Shadowgun Legends Review – Best FPS you’d currently find on mobile

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Developer; Publisher: Madfinger Games; Release Date: March 22nd, 2018

Tested On: Razer Phone (Snapdragon 835, 8GB RAM), Android 7.1

Google Play

Shadowgun Legends completely blew my expectations out of the water, and being familiar with Madfinger Games’ previous instalments in the franchise, I was very surprised at how much effort the developers have put into completely changing the game. Shadowgun Legends feels unlike any other game before it, and fills a niche currently absent from the mobile games market. Think of it as a toned-down Warframe or Destiny 2 on the bigger platforms, and that’s Shadowgun Legends in a nutshell. On the moibile, the closest reminder is Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. 3 linear shooter, which is a somewhat old game by today’s standards. The mission-based gameplay from a central hub has allowed the developers to create something fresh for the franchise and the mobile platform in general. As a free-to-play package, it is a very enticing deal, and the game doesn’t force players to rely on micro-transactions, as those exist only for the purpose of cosmetic items and premium currency. Given the game’s PvE nature, plenty of loot can be gathered in many of Shadowgun’s story and side missions, eliminating the need to spend real currency on in-game purchases, which plays to the title’s strengths. To add, Shadowgun Legends looks and plays similar to most AAA titles found on the PC and consoles, and I can easily say that it’s the best looking game on the market. Madfinger games have certainly been improving their first-person shooter and visual experiences, with Legends representing their best efforts so far. The game is quite a looker, and shines on high-end phones, not only presenting crisp visuals and smooth framerates, but also featuring the highest amount of particle effects I’ve seen in a mobile shooter. Shadowgun Legends is an excellent FPS game, and while its free-to-play nature is bound to create obstacles in progression, the fluid gameplay and addicting missions makes Legends a big hit on the mobile platform. Add in its free price, and there is no reason to not give this game at least a try, and I can easily recommend Shadowrun Legends for those in a market for a first-person shooter on the go.

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Environmental detail is simply stellar

If you’re familiar with previous Shadowguns, then Legends feels like a completely different game to the first two, and one that’s best executed overall. The first Shadowgun was a linear third-person shooter with a short campaign and not much else to offer. The follow-up DeadZone took a different approach, offering a free-to-play online deathmath or team v team gameplay, but it did retain the look and combat of its predecessor. Shadowgun Legends steps into a completely new direction, and features hub-based gameplay along with a switch to a first-person perspective. Out of a free game, I would not expect such level of detail put into Legends, and while some would no doubt find its structure to be quite repetitive with similar missions, there are also plenty of exciting moments to be had playing it. Shadowgun Legends uses the same player progression systems seen in many MMO titles, which includes access to different levels of gear, extensive skill tree, as well as a wealth of customization options available to purchase in-game. While repetitive mission design might serve to the detriment of the game, its close relation to games like Warframe and Destiny 2 that specialize in PvE events and gameplay will draw many players in, and the addicting gameplay loop will keep players occupied over extensive periods of time.

Shadowgun Legends features a single hub town, from which all missions can be accessed on the fly through the galaxy map, and these range from simple defense/eliminate missions that only take 2 minutes to complete to extensive story missions that require longer attention. The mission design can be summarized as highly repetitive, however having played Warframe on PC with the same progression loop, I can easily say that Shadowgun Legends makes up for the repetition by enticing players with better gear and quality combat experience. The game constantly pumps out new gear through quest rewards and enemy loot drops, and is pretty generous with the content it has on offer. You can buy better items from vendors for either standard or premium currency, and of course, if you wish to have any customization beyond paint for your armor and guns, you’d need to spend some real money on currency to gain access to those items. But as mentioned before, one doesn’t need to spend money on Legends to still enjoy it for many hours. After multiple hours of playthrough, the game feels very familiar to Destiny (take either the first or second one) in many ways, including restrictive story progression in favor of additional ‘grind’ quests, however keep in mind that Shadowgun Legends is available on the go and doesn’t cost any admission price.

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This shiny town is where you’ll be spending time between missions

Madfinger Games have done a really great job at focusing on the visuals for this game, and it looks absolutely stellar on high-end mobile devices. Texture resolutions are very sharp, and the game has the best vegetation detail across all mobile releases of the recent years: seriously, take the time to look at the grass in the hub town and you’ll see what I mean. And textures are just a beginning of this visually impressive package. Shadowgun Legends tends to gravitate towards Michael Bay-style explosive action, and every mission gives an opportunity to see some of the best particle effects by far in mobile gaming. Everything from lighting to environmental detail absolutely shines, and the game features a few diverse locales to make sure players don’t get bored of the same missions they partake in on the same maps. Having to render only a single open hub town, Legends takes full advantage of the assets from Unity Engine to create some spectacular environments and game effects. Did I also mention this is the best-looking Unity engine game I could find on mobile? No? Well, Legends absolutely is, and I’d go as far as to say the game is comparable in graphics to some modern titles on the PC and Consoles. If that wasn’t enough, Legends has the best set of animations that apply to both the player character, as well as the enemy AI. Interactive segments really showcase the animation quality, and even pulling levels is quite satisfying to see, until you’ve seen that same animation about 100 times. Shadowgun Legends as a visual experience is simply unchallenged on the mobile platform, and while quite a few recent releases on mobile such as Gear Club (my review) and PUBG (my review), they are far from competing with the quality of Legends. If you have a high-end phone or tablet, then Legends is one of the best, if not the overall best lookers on mobile systems.

Shadowgun Legends takes players across multiple planets, which brings diverse locales to be seen across the campaign. The scenery change is always nice, although after a few grind missions in the same environment, I was getting bored of the sights. That’s not to say Legends has bad environmental design. In fact, it is the opposite – the level of detail here is the best I’ve seen in a mobile game, which helps Shadowgun look stellar on high-end flagship phones. And the effort didn’t just go into environmental backgrounds either, and shows in everything from character models to highly-detailed guns and even animations are as diverse and smooth as I’d be expecting from a high-profile PC game. Which makes it pretty sweet that Shadowgun Legends is free, however that brings many gripes along which I discuss further into this review. Surprisingly, all these graphics still take up under 1GB of storage, although Madfinger Games’ releases have always been fairly condensed in size. Still, the environmental design showcases some of the best detail and variety I’ve seen in a mobile shooter, and while it’s sci-fi premise looks awfully similar to N.O.V.A. 3 by Gameloft that itself took inspiration from the Halo series, Shadowgun Legends stands its own with a wider range of game mechanics. The hub-based mission design is rare to see on mobile, and while I’m not a big fan of 2-minute long missions, which amount to about the same time as a few loading screens when hopping between the hub and confined linear levels in different locales. But overall, this all works really well, and there is plenty of content to keep players invested over longer periods of time, as many would enjoy Legends’ solid gameplay.

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The brief plot there is concerns humanity being oppressed by a superior alien force, although can easily be missed because of the gameplay structure. Hub-based mission design never really leaves room for any story development to happen, and lack of voice over in at least main mission briefings doesn’t help by much either. Shadowguns are known as skilled mercenaries in this universe, and as one, the player completes a variety of story missions, side challenges and takes part in surprisingly many multiplayer modes. You wouldn’t really care about the plot here, plus Legends feels awfully similar to Halo, Destiny and N.O.V.A. in its plot setting and development, and as such, there are far better stories to be seen even on the mobile platform. As Shadowgun Legends is free, expect a progression curve that takes a while to complete; story missions are broken up with side quests and quick challenges, and while it does offer diversity away from the main plot, the grind required to access further plot missions often slows the game down to a complete halt. Whereas the main plot missions are generous with their XP rewards, side missions tend to reward players much less, and on numerous occasions, I found myself grinding side missions or dipping into multiplayer just to unlock that next story bit. Not that it’s a necessarily awful design, as the gameplay in Shadowgun Legends is very solid and while it does require grind, the game doesn’t force micro-transactions. The game is one of the best shooters on the mobile platform, although it is bound to find competition from the likes of PUBG Mobile and Fortnite when it comes out. The PvE-based mission design works really well along with Legends’ central hub, which makes the game fun to play both in short bursts and over longer gaming sessions.

The central town in Legends grants access to everything from missions to new gear. It serves as a central hub, where players start off to venture into either single player missions or the various multiplayer modes Shadowgun offers. It’s the only semi-open location featured in the game, and even then, it is limited to a few interactive spots and characters, however that is understandable on the mobile systems. Not that there is anything to do in the hub besides selling looted gear and picking up missions, so there are no complaints against the game in regards to the linear structure. It is easy to tell Legends borrows many elements from the likes of Destiny and Borderlands, with first-person gameplay, various rarity levels of loot, and the focus on constantly improving player stats. Again, this isn’t a bad thing as such games weren’t available on the go, and Legends fills that niche perfectly. In addition to endless piles of gear, there is a giant skill tree, which suggests a very high level cap, although I doubt the game has enough single player content to support that, and those interested in maxxing out their characters would resort to multiplayer. Decoding holograms or opening loot boxes is the easiest way to get paint for armor and weapons, which offers players an opportunity to personalize their Shadowguns.

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you can deck your character out in pretty much anything

Legends is fairly generous with loot, and after extensive browsing through the game’s visual shop, I determined that premium currency is used for cosmetics only, so doesn’t offer players who spend real-world money any significant advantage. For those obsessed with accessorizing characters, be prepared to spend some amount of real-world currency. With that said, there is one element the premium currency affects most, which is loot box keys. Gold loot boxes contain a high chance for rare items, however require a keycard to unlock unlike regular chests. After a few hours of play, I have 3 sitting in my inventory with no way to unlock them, which I see as a problem as more and more of those loot boxes are accumulated. Oddly enough too, Legends is missing a daily rewards system (apart from currency contracts with certain payouts), and to use its wheel spin feature, one again needs the premium currency. It’s not the best design, as the wheel spin does contain a chance for keycards to those gold chests I noted above. Forcing players to spend real-world currency on something with a random chance of reward (hello triple A gaming loot boxes) is not an ideal system, and like many other free-to-play titles on mobile, Legends could have done with a free wheel spin per day. Apart from these major gripes with premium currency, however, there is no reason to spend real-world currency at any point as the game provides enough rewards.

The multiplayer mode is fairly diverse, and offers players a selection of 6 different modes, which include both PvP and PvE systems. There are 6 models in total, including a co-op dungeon, 1v1 and team vs team modes. It’s a diverse set of multiplayer events, and given Legends’ recent launch, servers are plentiful with other players, who are even rendered real-time in the game’s hub town. Legends offers a set of emotes for quick gestures and also message communication, however that appears to be limited to the hub town so far, as I’ve found no means to communicate with others during actual missions. When missions require player coordination to unlock something, it can be frustrating when others on your team aren’t paying attention, and hopefully it’s something that can be addressed in future updates. A proper communication system can certainly be useful in co-op, as well as team vs team modes. The latter 3 co-op arenas are gated behind lengthy progression, which lessens their appeal, however based on description, they are meant for skilled players, so taking time with the game prior is fairly important. With the diversity of content that Shadowgun Legends offers with both its single and multiplayer modes, the game is currently one of the best shooters available on the mobile platform, and also Madfinger Games’ most ambitious project so far (read here).

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6 multiplayer modes available in total (co-op and PvP)

With release of Shadowgun Legends, the mobile platform finally has a title to contend with likes of Warframe and Destiny, and the game is also one of the best lookers across a vast range of games on Google Play. The fluid first-person shooter mechanics combined with a loot system and skill progression creates a unique experience on mobile, and the addicting gameplay loop contributes to longevity of the title, which is important considering fierce competition of releases on the mobile systems. With an extensive single player campaign broken up with side quests and challenge trials, Shadowgun Legends is the most ambitious FPS title on the platform so far, and its free price can’t be ignored, even if it does bring numerous gripes with the game’s slow progression curve. In addition to being a stellar shooter, Legends is also an excellent looker, with visual detail coming very close to the graphics of some PC and console titles. Environmental design deserves extra praise, and the diversity of environments is excellent for a game of this scale. While it is not a completely perfect game, and the progression presents some extensive grind in places, the gameplay more than makes up for it with diverse environments and excellent FPS mechanics. As a free download, I see absolutely no reason not to recommend this game. Madfinger Games did indeed deliver on their “most ambitious title yet”.

*all screenshots captured in-game

Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Hidden Ones Review

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Developer: Ubisoft Montreal; Publisher; Ubisoft

Release Date: January 23rd, 2018; Reviewed On: PC

PC Specs: Core i5-3500 3.2GHz; 16 GB DDR4 RAM; Gigabyte GTX 1070 8GB

 

Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Hidden Ones adds a 10-hour chunk of additional content to the base game’s progression, although it doesn’t offer radical improvements or unique content that can’t be found across the vast map of ancient Egypt. With a short and simplistic premise to its plot, the Hidden Ones lacks the surprises I’ve seen in the original main questline, however I wouldn’t call the story here boring by any particular standards. Along with a new region, The Hidden Ones brings the same activities from the main game: treasure locations, enemy camps and side quests are plentiful, and once again, revealing the map is done by entering a region. The Sinai oasis doesn’t differ much in types of biomes present on the map from the base game, however it is a significantly more mountainous region which sometimes necessitates more climbing than one would like. All in all, it is more of the same like the main game, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Origins is an excellent game to begin with, but The Hidden Ones perhaps plays it too safe for the most part, and won’t offer players any radically new content. But if you wanted more of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, then The Hidden Ones offers a new plotline spread across Sinai’s 3 sub-regions and with added exploration and side questing, offers around 7-10 hours of additional content for the game’s fans to enjoy.

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The Hidden Ones takes place 4 years after the conclusion of the main plot, and tasks Bayek with travelling to the Roman-controlled peninsula of Sinai to assist the Hidden Ones (or the Assassins’ Brotherhood in this game) in distress. The plot’s premise starts fairly basic, with 3 main targets to eliminate from the offset across 3 main quests (which I should add are very generous with the amount of XP they reward the player with), and then grows a little more through a few additional quests that lead to the head of the 3 main bosses from before. There are few surprises along the way, and the Hidden Ones has some interesting twists, but other than that, it is a very familiar structure to the base game, but the plotline is much simpler. The recommended starting level for the Hidden Ones is level 38, which only takes a few levels to get to upon completion of Origins’ main plot, however I’d point out that the best time to start this DLC Is around level 40-41. The main quests go from level 39 to level 43 in a quickly manner, so some might want to start the DLC at a later point in character progression, as enemy camps usually feature enemy captains at +2 levels than the main character, at least in my playthrough.

The new region of Sinai is comprised of 3 sub-areas, with 2 village settlements and numerous unknown locations to visit, which range from destroyed temples to large-scale Roman citadels up in the mountain ranges. Visually, the location is no different from any other region in AC Origins, although due to the base game’s vast diversity in regions, the DLC feels rather bland given its made up of mostly mountainous regions. These might be minor complaints, but considering it is a DLC piece, smaller diversity would be expected. No major cities exist in this region, which feels a bit like a step back as there is no detail to be found in the game’s settlements apart from the vastly-detailed temple in the upper settlement on the map. Still, given that the following DLC Curse of the Pharaohs features a large-scale city, as well as plenty of supernatural elements. The Hidden Ones plays by the book: kill 3 bosses followed by eliminating their over-arching leader. As I’ve mentioned above, the Hidden Ones doesn’t offer anything radically new to the player, however it is still a solid piece of additional content for those who may want to enjoy more of the Origins gameplay but have completed 100% of what the game had to offer.

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The exploration aspect still remains interesting, as are additional quests the player can pick up to level up before the next main quest. There are still quite a few question marks to find across the region map and many enemies to fight along the journey. The enemies are exclusively Romans, however enemy diversity is still all accounted for, ranging from weak archers and topping out with giant guards with towering shields. The tension of infiltrating enemy camps in stealth still remains, especially if you aim to avoid detection entirely, and increases when you do screw things up. Combat requires precision and skill just like before, but in a fort, you’re sometimes bound to be stuck up against 7 enemies with shields along with a group of lesser foes (it happened to me once and I barely avoided getting killed). The Hidden Ones really doesn’t differentiate much from the base game, and while it does offer a few more hours of plot and the same exploration and challenges of the base game, this DLC plays it completely by the book, which is still not a bad thing. There isn’t much else that comes to mind when talking about the Hidden Ones, and it is just a short chunk of content for those who wanted more of AC Origins, which brings me to wrap up this review.

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The game’s Photo Mode allows to capture some incredible screenshots

Despite some complaints I have with the Hidden Ones, it is a very well-rounded piece of additional content to enjoy, and completing its additional tasks is still as interesting as before. Side quests are designed in the meaningful way, which is where AC Origins really shines, and very few include the annoying escort quests we’ve come to expect from Assassin’s Creed, however NPCs in this title certainly have the courtesy to match the player character’s pace. The new region doesn’t offer anything new at all, and looks quite the same as the base game’s biomes, but it is not a bad thing for a small DLC pack. The region of Sinai still packs plenty of enemy camps and different tombs to explore, and with all side questing, takes roughly 7-10 hours to complete that counts as a considerable chunk by usual DLC standards. All in all, it’s worth getting if you really enjoyed Origins and there is plenty of content on offer for the price, but don’t expect it to offer any radical improvements or the mystique plot available in Curse of the Pharaohs. While the Hidden Ones plays everything safely by the book, it still succeeds at what Origins did best and that is never a bad thing if you did enjoy Origins. It’s a decent chunk of additional content that offers more of the same, but given how well the base game has been made at the start, I’d take more of AC Oigins anytime and would recommend it to others.

StarCraft Remastered Review – The Definitive Way to Experience the original Brood War

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Developer, Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

Release Date: July 30th, 2017; Reviewed On: PC

PC Specs: Core i5-6500, 16GB DDR4 RAM, Gigabyte GTX 1070 8GB

 

StarCraft Remastered feels instantaneously familiar to those who would have sunk hours into the original Brood War 20 years ago, and through an extensive set of visual upgrades, Blizzard has improved significantly upon the game without altering its gameplay formula. It may be a hard sell for new players, given the continued success of StarCraft 2 on PC throughout the 8 years of its existence and Blizzard showing no intentions to stop with the updates, but StarCraft Remastered offers something different: a chance to experience a popular PC classic running on modern systems with support for up to 4K resolutions. The Remaster offers a plethora of visual improvements, all of which serve to enhance player experience, however the gameplay was left completely unchanged, which in some cases can serve to StarCraft’s detriment more than its advantage. Seeing a similar design philosophy, few differences can be drawn between StarCraft Remastered and its original release apart from visual upgrades, although the excellent execution of the re-release makes it a definitive version to experience, and frankly, StarCraft Remastered proved to be a large success as Blizzard still tends to enjoy an expansive fan following. StarCraft Remastered is not ideal, and drawing comparisons with StarCraft 2, the gameplay left me with something to be desired, however with that said, StarCraft Remastered is a perfect nostalgic trip into my childhood, which makes the flaws apparent in this version barely noticeable as it would for many players.

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Texture detail is noticeably sharper

StarCraft Remastered looks about as good as you’d expect from a sprite-based real-time strategy, and even sharper textures do not mitigate the outdated visuals. Despite that, the improvements are sharply noticeable, from extensively improved detail in the units and buildings to smooth sailing 60 fps framerate. Those improvements alone make the game worth its retail price, and while the original Brood War has been updated to support modern systems and is available as a free download, the two experiences share little in common overall. StarCraft remastered of course offers extensive resolution options that match modern standards and is certainly far more enjoyable in full screen mode, while the increased framerate additionally benefits the gameplay to a significant extent. The completely original gameplay, on the other hand, leaves some improvements to be desired in places, such as AI pathfinding or the ability to control more than a dozen units at a time, however preserving the original Brood War experience in full was perhaps the leading idea here. Frankly, the remaster proved to be quite successful, and Blizzard’s expertise shows through and through when comparing the updated release side-by-side with the original. Add in an updated multiplayer mode with fairly stable servers and a proper ranker ladder system, and StarCraft Remastered is the definitive gateway to experience the original game, which surprisingly aged quite well for a sprite-based RTS.

The extensive array of visual improvements is immediately noticeable, and StarCraft Remastered’s graphics convey that most effort has been directed toward this part of the game. While if won’t offer an extensive menu of options we’ve come to expect from all major PC releases, StarCraft features all modern resolution options for visual scaling, and given its age, the game is not a particularly demanding system hog. With an additionally upgraded framerate, StarCraft Remastered runs incredibly smoothly, and comparing with the original version, this is one of the best improvements overall. While the original gameplay doesn’t exactly demand fast response times, the better framerate is a nice feature to see, and a fluid 60 fps is a significant leap forward from the sluggish-feeling original. Texture detail shows a significant improvement as well, and the increased resolution of assets allows to see the units in much sharper image quality than before. Pitting the remaster against the original reveals extensive graphical improvements, although in 2017/18, the game has no hope of visually competing with other major releases, but then again, that wasn’t the point. Although these two improvements are major centers of attention in StarCraft Remastered, digging further reveals additional visual improvements that can be quite pleasing for the eye. Character models in briefing screens have seen significant remodeling, and instead of static images, these are now fully-rendered 3D objects, and among other non-significant improvements, add to the overall flare of the game. Again, StarCraft Remastered is not bound to impress anyone despite its upscaled visuals, but significant effort shows throughout to demonstrate Blizzard’s continued dedication to this series.

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Game systems remain completely identical to the original, and while StarCraft Remastered feels significantly behind its successor in terms of pacing, one has to consider that Blizzard didn’t just opt to release the original’s campaigns in StarCraft 2’sengine. The gameplay holds up quite well, making the game just as challenging and addicting as before, except now you can battle it out with other players online once more. To some extent, offering no improvements whatsoever serves to the game’s downside, and the AI’s glitchy path finding in particular leaves something to be desired, as larger groups of units can easily get stuck around base structures. At the same time, the remaster abides by the “don’t fix if it’s not broken” rule, and frankly, few things needed to be fixed with the game 20 years ago in the first place, which indicates just how well the original design holds up in modern gaming. StarCraft Remastered succeeds in completely preserving the original’s core game experience, which can be attributed to fan feedback over the years, and while similar gameplay is found in the original, the remaster is absolutely the definitive edition of the game to experience. There are still some issues present with the original gameplay, however, and the army selection size could have been much bigger than a dozen units at a time like it is in StarCraft 2, which feels really awkward here when controlling massive groups, but for the sake of retaining the original gameplay, it doesn’t detract by a lot from gameplay. And while the move to avoid gameplay change can be questionable, as some elements could have brought this already-excellent game up to par with modern strategy titles, however the original game works well with Remastered graphics, and StarCraft: Brood War remains one of the best RTS games on the PC platform.

The original Brood War’s gameplay remains intact in the remaster, although feels somewhat slow by modern RTS standards. Just like its successor, StarCraft pits zerg, terran and protoss against one another in melee, custom, or free-for-all matches, with a full-feature campaign that is quite worth playing. All of the original game’s maps made it into the Remastered release, and there is a lot of diversity to be found in maps, which range from 2 to 8 players and some even have unique attributes. Compared to StarCraft 2, the original’s game mechanics are far less streamlined and micromanagement intensive, although the strategic element remains in full, with plenty of variety in unit builds to change up the gameplay. StarCraft Remastered’s additional improvements include a simple, but effective multiplayer ladder, which ranks players among multiple leagues similar to what’s on offer in StarCraft 2. While it may not be an extensive overhaul some hoped, the fact players can still enjoy the vanilla StarCraft experience on stable servers speaks of Blizzard’s dedication to the massive e-sport title and even StarCraft 2 is now almost a decade old. With all improvements combined, StarCraft Remastered proves to be the definitive version to experience the original game, and both improved graphics and original gameplay make it a fun RTS to play versus AI or other players.

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StarCraft Remastered doesn’t change the original’s formula to any extent, and fans of Brood War will certainly appreciate playing the newer version. While the original StarCraft can still be enjoyed on modern systems and is available as a free download, the remaster streamlines the experience by bringing improved graphics, increased framerate and updated multiplayer components. With an admission price of under $20, it isn’t a hard sell, and while newcomers might want to be cautious coming to this title from StarCraft 2, fans will appreciate the original experience that’s been preserved in a better visual package. The gameplay shows its age, and won’t be for everyone, especially as its much less fluid than StarCraft 2’s game mechanics, but if you grew up on the original StarCraft and Brood War, then I can definitely recommend StarCraft Remastered. It is the best way to currently experience the game, and modern resolution scaling with a smooth 60fps make the game look fairly decent on computer screens. Blizzard’s decision to preserve the original gameplay ultimately paid off, and while even I prefer the streamlined features of StarCraft 2, the remastered edition still puts me on a nostalgic trip into my childhood. And 20 years following its release, the original StarCraft is still a fan-favourite and holds up really well among modern games with the Remastered edition.

PUBG Mobile Review – Your favorite battle royale now available on smartphones

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Developer, Publisher: Tencent Games

Released: March 20th, 2018

Reviewed On: Razer Phone, Android; Specs: Snapdragon 835, 8GB RAM

Available via: Google Play

It is fairly unusual to see a recent game ported to mobile devices, and one that’s as popular as Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. Launched in the US and Canada, PUBG Mobile brings to the table the full set of features available in its PC and Console versions, albeit at a severely reduced level of graphical detail. While looking unimpressive, PUBG Mobile still manages to impress with its battle royale multiplayer experience and on flagship phones, the game handles smoothly despite an extensive set of animations and reasonable graphics for the mobile platform. In addition, the entire experience is available as a free download, which is a fairly great bargain to begin with, and PUBG Mobile excels the quality of most gaming titles available on Android and iOS. As I haven’t played PUBG on the PC platform, I will discuss all of the game’s features in this mobile review, as well as contrast the mobile version in places it differs from other release builds. But on the whole, PUBG Mobile is a faithful port of a popular game that retains all of the original gameplay features and its free-to-play asking price is a strange, but worthwhile proposition for mobile players.

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Tencent Games surprisingly succeeded at adapting the original Battlegrounds’ formula to touch-screen controls, and PUBG Mobile handles surprisingly well even on smaller phone screens. It is not completely ideal, and the screen comes off quite busy which can be an annoyance when playing the game, as the numerous control keys occupy the screen and ultimately reduce players’ field of vision, however I never found the visual buttons to interfere on my gameplay. On a 5.7” wide screen, PUBG Mobile looks fairly decent, and the player field of vision is expansive enough to notice most elements of the world. Enemy spotting can prove to be difficult at most times, although not completely impossible, which makes for additional tension in the 100 player free for all matches. The gameplay experience is not designed for everyone, and there are some flaws to be seen in the systems PUBG offers, but there is something enjoyable in a game that offers different gameplay with each multiplayer match. PUBG’s uniqueness is something fresh for both major home and mobile platforms and while the mobile version lacks behind in graphics, it still offers all the features found in the $30 Battlegrounds release on the PC and Consoles.

PUBG Mobile just like its bigger counterparts is a multiplayer battle royale third-person shooter with tactical elements and has 100 players battle it out on a large island map. The trick is to keep constantly moving, as the player dome decreases over the period of time, pushing the players towards the center of the map as player count gradually reduces over time. It’s an interesting game mechanics, although we are seeing it more often with the likes of PUBG and Fortnite, which is also bound to release on mobile platform sometime throughout the year. After a soft launch in Canada, PUBG Mobile is now available as a free download on the Google Play Store and the Apple store, which is a convenient pricing release, but also raises numerous questions since the game on other platforms retails for $29.99. With only reduced graphics, PUBG Mobile offers an excellent third-person shooter experience on the mobile platform, with few games to match its overall quality.

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PUBG’s island map is very vast, which makes hunting enemies interesting

PUBG’s controls take a little while to get used to, and rotation feels significantly slower if you’ve played the PC or Console versions. All player actions are represented on the main screen, and PUBG includes a diverse amount of animations that look fairly impressive on a mobile device. With additional inventory management elements and a large weapon variety, PUBG Mobile really shines on the platform with a feature-complete gameplay rarely seen out of the Google Play Store titles. To balance for difficult controls, the game additionally features auto-aim, which is helpful to target other players but won’t eliminate the challenge of playing it on a touch screen. Controls are intuitive enough once a little time is spent with the game, however PUBG mobile would greatly benefit from a controller such as the MOGA Pro, which will greatly expand player capabilities to a significant degree.

On a decent flagship device, PUBG plays quite smoothly, which can be a surprise given the fact the Xbpx One version still handles the game on the poor end of things. Between 3 graphical presets, the game automatically selects the best running option, and of course on the Razer Phone (read my review here), PUBG runs flawlessly with detailed graphics detail. There won’t be any Razer-specific features to be found, and at least so far, the game won’t benefit from the phone’s smooth 120Hz framerate. PUBG handles smooth enough to be running at 60 fps in its multiplayer matches. At the same time, the graphics are noticeably weaker and the levels of detail are severely lacking in the port compared to original versions, however it is to be expected considering the full PUBG experience has been replicated on the mobile platform. Building interiors are mostly missing, and the game’s textures look very bleak when compared to the major game. With that said, on its own, PUBG Mobile doesn’t look too bad for its platform, however players would need a decent device to experience the game in its best quality.

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PUBG additionally features gathering elements of a sort, by dropping the player practically naked from the plane above, and forces competitors to seek out weapons once they hit the ground. The weapons are distributed at random, and while so far I discovered plethora of supplies inside the buildings during each match, although the game’s random nature guarantees unique matches for at least half the game. PUBG Mobile includes only one large island map from the two locations available on PC and consoles, although its scope far exceeds most gaming levels.  These can be quickly traversed using vehicles, although those are spread at random and can be difficult to locate out in the open, which makes them fairly rare to use. For some added simplicity, PUBG Mobile includes bots in its multiplayer matches that allow lesser skilled players to acquire kills that would otherwise not be available. The multiplayer matches are very stable, although I’ve experienced some crashes during my playthroughs, but overall the experience handles solidly and for intense multiplayer matches, the connection works great enough to run without lag.

PUBG Mobile has been significantly streamlined to make it playable on new devices, and while it means that many of the original’s game systems are fully automated, some of it works for the better of the game. The player character automatically picks up weapons, ammo and any attachments, which simplifies the gameplay, however as the game auto-equips weapon attachments, you’ll more often find yourself with an unwanted mod for weapons you’d prefer to use. And in the middle of action, last thing one would want is to fiddle in the inventory, as PUBG doesn’t get paused by pulling up the inventory or the map screen. To its credit, PUBG Mobile’s simplification serves to the game’s advantage, and with lesser micromanagement, players can focus on the action in front of them. On top of that, PUBG Mobile’s user interface has been further modified to suit the mobile systems, with squad teammates being displayed in the direction screen in their relative distance. And apart from improvements, PUBG Mobile carries over all of the Battlegrounds’ gameplay systems that look quite impressive on the Android platform. At the current moment, PUBG Mobile doesn’t feature cross-play with the PC and console systems, and even across mobile, bots occupy beginner servers to allow new players gain skill over time, however it is still the same battle royale game that exists on more powerful gaming systems.

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Given it’s available for free, I was going into PUBG Mobile in a sceptical mood, especially expecting micro-transactions or some sort of a slow progression system that would necessitate additional spending. But nope, PUBG Mobile not only didn’t need to introduce any of the gameplay-ruining elements, and even over multiple matches, I’ve never experienced a single ad in the course of the game. That is quite impressive, given every free-to-play game tries to exploit the player in one way or another, and even full-price AAA releases have been toying with the idea lately (we all remember the giant Star Wars: Battlefront 2 controversy that was the biggest backlash against loot chests). In any event, PUBG Mobile can be applauded for avoiding any of these temptations of the mobile market, and does away with any annoying elements of free-to-play releases. It’s quite strange to see a leap from $30 retail price on the PC and consoles to completely free on mobile, which is bound to attract more players over. despite the mobile platform’s limitations. PUBG Mobile also offers weekly leagues and daily login rewards, which are the only things present that relate to mobile gaming market, but surprisingly, they actually make the game more fun than its PC counterpart from what I’ve heard.

PUBG Mobile offers a full-feature experience unlike any other platform, and benefits greatly from preserving the qualities of its release on the major home systems. At the free to play price point, it is hard to beat what’s on offer here, and PUBG’s unique multiplayer experience makes the game worth replaying over multiple instances, and on the go, this shooter delivers a stellar experience. Although the game’s graphics leave something to be desired, its qualities lie in survival gameplay and the varied shooter experience that forces 100 players against one another in the ever-shrinking dome, and the exploration element is necessary to make sure players are given enough tools at their disposal. The expansive map makes action rare, which may be one of the only few downsides to PUBG’s gameplay, however eliminating other players is extremely satisfying in this last-man standing multiplayer shooter. And at the free price point, there is an extensive array of features present to make the game stand out among the general output of the free-to-play industry on mobile. PUBG Mobile handles great, and if you have a powerful phone to play it on, the experience is very satisfying.

The Best weapons in Mass Effect games

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The Mass Effect series is widely regarded as one of the best sci-fi franchises in the gaming industry, and apart from last year’s Andromeda, the original trilogy is also regarded as some of the best games ever created. In this stellar RPG experience, it is easy to miss out the set of game mechanics the series offers and especially its action, backed up by an extensive set of solid weapons in the arsenal. Although weapons are just a small part of the overall Mass Effect experience and it is easy to overlook them, the arsenal in Mass Effect packs some of the best weapons in gaming, and across 4 entries, the series features some of the best guns to be found in gaming. Across a range of shotguns, sniper rifles, assault rifles and heavy weapons, Mass Effect offers something for every plathrough style as well and with extensive sets for each type, there is something to be found for everyone. This list is formed on my objective opinion only and won’t represent everyone’s picks, but spread across multiple games and weapon types, part of it would tailor to everybody’s taste. These weapons are organized in no particular order, but the 10 chosen are the best weapons in the Mass Effect franchise.

Particle Rifle

The Prothean Particle Rifle obtained from Mass Effect 3’s From Ashes DLC mission is an assault rifle limited only by the heat formed from discharge, enabling continuous firing until it overheats. To add to that, this rifle packs a serious punch and allows to eliminate multiple enemies with ease once you upgrade the ammo capacity, which keeps the fast-paced flow of combat. With its unique design, the particle rifle is one of the best weapons in the entire series and its capabilities overpower most other guns in the arsenal and while heat management becomes crucial at times and introduces an unnecessary micromanagement element, it never interferes in the action. While Mass Effect: Andromeda features a similar weapon in form of the P.A.W. rifle derived from Remnant tech, I never found its punch as satisfying as the Particle Rifle in Mass Effect 3 and the damage of the Prothean weapon is significantly higher than the Remnant rifle in the next entry.

N7 Crusader Shotgun

The N7 Crusader Shotgun has the highest DPI out of all shotguns available and only the Krogan-engineered M300 Claymore rivals the power of the Crusader. The N7 Crusader is seriously heavy and thus most players won’t use it, but the tradeoff can sometimes be worth it. The Crusader eliminates most enemies with a single shot, and especially works best in Charge-based Vanguard builds with its serious damage but short range, giving biotic-light players an opportunity to create a powerful assault build. Equipping the Crusader leaves little room for other weapons, which is one of its downsides and even the highest level of Light Materials upgrade barely fixes that, but its incredible power makes it a serious tool for competitive players, who can still opt to add a pistol and an SMG into their loadout.

Reaper Blackstar

Nothing says “Collateral Damage” more than the experimental Reaper Blackstar. Available in Mass Effect 3 on multiple missions, the weapon can be used in instances against overwhelming odds, and the game is generous enough to let players use the Blackstar on multiple occasions. Although developed by Human researchers, the prototype is heavily based on Reaper tech, which means serious damage is to be expected from it. The Blackstar delivers a powerful punch that can eliminate a brute or a harvester with one shot. The downside is a long charge time before the shot, which makes its timing crucial on missions where this weapon is available as you definitely don’t want to waste its high damage output. The Reaper Blackstar is one of the best weapons in the game, and although Mass Effect 3 removes the opportunity to carry heavy weapons, its limited use is made worthwhile by the sheer power it delivers.

Collector Heavy Beam

Back when the player character could carry heavy weapons in Mass Effect 2, the Collector Heavy Beam is the most powerful in the game, and available to those with DLC packs installed. Many no doubt wish it offered unlimited ammo, the limited capacity of the Collector Beam is still enough to get Shepard out of the toughest enemy encounters. Similar to the particle rifle, the Collector Beam fires continuously, however instead of overheating, it is depleted once all ammo has been used up. The damage output significantly increases the more the beam is discharged, which makes it particularly strong against heavy mechs encountered in the game. The Collector Beam is much more powerful than the game’s other heavy weapons, and can also  be used on larger groups, which gives it a lot of versatility, thus earning it the spot on this list.

Black Widow Sniper Rifle

If you actually manage to have good luck with a stealth build, the Black Widow is the ultimate sniper rifle in the arsenal and makes long-range combat a breeze for skilled players. Combined with the cloak ability, the Black Widow is a serious threat to enemies, however the rifle’s heavy weight somewhat limits the ability to use biotics. For ranged combat, however, the Black Widow is ideal, and for those who prefer to stay still, it is an ideal murder weapon, given it eliminates most enemy threats with a single headshot. Its design is military-grade through and through, but there’s some beauty to it, although you won’t be focused on that while sniping off enemy heads and while its limited capacity can prove to be a disadvantage, higher damage is a worthy tradeoff in a stealthy character build.

M96 Mattock Assault Rifle

The conventional Mattock rivals damage levels of the Prothean Particle Rifle, and while it won’t offer unlimited ammo, there are plenty of crates in the world to replenish it. Firing in single-shot bursts, this assault rifle packs a serious punch with each hit and only a few rounds are necessary to eliminate most targets, which makes it another powerful contender on this list. Unlike most weapons on this list, the Cerberus-made Mattock is also available across multiple games, first being given to players in Mass Effect 2 and available on offer in both 3 and Andromeda that followed. The Mattock is extremely satisfying to use and is only one of the few assault rifles out of the broad arsenal that can be considered truly great, which made me choose it more often than not when replaying Mass Effect 2 or 3.

M560 Hydra Rocket Launcher

I’ve always liked the fact that Mass Effect never had conventional rocket launchers and the M560 Hydra proves that at many levels. While the power of its 4 combined rockets significantly lacks behind a single shot of the Reaper Blackstar, it is good enough to eliminate most heavy mechs in the game. Additionally, the Hydra packs in more ammunition which makes it great for multiple discharges in combat, and can easily eliminate Brutes before they even reach the player character. While I’d rank it third among the heavy weapons on this list as the Hydra is not  a particularly impressive rival to those, but its unique attributes still make it a worthy contender among the best weapons.

Sweeper Assault Rifle

The Sweeper assault rifle based on Remnant tech is a sweet weapon players can build in-game and I found it to be one of my all-favorite assault rifles to use in the series. The Sweeper fires in 3 shot bursts and features high damage to eliminate most targets quickly, and generally is among the more interesting assault rifles in the entirety of Andromeda arsenal. The Remnant tech is a research tree worth investing in for all kinds of players and there are multiple high damage weapons available to construct once the blueprints are researched. The Sweeper is among the best Remnant weapons available in Mass Effect: Andromeda and I’ve used it for most of my first time playing the game. With its high damage output and precise accuracy, the Sweeper handles better than the laser-beam P.A.W. Rifle and its satisfying punch makes it one of the best weapons not just in Andromeda, but the series in general.

N7 Hurricane SMG

Among SMG and Pistol categories, few weapons pack a serious punch to grant them a place at this list, but the N7 Hurricane just barely makes it under the requirements. Compared to the rest, its damage is relatively limited, however its precise handling and large ammo capacity make up for that by giving players a light versatile weapon that goes along well with heavy weapon and shotgun character builds, as well as biotic-focused players. The N7 Hurricane is quite far from powerful, and is only worth using on base enemies with no shields, but tackle on a few upgrades, and this Submachine Gun can be satisfying to use as a sidearm.

Omni Blade

It will be amiss of me to avoid including melee weapons into this list, but the Omni Blade is a seriously powerful melee tool that works well with Vanguard Builds and its striking power eliminates melee enemies with ease. While the Omni Blade has been seriously downgraded in Mass Effect Andromeda and is far from enjoyable to use, the Mass Effect 3 version is a stellar melee weapon available by default in the game. The animation for melee hits in particular is very well designed and shows Shepard lunge forward with an omni blade on each hand, making for an extremely satisfying tool available for melee combat.

Inferno Sniper Rifle

The Inferno is highly capable, and similar to the Prothean-based Particle assault rifle, avoids reloading through heat management, which allows for a few high-precision shots to be fired in quick succession. This sniper rifle is not limited by its ammo capacity, which makes it useful in extensive combat sections in Mass Effect: Andromeda, and while its damage output is quite low to compete with Black Widow, the Inferno has its own unique traits to make it a memorable weapon in the entire series, which earns it a spot on this list.

*all images are credited with their original sources

 

Things I’d like to see in the next Assassin’s Creed

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Assassin’s Creed: Origins significantly reimagines the way an Assassin’s Creed game should be designed, and its new RPG direction gave us one of the best games in the entire franchise. It is up for speculation whether Ubisoft intends to release a new game every 2 years on a new schedule or if we’re about to start getting sick of annual releases like in the past, but Assassin’s Creed: Origins lays a solid foundation for future games to follow that might allow Ubisoft to release new and interesting annual releases. So far rumors on a new Assassin’s Creed are very minimal, but one could guess about potential leaks at E3 2018 or the internet. As Origins is still very fresh in the gamers minds’ with Curse of the Pharaohs that was recently released, it is not a concern so far whether we’ll get a sequel in 2018 or the following year, but here are the features many would want to see from the next Assassin’s Creed outing. While the list is mostly formed from my own opinion, the features I speak of are in no doubt wanted by many gamers. Here’s what I’d like to see in the next Assassin’s Creed game.

*all images used have been captured in Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Setting – Ancient Greece

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Assassin’s Creed: Origins has perhaps the best-designed world in the entirety of the series and its ancient Egypt setting has been flawlessly executed as the game transitioned from Action to an RPG with character progression, numerous quests and diverse gear. Following on from Origins, the next Assassin’s Creed could explore settings like Ancient Greece or Rome with similarly vast and diverse worlds that Ubisoft can build in a similar way to Origins. Ubisoft could potentially follow up with a direct sequel to Origins set in ancient Greece, although introducing completely new characters is also a great option to keep the series fresh. A similar gameplay format to Origins would be ideal for the sequel as well, although I’ll talk about it in detail later in the list, and we can have another excellent Assassin’s Creed on our hands. Ancient Greece serves best as a setting, and can potentially introduce a better overall plot more involved with the world’s politics and struggles, but regardless of which setting Ubisoft chooses, a sequel to Origins can prove to be another excellent game in the series.

More Ship Gameplay. Give players their own ship.

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We haven’t seen a ship-based Assassin’s Creed game since Rogue in 2014 that was essentially a copy-and-paste game formed from Black Flag, although AC Origins features multiple naval missions that involve similar gameplay to the adventures of Edward Kenway, however still lacked personal elements such as ship customization or diverse missions based on the gameplay. The new Assassin’s Creed could bring back more sea-based gameplay and even give players their own ship perhaps. Set half the game in the Mediterranean Sea and islands allied to ancient Greece and we can have a really excellent game that blends AC Origins and Black Flag into a one well-designed game. Ubisoft could also give players the ability to dock in multiple cities and then free roam a large portion of the world on a mount to complete quests. Switch it up with sea-based exploration and gameplay both in the open world and the game’s plot and we can have a really interesting game on our hands and perhaps the strongest Assassin’s Creed yet. With that said, ship combat is also one of the best gameplay systems in the entire series and many gamers no doubt would want to see another Assassin’s Creed game based around naval exploration and combat.

Meaningful skill system.

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The skill tree in Origins wasn’t particularly interesting

With the new RPG direction, Ubisoft nailed about everything in Origins apart from the skill system, which was mostly composed of XP bonuses and various other dull abilities and only gave players a few really interesting skills to play with. In the sequel, Ubisoft really needs to improve upon the skill tree by giving players more interesting attributes to invest in. Perhaps give us a better skill system through numerous passive abilities or more interesting actives like the Charge Attack in Origins, and the skill tree can be much perfected. Another ancient setting also begs for more interesting tools that the main character could use and introducing an entirely separate skill tree dedicated to passives and gear wouldn’t be a bad idea. The goal would be to eliminate the endless boring skills seen in Origins and give players a more meaningful progression and skill systems to create an even better game than the already excellent Origins.

Keep game design from Origins

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AC Origins has the strongest game design of all releases in the franchise, supported by relatively high review scores across the board, and keeping all of it intact would be crucial to create a sequel just as good as Origins. RPG gameplay has proven to work really well in the framework of Assassin’s Creed and is one of the highlights that make Origins very enjoyable across 60+ hours of gameplay, which makes sense to follow up with a similarly-designed game in the future. There are very few flaws in the gameplay of AC Origins and the involving combat was also one of the strongest points in the entire game, giving players something more challenging than a counter-hit formula of its predecessors. Having taken 2 development years to overhaul many of the game’s systems, Ubisoft should stick with the formula they came up with and only focus on improving these gameplay systems. The RPG design also made up for some very interesting side quests that fleshed the world out and as such, it only makes sense to stick with the new direction for at least a few games moving forward. AC Origins’ game design was one of the strongest points in the game, which allowed the game to secure high scores across the board in gaming media, and Ubisoft should retain all of the Origins’ systems to secure commercial success for the series.

World Size Same or Bigger than Origins

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With Origins, Ubisoft have created the biggest open world yet for the series, giving players a large varied world with multiple major cities to explore. For the sequel, the developers should focus on changing some exploration systems such as collectibles, that haven’t been all that engaging in the form of animal nests and relic locations, as well as on further expanding the size and density of the game’s world. If we were to stick with the ancient Greece setting, this will allow developers to create large-scale cities and various villages with the overall world size similar to Origins if not larger. AC Origins has lots of interesting locations to visit and explore, which makes up for a lot of the fun during gameplay and the diversity ensures players don’t get bored of exploring these regions for treasure, viewpoints or enemy camps. A sequel should follow up on the same structure and give players a multitude of locations contained within an overall world map. Given the scale Origins achieved, Ubisoft already has a solid foundation for game world design and can build upon it further in the sequel.

Retain Meaningful Side Quests

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Side quests in Assassin’s Creed: Origins were one of the strongest points in storytelling, putting the drama of the main plot to shame, and significantly fleshed out the world of ancient Egypt through dialogue that provided backstory on the struggles of Egypt, additionally introducing new characters that the protagonist already knows in the game. Side quests provided for numerous laughs throughout their completion, and the amount of thought placed into these can sometimes be staggering. For example, in Origins, side quests ranged from exploring depths of ancient tombs to reflecting the struggle of Egyptians against unofficial occupation by Greece, to solving murder mysteries and so on. The constant variety in side quests always introduces something new to the game, which makes completing those missions not only compelling, but sometimes satisfying with the outcome. A sequel should thus just follow a similar template and expand even further on the diversity of side quests available in the game, which would make for even stronger game design, but again, Origins already set the bar quite high for the series moving forward.

Expand gear variety

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Origins has a pretty much perfect weapon selection for its gameplay design, but we could always go for more and more variety and content. Weapon selection worked really well in Origins and covered every gameplay style available to the player, which made experimenting with builds really satisfying. One major improvement to add would be multiple build slots to allow players an easy switch between multiple character presets. With diverse weapons such as bows, swords, spears, two-handed axes, two-handed swords and various other blunt weapons and sharp pikes, Origins had a perfect weapon variety to cover both heavy offence and stealth builds. Giving players multiple build slots in the sequel would allow players to easily switch between multiple presets, and the sequel would need to expand its weapon variety to a significant extent. Depending on the game setting, we might just see even more weapons in the sequel.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins Review

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Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Publisher: Ubisoft

Published: October 27, 2017, Reviewed On: PC

Tested On: Core i5-6500 3.2 GHz, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, Gigabyte GTX 1070 8GB, Windows 10

 

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a major reinvention the series desperately needed, and by taking an extra year to work on the template, Ubisoft has brought us something that both feels very familiar, but also completely fresh. They essentially gave us a full-on RPG experience that both integrates well into a large map and the series’ staple game mechanics. This direction is something Assassin’s Creed needed and after 30 hours of rigorous game testing, I can easily say this is the best direction the developers could have possibly chosen. The map’s scale easily compares to the likes of Witcher 3, and unlike the similarly sized Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Egypt is filled with major cities along with unique landmarks of its era. Ubisoft kept modern elements of the series, which I feel was unnecessary with the new RPG focus, but game forces too few of those sections upon the player, which evens out the negatives. On the overall, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a superb game experience and the series is back in action with an entirely new entry.

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The new direction is very welcome for the series and Assassin’s Creed: Origins is not a full-out role-playing game. Provided I have only played a fraction of what the RPG games market has to offer, Origins still plays really amazing and its personally my second favourite RPG game after the stellar Witcher 3. The game’s expansive world provides hours upon hours of content, and after more than 30 hours in, I have yet to discover half of what the ancient Egypt setting has to offer. Bayek’s story is a blast to follow despite some minor issues reflected in poorly written dialogue, and Assassin’s Creed: Origins combines its story, gameplay and world into one excellent package to rank among the best RPGs to have come out in the recent years.

The beauty of ancient Egypt is gorgeously reflected in this game, which benefits the most from running on a high-end PC rig. The level of detail is stellar, and unlike Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ map, the world in Assassin’s Creed: Origins is filled with tons of secrets and explorable tombs. In a sense, the game notably combines the elements from Tomb Raider, Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed and The Witcher series into the one quality release, and because it combines those gameplay traits masterfully, Assassin’s Creed: Origins is not a bad game for doing so. Origins also retains a lot of gameplay elements we’ve come to know from the series, with signature climbing and parkour, although movement here feels more fluid. Speaking of climbing in the graphics section, the draw distance in Origins rivals that of Wildlands and Witcher 3, and its detailed cities further represent the high level of detail. If you can maxx out the settings in full, the game will look stunning, however if you intend to go for anything like 4K, a GTX 1080Ti if not 2 will be required.

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AC: Origins features some large-scale cities

Two major elements have been overhauled in this release in the series: exploration and combat. Exploration is much more meaningful now, and you no longer go by revealing icons on the map after climbing viewpoints. Those are still present, but only reveal side quest markers and an array of question marks on the map. Discovering those feels familiar to those who played Skyrim and The Witcher 3, with exploration that feels refreshing for the Assassin’s Creed series. You never know what you’ll find at the next question marker: it might be a ruined temple full of loot or could be an enemy camp, which can sometimes be a few levels higher than the player. This diversity ensures the player would never get bored of exploring the world of Ancient Egypt and Assassin’s Creed: Origins has nailed the authentic RPG feel I’ve come to expect from the likes of Witcher 3 and once again, I find that the move into the RPG territory proved highly successful.

The second, and objectively the most important part is the combat. While Assassin’s Creed: Origins retains most of the series’ signature exploration gameplay outside of combat, the latter feels much more challenging than the hit/counter combat of older games, and also fresh, well at least for the series. Through multiple weapons, fast and strong attack mechanics and dodge/parry, Assassin’s Creed: Origins felt immediately familiar to me after playing many action RPGs; but although its familiar to me and would be to many, these elements offer a fresh start from the repetitive counter-combat we’ve seen out of every Assassin’s Creed game prior. The new combat is a fresh direction for Assassin’s Creed, and I hope the trend follows with its sequels which should ideally now be coming out every 2 years if Ubisoft intend to build upon the strong success of Origins.

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The size of Egypt’s map is absolutely enormous, and with recent entries Ubisoft is gearing up to release massive open worlds for many of their major series. While Ghost Recon: Wildlands didn’t exactly make its open world engaging in any way, or fun for that matter, Origins’ RPG style yet again plays to its favor. After 30 hours in, I still have to discover half of what the entire world has to offer (plus 2 new areas in the released DLC content) or even venture into completely unknown areas. In theory, you can explore the entire world of Origins from the get-go, however regions are broken down by player level required and many require level 30 and above. This is partly the fault of the game’s progression system which I will touch on later, but the player could at least explore these regions at their leisure and many of those would be helpful to see through the game’s Adventure mode if you want to reveal them right away. At the same time, gradually unlocking the map remains fun due to a gratifying feeling of exploring new areas as the game progresses. I have a little under half a map left exploring under my belt and I remain excited to visit and discover these new areas. The organic map discovery is what makes spending upwards of 60 hours on this game a good value proposition, and as previously mentioned, having to then travel to each point of interest from discovering a fast travel point is more refreshing than having all points revealed right away. This design is a huge improvement over the traditional Ubisoft open-world gameplay formula and I’ll be hoping Ubisoft incorporates the specific world design of Assassin’s Creed: Origins into their future titles. Also, can we please see an open-world game out of the next Splinter Cell sequel?

The story in Origins begins as a simple revenge tale, and soon develops into a structure similar again to Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Seriously, how many similarities can these games share? One’s a tactical shooter and the other is an RPG on the opposite side of the gaming spectrum but somehow Origins shares more in common with Wildlands than even its predecessors. Then again, it seems Ubisoft is starting to reinvent its games with the new Ghost Recon. Besides any of that, the story has very solid writing, and eliminating targets is only a part of Bayek’s long journey to avenge his song, get involved in Egyptian politics and even establish an assassins’ brotherhood while he’s at it. As my review is coming quite late, I don’t see why I can’t spoil some of the game as I’m sure many would have played this game already. The story is quite interesting too and rivals that of Black Flag, the Assassin’s Creed game that was the most fun in the last many years.

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Side quests really shine as well, and a few can even be the strongest points of the whole game or at least highlights. Like this one fort that took me hours to beat even when I was 5 levels above the quest level involving that location. While not exactly interesting, its certainly memorable in my case. But there can be other prolonged quests that have multiple stories hidden behind them: a simple search for someone for example may land Bayek exploring an ancient pyramid – quite an abrupt change I would say. Many others may take a while to complete, and don’t be surprised to find quests that last many hours, however they can be extremely diverse and fun and also allow one to learn more about not just the world, but specifics such as Egyptian politics with Greece and Rome, poverty and bandit raids. Many in Egypt seem to be heavily oppressed by one thing or another, but I still found it fun to complete all of these side quests for that sometimes necessary XP. Sometimes Bayek ends up a few levels below the recommended level for next story quest, which can force a bit of a grind and is a slightly annoying feature when those who prefer story quests would want to play through the game. Yet again, since side missions are generally diverse and most are not boring, I don’t mind having to do something new instead of following a somewhat predictable storyline. Paired with enjoyable gameplay, Assassin’s Creed: Origins still remains fun after I’ve put 30 or so hours in.

It would be redundant for the reader to hear yet again about the revamped combat for the series, so won’t touch up on that in this category. The remaining elements that consist of previous Assassin’s Creed gameplay mechanics provide a nice blend to the new RPG combat, although some tweaks are noticeable as well. The climbing is much more fluent and some segments may require more running skill than we’ve come to expect from the series. Leaps of faith are still quite present, as well as sometimes annoying Animus segments. The modern story continues to be boring so I won’t discuss it, but this time the interruptions from Bayek’s journey are minimal. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is still partially a stealth game, which blends nicely with the RPG combat as I still have gameplay choices. I could stab everyone quietly in the camp to take over or I could watch my new swords easily slice up enemies as I just walk into a fight inside. There were a few nice touches such as ship combat segments taken out of Black Flag, but I didn’t find them as fluid or satisfying due to the simple fact they were rather short linear stories. As such, while Assassin’s Creed: Origins got rid of major issues found in its predecessors but retained a lot of gameplay from previous entries in the series, it also introduced a lot of new elements which in the end make a perfect blend between an RPG and the old-fashioned stab-em-up of Assassin’s Creed.

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The game’s progression is often at odds with itself and serves as one of the game’s only weaker points. The skill system is not particularly impressive, and few skills actually make a difference or introduce a new combat system. For example, leaping shot is a great skill to have with ranged weapons, but there are far too few interesting ones in the game’s large skill tree. Most skills just offer a boost to XP or money earned and those incremental improvements don’t exactly serve justice to an otherwise stellar RPG. Levelling up is also fairly uneven and I often found myself checking off multiple side quests before I could proceed to the next story mission. As in any other RPG, player levels are earned through exploration, combat and questing and each quest features a suggested level. Gear is also broken down by levels and new loot is tailored to the current player level, although Assassin’s Creed: Origins enables to upgrade most weapons to continuously keep them in the inventory, which I found neat for my legendary weapons acquired with the DLC pack. But seriously, it’s a little bit cheating if you use those. The loot system is fairly generous with high-end or legendary weapons as well, and it’s always useful to keep at least one weapon of each type available – some combat encounters can be best taken on with specific weapons. Collecting loot adds to the fun of the game and kept me engaged throughout my entire playthrough, which is something every RPG needs to have and Assassin’s Creed: Origins otherwise delivered apart from its uneven progression.

What I really appreciated with the loot system was the diversity of weapons it gave me: 4 types of bows, dual swords, regular swords, dual-handed axes, sword and shiel, etc. This shows greater emphasis on player choice and there’s a fair bit of diversity in how the weapons handle plus the combat is extremely satisfying with meaningful hits and executions as in the Witcher 3. The combat’s flow has been designed really well and the screen never gets too busy with action, although the field of view is limited to the disadvantage of the player and its very easy to miss attacks incoming from off the screen (which is how I died a lot of painful times). While a minor issue, a field of view slider wouldn’t hurt or tilt of the camera can be changed to provide both deeper player immersion and eliminate some of these glaring issues. Assassin’s Creed: Origins also avoids the repetition seen in most Ubisoft games and while many exploration elements and travel time can be considered boring, it is all part of the game experience.

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Assassin’s Creed: Origins also packs a few interesting features, such as its built-in photo mode that is easily activated by pressing down on both sticks of the controller. It’s a neat trick when you are doing reviews or want to share screenshots with others and while the mode is simple, it didn’t disappoint in taking high quality shots. The camera can also be rotated freely which provides for some great shots of the game’s environment, however its worth noting that the mode is only limited to Egypt and can’t be activated during the modern times. The game’s exploration mode has also been talked about a lot, and comes as part of 3 DLC packs available to download for the game. This mode removes all combat out of Origins and adds commentary about the game’s locations and historic context – it’s basically for those who want to take a break from all the action and enjoy a relaxing game. The other two content pieces – The Hidden Ones and Curse of the Pharaohs I’ll be fully reviewing in the future so they will get their own separate articles.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins gave the series a fresh breath it needed and has established the franchise as a fully-featured RPG which served greatly to its benefit. The overhauled combat is a nice change from previous entries and the RPG focus really shows through progression, questing and the plot. Origins is really enjoyable to play and offers us a setting many have wanted for years with its enormous map of Ancient Egypt. The plot is not complex, but side quests serve to further flesh out the lore of the game’s story and its world, and give players something diverse to do from the main plot. Mission design is executed perfectly for the most part and Assassin’s Creed: Origins offer more player freedom than ever thanks to its multiple weapons and the RPG-style combat. Ubisoft succeeded with reinventing the series and Assassin’s Creed doesn’t feel stale anymore with this entry. If anything, the RPG focus is a feature that should be used in all following releases. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is definitely worth checking out and offers an extensive amount of content to get through.