The moment I have a new game and access to my consoles, I isolate myself from the rest of the world and I play to my heart’s content. That’s the payoff for me being excited about a new game: I get to play it, and, hopefully, enjoy it.
In a few days, I will be practicing my hermit skills, and I’ll have a warm blanket, a cup of tea, and a brand new video game to play. Some of us hermits need the technological niceties instead of books and nature. For me, it’s DmC: Devil May Cry, the first new game of 2013 that will fall into my hands, and I’m looking forward to it.
This is a bit of a test, because the last game I looked forward to was two months back, and it did not meet my expectations. It fell flat, actually, losing me at almost every point. Assassin’s Creed III was the game I was looking forward to the most in 2012; and while it wasn’t the only game I put aside this past year, it was the only game I put aside with no intention of playing again.
It’s not a good feeling to abandon a game, especially not with some of the others I’ve played this year.
I thought some of this past year’s games, like Darksiders II, hit the mark straight on, matching my excitement for the game, especially consider my neutral opinion of its predecessor, and giving me a great experience. In this case, a richly designed world of fantasy and comic book-style horror came together smoothly to tell a compelling parallel story to the original Darksiders, wherein the Horseman Death seeks to uncover his brother War’s role in the end of the world. Apocalyptic imagery and mythology came together with platforming and RPG elements, and created something I thought was pretty special.
Other games, like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Spec Ops: The Line, appeared, made my lineup, and met or exceeded the expectations I had for them. While Reckoning’s studio met a frustrating and sad fate back in May, a mere three months after the game’s release, it’s one of the best fantasy RPGs of the year, with a vibrant art style and responsive combat system. Spec Ops: The Line appeared as the almost-obligatory third-person shooter of the summer; instead, it revealed a monster beneath its dusty exterior, a gut-churning look at what violence and brutality do to otherwise normal men.
My pleasant surprise of the year? Mark of the Ninja, a side-scrolling, stealth-based indie project starring a silent, tattooed ninja as he pursues the people who attacked his clan. The contemporary, gun-wielding mercenary enemies are dangerous foils to the sword-wielding ninja, but patience and quiet pays off during this four-hour adventure. I’m not one for stealth games, nor side-scrollers, and yet this game made me a convert. I procured it on a whim, and it was the best whim of the year, as far as I’m concerned. Stealth games, and those that offer the option to play stealthy, have quickly soared near the top of my favorite games to play and it’s mostly thanks to Mark of the Ninja.
With so many good games in my hands, Assassin’s Creed III wasn’t exactly how I wanted to end 2012. I like to think I played more good games than bad this past year, and even a few great ones, but Assasin’s Creed III falls into another camp entirely for me: utter disappointment.
It’s taken quite a while for me to pin down why I don’t like this game. Let’s see how I do here.
First off, for the sake of fairness, the good things: The graphics are beautiful, the fluid combat style is tight and engaging, and the climbing aspects feel more natural. Getting to experience nature in the trees and snowy ravines of Revolutionary War-era America is a breathtaking sight, though for those who love long virtual walks and chasing pixelated rabbits, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a better option.
Despite the good things about Assassin’s Creed III, there were more things that I didn’t like, and one thing that I absolutely hated: the narrative. During the moments when I was partially immersed in the historical elements and the story, the game would demand I return to the present, and the convoluted tale that is the life of Desmond Miles, gamer-within-the-game. I’ve not fully warmed to this character during the previous four games in this series; that I hated every moment I was forced to spend with him didn’t fix that.
Gameplay mechanics that felt flawed in the very first Assassin’s Creed game back in 2007 – eavesdropping, tailing enemies by following certain prompts and keeping at ground level, being booted out of the historical story to focus on the contemporary end of the world scenario – and were subsequently removed or modified in the next few games made a sudden reappearance in Assassin’s Creed III. They were not improvements.
The historical details and elements didn’t impress either. The historical backdrop of the American Revolution held my attention until I started to feel like the insertion of the assassin character, Connor, was just that: an insertion, window dressing, an excuse to make a game during the Revolution. I would have almost preferred a Call of Duty-esque take on the Revolution than an excuse.
Concluding my year’s purchases with a disappointment wasn’t quite how I wanted the end of 2012 to taste. But now it’s 2013, and DmC is a fresh start. A reason to be excited again.
In a year, ask me how I feel.
About the Author:
Alexandra Geraets is an fan of story-driven video games. She's an even more avid fan of exploring how and why they resonate with all of us. Her essays have been found on Village Voice Media.
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