Quantcast
Community Discussion: Blog by The Salty Hippo | The Salty Hippo's ProfileDestructoid
The Salty Hippo's Profile - Destructoid




Game database:   #ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ         ALL     Xbox One     PS4     360     PS3     WiiU     Wii     PC     3DS     DS     PS Vita     PSP     iOS     Android




click to hide banner header
About
I started this blog to voice my opinions about the artistic merits and disappointments of video games today. I'm Canadian, so for anyone reading outside the Canada, pardon the variance in spelling. To give you a general sense of my experience, I've been playing videogames for over seventeen years. My primary console is the Playstation 3, though I also own all Nintendo, Playstation and Xbox platforms, along with a Macintosh computer.





http://jassibedi.net/
Player Profile
Xbox LIVE:The Salty Hippo
PSN ID:The Salty Hippo
Steam ID:TheSaltyHippo
Apple ID:TheSaltyHippo
Raptr ID:TheSaltyHippo
Follow me:
Twitter:@JassiSBedi
The Salty Hippo's sites
Badges
Following  

The Salty Hippo
12:36 PM on 05.12.2013

It's easy to look at Far Cry 3 and see another generic shooter, another power fantasy, another desolate open world. But if you spend any time with the game you'll realize there's more to this book than its cover. Player choice dominates the journey -- not in story, but in gameplay. With fluid shooting, RPG elements, and a well designed world, Far Cry 3 defies expectations and delivers a genuinely unique experience. To say the industry has an interest in shooters is putting lightly. But there's one conspicuous distinction in this title. This isn't just a shooter, it's your shooter.

The script isn't subtle: you are a warrior. It's going to tell you this more times than I had patience for, but with good reason. In this third instalment you, own these beautiful islands. Options are littered throughout the game, letting you accomplish any goal by any means necessary. Use guns, machetes, vehicles, the environment, use whatever you please. The world is your oyster.



The story revolves around Jason Brody, a naive college graduate who suffers enough to to pick up a gun and demand revenge. While travelling across the Pacific Islands, Jason and his friends are kidnapped by deranged pirate lord Vaas. Narrowly escaping his fate, Jason unites with the rebels of the islands to rescue his friends and liberate the islands from oppression.

Far Cry 3 immediately depicts its vision of empowerment in its skill system. Finding collectables, completing side missions, and clearing pirate encampments rewards you with experience that accumulates into skill points. These can be applied to three different skill trees which improve a selection of attributes, such as the potency of crafted medication or doubling the amount of flowers gathered from a single plant. Some even go as far as to grant you new attacks, allowing you more ways to execute foes, as quietly or as stylishly as you like. Unlike most games, you'll be able to fill out every branch of every tree, eventually giving you absolute control during your escapades. 

Initially however, you'll only have a handgun and a blade. Weapons can be purchased at stores, but is completely unnecessary. New weapons are acquired at no charge, by scaling radio towers across the islands. These light platforming sections are a breeze, but may test your patience further in the game. As you unlock new islands, climbing the towers demands more precise platforming, something this game wasn't built for -- you'll find yourself jumping off a balcony more often than landing on it. Long bows, sniper rifles and flamethrowers, are but a few examples of the game's extensive armoury, each weapon unique in upgrades, statistics and sound design. Weapon upgrades will cost you a penny or two -- to be fair the currency has to have some worth. However, quantitative improvements are obtained by more enthralling means.

The lush scenery of the island has plenty of thrills to offer. But there are few things more intimidating than turning to a low growl to find a tiger stalking you. This is a threat you'll be willing to face. Capacity upgrades are crafted by collecting specific animal parts across the islands. These range from creatures as docile as deer, to as vicious as leopards. Each animal has its own distinct animations, behaviours, and attacks, forcing you to think on your feet at all times. You could be crouched in the grass silently inching closer to a deer, and have your leg bitten by Komodo dragon who decided to shadow your movement. It's these moment to moment encounters that shape the experience. Diving for treasure only to find bull sharks surrounding you is startling and offers a welcome challenge to an otherwise ordinary endeavour. Animals also make firefights more compelling, if they take place close to their nest. Some encampments even hold animals in cages, allowing chaos to ensue if you set them free. Watching an emu peck a pirate to death is spectacle you won't catch elsewhere.



Danger lurks in every corner of the islands by form of both man and beast. By taking out all the enemies at one of the game's many pirate encampments, you unlock the ability to fast travel there and also gain experience. An obvious move is to engage the enemy head on, but this isn't advised. If you haven't deactivated their alarms, reinforcements may be called in, leaving you with enemies so relentless, they may even resort to chasing you by helicopter. Silently clearing camps is most satisfying, netting you more experience if no alarms were rung, and even more if you weren't detected. 

Enemies in the game are smart enough to spot you in their line of sight, flank, and take cover when attacked. But you do have the ability to toss a rock in any direction, a distraction that apparently no pirate can resist. Besides this asinine behaviour, enemies are still a challenge in numbers. They become even more difficult as the game progresses since they acquire body armours, new weapons, and armed vehicles.This calls for more attention to how you tackle groups of enemies, and encourages you to eliminate them in silence. But with the abilities you unlock this becomes a desirable effort. In time, you'll be able to silently execute multiple enemies by a single action, entering and leaving a situation without making a sound.

Using plants gathered on the islands, you can create syringes that range from restoring health to improving shooting skills. New recipes unlock with narrative progression but the most interesting concoctions are acquired by gathering collectibles scattered across the islands. Of course your most common fix will be to restore health, but there is an annoyance that couples with the action. Quick healing and quickly swapping weapons is mapped to the same button, the difference depends on whether it was held down. This can lead to some frustrating scenarios where you're in need of medication, but Jason feels that cycling through weapons takes priority.

Side missions are limited in variety, though are challenging enough to make each experience different. Aside from your typical open-world mini-games like poker and races, the game asks you to execute targets while adhering to specific conditions. When your target's a high ranking pirate, the game demands that you finish them by machete. Not much variance there. However, some side missions ask you to hunt animals within a certain time limit or with a specific weapon. Some of these hunting missions even ask you to prey on a variants of animals, beasts that are tougher and smarter than their relatives.



Now, you may've noticed that I've hardly spoke of the storyline. Right... About that...

Thematically, Far Cry 3 is a mess -- lost, confused, and suffering from its own insanity. Not far into the story, you'll realize the narrative doesn't know what it wants to express. One mission you're hallucinating as Vaas comments on your sociopathy, the next, Flight of the Valkyries plays as you gun down enemies. Inspired by works such as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the game vainly attempts to make a comment on the insanity that accompanies the consumption of violence. But cringeworthy dialogue and a lack of cohesion prevents the story from affecting the player. You might recognize quotations from Lewis Caroll's Through the Looking Glass during the loading screens, and imagine the plot will make great use of the brilliant citations. Unfortunately that's your imagination -- the game's ambivalence proves them worthless.

From delinquent students to mad scientists, stereotypes fill the roles of characters in the game, often disposed of following a few conversations. Vaas being the game's antagonist and most fascinating character, is hardly developed at all. Beyond a monologue on insanity, he's used to deliver quick plot points and swear profusely. Jason himself will spew some lines that attempt to harmonize with the theme of madness, but they're so blatant and mundane that it makes you uncomfortable.



The art direction bleeds potential. Menus and loading screens are striking and resemble Rorschach tests, though fail in showing any cohesion with the plot. Don't get me wrong, there's some great moments in this game as far set pieces go. But that's all they are, set pieces, holding little value with the narrative. Even beautifully designed hallucinations are merely spectacles -- they make no comment on Jason's psychological state. It's sad to see the lost opportunity. How we could've been told an unconventional tale, attacking the player for their every sin. What you get instead is a theme and art style that lack any congruence with the adventure. However, the game is able to keep you on the edge of your seat the whole ride through because of its gripping gameplay.

Anyone looking for a fresh take on first person shooters should look no further. Far Cry 3 throws you into a unique environment with a great sense of progression, and a variety of objectives to complete at your leisure. It does have its imperfections with some anti-aliasing issues, but they aren't pronounced enough to cloud your enjoyment. If you're looking for a well defined, interesting story then I advise you to spend your time elsewhere. But however pedestrian the game's narrative may be, the gameplay makes for an experience you shouldn't overlook.
Photo Photo Photo








The early Assassin's Creed games had a particular rhythm that allowed for the congruence of ancient science-fiction elements, with the historical periods featured in each game. I'm not sure where this originated, but I first noticed the pattern with the Indiana Jones films. George Lucas carefully plotted the story to build the audience's interest in Indiana's fairly realistic goals, but then elevated the fiction to level that defies the audience's presumptions of what the diegesis previously entailed.

For example, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is venturing to acquire the titular treasure before the Nazis do. During his escapade, he endures trials of strength and wit, all normal obstacles for the hero of an action-adventure film. Though when it comes to the third act, the preceding logic of the film no longer applies. A supernatural facet is introduced to stupefy the audience, and also heighten the momentousness of Indiana's objectives. This introduction of the supernatural in the third act, is later reused to strong effect in The Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. The Uncharted series, Indiana Jones's videogame parallel, uses this plot structure for the exact same reasons.


Once part of background fiction, the Roman gods became integral to the plot of each game by Assassin's Creed 3


Spoilers follow.


The first three titles in the Assassin's Creed series use this same concept to develop the overarching mythology, focusing on the historical narrative first and foremost. Though as the franchise met an annual release schedule, the writers began to apply the ancient-scifi lore much more liberally. There's nothing wrong with expanding on the fiction of an established property, but issues arise with balancing the seclusion of the historical epoch from ancient science-fiction. By forcefully blurring the lines between actual history and the mythology of the series, the perplexity, and impact of the reveals in the third act, simply dissipate. This is because of the frequency at which these reveals occur, to the point that they're no longer reveals, and merely integral components of the game's expected plot. Of course, the mitigating impact of the mythology is aggravated by an annual release cycle.

Assassin's Creed Revelations, is the point at which the series suddenly squandered any grounding in reality, by sewing the ancient-scifi elements with the historical narrative. Even worse, the story taking place outside of the historical narrative, now takes place in a computer. Consequently, any fan of the overarching narrative, is fed too much information to remain in a consistent state of intrigue, and any player looking forward to the historical period, is impelled to sit through a marriage of historical-fiction, and science-fiction.


As the series progressed, the scifi narrative was promoted from a means to explore a historical period, to the reason why the historical period is explored.


Essentially, Revelations is about a man locked in a computer, reliving the memories of his ancestor, who is searching for a scifi artifact, but must relive the life of another ancestor through different artifacts, to find the artifact he initially sought after. Yeah, seriously. To top it off, another Roman god (for three games in a row, a new god has been revealed during the third act) is introduced preceding an information dump during the conclusion. By Assassin's Creed 3, the gods are peppered throughout both the historical narrative, and the setting outside the period, as it takes place in a futuristic temple that the gods created.

In the game that debuted the series, the ancient-scifi aspect of the narrative is mentioned once. The game immediately discloses its present day setting, but all that is known is that the scientists of the facility are searching for an artifact. The gods are only mentioned once, and are simply known as "those who came before". At the end of the medieval narrative that the protagonist relives, an ancient-scifi element is introduced. Again, this reveal in the third act is tolerable to those who enjoy the historical setting, and maintains curiosity with those invested in the mythology. It's a safe and effective means to tout the creativity of the studio, while appealing to those interested in history -- and for that reason, the same tempo is plied in Assassin Creed 2 and Brotherhood.

It's a shame to see a once compelling narrative lose its focus and become so inauspicious. By delineating the mythos from the historical period, Assassin's Creed was able to cater to two distinct audiences. Even though the two narratives of the franchise have converged, the series continues to sell well enough to warrant annual releases. Thus, the plot structure is unlikely to change, and continue to weaken intrigue until the games become purely spectacle, and a hodgepodge of saturated lore.
Photo Photo








Concealment. Corruption. A blade in a crowd. The imagery has become synonymous with the Assassin's Creed franchise, continually intriguing yet ultimately familiar. Pieced together as a travelogue in time, the series provides the player with the beauty of what used to be and allowing them to participate in the events that shaped the world we live in today. Ironically however, with the most recent titles set in an era of renaissance, the series has stagnated and lost its ambition for innovation.

Assassin's Creed III takes you on a journey through Colonial America in which immersion is brought to a height previous instalments aspired to achieve. In Desmond Miles's final chapter, you're thrown into the American Revolution. This odyssey takes place in an open world in it's purest form, allowing you to do what you want, how you want, across eightieth-century Boston and New York. The usual story missions prevail but there's also an abundance of side missions, that include building a community in homestead missions and battling foes and the ocean itself in naval missions. Furthermore, opportunities arise at every turn, whether it's hunting, thieving, fighting, or simply exploring the grand frontier between cities. Though much like the American Revolution, issues carried over from preceding projects are hardly improved upon or entirely disregarded.



The American Revolution unfolds through the eyes of Connor Kenway: a Mohawk assassin of tired origin. After his village was decimated by Charles Lee, Connor seeks the aid of American revolutionaries, namely, Sam Adams and George Washington, as he becomes a symbol of liberty, safeguarding the vox populi and struggling for new order. However, this amplitude of historical figures and events were not enough to develop characters or weave an interesting narrative past the first act. Thematically, there's not much comment on liberty beyond the actual historical implications, the game simply glances over the issues behind the conflicts of the time. None of the roles are fully realized either. You're simply guided from one quest to another never settling on a single character long enough to develop a connection or a comment on their disposition. Even Connor represents nothing of his culture further than his appearance and introduction. He's a plot device himself, revolutionaries simply ask him to perform various tasks so their goals may be satisfied, since Connor blindly complies to their every demand.

Contrarily, characters residing in the homestead are quite charming. Their missions are mere fetch quests and combat scenarios but are often a joy to complete. Seeing this aptly labeled community grow is a delight, as not only do they respect Connor's company, they begin to socialize and build relationships amongst one another. These interactions are coupled with the script's poorest writing, but still a pleasure. A sense of endearment accompanies these brief occurrences that portray a simpler time, when humble, hardworking families would move to the new world and share a modest life with their neighbours.

Variety is the spice of life. And Assassin's Creed III. But not its mission structure. You'll find yourself in different situations: a mixed bag of stealth, traversal and combat oriented objectives. At face value, it seems like you're carrying out a different assignment each time with the freedom to go about your own ways of accomplishing the task. In actuality, you'll be placed in unique situations with every sequence, though the game pressures you to complete tasks by its restrictions. For instance, missions often asks that you remain undetected, but the level design forces you to go in a specific direction because any other path results in detection. For a story that holds so much promise of liberty, it's quite restrictive in how it's executed. Although I should mention that the historical events that occur are thrilling none the less. Running around Breed Hill while bullets fire from every direction and terrain is torn apart by cannon fire, is a vigorous scene that outdoes any set piece from previous games.These gripping scenarios are plentiful and make great use of the gorgeous scenery, though they lack the options offered outside the narrative.



Malleable environments and freedom in traversal are stitched into the very fabrication of Assassin's Creed games. As a result, free running has undergone the most heavy alteration in the series, accommodating for the woodlands and compact cities of Colonial America. Though the lacklustre towns are but a reminder of the grandiose Italian and Turkish architecture. To fill the void of verticality, focus is redirected towards horizontal traversal, permitting you to rush through untouched forestry, an experience nothing short of exhilarating. Fluid animation allows for Connor to effortlessly run and swing about trees, making the exertion require little work and yet still be invigorating. The action is subjugated by a single button which in its simplicity, lets Connor navigate trees with agility, but hinders his momentum while on solid ground. Much like in previous entries, sprinting is mapped to the same button as climbing, therefore demanding absolute precision in what Connor comes into contact with. For example, should you graze part of the scenery while sprinting, Connor will immediately attempt to climb it. This issue is most evident in the many chase sequences. Having to repeat the same sixty seconds a dozen times due to Connor's obsession with climbing whatever seems to cross his path: is one of the most stressful vexations I've endured all year. Outside of these narrow situations, it isn't difficult to recover from these impediments -- though they may prove more than minor inconveniences for some.

Initially, new weapons such as the rope dart and longbow make open conflicts seem fresh. The truth is, combat has remained largely unchanged since Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. There are new ways to stay on the offensive side, even a button dedicated to breaking defence. Be that as it may, as the plot progresses you fall back in that familiar predicament of: wait, block, counter, repeat. It feels like the game is trying to mimic Arkham City's measured fighting mechanics but doesn't quite nail it -- you'll be hearing the clash of blades more often than actually securing an offensive strike. As realistic as they may be, firearms are somewhat of a bother to use. Shooting a bullet and waiting several seconds while Connor frantically reloads causes a gun to hardly be worth the trouble.



Comparisons to Red Dead Redemption will arise with any discussion of the game's prolific wildlife. However, Assassin's Creed III enhances the mechanic by the variety of ways in which you may hunt. Should you perform a clean kill with a tomahawk, the pelt recovered will increase in worth. But if your dark heart feels the need to tear apart a hare by means of a musket, expect to lose half the value. You can use bait, set snares, throw rope darts, or stalk your prey from a tree. Coming face to face with a predator delivers a less satisfying encounter, a mere quicktime event to determine success. These instances provide an exciting animation but get old quickly and lack proper engagement, leaving little sense of accomplishment. Working for the hunt by setting traps and hiding from prey is an ideal way to go about business, as watching Connor struggle to land a knife in a cougar's neck isn't as satisfying as diving off a tree to do so.

Unfortunately, this well designed hunting system provides little substance in the game itself. Viscera gathered from a kill can be sold to merchants or used in the reinvented crafting system. Recipes collected allow for animal parts to be combined with materials bought from artisans of the Homestead. Weapons, ammunition upgrades and decorations for Connor's home are the only products of value output from crafting. Promising as it may sound, the entire arrangement is disappointing to put it lightly. A byzantine interface and demanding process leaves the system worth little experimentation. Even for these minor upgrades you must possess the proper recipe, a particular artisan in your homestead, a certain amount of their missions to be completed, and the materials for the product itself. Other crafted items require the same amount of busywork and merely exist for the purpose of being shipped off on convoys as a primary source of income. Mind you there is also a limit to how many convoys you may possess, the amount of time before one can be sent out again, and a risk of robbery that corresponds with the value of the goods. This whole setup is a step backwards and a tedious process for nothing more than subsidiary improvements.



Needless to say, Ubisoft decided not to bring back real time strategy -- but I'm sure no one minds. Instead, a fresh route is taken with naval missions. In these escapades you're tasked with protecting or destroying a particular vessel. The controls are accessible and the ship's functions are as lucid as can be. Cannon fire requires you to sail parallel to your target, keeping in mind that the crew needs to reload with every shot fired. Speed is dictated by how much of the main sail is exposed. With that comes a challenge of its own, in how you must account for wind direction, pay attention to the the environment, and keep guard from waves crashing onto the ship. Throw enemy boats into the mix and now you have to balance when to fire your cannons, as proximity influences the amount of damage dealt to your targets. There's even a variety of upgrades to refine your craft. This may sound overwhelming, but honestly seems more complex than it really is. These voyages handle well, and the game does an excellent job of easing you into more difficult endeavours.

In the present day, Desmond and his pals are globetrotting, trying to find power cores to help them access a vault. These short adventures lack direction and mostly consist of moving from point A to point B. It's clear that they exist merely for creating some kind of conflict in the present-day narrative.The conversations you partake in are well written, but some less frequently visited characters are poorly developed and leave the diegesis not too long after their introduction. The Assassin's Creed fiction has lost a lot of the mystery and intrigue that it once had. Having abandoned much of the mystique and subtlety of the first two titles, this instalment relies on established lore. Except when it comes to the ending -- which seemed a bit rushed, throwing in some plot twists and leaving some aspects entirely unexplained.



Finding yourself in the animus with each iteration is always exciting. It's particularly fascinating how the art direction always reinforces a sci-fi element, while maintaining the magnificence of the era. A new triangle-like web dominates most of the game's onscreen indicators, reminiscent of the rhythmic verticality of Assassin's Creed II. There are a lot of nesting menus, which may complicate things at first but are easy to adjust to. Watching transitions between chapters are even more stirring than before -- environments falling apart and rebuilding piece by piece has never been as mesmerizing.

The score is great, though not as memorable as previous titles, lacking much of the ominous electric undertones that were so well implemented in Jesper Kyd's work. Although the main theme is jubilant and patriotic, something that you might catch yourself humming.

The eighteenth century is well detailed and beaming with colour. The cities, forestry, wildlife and characters all carry examples of impressive animations. Connor himself moves smoothly yet still depicts a weight to his walk with changes in environment adding further variance. Even weather has an effect on characters, such as them commenting on the heat in the summer or trudging through snow in the winter. However there were some instances where bugs affected how enemies would traverse a blanketed field. The frame rate also slightly declines in high action sequences -- doubtfully a problem on any platform besides Playstation 3.



The game is a well researched trek through Colonial America, filled with some clever concepts, though many of them miss the mark on execution. Missions in the game are compelling in subject matter but are limiting in choice and offer little reward for optional objectives. Fans of the series should enjoy the overall presentation, even with the third act being rather unsatisfying. However, audiences looking for major innovations may be disappointed -- it's simply a change in venue with some interesting ideas. Nevertheless it's an entertaining experience and anyone who's fascinated with the setting, invested in the series or appreciates a well designed open world should be well at home.
Photo Photo Photo








Remember the first time you walked around The Deku Tree in Ocarina of Time? It taught you the ropes: sights, sounds, and all the monster slaying in between. "Cobweb in the way? I can burn it. Strange flora? Must be dangerous. A change of music? I'm ready for a fight. Jovial chime? The room is clear." You're comfortable. You know what to expect because you've been taught that certain sounds, and certain visuals, indicate the presence, of certain obstacles -- and that's fine, this is a fantastical action-adventure game.

However in a survival horror, like Dead Space 3, these audial and visual cues can be a detriment to the very fear the game is trying to instill. Dead Space 3 actually employs these qualities so well, you know what to expect from each area. A good horror game needs that haunted house feel; invoking a fear in the player that immediately causes dread, and in the process, removes any comfortability. This should come naturally from the congruence of audio, visuals, and the interaction the player assumes.


If you can look past the chicken dance, there's still nothing scary about how this talent enters the stage.


The visuals are gruesome enough, but where Dead Space 3 really loses its focus is the music, or more specifically, the very presence of music at all. The series has some of the best sound editing in the industry, but for whatever reason Visceral Games felt that a score was also needed. Music can add or subtract from fear, through a chilling soundtrack like that of Silent Hill 2, or unsettling irony, like in Bioshock. But Dead Space 3 instead adds a triumphant score to complement vistas or chapter endings, removing all sense of danger. Sounds familiar? Sounds comforting? Because that's the same effect used to plot accomplishments in Ocarina of Time's dungeons. In Dead Space 3, music that accompanies combat tides in before the threat is even present, and only recedes when said threat is eliminated, removing all tension and essentially composing the fight's cadence for the player. I am well aware that the music can be turned off from the settings menu, but I feel like the music wasn't even necessary. A lot of money would have been saved while contributing to the game's atmosphere.


Ducts in the Dead Space series are used the same way anomalous plants are in 3D Zelda games.


This predictability is further accentuated by the blatant enemy spawn points. While walking around a seemingly empty room, you'll notice conspicuous ducts on the walls and ceiling. Guess what? Yeah you're right -- these holes are the only places enemies emerge from. Not only does this ready you for combat, it strips the room of any jump scares. In later parts of the game, you run about structures that aren't even manmade -- but hey, the enemies have to spawn somewhere right? That's why there are duct-like apertures everywhere.

Visceral does take advantage of the game's more frigid vistas, and delivers genuine surprises by lessening the player's vision; an effect reminiscent of Silent Hill's fog. Enemies may spring up from snow, or sprint through a blizzard. Though I'm bemused by how little this was used. Instead of having enemies spawn from the obvious locations, why not have them tear through a door, a wall, or the floor? This would have removed the anticipation of an attack, and therefore, mitigate any visual cues that were previously applicable. Apparently necromorphs have the strength to tear people apart limb from limb, but when it comes to walls they're impotent.

I understand that these issues were prevalent in previous games in the series, but they are definitely most pronounced in this third instalment. These may not have been issues for some, but I believe that removing audial and visual cues from the game, could have strengthened the caliber of horror found in the Dead Space series as a whole, but most primarily, in Dead Space 3.