Note: This is a really long round up, just so you’re aware.
This year I decided to go with a theme on what games I will be playing from the backlog, and it was Assassin’s Creed. I’m not sure why I chose Assassin’s Creed because if you know me you know I am usually peeved with Ubisoft’s cookie cutter design. And of course, their little thing in the beginning that says their team is “diverse” seems like a cheap way to try not to take responsibility of the problems that are still going on over there.
Regardless of all that, the journey through all the main Assassin’s Creeds games was an interesting one, because I get to see what they improved on, as well as what they didn’t really learn from. Currently, the latest one I have completed is Assassin’s Creed Unity.
The Lows of Assassin’s Creed
One of the low points is something that I’m sure all Assassin’s Creed players know about, climbing, I am lucky in the reasoning that I am playing these games after many glitches have been fixed, so climbing was relatively unglitched, but the system of climbing itself is really frustrating. Always jumping where I don’t want to, or being unable to grab that darn ledge diagonally even though it is RIGHT THERE. Randomly climbing when I did not intend to do so, especially while I’m chasing someone or in the middle of a fight. Those kinds of things were quite irritating. This frustration was slightly ameliorated by the changed climb up or down prompts introduced in Unity.
Another bad thing is stealth. Ironically, this is a huge thing for Assassin’s Creed, but I mean the stealth play after you have been found. Good stealth games provide enjoyable gameplay after you’ve been spotted or recognized. Either that, or they might as well just straightway cut you off from the mission. This is not really something that Assassin’s Creed handles well (so far). Too many times if I get spotted, I can still go on, but instead of some cool escape, I am sent dozens of guards that overwhelm and I can only watch myself be slain. I can run and hide of course, but the climbing system frequently gets in the way a great escape. While there have been times that I was able to make a dazzling escape with my tools and climbing, they are far exceeded by the times I’ve been foiled by unwanted jumps, falls, or unusually sharp AI. I definitely make my own mistakes and they can be the reason for my demise, but it should be pretty obvious when I want to grab a ledge to my side, I want the ledge to my side, not the one below. I know you can grab it, Ezio, and that’s what makes it really frustrating.
Ubisoft tends to do this typical thing where they tell you to do something, and sometimes when you do it, you fail. If you display yourself as an open world, the player should be able to expect to make their own way around things. Another unfortunate happening is trying to do those things, and…being told you’ve failed. Chasing enemies, but not being able to cut them off by taking shortcuts in the open world city that you’ve become accustomed to because you know it better now, and then being desynchronized, which is pretty much failing the mission in the series, is not a very pretty thing to see all the time. (That…was a sentence.) It is common in Ubisoft open world games to fail because you’re trying to be creative in it and it is still a thing in Assassin’s Creed. Some of the newer Far Cry games are bit better at this though, but there are some definite and unique problems for those as well.
The friggin’ unconventional storyline. It’s possible to have a good, unconventional story, but I’ve found it to be way more bothersome here than needed. It was alright in the beginning, but it got more and more convoluted and flipped inside out on itself. It could’ve been a simpler thing about an eternal war between Templars and Assassins, but they bring up this semi-futuristic world and how it connects with that war and it gets so out of hand. The story about Templars vs. Assassins itself is quite alright, it’s just the weird disconnection every time you are removed from that that doesn’t feel okay. In Assassin’s Creed Unity, they kind of get out of your hair mostly in that, so that was nice.
“True ending” if you spend 1,000 of your life’s hours. These should not be a thing. There can be true endings by choosing different choices, but don’t make a true ending because you didn’t collect every speck of your parent’s dead ashes.
Menus in menus in menus. Map icons. Reward-based collectathons. Everywhere.
The Highs of Assassin’s Creed
Okay, let’s talk about the good stuff. Climbing. BUT ELISE– I know. I know what I said. I’m saying climbing again here because I think it’s rather impressive that they’ve been able to make a system that allows you to climb on pretty much every single ledge in the game. Even though it can be pretty wonky at times, we weren’t able to have something this versatile until The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m sure a random reader could point out another as well, but they’re still pretty scarce. So, I still commend them on this.
Your tools and abilities are pretty fun. I like using firecracker distractions and smoke bombs. All the classic sneaky stuff all play out pretty well. Ranged weapons are mostly okay. Most of them are super satisfying, but they’re fairly limited because we should be using melee like an honorary assassin. (I mean, it’s not really like that, but still.)
I do like being able to visit different time periods and locations. If you’re like me, history becomes very muddled about 100 AD to 1800 AD. Playing through all the different times in between those two ages helped me learn a lot. I know some of the stuff is in just for gameplay or aesthetics, but it also raised interest in those time periods for researching myself: something that is highly valued here at Game Praisers.
Ship sailing. There are only two Assassin’s Creed games that have won any sort of personal awards for me. The first Assassin’s Creed earned an Honorable Mention because of it’s breakthrough and impact it made. The second Honorable Mention is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The ship sailing gameplay is actually really fun. It was quite refreshing to go through and sometimes that’s all I really wanted to do. This makes sense, as Ubisoft is supposedly also making Skull & Bones, which is Assassin’s Creed but mostly, if not all, sailing. I mean, if they ever finish that. Assassin’s Creed Rogue also was a sailing game in a similar vein, but I liked Black Flag more overall concerning story and characters. Also, by the time I finished Rogue I was pretty seasick. Still fun though.
In conclusion, this journey has been great to see how a company has and has not changed over time, and I think there is value in being able to see that. However, I would not personally recommend doing this unless you actually, really, really want to do this. I like doing stuff like this, and I would not want anyone to do this out of obligation or anything. I will continue my journey through Assassin’s Creed next year simply because I tend not to quit on my plans.
But that’s not all I played this year. I played filler games to make sure I didn’t die of monotony.
Time for the list of games that deserve mention, in order of when I completed them.
Crysis: Warhead and Crysis 2
More Crysis! These two games were really enjoyable, but I really loved Crysis: Warhead because it was literally more of the first game. The new weapons introduced were really fun. Crysis 2 was also pretty good, but it for all the changes it made, it didn’t feel super amazing. It’s still a good game though that is fun. Crysis: Warhead earns an Honorable Mention.
Yoshi’s New Island
The underrated Yoshi game. I love the visuals, but I can understand where the low ratings are coming from. It all feels very simple, but what I love is that it still carries the Yoshi’s Island feeling from the SNES. This game earns an Honorable Mention. Admittedly it’s because of more of an emotional thing.
Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2
It took me this long to get to Halo. This is what happens when you like too wide of a net of things in life. Both of these games get an Honorable Mention. The first game gets it because of the cultural wave it brought with it. I remember people downloading the demo on school computers and playing them secretly, or even not secretly with the teachers. Honestly though, it doesn’t hold up well, especially the campaign.
Halo 2 was where multiplayer got really crazy and I remember all those LAN parties. Oof. That was insane, but the campaign is much better and more interesting. It feels more than a thing attached because they wanted a platform for multiplayer. This game gets the Honorable Mention also because it’s better overall as a game, not just emotinally.
Celeste 2 and RAYKA
Two really tiny games that came out this year. Both of them great in their concepts. Celeste 2 is a mini Celeste game just like the original started. Who knows…maybe something will come of this. Just kidding, I think they’re working on other stuff right now. But just as enjoyable as the other Celeste games. RAYKA is one of those concepts that only work because it’s a small studio and has very little red tape in the way. It’s a first person shooter that kind of reminds me of Game Boy Advance style FPS games. However, there’s not too much I should give away because that’s part of the fun of it.
You can play Celeste 2 here and RAYKA here. UNFORTUNATELY, because of something…in the game, there are spoilers for all the fun right at the page for RAYKA. But… ..oh well. They both receive Honorable Mentions, but nothing more because, like a certain frog, they’re too darn short.
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
…I already wrote an entire article about it. It’s a lot to explain, but in the end, great game. Not overrated. Some games deserve the praise and this is one of them. This game made the 12 Bests list and is currently #89 on the ULTRA.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
I have a fear of finishing series. If I get to the last one I have, or that is released, I hesitate to play them. But I finally got off my butt and played the last Deus Ex game that is available at the moment. This is the Game of the Year for me. I feel like it improved nearly everything that needed to be improved. Just when it felt like it might get tedious, it moved on. Great pacing, atmosphere, everything. Also Adam’s voice is still so great. The small, but hand-crafted and concentrated, open world feels really great and not too overwhelming. This game now sits at #5 on the ULTRA. Also…finally a Deus Ex game I feel like is better than the very first one in the series, nostalgia goggles and all.
Mortal Kombat X
A fighting game that doesn’t beat me to death on “medium” difficult. But enough to have fun and get better at. This is such a good game and I can see why people loved it when it came out. This is especially significant after Mortal Kombat (2011). This game is #169 on the ULTRA.
Quantum Break and Control
These games. I love them so much. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve been following Remedy since Max Payne now and I’ve seen their growth. I love the cinematic feel in Quantum Break. I love the Shawn Ashmore and the other actors. This is one of the few pieces of media that I think handles time travel really well. In fact, I use this game as an example of an ideal time travel design for story. This is #81 on the ULTRA.
Control. I am so biased. I can’t rate this game properly. I started playing this game during a difficult time in my life and it helped me a lot. I love the environment style and the lore. I melt at everything in this. The only thing that got to me is the Alerts. I thought there were like, side quests, but they’re just extra stuff to do if you want to kill things for rewards. So I got overwhelmed by them until I realized they weren’t side quests. The shooting feels great, movement feels great, characters super awesome. I sound like a kid. I’d go into more depth with these games that are on the ULTRA, but they deserve an article themselves, so I won’t go any further. Control is #6 on the ULTRA. I know the ULTRA is supposed to include emotional bias, but Deus Ex still comes out on top.
Hyper Light Drifter
This game is so cute, especially because it does the ol’ show, don’t tell. For the entire game. I absolutely enjoyed learning to navigate a dangerous and relentless world that is so beautifully designed. I found it a little difficult to be motivated to get all the secrets, but there are many and I think it’s cool that they are there. What really drove me to play this game a lot was the boss fights. I loved them so much. They were so much fun and really well designed. #168 on the ULTRA.
Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain, but it’s 3D. That’s…that’s literally it. #160 on the ULTRA. Still has that same, “It’s time for you to get owned and die in 0.5 seconds.” kind of thing. Still has that same fun too though.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
It’s rare to have a unique open world take, and this game is one of those. I really like the characters and the monster designs. Hunting feels great. It still has some older style open world designs where you’re chasing icons, but I am really overwhelmed by how well they implemented and handled this post-apocalyptic robot arc. #79 on the ULTRA.
Fallout: New Vegas
More Fallout. People say it’s so different from Fallout 3, but if we are to be honest with ourselves, it’s not. It’s more of the same gameplay wise. Story-wise it’s pretty stretched like the old cRPG days, and I think that is something people LOVE. And it’s definitely a good thing too. I think it does indeed improve on all things of its predecessor and deserves all that love the fans give it. However… it is so. insanely. GLITCHY. I’ve played glitchy Fallout and Elder Scrolls games, but nothing as bad as this. I don’t play with mods because it is the developer’s responsibility, not the fans, to fix all this stuff. The fans do great things for games like this, but really, the developer needs to be responsible. Save losses, game crashes, load glitches, movement glitches, all amounted to a game I could only put on Honorable Mentions because it is just that frustrating. The players should not have to suffer such annoyances that debilitate such a great game.
But in the end I will still respect that gameplay and recommend to anyone who loves these kinds of open world games.
There were a few other games that I played that did not earn any awards at all, most of them consisting of Assassin’s Creed. But…that was the year’s round up. I finished a good amount of games this year because I was a little more motivated. And of course, I am still playing Genshin Impact, because I love that game to death. Ironically, or perhaps unironically, it brought out both the best and the ugliest side of gamers the world has to see. I’ve seen such great support, and such great racism and colonist behavior, but in the end, it’s been great.
Was 2021 good? Does it deserve and Honorable Mention?
No. It is you who deserves it. You made it through this ridiculous year. I seriously can’t believe we had to go through another year of this, and it will likely last until at least 2023. In fact, you deserve to be on the top 12 for surviving this darn stuff. As gamers we have been through a lot, but even after all the hate and stuff, I commend the community for being decent during this difficult time and understanding how difficult it is to live life and make games during this time. Perhaps it’s because we’re all suffering and not just the developers that brings about this sympathy (or empathy) in the community. Although things seem frightening for game developers at this time, I feel like there is a lot more support for better work environments for women and minority groups in all of the industry.
Regardless, you did it, player! I hope you were able to enjoy a good amount of gaming this year and wish you fortune and good luck next year. Whatever your endeavors may be, even if they’re not gaming related, I hope you have the strength to carry on.