Tag Archives: assassins creed

If Only Ghost Recon Breakpoint Were More Like Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed games have gotten better and better at establishing a sense of place and filling that place with tons of satisfying, stealthy missions. After a few hours with Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo is still mostly just thinking about how much he likes Assassin’s Creed. On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we talk about his initial impressions of Ubisoft’s latest, as well as the other stealth-focused open world games that he loves.


First up, Kirk and I discuss the games we’re playing. I’m still on Fire Emblem: Three Houses but also tried two new tabletop games: Escape from Aliens in Outer Space and Sheriff of Nottingham. Kirk’s tabletop group is still playing Betrayal Legacy, and Kirk is also playing the new Hitman level and Destiny 2: Shadowkeep. After a break (28:32), we bring on Stephen to talk about Ghost Recon Breakpoint, open world games, and how much we all love sidequests. We close with off-topic discussion (1:08:15) about Elementary, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Kirk’s music pick.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Stephen: One of the interesting things about this game—and this is going to be a theme, Ubisoft doing the same thing in multiple games, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. In this case, what I think is cool, is when they tease their next game in the previous game. There was a surprise update to Ghost Recon Wildlands, the one set in Bolivia that came out in 2017, earlier this year. Suddenly they’re like, “There’s this other Ghost,” which is what the special agents in the Ghost Recon universe are called, and it’s the Jon Bernthal character, whose name is escaping me right now, unfortunately. He shows up and he has a mission for you, and you do a few things. They didn’t say it flat-out at the moment, but within a couple days, they revealed that this was actually a tease for Breakpoint.

They’ve been doing that now, where Ubisoft games will get this last-minute DLC or something. Division 1 did it for Division 2. I was speculating earlier this week on Kotaku that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey hasn’t really had its final update and I wouldn’t be surprised if next year they start teasing the next one of those.

So anyway, his group of Ghosts have overtaken the island. So, as opposed to the previous game where you go in with three AI buddies and you guys are all going through, doing the stealth shooting tactical stuff—it can be co-op if you prefer, instead of AI—you are solo in this one. I mean, you can co-op, but there’s no other human characters by default. It’s just you and your drone. More survival aspects. You can get tired, you have to drink water. You can bivouac, you can set it afire. And if you eat, you have a little bit of extra stat boost, I forget which type, the next time you go back into action. But if you read a book, a little handbook that you have, you can get more XP.


Maddy: You become emotionally fulfilled, and then going back into action isn’t as daunting.

Kirk: You engage your imagination!

Stephen: With literature that you’re reading? No, it’s tactical notes. It’s the Clancy-verse, that’s what you’d be reading about.


Kirk: “How To Skin A Snake, And Eat It.”

Stephen: Exactly. But basically, you’ve got big skill trees, like you had in the previous game. They’ve gone more heavy on the loot and the collecting, which can suspiciously be monetized. Weapon blueprints, all kinds of scored statistic-based armors that you can get, all of which you’re constantly collecting and harvesting or whatever and can then get from an in-game shop. Some of the stuff you can buy optionally from the microtransactions shop instead. Although, I don’t feel like you need to do any of that. It always has that question, though, of have they built in some of the grind?


It’s open in terms of what you do. You can go after the main dude right away. Heather Alexandra’s gonna review the game for us and she’s trying to do that. She’s trying to do that Ganon in Breath of the Wild-style, go in your underwear and try to take him down with a stick. But she ran into a tank, so it’s not working out so well.

Otherwise, you can try to take down these various Ghosts that have gone rogue, who are on the island, or you can try to do other quests that are on the island. It seems like it could be interesting. It’s a huge, vast world, I just haven’t explored enough of it. Like Wildlands, the main character is this blank slate. The writing is pretty wooden so far. The whole thing is surprisingly austere. You have some Ubisoft games that have a lot of personality to them, more like the Far Cry games, some of the Assassin’s Creeds or the Rayman games.


Kirk: Watch Dogs.

Stephen: But then you have these games that are much more stripped down, like Steep, which was pretty antiseptic. I would say Wildlands to an extent was like that, and I’m getting some of that from Breakpoint too.


Kirk: Didn’t Steep have the mountain that started talking to you sometimes? It was like this one weird flash of color in an otherwise very beige game.

I have a couple of questions. First of all, John Bernthal’s name is Colonel Cole D. Walker.


Stephen: Oh yeah! Cole Walker! I just needed to think of some generic words. Cole Walker, that makes sense.

Kirk: Someone should just make a huge list of all the “action man” names that have ever existed. There are so many, and they’re all very good. So, questions that I have. First of all, how’s the gameplay? What is it like, in general, to go to an outpost of dudes and shoot the dudes?


Stephen: It’s great, Kirk. [laughs] What a weird question. What is it like to go to a base and shoot the dudes?

Kirk: Love shootin’ the dudes. I mean, that’s what you do in the game, right?

Maddy: How does it feel? How’s the gunplay? Feel good? Feel powerful?

Kirk: Snuffing a man’s life out? Watching him die?

Maddy: [laughs] That is the game, though, right?

Stephen: As both of you know—listeners may not know—I play games in a strange way. One of the things I do is I spend too much time in menus trying to understand systems instead of just diving right into the gameplay.


Maddy: You haven’t actually shot anyone in the entire game yet.

Kirk: “I have a really good understanding of the microtransaction store, but haven’t really shot too many people—”


Stephen: They’ve thrown this very weird version of a battle pass into it. I’ve been interested in some of the quest structure and stuff like that. What I found is that I can’t play it the way I played the previous game, which was the way I try to manage Kotaku, and the way that I most like playing an Assassin’s Creed game.

Kirk: Shoot people from a distance?

Stephen: Point and have other people do the awesome stuff.

Maddy: While you’re doing sidequests that may or may not be relevant? Or is that too real?


Stephen: [laughs] Right. My favorite moment in any Assassin’s Creed game is in Brotherhood or whatever, where you have that posse of assassins and you’re just walking down the street all suave as Ezio. Then you just press that button to whistle and then suddenly your assassin brother or minions, whatever, jump off of a rooftop or out of a haystack and stab a person to death. And you just keep walking down the street without breaking a stride.

They’ve taken that away from Assassin’s Creed games, but what I liked in Wildlands is that you could, with either your character’s sights with the gun or with the drone that you can fly into the air at any moment, you could tag up to three targets, and then you could either pull the trigger while shooting one enemy and then your three buddies would automatically shoot the other three targets. Or, you could not fire a shot at all, you just press the button and the three targets you tag would all be killed by your three buddies. You could do this in a super-stealthy way where you were never exposing yourself to danger, other than to just surveil, spot, and then say, “Okay, tag them, take them out.” For me, that was the best way to remain stealthy in that game, and I enjoyed playing it that way. Then I would take things on myself if the action got too hairy, or whatever.


In this case… you don’t have the AI buddies yet, they’re coming as I think free DLC. You instead are relying on your drone to fly around and zap each person that you tag. They’ve made it an item, an expendable item, so you only get three sync shots and you have to collect more. So it’s forcing me to do more direct engagement, actually sneaking up on enemies. I would actually say they’re correcting for the way that I was playing. Sometimes you can object to that—“The developers should go the way the players go”—but I feel like it’s good and healthy that I’m being incentivized to use my stealth skills.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s ‘Final’ Update Will Be Released This Month

It’s been clear for a while that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is just about done in terms of game updates. The game’s free and paid add-ons are complete. Its store has been filled with extra gear to buy. Today, Ubisoft confirmed that October’s update will be the game’s last.

The game’s October update will include the addition to the in-game store of a horse called Melaina, named “after the playful nymph,” Ubisoft’s house blogger explained in a post today. The horse will be added  along with a 1.5.1 patch that primarily focused on bug fixes.


The game’s anniversary is also being recognized with a daily roll-out of epic mercenary and epic ship encounters starting now and running into early November. These encounters had been trickled out throughout the game’s first year and are being re-offered with extra rewards as the game winds down.

After that?

Well, there is no new Assassin’s Creed this year, there is most assuredly one coming out next year (Vikings, right?), but there’s also the fact that Ubisoft seems to really like updating its franchise games one last time to tease a sequel. In July of 2018, Ubisoft began seeding The Division with quests that would unlock content in March 2019’s The Division 2. In June of this year, 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands got a surprise bonus questline that turned out to be a teaser for October’s Breakpoint sequel. Ever see Ubisoft only do a thing twice? Me neither. Here’s to Odyssey getting one more final update at some expected date to tease the next AC.

Source: Kotaku.com

The End Of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Is Finally Within My Reach

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

The developers of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey have been moving the game’s finish line farther out since October of last year, but I think I’m finally about to catch it. This sums up my gaming experience these days, perpetually racing toward a moving goal.

At launch Odyssey was already a marathon, a game with not one but three main quests as well as dozens of sidequests. I’d heard that it was already a 100-hour game. I wouldn’t know, because before I could finish even one of the game’s main quests, its developers were already adding more adventures.

Then came the flow of free “Lost Tales Of Greece” updates, each of which added a new questline consisting of five or so new missions. There have been 10 so far. I’ve played through one that involved two brothers who were both mourning their dad and also both trying to sleep with my character. I’ve got one going now in which I’m trying to track down the missing wife of my top adviser. Each Lost Tales questline I’ve played has taken me an hour or two, and I think I have seven to go.

In between those Lost Tales, Ubisoft has released the game’s paid episodic expansions, three chapters apiece for two big story arcs. I’ve played all of those, with each chapter taking me about 10 hours to play through. I’ve liked the middle episodes for both arcs the most, for what that’s worth.

All of this had made Odyssey a year-long proposition, a game I’ve played in bursts at night after my kids go to bed and between other games I’m playing for fun or review. I’ve liked most of what I’ve played, but I’ve also felt some weariness of never being able to put the game behind me. I know it’s the reason I’ve not been able to make time to finish the purportedly massive Red Dead Redemption 2 (I’m about 20 hours into that), nor have I found the time to get back into Destiny 2 for the same reason. It’s not just about the time commitment. I could really use the 117.3 GB that Odyssey occupies on my PS4 back. I could probably also just use some distance from the game.

I like it, but it’s made me nostalgic for older Assassin’s Creed games, including ACIII, which was released as part of the Odyssey’s season pass. I’ve had no time to dig back into it, though. Just one AC game at a time, right?

Odyssey has so far refused to end. It keeps getting longer and keeps surprising me. Just the other day I decided to finish a quest in the game’s Lakonia region that involved tracking down someone’s lost sons. Once I managed that, their mother then told me about four women in the region who also need help. That’s four more quests for me to now do!

Despite all this, I’ve never seriously considered just dropping the game. I like it too much, though I did become tired of its combat for a spell. Then its paid expansions started adding new combat moves to make fighting fun again. I have at least decided that I don’t need to clear every enemy base in the game. Not this time.

For years, I’ve written reflectively about Assassin’s Creed games once I’ve finished them. The length of my time with each now seems almost cute. In 2012, I reviewed Assassin’s Creed III after finishing its story in just under 21 hours, then wrote several months later about spending “nine more surprising hours” checking out the game’s nooks and crannies months after release. In 2013, I finished Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag in about 28 hours, then went back and played it for 23 more. In 2015, I returned to the prior year’s Assassin’s Creed Rogue to finish that play clock at a total of 35 hours. Last year, after I finished its downloadable expansions, raided every one of its enemy bases and opened every one of its treasure chests, I tallied my Assassin’s Creed Origins play time at what I thought was an incredible 100 hours.

My play clock for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is at 149 hours, 9 minutes, and 45 seconds. My quest log shows I have 28 active, unfinished quests. My map shows there are 10 more I haven’t even started, many of which may well trigger new quests to pop up on the map. Plus there are still one or two more Lost Tales Of Greece coming.

I will reach the end. I’ve had a fun journey. But when I do reach that ending, I’ll be ready for a break. With a double-length Assassin’s Creed nearly done, I’m fine with 2019 being a new Assassin’s Creed skip year. And when the series comes back, presumably in 2020, if they want to make the next game a tad shorter, I won’t complain.

Source: Kotaku.com

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Developers Say Breaking Series Traditions Made For A Better Game

When I sat down with the makers of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey last week, I had to ask them about Alexios, Kassandra, and the state of the franchise’s playable modern-day sequences. I also had to ask them about the option to ride a flaming horse.

The flaming horse is a very small part of the huge Ubisoft game, but it’s a prime example of the tension under the discussion around Odyssey since its 2018 launch. This is a game loved by many critics and fans, but the extent to which it has bent so many of the Creed saga’s rules has riled some of the franchise’s most fervent followers.

“You still want to keep the core of the franchise there, but the franchise progresses and we try to make everybody happy,” Odyssey creative director Jonathan Dumont would tell me. “But it’s hard to make everybody happy.”

As my conversation with Dumont and producer Marc-Alexis Côté progressed, they confirmed that the game’s flow of free and paid downloadable expansions is winding down over the next few months. Our conversation amounted to a post-mortem.

Odyssey has been a marvel. It’s a massive, beautiful game that was well-reviewed and warmly received. It’s sold millions of copies despite going nearly head=tohead with Red Dead Redemption 2.

Côté explained that Odyssey’s player engagement is “higher than many of our multiplayer games,” noting that Ubisoft likes the fact that multiplayer games tend to keep players playing and wanting more (read: keep players willing to spend more money on the game at some point).

But there’s always a but, and with months of post-release content has also come some post-release discontent.

There are the fans miffed about the warping of the game’s lore. See, for example, the apparently changing explanations of where the assassin’s signature Leap Of Faith dive came from—if it was started by people in ancient Egypt as depicted in 2017’s Assassin’s Creed Origins, then why were Greek and Persian proto-assassins doing it in the Odyssey game set hundreds of years before that?

There was a concern among hardcore fans, spurred by an interview with game’s lead writer, that there might not be a series bible or that the creators might be depending on fan knowledge to keep the game going. That concern was based on a misunderstanding, Dumont and Côté told me. “We work very closely with [Azaïzia] Aymar, who’s been the guardian of the lore. We talk regularly with Aymar to make sure everything we do works with the comic books, works with whatever within the lore,” Côté said. “There’s a brand bible,” he added. “There’s a 10 commandments.”

“And sometimes we bend some of it,” Dumont said.

I really should have asked them about those Leaps of Faith, but I confess I was drawn to talking about the flaming horse. They’re related, because they both involve Odyssey’s propensity to take the series’ restrictions and, perhaps as a nod to the to the titular Assassin’s Creed—”nothing is true, everything is permitted”—exceed them.

Assassin’s Creed was born in 2007 as a franchise fascinatingly constrained by rules. The historical characters that players would control were ancestors of a modern-day protagonist who experienced their memories via a DNA-reading device called the Animus. What players played was what happened. When they deviated by, say, killing civilians or failing a mission goal, they were making the modern-day character fail to re-experience the memory carefully and were not so much dying as “desynchronizing” from the historical memory. Magic was initially prohibited, but the games trafficked in wild science, a fantastical non-distinction to some but the guardrails of an internal logic to others. Eventually the magic rule was discarded, as was the rule that the character in the Animus had to be related to the one whose life was being played.

Odyssey bent the rules further. It introduced the idea that players could choose a character and the dialogue that character spoke, justifying it in-game with something or other about the vagueness in what the Animus could detect. As an aside, Côté said that about two thirds of players have chosen to play as Alexios, though he and Dumont had expected a 50/50 split or, if anything, a skew the other way. “I’m surprised by the numbers,” Côté said, “because most of the people I talk to play Kassandra.”

The game also pushed things by letting players battle creatures of Greek myth. The story pseudo-scientifically justified it by saying these creatures were created by the series’ well-established high-tech ancient civilization, the Isu. “If you don’t see a Minotaur when you play a game in ancient Greece, you feel like a letdown,” Dumont said, explaining the thought process for getting them into the game. “Somehow we need to connect these things. We decided it was good to put it on First Civilization stuff in there.”

If you can keep up with all the rule-bending, you might love it all, since it makes for a very good role-playing game. You might, however, find your own breaking point or at least something that bugs you enough that you can’t let it slide. That brings me back to that flaming horse.

I took most of Odyssey’s liberties comfortably and enjoyed the game. But I found one thing strange and—dare I call the Assassin’s Creed cops—in violation of the rules as I understood them. I discovered that my reward for killing enough in-game mercenaries and achieving Tier 1 Mercenary status was the ability to turn my in-game horse into an in-game flaming horse. What historical memory of an ancient Greek mercenary could this possibly replicate? What manifestation of Isu tech could have caused Phobos, the steed of the great Kassandra of Kephallonia, to suddenly bear a coat of flame just because his rider had killed some really bad dudes? I am enough of a devoted player of Assassin’s Creed games that Dumont or Côté or their game could have just said, “Oh, that was Erudito’s doing,” and I’d be placated faster than it’d take you to Google Erudito. (I also am fully aware, thank you very much, that you could change in-game horses to unicorns all the way back in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood via a cheat if you played several of the game’s missions perfectly.)

Instead, Dumont and Côté told me that it’s all about choice. It’s about choice when it comes to extravagant horse skins or fantastical, unrealistic armor. “It is optional to wear that stuff,” Dumont said. He said he wears one of the game’s more basic outfits but is happy it offers some wilder ones. “There’s a demand for it, people do want that stuff in the game,” he said. “As long as we’re not forcing you to have a flaming horse or a flaming suit or a bow that shoots through walls, then I think it’s OK.” I’m either in the bargaining or acceptance phase about this.

We try to give more options and make the game more open,” Côté said, “Within this openness you can still play the game the way you want to. But sometimes people are insulted by things that they don’t even do because they are offered to the player, which I find sad because to me, it makes the game more inclusive and it opens it up to more playstyles.”

Dumont mentioned that his daughter uses a unicorn variation for her in-game horse. “Why not?” he said.

They added that they felt the series needs to continue to evolve and that some old restrictions are worth getting past. “How fun is it nowadays if you’re in a quest and you do something that’s unallowed by the quest and—boom—you’ve desynchronized?” Côté said. “We want to make games that are more open, more tolerant. You can finish quests before you even start them in Odyssey. That’s a huge engineering effort, a huge design effort but it goes against the commandments in a way.”

“Choice” is certainly the buzz concept for Odyssey, and it’s the crux of many discussions about the game. It drove the frustration players expressed when Odyssey left them free to choose gay or straight romantic couplings throughout the main game but then forced a heterosexual sexual relationship on players in an expansion (something the developers apologized for).

Choice, coupled with economics, also drove the discussion about the game’s overall design, its vast scale, and a $10 microtransaction offered at launch that would make leveling up faster. This was the game’s first post-release controversy. Some players felt that their character was leveling up too slowly for the game to be enjoyable and that Ubisoft was thus driving them toward the microtransaction. Others, like me, took enough of a wandering path through the game’s comical number of sidequests that leveling up was never an issue. The presence of that booster, though, raised the question of what was really going on, and the frustration about leveling has lingered long enough that players of the game’s recently added Story Creator mode have made quests that just rapidly level you up.

“I felt when we made the game we made the game to be 200 hours if you wanted,” Dumont said, noting that he played through the game nine times before it shipped without ever activating the booster. “I never thought about using it.”

So how did the booster even get into the game? “It’s a discussion between the production team and our business teams,” Côté said. “It’s like: This is a trend in the industry. We know we want this game to be profitable. Some people are willing to pay for this. Me as a developer, as someone who takes our players’ interest at heart, it’s important for me that the game is not balanced this way. Some players want to go faster, so the option is there.”

Here’s another choice that the designers of Odyssey and other recent Assassin’s Creed games wrestled with: whether to include playable sequences in modern day. While the bulk of every Assassin’s Creed game has occurred in a historical setting, all have included sequences set in modern day. From the start, they were divisive. Modern-era gameplay tended to involve walking, talking, and maybe climbing around in a few rooms. None of it was nearly as exciting, dynamic or, presumably, as marketable as the parts of the games set in the Crusades, the Renaissance, or the American revolution. Some people (hello!) dug it. Others wanted it gone.

By 2014’s Assassin’s Creed Unity and 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, the modern-day material had been reduced to several minutes of cutscenes, with nothing playable. Dumont and Côté’s hoped the approach they took with Syndicate would work: “ Quite honestly and transparently, we were like, ‘OK, people don’t seem to like the gameplay, but they like the lore, so we tried to just give them lore,’” Côté said. It wasn’t very satisfying. “I think the fans wanted to kill me on Twitter and Reddit,” he recalled. Côté credits the resurgence of modern-day sequences in the series to fans’ requests.

In 2017, Assassin’s Creed Origins brought modern-day gameplay back with a new playable character named Layla Hassan. Her role was expanded in Odyssey, though mostly in the game’s second episodic expansion, which still has one chapter to go. “Layla’s story is going to progress quite a bit [through the final chapter],” Dumont said. He noted that they’d primarily explored her story, the Isu, and other extended parts of the Assassin’s Creed lore and universe in the game’s expansions, which have a more hardcore audience. “Some people like it, and some people don’t want it in the main game,” he said. “It’s tough to balance that act, but I think with the DLC we’re addressing more core fans.”

Dumont and Côté’s work on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is all but done. The game’s second episodic expansion only has one chapter to go, likely releasing in July. The surprisingly elaborate Tales From Greece quests, which have been added for free each month since launch, should wind down soon, too. The game’s educational Discovery Tour mode will come out in the fall, possibly in September.

“We have told the story we want to tell,” Côté said, confirming there is no more DLC planned beyond the game’s first year of announced content. “There is not a year-two plan,” he said, before referencing the game’s recently added Story Creator mode: “The year two plan is: ‘Here’s the story, create your own stories.’”

As for sections of the game they think players might still not have found or at least should prioritize checking out, Dumont recommends the visiting Pephka, where people are obsessed with the Minotaur, as well as quests involving the sculptor Phidias. He also suggests trying to find one of the game’s first characters, Marcos, again. He said the team hid him on the most remote island possible. Mostly, he just recommends players keep exploring: “I think it’s a game where, if you slow down and look at it, there’s marvelous things that come out. I don’t know all of them.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Story Creator Is Simple But Fun

This image was taken from one of my many test runs through my quest.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey released a story creator this week, allowing players to cobble together their own questlines and share them with others. The website for constructing handmade stories is easy to use and fun to tinker with, even in the final results of that tinkering can be a little awkward.

To create your own stories, log into a new website, where you’re able to choose a cast of characters, string together dialog and objectives, and even create larger quest chains, which you can then share and play on any platform. I was able to create a rudimentary quest in about 30-40 minutes. The Story Creator is easy to understand, but it didn’t feel quite as robust as I’d like.

The Story Creator tool works somewhat like Twine, which I’ve used to make narrative games before. It’s extremely basic so long as you have a decent understanding of “If, then…” statements. You pick a node, say, a box for dialog. The dialog appears as text; there’s no voice acting, as you can imagine how expensive that would be. You fill the box with what your characters say and what their body language is based upon moods like “curious, awestruck, or bored.” Then, you can connect those to decision points or objective triggers. These boil down to basic interactions: kill this target, talk to this person, go to this location, rescue this prisoner. In the case of dialog choices, you can list choices and set up triggers that create various outcomes. Kill this person, have the quester giver say X thing. Turn down the job, have the objective marker lead to an alternate path. The most basic quests such as mine are only a handful of nodes, but multiple quests can be chained together into a larger narrative.

Setting up the story nodes and a few flags didn’t take very long. I snuck all of this in before this morning’s Nintendo Direct, assembling the most basic quest structure. I called my quest “Eagle Bearer of the Curse,” and it involves a dangerous witch who brands the player character with a life-sucking curse. She demands they go kill a bandit king whose souls has eluded her. Meanwhile, the bandit claims killing the witch is actually how to break the spell. It’s stupid stuff, mostly an excuse to have a simple branch between two objective. Believe the bandit? Go and kill the witch. Think he’s lying? Kill him. Either option ends the quest.

Testing my story took more time than constructing it, but Assassin’s Creed Odyssey makes it easy to jump to the start of your quest and begin playing through. It’s here that the cracks begin to show, although some of that is undoubtedly due to my hasty assembly. On my first time around, I found that placing the bandit king in a camp of actual bandits was a bad idea: wandering close to the camp, he somehow was slain and the quest ended immediately. The Story Creator doesn’t make it easy to toggle invulnerability for essential NPCs on the fly, so I had to risk making them vulnerable from the start. This meant a stray wolf or overeager soldier could kill my characters. Moving the bandit king to a remote location was as easy as selecting a new location on the map, but because he was a member of the bandit faction, he attacked the player on sight. Not great for someone you’re supposed to listen to. These are the sorts of little things that the Story Creator doesn’t make completely clear, and I spent time playing my simple quest over and over to iron out wrinkles.

There’s also a few other issues that I haven’t figured out. For now, there appears to be a only a handful of character templates to choose from. That means taking characters from the main game and recasting them in made up roles. Making NPCs that you can talk to and, in the case of my quest, who are then supposed to engage you in combat is tricky. From what I can tell I don’t have control over variables like how much health they have or what weapons they might use. Maybe that’s buried in menus that I’ve not yet explored, but there’s definitely a sense that this is a limited tool better suited to narrative quests than combat challenges. I’m sure other players will crack the code and make intricate stories as time goes on.

Over time, the Story Creator could lead to some really magical quest lines, but players should manage their expectations when using it. This is a chance to expand the world of Assassin’s Creed, but there’s no way to match the main game’s expansive stories. Spare some imagination and you might have some neat stories, even if there are some awkward puppet people and glitches along the way.

I’ll publish my quest later today after a bit more testing. Be on the lookout for a witch in the Argolis area if you want to enjoy a very basic example of what the Story Creator can offer.

Source: Kotaku.com

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Story Creator Mode is live today, which allows players to create their ow

E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.  

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Story Creator Mode is live today, which allows players to create their own quests. This fall, Odyssey is getting a Discovery Tour, which will also arrive in a standalone version.

Source: Kotaku.com

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s New DLC Goes To Hell, Which Rules

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s first story DLC, “Fate of Atlantis,” started with a fantastical, pulp-schlock bang. It was a tale of scheming gods and magical powers, as good as anything from the main game. The second episode “Torment of Hades,” released today, ditches the sunlit fields of Elysium for the gloomy soot of Hell itself. It’s not as standout an episode as the previous one, but it’s damn good Assassin’s Creed.

At the end of “Atlantis,” the player character was betrayed by the scheming goddess Persephone and tossed deep into the bowls of Hades. Okay, hold up. If that sounds wild and way wackier than the main game’s historically-grounded campaign, that’s because “Fate of Atlantis” gleefully leaned into sci-fi serial excess. Kassandra spent an entire episode in Elysium, a gorgeous domain that may or may not have been some type of holographic prison-world created by alien gods. Now, she’s fallen down to Hades. “Torment of Hades” abandons some of the previous episode’s dialogue-heavy soap opera writing and instead focuses on a story that feels much more like an old-school epic poem.

To make it clear that this is something a little different, “Hades” immediately starts with a battle against Cerberus, the three-headed dog guardian of the underworld. Kassandra or Alexios, being the tough video-game protagonist they are, slays the beast. Hades demands repayment for killing his pet, and tasks your chosen hero with finding four guardians to watch over the entrance to his realm, lest spirits teem in and cause untold chaos. It’s a very video-gamey set up: Find the four heroes, slay the great beast!

To reach the four heroes, who include Herakles and Agamemnon, the player also needs to find a set of magic armor so they can safely enter the lower realms where they are hiding. That sounds contrived, but it really does capture the feeling of an ancient hero’s poem. It’s easy to imagine Homer contriving a story of a great hero diving into Hades to collect magic armor and fight heroes of old. “Torment of Hades” lets players live out that fantasy. There’s less politics and roleplay than in the first episode, and much more exploration and combat.

Hunting down each of the four heroes and gathering the armor necessary to reach them means dealing with the Fallen. This is how “Torment of Hades” integrates the main game’s mercenary and cultist system into the story. The Fallen that populate the underworld are members of the Cult of Kosmos that Kassandra killed during the main story. You can either work your way up the chain, killing one to find another, or you can simply stumble on them in your exploration.

For instance, I accepted a side mission from the godly ferryman Charon to help ease a lot soul by challenging them to one final fight. One my journey to find their weapon so we could duel, I stumbled upon one of the Fallen, a poison-making cultist I killed in the main story. But on my way to kill them, I ran into an entirely different cultist holding one of the ancient armor pieces I needed, whose body had a clue leading me to where Agamemnon was imprisoned. It felt organic, and while the DLC’s small map meant I quickly gathered all the armor I needed and started beating up legendary heroes, the free-wheeling exploration was a lot of fun.

I’m not all the way through “Hades” just get. So far, it hasn’t placed its titular god in the spotlight for too long. Instead, it’s focused on bringing back characters killed off in the main story, with mixed results. This is the main narrative thread that holds together all the relic-hunting and hero-battling. Old foes return, and it’s up to the player to decide if their change from scheming murderers to penitent allies is genuine.

Reuniting with one fallen friend brings the story’s focus back to the characters from Kephallonia, the game’s starting island. These stories never feel completely integrated into the action, and it sometimes felt like the underworld was only populated by people Kassandra knew while they were topside. But there’s some heart here that was missing from the first episode.

It’s not perfect. The reduced focus on role-playing means that there’s less chance to really define your character’s responses to anything. The small map and ashy atmosphere pales in comparison to the vast Elysium fields from the last episode. There’s also less direct connection, for now, to the game’s real-world plot, where the Assassin Layla Hassan contends with the evil Templar Order. I’ve yet to finish it, but “Torment of Hades” has provided enough tricky combat and character drama that I want to hop back in as soon as possible. It’s not as expansive or flashy as what came before, but Odyssey’s continued push into the underworld continues to delight.

Source: Kotaku.com

Assassin’s Creed VR ‘Escape Room’ Is More Spectacle Than Puzzle

Screenshot: Ubisoft

Ubisoft has a new “VR escape room” set in the world of Assassin’s Creed that you can play at over 100 different locations around the world. It’s fun, but despite its stated ties to “escape rooms,” Beyond Medusa’s Gate is more of an hourlong VR action game than a cooperative brain teaser.

The first of Ubisoft’s VR escape games was called Escape The Lost Pyramid, which tied in with Assassin’s Creed Origins; this one, set in a cave on the shores of ancient Greece, ties in with Odyssey. Either two or four players are locked together in the cave, and have to team up to face a variety of challenges to get out.

The equipment in the room seems like a fairly off-the-shelf setup; the venue we visited in the San Jose, California area had a small room with a desktop PC mounted on a wall shelf and an HTC Vive with motion controllers attached to it, via wires that were suspended from the ceiling to (mostly) stay out of your way. This is probably why they can roll it out to 100 different places around the world so quickly, but it’s also less exciting than what you’d find at, say, the Shinjuku VR Zone, where you can play custom VR-powered installations with special controllers and other elements that you wouldn’t be able to get at home.

Screenshot: Ubisoft

You begin by going through a basic tutorial. You can walk around in the area bounded by the walls of the IRL room you’re in, and teleport around the virtual world to make bigger movements. You can manipulate objects with your hands, which you learn about by customizing your character’s avatar in a dressing room with a mirror. The other players are milling about in there, too, and you can dress yourself up while goofing around with them.

Once everybody’s ready, you jump into the old reliable Animus and get a brief rundown of your mission, which is to find an ancient ship and get it out of the cave. You then proceed through a series of very basic puzzles: You first have to get out of a small room, which you can do very quickly by manipulating a few objects inside it, like a fiery brazier and some switches on the walls. Then you’ve got to figure out how to open up another door by manipulating three switches and a picture made up of rotating discs (a nice callback to Assassin’s Creed II’s puzzles).

It’s a simple puzzle, and they don’t get any more difficult—it’s all just simple object-manipulation stuff with a clear goal and very little chance that you’ll do the wrong thing. In fact, much of it was action-based, like shooting arrows at targets or climbing across a series of handholds on a surface that another player was manipulating remotely.

There’s a big focus on teamwork; almost all of the tasks require at least two people to accomplish them. But the way these work tends to be asymmetrical, with one player doing the “fun” thing while the other one does the “boring” thing. Just by coincidence and where I happened to be walking when we were messing with the challenges, I always ended up having to do the “boring” thing. My partner was always the one using handholds to dangle over 100-foot drops while I stayed on the ground to make sure those handholds were still active. (I’m being circumspect with these descriptions so as to not spoil the experience for would-be players.) I might have felt better about the experience had the design let both players experience both halves of each puzzle.

As a piece of VR spectacle, Medusa’s Gate is pretty cool; as you get deeper and deeper into the cave, you discover lots of larger-than-life secrets that can be pretty impressive to experience with a friend. Once it’s all over and you get out, the game takes some virtual “photos” of you, and I’m pleased to report that we had the presence of mind to do this:

Medusa’s Gate didn’t really leave me feeling like I had just played an “escape room;” the puzzles were too un-puzzle-y, more like the sort of basic round-peg-in-the-round-hole types of things you’d find in… well, a triple-A action-adventure video game series in which a player getting “stuck” is considered to be an unforgivable design sin. If you don’t have a room-scale VR setup at home and just want to pay around fifty bucks for an hour of finding out what that’s like, you may want to try this; otherwise you should just stick to the real-life sorts of escape rooms.

Source: Kotaku.com

I’m A Little Tired Of This One Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Bow

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

There may have been a time, a week or two ago, when I was excited to score my first Precursor Reflex Bow in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Thirty-seven Precursor Reflex Bows later? Not so much.

While playing Odyssey’s Fate of Atlantis expansion, which takes the ancient Greek setting of this action-role-playing-game into an otherworldly realm crafted by the super-old sci-fi Isu people, I’ve earned a lot of Precursor Reflex Bows. I’ve earned them for defeating enemies. I’ve earned them from plundering enemy weapon racks.

I’ve earned them for opening treasure chests and for solving a block-pushing puzzle in a cave.

I once rapidly killed two of the expansion’s new Kolossi sentry enemies and received a Precursor Reflex Bow from each one.

I am now awash in Precursor Reflex Bows. I’ve got blue “rare” ones and purple “epic” ones. I’ve got ones that do +18% hunter damage, ones that do +18% assassin damage and ones that do +14% hunter damage and +17% assassin damage combined in one bow.

Once, the Fate of Atlantis expansion caught me by surprise when it rewarded me for completing a sidequest with something called a Rebellion bow. I went into my inventory to check it out. Guess which bow it looks like.

None of this matters. Of course, the abundance of certain type of bow in a video game is low on the list of society’s challenges, but I also mean that it doesn’t matter because blue and purple loot in most loot games ultimately doesn’t matter.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, like Assassin’s Creed Origins before it, has reformulated the Assassin’s Creed games as 100-hour loot-filled adventures in which every killed enemy or opened treasure chest exhales a new piece of gear or in-game coins or resources. Assassin’s is a loot series now, the better to drive player towards cool, character-customizing rewards or, more cynically, to the in-game store where most of the coolest-looking gear can be most easily obtained. Blue- and purple-graded gear is just a means to the end of earning (or buying) some gold-class gear. In “Fate of Atlantis,” the dozens of Precursor Reflex Bows players can obtain improve in statistical quality as the player levels up and finds new ones, but they’re all clearly meant to be as relevant to use long-term as my toddlers’ socks. “Fate Of Atlantis” has a gold-grade bow called the Swift-Winged Bow, and that’s the real arrow-shooting prize of the expansion.

The hardest of hardcore Odyssey fans may dispute this. Purple gear in the game has proven unexpectedly relevant, as it can wind up being as powerful as gold gear, but ultimately the game is clearly driving players towards gold-grade legendary gear and doling out gear-set bonuses at least for the armor, if not the bows, that you collect.

I’m fine with there being so many Precursor Reflex Bows in the expansion and just this one impressive legendary. It’s all for the better. Video game bows and arrows take people to make them, and with ever greater awareness of how prone to overwork video game developers are, I would not argue that “Fate Of Atlantis” should include more blue and purple bows in the march towards obtaining the gold one.

Loot-driven video games are designed to cultivate endless appetites in their players. They instill an incessant expectation for greater rewards. Players risk succumbing to a psychological trap of expecting and eventually demanding more and more rewards. Anything that defies that, that deadens that hunger, that implicitly posits that the true reward for an action or a quest in a video game should be the pleasure of doing it rather than the loot that pops up as a result, is probably for the better.

At least, it is for me. I may be tired of getting that Precursor Reflex Bow. It may make me less interested in playing the game to obtain loot. I consider that a positive thing.

Source: Kotaku.com

‘I’d Have These Extremely Graphic Dreams’: What It’s Like To Work On Ultra-Violent Games Like Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11 is a brutal game. That’s what you come for—sensational, over-the-top violence that’s inventive and gratuitous on a level that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It can be shocking in its detail and funny in its execution, but it’s always arresting. It’s also short. Fatalities, gory, physically improbable finishers that usually involve cartoonish dismemberment, only comprise a few moments in matches that only last a few minutes.

The people who make Mortal Kombat live with the series’ over-the-top violence for much longer than players do. Game development is slow and tedious, and a few frames depicting a man’s face being removed in photorealistic detail can be the result of days and weeks of careful work and research. That work might take a toll, one that’s worth examining as the stories of what it’s like to make the biggest, most popular games continue to come to light.

Here’s one such story, about a developer who worked with the cinematics team for Mortal Kombat 11 and requested anonymity in order to protect their employment prospects. They told Kotaku that they had worked on the game throughout 2018, and spent their days reviewing violent animation work, discussing it with leads, sharing feedback with animators, and generally being surrounded by the kind of bloody real-life research material that creators reference in order to animate video game gore. Within a month, they started feeling the effects.

“I’d have these extremely graphic dreams, very violent,” they told Kotaku in a call. “I kind of just stopped wanting to go to sleep, so I’d just keep myself awake for days at a time, to avoid sleeping.”

Eventually, the developer says they saw a therapist, who diagnosed them with PTSD. They attribute this to their work on MK11—not just the content of the game and having to process and discuss its violent cinematics frame by frame, but also being surrounded by the reference materials artists used for research.

“You’d walk around the office and one guy would be watching hangings on YouTube, another guy would be looking at pictures of murder victims, someone else would be watching a video of a cow being slaughtered,” they said. “The scary part was always the point at which new people on the project got used to it. And I definitely hit that point.”

While Mortal Kombat 11 publisher Warner Bros. Games and developer NetherRealm declined to respond to a request for comment for this story, back in January, art director Steve Beran spoke to Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson about the work that goes into crafting the game’s fatalities, and the effect it might have on developers. On the one hand, it’s disconcertingly nonchalant. “We do a lot of testing of, like, how liquid will land on carpet, how it’ll react on dirt,” he said. “And we do tests and talk about them like ‘Does that look how you’d think it would look?’… If I get blood on my shirt, it’s gonna get dark, so it needs to react appropriately. Our tech artists dig into that and make it look very real.”

On the other, there’s a level of remove: “I hate to keep saying this, but I think it’s more just the beats to me,” he said. “It’s not so much what’s happening. It’s more just the animations.”

That dissociation is the tradeoff when it comes to violence in the age of photorealistic games and unparalleled processing power, causing onlookers to wring their hands about video game content as developers now find themselves with the tools to craft anatomically correct dismemberments.

“As a mechanic, it’s basically perfect,” said Alex Hutchinson when asked about violence in video games. Hutchinson is a game director whose work spans the entire spectrum of video game violence, from the potentially pacifistic Spore to the far bloodier Assassin’s Creed III and Far Cry 4. “You have a clear goal. It’s exciting because there’s a risk/reward—you win, they die. You lose, you die. So you’re afraid, and you can lose things. It’s usually spectacular because you’re shooting a gun or swinging swords, you get great feedback. You can even see this in pseudo-gun combat mechanics, like camera mechanics. Because that has everything that guns have—that’s why Pokémon Snap is so satisfying.”

Hutchinson said he spends a lot of time thinking about how those who don’t game might perceive violence, arguing that the sensory feedback you get from interacting with the game—the thrill of winning, and fear of losing—does a lot of work to make graphic violence abstract in nature. Observers can’t quite understand that in the same way, and might therefore be more repelled by the bloody images they’re seeing on screen, Hutchinson said. But he’s not insensitive to the occupational hazards of having to depict violence.

“I think as realism improves, it’s more of a danger,” Hutchinson said. “The fidelity of the assets you deal with, and the world you’re building—it’s more likely. We had some friends out here working on Outlast. I don’t think he was upset, but the character artist was joking that he’d spent a lot of time modeling dead babies, and it wasn’t his favorite moment, you know?”

Mortal Kombat is….it’s Mortal Kombat,” the anonymous cinematics developer who had graphic dreams told me. “You start to feel like an idiot for thinking about what the impact of working on that game has been on yourself. Other people I’ve talked to have been like, ‘I know what I’m working on, I know what I’ve gotten myself into here.’ And you start to blame yourself for being shitty or weak or spineless.”

The developer felt that management’s top-level perspective made it seem like they were less immersed in the details of the violent content than the animators that reported to them. Bosses would joke about and compliment well-done scenes of violence, the developer said—a desirable outcome in most environments, but when working on violence is starting to affect you, the dynamic gets complicated. Meetings with this developer’s boss involved discussing “how this spine extraction scene is going, and making sure you can feel the pop when the spine is ripped out from the rest of the body,” they said.

There was also no formal process, standard procedure, or guidance available from the start for anyone who might need to step back from the violent content, or felt that their work was starting to negatively affect them, according to this developer. All the developer remembers getting was a verbal heads-up during the hiring process, when the interviewer noted that since they were working on a Mortal Kombat game, the work could be “a little violent.”

Eventually, the developer found out about coworkers who had similar problems with the content as they did who also left. One coworker, for example, told them that the toll of working on Mortal Kombat 11 was eliciting horrible images in real life. “When he looks at his dog, he just sees the guts inside of it, and he couldn’t look at his dog without imagining all of the viscera.”

“We’ve talked a lot about how the end product isn’t so damaging as people make it out to be, and I tend to agree with that,” they said, referring to the industry’s acceptance of violent video games. “But I think the process of making these things can be harmful for people. It can cause them to burn out, or lose a sense of self, sometimes. I would hope that something, at least, that developers can do with their coworkers is just start talking to each other about these things. If we’re not solving things, at least having supportive people around, I think, is really crucial.“

Source: Kotaku.com