Yesterday marked the release of Dead Kings, an add-on to the much hated-on and near-leper status Assassin’s Creed Unity. Take a look at the “Before” picture above, and compare it with the new, dreary France seen in the trailer:
A little backstory time: While I did not agree with the masses on hater-status (shocking, huh?), I could definitely see where it came from. Initially, NOTHING FREAKING WORKED IN THE GAME. I couldn’t play with friends, I couldn’t get Arno to jump or climb or USE THE BATHROOM properly without game-glitching assistance.
Sorry for bringing up the pee problem, Arno.
There were so many issues that Ubisoft retracted the Season Pass for the game, gave Season Pass purchasers a free game, and gave Dead Kings away for free. It was kind of a big deal.
Luckily, Dead Kings does *not* reek of that “Free DLC” funk. It is incredibly well-polished, with gorgeous cutscenes that match the quality of the original games’ main story. The story itself takes place after the main campaign, its first sequence starting at Sequence 13, Memory 1, rather than a stand-alone title. Unlike The Tyranny of King Washington in ACIII, which was amaze-balls if you haven’t played it.
You have, haven’t you?
We will fight about how awesome Ratohnhake’:ton is later. This is all about Arno.
Arno Dorian is a dire man in this DLC. His mood and condition match the dreary, wiped out scenery that is Franciade; everything is in shambles. He is hired by a familiar face to find a Royal Manuscript– one that, if he finds it, will book him passage the hell out of France. Of course, the catacombs are under heavy surveillance– everybody wants those rare baubles found deep below, especially the other team…
The underground areas of Franciade are excellent. The lantern, one of two new tools found in the game (the other, the Guillotine Gun. Yep. You heard me.), adds a puzzle-like pattern to navigating the catacombs, as certain things will block your way without light. Think bats, roaches, other things that make Arno shudder. You must be a bit more stealthy this time around too- a new faction will beat the hell out of a macho Assassin in the deep dark of France. While I have always been a bit of a renegade with “stay in the shadows,” Dead Kings really means it. Undue shenanigans will get you killed.
The entire explorer feel is incredibly Indiana Jones-meets-Tomb Raider, which is ALL UP IN MY ALLEY. You can expect a good six hours to total completion for this DLC, which is another big bonus for FREE. I still question though- Arno had “Master Assassin'” gear in Unity. He clearly is still not a master Assassin in Dead Kings. Maybe by the end of it all, that’ll get cleared up for me… Anyway! I do hope you’ll pick up Dead Kings and give it the ol’ College Try, because honestly, Unity is NOT AS BAD AS YOUR HIPSTER GAMER FRIENDS MADE IT SOUND.
Until next time, you stay classy, Assassin.
Technology is a glorious, beastly thing. If it weren’t for technological advances, I would not be typing this to you, out to the world of the Interwebs. In fact, I’d probably be outside chasing a gopher, with a rock, in something resembling undies.
I do enjoy chasing gophers in my privies, but that isn’t why I brought you here.
In this updraft of tech change, we are constantly bombarded by NEW. NOW. NEXT. From TVs, to cell phones, to Bill Gates’ freaky auto-temp-house, things get upgraded time and time again, as we, little squirrely humans, attempt to get the best out of our tech-drunken civilization.
Being near the heart of this change is, of course, video gaming. Every year, every generation, we see something that we couldn’t even encapsulate in our greatest dreams before. And it’s schnazzy! Humans start to look so realistic that we can hardly separate fact from fiction; textures pop in front of our eyes and simulate light, depth, and realism to the highest ability; the world itself becomes larger, grander, more colorful and beautiful.
But sometimes…. technology makes it weird.
In our conquest for greatness, sometimes what matters most is left behind. In this case, it’s the attachment to the way certain things look, or how we know them to be. This can disrupt our entire experience, forcing our suspension of disbelief back into its hidey-hole until you can coax it out again. To make the most sense of what I’m telling you, I’ll dissect of my absolute favorite game series: Assassin’s Creed.
(The scope in which I write this is from a visual standpoint. I love the whacked-out story, the lines all blurring together into one weird lump of history- I’m not here to debate that part, lovies.)
Part One: Desmond Miles
Being a massive part of the AC Universe– rather, the conduit by which it all happens– Desmond is quite the important guy. The span of time from his first adventure, Assassin’s Creed, to his last, Assassin’s Creed 3, is all within one year- 2012. His body does change, as indicated by supporting characters throughout these games; he is mentioned looking emaciated, weaker, etc. as his trials go on. But if anyone can please show me how THIS change works, I’d love to hear it:
Biggest Note: REVELATIONS. I will tell you- everything is fucked up about the visuals in Revelations. I loved the story, as I’m quite attached to Altair and Ezio, but WHAT THE HELL? Assassin’s Creed: Revelations completely broke my suspension of disbelief. Suddenly, the men that had become a part of my life looked like freaky dopplegangers who were bad at their sole job. Desmond Miles, a once-chiseled young man, somehow looks like a dark-skinned Adam Sandler with no strong cheek definition and a pudgy jaw His eyebrows also magically got shorter on the sides, with a different browline! At times in the game, when lighting hits just right, he kind of looks like his former self with a beard.
The rest of the time? Assassin Adam Sandler.
Part Two: Ezio Auditore
Ezio has apparently had something crack his face right open, so that it sinks in everywhere but his chin. Oh! And I can’t forget his monkey lips:
The closest Ezio truly comes to looking like himself is this face, and it’s simply because he’s made it a million times since he was a teen:
Even then, it’s only the facial gesture, not the character himself. His eyes are clearly the wrong color as well, though that’s been a toss-up as an oversight in lighting. I say that is garbage. His eyes are clearly amber in Revelations, and so are Altair’s! Where did regular brown go? This Ezio is not the man I watched grow up, wither, and leave behind a legacy.
All of this is supposedly the might (READ: fault) of new technology. According to Ubisoft, it was a redefined Anvil engine, and the models were supposedly still rendered from the same guy as before, namely Francisco Randez:
If you promised me that the mighty computer flurrped out Ezio in Revelations as looking like this guy in the future and you swore it was him, I’d still kill you. Age tests were rendered with Randez, and the characters still look nothing like them:
Let’s not forget Altair! Not only is his face mapping different, but his voice actor was changed also. I can admit that when I played the first Assassin’s Creed, I questioned why Altair spoke with no accent compared to the rest of the characters in Masyaf; I chalked it up to the Animus, and the fact that Desmond was linked, thus adapting speech. In Revelations, he has an accent… and has most of the same vocal inflections. This doesn’t bother me as much as the face swaps, but putting a voice change that far into a series is a brave decision.
Altair in Revelations.
Throughout all of Revelations, I found myself watching anything else on the screen when it came to cutscenes, else I could not believe in the world presented to me. Altair looked younger at 62 than Ezio did at 53, and the aging only gets worse. In Assassin’s Creed: Embers (which is Ezio’s final foray in the series, and SO WORTH WATCHING), Ezio is an elderly man, who still looks nothing like his younger self. His nose is more defined, which is great, but the rest still slips. It’s like gravity to a special liking to Ezio’s face after his 40s.
A serious problem within all of this is that the support characters in Revelations look amazing! Their movements are graceful and articulate, their facial gestures are spot-on, and they are polished to a sparkly shine. So why are the main people who make up the game’s purpose the ones left in the funky parallel universe of Uglyland?! I just don’t understand it. I honestly feel as though they put all their oomph into everything else, then ran out of time for the Main Event. I mean, they release once a year… they’re good, but I’m sure that puts a wrench in the works. I know they tend to start developing further in advance, but even so, something has to give. You can’t give me a dog who rides a small pony while wearing a sombrero, and tell me it’s a cat who assassinates people surprisingly well.
When technology is on the upswing, the world is a magical place. I can appreciate the details in terrain and the gorgeous flourish of my cape. I can immerse myself in the universe you create, given the tools. When the engine is more respected than the characters you’ve brought to life, you’re asking for trouble and heartbreak. I adore that Ubisoft wanted a game to look better for the fans, and without the characters, it does! Unfortunately, the characters ruin the realism of the game. We built worlds within ourselves, composed of these people- you can’t just pretend they are the same as they were before because your “engine is better.” If making the game better means changing it to nearly unrecognizable status, I’m not sure I want better.
(Heya, if you want more comparison pictures, and a few LULZ, here are more for your perusal:)
(Above image belongs to Alan Edwards)
(Above image belongs to chibirella.com)
(Above image belongs to GamesRadar.)