I am not buying it until after I play it.