Tag Archive: Revelations


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You are the ocean’s gray waves

Nintendo has never been afraid to try something new. Sometimes those gambles pay huge dividends, and other times, they end in disaster. But the Big N keeps innovating, and its most recent change of pace comes with its beloved strategy-RPG series, Fire Emblem. Instead of giving us one adventure, this time Nintendo and developer Intelligent Systems has split up it’s most recent chapter into three perspectives dubbed Fire Emblem Fates.

In Fates, players assume the role of Corrin, a young prince (or princess) from the land of Hoshido who was kidnapped and raised by the kingdom of Nohr as one of their own. When Corrin comes of age and the war between the two kingdoms reaches a fever pitch, you learn the truth of Corrin’s upbringing, and are faced with a game-altering decision: Return to Hoshido, stay with Nohr, or forge your own path towards peace and choose neither.

What’s nice about Fire Emblem Fates Special Edition is that it offers all three paths on one game card, even allowing you to jump straight to the fateful decision on repeat playthroughs. This is a boon, because if you otherwise wanted to explore all three perspectives, and learn all the details there are to learn about this latest Fire Emblem world, you’d have to buy the games separately as Birthright (Hoshido story), Conquest (Nohr story), and then Revelations (neutral story) as a DLC coming nearly a month after launch. It’s like Pokémon, but for plot points.

Unfortunately, of the three stories, the only truly satisfying one comes from Revelations. Not to spoil anything, but key plot details are hidden by siding with one family or another, and although playing through both Birthright and Conquest offers you an overall greater insight into the cast of characters, only Revelations feels like a true Fire Emblem game in terms of the stakes that are on the line and the role your avatar plays.

Besides the altered narrative of each title, the three games also offer slightly different gameplay experiences from one another. Birthright could actually serve as a great starting point for newcomers to the series. It provides the most experience points to level characters up, and gold to upgrade and purchase the best weaponry with—all while giving you a taste of what to expect from other Fire Emblem games, even with its singular “destroy all enemies” goal of most missions.

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Conquest is for the more experienced Fire Emblem player, and provides a harsher playthrough. Experience points and gold come at a premium, and you’ll have to truly outsmart the computer if you hope to advance, not to mention make full use of every advantage you might have on the battlefield. There are also more varied goals like capturing points, or defeating only a certain number of enemies amongst the mission objectives.

Lastly, Revelations strikes a balance between the two, offering up more opportunities for gold and experience like in Birthright, but providing the variety of objectives and true strategic gameplay seen in Conquest. Having played every game in the series since Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, I again found Revelations to be the most satisfying of the three, because it provides the most true to form experience—even if I can appreciate how the other two can appeal to players of different skill levels and familiarity with the franchise.

Once you get past these nuances in plot and gameplay difficulty, the three games play very similarly. The core Fire Emblem mechanics of moving sprites around a grid-based battlefield in a chess match of sorts—with different character classes and weapons having advantages and disadvantages against certain enemies—returns here, and remains relatively the same since the series’ inception over two decades ago in Japan.

There are also a few new features to help punch up the familiar gameplay. Once you choose your path, players will acquire their own fort where they can have Corrin interact with the troops to further relationships (leading eventually to marriage, and then children who can fight by your side) or boost everyone’s stats via items. Building on the StreetPass battles introduced in Fire Emblem: Awakening, Fates now allows it so that you and your friends can invade each other’s forts, with each fort’s customization adding to player resistances. For example, having a fully upgraded weapons hut might add several points into your fighters’ strength (attack) stats. This limited multiplayer aspect adds an interesting wrinkle to the replayability of the game.

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Not every addition is a winner, though. Fates adds a brand new Phoenix mode that should actually be called “Baby Mode”, or “Why Even Bother Playing This Game” mode. One of Fire Emblem’s staple features is its permadeath, where when a character dies in battle, they stay dead. The difference between permadeath in Fire Emblem and other strategy-RPGs, like XCOM for instance, is the fact that keeping all your characters alive affects not only the ease with which you might prepare for upcoming battles, but alters subplot storylines, too.

Awakening’s Casual mode first took a shot at softening this by allowing characters to come back after each battle. Here, at least, you still had the rush of needing to complete a conflict in order to see your units return to action. The strategy part of the game stayed intact, even if the stakes were lessened. Phoenix mode, however, turns you from an armchair general into a blunt weapon of destruction by allowing each character to come back to life after every turn, removing all semblance of consequence for your actions. And while it is only an option, one I only tried for the sake of this review before starting a new game and switching back to Classic permadeath, the absence of ramifications took a great amount of joy away from playing the game, as nearly every decision was meaningless.

Some of the fun I’ve derived over the years of playing this franchise has been quitting back to the main menu and restarting missions to try to discover that perfect strategy that would get my entire team through each conflict. It lengthens the experience artificially, but seeing every character’s special ending made it worth it for me, especially knowing I had earned it. Whether it was splitting my forces and flanking enemy bosses from both sides, using higher-leveled units as scout teams while leaving the bulk of my force behind to protect the rear, or slowly moving all my units forward like a phalanx of death towards my objective, solving the survival puzzle that leads to an ultimate victory was always worth it, no matter the time investment, and is at the heart of what makes this a great strategy-RPG series. Fates seems to be trying its hardest to be an introduction to the series in many ways, but to those newcomers, I still recommend at least trying Classic mode first before switching over to Casual or Phoenix mode.

This seems to be Nintendo’s strategy with Fire Emblem Fates in a nutshell. If you’re willing to dig a little, the strategy core that has made this series so popular remains fully intact. Meanwhile, it offers a variety of options to players of all different skill levels, and even provides multiple storylines molded around potential play styles in an attempt to lure in new and old players alike (with certain aspects obviously not appealing to everyone). In a game about choices, though, the biggest grievance comes from the central one. After playing all three stories, it felt largely unnecessary to split Fates into three parts. Revelations provides the most well rounded experience—one that long-time fans should gravitate more towards— with Conquest and Birthright really just adding nuance and character development to what would’ve been fine as a standalone plot. All three still work as solid additions to Fire Emblem’s long-running strategy-RPG pedigree, though, depending on what exactly you’re looking for.

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Developer: Intelligent Systems • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 02.19.16
8.0
Whether new to the franchise or a long-time fan, there’s something for everyone in Fire Emblem Fates’ three games. Unfortunately, when you find what you’re looking for in one, you might be disappointed when it’s then not present in the other titles.
The Good Each game offers unique challenges to appeal to every level of Fire Emblem fan.
The Bad Phoenix mode turns you from a calculating general into a blunt tool of destruction.
The Ugly Me singing Azura’s song in the shower. I just can’t get the damn thing out of my head.
Fire Emblem Fates Special Edition is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive. A review copy was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Ah, the end of the year. A wonderful time to look back on all the gaming that was had this year—and to commend the best of the best that consumed all of our days and most of our nights. Or, my days and nights, anyway. Here are my personal top 5 videogames from the year that was 2011—those that helped ensure another year of me sustaining my Casper-like complexion.

Ray’s Top 5 of 2011:

#1: Batman: Arkham City

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
The greatest comic book fan service we’ve ever seen for a comic franchise also takes action-adventure gaming to a new level. After playing Arkham City, I couldn’t help but compare every other melee combat system I played—and none held a candle to this gem.

#2: Gears of War 3

Formats: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Epic Games
A perfect series finale that ties up all the loose ends, Gears of War 3 took great elements from its predecessors to create one of the most cinematic single-player experiences available while being tempered with one of the most robust multiplayer suites available.

#3: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Formats: Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
A perfect ending for Ezio Auditore’s story, Revelations sets us up for a thrilling conclusion while still providing a brilliantly told historical thriller that’ll only have you craving more. Combine that with an addictive, novel multiplayer, and you’ve got one of the better all-around experiences this year.

#4: Mortal Kombat

Formats: Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
The rebirth of one of gaming’s classic fighting franchises was memorable for many reasons. A coherent story mode that made sense and a return to crisp, combo-laden 2D combat were two of the main keys, but when you couple that with solid extra features and a large (but not obnoxiously so) roster, this was a clear Flawless Victory.

#5: Dead Space 2

Formats: Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: EA
Developer: Visceral Games
From what might be the most intense opening sequence I’ve ever played, Dead Space 2 pulled me in like few survival horror games do anymore. Javelin Gun for the win!

Ray’s Off-Topic Awards:

New Character That I Wouldn’t Throw a Life Preserver If They Were Drowning: Caddoc – Hunted: The Demon’s Forge
Whether it was whining about bugs or contemplating the meaning of life, Caddoc was a little too smart for his own good as the bruiser of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge—and he was better at getting on my nerves more than he was at slicing apart his enemies.

Popsicle’s “The Colors, Duke, The Colors!” Most Colorful Game of the Year: de Blob 2
A cute story to entertain the kiddies with some decent platforming for older gamers, De Blob 2 features bright, colorful landscapes of reds, blues, and greens you create as you progress in this interactive color-by-numbers family-friendly adventure.

Best Job at Filling John Madden’s Commentary Void: Bill Clement – “We’ll be tied going into the third as long as we’re still tied here at the end of the second.” – NHL 12
Every now and then, someone will step up and let their own backward logic escape their mouths. Naturally, that always reminds us of John Madden, the all-time master of puzzling color commentary, and this year, NHL 12’s Bill Clement went five-hole on us for the easy tally.

 

What do you guys think of Ray’s picks? Let him know on Twitter (@RayCarsillo) or drop in a comment below!

Back to the past

Assassin’s Creed may well be the greatest videogame history-based epic we’ve ever seen. Each chapter finds a way to add nuance and layers to some of history’s most intriguing moments. Full of rich, vibrant characters outshined only by the detailed re-created and authentic historic cityscapes, Assassin’s Creed has become a favorite of gamers and history buffs everywhere due to its intriguing plot and stellar gameplay. So, how does the fourth chapter in this landmark franchise stand up overall?

Revelations picks up shortly after the end of Brotherhood. Modern-day protagonist Desmond Miles’ extended use of the Animus has left him in a coma; trapped inside the program, he must continue experiencing his ancestors’ memories in hopes of finding a way out of the machine to which he’s been tethered. As all this unfolds, Desmond experiences an Ezio adventure from later in his life that will see his Florentine ancestor travel to Ottoman Constantinople in the hopes of finding five keys to unlock a long hidden Altaïr library. In the process, Ezio has his own Desmond-like experience, as he uses these artifacts to relieve key moments in the Syrian assassin’s life—and begins to unravel the mystery that’s come together over the first three games of the series.

Though the narrative’s ostensibly always revolved around Desmond as he tries to learn what his ancestors knew, these games have always really been about the characters you play as in the past—so this is still primarily Ezio’s story. Revelations wraps up his tale beautifully—but, in true Assassin’s Creed fashion, it still leaves the door open for so many more potential twists down the line. Not to mention that by revisiting Altaïr as Ezio, we really get a sense of how all the characters are interconnected—and can now appreciate Ezio and Altaïr for their stark differences: Altaïr’s quicker on his feet, while Ezio feels heavier and more powerful.

Assassin’s Creed isn’t just about the story, though—it’s also about the amazing simulations of historical locales. Revelations doesn’t falter on this end: Constantinople looks straight out of a history book, and you can even pick out spices in the marketplace while clearly seeing just how unkind age has been to dear old Ezio. This is a testament to how long Ubisoft’s been working with their engine; they can now get every drop of juice out of it to provide a trio of tremendously different settings. Whether it’s Altaïr’s 13th-century Masyaf, Ezio’s warm, vibrant 1500s Constantinople, or a TRON-like VR world that Desmond works his way through, Revelations delivers the visual goods.

But one other key addition just doesn’t jibe with me. In Brotherhood, Ezio had to conquer Templar towers in order to help quash the Order’s presence in various areas. That element’s returned, but there’s a new wrinkle in Revelations: Templars can now retake the areas they lose. Ezio, taking on more of a commanding-general role, guides various types of assassins around rooftops and barricades streets to subdue advancing enemy waves. A good idea in theory, but it’s implemented via a tower-defense mechanic—which works in Flash-based games, but not so much in Assassin’s Creed. Though the conceit makes sense in the context of Revelations—after all, Ezio’s getting up there in years and can’t risk taking on 20 Templars at once—it still feels like the developers tried to cram in too many different elements at once. Aside from this odd addition, the rest of the game stays relatively similar for Ezio, aside from the hookblade providing zipline assassinations—which never get old—and a variety of new bombs that provide some interesting effects depending on how they’re utilized.

Revelations’ multiplayer definitely takes a step forward for the franchise, though, and it’s one of the more novel online experiences available. You’ll play dual roles as both a killer and as a detective trying to sniff out enemies—that, combined with new play modes, will keep this game in your system for quite some time. In the end, Revelations gets the Assassin’s Creed formula as right as any entry before it—a compelling story tempered by familiar, entertaining gameplay makes this the latest and greatest chapter in this ongoing gaming epic.

SUMMARY: Ezio’s tale wraps up beautifully in this final chapter of his trilogy, but elements like a tower-defense minigame seem out of place.

  • THE GOOD: An epic, fitting conclusion to Ezio’s trilogy
  • THE BAD: New tower-defense element works but feels out of place
  • THE UGLY: The salt-and-pepper look isn’t very flattering on Ezio

SCORE: 9.0

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on the Xbox 360.

Like having access to Altair’s library

For many people, what makes Assassin’s Creed so great is how it molds the story it wants to tell around actual real world events from history. In this way, Assassin’s Creed has written its own special history that parallels our own. But it can get a little confusing after a while as well just trying to keep things like who all the Borgias are straight and what the differences are between a Turkish Flanged Mace and a Florentine Mace. Well, with their fourth game in the series in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations about to come out, there is a lot more history to Assassin’s Creed than even a lot of us diehards may realize and so Ubisoft is getting ready to release the Assassin’s Creed Encyclopedia.

Set to drop the same day as Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the Encyclopedia is the must have for every diehard Assassin’s Creed fan as you can have the entire history of the franchise up to this point at your fingertips. Along with all this information, you’ll also get never before seen art to go along with many of the entries as well as a running list in various categories like weapons, Templars, and Assassins. And it’s all opened up with a foreword by Gears of War’s Cliff Bleszinski talking about how important franchises like Assassin’s Creed is for gaming as a modern medium.

Be warned though, as tempting as it might be to just start reading the Encyclopedia from front to back, there are spoilers for both the animated short Embers, also being released on the same day as the game, November 15th, as well as for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations itself. So if you want to learn just what happens to Ezio and experience it like it is meant to, by playing the game, then I recommend you play Revelations first, then watch Embers, THEN read the Assassin’s Creed: Encyclopedia in order to keep all the surprises best in tact.

The best way in order to get the Assassin’s Creed: Encyclopedia would be to go through Ubisoft themselves by going to http://shop.ubi.com and picking it up on November 15th along with your Signature Edition copy of the game that comes with the Embers animated short.

Constantinople, NOT Istanbul

The war between the assassins and the Templars is one that has raged for ages and the adventures we’ve seen with Altair, Ezio, and briefly with Desmond are all but small chapters in this war that started eons ago. Now, we approach the end of Ezio’s involvement, but first we will learn just how vital his life is to the Assassin’s Order and how he serves as the lynchpin for his bloodline between Altair and Desmond. Soon, all will be revealed.

I had a chance to go hands-on with three of the new sequences we’ll see in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations campaign and had a chance to learn about Ezio’s new allies, his new weapons, and just how Altair and Desmond will fit into all of it in the end.

I started in Sequence 2 and was immediately introduced to Constantinople, where most of the game takes place, in ways I never thought imaginable. The graphics have been so refined and sharpened that you could actually pick out every individual strand of hay for the leap of faith points and every vegetable in the marketplace. You could also see that time had not been kind to Ezio as new scars crisscrossed his face and his hair that was once as black as the night had been lightened considerably in many places and went beyond “salt and pepper” in its effect.

As I made my way through the bustling, cramped city streets with Ezio, who also seemed to move a bit slower on the ground now, another clear sign of his age, I proceeded to find the only friendly face I knew at the moment, the head of the local Assassin’s Guild. There I would learn the ways of the Turkish Assassins and acquire my first bombs and hook blade.

The hook blade immediately caught my fancy because although Ezio may have moved half a step slower now on the ground, in terms of his parkour, he was easily moving twice as fast as he had in previous games. Using clotheslines to zip from roof to roof and the extra reach of the hook blade allowed me to scale buildings faster than ever before as I could reach grips that normally I would have missed in previous games, and this easily made up the difference of speed I’d lose on the ground and then some. This also made me want to stay on rooftops more so than usual.

The hook blade also added several new aspects to assassination and taking down enemies. Not only could you drop down on foes from above now while zip lining across rooftops, but in more traditional combat, like when Ezio finds himself surrounded by Templar or Turkish Royal Guards, he could use the hook blade to pull enemies down to vault over them and let him change the direction the battle might be heading in. Or just stab them in the face. Whatever opportunity presented itself first.

The bombs were also fun to play with as they provided several new aspects to Ezio’s possible strategies of getting around Constantinople. The first one we were introduced to was the cherry bomb. Primarily used for distraction, you could throw the bomb in one area to lure guards over to where the sound came from, while you sneak by the new unoccupied pathway or set them up for an easy assassination from behind. There are also more explosive bombs that do damage or stun foes and we also see the return of smoke bombs for those moments where you may need to slip away or to assassinate enemies via eagle vision in the confusion.

Later on in the sequence we also came upon a brand new mini-game element introduced to the series. In Brotherhood, you could take out Templar towers and convert them into Assassin hideaways. Now, in Revelations, you cannot only take out the towers, but the Templars may attempt to reclaim them at various times. When this happens, if you race back to the tower, you begin a tower defense style game where Ezio, no longer young and fit enough to lead men on the front lines, will use his accrued wisdom over his many years of waging this Assassin vs. Templar war to place various assassins on rooftops leading up to the Assassin tower and build barriers to slow down the advance of his enemies. If you defend the tower for so many waves, your foes will retreat and you will remain in control. If you fail…well, let’s just say it isn’t in your best interests to fail.

As we moved on to Sequence 4, we got our first hands on with Altair. Our Crusades era experiences in the finished game will look to entail five missions, but this was the first of two I was able see. It took place immediately after Altair had slain Al Mualim and we see the rift that starts forming in the ranks of the assassins. I immediately felt the difference with handling Altair compared to Ezio as Altair was much lighter and fluid in his movements as he raced to put affairs in order after Al Mualim’s death. Although rather short, the Altair missions explain so much about what happens between the first and second Assassin’s Creed games.

What was most interesting was in Sequence 5, when we took over as Altair again, we saw him as an old man. Still quicker than Ezio, we see that the rift between the assassins has become a chasm and Altair, after settling a threat in another part of the world, returns home unwelcome and surrounded. This change in scenery and time for the same character in such a short period of time game play wise really hammered home just how significant these events were in the grand scheme of things and makes you wonder just where we’ll bounce to next in further Altair missions.

Leading up to the Altair missions as Ezio was also very different. Unlike in previous games where it felt like a very separate experience to go hunt down artifacts of Altair and other assassins, now it felt much more intertwined with the story. One mission had us racing against a group of Templars to reach Altair’s hidden key while another had us simply platforming and parkouring around a collapsing mine, which felt like more of a threat than many of the Templars did. This gives the game a much more fluid experience in terms of the storytelling and clearly shows the importance of locating all of Altair’s keys, as they are the main purpose for Ezio to be in Constantinople after all.

Unfortunately, we did not get to play at all as Desmond, but his levels will definitely be like nothing we’ve ever seen as we were able to confirm from Creative Director Alex Amancio that Desmond is in an Animus induced coma and that he is located somewhere called “Animus Island”. This is also significant as instead of collecting feathers or flags, Ezio will collect Animus data pieces while in Constantinople as the reality Desmond is experiencing begins to blend with the technology that induces it like never before.

All in all, with new weapons at our disposal, a new world to explore, and many questions to finally be answered, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations looks to somehow once again raise the bar for this stunning historical sci-fi franchise and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final product.

Are you folks fans of the historical aspects of Assassin’s Creed? Where do you think the series goes from here? How do you feel about this being Ezio’s final chapter? What about there being a tower defense mini-game aspect now? Let us know your thoughts with comments below!