Heya all. Wanted to ramble just a bit, now that I’m officially waiting for the next two or so patches before I try giving this game another round.
Credit where credit is due; this game by-and-large works. It has bugs, sure, and those bugs finally broke me. My personal last straw wasn’t the incredibly buggy Yuletide festival, nor the drunk Eivor loading bug. No, it was the “Taken for Granted” quest bug where if you choose “now is not the right time,” Randvi’s dialogue options glitch, the quest is removed from your completed list, and you potentially lose access to conversational options needed to beat the game. Great. I have a save 30 minutes back where I can choose to hump my brother’s gal and betray his trust in order to avoid this glitch (what a reason to have sex with your sister-in-law, eh?) … but you know what? No. Nope. Done for now. You’ve lost me.
But aside from the above, the game runs pretty well. The combat works. The music is nice, when it plays. It’s another Assassin’s Creed Action-RPG, and that’s all the enthusiasm I can muster after 100 hours. The law of diminishing returns, I guess.
Frankly, this is the third one of these that I have played. I have over 500 hours in Origins and Odyssey, so this is a breath of stale air at this point. The tweaks to gear, skills, and combat depth created a nice middle ground between Origin and Odyssey systems, but after a few dozen hours I found myself in the same rut doing the same loop over and over in a world that, frankly, is kind of oddly lifeless.
I can’t quite put my finger on it. Origin’s Egypt felt like a lived-in, real place that I was just visiting. You could readily discern the primary economic activity of each village by their fields and shops. They also had logical road structures, fort locations, grain depot sites, and docks. It was a nation wedged onto what little fertile land existed. It was a society, presented warts and all, with a degree of affection.
Odyssey was more fantastical and didn’t give a darn about historical accuracy outside architecture (the game played like an Assassin’s Creed version of Xena: Warrior Princess), but it still tried for the Origin level of detail. Given a minute or two, I could probably readily discern what each village relied on primarily for trade. The docks, roads, and sign posts linked these together logically. Ancient Greece was a land of nation-states, wedged wherever they could fit on an otherwise mountainous, hard-to-traverse peninsula.
I have no idea what Valhalla is going for. There is no structure. No sign of each kingdom being a functional state. I couldn’t for the life of me explain how Oxenfordscire works as a region. It feels like a bunch of copy-and-pasted buildings glued together at certain river junctures for the sake of making sure the player never goes more than 750 meters in the sandbox without finding another town to pillage. The sheer amount of rolling hills to ride across is mind-numbing after a while.
I don’t even have the character to fall back on to make up the difference in personality; this game kept the god-awful Bioware branching dialogue from Odyssey, so there is no consistent characterization of Eivor. Bayek and the other previous assassins grew over time. They developed and came to grips with their own foibles. Eivor just spins his wheels for over a hundred hours of nothing.
In 60 hours, I met Ezio as a baby and I watched him die of a heart attack as an old man. I watched him mature over the course of three curated, well-crafted narratives from a brash, lusty teen to a battle-hardened, wizened Master Assassin full of unspoken regrets. I miss that.
Bayek only had one game, albeit a 140 hour long one, but gods did he grow from an angry, vengeance-fueled Medjay to a thoughtful Hidden One at peace with himself and his life. The juxtaposition between himself and Aya, who never moves on from her vengeance, was kind of sad and poignant. The more Bayek grew and developed, the more you realized he was never going to have a happy ending with her.
I have nothing of the sort here. Nothing. It’s the same Odyssey problem; you can’t do a lot of foreshadowing and character development in a game where the player can veer wildly between diametrically opposed decisions. Heck, you can’t even maintain a consistent main quest narrative; Dag’s anger makes sense if you’re always sitting on Sigurd’s throne, contradicting Sigurd every chance you get, striking Sigurd and Basim physically, insulting Dag whenever able, and openly screwing Sigurd’s wife. I didn’t do any of those things, but hey… gotta have that Dag fight, right?
I could keep going. Why do I get desynchronized for killing civilians when I clearly show no qualms raiding their village, burning all their homes to the ground, murdering all their brothers/ fathers/ husbands/ sons who enlisted in the local militia, assassinating their leaders, and pillaging all their valuables? What kind of selective morality system is the Raven Clan using, for God’s sake?
I caught myself wandering an old, ruined Roman tower. I had just killed a bandit with a single spear thrust and his head, severed from his neck with a comical geyser of blood, had rolled down a hill towards it. Figured I’d follow it and look around for another chest. Along the way I found another bandit and my heavy attack ripped off one of his legs as he died. Blood squirted into a thick puddle around the stump as the severed limb bounced along the ground, defying gravity.
Then I noticed that every female Roman statue had poorly textured, low-resolution clamshell bra cups glued over their breasts. Thank goodness, right? Bare breasts in my murder simulator is where I draw the line, after all! Gotta have my selective morality system respected.
I know some Puritan-minded Ubisoft committee censored the model before it was copy-and-pasted all over the map, but in my head I pictured some Anglo-Saxon proto-Puritan wandering the land, gluing these on to every single Roman statue in the ENTIRETY OF ENGLAND. He must have had as little life as me, but he chose this over murdering 3,879 creatures & animals in 100 hours (1.62 things killed per minute). He even glued mermaid bras onto the statues in the hidden witch lair. Such pure dedication to progressive conservatism. “Take that, male gaze!” Truly stunning.
A hundred hours in and that’s the most connected I’ve felt to this game world. It makes me sad to think about. I came away from Origins stunned, and Odyssey amused but worried about the direction of this franchise. I come away from this game (for the time being) with memories of dismemberment, The Little Mermaid, and a sense of exhaustion. I never thought I’d sing the praises of Immortals: Fenyx Rising over Assassin’s Creed, but here we are and I wish the loose, baggy monster format would get some truncation and refinement.
Then again, who am I to talk? Look at this stupid post, and I’ve shown zero character development throughout. Guffaw.