I should also mention that this isn’t going to be some sprawling epic. From what I remember, when I played the game on the PS4, Xeodrifter is fairly short. It took me about 5 hours (ish) to finish. Which is absolutely not a knock against the game!
The Assassin’s Creed series has covered a broad array of historical time periods, numerous revolutionizing civilizations and provided fans with plenty of towering platforms plunging you headfirst into shallow haystacks. Year after year, Ubisoft released the next entry in the series for the past decade, only acquiring a small number of stand out titles from the Assassin’s franchise. After a year off from the constant barrage of AC titles, Assassin’s Creed Origins relieves fans from the drought with a massive world to explore, set in the earliest days of the brotherhood.
Discover ancient Egypt through the eyes of a Medjay
Our newest (or shall I say earliest) assassin goes by the name of Bayek and dons the presence of a Medjay – a sort of royal officer serving the majority of the populace found in Egypt. Acting as protectors not only of the people but of Pharaohs as well – often looked upon as hired mercenaries – Medjay listen to the people and help bring peace and safety to the lands of ancient Egypt. Soon, the death of his son enrages Bayek to chase down the masked ones responsible, in turn learning more about the ancient lands then he may have anticipated.
The arid scenery of the desert landscape is stunning, and the vastness of the map is daunting, to say the least. The open lands run through countless villages, ancient prospering cities and boundless desert climates reach as far as one can see. It’s no secret the team from Ubisoft took their time on Origins, but the sheer level of detail put into the living and breathing world is far greater than anything we’ve seen from the series. To say the vibrant world of ancient Egypt looks astonishing is nothing short of an understatement. Origins lives and breathes with the ebb and flow of life surrounding the civilization it so graciously clings to and does so brilliantly.
As you run through Egypt and its many territories found in Origins, many new features will begin to surface. The parkour technique has been simplified to one button, while the “marionette” style of character control scheme AC had so faithfully made claim to a decade ago has been completely abandoned altogether. But the true difference from the series doesn’t sit at the controls of Bayek outside of combat but is found in the overhauled mechanics during combat.
Big steps forward in revamping the combat system
To say the Assassin’s Creed new and improved combat system may have been influenced by outside sources beyond Ubisoft headquarters may become evident to most who have played other titles with similar combat experiences. Ditching the relentless style of attack where assassins would bounce between a dozen or so enemies, parrying each attack one after another in a flashy, ultra-bloody finish. Instead, Origins has the player focusing more on one enemy at a time with combat similar to that of The Witcher 3, or perhaps the Dark Souls series.
Striking with either a light attack or heavy attack, blocking with your shield, using ranged attacks from a variety of different bows and, of course, pulling off stealth assassinations with the elusive hidden blade; the weapon to which made the assassin brotherhood so deadly. The combat in Origins will have you dodging around your enemy blows while counterattacking with one of many melee weapons to choose from. Be it mace, club, sword or spear, tons of thrilling weapons can be found in the massive world of Egypt.
While older systems and battle mechanics had players swinging their weapons at the perfect time to execute precise and deadly counterattacks, the combat would become stale quickly. Over and over we saw the same enemies, with the same predictable attacks, timing our counterattacks just right to squeeze off as many finishers as possible. Though the system saw tweaks here and there throughout the series, this is the first time it has actually been completely overhauled. And, while it takes away from one of the few aspects that separated the Assassin’s series from other titles in the dense genre, it fits well with the new mould the franchise has taken.
A hint of RPG elements
Skills that Bayek can learn throughout Origins are divided into a three-part skill tree. After each level up through gaining experience points, Bayek is granted one ability point to spend on one of the many enhanced skills and abilities. Becoming a stronger warrior with fierce, new attacks, discovering new skills for the helpful companion, Senu or acquiring various bombs equipped from Bayek’s tool belt are just a few examples of useful skills found from the skill tree in Origins.
A dash of other useful RPG elements have been added to the game’s weapons system, now with tons of options from heavy, blunt weapons to ferocious attacking swords. No longer must players discard favourite weapons simply because they’re out-levelled and weaker compared to newer finds with the help of the weapon upgrading system. Upgrading your weapons at local blacksmith shops, be it melee or bows, will bring the weapon to Bayek’s current level, for a fee of course. In some cases where players may discover a particular weapon, they’re comfortable using, instead of replacing it down the road, the upgrading system allows them to continue using it effectively at higher levels.
Though, in many instances, it may be wise to switch to newer weapons. Coming in three different colours of rarity (similar to the colour coding found in other RPGs, i.e. Borderlands, Diablo, etc.) weapons will be labelled blue if they’re common, purple if rare and gold if legendary. There are tons of different weapons, each with various stat boosts, and all may be dismantled for precious crafting supplies.
While crafting, Bayek is able to enhance various pieces of equipment, which in turn upgrade important stats permanently. There are a total of six different items to enhance through crafting, including the bracer for stronger melee attacks, the breast-plate which raises Bayek’s health or the quiver which increases the number of arrows one can hold. Other pieces raise range attacks, the amount of bombs or other tools held and the power of Bayek’s hidden blade. Each piece of equipment requires a certain amount of crafting materials, typically found through hunting wildlife, or grabbing loot off of enemies. Finding the loot would be rather difficult if Bayek did not have the help of the scouting eagle, Senu.
Scout the endless skies with Senu
Using Senu is another big change in the series, replacing the eagle vision from previous AC games. Additionally, while flying with Senu, the map icons appear, as well as icons for any nearby crafting supplies, within a certain proximity of your soaring eagle’s sight. Senu has an unlimited distance to scout, and the more viewpoints synchronized, Senu’s sight range is slightly expanded. Aside from pointing out various activities, loot, side quests and crafting materials, Senu is also helpful to provide the player with guard activity and numbers when raiding enemy hideouts.
Throughout the enormous map that makes up Origins, plenty of side tasks and extra content lay at the feet of Bayek. With the addition of actual side quests, and tossing out the unoriginal and repetitive objective challenges from all of the other releases in the series, Origins stands as the most unique and rewarding Assassin’s title to date. Each sidequest – and there are tons – has a different and interesting storyline, which most are based on real-life instances, legends or myths from the ancient Egyptian era. Many may have players performing simple, and sometimes similar tasks, but all have unique backstories, and plenty of surprises to help ease the gameplay from becoming the same, worn-out cycle of events.
The massive lands of ancient Egypt sprawl past any other Assassin’s Creed title that has graced the gaming community since its debut in 2007. With a storyline that includes yet another rage-driven protagonist fueled by vengeance and hatred towards Templar forces, the start of the Brotherhood of Assassins is an impressive one. Gorgeous visuals compliment the astounding world of the mysterious Egyptian civilization.
With tiresome gameplay mechanics stripped away and replaced with new and exciting features that show Ubisoft is paying attention to what fans of the series want, Origins gives a lot more than it takes away. The all-new combat system is a delight to master, and gives players a true sense of accomplishment. The crafting and hunting system is an excellent way to continue to strengthen Bayek, on top of the expansive skill tree rewarded through experience points.
The Gran Turismo series has always left racing fans feeling accomplished, trained and ready to tackle the toughest racing courses known to man. The enormous selection of cars and daunting content featured in the series’ Career mode were both namesakes in the long-running racing franchise. With Gran Turismo Sport, the series does away with both, leaving long-time fans a bit sceptical to the change. However, Polyphony Digital manages to create something the genre desperately needs to stay competitive and does so with astounding visuals and sounds, ambitious online competition and a campaign mode geared toward making every player a better, more sound racer.
Taking the racing genre to new heights in online competition
If you’ve played through the beta last week, the layout of GT Sport should look familiar. Opened with a beautiful shot of one of the 160+ racing machines featured in Sport, the options on where to first go seem limitless. With various racing modes like Arcade, Campaign and the online hub of competitive racing – Sport, the best way to tackle this daunting racer is to hone your skills on the track. Campaign mode allows you to do exactly that, tasking you with various driving tactics like conquering S-curves, to full lap time trials.
The absence of favourite modes blinded by the glimmer of gorgeous visuals
One thing many fans of the GT series will notice almost immediately is the absence of the traditional career path. While I felt extremely disappointed by this initially, I collected my thoughts, took a few deep breaths and continued forward. The game alone looks and sounds like no other Gran Turismo in the series, which was enough to push me reluctantly further into the game. The exhausts growl, engines rumble and the turbo hiss all breathe fresh life into the series; which before shoved otherwise stale and recycled sounds of below standard racing motors.
The level of detail found in every car featured in Sport is astounding and, above all, quite appetizing to the eye. The shimmer and gloss, the detail when racing in the cockpit view (which is by far the best looking cockpit camera view I’ve seen in any racing game to date) and liveliness of every course immerses the player into every race. The shadows that graze across the road follow the cars effortlessly as you patiently bend and curve around the course. The details and sharpness of Sport are quite possibly above all other racing games, however, there still lie a few hiccups in the overall production and appearance in the gorgeous racing title.
Dynamic weather – something us racing fans have seen a lot of over the past couple of weeks in other new releases – is missing from the formula altogether. The challenge that comes about from slippery and icy courses or dirt stirred up from off-track racers found in other racing sims, which have recently hit the market, is nowhere to be found in GT Sport. The day-to-night cycles which help add a sense of time and endurance to longer races remain untouched in the Gran Turismo series, which easily could have helped push the latest instalment with even more challenges to conquer for the racer.
Making strides in providing enjoyable online races
That being said, this still doesn’t shred the fact that Gran Turismo provides a true racing experience at a high level of competition. In Sport mode, players are free to enter and participate in online races. From daily challenges to legitimate championships, Sport is (obviously) the centrepiece of what this release tries to narrow in on. However, before entering the ring of professional and dignified racing amongst the eager grid of online racers, the player is forced to complete the Racing Etiquette class for proper racing guidelines on how to – more or less – not race like an ass.
The ‘class’ is simply two instructional videos highlighting what counts as proper racing manoeuvres, and what makes you look like the king of all things awful in the world of online gaming. Bumping other racers in the back, boxing racers out around turns, blocking other racers from passing, cutting corners to gain ground; there are tons of rules to follow in the world of competitive online racing in GT Sport, but they do in fact help to make a much more enjoyable experience when diving in online.
If stuck with a penalty, the driver is then instructed to slow down for a set amount of time. While the cars are ‘in the penalty’ they appear as a ghost car to help alleviate any further burdens for other racers. If the driver fails to follow the penalties, they seconds begin to add up throughout the length of the race, and the total is then tallied to their overall time; in turn losing a few spots in the final standings. However, if one racer spins out or smashes into a barrier/wall by an unfair racer, there’s not much help to retain the position you previously held. Sure the disobedient racer was punished, but that has little effect on the innocent racer at hand.
Drivers are separated by driver rankings and sportsmanship rankings in online competitions. The driver ranking shows off how fast you are and comes in a rank from S-A-B-C-D-E, with an S ranking as the best possible outcome. The sportsmanship ranking keeps track of your penalties and overall etiquette form, helping to place racers in evenly matched competitions. The proper racers earn better rankings, increasing their score and rank higher amongst the competition rankings.
Though missing the Career mode, there is still tons of content in GT Sport
Throughout Sport mode, there are a handful of options to choose from, most of which are unavailable at this time. The Daily Races is the only option to dive into right now, but once the online championships begin, there are three other events to partake in. For now, Daily Races will do as it helps to build DR and SR points in your driver’s profile. Each day three different courses are available with a broad range of vehicle classes to choose from. Giving players an evenly matched group of racing machines, players are able to enter the race and begin qualifying rounds. Again, there isn’t much to Sport mode right now, but the promise of taking your online racing career further is inching closer with the approach of competitive championships at stake.
The Campaign mode is where players go to learn the basics, and eventually graduate to more difficult challenges. Like other entries in the series, there are loads of tests taking the player through acceleration/braking, tackling s-curves, out-in-out manoeuvres, as well as tons of other useful skills to help build a better racer.
Accomplishing all tests with a bronze time or better will reward the player with a car at random. Aside from the new vehicle upgrade, the knowledge of how to conquer turns and other difficult manoeuvres are enough to help push the player a little further into the depths of the multiplayer experience.
Mission Challenge and Circuit Experience are the other two events found in Campaign mode. Mission Challenge gives players difficult situations usually involving the player behind a handful of spots on a specific sector in a course and urged to place the highest position possible before the finish line. Circuit Experience acts as a practice session for every sector, or an entire lap, in every course, with a gold, silver and bronze time to beat. There are tons of challenges and courses to conquer, of which does help to give some of the playability the traditional career mode provided in previous entries.
In Arcade mode, players will finally have the chance to get down and dirty with AI racers in actual full-scale races. Fans of career mode in the other GT games may find themselves hashing out races here, as it provides the closest familiarity to the missing career mode. The course and car selection may be the smallest ever featured in a Gran Turismo title, but the thrill of competing in this expertly handled racer is well worth the downsizing.
Other modes offered in the game are Brand Central, which is the manufacturing market for all of the cars in the game – where players purchase the cars of their dreams, Scapes which is the shiny and spectacular photo mode and the all-new livery editor. Buying your dream car to take on the road, placing it in gorgeous, jaw-dropping settings, or perhaps covering it with custom wraps and liveries to help personalize your ride, all give Sport a casual approach when the heat of the racing grid is too much to handle. The views and scenery in Scapes present a truly remarkable image, some even looking near identical to real-life photos.
Throughout Gran Turismo Sport players will race, crash, learn, and occasionally win; all in repeating order. With a strong emphasis on multiplayer racing, and an even stronger swinging hammer crashing down on racing etiquette, I can honestly say my reluctance has subsided almost entirely to the eSports approach. Earning points for your overall driver ranking and sportsmanship ranking, players are easily matched for a better quality of racing.
Find Polyphony Digital’s latest entry in the popular racing series – [amazon_textlink asin=’B00ZG1SVA4′ text=’Gran Turismo Sport’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’geali01-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’351cec9e-b40a-11e7-a8a4-63dad7f5c6da’] – out now for the PS4.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole’s release is right around the corner but many gamers still sit in the dark when it comes to the storyline. The prequel to Ubisoft’s upcoming release – The Stick of Truth – took players through a fantasy world full of aliens, zombies, and of course, the powerful Stick of Truth. Now players will have a chance to play the superhero role as the New Kid in the next instalment of the South Park RPG series.
With outlandish costumes, skills and abilities, as well as the ever-so-popular over-the-top narrative, the creative team behind South Park are back at it again with their new release quickly approaching. Entering Cartman’s new world of superheroes and villains, you’ll take control of a lowly new kid in a new world of fantasy mayhem, fighting enemy sixth graders and of course, tons of fart stomps.
Compared to The Stick of Truth – which harnessed the essence of traditional RPG mechanics combined with the hilariously disturbing and all around provocative dialogue – The Fractured But Whole takes this formula and expands on it immensely. With more of South Park to explore, diving into the lives of residents in the fictional Colorado town looks to become more enduring and exciting than its predecessor.
Highlighting the superhero world, the characters don heroic costumes, equipped with gut-wrenching moves and gross abilities. Players also have the option of choosing a starting superhero class, like the Blaster, Speedster, or the heavy hitting Brutalist, which changes the style of your player’s combat approach. Plenty of other stats, buffs and the powerful Ultimate move is sure to provide players with tons of combinations for intense, and excruciatingly side-splitting combat abilities.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is coming in the wake of the astoundingly successful prequel, The Stick of Truth. The RPG approach to the acclaimed franchise as well as changing the theme of the story from fantasy role-playing to superhero fantasy battles means Ubisoft looks set to devour fans with tons of new content.
The release of The Fractured But Whole is now right around the corner, releasing October 17th on PS4, Xbox One and PC.