Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

I’m baaaack. . .


Yesterday was one of those days when, after too much stress, the mind and body simply got together and firmly said, “Nope, not gonna work, not gonna think, not gonna do anything.” It was one of those moments when I realized just how long it has been since I’ve had a real vacation — one where I don’t work, write or kill myself working around the house. I won’t go into the reasons behind my brain putting its foot down. Some of you know and, if you don’t, it isn’t anything of any real import now. It was just something that for a 24 hour period interrupted everything else going on and had me angrier than I have been in a very, very long time. That sort of anger is not only counter-productive but exhausting.

So I found myself yesterday unable to write or read for most of the day. Since daytime TV sucks eggs — it is ever worse that evening TV — I did some gaming. One of the things I did was play the demo for the new Doom. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my memories of the original Doom, one of the first games I ever played on PC. The demo isn’t long, just the first mission of the game. But it was more than enough to show that the reviews I’ve seen aren’t lying. The game rocks.

If you are interested in trying out the demo, time is running out (if it hasn’t already). You can snag a copy from Steam or its equivalent if you are a console player. Try it out. I’d be interested in hearing what you think about it.

Since that didn’t take long (no more than an hour or so, if I remember correctly), I went back to playing Dishonored – PC. This is one of those games I both love and hate. I love it because it is challenging and there is no one “right” way to play the game. There are different paths you can take to reach your destination. You can choose to play a purely stealth game or you can go in gun and blade and powers blazing. The decisions you make impact how people respond to you and impacts the ending of the game.

I hate the game for much the same reasons. I tend to game to beat stress. Having to sneak around and kill as few enemy as possible is not good for lowering the stress level. In fact, at least for me, it raises it. But it is also a great mental game because you have to pay attention to everything going on around you. You need to look for patrol patterns, etc. and keep track of the number of kills you’ve made if you are working for a low chaos ending.

That also makes for replayability. That is a big consideration in my book. When you pay $50 or more for a game, I want more than a few hours of play time with little to no desire to replay the game. I am hoping when Dishonored 2 Limited Edition – PlayStation 4 comes out, it follows the same theme of your choices impacting the end of the game. I already like the fact you can choose to play the game as either Korvo or Emily and that they will have different powers and abilities. That was one of the things that made Assassin’s Creed Syndicate so much fun and gave it a replayability factor so many games don’t have.

Better yet, the gaming did give my brain enough time to process what had it demanding time off. By late afternoon, I was able to get a little bit of work done. Better yet, while I was gaming, the back brain had been working and it figured out why I was balking on the opening of the short story I’ve been working on. The story was drafted in very rough form but something just didn’t work and I couldn’t figure it out. Well, now I have and it won’t be that major a fix. Better yet, I should be able to get back on schedule in another day or two — assuming real life doesn’t blow up around me again.

Anyway, that was my day yesterday and the reason for no blogging. Now I need to get my butt in the desk chair and get to work. Back later. Have a great day!

Review — Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

I’ve mentioned before that my way of destressing from life and from writing is to game. There are times I thank my son for getting me into gaming and other times when I curse him. As I finish my first play through of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, I thank him. This has been one of the most entertaining games I’ve played in a long while.

First things first, I played this on  a PC. Most of my gaming is done this way these days. While there are a few games I’d like to play that are platformers only, there aren’t enough to justify buying yet another gaming system, much less two.

I’ve played other Assassin’s Creed games. Liked some, loved one and others left me pretty much going “meh”. I will admit going into Syndicate, I was more than a little leery. So much had been made of the fact that you could now play as a female for much, but not all, of the game. Then there was all the half-hearted cheering because Ubisoft had put a trans-gendered character in. There were cheers for having such a character but jeers because it was a non-playable character. (For those who haven’t played the game, or who didn’t read the bios in the database, I’m talking about Ned Wynert.) To be honest, other than making the world more representative, the fact Ned was a trans male didn’t play into the game at all.

Then there was the opening screen where Ubisoft welcomes players to the game. I groaned and wondered what I had gotten myself into when it came up. “Inspired by historical events and characters, this work of fiction was designed, developed, and produced by a multicultural team of various beliefs, sexual orientations and gender identities.” All sorts of visions of politically correct ideologies and feminist agendas filled my mind. Even when people whose opinions I trust said to play the game, I wondered if I had been led astray.

Without giving away spoilers, I will admit there was an inordinate amount of evil white males in the game. All but one of the mini-bosses, for lack of a better word, were male. Only a couple of the gang leaders you had to defeat were female. Evie Frye, the female protagonist, is more of a thinker and more worried about consequences than her twin brother Jacob, the male protagonist. In fact, Jacob is a bit of an ass and Evie spends a lot of the game “cleaning up” (her words) after him. That may have been the writer’s attempt to show sibling rivalry but it fell sort of flat to me. I would have preferred them working together rather than at odds with one another so much of the game.

Visually, the game is stunning. It captures the feel of Victorian England. My rig didn’t have any problem handling the specs and that was a definite plus.

The controls were easy to reacquaint myself with and I rarely ran into one of those lousy camera angle problems you get with so many games.

As for the media for the game, I chose to buy a physical copy. I purchased the Assassin’s Creed Syndicate – Gold Edition – PC. This included the game as well as the season pass. That meant I was immediately able to install the Jack the Ripper dlc and The Last Maharaja dlc downloaded last week. Unlike some of the problems the XBOX and Playstation gamers had with their gold edition downloads, I had no issues getting either. Also, buying it this way saved me more than $20. That is a big plus as is the fact you don’t have to play through Steam. Yes, it connects to Ubisoft but you can play off-line and it is easier to configure the game to do so than it is through Steam, imo.

As for the game itself, I enjoyed it a great deal. I have yet to play the World War I extension or the Jack the Ripper dlc, but the former can’t be played until you beat the game and the latter can be played any time. I did play The Last Maharaja and, while good, it isn’t the best dlc I’ve ever played. I am glad it came as part of the season pass and I didn’t pay another $10 for it. Still, you do get some goodies during the missions and as a result of completing the dlc. So it is well worth playing.

Admission time, I did not go for 100% completion. That’s a new one for me and I might go back later to do so. The problem for me is there were too many escort missions and the like. That sort of grinding, especially when you have already maxed out on leveling up, means you are grinding for nothing, especially if you don’t like those sort of missions.

What I did like was being able to switch between the characters of Evie and Jacob. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Evie was more of a stealth character while Jacob was more of the fight ’em and kill ’em. I found myself playing as Evie more often when I was able to choose which character to play. Ubisoft did, however, make it impossible to play as one character throughout the game. Some missions required one character while others demanded the other. That was something I enjoyed.

So, will I go back to play the WWI and Jack the Ripper sections? You bet. I want to see how Ubisoft handled the WWI bit since you play as a new character. From everything I’ve heard, the Jack the Ripper dlc is probably one of the best Ubisoft has done. Besides, the idea of playing the same character 20 years later intrigues me.

So, were there negatives to the game? Sure. I’ve yet to play a perfect game. From time to time, the vocals didn’t quite match up to the mouth movements, reminding me of a badly synced foreign film. During the final mission, Evie is out of her usual outfits (that you earn or buy) and in a ballgown. Clearly the game designers had issues with how she should move. They got the hip swish in but from the waist up, she was like a Barbie doll — little to no movement, arms at a weird angle, etc. But that was minor when compared to all the good in the game.

Some of the missions could get very frustrating if you were trying to hit the additional goals. Timing meant everything in those missions and after several desynchronizations in a row, it was tempting to simply kill the nearby enemy instead of trying to sneak past them. (Okay, I’ll admit I did that on more than one occasion.) There were times I wanted to reach through the screen and smack Jacob because you knew all the work you’d done with him to “help” someone would come back to bite him in the ass.

I’ll also admit that the final boss battle was a big let down. Not to the point of the original ME3 letdown but a letdown all the same. It was too easy and too quick.

I am hopeful that Ubisoft follows this up with another high quality game and have hopes that is what is happening since they aren’t rushing to put another game out right away. In the meantime, I will play the dlc and keep my fingers crossed.

Final recommendation: this is a must have for anyone who is a fan of the series. For those who haven’t played the series before, I recommend this as a great way to spend time in Victorian England.


On writing, gaming and drinking coffee

Yes, yes, I know. I promised a snippet and you will get it. Not today or even tomorrow. I am going to start doing snippets on the weekends. I am hard a work on the final edits for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). I am also starting the preliminary draft for Dagger of Elanna, the follow up to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). After that, not necessarily in this order, will come Nocturnal Challenge, a secret project I can’t discuss just yet, Skeletons in the Closet, and a host of other books demanding to be written.

One thing I’m learning is that I have to take a little bit of time between projects to not only switch “voices” but to decompress. That week or so is when I try to catch up on my reading, see movies and trying out new video games. I don’t buy a new game after every finished product but I do when something interesting catches my eye or someone I trust recommends a game.

That’s why I played — and later reviewed — Rise of the Tomb Raider – Digital Deluxe Edition [Online Game Code]. It is why I am now playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate – Gold Edition – PC. This is the first time in a long while I’ve bought the actual disc for a game. But this particular edition was a much better buy than going to Steam and paying for the game and then buying the season pass. So, I bought the disc, installed it on my laptop and started playing.

And found what has, so far at least, been my favorite Assassin’s Creed game to date. Part of it is the story and mechanics. Part is the fact I can, on many of the missions, choose which character to play. I can go more for brute strength by playing Jacob or stealth by choosing his twin Evie. Yes, for those who feel there needs to be a female playable character, Ubisoft has given you one.

I’ll follow up with a full review when I finish the game but, for the moment, I am enjoying it a great deal and it has helped with the decompression from finishing Slay Bells Ring and doing edits (which I hate doing) on Honor.

So where, you ask, does coffee come into all this? That’s simple. Like a lot of writers, I seem to live on caffeine. My brain doesn’t get going in the morning without that kickstart you can only get from a cup of coffee. I grew up in a household that used a Corningware stove top percolator, even after the company recalled them. My dad’s philosophy was that your coffee wasn’t strong enough unless your spoon could stand, unaided, in the middle of the mug. Not that he would ever ruin a cup of coffee by adding anything to it. Coffee was meant to be drunk black as night and hot as Hell (or cold as the Arctic in the summer).

Fastforward to today. I’ve done the Mr. Coffee route and the Keurig k-cups. Mr. Coffee and those type of coffeemakers can leave you with scorched coffee because you leave it on the burner. The alternative is to brew into a carafe that is a bitch to clean. K-cups will never, ever make a full-bodied cup of coffee. Sorry, it just isn’t going to happen.

So someone finally recommended Death Wish Whole Bean Coffee, The World’s Strongest Coffee, Fair Trade and USDA Certified Organic – 16 Ounce Bag. I balked at first. After all, you may as well say it is $20/lb. Ouch! Then I started looking at what I was paying for Peet’s or Starbucks to put into the reusable k-kups as well as what I spent to drink regular k-cups. By the time I added up the cost per cup and how many cups per day I was drinking, I thought I might as well give Death Wish a try. After all, if it was as strong as they said, I might not drink as much.

Boy has that been a good decision. My four or five cups (read large mugs) of coffee each day minimum I’d been drinking is down to two cups max. A pound of Death Wish lasts approximately 2 weeks. So my monthly coffee budget is $40. If I were buying k-cups (Green Mountain because that is the brand the rest of the family likes), and if I were averaging 4 cups a day, my monthly budget would be over $80 ordering from Amazon. It would be less if I were lucky enough to find a sale locally but those are few and far between. Starbucks whole beans would run somewhere between the two. So, for a great tasting coffee that has enough caffeine to get me going and that doesn’t leave me crashing later in the day, I’ll pay the price. It works out to be less in the long run.

Now, if only I could find chocolate as good as Death Wish is as coffee and that was as affordable per use, I’d be a very happy camper, er, writer.

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