Adventures in New Dawn

I know it’s almost like the Ubi-game fan club round these parts this month but I promise, that’s mainly because I’m clearing out a backlog of things I meant to post but didn’t.

I enjoyed my time with Far Cry 5 a lot though it certainly had its Very Ubisoft issues with magic villains and a side order of out of place Very Ubisoft nastiness, amongst other things.

It’s par for the course with the main entries into the Far Cry series, that’s 3 out of 3 now since folks settled on the icon clearing formula where the joyous systemic chaos of crashing a car into a tree, accidentally setting fire to some wildlife then getting into a boat just to crash that into a tree and now everything is on fire and is that a bear, oh no is offset by the edgy and ill fitting nonsense of a story.

Maybe I’d appreciate it more were I fourteen or something, I dunno! That was quite a long time ago now.

The inbetweeny games are where I look to for the more interesting stuff. Blood Dragon misfired as much as it worked but painful tutorial aside, made a great showcase for how well the base raiding silliness works with a lot of the peripheral stuff sidelined even further or removed entirely. Primal’s riff on survival clearly filtered through to Days Gone and stretched the formula a bit. New Dawn, on the other hand, felt a lot like the game I wanted Far Cry 5 to be.

With only a short interlude into absurd magic mans stuff and its embrace of allowing the player even more freedom with few interruptions, it fixed a lot of the issues of 5. Also! What an amazingly beautiful game!

Its colourful view of a post nuclear future incredibly at odds with the usual videogame grey and green dullness gave the folks working on the map rework the leeway to go to town. Still very much the photorealism of Ubi games that we’re used to but now with a slightly more fantastical bent and honestly, I loved it.

Far Cry 5: Lost On Mars

I’m not sure I could, in good conscience, recommend anyone play through the Lost On Mars DLC for Far Cry 5 as it’s honestly quite a chore.

For reasons I can’t entirely fathom, just moving around is quite atrocious (something I’m not used to seeing in recent videogames). It’s not Driv3r levels of bad but it certainly does take a lot of patience to tolerate.

Rather unfortunately, it’s a pain compounded by also having to tolerate erstwhile Far Cry companion and all-round obnoxiously loud recurring character Hurk throughout. One of those characters that’s probably more enjoyable to write and perform than to have to endure, even when they’ve been dismembered, as is the case for this DLC.

However! It is an obscenely good looking thing. Pitched somewhere between Starship Troopers and prog rock album, it’s astoundingly beautiful.

There’s a real sense of fun to the art as the game takes place in what may as well be a quarry masquerading as Mars and recycles scenes from Far Cry 5 but now in traditional videogame floating-rock-dream areas to break up the monotony. Much like New Dawn later would put old work to a new, revitalised, purpose, the same can be said for Lost On Mars. But in space.

I’m not going to fib, I sat through the DLC from start to finish precisely because it’s so very up my street visually. I had great fun finding new corners of the map to take photos in, even when the game seemed determined to make that painful.

Whilst the best Far Cry In Space game remains The Signal From Tölva (I can’t believe I haven’t put proper words down about this yet!), I’m an absolute sucker for how Lost On Mars looks and would relish a full on proper Space! entry into the Far Cry universe.

But then again, there’s very few games I wouldn’t want a full on proper Space! variation of. I am me, after all.

Pics from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

I’m near forty hours in on this thing at the mo and so far I’ve visited precisely three parts of the enormous map because it’s such a delicious looking videogame that I keep getting distracted. Why do a quest when you can climb a hill?

I can well imagine someone looking for a story with some stabbing would find Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey outstaying its welcome but I’m not that person. I am absolutely enraptured by the world folks have built and so, more than happy to get lost in it. And I absolutely do get lost in it, it’s gorgeous.

Watching: Rob’s Retro Rambles on Technician Ted

In all honesty, there’s a strong likelihood that Technician Ted might well be the game I played the most of during the eighties, even allowing for the existence of Jet Set Willy. I really like that strand of platformer, okay?

Going back to it in recent years and I’m not entirely sure how I managed it given the difficulty curve could politely be described as “vertical”. Not only is it brutally hard but at a certain point, it ups the difficulty even further by draining your lives without you having to put in any effort.

I’ve talked about this on here before and with the additional wrinkle that Ted is a scab.

However, I still have a fondness for it despite everything. I’m still disappointed that the follow up, Costa Capers, just wasn’t good at all and a further game managed to be so awfully racist that even C&VG couldn’t ignore it, offering a “if you can ignore the background…” as scant consolation.

Anyway. Where were we? Oh yeah, Technician Ted then. Rob (another Rob, not me or the other Rob) takes an amble through the game for a short while and it’s fascinating to see how someone else takes to this wickedly unfair work, experiencing it for the first time.

If you enjoy Rob’s stuff, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel here or buy them a Ko-fi here.

Being Somewhere

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

I spend a lot, like *a lot*, of time in games not so much idling in the videogame sense but being idle within the videogame world. I’m present, not away from the keyboard or controller, I’m doing something but in videogame terms it’s not a productive something.

In the first Destiny I would hop around the tower, leaping into plant pots, sitting down and spinning the camera around. I’d nip onto planets ostensibly to do patrols but often, just finding a nice spot to watch the action unfold. My favourite spot used to be on top of a cliff on Mars, just above a battleground where Vex and Cabal would fight each other. Or, if I felt a bit fruity, climbing atop a platform on the Dreadnought bouncing about, looking at the chaos unfolding below.

Destiny 2

In Destiny 2, I’ll spend ages and ages meandering around the new tower (the farm seems like a long time ago now). Bungie have crafted an incredible space, full of nooks and crannies. It’d be rude not to have a look around.

Due to the way other characters are dotted around the map, a lot of areas are bustling, but also plenty aren’t. There’s no videogame reason for me to be meandering around the scaffolding that surrounds the tower but, bluntly, I just like looking around the place so why not?

Strange Brigade

In No Man’s Sky, I’ll zip around the nexus watching the pretty colours of my jetpack trail fade away. I’ll talk to characters who’ll just shrug me off because their utility in game has long passed. It’s almost like I’m checking in on them to make sure they’re okay. I’m sometimes sad that I can’t visit Artemis, I wonder how they’re getting on in their own simulation. It would be nice to be able to say hello sometime.

No Man’s Sky, like Proteus before it, is a wonderful game to just be in. There’s the odd planet where I’ll get no peace, either storms will tear at my life support or super angry robots will harass me for the crime of possibly disturbing a tiny rock on their oh so perfect planet. Mainly though? Mainly it’s easy for me to find my own peace on a virtual alien world inside No Man’s Sky.

Far Cry 5

Maybe it’s sitting watching the wildlife bustle around me, maybe it’s visiting a space coach station and watching traders come and go in their spaceships, idly scanning their spaceships in the hope that perhaps one might be the S class design I desire and so, be able to make an offer to buy it. Livens things up a bit sometimes, you know?

Destiny 2

Sometimes, it’s flying low in my spaceship. Point it in the direction I fancy heading off in and, well, nothing else. The whole point is nothing else. I’m sitting at home, listening to music! Why not do that and soak up the sights of an alien world?

If I ever fancy something vaguely productive, I’ve got ten storage crates on an enormous capital ship. They could always do with a bit of a tidy. A little bit of a sorting out, as a treat.

Any game that leaves me alone to just walk around, jump around, fly around, tidy an inventory up or something without bothering me, I’m probably going to spend more time doing that than whatever the game tasks me with.

Far Cry: New Dawn

This console generation has saw people build these most amazing worlds and yeah, I totally think about how much effort goes into giving me these places to be in. It’s partly why I love a good photo mode, I can marvel at the work that goes in to making somewhere exist, somewhere I can never see for real. I can peek into every corner, zoom in on details I’d miss were I rushing past. A virtual mindfulness session, or something.

Just being, within a game, is nothing new for me. I’ve always, always found myself doing little in the way of videogame when the mood takes me. There’s a reason Jet Set Willy changed how I viewed games, sure it was plenty of videogame but also a strange, unbelievable mansion, full of the most curious things. Load it up, task myself with visiting a specific place. Do just that. On more tired days, WRITETYPER and go, unbothered.

Days Gone

Aside from being somewhere, it’s a reminder that these are worlds built from imagination, curious and unreal. Places that simply cannot, nor will ever be able to exist. Something I love in books, in films, why Dr Who remains my TV love for conjuring new worlds year over year.

And why, for everything else videogames have worked into their worlds, the most valuable thing they’ve ever added is a button that lets me sit my character down in the game world, to be able to spend time somewhere impossible, to find my peace in someone else’s dreams.

Reading: Rebind on Jedi Academy

Don’t know what it is about Jedi Academy inspiring some neat pieces of writing but I’m certainly grateful for it, whatever it is.

It helps that Rebind is a personal fave of a site right now. It’s absolutely chock full of great and thoughtful pieces covering the length and breadth of games with a lovely emphasis on games that really deserve your eyeballs.

Anyhoo. Catching up a bit tonight and this piece on Jedi Academy makes a strong point about giving the player breathing room and how it relates to toxicity. I’ve been playing a lot of games which blur the line between entertainment and being put to work in recent months and yeah, basically. Yeah.

There’s lots of other great reads on Rebind and you can help them out on their Patreon here.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

One of the nicer things from the past few years in big box games is both Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed edging away from many of their less savoury elements and, as a result, making me pull fewer faces in their direction, becoming games I want to play and look forward to more of. Saints Row Syndrome, if you will.

In the case of Far Cry it’s been the slow but sure erosion of some of its nastier elements, culminating in the much less obnoxious than 5 (and very colourful) New Dawn and in Assassin’s Creed it’s the shift towards much breezier, less aggressively policed, adventuring in quasi-historical settings.

Also, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey lets you climb Zeus’s titty. This is important.

Because I’m nothing if not the videogame equivalent of a trainspotter (a gamespotter?), there’s a certain pleasure in watching how the people making these things move closer and closer to their ideals of what they want the game to be. Something made possible by the iterative approach Ubi afford to their game series.

Where a lot of games zig and zag from one entry to the next, there’s a clear line of progress found in Ubi titles (especially since the whole furore about Assassin’s Creed: Unity).

I take a ridiculous amount of joy from seeing if I can spot the stuff that’ll be kept and the stuff that’ll be discarded, seeing what will be cross pollinated to other series and how that emerges. It’s a fascinatingly public (and long term as games take ages to make) insight into how games move forward mainly through variations on a theme, rather than huge innovations.

And oh, the craft. There’s some incredibly impressive (and sometimes frankly showy offy) stuff found in these things. Yes, the success, money and team size of a big box game lends itself to more bombastic videogames, the real beauty for me is in how it affords teams the ability to include the little moments too time consuming or expensive for smaller outfits.

It’s the person in the background doing something, it’s the way the boat drifts seamlessly into dock and it somehow feels like a boat being moored, it’s the least videogamey stuff in videogames. It’s the stuff that lets folk really show off the skills they bring into videogames, the marriage of so many disciplines that go into making things shine.

From QA to art to sound to toolmakers and everyone else. It’s adding a more human element to a bunch of zeroes and ones and it’s literally all in the details.

It’s not something I value over and above the magic smaller teams can achieve, the tangents they can go on, avenues they can take us down, it’s just one more thing I enjoy in videogames. One more “Wait, we can do that? Woah” to a list of many.

Assassin’s Creed:Odyssey is chock full of this stuff. It is videogame excess in craft and in length, in art, sound and in an absurd amount of human effort spent on making it exist. It’s almost the poster child for it, a big showy “look what we can do” built on a familiar formula tuned to very much allow for this sort of thing.

I’m enjoying it hugely and like I said, it lets you climb Zeus’s titty and more videogames should do that. It’d get points for that alone.