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.