The Roof Less Travelled

Egyptian shingles were certainly built to last.

Either that or someone is being paid to follow Bayek around and repair every shingle left devastated in his relentless pursuit of justice. Not that I’d be surprised if someone was following him around, but I doubt it’s for a reason as innocent as shingle repair. They probably want to murder him. Most people do. For some unexplained reason that surely has nothing to do with all of the people he’s killed, the treasures he’s looted, or the local wildlife he’s hunted. Not that I really concern myself with their murderous intent. There’s a reason that I’ve invested so heavily in the Warrior tree.

Mostly because I’m not very good at sneaking around.

I’m not even sure why I instinctively retreat to the roof when cornered. I’m not particularly proficient at (nor have I specialised in) using a bow, and I have no techniques with them. I just seem to fare better from the safety of the roof when they’ve called for reinforcements and I’m surrounded.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is the first of the Assassin’s Creed series that I’ve played. It took months of deliberation before I decided to purchase it, but I’m glad that I did. I now fully understand why this series is regarded so highly. If this is a notable departure from the mechanics usually present in the series, then that which came before it must have been truly special. There’s a certain attention to detail present throughout the entire experience. You’re met with an ever-expanding, vibrant, colourful world which is populated with meaningful NPCs. NPCs that don’t mysteriously disappear when their quest has been completed. Exploration is as fluid and as unrestrained as you would expect (and want) it to be. Combat is surprisingly exhilarating and ridiculously satisfying. Even hunting wildlife is strangely appealing.

I’d rather be on a roof than dealing with this.

The character development mechanics are also wonderfully extensive. Skill points can be invested in three distinct skill trees, each allowing you to specialise in certain weapons or techniques. Each weapon class has its own fighting style and performs differently in combat. Armour can be upgraded to increase your health, increase damage dealt, or increase the number of arrows (and tools) that you can carry. Tools can be unlocked via the Seer tree, and these can alter how you approach situations. You’ve really got unprecedented freedom to complete objectives as you see fit.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve opted for close quarters combat.

It’s certainly useful when infiltrating enemy strongholds and when fighting most enemies, but crocodiles enjoy slapping me. So whenever I’m hunting wildlife I’ll use my bow even if I don’t need to. As some animals can only be hunted with a bow, because they’ll run away if they happen to see you.

I’m surprised at how enthralling I find Assassin’s Creed: Origins to be. Not that I expected any less of it, but vast open worlds often feel lacklustre as there’s so much to see but so little to do. The regions in Assassin’s Creed: Origins are the opposite. They’re not ridiculously huge but there are so many locations to visit, puzzles to solve, treasures to acquire, and secrets to uncover. It’s slightly ridiculous how enjoyable the exploration is. I doubt I’ll be playing through the entire Assassin’s Creed series, but I’ll definitely be playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey as that looks absolutely breathtaking. Visually and mechanically. I’m just wondering whether I’d have been more receptive to the first entries in the series were I more interested in stealth, and whether I’ve been missing out on really amazing experiences because of it.

Have a nice week, all!


Rebuilding the Jedi Order

Haunted by the past, hopeful for the future.

While being hunted by the ruthless and unwavering Galactic Empire, our diffident protagonist, Cal Kestis, attempts to retrace the journey of a Jedi Master and seeks to uncover the secrets of the Zeffo. An ancient civilization that had an unprecedented understanding of the mysteries of the Force. Who were also fascinated by rolling giant balls around, and who would bestow their knowledge unto those capable of doing so. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is an extraordinarily engaging narrative-driven RPG in which you endeavour to rebuild the Jedi Order while collecting many stylish ponchos.

You’ll also be collecting various seeds for the Mantis’ terrarium.

Those, much like the ponchos, are of the utmost importance and contribute greatly to your success, should you ever wish to befriend Greez. Which has its benefits. He does become slightly less crotchety with every seed recovered, despite being incredibly vocal about his hatred of nature.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order also features vast landscapes to explore and it’s ridiculously fun to do so. While many of the rewards are cosmetic, secrets, such as Stim Canisters, are incredibly valuable and are always worth pursuing. Even if you’re being relentlessly pursued by the sadistic Second Sister. She can wait until you’ve discovered every chest, secret, and upgrade for BD-1 on every planet. It’s not like you’re the last hope for hundreds of Force-sensitive children. Which is not to suggest that exploration is always frivolous, as exploring each of the ancient tombs often results in Cal strengthening his connection to the Force and learning a new Force ability. Of which there are only a few but they are incredibly useful. Not that I’d necessarily agree that being able to jump twice requires a deeper connection to the Force, but I digress.

Surprisingly agile. Unsurprisingly bloodthirsty.

Character development is tied to Force abilities, as each one further expands the skill tree allowing for greater proficiency in combat and heightened character statistics. There aren’t too many ways to develop Cal besides that. You can fully customise the appearance of his lightsaber, and unlock new lightsaber styles throughout the main campaign. Each offering its own unique fighting style with its own advantages and disadvantages. Which is perfectly suited to the exhilarating lightsaber duels with the Sith, but doesn’t significantly alter the offensive (or defensive) capabilities of his lightsaber.

That’s reserved for the Lightsaber Mastery skill.

You can find equipment that allows you to explore previously inaccessible areas, but it doesn’t aid you in combat nor does it change Cal’s base statistics considerably. However, while limited, character development is meaningful, as each investment into the skill tree yields decent rewards.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Whether it would be a complex RPG experience akin to Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, or whether it would favour an action-orientated approach emphasising storytelling. In retrospect I’d say it was mostly the latter. But that’s not to say that there aren’t RPG mechanics, and utilising them will only further the techniques and abilities available to you in combat. Or while exploring planets. Exploration certainly makes up the bulk of the experience but that’s not a bad thing. Not when the exploration is as enjoyable as it was, and when you’re actually excited about returning to Bogano for the fifth time. I’d highly recommend it to those who enjoy Star Wars (in any shape or form) or those looking for an in-depth single player RPG experience.

Have a nice week, all!


Secrets of the Zeffo

A civilization fixated on rolling giant balls around.

Given that many of their secrets allow for greater understanding of the Force, and that you don’t need to be Force-sensitive to roll a giant ball around, it does seem like an odd way to assess the suitability of those searching for answers. It certainly makes exploring ancient tombs more interesting, though. If only the Galactic Empire didn’t have the Sith who could just as easily uncover these secrets, then we might have a chance to rebuild the Jedi Order. Not that the crew of the Mantis is without hope. We’ve rolled enough giant balls into their sockets to uncover the secrets of two ancient tombs.

Now we’ve just got to uncover the secrets of the third.

But, as we’ve gained additional Force abilities, and BD-1 has been upgraded with new technology, we’re going to completely ignore the Galactic Empire to explore planets. To acquire ponchos and other cosmetic rewards. Maybe uncover a few secrets, too. Those tend to offer the greatest benefits.

While ponchos and other cosmetic rewards are neat, unlocking new (or upgrading existing) equipment and technology allows for further exploration of each planet. Or allows for progression through the main campaign. Cosmetic rewards are only useful if you’re actually going to wear them, or apply them to BD-1 and the Mantis. Force echoes can also be discovered, and they serve to enrich your understanding of the history of the planet you’re currently exploring. So there are quite a few things to do on each planet and exploring them is ridiculously fun. I’d just be more enthusiastic to find anything other than secrets if the rewards from chests were more meaningful. Not that I’ve ever cared for cosmetic rewards. So the aforementioned probably says more about me than about the rewards themselves.

BD-1 is the bravest companion a Jedi could have.

I am intending to return to each planet to fully explore it, though. Collect all of the chests, secrets, and interesting technological upgrades present. Even if I’ll have more ponchos than any one Jedi knows what to do with. I’d personally prefer some robes. Not that we’d be able to hide from the Galactic Empire very effectively when we resemble the atypical Jedi, but at least we’d look stylish and that’s what truly matters. It won’t take too long as I’ll have my trusty (and sometimes confusing) Holomap to lead the way. It’s definitely one of the better maps I’ve had the pleasure of navigating planets with.

It just becomes confusing with larger planets.

Notably, it highlights the areas that you can (and can’t) reach with your abilities as they currently are. Which not only allows you to know what’s actually inaccessible, but also (rather conveniently) highlights the areas that have become accessible as a result of acquiring new equipment or technology.

I’ve greatly enjoyed my time with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. It’s a very capable single player experience which doesn’t artificially extend existing content. Everything happens as you would expect it to, and besides Stim Canisters, which are arguably the most valuable secret, there are few reasons to revisit (and fully explore) every planet besides the cosmetic rewards. Which some may consider a failing of the exploration mechanics. But I find it very refreshing to revisit planets as and when I want to, without being required to grind through hours of thoughtless content. You’ve no obligation to collect everything but you can if you want to. Or you can continue with the main campaign. Or you can do some combination of both. It’s entirely up to you when you want to approach things, or if you want to approach them at all..

Have a nice week, all!


You’ve Failed Elysium

You don’t want to be this kind of animal any more.

Which is understandable, considering that you wake up half-naked on the floor of your room at the Whirling-in-Rags with no understanding of the basic concepts of reality. It’s hardly a prestigious position for an officer of the Revachol Citizens Militia to be in. But that’s why this protagonist is so endearing, and why exploring the ever-evolving city district of Martinaise is such a pleasure. Disco Elysium is an incredibly satisfying narrative-driven RPG in which you attempt to learn the truth behind a brutal murder. How you solve that murder and who you become in the process is up to you.

I’ve written before of this ambitious protagonist.

It’s such a bizarre approach to character development, but it’s perfectly executed alongside the dialogue system which affords the opportunity to create a truly unique detective. Who isn’t perfect and doesn’t naturally succeed at everything. Whose failures are just as important as their successes.

You’re encouraged to be unorthodox and explore everything while talking to everyone. Make decisions when it seems right to do so. Return to characters (and conversations) later when you’ve gathered more evidence. The dialogue system is expertly designed and responds (as you would expect it to) to the acquisition of new evidence, new information, or new items. Thoughts can also be useful when solving various tasks. These can be internalised in the Thought Cabinet as you learn of them, and they can provide very specific (but potentially useful) responses to certain dialogue options or checks. It’s one of the best dialogue systems I’ve ever seen. It’s so flexible (but logical) and promotes diversification in all things. Not every character will solve every problem or approach every task in the same way. Nor can they.

I sincerely wish he was making this up.

You’ll also be exploring the rather colourful history of our beloved amnesiac protagonist along the way. These memories won’t always be pleasant, with most manifesting as nightmarish visions which haunt the detective and fuel his alcoholic tendencies. Not that you need to be an alcoholic any more. That’s entirely up to you. As you explore Martinaise you’ll have many opportunities to develop new personality traits, express existing ones, or become the herald of impending doom. Revachol will then respond accordingly to your decisions, and new opportunities may arise as a result.

Which is why you should make the most of each passing day.

Interacting with as many characters as possible, exploring as much as you can, and steadily progressing the investigation to a satisfactory conclusion. While Revachol will respond to (and is influenced by) your decisions it’s not governed by them, and the world will keep moving even if you don’t.

Of all the experiences I’ve had this year, Disco Elysium is one of the best. I’m not really sure how to explain it. There’s such a rich, compelling, vibrant narrative at the heart of the investigation and learning about each of the characters is an absolute pleasure. Learning more about the detective kept me engaged, as did the exploration and the myriad tasks requiring my attention. It never felt particularly drawn out. Never sluggish or slow. Key events during the investigation were superbly represented by unique scenes, which not only highlighted their significance but illustrated the progression of the main campaign. It’s an absolutely gorgeous world to explore and a testament to the developers’ desire to create a one-of-a-kind experience. I’d highly recommend Disco Elysium to those fond of narrative-driven RPGs!

Have a nice weekend, all!


Dumpster Divin’ Hobocop

There are worse things that you could become.

You could be a horridly broken human being who (rather successfully) drank themselves to existential oblivion. That’d be a delightfully ludicrous concept for a protagonist. A woefully inept detective who barely understands the fundamentals of reality itself, but can still perform exceptional (and otherworldly) feats befitting one of his reputation. Disco Elysium has executed this concept well. Not only does it provide the perfect foundation to build a unique character on, but it explains why your character has no recollection of where they are or what they’re supposed to be doing.

That’s always been a funny inconsistency in many RPGs.

You’ve allegedly lived somewhere for your entire life, but you need to ask someone else (who may not even live there) where various things are in order to undertake basic quests. I realise that this is designed to introduce the player to particular mechanics. But it’s always been humorous to me.

Disco Elysium also allows you to explore the self-aggrandising tendencies and selfish nature of the protagonist. Or you could nurture their apologetic and selfless inclinations instead. Or you could be a maelstrom of human emotion that doesn’t adhere to any stereotype. It’s a rather fascinating approach that presents a very malleable protagonist, one that has a (particularly colourful) identity before you meet but could easily be shaped into something else if you’d prefer. There’s a rich narrative at the heart of the experience, and the world offers many different opportunities to uncover unique facets of your personality that you didn’t know (or didn’t want to know) you had. You’re encouraged to explore your surroundings, to speak to people, to undertake myriad tasks, and to roll dice by attempting numerous dialogue checks.

It’s true. He usually doesn’t.

It’s certainly an unorthodox approach to a narrative-driven RPG. It’s also brilliant. It’s exactly what you’d like to be able to do when building a character, as having both strengths and weaknesses affords the opportunity to experience something unusual with every attempt. You can’t be perfect. You can barely function as a human being. But the fractured reality in which you live is beautiful. You can be outlandishly brilliant and devastatingly moronic in the same conversation. It’s a ridiculously ambitious idea, and it’s superbly represented through each and every interaction.

I’ve really been enjoying the experience so far.

Which is the best way I can describe it. It’s an experience. The deeper I’ve dug into the investigation, the more I’ve begun to consider how many other things may be happening. Or how many other people might be involved. I doubt I’ll ever have the answer to every question I’ve asked, though.

I definitely don’t trust certain characters, and I can’t shake the feeling that certain interactions are too coincidental to not have repercussions. I’m trying my best to remain impartial. But being unable to do everything with the same character makes that somewhat impossible. There are certain situations that you won’t be equipped to deal with, and it may become necessary to work with others. I’ve tried to avoid working with others by prioritising exploration. Hoping that by earning more skill points, encountering new characters, and acquiring different clothing that I might be able to solve most things by myself. I doubt that I’ll be able to get very far on my own, but it serves to illustrate the unconventional way that you can approach situations as they present themselves. I’m sure to be a truly rich tapestry of human experiences when this is all over.

Have a nice week, all!