Assassin's Creed II Finished

I finished Assassin’s Creed II last night. Man, the storytelling in this series is really good. It ended in a cliffhanger just like the first one did. And there was actually some light gameplay *during the closing credits*. How cool is that?

Anyway I started in on Brotherhood right away, which is a noticably better-looking game. It also feels a bit more like Uncharted. That is, it feels more action-oriented, with less buttons to worry about pushing. Plus there’s a part where Desmond and Lily (I think that’s her name?) wander around in some catacombs for a while trading witty banter, just like you saw Drake and what’s-her-name doing in Uncharted.

UPDATE: Her name is actually Lucy and what’s-her-name is Elena.

Finally Finishing up Assassin's Creed II

Over the weekend I decided to press on with the Assassin’s Creed series, since I rounded out my AC game collection in the last Steam sale, picking up Brotherhood, Revelations, and AC3. I played AC2 last year but for some reason I just stopped in the middle. I decided that I should finish it before I went on to the next game so I wouldn’t miss any of the cool story stuff.

I didn’t think it would take very long, but good lord, it doesn’t ever end. It turned out I was only on like Sequence 4 or 5 out of 14. Even ignoring side quests and sticking to the main storyline, I still didn’t finish it. I love just about everything about AC, but sometimes it gets a little tedious running around from place to place when you just want to get through it.

On another note, I finally picked up an Xbox controller because I got sick of trying to translate the ABXY buttons displayed on the screen into the square, triangle, circle, whatever buttons on the PS3 controller I normally used. AC was definitely made for a controller, but before now, I’ve always played it with keyboard-mouse controls. The controller is a lot easier.

Taurus Demon Down

I finally defeated the second boss in Dark Souls. I say "finally" because I spent quite a lot of time wandering around dying in the Undead Burg, leveling up with the meager amounts of souls I could accumulate from the skeletons there, and gathering bits and pieces of gear. I feel like I know the stretch of the map between the campfire and the boss like the back of my hand now. Two skeletons, run across bridge, three skeletons, up stairs, three skeletons, up the tower, one skeleton sniper, down the stairs, two skeletons and a tough dude, then another skeleton comes running down, and then you’re going up the spiral stairs to the boss area.

I killed the boss on the second try, although I don’t think the first one counted and one could possibly argue that I didn’t technically "kill" him the second time either. On the first attempt, I zapped him with my bolts, ran past him, zapped him some more, then ran past him back toward the ladder, when I suddenly had the brilliant idea to run up the ladder and rain bolts on him from above. That’s when I discovered that the boss climbs up to the top of the tower and squashes you.

On the second try I stayed on the ground, kept my distance, and shot him with sorcerer bolts. I was down to the point where one more shot would have killed him as he was running toward me. I didn’t think I would have enough time to fire again so I decided to be safe and run past him again, and naturally I managed to dodge through a hole in the wall and fell to my death. I was about to blow a gasket when I saw that the boss for some reason jumped down after me and killed himself. A slightly unsatisfying kill, but nevertheless it earned me the loot and allowed me to reach the next campfire. Which, ironically, turned out to be the same campfire as the last one.

By the way, I am playing exclusively with a PS3 controller now.

Dark Souls on the PC

I watched some very amusing "Let’s Play" videos of two of the GWJ guys playing Dark Souls, and decided that I finally needed to get this "killer" game. By killer I mean it has a reputation of being mercilessly difficult. So I got the "Prepare to Die" PC version from Steam.

Okay. So yeah, it’s hard. But it’s not hard in the way you might think. It’s hard because the controls and camera management are impossibly obtuse for a PC game, at least initially. I’m used to playing with mouse-and-keyboard, but the mouse-and-keyboard controls for this game are just horrible. It doesn’t even hide the Windows pointer. So you really have no choice but to play with the keyboard only, where in addition to the normal WASD controls on the left, your right hand has WASD-style controls on the right side of the keyboard, which controls your camera view and target-lock. It’s a bit awkward, to say the least.

So of course you tend to die a lot – not because the first encounters are particularly hard, but because you can’t figure out which key or combination of keys to press to dodge, swing your sword, run, block, turn around, or whatever. The built-in hints are no help at all since they are all for the Xbox 360 controller.

And actually, the first boss is pretty hard. During the brief tutorial section while you’re learning which buttons to press, you run into a boss almost right away. At first you think, okay, well this guy looks tough, but even though he looks big and formidable, he’s probably one of those massive bosses with only a tiny health because if the game puts me here so soon, then I must be able to defeat him with my meager skills and equipment, right? Nope. He smashes you in one or two blows, and your fist punches do not even scratch his health bar. It turns out you’re supposed to run around him to a side door.

But then after you pick up a shield and weapon and go through a few more tips and tutorials, you end up facing that boss again. You might think you’d have a better chance to kill him, but no, not really. On the second try you at least have something besides bare fists, but basically you have to keep dodging him and plinking him with your ranged ability. At least, that’s what I did with my sorcerer. I can’t imagine surviving a melee encounter.

Since the keyboard-only controls are pretty awful, I decided to see if I could get a PS3 controller to work. I did – eventually, using a slightly dubious, ad-riddled driver thingy called MotioninJoy – but I’m not sure if it’s an improvement. Movement is much more intuitive, but I don’t know if the buttons make things any easier. I should probably just stick with the controller.

I’m not sure why I want to keep playing this game, other than the perverse challenge of it, and just to say that I did. It is a neat-looking game, and it does have a very old-school RPG feel to it.

My First Look at Skyrim

I finally got Skyrim in a Steam sale. I’m not sure exactly what I expected but I kind of thought it would be something a bit more … well, different from Oblivion. All of the same annoying things from Oblivion are still there in Skyrim.

The most annoying of which is when five people walk up to you and start talking at the same time. While you’re already talking to someone else. Not to mention the laggy, unresponsive sort of feel to the interface, which is particularly annoying considering you’re supposed to play it like an FPS. I’ve played FPSs, Skyrim, and you, sir, are no FPS.

The story’s cool though. I guess. I don’t really know what it is. I just wander around trying to complete objectives, while simultaneously starting new objectives.