I just played, like, sixty hours of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

It was OK.

I should put more words here.  Also it was rather better than OK and that is an unfair way to start today’s post.

Finishing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, or ASSODD as I shall call it henceforth, marks the first time since 2013 that I have actually been caught up on the series.  At some point, I stopped playing them and they kept right on making them, but fortunately the company decided to skip a couple of years to make the catching up easier.

The thing is, sixty hours to play ASSODD is maybe a little rushed, which is a sentence that I am having trouble believing even as I write it.  This is a ridiculously BIG game.  Over my playtime, I managed to uncover about 80% of the map and finish all three main storylines.    Knocking out the remaining 20% of the map would probably take another forty hours, and I don’t think that’s time well-spent.  Then there’s the huge stack of free post-launch story DLC and the six paid DLC chapters that came with the Big Damn Ultimate Edition With Everything package, which is the package I bought as soon as Ubisoft knocked it down to thirty bucks.

It really is frighteningly close to an MMO in its ability to always have something else to do when you’re done with whatever you were doing.  Very dangerous.

Fun, though.

Over the course of my time with Kassandra and her Extremely Dysfunctional Family, I murdered close to two thousand random mooks who I swear had it coming to them, defeated an ancient cult, faced off against a Greatest Hits of mythological Greek monsters, sailed all over a somewhat scaled-down version of the Aegean Sea, banged a couple of …

wait that is not very PC

…HAD ENTHUSIASTICALLY CONSENSUAL intimate relations with a couple of chicks, toppled a few governments and in general had a grand old time in an extremely violent sandbox.

And then there was a random mook named… I don’t actually know if he had a name.  He was a Spartan guard who saw me darting from bush to bush while I was sneaking through a military fort.  We’ll call him Bob…krates.  Bobkrates.  That’s a good Ancient Greek name.

Bobkrates stopped in his tracks, stared at the bush I was in for a minute, said (quite loudly) “Whatever it was, it’s not worth the trouble” and then walked into a building and laid down to go to sleep.

In recognition of his STUNNING work ethic, I murdered every single other guard in the fort, leaving Bobkrates unharmed and letting him get some rest.  Because, frankly, I have been Bobkrates on many occasions.

Summary: Kassandra is cool, (maybe cooler than Bayek? Bayek was so cool that it is hard to put anyone above him on the AC protagonist tier charts), Ancient Greece is gorgeous in 4K/HDR, stabbing mans has rarely been more fun, looking forward to Vikings in the fall, let’s all have a big hand of applause for a global pandemic making sitting at home playing video games the responsible thing to do.

Also it inspired me to watch the Harryhausen Jason and the Golden Fleece, which was a good time.  Going to maybe watch 300 next.  Never seen it.  I understand a guy gets kicked into a well.

 

Posted in videogames, Xbox One | 1 Comment

Evidence that the new “Star Wars Squadrons” game will be an excellent game and beloved by all:

There are three Y-wings in the teaser art:

THREE.  There are also at least three A-Wings, assuming that the nose in the extreme bottom left is an A-Wing, but let’s just ignore those.

Besides, it’s hard to make fun of the A-Wing for its cinematic moment of glory being a human torpedo move into the bridge of a Star Destroyer when Y-Wings are chiefly famous for flying down a trench and getting blown up without making even a token attempt to defend themselves.

Did any B-Wings even HAVE a defining moment on-screen?  Apart from kinda looking cool when they locked S-foils into attack position?  Maybe I should rewatch the Death Star battle from Jedi again.  I don’t remember them doing anything particular in that.  Not that there are any B-Wings in this image as far as I can tell.

Anyway I have gotten off the topic, which is that this art has an acceptable number of Y-Wings and that the game is certain to follow this up by being excellent, or at least acceptable.

Posted in videogames | 1 Comment

I’m actually running out of backlog

…well.

Technically I have so many games on Steam and various console platforms that I could probably play the ones I have until such time as I die or finally grow up.  Let’s just admit that.  When I say that I’m “running out of backlog”, that’s because there are a ton of games that WERE on the backlog that I have admitted that I’m never actually going to finish.  Most of them were bought during Steam sales or when heavily discounted on PSN, at least, so I have a little less guilt.

ToHeart2 was one of the longest-lasting bits of guilt on the backlog, and I was happy to finally get around to it the other week.  I didn’t feel like a single runthrough was enough, so I went back to it for long enough to play through one more story route, mostly because Manaka is adorable.

Loves books.  Hopelessly responsible. Makes tea and snacks. Lacks glasses.  Nobody’s perfect.

I also spent several hours today going back to Blue Reflection, an amazingly girly Gust JRPG that I originally finished in December 2017.  At the time, I carefully kept a save file from the last moment before the Point of No Return, with the intention of coming back to the game and wrapping up all of the side stories needed to get the platinum trophy.

So… it took me 2 and a half years.  Nobody’s perfect.  That’s my phrase of the day.  Nobody’s perfect.

With those two out of the way, I’ve started digging in to Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.  I’m about two hours in and I can already tell that this is one of those games where you can just lose yourself for days at a time.  Origins was damned good, and thus far Odyssey is everything I liked about Origins but with less sand.  Ancient Greece is colorful and gorgeous and filled with all of the BEST “hey, we know you’re on the main quest line, but did you notice this bandit cave over here?” distractions.

I’m not sure whether it can top the main character of AC: Origins though.  Bayek was pretty cool.  Kassandra isn’t bad though.

But not, let me be clear, perfect.

Because nobody’s perfect.

I’m down to under 20 entries in the List of Shame.  Most of them are pretty beefy games, though.  Maybe I’ll get through them this year?  Maybe in 2021?

We’ll see.

Posted in PC Gaming, PS4, ToHeart2, videogames, visual novels | Leave a comment

New Desk Pic & ToHeart, 2

It’s been a while since I’ve put up a new desk picture, I’m pretty happy with the state of things and it’s a pretty easy way to actually update this blog.

Mind you, I could have dusted or done something with the cable mess before taking this.

In a way, I’ve downgraded my monitor solution.  I was using a 28″ Samsung 4k monitor, this is a 10-year-old 23″ Dell UltraSharp flanked by a couple of laptops.

HOWEVER.  The Samsung display was very annoying in a few ways.  It didn’t like to switch inputs smoothly, it was frustrating how difficult driving a 4k display for gaming is, and the VESA mount location was at the very top of the back rather than in the center, making it very difficult to mount.

The Dell monitor here was originally bought for my wife when she was working from home and I always get her things that I would eventually like to have handed down to me so it is a very nice screen, if slightly smaller and considerably lower-resolution.

The MacBook on the right is my 2018 MBP.  I buy a new Mac roughly every 3 years, but I think this one is going to break that pattern.  It’s a ridiculously thin and fast piece of kit, and the sole problem I have with 13″ MacBooks was resolved by hooking up a cheapish eGPU box and slapping an RX 590 in it.  In addition to the eGPU, it’s connected to a CalDigit TS3+ Thunderbolt dock that handles ethernet and audio and has every kind of port you could ask for.

On the left is a Dell G3 gaming laptop, which came to me because my wife’s gaming PC had a power supply blow out and developed all sorts of faults afterwards.  She got a new gaming PC built with the components of my former desktop, and I got this thing.  “Laptop” and “gaming” are not words I often associate, but this has an i5-9300H and a GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q video card and was easy to add a second SSD and 32GB RAM to.  At 1080P it is a bruiser and has chewed up everything I have thrown at it.

Also, Best Buy had a very nice deal on the G3s.

It’s 100% plastic and could use a second USB-C port but these are minor quibbles.

You may note that I am playing ToHeart2.  Really, I should say that I am FINALLY playing ToHeart2.

The first time I went to Japan was December of 2005, and the PC version of ToHeart2 had just come out.  Konomi’s smiling face was EVERYWHERE in Akihabara, and honestly the character designs and music were cute and cheery in just the right ways to make me want to spend time in their world.

I didn’t actually buy it then, because I had a pretty good grasp of my Japanese level and knew that a visual novel was well beyond what I could manage.  It took a couple of years before I could delude myself into buying a copy, and I may have gone a little overboard with the merch.

It wasn’t enough to buy the first press limited edition of the PC version of the game.  I also needed to have the limited edition of the PS2 version and several figures. All of this stuff was bought second-hand, at least.

I tried playing it a couple of times.  It was extremely slow going.  I have a notebook around here, somewhere, with several pages of very painful translations.

A couple of years ago, someone finally put out a full translation patch, and I am a little embarrassed by how long it’s taken for me to get around to starting it up and going through the complicated process of determining Best Girl to woo.

HOT AND STEAMY HAND HOLDING ACTION

I may have to go back and play through a couple of other routes, because Sasara was a character added for the PC version and I get the feeling that her storyline branched off from the main plot considerably.

I also have to pray that the main character is SLIGHTLY less clueless in the other routes, because the only reason I managed to get to first base with Sasara is that the rest of the cast eventually got tired of my whining about how I wasn’t worthy and devised a complicated scheme to get me to stop waffling and just get on with it.

Also the other girls may be less… complicated.  Sasara had some serious family baggage and some very unusual hobbies.

It wasn’t cosplay.

 

Posted in eroge, mac, PC Gaming, PS2, ToHeart2, videogames, visual novels | Leave a comment

On Date Formats

Bit of a departure from the norm today.

I spend a few months of 1999 working on a Y2K project that had… some issues, but eventually wound up being deployed before the New Year and was still working over a decade later.

Sadly, I know that it was still in use over a decade later because the company was involved in a massive public data breach and the system I worked on was also the one that the attackers used to get in.

In a feeble attempt at defense, our concern at the time was “can we still ship product on Jan 1 2000?” and not so much anything else.

Anyway, between that and the upcoming “You thought Y2K was an issue?” excitement we are all looking forward to on January 19th, 2038, I have a mild interest in how humans choose to encode dates in computer systems.

I think I have hit a new low point.  I discovered today that one of the products I work on stores dates internally in the following format:

YYMMDD

Where:

YY = Number of years since 1970, in hexadecimal.

MM = Month of the year.  Also in hexadecimal.  0-indexed, so values from 00 (January) to 0B (December).

DD = Day of the month, in hexadecimal.

As an example, the upcoming summer solstice (June 21st, 2020) would be read “320515” which is just the most amazing way to make a date as impossible for a human to read as possible without obviously getting into obfuscation tactics.

In addition, if the goal was to save table space by avoiding using a 4-digit year, they should theoretically have dropped the leading 0 in Months unless we are worried that the world is going to add a few more months into the year at some point.

There are times I wonder whether we are actually employing human developers or not, and this puts a solid X mark in the “evidence our programming team is made of space aliens” column.

Anyway, sorry for the out-of-nowhere rant.

Posted in work | 2 Comments

YOU LIKE DRAGONS?

Compared to the original DS, I never really made my 3DS into a constant pocket companion.  By the time I’d owned one for a couple of years, I had to admit that I’d spent far more time collecting puzzle pieces and playing Find Mii than I had playing any actual purchased games.  Its clamshell design and general feeling of indestructibility DOES make it the perfect system for travel, so my bursts of activity on the thing correspond pretty well to times when I’ve been stuck on planes or in hotels for hours.

So, it’s a rare thing to pull out the system and do a deep dive into a long strategy RPG when I am at home and surrounded by so many other high tech devices that are objectively much better platforms to play a game on.

It helps that Fire Emblem: Awakening was a genuine treat.  At its core, it’s a familiar gameplay loop of carefully moving your little sprites around the battlefield and planning attacks to clear out a level while hopefully not losing any of them in the process.  That hasn’t changed a ton since Shining Force on the Genesis.

Where FE:A really excels is the way that it turns your tiny minions into actual characters with personality, through a massive number of conversations that unlock as they fight side-by-side.  The majority of games make everything related to the player character in some way, so there’s an almost voyeuristic glee in watching your soldiers build friendships and have discussions that have absolutely nothing to do with you or the whole, you know, saving the world from Ancient Evil plot.  I got a particular kick out of watching a rather foppish character flirt with every woman on the team until one of them decided that his playing days were over and he was going to marry her.

He didn’t get much of a say in this.

It also let me break the system in a really enjoyable fashion, and I appreciate games that let you have a degree of leeway in how you approach the ultimate goal.

Let me tell you about dragons.

FE:A is …notorious? for having a character, Nowi, who is an ancient dragon who likes walking around in the form of a cute little girl.  This makes it extra hilarious when she faces off against some massive knight in armor, transforms into her natural scaly and fanged form, shouts “YOU LIKE DRAGONS?”, and melts the aforementioned knight into slag.

At times, I would just send Nowi into the middle of a cluster of enemies, all of which would attack her and all of which would die to her counterattacks.

Because of some weird plot points involving time travel, you can get Nowi married to one of your other units and then recruit her daughter from the future into your army.  Her daughter is possibly even harder to kill, and just as happy to wreck havoc, and then you can recruit a third cute-little-girl-oh-oops-that’s-not-a-girl-it’s-a-dragon in a side mission.

So I wound up with three charming little massive hulks of flaming destruction, and they formed the base of my offensive team for late game missions.

This leads me to the final boss, which I will talk about only in the vaguest of ways in order to avoid spoiling an admittedly eight-year-old game.

A couple of missions before the final boss, you finally complete the Big Damn Quest to unlock the Hidden Potential of a couple of Ancient Magical Swords.

I did NOT realize that the whole point of unlocking the hidden potential, yada yada, was that the swords in question would now do triple* damage when used against the final boss. They really wanted you to charge up to the Big Bad Guy, magic swords in hand, and mete out justice with stereotypical fantasy stabbity stabbity.

I rolled up the dragons and melted him instead.

I am probably Fire Embleming wrong.

Good game, though.  And it finally convinced me to try out Shadow Dragon at some point, which is an older game that actually has the permadeath thing the series was known for back in the day.  We’ll see how that goes.

 

 

* It’s probably technically supposed to be written “treble damage” but I couldn’t write that with a straight face.

Posted in 3DS, videogames | 2 Comments

Fire Emblem: Chrom has his priorities straight

Thanks to the combined forces of Corona-chan, heavy rains locally, and a rapidly-dwindling work ethic, I have been getting some significant work done on pruning the backlog.

The most recent “big” game I’ve finished was Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which was an incredibly immersive experience that completely failed to stick the landing, to the point where I was very glad that there was an achievement that popped up to let me know that I’d finished the main story.  Still a very good game for the first 95%, though, and it means that I’ve finished every mainline AC game except Odyssey.  I may even be able to be completely caught up before AC: Vikings comes out in the fall.

Setting that aside, I’ve put about a dozen hours into Fire Emblem: Awakening so far, which I’m given to understand means that I have at least twice that to go.  Leaving TMS#FE aside, this is either my second or fourth Fire Emblem game, depending on how you count the paths in Fates, and it’s been a lot of fun so far.  Robin is kind of personality-free compared to Corrin from Fates, and Awakening has nowhere near the same waifu quotient, but the strategy gameplay is top-notch.

Looking back, I didn’t really understand the relationship system in Fates, and I’m not sure that any of my characters ever wound up married until I was playing the third game.  I’ve been focusing a little more on pairing characters up to boost their support ranks this time, and it has led to some really funny support conversations.

I am particularly fond of the way that Chrom expressed his undying love for Sumia.

Sadly, I missed my opportunity to recruit Tharja.  Since she features so prominently in TMS#FE, I assumed she was one of the main characters in Awakening and I was startled to find that she basically shows up in one battle and vanishes forever if you don’t recruit her at that point.

Anyway, it’s good times.  Now, if I can just get past the Chapter 12 battle that has me temporarily stymied…

 

Posted in 3DS, videogames | Leave a comment

A weird bit of Apple ephemera

Was digging through my drawer of assorted USB drives recently and stumbled across this thing.

Small plastic bear for scale.

If you bought a 2010 MacBook Air, which didn’t come with an optical drive, you got this in case you needed to reinstall the operating system.  Of course, they couldn’t give you just ANY pedestrian-looking USB thumb drive, so it’s tiny and slim and doesn’t have any ugly protective metal shield on the connectors.

I’ve never owned an Air, mind you.  I have this because, in 2010, I was working for my local university, and there was a professor who had a 2008 MBA and really wanted an upgrade.  As occasionally happens in these instances, they accidentally left their laptop on top of their car and then ran it over while backing out of their garage.

No, I’m not sure how you have something fall off your car while backing up and THEN run over it, especially in a way that would leave a perfectly-centered and flawlessly-parallel tread mark along the length of the computer.

It was not, however, my place to point this out to them.  My job was to take in the shards of what had once been a computer and issue them a new laptop.

Anyway, when I was setting up their new Mac, I asked them if they wanted the recovery key and they vaguely waved it away, which I took as justification to keep the thing.  I had to find a dodgy Chinese utility to unlock it and make it writable, but it’s a perfectly usable 8 GB thumb drive with a little story behind it.

Presumably, the computer it belonged to was dropped accidentally fell into a bathtub as soon as a newer model came out, but by then I was no longer working for the university.

Posted in gadgets, mac | Leave a comment

Assassin’s Creed III Remastered: A Second Chance to Make a Good Impression.

So, some open spoilers in this post, hopefully people will not be too upset as I’m talking about a game from 2012.

I originally played Assassin’s Creed III over the course of a weekend, shortly after release, skipping all of the side content because I wanted to push through all of the tedious bits where you’re playing as the world’s most boring assassin in the least interesting setting possible in order to finally find out what was going to happen with Desmond.

Then, when I finally found out what was going to happen with Desmond, I was in denial for a bit until ACIV came out and made it clear that, no, they were not going to do a AC game with him as the full-time protagonist and that the overarching story from the first five games was being binned in favor of games that leaned very hard into the historical tourism aspect and more-or-less ignored the modern day conflict.

So I have had something of a negative opinion of the game.

On the other hand, over the years I have heard several people say that the main story is bad, but that the side content makes up for it, and there’s always been a little bit of curiosity there.  Not enough to go back to the 20-frames-per-second make-some-tea-during-the-loading-screens PS3 version, but enough that when I got AC3 Remastered as part of a bundle I decided to give it a second go.

For comparison, back in 2013 it was 46 hours between my first and last trophy, and my in-game save said I’d been playing for 13:39.  On my replay, taking things a little slower, I played for 27:41 over 8 days.

For the record: The “angry Native American avenges his mother’s death while coincidentally being a major figure in every pivotal moment of the American Revolution” story is still roughly as bad as I’d remembered.

The side content, on the other hand, is more enjoyable.

There’s a quest chain where you collect doohickies for a guy who then gives you letters sent to Captain Kidd’s crew, and you follow those letters to find clues to eventually get a Cool Piece Of Gear.  I had not done this on my initial play through and was stunned to find out that there is a Mayan temple level in this game.

What in the hell.

There’s also a level that takes you to Edinburgh Castle.  Not THAT Edinburgh Castle, but the one in Jamaica.

There are over twenty missions that revolve around Connor building up a small town of colonists, making sure that the town has all the resources it needs to be independent and even helping with domestic issues like delivering a baby and helping a clueless dude woo his intended, because that’s the sort of thing you DO when you are hell-bent for revenge.

There are another set of missions built around naval combat, because being a ship’s captain just comes naturally to every dude raised in the woods.

Look, these just don’t make a damn bit of sense, and that’s largely why I ignored them on the first pass.  Knuckling down and doing all of them on the second pass made me realize:

This is the WEIRDEST damn game I have ever played.

Let me give you an example.

In other Assassin’s Creed games up to this point, you’d mostly purchased upgrades (bigger pouches, etc) from shops, so the acquisition process was (a) stab mans until you had money (b) exchange money for goods and services.

In Assassin’s Creed III, to upgrade one of your pouches: 

You need a pelt and some sewing thread. 

The pelt is easy. Find animal, stab animal, skin animal. Be sure that you don’t shoot it because using a firearm instantly ruins the pelt of anything you shoot. Alternately, if you have recruited a hunter for your homestead, you can buy the pelt from them.

To get the thread, you need to recruit a farmer and do farming missions to level them up so you can get wool. 

Then you need to find the recipe for sewing thread, in a specific chest in New York, which is inaccessible until late in the game. 

Then you need to recruit a tailor, who can make thread, and do tailoring missions to get them to the level where they can combine the thread and the pelt for you. 

OK, so that’s a convoluted way to upgrade your gear, but then it goes completely off the rails into should-I-have-a-spreadsheet?-land. 

Your homestead can product a huge range of various products, and you can ship these off to different markets and different shopkeepers and choose where you will sell them, and the different markets and shopkeepers all have different risk levels and tax rates assigned to them.  If you wanted, you could sit around for hours doing nothing but selling belts and buttons and plows and stomachache cures to Boston, or New York, or the Bahamas, depending on where they were in the most demand.  I did a little of this between missions and finished the game staggeringly rich.

There are also a bunch of British military forts scattered around the map, and Naval missions that you can run, and taking over these forts and doing these side missions gives you no direct reward, but lowers the taxes you will pay on your shipment and reduces the risk of your shipment being intercepted.  Because you may be a mass murderer but you are VERY concerned about taxes.

At this point, you might be forgiven for checking the front of the box to make sure that it says “Assassin’s Creed III” and that you didn’t bring the wrong thing home from the store.

So, in summary:  On a second run through AC3, knowing in advance that it was going to do the opposite of sticking the landing when it came to the Desmond story, I found myself actually enjoying it.  It made the bits where you are doing awesome parkour on skyscrapers even more disappointing, but I was able to push that down in my mind and focus on what the game DID have to offer.

I am also convinced that someone in a very important position at Ubisoft took the opportunity to make the crafting and trading game that they had always wanted to make, and had enough clout that they could get it done whether or not it belonged in a historical stabbing mans simulator.

Posted in videogames, Xbox One | Leave a comment

The Dark Souls of relaxing games

Played through Dark Souls again, which makes a sixth playthrough.  With the possible exception of the original Genesis/MegaDrive version of Sonic the Hedgehog, I think it’s the game that I have finished the most times.

Previously, I’ve played the original releases on PC and PS3 (once each), the PS4 remaster 2 and a half times to get the platinum trophy and the Switch version to see what handheld Souls would be like.  I really didn’t have a reason to play through the PC remaster, other than that I’d gotten it for free as an owner of the original release, but it has kind of become a game that I can just chill out and play from opening to end credits as a way to relax.

I skip most of the optional bosses, summon NPC helpers for the fights where I can, and I don’t stop to farm at any point except when I need to get a bunch of humanity to save Solaire from going insane.

I was going a little TOO fast this time, actually, and I wound up in the Duke’s Archives with a +7 Zweihander and a realization that everything takes more hits to kill when you only have a +7 weapon in the Duke’s Archives.

At that point, I did have to stop and kill the Tower Knight on the top of Sen’s Fortress a few times.  The difference between a +7 weapon and a +10 is huge, and a quick run through New Londo Ruins got that up to a +14, and things went much smoother for the rest of the back end of the game:

It took me nearly 11 hours in the Switch version, 15 hours in the PS3 version, 60 hours to clear the PC version the first time I played it and 65 hours for the Platinum trophy on PS4.  So I am getting my playtime down!

Still not going to be speed running any time soon.

And yes, my Chosen Undead was named Karen because the image of a knight in full plate armor with a massive 2-handed sword storming the parapets of Anor Londo and WANTING TO SEE THE MANAGER RIGHT NOW just made me giggle.

I only died to three bosses on this run – the Centipede Demon, Smough, and Ceaseless Discharge – and only once each.  I had several embarrassing deaths trying to run through the Catacombs to get to Pinwheel, but that’s what I get for trying to rush things.

Apart from that, I died a few times in the Duke’s Archives and once in the Crystal Caves because of a slippery path and a bottomless pit.  I also got invaded once, by someone who stopped and waved politely before proving that he was much better at PVP.  So really I didn’t see YOU DIED all that many times.

OK, OK, there were some deaths to the Anor Londo archers.  That’s rather embarrassing because I was used to just charging up the ramp and pancaking them with the Zweihander and I fell off the ledge three times before I remembered the trick to it.

I don’t think I could do this sort of relaxed run on any of the other games in the series.  Maybe DS2, though I don’t remember if it had many NPC summons you could call on and I always get bogged down farming a set of armor from the Iron Keep knights.  Certainly not 3.  Dark Souls 3 is not a mellow game.

Posted in PC Gaming, Souls | Leave a comment