PSA: don’t buy Quantum Break with a slow internet connection

TL;DR: If you have a slow or unstable internet connection, do not buy Quantum Break as you will not be able to enjoy it the way it was intended. As of writing, the “offline video addon pack” isn’t even available for downloading unless you buy the game digitally, so if you have a retail copy, sucks to be you.

I’m usually not too keen to buy games before release on any platform because they tend to be overpriced and you never know if they are any good before reviews are in. With Quantum Break (and The Division before that) I made an exception mostly because I really liked the original Max Payne and Alan Wake wasn’t too shabby either. Also, a story-heavy game starring Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), Dominic Monaghan (Lost) and Lance Reddick (Bosch) as in-game characters as well as in the in-game TV show? Sign me up!

I got the game on Xbox One and my physical copy arrived a few days early, just in time for the weekend. On installing the game, I was asked to install an update weighing 4.8 gigabytes – the typical day one patch, nothing special, although I had to download it over night.

You see, I have two internet connections: one DSL link with 1mbit (not mbyte) speed and one via satellite yielding a maximum of 16mbit. I say maximum because the satellite connection rarely ever works as advertised – I might get the full capacity for a few minutes or maybe half an hour at best, then it’ll drop to sub-DSL speeds. Usually it picks up again in the night which means I can at least leave things running and hope it’ll be good in the morning, but with huge downloads that’s still rather unlikely. Occasionally the connection craps out entirely because satellite internet still seems to be pretty flaky when it comes to link stability. Nevertheless it’s quite useful as a backup connection especially since it doesn’t bog down our DSL. That way, my girlfriend can at least still play World of Warcraft while I download.

Pick your poison.

What I’d like to do? Download the episodes in SD, that’s what I’d really like to do.

I managed to download that day one patch over night as intended and was eager to at least start playing the game on Sunday. After the prologue chapter – which I enjoyed quite  a bit – I finally was treated to the first episode of the in-game TV show. At first, things went rather smoothly as the episode streamed fine, although in noticeably lower quality than even SD. About five minutes in, things started to act up. The video player started to buffer and not long afterwards a message popped up asking me to either “check my internet connection”, retry streaming the episode, skipping the episode altogether (yeah, that’s a great advice in a game that heavily relies on the player watching the videos in order to understand the story) or, and that’s the kicker, download a 75gb “offline video pack”. You read correctly: seventy-five gigabytes! To quote Lance Reddick from “Bosch”:

Who the fuck thought this would be a good idea?! Since the game is already 45gb, of course the videos wouldn’t fit on the disc, so some kind of download would have been required regardless. 75 gigabytes as the only option however is just insane because if you have a connection good enough to download that in any sensible amount of time you don’t need to download it anyway since you can just stream the episodes instead. So if this “offline video pack” is aimed at players with slow connections, why is it so big? It will take me a week or more of non-stop downloading the episodes just to be able to keep playing the game.

This kind of oversight boggles the mind. Why is there no option to get the videos in SD? A TV episode of 42 minutes usually doesn’t exceed 300mb, that should cut down size quite a bit. Or just download the video I want to watch so I don’t have to wait for days to even get started? Or hey, download the next video in the background while I play, possibly in SD should I so choose? How about that?

But no – as a developer located in Finland where internet connections are blazing fast even in the countryside, Remedy had the idiotic idea to release the video addon exclusively in 1080p with a crazy high bitrate, likely because it “works for them”. By the way, the game runs in upscaled 720p anyway so there’s really no reason for 1080p cutscenes. Hate to break it for you guys, but there are more people like me in the world. People with data plans, people with slow connections, and not just in rural Germany.

You might think that the back of the box would at least feature a prominent warning about having to download so much in order to be able to play properly. It doesn’t. According to the box, the game requires a “broadband internet connection”, but that’s something every single Xbox One box tells me, even for games that don’t need an internet connection at all. The box also states the game will require about 55 gigabytes on the hard drive which isn’t correct as well – it’s either 45gb for the base install or 120gb with the video addon. The lack of warning is what pisses me off a great deal since I’d have gladly returned the unopened product had I known about this earlier. Now that it’s cracked open, no retailer will take it back unless we’re talking about Amazon and we don’t in my case.

"Bundle only"? Fantastic.

“Bundle only”? Fantastic.

The real kick in the nuts however is that you currently can’t even download the addon pack because it’s not available for download unless you buy the game digitally. Retail version? Tough shit – the only download offered is part of the digital bundle. This might change once the game is out for real, though, but until then, there’ll be no Quantum Break for me. This issue has been resolved, the pack is now downloadable on its own.

My thoughts about the Legion alpha

A week ago, I got invited to the alpha test of World of Warcraft’s sixth expansion pack, Legion. It took me about a week to download the client – 40 gigabytes on 1 megabit DSL aren’t exactly done in a day. This week, I finally got to play what most WoW players are currently merely dreaming of: new content! This is a very long article filled to the brim with spoilers – read on if you dare.
Continue reading is live

deeparmoryI’ve had this project under development for quite a while now as an internal tool for my guild, but since I had a break from WoW after the guild fell apart, it’s only now that I finally got around putting the final touches to it. is a simple, fast and easy to use replacement for Blizzard Entertainment’s very own Armory website with the following features:

  • all information on one page grouped in easy to understand tabs
  • equipped gear is listed in a simple, easy to read fashion including any enchants, gems and upgrades as well as iLevel
  • character progression drilled down to what’s important: raid progression, trade skills and PvP
  • account activity: by checking achievements, it’s possible to list when the account the character is on was active. That way it’s easy to find out who’s an old-school player and who’s fresh off the boat
  • account milestones lists notable achievements in an easy to understand fashion without having to memorize what achievement stands for which feat
  • linked characters: if the player has any other characters in the database, they will be listed here
  • account/character “problems”: if a character doesn’t have Draenor flying, it’ll be mentioned, for example, and if achievements or statistics indicate the character might have been subject to a paid character boost, it’ll be noted as well. This feature is mainly aimed at guild masters or raid leaders.

There are more features I’d like to add in the future, like for example guild history (which already worked once and suddenly broke for no apparent reason), but for now this is the feature set offers.

Why not take a looksie? Here’s a link to my most active character. If you found a bug or something’s missing, please post below.


Full disclosure: this post is incentivized by SkyDSL GmbH with a potential reward of €500. Since I am not entirely happy with their service, I decided to publish and enter this into their contest anyway just to see if they can stand criticism. If this gets me a few years of free subscription, so be it. I am certainly not doing their advertising for them, this is a recount of my personal experience.

Living in the countryside sure has its benefits, but at least one significant downside: internet coverage can be quite terrible. I am probably “lucky” to be able to even have a DSL line instead of the usual dual-channel ISDN, but come on – 1 megabit (around 120 kilobyte/sec) downstream and 100 kilobit upstream is absolutely not state of the art anymore. It shows every day – simple emails with attachments take forever to send, Windows updates can clog the pipes for hours and let’s not get started about anything fun like digital game downloads or streaming video. While my brother enjoys the benefits of his blazing fast connection with Netflix and Steam downloads going by within minutes and even my father, who doesn’t use his tablet for more than web browsing, is enjoying the speed of LTE, I am still in the dark ages. Hell, 15 years ago when I rented my first apartment, I had a Vodafone DSL connection with more than what I have now – for the same price!

Despite the German government promising a 100% coverage with high-speed internet until 2018, nothing has changed so far and nothing will change in quite a while. Because our small community here has only seven houses and four of them are covered by LTE, there’s hardly any interest among the providers to upgrade our pitiful connection.

Since download sizes became an issue even on my consoles, I took matters into my own hands. Early in 2013, a friend who is also living in a remote area told me he had installed satellite internet and was quite satisfied with it. His connection was provided by SkyDSL and since he already had experience with installing it, I didn’t think too long about ordering it. Since their contracts can be cancelled every month, I didn’t feel like it was much of a risk – worst case would be a loss of the rather small setup fee. I ordered the 16 megabit option at a price of €39,95/month; the same price as my DSL line, only 16 times faster.

However, things didn’t start out all that well. Soon after ordering, I got the first two bills, but no hardware. When I asked support about it, they told me they had technical issues and my hardware would be shipped shortly, but in the end, it took about two weeks to get the dish and router to my home. Considering how long I had waited for a proper internet connection already, that’s not all that long, but over these weeks, the weather had shifted and installation wasn’t really possible. At least they told me they’d refund me for the time I was unable to use the connection, which they did. Fair enough.

The dish installation on the roof, plus frightful looking weather.

The dish installation on the roof, plus frightful looking weather. Winter is coming.

My friend installed the dish and router for me, which was looking more complicated than it was in the end. I would never have done it on my own, though, since the antenna had to be installed on the roof of my house. I am afraid of heights, so I was glad to have help. The antenna is very heavy as well, which turned out to be a problem, since the roof could not support it properly. We installed it anyway with the idea that should it ever tilt from its original position, my friend would weld some kind of support to the pole the dish was mounted to. Fine tuning the antenna position took some time, but since my friend knew what he was doing from his own installation, setup took about 20 minutes after installing the antenna.

The router is just as small as any other router, and doesn't bother me much.

The router is just as small as any other router. And yeah, that’s a can of Raid – I just hate insects in my room.

At first, things worked out pretty well: while the ping was (of course) terrible due to long round-trip times to the satellite and back, the download speed was greatly improved with up to 1 megabyte per second from Steam. Since I also kept the DSL connection as a backup, I wasn’t concerned with the latency – I could simply switch WiFi networks to play games or download big stuff.

Unfortunately, after just a few days, the download speed started to dry up to a degree where the connection was not even usable for normal browsing. Sometimes, the speed would go up again in the morning, but just for a few hundred megabytes – afterwards, it would quickly drop to ridiculously slow levels far below my DSL connection and stay there for the rest of the day. It was absolutely useless most of the time. At first, I thought our not-entirely-stable antenna setup was to blame, so my friend and me checked the entire thing again, including the fine-tuning. Nothing helped, the speed was mostly just abysmal.

Maybe I was already data capped? Most providers do that in order to prevent constant downloads at high speeds, but when I ordered SkyDSL, the website didn’t state anything about data caps. The only statement in that regard was that there was “no fair use policy”, which in retrospect should have rung a bell. I asked support, and they quite brashly told me that I had agreed to the terms and conditions and that there was no data cap, however, the available bandwidth was divided among all users with “my usage profile”, and if they were power users, well, bad luck. “Don’t like that? You can cancel any time.” I did have other questions – especially why the website didn’t contain that interesting piece of information – but they were never answered. The terms and conditions I had received with my order confirmation didn’t contain any information about that, just something about a “fair use policy” (which usually means  “use it as much as you like as long as it doesn’t bother other users or breaks our business”).

At that point, I probably should have cancelled, but since my other options were none, I decided to give them a little time. Maybe things would get better over time, maybe their capacities would be increased, whatever. A second, albeit slow, connection wasn’t the worst thing anyway since I could connect my consoles to the satellite WiFi for downloads – even if it took more time, I could at least use the DSL internet else while they download.

Not long after that, a storm knocked out the satellite dish – the original installation simply wasn’t strong enough, as we already expected. It took me a while to get it fixed, but when we finally got it done a few months later, the speed wasn’t as unbearable as before, but still not great. At least I could occasionally download a 1-2 gigabyte file in a few minutes before it slowed to a crawl once more. At that time, I didn’t really need to download huge files on a regular basis any more since I mostly gamed on my Xbox 360 where updates were few and usually small, so I wasn’t bothered. I mainly considered the satellite as last-resort backup now.

One thing I have to mention is that while my connection was down for a few months due to the dish not being installed properly any more, I got a call from SkyDSL. An Indian sounding fellow asked me in broken German if I had noticed that my connection didn’t work, and what might be the cause for that? I told him that it was a fault on my end. Despite my insistence that the problem was the poorly installed dish, he told me he’d call again if the service wasn’t restored within the next few weeks. He didn’t, but that was okay – I appreciated the attempt at supporting the customer regardless. I also got an e-mail about the same issue, so they at least monitor their customer’s installations.

At the end of 2014, my friend was finally able to fix the broken dish by welding a support beam to the pole it was attached to and screwing that support beam to the roof’s wooden structure. That way, no storm would be able to move the dish any more, and that turned out to be true – the winter storms didn’t bother the satellite connection one bit, it still works today without any problems.

However, the speed is still an issue. In August 2015, I got a mail telling me I got lucky: they’d upgrade my connection to “up to 16 megabit up and 4 megabit down”! That way, I’d “save €6,90”, but unfortunately, since prices went up and stuff, I’d end up paying €5 more. It’s an offer for their most loyal customers, who can say no to that?

Well … I didn’t say no, and they ended up billing me €55 instead of €34,90. Huh? At least this time their customer service was friendly and told me it was a mistake. They’d refund me immediately and make sure it never happens again. And it didn’t, which is the least I can expect. What I also expected – but didn’t happen either – was an improvement in the connection speed, but I wasn’t all that disappointed anymore.

So, am I satisfied with SkyDSL? It’s complicated. On the one hand, the connection speed is borderline unusable, although my girlfriend does use the satellite link to browse the web on her iPad without much trouble – at least it’s good enough for that now. But for anything else? Not exactly. I can’t start a large download and go to bed – it’ll start fast, then drop down to almost nothing over night, wasting energy it shouldn’t have. Occasionally, I would get lucky – one time, my Xbox One was able to download the huge patch for Ryse: Son of Rome within a few hours – but it’s still too flaky to be of much use.

The upload speed is better, however – I used the satellite to upload my YouTube videos, which was significantly faster than via DSL. So that’s the main reason I keep the contract running, although I am occasionally deliberating if I should cancel. The main problem is that I’d have to return the dish, which means I need help to remove it from the roof … and that help isn’t readily available at the moment.

In their defense, I’m not certain all this is the fault of SkyDSL as satellite internet in general isn’t the most reliable thing in the world. I should have know that – maybe I was a little too desperate to “fix” my download speed issues.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue

I'm going to NYC next week, so here's a picture of "me" close to where my hotel will be a few hundred years later.

I’m going to NYC next week, so here’s a picture of “me” close to where my hotel will be a few hundred years later.

Another month, another Assassin’s Creed – this time, I played through the last-gen exclusive Rogue, which is basically Ubisoft saying “okay, next current-gen got a shiny new title, here’s something we hastily cobbled together from assets taken from Black Flag and Unity so even the last Xbox 360 or PS3 user will want to make the switch”.

It all sounds pretty bad, and it occasionally happens to look pretty bad as well: asset recycling is abundant, bugs are aplenty and I had the game crash twice during my play through. The lack of optimization is staggering; on some of the more hectic missions I experienced strange frame rate drops all the way down to zero for several seconds, and that with a mandatory hard drive installation. Why that installation was even necessary in the first place is beyond me since Black Flag ran perfectly fine without it and it’s more or less the same game.

Yep, it's Black Flag without black flags.

Yep, it’s Black Flag without black flags. Oddly enough, there are absolutely no real pirates in these waters while the south seas were absolutely infested with them.

These technical issues aside I did enjoy my time as a Templar, even though it became pretty clear that Ubisoft didn’t bother much with coming up with an excuse to reskin Black Flag. No matter what the player character is supposed to be, the whole piracy thing is still on, although you’re now sailing under the British flag and the victims are usually French – as opposed to just everyone in Black Flag. Several missions feel like they have been lifted directly from Black Flag in terms of objectives and mechanics with only slight changes to the story. Having completed Black Flag only recently I felt somewhat fatigued by the repetition, but I guess that was to be expected.

One thing that annoyed me a bit was that while the game duly recognized my efforts in the previous games and awarded me with a specific costume for each completed prequel, I still had to go through the tutorial missions like some newbie who’d never played an Assassin’s Creed game before. At this point in the franchise’s lifespan they could really come up with a way to be able to skip all that crap and get right into the meat of the game.

No idea what secondary sequences even are because the completion tracker doesn't seem to list them, but I can't really be arsed to do more.

Something fishy is going on with the completion tracker – the three cyan bars all say 100% while the identical-colored “secondary sequences” count reads 69%. That can’t be right …

Still, the ~28 hours spent on the game weren’t a time I didn’t enjoy. However, I’m happy to leave the Americas trilogy behind and finally get into big cities like Paris and London again. The American cities really weren’t great for climbing with their small buildings and all the samey-looking forest environments just lead to extremely easy and dull climbing puzzles. And seriously: they could have put more effort into designing trees. Having only one tree per climbing mechanic is just lazy.

Since I’m going on holiday to the USA next week I don’t really want to start a big new game before that (and certainly not AC: Unity!) so I don’t know … maybe I’ll throw in Call of Duty Black Ops II since I just noticed I kinda missed that too.

Order & Chaos

Well, Ryse: Son of Rome was a bust.

Frankly, I suspected I wouldn’t enjoy it because it’s a typical launch title with style over substance, but that wasn’t even the problem. The controls felt rather easy to get a grip of, with every fight consisting of more or less the same movements, and I did enjoy the game for what it’s worth, but when I came across the first real boss fight – some savage woman called Boudica – I totally hit a brick wall. And it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying, but the fight felt almost entirely broken compared to how easy the game was up to that point. After dozens of attempts with seemingly random outcomes – sometimes I’d be able to block every attack only to get creamed by her adds, sometimes she’d basically two-shot me – I was ready to throw the controller through the screen. Fortunately, I was able to calm myself and just gave up instead, which is likely the better (if not cheaper) way of dealing with this.

One game I’ve wanted to try for a long time was Borderlands 2. Considering how much time I spent playing the original which I completed it to 100%, it should be logical for me to enjoy the hell out of the sequel, right?

Well, yes and no. Yes, the writing is once again a complete riot and the colorful cast is as stellar as ever, but when it comes to actually playing the game, I … just don’t know. It’s so slow! There’s so much damn padding, so much backtracking, and most of it on foot through endless areas full of rapidly respawning monsters … not to mention strange design decisions like having a certain story mission – the one to free Roland – last bloody ages without any way to take a break and pop back in later unless you want to keep the console running. The one-way travel station at the end of the mission sure was a riot too – nobody told me I couldn’t get back, but I needed ammo …

I played to level 21 or something and then just couldn’t be arsed any longer. Even the most entertaining story can’t make up for the lack of pacing and when even the early game reminded me of the – terribly padded out – finale of Borderlands I guess it’s just time to play something else.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), Windows 10 was released and gave me a break from console gaming. I never had a computer with Windows 8.x so I never had the ability of using the Windows Store, so you can imagine I just had to try things out after upgrading my laptop. Windows 10 works flawlessly and I do quite like the new look, but some design choices certainly feel off, like for example the two system configuration apps. Still, I’m happy how that turned out and that the upgrade didn’t kill my system is a nice bonus.

The first game I tried out was Despicable Me: Minion Rush by Gameloft, your typical endless runner with also typical free to play mechanics – but who can resist the charm of Minions? Certainly not me! Unfortunately (or fortunately), I had trouble falling asleep when playing Minion Rush right before going to bed, so I kind of had to throw the towel on that one before it consumed me. One thing I have to comment on is the insanely greedy cash shop asking for up to €20 for a single character – Minions or not, that’s just plain wrong.

Next on was Order & Chaos Online, another Gameloft-made game and probably the most blatant clone of World of Warcraft I’ve ever encountered. Originally released as a subscription game (!) in 2010 as an iPad exclusive, it’s now a free to play title and also available for Windows Phone and Android. I did check it out on iPad back then and was quite stunned by the quality, but since I was already playing WoW I wasn’t really feeling the need to invest my precious time into a mobile game.

Minutes before hitting 60 in the Burning Steppes/Hellfire Peninsula clone zone

Minutes before hitting 60 in the Burning Steppes/Hellfire Peninsula clone zone

Five years later, the game looks like ass but turns out to be a quite entertaining and accurate Vanilla/TBC WoW simulator, if nothing else. There are loads of quests that easily get you to the level cap but are also all rather soulless, there are three trading skills plus cooking – all of them an absolutely horrid grind – and there are dungeons nobody seems to bother about. Obviously, there are other players as well, but you can ignore them mostly because nothing about leveling is difficult at all. Every single quest can be done solo – even those pitting the player against elite monsters because they are little more than a different portrait frame on your screen. It’s a really laid-back game and it’s easy to forget it’s free to play because it barely ever pesters you with that aspect – there’s a cash shop, but until you are at the level cap, you might as well not know about it. There are no raids, but that’s probably because it was a mobile game. Otherwise, it’s as much a MMO as it could be on these platforms.

Nope, this doesn't look like Scarlet Monastery at all!

Nope, this doesn’t look like Scarlet Monastery (or Stormwind Cathedral) at all! Not a bit!

For the most part, it’s the perfect casual MMO and also a great throwback to a time where WoW wasn’t a game of garrisons and dungeon finders. I just got to level 60 today and while got a little worn out around level 40 or so I never really lost interest during these ~12 days. I’m not going to bother to level to the cap though because the game’s community is absolutely horrible.

You see, Gameloft more or less abandoned the game years ago, and while they did update it with some content and even a new race after a time, they never bothered to address the real problem: immature people, hackers, and the combination of both.

I’ve encountered quite the odd Barrens chat during my tenure in WoW but I’ve never faced a public chat like the one in Order & Chaos Online. Evenings on the weekend are like someone flooded the chat with racism, religious hatred, any combination of the two, plus your dime a dozen swears and f-bombs. It’s really hard to stand any minute of that, but try playing for an extended period of time without feeling the urge to stab someone (preferably the morons on the chat, but anyone would do at that point).

Tameable mounts are something not even WoW can offer. Cool idea!

Tameable mounts are something not even WoW can offer. Cool idea! Unfortunately, chances to actually tame the mount are pretty slim unless you spend real money.

If you are in luck and there’s no swearing, hating kiddie on the chat spewing their nonsense all night long, there’s bound to be someone who’s either claiming to be a hacker – or who’s an actual hacker. Turns out Gameloft made some extremely strange design choices and didn’t bother to secure their game as much as they should have, and thanks to all that, hacking the game is as easy as abundant.

I’ve even encountered it myself when I was invited to a guild by some guy I’ve never seen before. I accepted, eager to see where that would lead me, and it turned out he was standing next to me. He asked me “do you have room?” and when I said yes, he proceeded to fill my inventory with an abundance of boxes, each of which contained several valuable items. I had no idea what the hell was going on, but since the boxes looked like they might be some kind of reward for PvP I didn’t suspect anything right away. I even asked him if these boxes would cost money (some games sell items on the cash shop which can be given to other players as gift, and I thought that maybe I had hit a gold mine or something) and he said yeah, but it’s no bother.

After giving me about 20 of these boxes he logged off, and I got suspicious. I asked Auntie Google for help and she quickly suggested the guy was hacking and all the goods I got hold of were basically stolen. After quick consideration I decided I would feel better about it if I a) reported the guy for hacking and b) deleted all the items I had obtained from him, and so I did.

Since playing an MMO where everyone can just cheat to progress – I’ve seen players get from level 1 to 70 within a few hours, certainly not of their own volition – feels a little bit pointless, I’m okay with just finishing the achievements and moving on. At this point I’m game for the next console title, which will probably be The Walking Dead Season 2, just because it’s entirely linear. After that … well, who knows? I’m going on holiday soon, and when I return, Skylanders will be released! Can’t wait!

Quest log update: July

Upon turning on my Xbox One today to install the next game on my quest to complete all the (interesting) AAA games I missed over the last years, I was greeted by yet another patch download. Considering how little I used the console since I got it, it’s probably no surprise, but I remember downloading a huge update only recently, so it’s getting a bit on my nerves. What’s even worse is that the update aborts all the time, but it doesn’t automatically try to resume, so I have to check on the console every few minutes. Argh!

Right after finishing the stellar, but technically flawed The Wolf Among Us, the new Batman Arkham Knight game was released. Having played none of the previous Batman titles I was interested enough to at least take a look at Batman Arkham Asylum, a game I had on my shelf for a good two years without even cracking it open. I must admit that I have very little interest in super heroes in general and Batman in particular because I am no longer 12 years old, but after watching a review on the latest game, the combat system looked compelling enough to at least take a look.

Well, what can a say – I didn’t really stop “taking a look” until I reached what I presume is the final boss fight. It’s certainly a better game than I had anticipated – and it’s still looking great despite it’s age – but I must admit the combat system didn’t really click with me. I could fumble and button mash my way to the end, but that’s probably it. Not sure if I’ll bother to try and complete it – even though I really liked the puzzles, I feel like I have seen enough of the game to move on.

Next on the agenda was The Walking Dead including its “400 Days” DLC. Oddly enough the technical issues The Wolf Among Us had weren’t present here at all, although I did run into my fair share of glitches, including an almost game-breaking bug where a door I was supposed to open wasn’t clickable until I replayed the entire scene. My verdict? Doesn’t quite beat The Wolf Among Us in terms of artwork, writing or characters, but it’s certainly an experience worth having. The DLC was nice, but rather short – I wouldn’t have bought it on it’s own, but it was included in the GOTY anyway.

93% completion is way more than I expected to reach.

93% completion is way more than I expected to reach.

Finally I felt ready to tackle the next game in the seemingly endless Assassin’s Creed franchise: Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag. Having been severely disappointed by the mediocre third installment with it’s hodgepodge of systems, I was pretty certain the next contender would be even less enjoyable, but fortunately for me, that wasn’t the case. Black Flag certainly offers a lot of stuff, but it’s a way more structured offering than the previous game, and most of the systems actually make sense in context of the game. There’s still way too much nonsensical stuff to collect and most of the crap doesn’t even count in terms of achievements – I am looking at you, Animus Fragment! – but the treasure maps are a cool addition and I greatly enjoyed the thrill of exploring shark-infested shipwrecks. For a 360 game, the graphics were excellent, especially after AC3 was a step back in that department, and the music was also really good. One should not forget the fantastic Shanties, of which I got several stuck in my head now, especially “Leave Her, Johnny“.

Despite being not very interested in pirate life in general – again, I’m no longer a kid – I did enjoy the story very much, but the best “addition” was the almost entire lack of WTF moments in the “real world” sequences. Where all games including AC3 had a ludicrous storyline filled with crazy talk about beings of old trying to save humanity from certain doom, almost all of that got tossed out of the window. Instead, the player works for Abstergo Entertainment, a Templar-run company which is clearly a spitting image of Ubisoft, and this setup was much more fun to me than the usual doom-and-gloom setup of the older games. The cameos by certain Assassins during the present-day episodes were greatly appreciated as well, as well as the fantastic end sequence.

Not sure how the game's visuals improve on the Xbox One, but this is certainly not an ugly game.

Not sure how the game’s visuals improve on the Xbox One, but this is certainly not an ugly game.

After about 40 hours of sailing the seven seas, I got to a point where I didn’t care enough about the remaining achievements to continue playing. I loved my time on the Jackdaw, but I’ll take after Edward Kenway and move on.

I’ll need a while to recharge my spirits before the next Assassin’s Creed, which will be Rogue, so the next game to cross off my list will be Ryse: Son of Rome. Despite having the Xbox One for over a year now, I never played anything on it except for Watch_Dogs which is multi-platform anyway and certainly doesn’t look like a next-gen title should. Now I just need to wait for my Xbox One to finally download the update … 1675 megabytes to go, moving at a snail’s pace. Oh well, I guess it’s time for me to relax.

The Wolf Among Us



Finished The Wolf Among Us today. It’s absolutely fantastic and a must-play for anyone who likes detective stories and/or graphic novels, but the Xbox 360 retail (disc) version must be the least optimized game I’ve ever played. Action sequences are borderline unplayable because the game loads from the DVD all the time, fucking up the timing of the quick time events and making a general mess of everything. Some QTEs are impossible to react to because they don’t show up before failing. Fortunately it’s still possible to finish the game because it’s quite forgiving, but how on earth did this pass QA? What’s even more baffling is that the cover says “hard drive required” but the game doesn’t even allow the user to just install the disc to the hard drive. It’s really upsetting because technical issues like that really drag down what should be an absolutely flawless game. Oh well, I just hope The Walking Dead won’t have the same issues …


The skyline of Los Santos as seen from the Vinewood sign

The skyline of Los Santos as seen from atop the Vinewood sign.

It certainly took me a week longer than I had anticipated, but today I was finally able to complete the GTA V story mode. I was plagued by strong hay fever over the last few days and I really didn’t want to experience the grand finale sneezing and with itchy eyes. Today however the hay fever had finally calmed down enough to no longer impede my enjoyment.

I had stopped playing right before the final heist – The Big One – so I thought I’d be done quickly, but it turned out that I was wrong as there were many loose ends to gag and silence forever. My ending of choice was to save both Michael and Trevor, mostly because I felt neither of them had messed up Franklin’s life enough to deserve to be murdered by him. Also, I really couldn’t decide between Michael and Trevor – while Trevor is painted strongly as a psychopath, Michael’s state of mind wasn’t always exactly sane either. At some point in the story, Michael started to sound a lot like Trevor, and on the other hand, despite Trevor being clearly maniacal, he isn’t all bad – he’s loyal and his attitude towards women was definitely interesting.

Crossing the mountain range with Franklin

Hiking across the mountain range with Franklin.

In the end, I thought the finale was a bit underwhelming and not really on par with the stellar performances I had witnessed the 25+ hours before it. I had expected some kind of nasty plot twist – for example the FIB agents stealing the gold while also abusing their power once again by sending the gang to prison for life – but instead, the entire finale is spent on a simple wrap-up shoot-out without any kind of real climax. Of course I don’t know how the other two options would have played out, but I suspect they’d be even less interesting.

With the amazing story, colorful and deep characters and stellar voice acting, the only thing that really bothered me was the actual game play. Now don’t get me wrong, the driving felt solid and the gun-play satisfying, but soon enough the only thing I cared about was the next cut-scene or witty in-car banter. The game play breaks up the pacing too much and the constant fail states for whatever arbitrary reason just made me wish Rockstar would have opted to just skip the entire “game” thing and wrote the thing for television instead. HBO or Netflix would have been all over it, and best of all, it would enable non-gamers to experience the story as well.

Final heist getaway cars

My gaudy setup of getaway cars for the final heist. I had planned for Trevor to drive the purple one just to annoy him, but ended up driving it myself instead. Really inconspicuous cars, guys!

This is probably my biggest gripe: no matter how fascinating the game’s story is, most people in the world won’t be able to take part because they don’t play video games. Yeah, there’s a “game movie” on YouTube, but the visible UI elements, “bad” graphics – at least compared to pre-rendered animation and messed up pacing aren’t making it that enjoyable to non-gamers. I feel a little bad for the game’s writers as well as they are writing for a tiny audience no matter how well the game sold.

I didn’t bother with most of the achievements as many of them were just annoying, tedious collection quests without much of a story to reward me, and the last thing I want is to burn myself out on yet another open world game with endless collectibles. I did some of the easier ones though, like spending $200m or chasing the cops around the airport to maintain 3 minutes of 3-star police rating.

Next up on my AAA quest is probably one of the Telltale games, mostly because I need something entirely linear before I jump into yet another open world game.