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Star Wars Has a Villain Problem

Disclaimer: this is an editorial where I speak my personal opinion about recent Star Wars antagonists and it contains spoilers from The Last Jedi and Star Wars: Battlefront II.

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It's has been a long time since I wrote in ComicVine (my last blog was written in March of last year ffs), but I decided that this is the best way I could convey my thoughts about a current trend in Star Wars. The villains under the Disney brand have been nothing short of disappointment and wasted potential in my opinion. I refer mostly to the movies though rather than any of the comics or the Rebels cartoon, both of which I have not read or watch (I've seen only the premiere of Rebels and got turned off immediately, but that is besides the point), so I won't include dudes like Thrawn into this rant, or any villains from the comics either.

Good villains are very hard to pull off. Until this year, Marvel Studios has had a bad track record of forgettable and bland villains both in their movies and tv shows: for every Loki was outnumbered by Malekith and Killian for every Kingpin was outnumbered by Nobu and Harold Meachum. They got their stuff get together somewhat by making great villains like Ego the Living Planet (who is pure evil, but his motivation makes sense for him) and Vulture (who is likable and one of the highpoints of Homecoming, a movie I particularly didn't care about). But it seems Lucasfilms' policy is just make them an Empire member and poof, you have a bad guy. You don't need to put more effort into this and I actually have a feeling that there is a mandate preventing villains from being too sympathetic, cool or even threatening. They are either generic buffoons or pathetic pushovers.

Literally every theory regarding who is Snoke would have been better than what we got in the movie
Literally every theory regarding who is Snoke would have been better than what we got in the movie

I have several problems with the First Order, such as being such powerful superpower in spite of being underdogs in the new timeline, but lets focus in its individual characters. With a very few exceptions, I'd be hard pressed to call any members of the First Order interesting or compelling in some way. They mostly come across as one-dimensional villains that lack any depth, nor any motivation why they are so fascistic. We have Supreme Leader Snoke, a lame ass excuse of a Palpatine clone with a ridiculous name reserved for a fanfic OC villain. Many fans like to argue that Supreme Leader Snoke was no different than the Emperor since his backstory wasn't revealed in the OT, but the viewer had no preconceived knowledge about the Star Wars universe in the original movies and the Emperor was actually charming and charismatic (albeit that was more in the prequels), something Snoke lacks. Everyone should have seen his anti-climatic death coming a mile away when Rian Johnson said on interviews he had no interest in developing the character and his purpose was to be the Big Bad and nothing more, because that is indicative that. General Hux who got a very chilling scene where he makes a Nazi-esque speech in TFA is turned into an absolute joke that gets "yo momma" jokes. And lets not get into Captain Phasma, perhaps one of the most offensive wastes of actors I ever seen. You cast Brienne of Tarth into Star Wars and hypes her up as Boba Fett of the sequels and in a way, she is like Fett since she got disposed in the most anti-climatic way possible. I can't imagine people still caring about that character and hoping that she returns for the final movie, because clearly nobody knows what do do with her.

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Kylo Ren has been pointed out by some as the most compelling antagonist in the Sequel Trilogy. Though I have been critical of him in the past, I can see why is he is well-liked by some because he might actually be more than Rey herself since he undergoes some kind of struggle such as resisting the "allure of the light side". With that said, the character has been also described as a "bullied nerd" and the epitome of "toxic masculinity", indicating that he wasn't supposed to be sympathetic, meaning that if he is actually likable it was completely by accident. The same can be said about FN-2199 aka TR-8R. All memes aside, the character became unexpectedly popular even more so than Captain Phasma herself and I doubt that was Disney's intention.

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This isn't exclusive to the First Order either. The main antagonist of Rogue One Director Orson Krennic is the epitome of the Big Bad Wannabe trope, a smug snake that gets pushed around by his co-workers and ultimately has his thunder stolen by someone else. He is completely pathetic despite being supposed to be the villain of the story since he has personal ties with Jyn Erso and some such. The natural exception is Darth Vader, who has the best scene in the whole movie, despite having a grand total of 3 minutes. Speaking as someone that actually enjoyed Rogue One, I have also been frustrated by it ever since Garth Edwards' artistic vision was compromised during the reshoots. He wanted to make a war movie that showed the Rebels in a more grey light and the Empire in a more positive way. Disney vetoed this and kept the Rebels grey, but made the Empire pure evil. I know that some will feel that Rogue One was better off this way after the reshoots, I would have certainly like to have seen Edwards' original version at least so I could say whether it was better or worse than the final product we got.

And then there is Battlefront II, which is such a dumpster fire for a myriad of reasons regarding gameplay that could make up a blog post of its own, but lets focus on the storyline which was one of the most anticipated features of the game that got buried by much bigger controversies regarding lootboxes and microtransactions, perhaps for good reasons, since the story is absolutely forgettable even by FPS standards. You play as Iden Versio, an commander of the Inferno Squad that is completely committed to the Empire's ideals. You might think that having the brainthrust responsible for Spec Ops the Line would have made some really compelling storytelling and we would actually see things from the Empire's perspective, that maybe not all people on their side are bad. Alas, this was not the case, since Versio deserts the Empire upon witnessing their atrocities and quickly joins with the Rebellion. This has happened in the old Expanded Universe so many times, its a cliche at this point. Now I will admit... This was most definitely not Lucasfilms' fault, and probably Electronic Arts being the lazy hacks that they are decided to go through the most overused storyline featuring any Imperial protagonist in Star Wars lore.

Beware Neo-Nazis, they are admitting minorities in their amidst. Stay woke.
Beware Neo-Nazis, they are admitting minorities in their amidst. Stay woke.

Its also unfortunate that Star Wars got dragged into a political battlefield too - not that Star Wars wasn't a stranger to this before, since the Empire and the First Order were strongly inspired by Nazis and Palpatine has being inspired by Richard Nixon. However, if you have been in the internet long enough, you probably heard people comparing Donald Trump to the Empire/First Order, which is a frankly absurd comparison because when get down to both of them, you don't see any similarities between Trump's policies with the Imperials unless if you stretch really hard to some vague definition of "fascism" - you don't hear any talks about a wall, "making x great again" or anything of this sort. For example, one of Rogue One's writers Chris Weitz made a now deleted tweet where he called the Empire a "human supremacist movement", which is a correct assertion according to established lore. However he made that point to connect it with white supremacists, which fell flat on its face due to Versio's actress being Indian, Bodhi's is a Pakistani and Finn is black, and while all three end up defecting, it was most definitely not because of discrimination based on their race. If they did had to make a comparison to real life, the First Order at least has more in common with the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (employing child soldiers to perform horrible atrocities against a dominant superpower that doesn't know how to contain them) as well as North Korea and Iran (they are governed by a self-styled "Supreme Leader"). I wish this was merely a fringe view, but this has been embraced by several people and Weitz is not the only writer under Star Wars who shares the same sentiment. Chuck Wendig also does the same thing, but less said about his body of work the better or else this essay would be completely derailed.

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I have a distinct feeling that one of the reasons why villains in Star Wars can't have sympathetic or identifiable motivations are because the people currently politicizing it are afraid that their alleged real-life counterparts will be emboldened by these movies. I won't give names, but there is a part of the fanbase unable to distinguish reality from fiction and thinks that these movies are not made to entertain the masses, but to demoralize an "opposite side" perceived as "fascist". I imagine that if an Imperial was depicted as a protagonist but never sided with the Rebellion/The Resistance, a backlash would ensue due to "fascists being portrayed in a positive way". Or perhaps even worse, a minority that completely embraces fascist ideals of the Empire and which would have been extremely "problematic". It sounds ridiculous, but the neurotic Twitter mobs have been assembled to harass others for less than this. Remember when Joss Whedon was chased out of the platform for allegedly inserting a "rape joke" in Age of Ultron or because they lack reading comprehension and misconstrued Black Widow's line about her being a monster due to her being unable to have children? This is just the one example that comes from the top of my head. Another egregious case was the fake news that Jennifer Lawrence would have been cast as Mulan in its live-action remake by a tabloid blog. Nevermind it was baseless rumor with no confirmation from Disney, it did not stop the mindless masses from protesting over "white-washing" and assembling a petition with over 100,000 signatures demanding that she wouldn't play the role. Notice how quickly these people mobilize in panic over anything considered un-PC.

If you think I am exaggerating: do yourself a favor and research the hashtag #starwarshatespoc. There are those upset that Kylo Ren received more characterization and screentime than the heroic characters portrayed by minorities. There is also this article highly critical of the Last Jedi naming all the shortcomings of a movie that profess itself "progressive" and "liberal" but falls short of it. Of course, looking at the number of posts and retweets that hashtag contains, it definitely qualifies as a fringe view... But just imagine the scenarios I proposed in the paragraph above and the backlash would have been unbearable for them to handle, and this is precisely why Disney will never allow them to play out.

I would have liked seeing something like Abeloth...
I would have liked seeing something like Abeloth...

Or maybe, the less sinister reason why they don't make better villains is this: they are just that lazy. They are sitting on the biggest cashcow franchise in history, they have the blue print to make loads of money which is Rebels vs the Empire, meaning there is no need to take risks and fans will enjoy it no matter what. For as much praise the sequels get for how innovative they are (specially TLJ), they still play it safe with the most archetypical conflict in Star Wars ever, featuring a Emperor-expy, a Darth Vader-expy, Stormtroopers with slightly different designs and massive super-weapons against a ragtag bunch of plucky rebels, because that is what fans want the most and that is what they identify it better. Which wouldn't be so bad, if the formula wasn't so stagnant. I suppose it can't be helped because the Expanded Universe already came up with even some more interesting variants of the Empire like the Fel Empire in the Legacy comics, which was more lawful neutral than actually evil, and Disney seems to be almost adverse in treading into EU ground. The point is: the MCU managed to get its shit together and write some really compelling villains for their narratives, while Lucasfilms doesn't seem to be able to reach the same ground.

I have to wonder what will happen when the sequel trilogy is concluded and they want to go forward with this new trilogy... What are they going to do next? Repeat the same cycle of rebels fighting imperials all over again, which would have made whatever victory achieved by the Resistance pointless just like the sequel trilogy made the Rebel Alliance's victory in ROTJ pointless? How long are we going to push the same kind of story over and over again? Would Disney try to create their own equivalent to the Vongs or Abeloth? I doubt so, given they are extremely controversial. But if Disney had actually some bold people in charge to do what they wanted without caring about the risk, they would have. And they certainly would get away with it, since they enjoy a privilege position as controlling several successful IPs, but they decide to play it safe because they have a dedicated fanbase that will enjoy whatever is given to them and are actively hoping it becomes a monopoly over entertainment, or at least that is how they view it. There is saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" but everything has a boiling point... The Transformers movies used to make a lot of money, but the The Last Knight bombed hard that not even China could save it. Lets see what is Star Wars' limit and considering the current numbers in China aren't impressive and merchandise is taking a plunge, it may come sooner than you expect.

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Dragonborn Previews: Middle-Earth - Shadow of War

Wew lads. I have returned after more than an year and I decided to come back with a blog about my thoughts on a upcoming sequel to a game I loved 3 years ago... Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. In case you don't know I reviewed the game with my friend scorpion2501 when it came out and you can check it out here.

First we will go over the facts and then I will post what I am hoping for this game in particular.

What has been revealed so far.

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- The plot picks up immediately afer first game ended with the ranger Talion and his undead elf buddy Celebrimbor deciding to forge a new Ring of Power to beat Sauron. And the two now aim to raise an army to defeat the Dark Lord Sauron, even if they risk getting corrupted and becoming just as bad as Sauron themselves.

- In the first game you were limited to two locations only, Udun and Sea of Nurnen. You can now visit up to 6 locations with Osgiliath, Minas Morgul, Cirith Ungol, Gorgoroth, Nurnem and Seregost.

- You are able to control huge armies of your own right and use them to take control of a certain region by assaulting an enemy stronghold and defeating the local overlord.

- In addition to Caragors and Graugs, Fire drakes (dragons in young form) are available to ride.

- Your branded orcs have a more dynamic relationship with you, being able to form bonds of friendship and loyalty and actually help you out in crucial moments. Likewise, if you abandon or lose any of them, they might get resurrected by Sauron and awarded with a fraction of his power that prevents you from ever branding them again.

- The combat has been slightly altered but gained a few tweaks, while the usual Arkham Batman series gameplay is still the same, Talion is able to perform better executions, fire arrows in mid-air and among other things that were enabled by his own ring of power.

What I expect of the game?

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Plotwise, I really don't expect much. I enjoyed the first game, lore-breaking aside, but I was genuinely disappointed by the ending and many plot threads being left hanging without conclusion. Also the fact that Sauron, the game's final boss got cut and sold separately on DLC pissed me off to no end since in the actual game you only get a stupid QTE segment, which is absolutely inexcusable for game design. All I want is a decent ending... I am not really excited for a sprawling storyline or anything like that, since open-world games tend to be more lighter on narrative by their very nature.

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One aspect that really got me excited is being able to lead your own orc/uruk army which is a culmination of what the Nemesis System could lead up in the first game, but you only saw a glimpse of it during the climax. Now what really got my skepticism on alert is how your orc minions will assist in you a fight. The gameplay vid was very impressive in showing them in action, but it didn't actually show how the player had any input in directing them or how to active them to help you in a particular boss fight. You should always be wary of gameplay vids that look too cinematic, specially if made by the developers, because in this day and age after games like No Man Sky, it doesn't hurt being skeptical of every thing you see, specially from studios that you trust.

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Though my wish for enemy variety has been granted with the introduction of olog-hai trolls and magic-wielding orcs, I am still hoping to see Easterlings and Haradrim as part of the Nemesis system, given that we have a black guy featured in the story and his identity hasn't been unveiled at the time of writing on whether or not he will be an ally or an enemy, its possible that the men of Harad will make an appearance. The Witch-King of Angmar and at least one Balrog have been confirmed so far, but its unlikely they will be regular enemies and will only be limited to story-bits.

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Another one is the ability to ride dragons, since this is one idea that will never stop be not awesome. I was particularly frustrated with later games like the one that inspired my username giving the ability to ride dragons, but it wasn't as exciting as it should have been. I do hope being able to ride dragons is manageable, though given how small the maps can be, there won't be much flying around the maps.

One last bit is that I hope there will be actual meaningful content in this open world. The last game had some nice sidequests that gave you some awesome upgrades, though it largely made the relatively easy combat even easier, there were things that made no sense like some ancient relics that provided some lore background and a mural in Elvish that you could unlock by finding little bits around the world that had no real purpose or meaningful reward, it was tackled there to keep the player busy. I am fine with the maps being small as long as there is meaningful content. While the developers have promised unique stories for every single player, that is actually a fancy way of saying randomly generated content that doesn't affect the plot in a meaningful way like say, Dragon Age or Mass Effect (and even those are loose examples).

What should leave you wary?

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It should come to not surprise that I am very wary of pre-order culture or any exclusives or collector editions that are announced before the game is even released. Watch_Dogs was particularly brutal about that announcing 5 collector editions, leaving consumers with no idea which one contained the most content. Now what really worries me about Shadow of War is that before its proper announcement, the game already has 4 DLC (two labelled as Nemesis DLC, the other two as Story ones, the latter likely to be extra missions similar to Shadow of Mordor's The Bright Lord DLC). You are right to be afraid/angry to see already-made content locked behind a paywall.

I am planning on getting this game on PC, but I am not very sure if I should given how poorly optimized AAA games tend to be released on PC at least during launch. Even if Shadow of Mordor did have an alright release on PC, you can never trust the precedents anymore. While the price for consoles have dropped in the last 4 years, I am very hesitant to buy a new one with the lack of backwards compability.

That is all my thoughts for now. Are you excited for Shadow of War? What platform you are getting?

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Caio Reviews: Justice League - War

Soooooooooooooooooooooooo.... This is kinda of a immediate review as I just finished watching it at the moment. You see, I never got around watching this particular animated movie when it came out. But since I am currently in a mood for superheroes, I decided to give this movie a chance. It has been a long time since I got the chance to review anything in this site's anyways. So here is a brief review blog.

Inspired by Justice League: the Origin comic book from the New 52.... *Sigh* You already know the drill right? We are on comic book site which plenty of people are familiar with what happened in the source material. Okay, fine. This is the adaptation for the Justice League's origin story in the rebooted DC universe, where Supes, Bats, Wondy, Flash, Hal Jordan, Shazam and Cyborg banding together to stop Darkseid from invading Earth. (Except it was Aquaman in the source material instead of Shazam but whatever...)If you notice my peculiar brevity in summarizing the plot, unlike my other reviews which I go in exiquisite detail - barring the fact that I am writing this down just a few minutes after watching the movie so I am giving my instant thoughts because I can't afford to write this up later with my busy schedule - is that there isn't much else to say about the movie. Not saying its a necessarily bad one, but actually middle-down-the-road, the definition of average, which can be worse than bad depending on your point of view. The plot is the generic alien invasion stopped by the heroes. Seriously, if you never even established that those guys are from Apokolips and renamed them something else entirely, you would never notice the difference. Darkseid's intentions, personality or backstory are never referenced or explained, or why he wants to take over the world? Just cause.

Most of the main characters lack any real depth to them and oft come across as unlikable and unsympathetic. The exceptions are Cyborg and Batman, the former for most character development in the movie and the latter for being most sensible and pragmatic of the bunch. The rest in the other hand... Flash is alright but he is kinda forgettable, Shazam is a little prick, Green Lantern was the forced comic relief. Oh they captured Hal's overconfidence and arrogance, but he was a clown most of the movie who kept putting his foot in his mouth., Wonder Woman is alright too; I like how the give her a Thor-like personality which amused me more than Hal Jordan and I would have liked her better if they didn't try to force her romance with Supes. By the way, I really really hated how Supes was handled in this movie... Yes, I know he is not the paragon of virtue in the New 52 comics, but holy s**t they made him so smug and aggressive I really did not like it - he is trying to f***ing kill Bats and GL ffs!!!. And there was one scene which made me facepalm disappointed when Supes kills Desaad - which I bet did not cause end of grieving when it came out close to MoS for similar reasons - and don't get me wrong I am one of the people who like that movie too, but talk about poor timing.

The animation is solid, though it can get a bit wonky during the fight scenes or particularly any time Wonder Woman swings her sword. Something that really bothered me about the fight scenes is that you see - the first time the heroes (Green Lantern and Batman) encounter a Parademon (one of Darkseid's stormtroopers), they give them a hell of a fight which ends without the heroes taking it down properly, but rather the Parademon blowing itself up. You think they'd be in deep sh** once Parademons start coming out in numbers, but they are all being taken down by the droves. What the hell? One mook is problematic, but plenty of them in a fight just turn into cannon fodder. Also one last thing... The final fight reaaaaally dragged out longer than it should have... Its really not helped that 80% of the movie is made up of fight scenes and there is no time to catch a breath towards the end.

Final Score

4/10 - At the end of the day, it was an okay siting for me. Trust me if it was really anything worse, I'd already have switched off the channel or quit before the movie ended. Still I managed to sit through. Depending what kind of Superman fan you are, good chances you will dislike what they did to him here. Since most characters are jerks anyway, it would have bee hard imagining caring to what happens to them one way or another. There are a few positives here and there, but they are not enough to be this movie's saving grace - Cyborg's character development is probably the best thing the movie has to offer but it can't carry by itself. At the end of the day, its a below average, mostly harmless movie that you won't miss anything if you don't watch it. I did because I am in a urge to play superhero games and the like at the moment and I never saw it before so I decided to give it a chance so there is that.

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Caio Rants: The Downfall of Ubisoft

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The year of 2014 may be remembered as one of the ugliest stains in gaming history. Prevasive greed in the AAA companies, hugely anticipated titles that failed to deliver the hype, sex scandals that unveiled blatant corruption in gaming journalism and culminated in a cultural war that later spilled into mainstream media, financial losses and faith lost among many people, products were released half-finished and whored out for DLC, one of the worst droughts in recent memory and overall a terrible manner to open the 8th generation of gaming. We should probably wish to forget 2014 but with the effects still being felt in this year, it appears it won't go away any time soon. If there is one thing that stuck out as a sore thumb was the quick fall from grace for French-Canadian dev/publisher company Ubisoft.

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Ubisoft had a pretty solid reputation and holds ownership of some well-loved games such as Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell, Assassin's Creed, Rayman and Far Cry. For people who don't know me, I am a massive fan of Prince of Persia, Far Cry and above all else Assassin's Creed - its probably one of my favorite video game franchises of all time and I've declared my love for the series time and time again, devoting reviewing all major releases in the past. Even then as my role as a fan, I felt its necessary to "be cruel in order to be kind" and call out what Ubisoft did wrong last year as well past that. You see they commanded no small respect for console users, but PC gamers in the other hand where treated like they carried the f*cking plague. It was Ubi that introduced the concept of DRM which stands for "digital restrictions management" which a general term for access control mechanisms implemented on digital media to limit what a user can and cannot do with it. In theory, it should be used to prevent piracy and reduce availability of illegal copies, but in practice, DRM punishes the legal buyer for what pirates are doing and doesn't work as intended due to poor implementation. It requires you to remain online all the damn time and if even a slightest connectivity hitch occurs, you're booted from your game and lose any unsaved progress. Assassin's Creed 2 and Splinter Cell Conviction have since had the always-online requirement removed; the games must now "only" access the Internet each time they start up. And how it fares towards the legit customers? The servers used for this scheme went down not even a week after release, making the games unplayable at all for these poor souls. This sh*t is so bad this is what Konrad Tomazschiesk from CD Projekt Red, the creators of The Witcher series had to say:

Let the Witcher guys speak.
Let the Witcher guys speak.

“In my opinion, DRM is the worst thing in the gaming industry. It’s limiting our rights to play games owned by us. Let’s imagine that you have a game that requires internet connection to prove that you actually bought it. What if you lose your connection because of your internet provider? You can’t play anymore. It is worth mentioning that many people in Poland or even in the US and other countries still don’t have an internet connection or have a very slow one. I was in such a situation once and I really didn’t understand why I couldn’t play games that I had bought. I believe that as long as people feel that companies are cheating them by selling games they cannot play freely, limiting their rights, and making unfair DRM, then they will fight against that (...) Pirancy is often an example of trying to fight the system. Do you know that there are people on pirate forums raging on guys that downloaded Witcher 2 from torrents and didn’t pay for it? In fact, they try to convince everybody to simply buy the game. Our fans out there really appreciate that we trust them and that we treat them with honesty and respect. For us, they are friends and we treat them so. We believe that DRM is not stopping piracy but can be a real pain for legal users. And if this is the case, why would you want to punish your customers instead of supporting them? We are receiving a huge number of letters from people who think alike and support us. I believe that we are slowly changing the way the game industry thinks. There will always be people who don’t have money and will download our games from torrents. But I believe that if they will have more cash in the future, then they will buy our next titles to help us fight for gamers’ rights.”

No wonder CD Projekt earns so much respect from consumers, specially PC users, the Witcher guys are some of the most honest f*ckers out there. The DRM is so ludicrously draconian it inadvertadly encourages piracy instead of fighting against it. Keep in mind all of this I am mentioning now happened in the past 5 or 6 years, long before Ubi's fall from grace. It wasn't noticeable to most people (except PC users obviously) probably because other companies that picked DRM themselves and combined with other consumer unfriendly practices got more attention and let them slide.

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In 2012 E3, Watch_Dogs was announced with its very impressive trailer and for the course of a year had built up the hype, stating that would have been the game that justified the conversion from last-gen to current one, which grew so out of proportion there was no believable way the project could live up their expectations. The release was pushed over time and time again, and when it seemed to come around the same time as Grand Theft Auto V's release, Ubisoft pushed it over again for 6 four months, it was when people were starting to lose hope and smell something fishy. By the time the product was finally out, the graphics turned out to be inferior by people that were otherwise blown away by its announcement trailer, the final product was a less remarkable visual experience and far from the next-gen graphical revolution that was promised. What made things worse is when it was discovered much later original graphics from 2012 were still within the game, as discovered by hackers. Which means Ubisoft deliberately downgraded the game's graphics and shipped off an inferior product to costumers.

To this day, Ubisoft remained in silence and never explained why they would do something like this. The most is that they are so grossly incompetent they couldn't code the stuff in time, not even with all the extra months they had to deliver a proper product, either they were trying to shill for Sony by focusing in the PS3 and PS4 consoles, since their live-action movie is under production of their movie studio. Or the cynic in me believes they were trying to sell graphics as DLC on the disk, which is probably too absurd even to their own standards but who knows?

And what happened with Watch_Dogs was peanuts compared to the seventh entry in the Assassin's Creed series, AC Unity. You know at this point, we had one AC game per year ever since 2009 with AC 2 and some people have been saying that Creed is becoming the Call of Duty of action-adventure games. Being the biggest AC fan in vicinity I will be the first to say "You are 110% right motherf*cker". People are just exhausted of games being pumped out every year, being the same thing as the last but slightly improved and that is when they aren't trying new stuff that doesn't make sense like adding naval battles in a stealth game. Hell, I admit Black Flag was an great PIRATE game, but it didn't deserve being called ASSASSIN's Creed by any chance. It has been stated that is official policy of Ubisoft that they won't even try making a new game if it means they can't make an franchise out of it and milk it entirely of its own worth. This attitude is so common that in fact, it was lead by W_D being unveiled too early.

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Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot "forced" Ubisoft Montreal to reveal Watch Dogs at E3 2012, despite the studio initially believing that it was too early to show off the game.

"They forced us to go at E3 2012," said creative director Jonathan Morin speaking in the latest issue of EDGE. "We didn't know what the hell those new consoles would be, so Watch Dogs really has worked on [seventh]-gen systems since the start. But we always pushed the ideas, the design, the core of Watch Dogs in such a way that we felt it would fit well with what we thought would be the future of games.

"Yves was the one who wanted us to go at that E3, even though we felt it was a bit early, and in the end I think he was right."

Watch Dogs had initially been scheduled to launch alongside next-gen consoles in November 2013, but saw a last minute delay pushing it into 2014. The game is finally due to launch almost two years after its initial reveal on May 27.

However, the game may launch to scrutiny from some gamers who have accused Watch Dogs' visuals of being "downgraded" since its initial reveal – something the publisher refutes.

In retrospective, I was already afraid of that happening waaaay back in 2013 when I expressed fears of the franchise getting past its prime while expressing some heavy skepticism towards Black Flag being announced just an year after Assassin's Creed III. Who could have told that it was when the series attempted to return to its roots. Despite allegedly being in development for 6 years (roughly around the same time as Brotherhood), the game was announced pretty late in comparison to its previous installment with just a few months left to release. Instead of doing the most sensible thing and push its release to work more on the issues, they had to to release it this year or they would go crazy if they didn't it.

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Thing is Ubisoft knew from get to go that Unity was going to be a catastrophe, so they set out to restrict information about it before the game even came out. Some of you probably aren't familiar about review embargos so I will give you the main gist: they are for comparison' sake, the video game equivalent of early screenings for movie critics; publishers give free copies for journalists and reviewers usually a week before the game's official launch so they can beat the game, write material about it and post it on the release's date. Its done so that all outlets can get a fair shot at posting their reviews without having to rush out and give their information before anyone else, those that break embargos by publishing a review before launch day get blacklisted and no longer receive early copies or some exclusive coverage and stuff like that, leaving these journalists at a massive disadvantage. This is all fine and good, but what is the kicker? Ubisoft set the embargo a day after the release of the game, meaning that reviewers could not spread the word around just yet.

Why would they do that, you may ask? By keeping information out of the public as long as possible, they can maximize profit from zero-day sales and pre-orders before the word gets around that maybe, just maybe this game might be kind of a stinker. This is not the first time it happened with a very anticipated AAA title. 2013's Aliens: Colonial Marines, one of the most infamous cases of misleading advertisements and general disappointments in gaming's recent years went through the same process of witholding reviews a day after release. This is a shady, predatory practice out to make more suckers that aren't very skeptical to begin with.

No Caption Provided
Remember when they once said animating female characters was too difficult? I totally believe them.
Remember when they once said animating female characters was too difficult? I totally believe them.

Upon release Unity was loaded with technical issues and glitches across all platforms with PC being hit the hardest (because of course), suffering with all its bugs, crashes AND the aforementioned draconic DRM which they were trying to hide with the post-launch embargo. The issues included but were not limited to disturbing facial deformation, hilarious floating, framerate dropping and random crashes. Its simply humiliating for a company that has been in the business for this long to f*ck up that epically in the most basic level. And that is, believe it or not, just the least of AC Unity's problems. If you could ignore the technical issues, there are still a load of nonsense that you had to deal with like microtransactions - which you have to use real game money to buy some certain items locked in the game and overall, which is a throughout disgusting practice in AAA titles which you already have to spend 60 dollars (or how about 210 reais if you live in Brazil) and still spend even more money to get stuff that should have been in the full game to begin with.

I'd so grateful to be reminded what Michael Jackson dance move is this.
I'd so grateful to be reminded what Michael Jackson dance move is this.

And as absurd as this sounds, that is not even the worst part. In a effort to pull out the fires from people pissed off, they had the brilliant idea of offering free games as compensation if you bought the season pass, but this comes with a catch. If you sign the contract to get the free game, you forfeit your right to charge legal process against Ubisoft... Forever. By accepting the contract, you are releasing your right as a consumer to held them accountable for screwing you up as the term of condition below displays.

You hereby irrevocably and unconditionally RELEASE, WAIVE, AND FOREVER DISCHARGE AND COVENANT NOT TO SUE Ubisoft Entertainment S.A., and each of its past, present and future divisions, parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, predecessors, successors and assigns, together with all of their respective past, present and future employees, officers, shareholders, directors and agents, and those who give recommendations, directions, or instructions or engage in risk evaluation or loss control activities regarding the Campaign (all for the purposes herein referred to as “Released Parties”) FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY TO YOU, your assigns, heirs, and next of kin FOR ANY AND ALL CLAIMS, DEMANDS, CHARGES, LAWSUITS, DEBTS, DEFENSES, ACTIONS OR CAUSES OF ACTION, OBLIGATIONS, DAMAGES, LOSS OF SERVICE, COMPENSATION, PAIN AND SUFFERING, ATTORNEYS’ FEES, AND COST AND EXPENSES OF SUIT, KNOWN OR UNKNOWN, SUSPECTED OR UNSUSPECTED, ARISING OUT OF OR RELATED TO THE PURCHASE, ACQUISITION, RENTAL, POSSESSION AND/OR USAGE, AND/OR THE INTENT TO PURCHASE, ACQUIRE, RENT, POSSESS AND/OR USE, THE ASSASSIN’S CREED UNITY VIDEO GAME AND/OR THE ASSASSIN’S CREED UNITY SEASON PASS ON ANY AND ALL PLATFORMS, AND/OR RELATED TO THE CAMPAIGN, WHETHER CAUSED BY THE NEGLIGENCE OF THE RELEASED PARTIES OR OTHERWISE.

Un. F*ckin. Believable. This is Mephistopheles level of BS.
Un. F*ckin. Believable. This is Mephistopheles level of BS.

The company made so many f*ck ups that Forbes had declared it to be the new EA and rightfully so. Do you have any idea of what that is like? Electronic Arts is usually held like the "Big Bad" of corporate industry in video games, representing everything that is wrong with AAA. They embrace all the anti-consumer practices that other companies had made like season pass, DRM, milking franchises of all its worth, rushing out releases to increase their bottom line. They have been building up this reputation for years, there is a reason why they were named Worst Company of America for two years in a row and somehow, in less time than EA, Ubisoft manages to look much worse. EA now fairs much better by sheer virtue of not being Ubisoft and that is just f*cked.

And EA made some f*cks ups of their own in 2014. Only not as severe as Ubi.
And EA made some f*cks ups of their own in 2014. Only not as severe as Ubi.

There are no words to describe the sentiment I am having while reviewing all these happenings. Its mind-boggling the level of stupidity and greed that the company allowed to be possessed by it. And even after all that, they still haven't learned their lesson as less than a month after Unity was released they announced ANOTHER AC GAME this time set on Victorian England, which was met by an million fans groaning in frustration. YOU. F*CKIN'. WOT. M8.

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Its really distressing to see this happening to the creators of some of my favorite game series and otherwise its really sad to be rambling in for so long, but I suppose it was needed to be done. Its very sad to say that I am really burned out of Assassin's Creed. I will not buy anymore games beyond this point unless if Ubi slows the series down or gives it an satisfying conclusion. In the end, this is an problem that goes beyond just Ubi: is the AAA industry really in that much sh*t that is it really necessary for them to act in such manner? We live in a time where its perfectly acceptable to take out hard modes, storylines and final bosses from the original product and selling separately in pieces. Just ask Metro Last Light, Destiny and Shadow of Mordor. Well, an easy answer to deal with this problem being consumers is to vote with our wallets. But this is something much easier said than done because there will always be people in droves that buy into the hype too easily and aren't much discerning than they need to be.

If they want to rebuild my trust in them, they should give AC just a break and revive Prince of Persia
If they want to rebuild my trust in them, they should give AC just a break and revive Prince of Persia

So that was my rant blog. Phew that was a really long one. I hope you guys appreciate it. I gotta thank my friend @samimista for providing me with some quotes and pictures I needed for the blog. Let me know what you think in the comments below. How you feel about Ubisoft's recent actions?

41 Comments

Caio Reviews: Dracula the Dark Prince

I didn't plan on doing this review anyways since I got other sh*t planned to do, but right after I got done watching this trainwreck I decided I should do an quick review to get it out of my system before I forget doing it. You may remember Dracula 3000? Well, probably not you lucky f*ck but let me refresh your memory: it was an retelling of the Dracula mythos in outer space, that managed to be the worst in every possible way imaginable - boring, uninteresing shlock that torpedoed any possible way of being entertaining even in the most ironic way. Now you may be wondering why is this completely unrelated sh*tty movie that I would sooner forget relevant to this' review subject? Because as I was writing the original paragraph I realized Dracula the Dark Prince is B-movie shlock that does its own spin on the Count mythos and a hell of more entertaining than 3000 ever dreamed. Still not a good movie, but you can have some ironic fun with it.

What is man... But a miserable little pile of secrets?
What is man... But a miserable little pile of secrets?

The story goes out like this in the typical fashion: Drac is a prince that goes out to war against the Ottomans invading Romania, his wife gets killed, he gets pissed, renounces his humanity and turns into an vampire. Fastforward a hundred years into the 16th century, the land is plunged into complete darkness as Dracula rules with iron fist through his supernatural army of demons. When a crusader warband carrying an important artifact is slaughtered by Drac's enforcer who looks like a cheap cross between Darth Vader and a Nazgul, only two survivors - the warrior sisters Esme and Alina - managed to escape only to end up running into Lucien, an handsome rogue who takes their treasure and both of them prisioners. Its revealed that the girls are protegees to Leonardo Van Helsing, an seasoned vampire hunter determined to rid the land of Dracula's influence and the artifact they carry is the Lightbringer, an weapon capable of permanently destroying Dracula. Alina is captured by the Dracula's minions and brought in the presence of their master, who is smitten by her resemblance to his long deceased wife Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Van Helsing, Esme and Lucien join forces to rescue Alina, specially after its revealed Lucien has a supernatural secret of his own. But the question is, does Alina really want to be rescued herself after she starts falling for the man behind the monster?

Alina, Mirena, Maria, Mina... Goddamn, Dracula has a thing for chicks with names that sound alike. Except for Elizabeth I think......
Alina, Mirena, Maria, Mina... Goddamn, Dracula has a thing for chicks with names that sound alike. Except for Elizabeth I think......

Dark Prince is strange to describe, its a cross between a prequel/alternate retelling of Bram Stoker's novel and mixing them up with heroic/dark fantasy. Some characters from the original canon are present, or at least, its spiriual counterparts like Van Helsing and Reinfield but they play an completely embelished part from their original story. Overall its what you would get if you remade Francis Ford Copolla's 1993 movie and combined it with Xena the Warrior Princess or Conan the Barbarian to get you an idea. Imagine if instead of Mina Harker, you had Red Sonja whose previous incarnation was Dracula's wife and ends up falling for the dark lord himself like in the novel, instead of Jonathan Harker you had an dashing rogue that flirts with the heroine a lot you get the idea I suppose. Besides the aforementioned Witch-King of Angmar being Drac's lead henchmen, the movie still throws some unexpected nonsense at you not presented in the source.

Its established that only the last descendent of Cain (yes the biblical one) can wield the Lightbringer and use it to destroy Dracula permanently, due to the latter being Abel's (!?!) descendent. Its completely thrown at you in the middle of the movie and its very well explained besides some parallels and comparisons drawn by Van Helsing that are probably circumstantial at best (Abel had a noble lineage which made Dracula an prince). And as it turns out, Lucien is the last descendent of Cain!! How convenient: in fact so convenient that is too close to comfort. How coincidetial that this bandit that lived in the land for so long, doesn't know sh*t about Dracula and vice-versa just so happens to be the chosen one that has the power to kill vampires forever and the heroes find out about it by sheer coincidence after his blood activates the Lightbringer's power? Its just too contrived.

What is an vampire movie without some hot chicks?
What is an vampire movie without some hot chicks?

The biggest problem is that the movie is loaded with plenty of ideas that sound good in theory but don't work in cohesive manner, either because of creators aren't good enough, lack of resources or just the restrictive format. The movie doesn't know whether its a romance story between Dracula and Alina or its an dark fantasy epic with some barbarian vampire hunters fighting against orcs and Ringwraith-like demons. Likewise, it doesn't have enough time for proper character development, to elaborate on the Curse of Cain from above, nor come up with satisfying motivation for the characters. Why does Van Helsing wants to destroy Dracula? His name is Van Helsing so he is probably obliged to do it. At least the big ass Scottish hunter explained he has been searching for the beings that kidnapped his sister and its reason for joining the group. And speaking of romance, it must be good then?

No Caption Provided
LOL NOPE
LOL NOPE

After all, have you ever seen in your life a B-movie doing romance right? If you can you'd probably not have that many examples to start with. First off, the actors aren't very compelling on the screen to make you buy their interaction and secondly, the movie tries to make Alina fall in love first with Lucien after just one night when he and his group took their sister prisioners and then after she is kidnapped by Dracula, she falls in love with him for some reason despite knowing full well of his atrocities. Its kind of erratic really a little worse than the Copolla's movie cause at least in there Mina was attracted to Dracula before she even found out he was an vampire. All in all, the script has a poor execution but I will give credit for trying to come up with some fresh spins and try to make the best they could, unlike 3000.

"Die monster, you don't belong in this world."

The acting goes as well as you might expect from a B-movie like this, almost everyone seems to have come out fresh from a cheap knock-off of the Glee tv show, with the only exception being Jon f*cking Voight is in this movie playing Van Helsing (therefore he fullfils his part as "legendary actor embarassing himself in this trainwreck"), and boy does he look embarassed to be here, speaking his lines - during - exposition - bits - in - punctuation - just - like - this. He knows what kind of movie he is in and is only in it for the paycheck. I'd imagine that when Brad and Angie's kids are being naughty this is the kind of movie they show to punish them (or maybe not, since there is some gratuitous nudity in it) Only the Dracula's actor seems to be the one that is trying way harder than most and having most fun as he branches back and forth between tortured angsty vampire ham and tortured angsty vampire in love.

Yep, totally not a bluescreen and that castle is 100% legit
Yep, totally not a bluescreen and that castle is 100% legit

The special effects and choreography are beyond laughable. Whenever Dark Prince has to resort to CGI, it looks like the graphics were pulled from the original Xbox console, its all more noticeable during scenary blue screens in the background or castle shots. Fight scenes reminded me of Uwe Boll's BloodRayne, another travesty that featured vampires with swords, but only with more competent-looking props instead of these pussy-looking butter knives from that movie. Whenever the Lightbringer is used is another thing entirely cause the actor has some serious problems wielding a massive staff/scythe specially against sword wielding enemies. I think the most hilarious moment was when Van Helsing decided to pick up a sword and charge against the Witch-King of Angmar in what appears to be one hell of a epic moment until you remember he is actually played by Jon Voight for this sh*t to pull any acrobatics, only for the scene to face into a fighting silluoute of the bad guy blocking his attacks until he disarms Van Helsing off-screen. How embarassing it must have been filming that...

Final Rating

5/10 - As far as B-movie goes, its passable and a f*ckton better than Dracula related shlock with a budget of 50 bucks. I feel like giving some extra points for creativity even if the execution was piss poor, but I got some ironic enjoyment out of it. If you love vampires and cheesy ass heroic adventures shows like the ones that aired in the 90s this might be the movie you want, but if you can't stand things that try out to be too many things and ends up having an identity crisis you'd probably like to skip this movie entirely.

Thank you guys for reading, see ya next time =p

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Caio Reviews: Assassin's Creed Rogue

"History may brand me traitor, rebel or renegade. But in the end, it doesn't matter how history remembers me...what matters is that I followed my own creed."

Well... Isn't this just awkward. Okay I promised I would have done a preview blog for Assassin's Creed Rogue last year, when Unity was announced and was uncertain if there ever was a game being released for last gen. However, I instantly lost interest after its announcement and watching a few gameplay trailers and ended up forgetting to do a blog post about it. With Unity being a massive disaster at launch and decried as a massive failure, at curiosity I decided to pick up Assassin's Creed Rogue and see how it hands compared to its supposedly superior successor. Is this just another cash-in made to placate fans that haven't manage to convert yet or is does a great job at closing up the game generation which the franchise was created and thrived?

Summary

It should be noted he never wears a hood as a Templar, despite what is depicted on the cover.
It should be noted he never wears a hood as a Templar, despite what is depicted on the cover.

Taking place before and during the first act of Assassin's Creed 3, we play as Shay Patrick Cormac, an Master Assassin that lived during the Seven-Years War, an conflict fought between France and the British Empire over control of the American Colonies. His new convictions have not yet set in fully when he gets sent to complete a mission that unleashes a disaster of unexpected proportions, which disillusions Shay from the Brotherhood and their heroic purpose. Burdened by his terrible knowledge and rendered a pariah to his former friends, Shay finds allies among the Templar cause and goes forth on a dark quest that takes him to the frozen ends of the earth.

Plot & Characters

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As far as stories goes, Rogue actually has the strongest and compelling narrative in a long time. Shay, despite his status as a villain, is an exceedingly likable and easy-to-relate character. In fact, his reasoning for joining with the Templars are more heroic than some of the other protagonists, even Ezio and Connor. Without wishing to spoil the exact circumstances that lead to his betrayal, they are caused to aforementioned catastrophe caused by the Assassins unthinking actions that he wants to prevent from happening again, but his brothers refuse to listen. Naturally, when they turn on him and he joins the Templars out to stop them. The circumstances behind it are horrific and completely understandable. By refusing to follow an Mentor mindlessly and do what he feels was the right thing, Shay is the truest Assassin in the "Nothing is true everything is permitted" sense.

One could argue he is more interesting than Arno from Unity.
One could argue he is more interesting than Arno from Unity.

The plot offers an interesting perspective flip on the Assassins. Usually in previous titles, we saw them through the eyes of future Mentors and leaders and were depicted as brave safe-guardians of the people and free will. In Rogue, we see that while they aren't exactly card-carrying villainous, they are ruthless, horribly misguided and self-righteous, under the belief that they can't do absolutely no-wrong so long as their actions are anti-Templar - Majority of the enemies you fight are criminals associated with the Order and are repeatedly shown harassing innocents citizens and you having to save them from time to time. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to see them regularly break the see the Assassins breaking the first tenet without nobody batting an eye out for it, up until you remember that Ezio used to have ties with criminals as well waaaaay back in AC2. Yeaaaah, I think its worth reflecting on what must have been like for everyone else then that weren't related to Ezio.

Yes, Haytham Kenway from AC 3 is back here.
Yes, Haytham Kenway from AC 3 is back here.

If I have any real gripe with the story is that its extremely short, the main campaign can be beaten in 6 hours if you rush through it. I guess the story is as long as it needs to be and there is a f*ckton of content to make the game last longer, but hey, every other game does if you do all side-content. The ending ties up directly with Unity, and. Also, there is an modern day storyline but I won't bother you much with it, its virtually the same thing as Black Flag only I suspect the nameless research analyst isn't the same one from the previous game. To sum things up, the Abstergo Entertainment building gets hacked and its up to you fix everthing, it doesn't add nothing interesting to the overarching plot and Ubisoft has been noted on downplaying the modern day segments more and more, making you feel like they regretted adding it in the first place which makes me wonder, why don't they just tie everything up instead of abandoning it altogether and leaving so many loose ties?

Gameplay Aspects

Behold the Morrigan
Behold the Morrigan

As one might expect, pretty much all gameplay elements have been lifted directly from Black Flag and at first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking this game is as a shameless copy-paste as it can get, however if an analogy may be drawn, Rogue is to Black Flag what Brotherhood was to Assassin's Creed 2. An effort has been made to fix some of Black Flag's certain annoyances that kept me from enjoying it from its fullest and making Rogue the game AC 4 should have been.

The open world has been split into three map: the city of New York that serves as a urbane area much like Rome in Brotherhood, the Atlantic North and the Appalachian River Valey which allow sailing and exploring. Your ship, the Morrigan, is vastly more powerful than the Aquilla and the Jackdaw, many of new weapons that you can get very early in the game (including flaming oil and prototypical Puckle Gun considered too expensive to be manufactured in mass at the time). A big change is that enemies (in particular criminal gangs with brown sails) can also board you in turn, and you have to kill the invading enemies before they overwhelm your crew.

Assassins are among the toughest enemies in the game, are extremely smart and should be approached with caution.
Assassins are among the toughest enemies in the game, are extremely smart and should be approached with caution.

Grinding for experience used to be one of gripes with sailing in Black Flag - you had to spend countless hours boarding ships to gather resources to upgrade your vessel so you could hold your own in the open sea. This time is has been made more easier to earn both money and resources. First, the game brings back city renovations that were first introduced in AC 2 and second, capturing enemies strongholds scattered in the map, you are rewarded with a vast quantity of metal, wood, stones and money for you to upgrade the Morrigan.

Another Temple, another search. For me it was like Thuesday.
Another Temple, another search. For me it was like Thuesday.
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On land, combat and movement has stayed more the same way but still improved. Ubisoft done away with all tailing missions that plagued Assassin's Creed 4 and replaced them with more varied ones that let the player approach with more freedom. Stalkers from Revelations make a great return as several Assassins that hide in plain sight and you have to use the Eagle vision sonar (similar to the ones used in the multiplayer) to detect your foes and get rid of them. They can deal some devastating damage to Shay and two hits are enough to kill him so you have an one last change to counter if they creep in to attack you.

Shay is capable of using all sorts of diversion with his weapons, specifically the air rifle which is a combination of a blowpipe and a grenade launcher. Should be noted that innocents can be affected and even killed in the game to illustrate the point you are playing with the badguy (which makes no sense with the actual context since Shay is probably the one protagonist in the series most concerned with NOT arming innocent people). Although you could only kill civilians in AC 1 after you beaten the game and every other afterwards killing more than three meant instant game over, killing more than three in Rogue caused bounty hunter enemies to start hunting you and make no mistake, these guys will absolutely trounce you. They are about worse than Jannissaries and Jagers, since they can virtually block ALL your melee attacks and can withstand up to three shots (head shots, grenades and sleep darts are the best way to deal with them effectively).

The maps are admittedly smaller than Black Flag, but there is some huge content to find.
The maps are admittedly smaller than Black Flag, but there is some huge content to find.

As always side-missions and collectibles are back and make so more fun exploring the seas in search of them, that reward you with some pretty neat looking costumes and searching for some piece of background information. My personal favorite was spending a lot of time trying to search were the cave paintings that tell an fable about the creation of the world that might be relevant to the Assassin's Creed backstory (even though is not familiar with anything we've seen). There are plenty of randomized events too that keep you interested such as coming across allied ships under attack, releasing political prisioners and frontier conflicts, all of which are very rewarding. There was one odd moment where I visited Sleepy Hollow and I found none other than the Headless Horseman there, even had a boss fight with him. Don't ask me how is that possible cause Assassin's Creed always tried to do some logical explaining about all the supernatural stuff that happened within its universe.

Here Shay gives an free colonoscopy to an Assassin.
Here Shay gives an free colonoscopy to an Assassin.

One of the main additions added were the Fleet Missions, which is a little mini-game you command the fleet of ships you have captured and send them on special missions to open trade routes through the sea, which in a way is similar to Brotherhood missions where you send your apprentice all over the world to gain XP and money. In a way, its a cool addition and certainly made some use for the ships I captured unlike in Black Flag, however the missions can get pretty tedious very quickly (specially if you have added plenty of Man O' Wars in your fleet that are some of the monstrously powerful vessels that can destroy anything). The money you get ain't even that substantial compared to what you can collect on banks and you would only do that for 100% completion and because you get the Altair Sword with it.

Visual and Sound Effects

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

Although the in-game environments are beautiful, the ain't nothing special the ones in this series, although the really do stand out are from the Atlantic North. I did experience a few bugs and a single crash during my entire play through, while it was nowhere near as close to Unity's glitches and not enough to detract from my experience, it was still more than anything I am used to in the series. The musical soundtrack is nice to listen but its sadly too short. The main theme is a recycled version of Ezio's theme from Assassin's Creed 2 which doesn't make a whole lot of sense as Rogue has nothing to do with Ezio or Italy. Other great tracks include Dangerous Waters and The Morrigan that play during naval battles. The voice acting was okaish - Shay's voice actor has a pretty fake Irish accent (which makes sense when you see his voice actor is actually Canadian, go figure). It didn't bother me much cause I played the game from start to finish in Portuguese, which was more competent imho (fun fact, the Brazilian VA for Shay also did Rorschach. Yes that one from Watchmen)

Final Rating

8/10 - I struggled a lot to come up with an satisfying score for this game... In one hand I felt like it was superior in almost every aspect than Black Flag with a better protagonist, story and gameplay but on the other hand, the story felt too short and the world felt less exciting to explore around this time. I'd say it beats Black Flag as my favorite game in the series, second only to AC 2 (which is my all time favorite). I'd recommend to people to long time fans who still haven't converted to current gen that are looking forward to play with an Templar. Unfortunately, I fear that Rogue is possibly the last good game in the Assassin's Creed franchise that I intend to play as with AC Unity's failure and the announcement of another premature game, Ubisoft's future doesn't look too bright with AC. It was a good game to enjoy at the moment but not enough to revitalize the series.

Thank you guys for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. Share your thoughts in the comment section and May the Father of Understanding Guide Us.

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Caio Reviews: Assassin's Creed Rogue

"History may brand me traitor, rebel or renegade. But in the end, it doesn't matter how history remembers me...what matters is that I followed my own creed."

Well... Isn't this just awkward. Okay I promised I would have done a preview blog for Assassin's Creed Rogue last year, when Unity was announced and was uncertain if there ever was a game being released for last gen. However, I instantly lost interest after its announcement and watching a few gameplay trailers and ended up forgetting to do a blog post about it. With Unity being a massive disaster at launch and decried as a massive failure, at curiosity I decided to pick up Assassin's Creed Rogue and see how it hands compared to its supposedly superior successor. Is this just another cash-in made to placate fans that haven't manage to convert yet or is does a great job at closing up the game generation which the franchise was created and thrived?

Summary

Didn't you guys want a game you play as a Templar?!?! Well there you have it :)
Didn't you guys want a game you play as a Templar?!?! Well there you have it :)

Taking place before and during the first act of Assassin's Creed 3, we play as Shay Patrick Cormac, an Master Assassin that lived during the Seven-Years War, an conflict fought between France and the British Empire over control of the American Colonies. His new convictions have not yet set in fully when he gets sent to complete a mission that unleashes a disaster of unexpected proportions, which disillusions Shay from the Brotherhood and their heroic purpose. Burdened by his terrible knowledge and rendered a pariah to his former friends, Shay finds allies among the Templar cause and goes forth on a dark quest that takes him to the frozen ends of the earth.

Plot & Characters

It should be noted he never wears a hood as a Templar, despite what is depicted on the cover.
It should be noted he never wears a hood as a Templar, despite what is depicted on the cover.

As far as stories goes, Rogue actually has the strongest and compelling narrative in a long time. Shay, despite his status as a villain, is an exceedingly likable and easy-to-relate character. In fact, his reasoning for joining with the Templars are more heroic than some of the other protagonists, even Ezio and Connor. Without wishing to spoil the exact circumstances that lead to his betrayal, they are caused to aforementioned catastrophe caused by the Assassins unthinking actions that he wants to prevent from happening again, but his brothers refuse to listen. Naturally, when they turn on him and he joins the Templars out to stop them. The circumstances behind it are horrific and completely understandable. By refusing to follow an Mentor mindlessly and do the right thing, Shay is the truest Assassin in the "Nothing is true everything is permitted sense".

One could argue he is more interesting than Arno from Unity.
One could argue he is more interesting than Arno from Unity.

The plot offers an interesting perspective flip on the Assassins. Usually in previous titles, we saw them through the eyes of future Mentors and leaders and were depicted as brave safe-guardians of the people and free will. In Rogue, we see that while they aren't exactly card-carrying villainous, they are ruthless, horribly misguided and self-righteous, under the belief that they can't do absolutely no-wrong so long as their actions are anti-Templar - Majority of the enemies you fight are criminals associated with the Order and are repeatedly shown harassing innocents citizens and you having to save them from time to time. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to see them regularly break the see the Assassins breaking the first tenet without nobody batting an eye out for it, up until you remember that Ezio used to have ties with criminals as well waaaaay back in AC2.

Yes, Haytham Kenway from AC 3 is back here.
Yes, Haytham Kenway from AC 3 is back here.

If I have any real gripe with the story is that its extremely short, the main campaign can be beaten in 6 hours if you rush through it. I guess the story is as long as it needs to be and there is a f*ckton of content to make the game last longer, but hey, every other game does if you do all side-content. The ending, while does tie in with Unity in a magnificent manner, ends on a very ambiguous note wondering what role did Shay play after the events of the game, as considering the circumstances which I won't spoil. Also, there is an modern day storyline but I won't bother you much with it, its virtually the same thing as Black Flag only I suspect the nameless research analyst isn't the same one from the previous game. To sum things up, the Abstergo Entertainment building gets hacked and its up to you fix everything, it doesn't add nothing interesting to the overarching plot and Ubisoft has been noted on downplaying the modern day segments more and more, making you feel like they regretted adding it in the first place which makes me wonder, why don't they just tie everything up instead of abandoning it altogether and leaving so many loose ties?

Gameplay Aspects

Behold the Morrigan
Behold the Morrigan

As one might expect, pretty much all gameplay elements have been lifted directly from Black Flag and at first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking this game is as a shameless copy-paste as it can get, however if an analogy may be drawn, Rogue is to Black Flag what Brotherhood was to Assassin's Creed 2. An effort has been made to fix some of Black Flag's certain annoyances that kept me from enjoying it from its fullest and making Rogue the game AC 4 should have been.

The open world has been split into three map: the city of New York that serves as a urbane area much like Rome in Brotherhood, the Atlantic North and the Appalachian River Valey which allow sailing and exploring. Your ship, the Morrigan, is vastly more powerful than the Aquilla and the Jackdaw, many of new weapons that you can get very early in the game (including flaming oil and prototypical Puckle Gun considered too expensive to be manufactured in mass at the time). A big change is that enemies (in particular criminal gangs with brown sails) can also board you in turn, and you have to kill the invading enemies before they overwhelm your crew.

Assassins are among the toughest enemies in the game, are extremely smart and should be approached with caution.
Assassins are among the toughest enemies in the game, are extremely smart and should be approached with caution.

Grinding for experience used to be one of gripes with sailing in Black Flag - you had to spend countless hours boarding ships to gather resources to upgrade your vessel so you could hold your own in the open sea. This time is has been made more easier to earn both money and resources. First, the game brings back city renovations that were first introduced in AC 2 and second, capturing enemies strongholds scattered in the map, you are rewarded with a vast quantity of metal, wood, stones and money for you to upgrade the Morrigan.

Another Temple, another search. For me it was like Thuesday.
Another Temple, another search. For me it was like Thuesday.
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On land, combat and movement has stayed more the same way but still improved. Ubisoft done away with all tailing missions that plagued Assassin's Creed 4 and replaced them with more varied ones that let the player approach with more freedom. Stalkers from Revelations make a great return as several Assassins that hide in plain sight and you have to use the Eagle vision sonar (similar to the ones used in the multiplayer) to detect your foes and get rid of them. They can deal some devastating damage to Shay and two hits are enough to kill him so you have an one last change to counter if they creep in to attack you.

Shay is capable of using all sorts of diversion with his weapons, specifically the air rifle which is a combination of a blowpipe and a grenade launcher. Should be noted that innocents can be affected and even killed in the game to illustrate the point you are playing with the bad guy (which makes no sense with the actual context since Shay is probably the one protagonist in the series most concerned with NOT arming innocent people). Although you could only kill civilians in AC 1 after you beaten the game and every other afterwards killing more than three meant instant game over, killing more than three in Rogue caused bounty hunter enemies to start hunting you and make no mistake, these guys will absolutely trounce you. They are about worse than Jannissaries and Jagers, since they can virtually block ALL your melee attacks and can withstand up to three shots (head shots, grenades and sleep darts are the best way to deal with them effectively).

Though the world is smaller than last time around, there is just as more content than before.
Though the world is smaller than last time around, there is just as more content than before.

As always side-missions and collectibles are back and make so more fun exploring the seas in search of them, that reward you with some pretty neat looking costumes and searching for some piece of background information. My personal favorite was spending a lot of time trying to search were the cave paintings that tell an fable about the creation of the world that might be relevant to the Assassin's Creed backstory (even though is not familiar with anything we've seen). There are plenty of randomized events too that keep you interested such as coming across allied ships under attack, releasing political prisioners and frontier conflicts, all of which are very rewarding. There was one odd moment where I visited Sleepy Hollow and I found none other than the Headless Horseman there, even had a boss fight with him. Don't ask me how is that possible cause Assassin's Creed always tried to do some logical explaining about all the supernatural stuff that happened within its universe.

Here Shay gives an Assassin a free colonoscopy
Here Shay gives an Assassin a free colonoscopy

One of the main additions added were the Fleet Missions, which is a little mini-game you command the fleet of ships you have captured and send them on special missions to open trade routes through the sea, which in a way is similar to Brotherhood missions where you send your apprentice all over the world to gain XP and money. In a way, its a cool addition and certainly made some use for the ships I captured unlike in Black Flag, however the missions can get pretty tedious very quickly (specially if you have added plenty of Man O' Wars in your fleet that are some of the monstrously powerful vessels that can destroy anything). The money you get ain't even that substantial compared to what you can collect on banks and you would only do that for 100% completion and because you get the Altair Sword with it.

Visual and Sound Effects

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No Caption Provided

Although the in-game environments are beautiful, the ain't nothing special the ones in this series, although the really do stand out are from the Atlantic North. I did experience a few bugs and a single crash during my entire play through, while it was nowhere near as close to Unity's glitches and not enough to detract from my experience, it was still more than anything I am used to in the series. The musical soundtrack is nice to listen but its sadly too short. The main theme is a recycled version of Ezio's theme from Assassin's Creed 2 which doesn't make a whole lot of sense as Rogue has nothing to do with Ezio or Italy. Other great tracks include Dangerous Waters and The Morrigan that play during naval battles. The voice acting was okaish - Shay's voice actor has a pretty fake Irish accent (which makes sense when you see his voice actor is actually Canadian, go figure). It didn't bother me much cause I played the game from start to finish in Portuguese, which was more competent imho (fun fact, the Brazilian VA for Shay also did Rorschach. Yes that one from Watchmen).

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No Caption Provided

Final Rating

8/10 - I struggled a lot to come up with an satisfying score for this game... In one hand I felt like it was superior in almost every aspect than Black Flag with a better protagonist, story and gameplay but on the other hand, the story felt too short and the world felt less exciting to explore around this time. I'd say it beats Black Flag as my favorite game in the series, second only to AC 2 (which is my all time favorite). I'd recommend to people to long time fans who still haven't converted to current gen that are looking forward to play with an Templar. Unfortunately, I fear that Rogue is possibly the last good game in the Assassin's Creed franchise that I intend to play as with AC Unity's failure and the announcement of another premature game, Ubisoft's future doesn't look too bright with AC. It was a good game to enjoy at the moment but not enough to revitalize the series.

Thank you guys for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. Share your thoughts in the comment section and May the Father of Understanding Guide Us.

29 Comments

Caio Rants: In Defense of Hatred

HELLO, HELLO EVERYONE. FIRST CAIO BLOG OF 2015 :D I wanted to write about this subject a while ago, but I got some sickness that prevented me from being online. Anyways better late than never right?

Oh boy, I am going to really hate (hehe) myself for doing this, but I feel like I would go crazy not writing a rant blog about it. You may be wondering why is Caio defending the concept of hatred? Its not that, you silly beans. Certain gamers among you may have heard about Hatred, a upcoming title created by Polish studio Destructive Creations that was announced way back in October and scheduled to be released next year sparked a lot of controversy for its extremely violent and graphical trailer. The game is about a nameless psychopathic misanthrope who goes on a mass-murdering rampage, killing both civilians and law enforcement along the way and hoping to die a violent death. According to the creators, the game was created in response to the oversaturation of art games and politically correctness in the gaming industry lately. Watch the trailer at your own risk.

Speaking for myself, the game certainly didn't have a positive first impression on me. Unlike certain games like GTA V or Postal that carry some sort of black comedy value or satirical wit, the general tone was played 1000% straight as being dark and gritty, feeling like one of those juvenile attempts at being 2edgy4u like ones you see in nineties anti-heros trying to emulate Frank Miller's gritty violent style. The gameplay and combat perspective seem very dull and unintuitive, seems like something you would see last gen with its isometric perspective. Though the violence is very extreme and plentiful, it doesn't come nowhere near as shocking and appalling for the sheer nature I've seen much worse before. Finally, the premise is so puerile that if I really wanted to play a game where you do nothing but kill innocent civilians, I would just play Saints Row or Grand Theft Auto over and over and it would have been far more enjoyable.

So yeah, my initial reaction wasn't th best one, but I would say the game is just as mediocre as it gets. That didn't stop the overreaction leveled from the online gaming community and specially from the press towards the game. Polygon wrote plenty of articles in just two days decrying the game's content, petitions were made to shut down the project entirely, hitpieces attempting to label the devs Neo-Nazis (just because the studio' CEO liked a radical right-wing political page on Facebook) and Steam even pulled off the game from Greenlight temporarily before our lord and savior the GabeN swooped in to the rescue.

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So where I want to go with this? Though I made clear my dislike for the product, I ultimately sympathize with the creators' motivations and the most rabid critics come off as even worse themselves. The levels of outrage displayed were jaw-dropping, its the kind of hate you reserve to pedophiles and white supremascists. Some hardcore gamers, the kinds that won't even flinch at Mortal Kombat and embarked on sprees in GTA found Hatred's premise deplorable, and I can't help but feel this is kind of hypocritical. I've seen arguments that while games like GTA V and Saints Row is completely optional for the player to go kill civilians, while its the whole point of Hatred is to kill everyone in your path is a valid, I don't think it should have been used as a moral based one. I mean, the most gruesome scene I've ever seen in a game was in Spec Ops: the Line which (spoiler alert) you are forced to deploy white phosphorous in a battlefield and you realize there were civilians in the casualties and you still see their bloody agonized remains. That scene in particular is considered the turning point in Spec Ops and still haunts me to this very day, yet you don't see people making a big deal out of it (then again Spec Ops didn't do so well and is considered a cult classic for a reason). Its frankly irrelevant to use this argument as a moral point to sh&t o the game, though it can be used as a technical commentary, we are adults after all and we know that this is merely a work of fiction. The people that are getting killed in vile and gruesome ways are not real, so there is no reason to be morally outraged by it.

By the way accusing some Polish guys of being Nazis? Real class act, guys -_-
By the way accusing some Polish guys of being Nazis? Real class act, guys -_-

Speaking of banning this sick filth, the moment where Steam pulled the plug on Hatred without a good excuse was deemed as problematic by many for a damn good reason. You guys may remember South Park's episode the Cartoon Wars? It was the one Cartman tries to cancel Family Guy by preventing them from airing the episode with Muhammed. The overall message was if you censor stuff because it offends people, then its fair game for everyone to ask the same thing and then it turns into a real clusterf**k. Its not very that different from Target Australia pulling GTA V from shelves, but I would argue its a lot worse. You see, Target is within their rights to pull whatever products they want (even if the reasoning behind it was complete and utter drivel) and at least, that game can still be bought elsewhere on Australia. Steam is not a family-friendly store like Target, its a game distributor for all niches available and if games like Hatred are getting pulled out because they are deemed too offensive, they might as well pull out GTA, Spec Ops the Line or pull God of War from stores because it lets you do the exact same thing, regardless if its player controlled or not. Thankfully, Lord Gaben knew what is better for the business than catering for some special snowflakes that want sh*t that is too much for their senses banned to not offend them.

Only GabeN could put a smile on this face. Maybe one soul is worth saving after all.
Only GabeN could put a smile on this face. Maybe one soul is worth saving after all.

The thing that slays me the most is the PC brigade being completely clueless of the kind of martyr they are making. You'd think Polygon would probably want this game to succeed with all the free-advertising they are making. Failing to learn from the religious zealots that preceded then, these "progressives" sites can't grasp that the more you tell people to not buy this game, you will just make them more curious and want them to play it themselves. These damn fools and their crying about appealing to "base human traits"... we're animals, our "base traits" are irrelevant - this transhumanist "rise above" crap is beyond inane. That and all these like who honestly believe that media influences culture instead of being an obvious PRODUCT of culture. And frankly with all people sick of the politically-correct drivel being shoved down their throats as of late, they are just going to buy the game out of spite. Hatred has become critic proof, it will be a guaranteed financial success, regardless of quality. Had they not gotten outrage and just ignored it, nobody would have bated an eyelash at it and it would soon have been forgotten. They seemingly learned their lesson as Hatred is currently the most upvoted title on Steam and no "progressive sites" couldn't be arsed to do their jobs and report on it. Or maybe do just like TheGuardian, who whined and bitched over the possibility of this game being sold because there is SOMETHING WRONG WITH APPEALING TO YOUR CONSUMER BASE.

So yeah, there are my two cents. If you genuinely enjoy this game, I think there is no problem with it; I won't think any less of you since there is enough room for us to enjoy different things. Same thing if you don't like the game like me, but I hope you understand that even if don't like it or don't want to exist, the game has its right to exist. You are not forced to play everything that exists and not everything is forced to cater to our senses. If we didn't have works that crossed the line, we'd never knew where the line was to begin with.

Thank you guys for readin it :) I want to know what is your opinion on Hatred? Do you think it goes too far or is the backlash unnecessary? If you are hypersensitive, no fret. Here is the version you are looking for.

See ya next time =P

27 Comments

Caio/Scorpion Reviews: Middle-Earth Shadow of Mordor

It feels like it was yesterday when I made my preview blog for the game when that awesome trailer came out. At first my initial concern was wether or not this game would deliver in its lofty goals, but then I doubtful on wether or not getting this game after news that the last-gen port would have been downgraded, and also because I was afraid I wouldn't do the game justice by reviewing it in a inferior port. So my friend @scorpion2501 offered himself to review the game with me so he could share his perspective in PC. So lets see, is Shadow of Mordor a game worthy of your money or just another cash grab made on Tolkien's name?

Summary

Set between the events of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings", you play as Talion (played by Troy Baker), a Ranger from Gondor stationed in the Black Gate of Mordor, who is murdered alongside his family by Sauron's servants, the Black Captains led by the mysterious Black Hand (played by Nolan North), who returned to reclaim the land for their master's homecoming. Fortunately for Talion, he is revived by a elven wraith that the Black Hand was attempting to summon with the ritual killing of Talion and his family. Now sharing the body with the wraith, revealed to be none other than Celebrimbor - the legendary forger of the 20 Rings of Power long murdered by the Dark Lord himself, the two embark on a quest of revenge, sharing a common enemy they need to stop before they can depart to the afterlife.

Plot & Characters

Scorpion2501

While the plot may be one of it's weaker points, Shadow Of Mordor still doesn't fail to deliver us an engaging story. The theme that stands central in this game is mostly the desire for revenge, the player, Talion and his wraith friend Celebrimbor are both out for the same thing. Being free from the curse of living forever and murdering the people who turned their life into a living hell, or well, more like an undead hell. Because as I mentioned, both of them are in between a state of life and death, and neither can pass on to the afterlife. While I didn't think the story was as fleshed out as I wanted it to be, it was still an entertaining ride.

The characters are more engaging than the story in a lot of ways. The chemistry between Talion and Celebrimbor is one of the highlights of this game. They bicker a lot, and are always there to make me interested in the story again.

"I prefer the Star Wars prequels" "U WOT M8"

I loved every single piece of dialogue between them. At the start of the game we know little of Celebrimbor, and him suffering from amnesia doesn't help either. But as the story progresses you find his "Scattered memories", which give you a deeper insight in his past, which I very much enjoyed. While I can't say he didn't have that much of a backstory, it was still more than enough to understand his feeling and sympathise with his motives.

Most of the other characters are likeable as well, Torvin being my favorite. Torvin the dwarf is a hunter, and his personality is almost opposite that of our grumpy duo of main characters. His witty remarks and snarky jokes lighten up the mood, which is a great change of pace. And Torvin as well, gets enough background information to make him likeable, and make you want to aid him in his quests.

Dragonborn_CT

This game offers a great expansion and fealty on the lore. The land of Mordor was largely uncharted and said to be home to creatures far more terrifying than orcs, and we get to see first hand how it was like before Sauron. They made so many homages to the background, the biggest one was probably making one of the protagonists Celebrimbor, who is an supporting character from the Sillmarillion largely unknown except to the most hardcore LotR characters. They went out their way to add in-game background details that you can visit in the pause menu anytime that contains character profiles for Talion, his family, the enemies, the monsters, the locations and etc. I really, really love when games add this level of detail.

Oh hai there Daenerys.
Oh hai there Daenerys.

Unfortunately, the narrative itself is rather weak and very cliched. I mean, c'mon guys you already seen this set up a thousand times as - bad guy kills the hero family now he goes on a roaring rampage of revenge - this time on Middle-Earth. Majority of the characters are one-note and it wouldn't have been much of a stretch to say that the Uruks you fight have more personality, though some manage to be entertaining like Ratbag (who provides some healthy comic-relief by serving as a punching bag in every single appearance during the first act) and Torvin (who is certainly a interesting character on his own but is absolutely peripheral to the plot). The characters that really get the short end of the stick are the actual main villains themselves, the Black Captains of Sauron, who are infinitaly less interesting their Orc henchmen - illustrated by their unspeakable bland names like the Hammer, the Tower and the Black Hand. The one thing that holds the story together is Talion/Celebrimbor's interactions. You think an undead wraith sharing the same body as yours would have been an evil influence trying to put dark temptations into your head, but as it turns out Celebrimbor and Talion get along pretty friendly, with the former offering advice to the latter while still bickering. Nice to see them subvert the enemy within trope for once.

While cool-looking, the main villains in SoM are underutilized.
While cool-looking, the main villains in SoM are underutilized.

And finally, I am disappointed that the ending is a massive letdown. Without wishing to spoil, but with the gaame building up to a massive confrontation between Talion and Sauron's forces falls flat as the final encounter is nothing but another set of enemies that you've been fighting all game long (only with some branded Warchiefs that will help you out) and a pathetically easy final boss (which on in context, doesn't make a lot of sense either) followed by a OBVIOUS SEQUEL BAIT ENDING. *Sigh* I guess if you are making a game based on Assassin's Creed you still need to make a sh*t ending to make up for it.

Even though I am more story-driven type of gamer, I am willing to give the any of the plot's fault a pass. You know why? Because when I checked in and saw I've played for 12 hours with completing only a handful of story missions, I realized I was having fun nonetheless without caring if the story was good or not, which I guess its okay. The story isn't horrible, just average at its really worse. Its more than I can say than some Purists who claim the game missed the entire point of the LotR mythos, or certain "professional" critics who can't tell reality from fiction and making a retarded big deal out of the prologue claiming the game is tone deaf over kissing/killing *cough* POLYGON *cough*.

Gameplay Aspects

Scorpion2501

Gameplay consists of two main aspects. The "Nemesis System"

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and the actual open world gameplay. I'll start of by talking about the Nemesis System, and how this saved this game from being mediocre. The Nemesis System is where you can see every named Orc character. These Orcs all have unique names, nicknames, faces, weaknesses, powers, and best of all, relations to you. If you ever run into on of these orcs, and let's say burn them, but they run away and live to tell the tale. That orc will now have burn marks on him next time you meet him, and get new dialogue, about how he wants to kill you for what you did to him, or about what he did to you last battle. This makes you really motivated to kill some of those orcs. Because, and I'll go to the next big point in this game, when you are killed, the game doesn't ask you to restart the mission. The game just continues. Your failure is recorded, the orcs who faced you and killed you will gain in rank, and will be harder to kill. They'll mock you when you see them next time, saying how they'll kill you again and again until you stay dead. And believe me, when you have an orc that killed you ten times, you won't be happy until his smug face is erased from this world.

There is also an ability that can let you brand orcs, which makes them your followers. This also influences the Nemesis System, because you will have a chess piece in this hierarchy of orcs. And you can try and take it down from the inside. You can let your orc assassinate other orcs, gain in rank and become the strongest of them all. This really comes in handy when you really want to get rid of that orc that you alone can't defeat...

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The actual gameplay is really smooth. The fighting feels really Batman Arkham-esque. With a variety of different moves,the combat feels very fluent and never feels like a chore.

The chopping up of orcs feel satisfying, no matter how many times you do it. This game also features stealth gameplay. Which is needed, because some of the fights you can get into are so impossible to win, you really need to thin them out first. The stealth is pretty basic overall. Crouch and hope you don't get seen, stab victim from behind.

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And there is a fun amount of environment interaction, which makes for some fun changes in scenario. You can set bees loose, shoot up walls, or set wargs free form their cages.

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There isn't a huge variety of enemies. Your main enemy will be the Orcs and Orc bosses. But from time to time you'll also have to fight wildlife, like wargs, ghuls and graugs. And here the idiom "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" doesn't apply. All of the enemies summed up will also fight amongst themselves, so, have a hard time fighting a swarm of hundreds of ghuls? Bait them into a battalion of orcs, maybe add in a graug as well while you're at it. Then kick back and watch the fireworks happen. Honestly, I think the variety of enemies isn't as big as I liked it to be, it still makes for some hard fights. But that's just me nitpicking.

There is also a skill system and item system. And well, the skill system is what you think it is. Upgrade your health, upgrade the amount of arrows you can carry, learn a new skill. Like this one.

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The item system isn't that impressive. You basically find runes to upgrade your weapons, though it always feels nice to find a legendary rune, it doesn't deliver the same punch as actually being able to find new gear.

The worldmap is huge, and filled with fun things to do. There are sidequests by the dozen, that guarantee a lot of hours of extra fun. I completed the main campaign in about 11 hours, while just rushing through the main missions. I had that same amount of time fun doind all the side missions and murdering the orcs that had killed me in the past.

Dragonborn_CT

Just imagined if Talion was a antagonist to the Fellowship of the Ring, how screwed would they be like?
Just imagined if Talion was a antagonist to the Fellowship of the Ring, how screwed would they be like?

As a action RPG open-world game, the gameplay is the perfect blend of Assassin's Creed style of parkour and exploration with Batman Arkham's style of combat and stealth with the addition of magical powers and completely unrestricted by a no-kill policy. I won't mince words here, this game is all about killing orcs. Everything you do in this game one way or the other is involved with sneaking up on orcs or fighting them in direct combat, there is very few room to do anything else (even the side activities that give weapon bonus are all about that). At first glance, it might look like this is going to turn repetitive as all Hell. But thanks to the Nemesis system, each orc is generated randomly each different from the next. Orc Captains are sub-bosses with their own strengths and weaknesses and Warchiefs are tougher bosses with very few weaknesses and a lot bonus that require an special approach to kill them.

Orc bosses are created randomly, which means you will never see the same orc in different playthroughs. You can even find Bane in here :P
Orc bosses are created randomly, which means you will never see the same orc in different playthroughs. You can even find Bane in here :P

Admittedly, this game can be really hard when you are first playing it and you are still getting use to the controls. Its a title that doesn't hold hands with you and expects you to use anything at your disposal to solve your problems. Sure you can try facing the Warchiefs head on while he is surrounded by bodyguards and get killed in the process. You can also dispose of their bodyguards before hand to make the fight easier or draw them out in the open away from other orcs to not have an angry mob after your ass. Its a game that rewards players who are creative and doesn't try to hamper by adding unnecessary extra objectives just so they could get 100% like in AC.

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The progression skill treee is quite complex and deep to its benefit. Every upgrade you get makes the combat more satisfying and refreshing and the game keeps the pace up by withoulding some of the most powerful abilities by progressing through the storyline, such as the power to brand enemies you receive during the half-way point of the game. There are also Weapon Runes by killing Uruk captains that you can costumize to give your weapons specific qualities. Those can be a little of a hassle, as they are generated randomly or depending the nature which you killed this Uruk (by using his specific fear against him) its particularly hard to get the effect you desire. If you happen to stack up countless runes that are useless or outdated, you can convert them into experience points which is a extremely satisfying feature. Its really the small things that make you appreciate the effort devs put on designing the gameplay.

Though orcs will be your primary foes and the Nemesis system revolves around them, there are other different types of enemies like Caragors (which are wild beasts that can be used to ride and cause distractions), Ghuls (Morlock-like monsters that only appear at night or when you explore caves) and Graugs , unfortunately those are all the game has to offer if you grow sick of seeing orcs everywhere. Its rather unfortunate that the game doesn't feature some of the coolest villains in LotR like the Nazgul or the Mumakil-riding Easterlings. It should be noted that while Captains and Warchiefs provide a satisfying challenge during free-roaming and side activities, the actual story campaign bosses are very disappointingly easy.

Can you imagine if the Nemesis system applied to this big bad f***er? Holy sheeeeeeeet....
Can you imagine if the Nemesis system applied to this big bad f***er? Holy sheeeeeeeet....

Despite reports that the Nemesis system would have been downgraded for the last-gen consoles as they would focus more on the current gen, as it turns out the main selling point is still intact. Orcs still remember encounters, level up if they survive, get promoted if they managed to kill you, their AI is pretty competent overall, instead as of what was originally said that only bosses could level up and the enemies would have been overall dumber. That on itself is a big win, but lets follow up in the next section with my biggest gripe with the game.

Visual & Sound Effects

Scorpion2501

I played this game on PC and ran into a few problems at first. Nothing major, but I had to tweek my Nvidea options a bit to make it able to run, because before that, the game would just show a blank screen. After tweeking the game looked really great. It ran at a solid 60FPS, no frame drop at all, loading times were really short, almost none existent. I didn't encounter any bugs or glitches. And it was overal a pleasant experience. Most of the textures looked good, and the game looked really cinematic. Overal nothing bad to say about it.

The sound effects weren't bad at all, slicing of a head sounds any bit as gruesome as you expect it to be, and you can't ask more of that, can you now? The music however is one of the better video games soundtracks in the last year. Like "The Gravewalker" really makes you feel like you're in a desolate bleak place. And can really give you the chills. While "Ioreth" really makes you feel like you're in a fantasy world. Most of the soundtracks are really relaxing, and they are great to just listen to on your own. The action music gets your blood pumping, the sad music makes you feel melancholic and the creepy music will set the tone on how alone you really are in the vast world.

Dragonborn_CT

If you read my game reviews for a long time you will notice these sections are really small because I rarely have any opinion on graphics and stuff like that, my preference usually boils down to art syle over graphical power. However on this instance, I need to go on about my port's performance which was terrible to put it out of the way. The graphics are extremely inferior, the textures look so much uglier than what they were supposed to be. Even someone like me who is pretty forgiving about graphics was put off, imagine others. That on itself is pretty bad, but what really annoyed me was the loading times. Every time you enter a cutscene or open the menu or the map or, there is a loading screen. While they usually last 10 seconds, they feel like absolute pain once you see them enough times. You thought the Bayonetta on PS3 was bad, this port. Sound clipping was horrible sometimes background music was stuck in loops indefinitely and framerate chugged a lot. If anything was holding back my enjoyment was definitely the disastrous issues. In spite of all that, the gameplay didn't suffer as much and the Nemesis system was still preserved.

The game's musical score is sadly really bland as they ditch the Howard Shore-esque soundtrack that made the movies so memorable. Thankfully they do introduce some better songs when you reach the second half of the game. The actual voice acting is pretty good in the other hand (although I bit hampered by the poor lip-synching during gameplay) - in my case in particular, I experienced the whole game translated and dubbed in Brazilian Portuguese, by the same studio which worked in the movies too. Their work is fantastic and leagues ahead of Assassins' Creed IV: Black Flag, whose Brazilian dub was laughably bad.

Final Rating

Scorpion2501

I feel like an 8 would be a bit to low, and a 9 a bit to high. An 8.5 feels like an honest score for one of the most fun games I've played in a long game.

Dragonborn_CT

6/10 on PS3 - 8/10 elsewhere: This game is certainly running for GOTY in my book, I felt like I got my money's worth but I urge you that if you can avoid the PS3's port. While still functional and delivers on the same promise as the current-gen and PC, its clearly the inferior version (not surprising there). I recommend to any LotR fans, as well as fans of Batman's Arkham, even long time Assassin' Creed fans like myself who were burned and tired by the series will find some revitalizing energy in this series.

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Caio/Scorpion Reviews: Middle-Earth Shadow of Mordor

It feels like it was yesterday when I made my preview blog for the game when that awesome trailer came out. At first my initial concern was wether or not this game would deliver in its lofty goals, but then I doubtful on wether or not getting this game after news that the last-gen port would have been downgraded, and also because I was afraid I wouldn't do the game justice by reviewing it in a inferior port. So my friend @scorpion2501 offered himself to review the game with me so he could share his perspective in PC. So lets see, is Shadow of Mordor a game worthy of your money or just another cash grab made on Tolkien's name?

Summary

Set between the events of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings", you play as Talion (played by Troy Baker), a Ranger from Gondor stationed in the Black Gate of Mordor, who is murdered alongside his family by Sauron's servants, the Black Captains led by the mysterious Black Hand (played by Nolan North), who returned to reclaim the land for their master's homecoming. Fortunately for Talion, he is revived by a elven wraith that the Black Hand was attempting to summon with the ritual killing of Talion and his family. Now sharing the body with the wraith, revealed to be none other than Celebrimbor - the legendary forger of the 20 Rings of Power long murdered by the Dark Lord himself, the two embark on a quest of revenge, sharing a common enemy they need to stop before they can depart to the afterlife.

Plot & Characters

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While the plot may be one of it's weaker points, Shadow Of Mordor still doesn't fail to deliver us an engaging story. The theme that stands central in this game is mostly the desire for revenge, the player, Talion and his wraith friend Celebrimbor are both out for the same thing. Being free from the curse of living forever and murdering the people who turned their life into a living hell, or well, more like an undead hell. Because as I mentioned, both of them are in between a state of life and death, and neither can pass on to the afterlife. While I didn't think the story was as fleshed out as I wanted it to be, it was still an entertaining ride.

The characters are more engaging than the story in a lot of ways. The chemistry between Talion and Celebrimbor is one of the highlights of this game. They bicker a lot, and are always there to make me interested in the story again.

"I prefer the Star Wars prequels" "U WOT M8"

I loved every single piece of dialogue between them. At the start of the game we know little of Celebrimbor, and him suffering from amnesia doesn't help either. But as the story progresses you find his "Scattered memories", which give you a deeper insight in his past, which I very much enjoyed. While I can't say he didn't have that much of a backstory, it was still more than enough to understand his feeling and sympathise with his motives.

Most of the other characters are likeable as well, Torvin being my favorite. Torvin the dwarf is a hunter, and his personality is almost opposite that of our grumpy duo of main characters. His witty remarks and snarky jokes lighten up the mood, which is a great change of pace. And Torvin as well, gets enough background information to make him likeable, and make you want to aid him in his quests.

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This game offers a great expansion and fealty on the lore. The land of Mordor was largely uncharted and said to be home to creatures far more terrifying than orcs, and we get to see first hand how it was like before Sauron. They made so many homages to the background, the biggest one was probably making one of the protagonists Celebrimbor, who is an supporting character from the Sillmarillion largely unknown except to the most hardcore LotR characters. They went out their way to add in-game background details that you can visit in the pause menu anytime that contains character profiles for Talion, his family, the enemies, the monsters, the locations and etc. I really, really love when games add this level of detail.

Oh hai there Daenerys.
Oh hai there Daenerys.

Unfortunately, the narrative itself is rather weak and very cliched. I mean, c'mon guys you already seen this set up a thousand times as - bad guy kills the hero family now he goes on a roaring rampage of revenge - this time on Middle-Earth. Majority of the characters are one-note and it wouldn't have been much of a stretch to say that the Uruks you fight have more personality, though some manage to be entertaining like Ratbag (who provides some healthy comic-relief by serving as a punching bag in every single appearance during the first act) and Torvin (who is certainly a interesting character on his own but is absolutely peripheral to the plot). The characters that really get the short end of the stick are the actual main villains themselves, the Black Captains of Sauron, who are infinitaly less interesting their Orc henchmen - illustrated by their unspeakable bland names like the Hammer, the Tower and the Black Hand. The one thing that holds the story together is Talion/Celebrimbor's interactions. You think an undead wraith sharing the same body as yours would have been an evil influence trying to put dark temptations into your head, but as it turns out Celebrimbor and Talion get along pretty friendly, with the former offering advice to the latter while still bickering. Nice to see them subvert the enemy within trope for once.

While cool-looking, the main villains in SoM are underutilized.
While cool-looking, the main villains in SoM are underutilized.

And finally, I am disappointed that the ending is a massive letdown. Without wishing to spoil, but with the gaame building up to a massive confrontation between Talion and Sauron's forces falls flat as the final encounter is nothing but another set of enemies that you've been fighting all game long (only with some branded Warchiefs that will help you out) and a pathetically easy final boss (which on in context, doesn't make a lot of sense either) followed by a OBVIOUS SEQUEL BAIT ENDING. *Sigh* I guess if you are making a game based on Assassin's Creed you still need to make a sh*t ending to make up for it.

Even though I am more story-driven type of gamer, I am willing to give the any of the plot's fault a pass. You know why? Because when I checked in and saw I've played for 12 hours with completing only a handful of story missions, I realized I was having fun nonetheless without caring if the story was good or not, which I guess its okay. The story isn't horrible, just average at its really worse. Its more than I can say than some Purists who claim the game missed the entire point of the LotR mythos, or certain "professional" critics who can't tell reality from fiction and making a retarded big deal out of the prologue claiming the game is tone deaf over kissing/killing *cough* POLYGON *cough*.

Gameplay Aspects

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Gameplay consists of two main aspects. The "Nemesis System"

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and the actual open world gameplay. I'll start of by talking about the Nemesis System, and how this saved this game from being mediocre. The Nemesis System is where you can see every named Orc character. These Orcs all have unique names, nicknames, faces, weaknesses, powers, and best of all, relations to you. If you ever run into on of these orcs, and let's say burn them, but they run away and live to tell the tale. That orc will now have burn marks on him next time you meet him, and get new dialogue, about how he wants to kill you for what you did to him, or about what he did to you last battle. This makes you really motivated to kill some of those orcs. Because, and I'll go to the next big point in this game, when you are killed, the game doesn't ask you to restart the mission. The game just continues. Your failure is recorded, the orcs who faced you and killed you will gain in rank, and will be harder to kill. They'll mock you when you see them next time, saying how they'll kill you again and again until you stay dead. And believe me, when you have an orc that killed you ten times, you won't be happy until his smug face is erased from this world.

There is also an ability that can let you brand orcs, which makes them your followers. This also influences the Nemesis System, because you will have a chess piece in this hierarchy of orcs. And you can try and take it down from the inside. You can let your orc assassinate other orcs, gain in rank and become the strongest of them all. This really comes in handy when you really want to get rid of that orc that you alone can't defeat...

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The actual gameplay is really smooth. The fighting feels really Batman Arkham-esque. With a variety of different moves,the combat feels very fluent and never feels like a chore.

The chopping up of orcs feel satisfying, no matter how many times you do it. This game also features stealth gameplay. Which is needed, because some of the fights you can get into are so impossible to win, you really need to thin them out first. The stealth is pretty basic overall. Crouch and hope you don't get seen, stab victim from behind.

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And there is a fun amount of environment interaction, which makes for some fun changes in scenario. You can set bees loose, shoot up walls, or set wargs free form their cages.

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There isn't a huge variety of enemies. Your main enemy will be the Orcs and Orc bosses. But from time to time you'll also have to fight wildlife, like wargs, ghuls and graugs. And here the idiom "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" doesn't apply. All of the enemies summed up will also fight amongst themselves, so, have a hard time fighting a swarm of hundreds of ghuls? Bait them into a battalion of orcs, maybe add in a graug as well while you're at it. Then kick back and watch the fireworks happen. Honestly, I think the variety of enemies isn't as big as I liked it to be, it still makes for some hard fights. But that's just me nitpicking.

There is also a skill system and item system. And well, the skill system is what you think it is. Upgrade your health, upgrade the amount of arrows you can carry, learn a new skill. Like this one.

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The item system isn't that impressive. You basically find runes to upgrade your weapons, though it always feels nice to find a legendary rune, it doesn't deliver the same punch as actually being able to find new gear.

The worldmap is huge, and filled with fun things to do. There are sidequests by the dozen, that guarantee a lot of hours of extra fun. I completed the main campaign in about 11 hours, while just rushing through the main missions. I had that same amount of time fun doind all the side missions and murdering the orcs that had killed me in the past.

Dragonborn_CT

Just imagined if Talion was a antagonist to the Fellowship of the Ring, how screwed would they be like?
Just imagined if Talion was a antagonist to the Fellowship of the Ring, how screwed would they be like?

As a action RPG open-world game, the gameplay is the perfect blend of Assassin's Creed style of parkour and exploration with Batman Arkham's style of combat and stealth with the addition of magical powers and completely unrestricted by a no-kill policy. I won't mince words here, this game is all about killing orcs. Everything you do in this game one way or the other is involved with sneaking up on orcs or fighting them in direct combat, there is very few room to do anything else (even the side activities that give weapon bonus are all about that). At first glance, it might look like this is going to turn repetitive as all Hell. But thanks to the Nemesis system, each orc is generated randomly each different from the next. Orc Captains are sub-bosses with their own strengths and weaknesses and Warchiefs are tougher bosses with very few weaknesses and a lot bonus that require an special approach to kill them.

Orc bosses are created randomly, which means you will never see the same orc in different playthroughs. You can even find Bane in here :P
Orc bosses are created randomly, which means you will never see the same orc in different playthroughs. You can even find Bane in here :P

Admittedly, this game can be really hard when you are first playing it and you are still getting use to the controls. Its a title that doesn't hold hands with you and expects you to use anything at your disposal to solve your problems. Sure you can try facing the Warchiefs head on while he is surrounded by bodyguards and get killed in the process. You can also dispose of their bodyguards before hand to make the fight easier or draw them out in the open away from other orcs to not have an angry mob after your ass. Its a game that rewards players who are creative and doesn't try to hamper by adding unnecessary extra objectives just so they could get 100% like in AC.

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The progression skill treee is quite complex and deep to its benefit. Every upgrade you get makes the combat more satisfying and refreshing and the game keeps the pace up by withoulding some of the most powerful abilities by progressing through the storyline, such as the power to brand enemies you receive during the half-way point of the game. There are also Weapon Runes by killing Uruk captains that you can costumize to give your weapons specific qualities. Those can be a little of a hassle, as they are generated randomly or depending the nature which you killed this Uruk (by using his specific fear against him) its particularly hard to get the effect you desire. If you happen to stack up countless runes that are useless or outdated, you can convert them into experience points which is a extremely satisfying feature. Its really the small things that make you appreciate the effort devs put on designing the gameplay.

Though orcs will be your primary foes and the Nemesis system revolves around them, there are other different types of enemies like Caragors (which are wild beasts that can be used to ride and cause distractions), Ghuls (Morlock-like monsters that only appear at night or when you explore caves) and Graugs , unfortunately those are all the game has to offer if you grow sick of seeing orcs everywhere. Its rather unfortunate that the game doesn't feature some of the coolest villains in LotR like the Nazgul or the Mumakil-riding Easterlings. It should be noted that while Captains and Warchiefs provide a satisfying challenge during free-roaming and side activities, the actual story campaign bosses are very disappointingly easy.

Can you imagine if the Nemesis system applied to this big bad f***er? Holy sheeeeeeeet....
Can you imagine if the Nemesis system applied to this big bad f***er? Holy sheeeeeeeet....

Despite reports that the Nemesis system would have been downgraded for the last-gen consoles as they would focus more on the current gen, as it turns out the main selling point is still intact. Orcs still remember encounters, level up if they survive, get promoted if they managed to kill you, their AI is pretty competent overall, instead as of what was originally said that only bosses could level up and the enemies would have been overall dumber. That on itself is a big win, but lets follow up in the next section with my biggest gripe with the game.

Visual & Sound Effects

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I played this game on PC and ran into a few problems at first. Nothing major, but I had to tweek my Nvidea options a bit to make it able to run, because before that, the game would just show a blank screen. After tweeking the game looked really great. It ran at a solid 60FPS, no frame drop at all, loading times were really short, almost none existent. I didn't encounter any bugs or glitches. And it was overal a pleasant experience. Most of the textures looked good, and the game looked really cinematic. Overal nothing bad to say about it.

The sound effects weren't bad at all, slicing of a head sounds any bit as gruesome as you expect it to be, and you can't ask more of that, can you now? The music however is one of the better video games soundtracks in the last year. Like "The Gravewalker" really makes you feel like you're in a desolate bleak place. And can really give you the chills. While "Ioreth" really makes you feel like you're in a fantasy world. Most of the soundtracks are really relaxing, and they are great to just listen to on your own. The action music gets your blood pumping, the sad music makes you feel melancholic and the creepy music will set the tone on how alone you really are in the vast world.

Dragonborn_CT

If you read my game reviews for a long time you will notice these sections are really small because I rarely have any opinion on graphics and stuff like that, my preference usually boils down to art syle over graphical power. However on this instance, I need to go on about my port's performance which was terrible to put it out of the way. The graphics are extremely inferior, the textures look so much uglier than what they were supposed to be. Even someone like me who is pretty forgiving about graphics was put off, imagine others. That on itself is pretty bad, but what really annoyed me was the loading times. Every time you enter a cutscene or open the menu or the map or, there is a loading screen. While they usually last 10 seconds, they feel like absolute pain once you see them enough times. You thought the Bayonetta on PS3 was bad, this port. Sound clipping was horrible sometimes background music was stuck in loops indefinitely and framerate chugged a lot. If anything was holding back my enjoyment was definitely the disastrous issues. In spite of all that, the gameplay didn't suffer as much and the Nemesis system was still preserved.

The game's musical score is sadly really bland as they ditch the Howard Shore-esque soundtrack that made the movies so memorable. Thankfully they do introduce some better songs when you reach the second half of the game. The actual voice acting is pretty good in the other hand (although I bit hampered by the poor lip-synching during gameplay) - in my case in particular, I experienced the whole game translated and dubbed in Brazilian Portuguese, by the same studio which worked in the movies too. Their work is fantastic and leagues ahead of Assassins' Creed IV: Black Flag, whose Brazilian dub was laughably bad.

Final Rating

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I feel like an 8 would be a bit to low, and a 9 a bit to high. An 8.5 feels like an honest score for one of the most fun games I've played in a long game.

Dragonborn_CT

6/10 on PS3 - 8/10 elsewhere: This game is certainly running for GOTY in my book, I felt like I got my money's worth but I urge you that if you can avoid the PS3's port. While still functional and delivers on the same promise as the current-gen and PC, its clearly the inferior version (not surprising there). I recommend to any LotR fans, as well as fans of Batman's Arkham, even long time Assassin' Creed fans like myself who were burned and tired by the series will find some revitalizing energy in this series.

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