2020’s Played Games
A continued chronicling of my favorite hobby.
A continued chronicling of my favorite hobby.
I... like a survival game? Like... a lot?
This year is already fuckin’ weird.
(Katamari Damacy Reroll)
Despite its cutesy trappings, this game is genuinely great. It's a dungeon crawler in a similar vein to ZHP. You move around grid-like levels, with each move healing your HP while draining a food percentage. Combat is turn-based and very simple, with a job class system that allows for some flexibility in how you play. The world is charming, the music is unrepentant fan service, and the whole thing is just adorable.
Fun, but surprisingly underwhelming in terms of its advances in the basic interactions with the world, and at times, a regression to what's already been offered within the series. No risk seems to have been taken here, and that's a bummer, given how great Odyssey and Zelda turned out.
What a cool slice of a game. Well-fleshed out, especially at that price, the limited budget on this one only shows when you start to realize the saminess of some of the squad characters and types of enemies, which has been a problem with XCOM for a while now, and isn't necessarily the fault of this game. Difficulty spikes are a bit extreme, but there are plentiful options to alleviate that.
Here's an absolutely bonkers fact for you. I like this game. It doesn't particularly stand out from the pack of modern point and clickers, but it also does nothing egregiously wrong. It's a little groan-worthy, but these games always were. The devs nailed the heart of what made the first two LSL games so much fun, and modernized it to get away from the punishing gameplay of the day. It's charming as fuck.
It's unfortunate how much of a jump backwards this was compared to its predecessor. It might have been perfectly fine if the game hadn't tried to pad itself out with atrocious "match the symbol" puzzles and a labyrinth section that ground the game to an abysmal halt. To boot, the developers proclaim proudly in the game's descriptions how many environments the game boosts when in reality that same labyrinth adds a big number of those environments. Any joy this game might have held was bled dry by bone-headed design decisions. I hope for another sequel so they can get this right, but right now, they're 1 for 2.
There's probably a good game buried under Valhalla's mountain of bugs but it's sure hard to see at times. This is by far the most broken of the series for me outside of Unity at launch, even outstripping AC III, which was so broken I gave up on it. I thought that was going to be the case with Valhalla thanks to a gamebreaking bug that meant the primary questgiver wasn't talking or spawning in the right location. That's just the tip of the iceberg. I've had about eight desktop crashes. My game now loads every single time to a quest marker out in the middle of nowhere. I also now load into the game in a state of drunkenness, which does help cover the fact that the game chugs at about five frames per second until everything finishes loading in. At random points I can't use bows or special abilities until I load a previous save.
Accessibility options are a real hit and miss affair too. Menu font size options are a welcome change, as is the ability to turn on an audio reader for certain things (but not all of them, unfortunately). But while Ubisoft definitely deserves praise for making their UI easier to read, the rest of the game isn't designed with that same philosophy. Treasure chests and secret locations are often buried under mountains, meaning you're searching for white objectives under white snow or green objectives under green grass. Level scaling is also mandatory, and insanely buggy. My power level was something like twenty five, and the game's bosses and assassin targets were nothing less than ninety. I'd get slaughtered with just a couple hits before I managed to level up to seventy five or so.
It's a fuckin' mess.
And the game itself is bland. There are some interesting choices made around the main character Eivor, but that's really about it. Unlike the magic of the England depicted in AC: Syndicate, nothing stands out about this exploration of England. And the Nordic starting section is even worse. Same with a trip to Vinland and another story beat I won't spoil here. It's all very piecemeal and jammed together in odd ways, as though they were making several smaller games at once and decided to put them all into this one.
That boring blandness extends to other small elements as well. Apart from one memorable ally, the characters are generally bland and lifeless, or given too short of a moment to shine. The armor sets are few and far between, and all look relatively similar with varying shades of black furs and leathers. The activities throughout the world are fine but nothing really stands out as being an impressive leap from the previous games.
I can't recommend it right now. Give it six months, or even better, wait for the inevitable Ultimate Totally Final This is It For Real version of the game. There's enough interesting stuff with the AC overarching story that you'll want to blast through it for that, but that's about it. Don't go into this one expecting it to be as great as the last few games. Hell, don't go into it expecting anything more than bottom-tier Assassins Creed. And that's hugely disappointing.
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