tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Some thoughts about Assassin’s Creed II

I bought ACII during Amazon’s Thanksgiving sale (fashionably late as usual) and put some playtime into it this past weekend, so I thought I’d pen down some thoughts about what I think it does (and doesn’t) do better than the first game.


First off, the mission design in ACII just seems way better. It’s a bit more linear, to be sure, but ACI’s attempt at nonlinearity was only a thinly-disguised mechanism to pad out the game with more boring shit. There are a few optional missions as opposed to the ten billion there were in ACI, and the game is better for it, I think.

That said, I liked the open-ended approach ACI gave you to planning the actual assassination and escape, and this doesn’t seem to have carried over. I could be wrong – I’m only a few missions in – but so far the assassination missions haven’t really lived up to the previous game.

Another thing that’s sort of confusing is the whole stronghold management mini-game. I’m not sure what role it’s supposed to serve beyond getting you discounts at the store, but I guess I’ll find out once I actually start sinking some money into the thing.


I was hoping this would have changed more, but it didn’t really change enough for my liking. The combat is still pretty much ruled by counter killing, although it seems like you need to input the counter a bit earlier than you had to in ACI, and it seems to have fewer active frames, both of which are welcome changes. Tougher enemies also seem to start showing up earlier (I already ran into one enemy type whose attack is too fast for my counter).

So I’m still iffy on the combat. However, there are also far fewer times when you’re forced into combat (unlike the ‘save the townspeople’ missions from ACI) so on the whole I’d say combat has gotten less annoying.


The free-running mechanics of ACI are still in place. However it seems to be harder to cause a commotion in this game than it was in ACI. Instead, you have a notoriety gauge that increases as you do tasks that make you, well, notorious (like assassinating people, causing a commotion in town or starting fights). Until the gauge is completely filled, running around on the streets below won’t cause guards to become aggressive (Rooftop guards are as aggressive as ever). This makes it easier to get around, but it also removes a lot of the challenge of moving around undetected at ground level that ACI presented. You can get away with a lot more in ACII before you get in trouble, and I think that’s a step down.

So overall so far I’m not quite sure if this is quite as big an improvement as I was promised. It’s not utterly boring me like ACI was, though, so I’m going to keep playing!

(And yes, I know I promised another Comparison Theatre entry – it’s coming)

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Comparison Theatre: The Witch and the Warrior

Confused by the title? Well, read on and all will become clear.

I’m a fan of 3D action games in general, and I’m currently working my way through two of them, which has inevitably led me to draw comparisons between the two of them. And as it turns out, one of them comes out on top of the other. Or rather, one of them completely curbstomps the other.

To start, let’s talk about Bayonetta.

That's one hell of a kick

I’d been looking forward to Hideki Kamiya’s first project after leaving Capcom, and Bayonetta absolutely doesn’t disappoint. It’s fast-paced and unforgiving, and the combat mechanics are great to play around with. The idea behind Witch Time is easy to understand at first glance, but actually putting it to good use is where the fun lies. Your attacks don’t put enemies into hitstun immediately (unlike most 3D hack-and-slash games), so weaving in dodges with your attack strings to activate Witch Time mid-combo is the key to keeping up a good offense. On top of this there’s the Dodge Offset mechanic that lets you attack immediately after dodging, which I’m still trying to figure out. On top of this, every level introduces something like three to four new enemy types and mixes them up to keep you on your toes.

My only complaint is the QTE sequences that seem to kick in at random intervals, often resulting in instant death if you fail them – an annoying blemish on an otherwise excellent game, especially considering that your end-of-level ranking is severely crippled if you have to use continues to complete the level. But otherwise, I’m really glad I bought this game, and I’m looking forward to playing a lot more of it.

That said, it vastly outshines the other 3D action game I’ve been playing alongside it – Metroid: Other M.

This is the root of most of the game's problems

The game starts out strong enough, with a decent level of difficulty, although the one thing you notice straight away is that there isn’t really much substance to the combat. It’s fast-paced, to be sure, but Samus auto-locks to anything in a wide cone in front of her, and dodging is pulled off reactively rather than proactively (you press a direction on the d-pad when there’s an active enemy attack on the screen), so there’s very little risk of mistiming your dodges. The first-person mode is a little disorienting at first, but it works ok for the few times you need to fire missiles at enemy weak points.

Unfortunately it’s all downhill from there. As you collect powerups and, um, ‘gain’ abilities, the combat doesn’t really get any harder, and once you get the charge beam and diffusion beam you might as well put down the controller and walk away. You can beat most of the enemy encounters by just running around in circles, charging a shot, turning in the enemy’s general direction and releasing the button. And once you figure out that you can instantly charge a shot while dodging…well, yeah.

On top of that the game forces you to use this ridiculous Wiimote-only control setup that makes you use the d-pad to dodge, one button to fire and one button to jump. Would it have been so bad to include a GameCube controller or Classic Controller setup? Hell, a proper controller would have probably forced the developers to come up with a more interesting combat system.

Honestly the only reaction this game elicits from me is ‘wow, did Team Ninja really make this game?’ I still remember how the Ninja Gaiden Sigma demo kicked my ass, so seeing a game like this come from them makes me feel like I’m being trolled. I know that drawing comparisons to Super Metroid is silly since the two games are in different genres, but if there was a game that could have shown how to do a free-roaming 3D action game with the same veneer of non-linearity as Super Metroid, this could have been it. This should have been it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

(I’ve got one more ‘Comparison Theatre’ coming up soon…if you want a hint what the topic will be, here’s a hint: YOUはSHOCK!)

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I’m still terrible at BlazBlue

Notice how all my pressure strings are the same, lol


Oh hey a combo that does more than 3000 damage


PenPen gets his revenge, with epic music in the background

Will post more as and when I can get off my ass to actually capture this stuff (it’s pretty time-consuming).

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Dante Must Cry

I’m sure everyone who follows gaming news is familiar by now with this atrocity:

Ebony and Ivory have never looked so 'meh'

Yes, Capcom has thrown in the towel and has handed over the reins of its next Devil May Cry game to the English studio Ninja Theory, complete with crappy new Dante design and what looks like Dante being tortured in Abu Ghraib. I know, I know, it’s all about the game mechanics, right? Except that I have no confidence that Ninja Theory will be able to make a game that lives up to the DMC name; heck, even a game that’s as good as the somewhat iffy DMC4.

To see what Ninja Theory was capable of, I played the demo for Ninja Theory’s upcoming game Enslaved (due out in about a week, I think), and while the game looks and plays ok, it in no way compares to DMC’s fast-paced action. It feels more like God of War with its simple two-button combat and half-hearted platforming, to be honest, which will please a lot of God of War fans but annoy the hell out of DMC fans who are used to being able to move around quicker, and to much faster-paced combat. From what it looks like it even features regenerating health, which no quality action game has ever done.

Maybe Capcom just saw Bayonetta and decided that they couldn’t compete, lol.


PAX 2010

Went to PAX with Perfect Stranger (friend from Singapore), so I figured I’d write a short piece about the stuff I played and saw.

And before you ask, no, I didn’t get to play Duke Nukem Forever. The queue was way too long and I wasn’t about to waste two hours in line to experience the revolutionary ability to pee by pressing R2.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4

Oh god, where to start.

I don’t know what version of the game was playable at PAX, but the physics were pretty fucked up. Sonic has a LOT of inertia before he starts going, and this also extends to trying to jump sideways from a standing position. I actually had trouble jumping onto a higher ledge to reach a spring. Also, rolling STILL doesn’t make you go faster down slopes. In fact, you slow down, which is about as far from ‘classic Sonic’ as you can possibly get.

PS also managed to break the physics in a bunch of ways, returning to a neutral animation after bouncing off a spring by pressing the down button, and managing stand still on an incline. Way to go, guys!

On top of that the general prepoderance of doodads that force you to speed up or bounce in certain directions hasn’t changed at all, so overall I’m going to be giving this a miss.

Sonic Colors

This was a lot more fun, however! It’s basically Sonic Unleashed’s daytime levels with slightly modified physics (Sonic feels a bit less slippery) and the addition of Wisp power-ups. Given that it’s been eons since power up items have made an appearance in any Sonic game, their inclusion has me very much interested. I also noticed a bunch of alternate routes and secret items that you could get if you found the right paths. Bottom line? I’m probably going to be picking this up.

Guild Wars 2

I hung out at the booth a bit since PS was interested in the game, but the game does look rather nice. The developers demoed a boss fight with a giant flaming dragon monster – giant as in a few hundred times the players’ size. Looked great, and apparently it’ll be possible to jump into PvP immediately with a level 20 character. I usually avoid MMOs, but PS insists that I should give this one a go, so I suppose we’ll see, won’t we?

Marvel vs Capcom 3

I gave this game a go and had the misfortune of being paired up against someone who obviously knew what he was doing, and lost all three characters to Dr Doom lockdown. That said it felt pretty fast and responsive, and even though I kept trying to air dash as Ryu I may pick this up once it’s released.

Epic Mickey

I gave this a shot since I was curious about what sort of game it was. Turns out it’s a sort of open-world platformer with mechanics revolving around spraying paint and thinner on the surroundings. It seemed pretty cool from what I was seeing, but the camera needed a bit of work, with some jumps being hard to gauge correctly.

And then my play experience was cut short when the game crashed during my play session! Wee.

Fallout: New Vegas

I gave this a shot randomly – Fallout 3 didn’t really impress me, but I had heard Obsidian was changing some things for this spinoff. One thing I noticed straight away was the presence of factions in the game, with your actions either improving or worsening your standing with each of these factions. This seems like a much better way to handle choice/consequence than Fallout 3’s karma meter (which is still in the game for some reason). I did want to try out the new Hardcore mode they had talked about, but it wasn’t on display as far as I could tell.

Random notes

  • PS won tickets to an exclusive ArenaNet party, and then won an EVGA Geforce GTX 470 in a Guild Wars 2 raffle, the lucky bastard
  • Everyone and their mom was using Modern Warfare 2 to demo their hardware, even the PC hardware manufacturers
  • Everyone and their mom also seemed to be hosting Super Street Fighter IV tournaments
  • I bought a Marvel vs Capcom branded Madcatz TE stick for $100 and a Gyakuten Saiban art book for $40 at Capcom’s booth
  • Brink is looking kind of cool, but the queue was long
  • Portal 2’s queue was long throughout the day – there was no way I was going to spend half the day waiting there, as much as I want to marry that game and have its babies
  • PS and I took part in a Team Fortress 2 match to try and qualify for an Alienware raffle to win a Killer NIC card. The map was cp_steel, and with PS as my pocket Medic I managed to lead a bunch of successful pushes until the enemy team basically spammed us out of point E. Didn’t really help that we had two Medics and only one Soldier on a team of nine, either…
  • I went to the ArenaNet party with PS but after I found myself trying to beat my high score in Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu in a corner I figured it would be best if I left early.

And to end on a colorful note, have some pics (mouseover for alt text):

The queue right outside the exhibition hall right before it opened

Sonic the Failhog 4

ArenaNet's opulent Guild Wars 2 booth 


Torchlight II! Looked pretty good, but the booth was pretty crowded so I didn't linger.

Happy fun co-op robot time

TF2 cosplayers in the lobby!


Until next year!


Tonight on IRC

[18:57] <SonicTempest> so anyway
[18:57] <SonicTempest> something funny happened to me today
[18:57] <SonicTempest> I went to a bakery to get a sandwich for lunch and they gave me a sandwich with sausage in it even though I asked for a vegetarian one
[18:57] <SonicTempest> I made a snarky comment about it on Twitter
[18:57] <SonicTempest> and within a few minutes they found me on Twitter and offered me a gift card
[18:57] <SonicTempest> I was like lol wtf
[19:00] <bonta> lolz
[19:00] <bonta> how the fuck did they know it was you
[19:05] <SonicTempest> I mentioned the name of the place in my Tweet
[19:05] <SonicTempest>
[19:06] <SonicTempest> http://twitter.com/GrandCentralSEA/status/22831925439
[19:07] <bonta> hahaha
[19:08] <SonicTempest> WEB 2.0 HAS CHANGED THE WORLD

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A worthy cause

It’s time for a random post about the games I’ve been playing!

Click here to

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Tweet tweet

As you might have noticed there’s a new item on the sidebar off to the right – that’s right, I have a Twitter account.

I used to be (and still am) pretty disdainful of Twitter as a whole – I remember thinking ‘wtf?’ when Ashton Kutcher suggested that the guys who wrote Twitter would be remembered in the same vein as Alexander Graham Bell. It’s very hard to find anything of substance on there – it’s hard to be profound in 140 characters, unless you truly have a way with words. That is not something I can say about the majority of Twitter’s denizens, most of whom seem content to dial a number provided to them by some teen idol on reflex.

That said, I’ve come to a compromise of sorts, since I have occasionally found that my immediate reaction to something can sometimes be fairly snarky, which is an attribute I value very highly. So I did end up getting an account to preserve quick thoughts like that, thoughts around which I might eventually craft a more coherent opinion.

So, long story short, if you’re wondering what I’m up to in the lengthy interval between my blog updates, the sidebar I just added should tide you over until I find something new to write about.

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An unboxing symphony in three parts





Maybe I’m not shit at shmups after all

Then again the iPhone version of Espgaluda II on Novice difficulty isn’t exactly the best basis to make such a claim. I’m kind of interested in trying the 360 version now – anyone know if it’s any good?

Also apparently Cave’s next iPhone port is going to be Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu. Not really sure how that one is going to play on this device…

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