Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.
Cancel The LAN Party
It’s November, which means new games are coming faster than you can say “eh, I’ll wait for Fallout 4,” but we’ve still got plenty to talk about before then. Like Halo 5, for example. In his review of Master Chief’s latest tour of the galaxy’s hottest spots for killing aliens, Drew Toal mentioned that while the single-player campaign is a bit “disappointing,” multiplayer still holds up. Down in the comments, though, a lot of readers bemoaned the game’s lack of split-screen multiplayer—a first for the series. LoveWaffle remembers the good old days:
My favorite memories with the Halo series involve getting 12 people, three TVs, and three Xboxes in a room and all playing the game together. With this game’s lack of split-screen multiplayer, Halo 5 just looks like a regression, not an evolution. I’ll keep playing older entries, and I’ll keep playing them even after Microsoft takes their consoles offline and the online multiplayer experience these games are built around is no longer available.
Lack Of Name is a little more incensed about the change:
Killing split-screen multiplayer is bullshit. The social experience of playing multiplayer with friends is almost completely lost with online. If it weren’t for playing split-screen with my cousin, I don’t think I would ever have bothered to care about video games.
Revising The History Curriculum
In his review of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Patrick Lee suggested that these games—like the secret society of hooded killers that they follow—are too hopelessly devoted to the past. Mechanically and thematically, the series is refusing to evolve beyond incremental changes. Reader TheKappa thinks the way to change this is by embracing Assassin’s Creed‘s ability to hop to any time period:
Assassin’s Creed, as a series, has struck me as something with a lot of missed potential, at least recently. You have the entire history and globe to set your stories, yet you go with America, America, America, France, and England as your last five settings. Why not Three Kingdoms China, or the Mayan empire, or one of a thousand settings or places that are possible? And like the review says, it’s probably because there are no high buildings to synchronize from or haystacks to hide in. It’s a shame that they are letting some of the games’ weaker aspects drag down the potential for doing really cool things as a series. Time-wise, they need to be ok with going backward or we are just going to be playing Far Cry: Assassin’s Creed in a few years.
Despite all that, Rogue feels like the strongest entry in the series still because it blurs the lines between Templar and Assassin much more. Showing the Assassins as so single-minded and playing their “everything is permitted” nature to it’s natural end, you feel more like it is an actual hidden organization with ups and downs than just some order of absolute good.
Buttersnap disagrees, arguing that familiarity is the key to making Assassin’s Creed’s history lessons interesting:
My thought on this is that the series relies a lot on familiarity of the buildings, landmarks, and people. Looking back, Black Flag has arguably the most forgettable of these historical “connections.” I think it’s too rural or remote or just doesn’t have as many compelling locations and people. The cities of Black Flag are almost entirely forgettable because their real counterparts don’t share historical elements with the game. How much do we really know about colonial Havana? Also, consider New York City in Assassin’s Creed III. There’s almost nothing still in NYC from that time period, and so the city felt generic. We feel like we know and have a connection to the Doge’s Palace over a Mayan city we can only fully see in our imagination.
I’m not against an Assassin’s Creed game being in more ancient time periods but, quite honestly, if I were producing these things, I would consider a change like that to just be its own separate series. There’s a connection to familiar history that they have hitched onto and probably will not budge. It may feel like a pedestrian museum trip, but that’s what works for it.
Did Someone Say Endings? Let’s Talk About Mass Effect
In his full-season review of the of Life Is Strange, DONTNOD’s time-traveling adventure game, Derrick Sanskirt unpacked the way the many decisions it asked you to make impacted—or didn’t impact—its ending. Ultimately, he decided that the journey was more important than the destination, which plenty of readers recognized as a parallel to the wildly controversial ending of Mass Effect 3 and its alleged disregard for the choices you made throughout the series. All Curmudgahideen wants is an ending that works, even if every decision you made isn’t highlighted:
I’ve played through the whole thing and would recommend it. It’s definitely gawky, earnest, and overwrought but in a way that feels pretty true to its teenage characters, and it had a fair few gut-punch moments that live up to or surpass the best that Telltale has done.
On the ending thing: I might be in the minority here, as one of the apparently few who didn’t really have a problem with the Mass Effect endings, but I don’t mind game designers closing off a story in a way that doesn’t address every single little thing I did throughout the game. The destination should be worthwhile—give me a big, powerful, resonant ending that’s true to the story—but it doesn’t have to incorporate every little fork in the road that I took to get there.
I honestly wonder what the people who complain about this stuff want—should every game end with every character you’ve helped turning up to return the favor at the climax? Or with an Animal House-style montage of what everyone went on to do after the credits rolled? You can do this well in some games (I always enjoyed the Dragon Age montages, for example), but I don’t expect them in every choice-based game I play.
Unexpected Dave wants choices to have a smaller impact, and wishes Mass Effect 3’s ending had paid more attention to the game’s established characters:
I think morality and choice in video games works best on the small-scale. I always cite Pandora Directive as the best morality system in games. Regardless of whether Tex is a saint or a monster, the world is saved. What differs from ending to ending is what happens to Tex. Does he find love? Does he find glory? Does he even survive? These are the things that the player can influence.
I think the biggest mistake that Mass Effect 3 made in its ending was even offering a choice as to what the Crucible does. I didn’t really care what happened to the Reapers. Obviously, the threat was going to go away one way or another. I didn’t need to spend the last half hour of the game immersed in the minute details of a programming glitch. I wanted to know more about what would happen to Liara, Joker, and Anderson. I saved the galaxy for their sakes. The game as a whole provided a lot of closure to these character arcs, but the ultimate ending undermined that sense of satisfaction by dragging the focus onto a choice that had so little connection to what had come before.
That’s it for this week, Johnny Boys. In case you didn’t realize, I’m not Matt Gerardi (a classic Mass Effect-style last-minute twist!), who’s off writing some words about Fallout 4 for you all to read come Monday morning. Thanks for allowing me to temporarily take his place and judge the things you write. As he always says, thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week!