Syndicate vs Origin

While other people were complaining about series fatigue, I remember thinking “Just keep them coming, I’ll never get sick of this series.”  Laughably as real life encroached, I found myself disengaged with Syndicate to the point that it ended up being shelved for over five years before ultimately I picked up and completed the title.  While Syndicate felt like Unity 2.0, Origins was a huge departure, but perhaps hailing back to earlier titles like Black Flag or AC3 that focused more on large maps rather than cityscapes.

So having played these two games back to back, let’s do a little comparison on which aspects I thought were done better by each game.


Bayek of Siwa

To be fair, it’s been a while since I’ve played the Ezio arc, but I feel pretty confident to say Bayek is easily the best protagonist the Assassin’s Creed series has ever seen.  A man driven to avenge the death of his son, Bayek has a wide range of emotions.  Against the members of the Order of Ancients he is a fury, and yet to contrast he is gentle and friendly with the children of Egypt.  Humorous at times, Bayek isn’t afraid to chide those whom he believes to be in the wrong.

Jacob Frye

For 90% of the game Jacob is absolutely the worst.  Arrogant to a fault, Jacob single-handedly makes a mess of everything he touches.  While some may find the cocksure assassin suave, I personally found him difficult to relate to and a bit condescending, especially to his sister Evie.  Fortunately Jacob actually experiences some character progression and starts feeling a bit of remorse for his actions, but as mentioned it comes really late in the game.


I’m sure Ubisoft wanted to paint Aya as a strong, independent woman, but to me she just seemed like someone who just ran from and never reconciled her past.  Unlike Bayek who reveled in the pain of the death of his son until he ultimately accepted it, Aya refused to acknowledge it to the point that she pushed away her husband, instead burying herself into her work.  By the end of the DLC she just felt sad and unapproachable.

evie frye

In contrast to both Aya and Jacob, Evie Frye is breath of fresh air.  Capable and intelligent, Evie spends a good portion of the game cleaning up after Jacob’s messes.  Her ‘greatest fault’ is that she is cautious and prone to planning, but other than one moment the game never really convinces that it’s actually a fault at all.  Unlike Aya, Evie reconciles her misgivings about emotional attachment to ultimately goes after the man she loves.



Despite having both pistols and throwing knives, in Syndicate I did most of my assassinations with the hidden blade.  Hell, I’d kill every Blighter I saw just to fill up ammunition. Unless the mission specifically called for it, it felt like blasphemy to enter open combat.  Not so with Origins; the bow was just too convenient a means of clearing out bases.  Sure I assassinated a few sleeping people and a couple captains from behind, but nothing near to the extent of Syndicate.

Sound / Music


Not sure what happened, but Origin’s music is so heavily compressed that it sounds like it’s coming through an old telephone.  Which is a shame, because it actually seemed like good composition.  Syndicate on the other hand took a page from Bioshock Infinite as the majority of the music is performed by a small string ensemble and there is absolutely no  compression.  Also there’s a lot of familiar and historical tunes that pumped the game full of nostalgia.



Origins might be one of the best open-world experiences I’ve ever had.  It felt surprisingly similar to BDO, where you’d go to a new location and clear out the activities (or not) before moving on.  Ancient Egypt provides a couple different biomes, as well as sailing and even some very cool underwater exploration.  Let’s not forget exploring the pyramids.  The kid version of me who poured over the National Geographic spreads would have died for a game like this.



One thing I’ve loved about previous Assassin’s Creed games is that once you get a feel for the combat you can become a total bad-ass.  While the gaming community clamors for punishing encounters, give me the ability to dominate my enemies and I’m a happy person.  Syndicate absolutely shines with it’s consistent counter system and is really fun once you get a good chain going.  Origin’s melee felt annoying but despite that the bow combat was viable in a melee fight and felt incredibly satisfying after pulling off multiple headshots on mounted targets.



One thing Origins got rid of is mission challenges where the game basically shoehorns you into playing a specific way if you’re trying to be completionist.  Just let me do it my own way, damn-it!   Not to mention Syndicate’s chase sequences which were, for the most part, kind of annoying.  Origins pretty much lets you do what you want which is much appreciated.



Ubisoft pretty much gutted the modern day story.  People have been constantly complaining about it, but I loved the modern day sequences as they a) provided a break and b) created an over-arching narrative.  Origins is a step forward by introducing an actual protagonist with an explorable area and even some combat.  Too bad she’s completely unlikable with an over-the-comms companion that is even worse.  Ubisoft had a good thing going with Desmond, Lucy, Shaun and Rebecca but gutted the dynamic for the quick emotion pay-off of character deaths.


You’re Grounded, Son

Grounded is a game that I have a love and hate relationship with. I absolutely love the setting and visually it looks quite impressive. It’s basically Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, even mirroring the movie’s time period of the 80’s. To say Grounded is unforgiving is an understatement. Death is common and the penalties aren’t severe: some loss of equipment condition and a corpse run. Even decently geared some insects can mess you up if you’re not careful.

As an early access game, I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of Grounded. There’s been a lot of additions: new areas, new insects, even new equipment. I never get sick of viewing the semi-translucent effects evident in blades of grass or even ants.

That being said, Obsidian can be a bit heavy-handed with their emphasis that you are small and weak. In my last play-thru, I woke up near the starter area where I had started building only to be terrorized by a wolf spider on the 2nd day. Wolf Spiders are particularly fast, can wander a large area, have a poison attack, and can one-shot kill you even geared if you’re not careful. They are pretty much the endgame creature. In real life, most wolf spiders are nocturnal, and for the most part, the game follows that rule. If you don’t want to die, go to bed. If you want to take on the game’s big bad, stay up late.

No, the game’s overly oppressive insects aren’t my main frustration because as I mentioned above dying is just a fact of life in this game. Right now, this game lacks a serious sense of progression. A good example is the acorn and koi armor sets. One is quite easy to obtain, the other takes a lot more work. Yet both sets have the same amount of mitigation despite the koi armor being marked as 2nd tier. In fact, the game has a lot of parallel items. For a game that is entirely gear-based, not seeing gains in gear is actually a demotivator to acquire other sets.

The biggest issue is that some of the items that would be useful for taking down an enemy you don’t acquire until AFTER you take down that enemy. For example, AFAIK there are only two bows: the starter bow and a bow you only can only craft from wolf spider parts. What’s the point of a weapon you get only after you take down the strongest enemy? Also, some of the items you need to properly explore the pond are found in areas where it’s easier to drown and come and loot your backpack later.

Fortunately, this playthrough I haven’t had to deal with insects demolishing my base. I typically build right by the pond near the juice box as it’s flat and one of the calmest areas in the game (the orb weavers don’t come over that far). Usually, no matter where I build the ants seem to find my stash, but blessedly they haven’t come visiting. To be fair ants in real life can find food anywhere, much to my dismay, so it’s not entirely unexpected they would be incredibly annoying in the game as well.

Also, I’ve absolutely enjoyed exploring the labs in the bush and the pond. Even though there are some frustrations in the design right now, I’ve seen such great strides that I’m excited to see what the end game will be like. If you haven’t had a chance to try Grounded, you can buy it on Steam for $30 or if you just want to sample it you can get the MS’s game pass (which I’ve gotten for $1 twice now).


Open World Lite

The Outer Worlds is the closest thing you’ll get to Firefly the game, in my opinion. It has that frontier vibe, emulating the aesthetics you’d expect to see from the early Americana. From start to finish, the game thoroughly pokes fun at corporatism and is never short on humor.


Make It So

When exactly it happened, I couldn’t possibly say, but crafting has become my go-to gaming activities for burning sizable blocks of time. In the early days when MMORPGs ruled the world and my soul, crafting never took hold in my heart. Shame really. Star Wars Galaxies had a considerably robust crafting simulation but I couldn’t be bothered; instead virtual makeovers and pretend bands were all that glittered in my eyes.

Much to the annoyance of Subnautica streamers everywhere, I’ve consistently asserted said game to be my favorite of all time. A good mixture of accessible crafting, a preference for underwater gaming, and a deep fascination / terror for the ocean has firmly cemented Subnautica and it’s sequel into my regular rotation of games I play “when I can’t be arsed to actually finish anything else in my backlog.” Hell, I’ve even dubbed it ‘Underwater Batman Simulator’. You know, because of all the wonderful toys.

Joker gets it.

Fallout 4 might as well be called ‘settlement simulator’. Of the 400-ish hours I’ve put into post-apocalyptic Boston, probably 390 of those involved collecting assorted pieces of junk to make into my thriving, rusted metropolises. Yes that’s an exaggeration; I can’t speed run the story content of Fallout 4 in 10 hours.

Let’s not even start on how many times I’ve started No Man’s Sky over. I can’t think of a game that has perfected the endless treadmill of crafting and upgrading more than this gem by Hello Games. Well, if you’re not thinking about the thousands of mobile games that have also perfected endless upgrading treadmills.

But the title of ultimate crafting sink still goes to Final Fantasy XIV, where the correct way to play is to level all classes at once WHILST crafting one’s own gear. Let’s just say I just plopped down the money for the premium service of the companion app to get that extra retainer because clearly I needed space for a plethora of crafting mats. That, my friends, is just a hint at FF14’s gloriously convoluted crafting setup.

Mondelot can make that for you.

Extensive preamble aside I’ve been meaning to try an Atelier game for quite some time, ever since I saw one pop up in the PS Vita store. Given the visual style I wasn’t initially sure what to expect but somewhere along the way I became aware that there would be crafting.

Despite that, I don’t get out of bed for most games unless I can get them for $20 or less, and Atelier games stubbornly would not drop below $30. Jerkfaces. So I did what any impulsive purchaser does; I bought Atelier Ryza on a whim for $30, and I picked that one because it was the only one on sale. Let me just tell you this game does not disappoint.

The calm before the gathering storm.

Make no bones about it, this game revolves around crafting. A couple hours in and I’m vaguely aware there is a plot, but my entire mind has been consumed with gathering materials and understanding the crafting system. And as far as I can tell, there is so much variance in the system that pretty much every item you make has unique stats.

Yes. We’re going to be sinking some hours into this game.

Oh, and did I mention the visuals look great AND it runs at the native resolution in handheld mode? Mind blown. So many ports run at a lower resolution that it’s a legitimate surprise to see one that doesn’t. Hell even some exclusives can’t even manage that *cough* Xenoblade Chronicles 1 & 2 *cough*.

Anyway, I’ve got some crafting to do. Turns out I forgot to save for the first 4 1/2 hours of gameplay. Do you have any fun thoughts about crafting? Leave me a comment below or respond to this tweet!

Alan Wake

Wakey Wakey, Eggs and Bakey

As the first game I’ve finished completely on stream in quite some time, Alan Wake was fairly enjoyable. The combat flowed well and the flashlight mechanic seemed at home rather than a hindrance. The game had a nice vibe but never felt scary. Even the jump scares failed to really get me but this might have been due to the distractions of streaming.

I will admit that I hadn’t put together the fact that Remedy was the company behind Max Payne, Quantum Break, and Control, even though I recognized their logo.

Alan’s patented face-plant dive.

The game did leave me with a few burning questions–question that were probably answered but I just missed them. Like the federal agent. What was his deal? I found his room but I never really understood his burning hatred for Alan Wake. It seemed like he was pursuing his vendetta unsanctioned. What exactly was Alan in trouble for?

The game also dropped some bombs at the end. Was Wake and his wife split up? He denied ever having that conversation and her reaction at the end didn’t seem to be in line with that.

Who knows?

Note: I wrote this up after I finished the game some time ago and am only now just posting it.


Little Plant People

I first heard about Ooblets when I was actively involved in the Twitter indie game development scene. It’s not often that I find something before it blows up, but that’s what happened and I feel like some snooty hipster every time I mention it. Despite that it’s kind of an amazing feeling to make a discovery, so I guess, it’s all good?