Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 4th November 2018.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch, £54.99)
SEQUELS can be a risky game — you are in danger of churning out the same formula with minimal tweaks. That can’t be said of Assassin’s Creed. Yes, there were some duff ones, but Ubisoft have moved up through the gears. Last year’s offering Origins raised the bar and now Odyssey has built on those foundations while still keeping the core Creed characteristics. Odyssey is easily the biggest game in the series so far. There are over 60 hours of gameplay and a map that is twice as big as Origins. The action takes place in ancient Greece and tells its epic tale while the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta rages on in the background.
For the first time in Assassin’s Creed, you can play as a male or female for the whole campaign — as Alexios or Kassandra. The storyline follows the same route with both — you just get changes in dialogue. You can also use them to shape your game and the world around you in a Mass Effect style. So you can defuse or cause fights as well as getting side missions or even deciding whether characters live or die. The game has a real open-ended feel — you can fight for good, evil or play both off. That is an interesting move as, technically, you’re not an assassin. You are more of a mercenary so the creed does not really affect you. All the staple gameplay is there — from epic sword fights to high seas battles, but there is a deep RPG system in the go — you will need to find loot and craft. Then it becomes a numbers game where the highest wins so you need the best gear and crew.
There are three skill trees that you can unlock to make you stronger or faster. Each one has its own focus — stealth, range or raw power. You can also take part in epic conquest battles where you pick a side to change the rule in that area. It is a fun idea, but does not really have the impact you’d hope for in the grand scheme of things. Ubisoft have done a typically stunning job with the graphics. Every inch of the vast world has something awesome and the detail on some character’s faces is incredible. You know how they feel just by how they look. It is backed up by a solid Mediterranean soundtrack and the voice acting is OK even if some of the accents are dodgy and the size of the game lends itself to the odd bug from clipping into objects to textures not popping.
It is safe to say that the Assassin’s Creed series was on the ropes a few years back. Remember that risk? They took a two-year sabbatical and the soft reboot last year pumped much-needed life into it. Assassin fans will love Odyssey without question. Newcomers will probably love it more. That’s a big call, but the game takes what you know about the series and flips it on its head. Much to do. Much to see. Massive hit.
You can read more about the game in an interview with the creative director here.
Transference (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £13.99)
HALLOWEEN may be over, but you can still have a scream with Transference. The psychological thriller is the first game from SpectreVision — the studio founded by Lord Of The Rings star Elijah Wood. You can go down the VR or non-VR route. The latter is like a walking sim with a Gone Home and What Remains Of Edith Finch vibe. You interact with items and solve puzzles to open up the story. We won’t ruin the plot, but the tale focuses on the Hayes family where dad Raymond — who has a difficult relationship with his wife and son — is a scientist who wants to take a human conscience out of the body and store it in a digital space.
As you explore their memories, it is clear that each character views things differently — and you need to fix corrupted data within the simulated apartment. It is not a long game — three hours max — but the collectables add a bit of replay value. It has a dark, moody look and the soundtrack backs that up. There is much to interest you on a gaming front, but it is a bit short for the price. And be ready for the scares. We warned you.
Guns, Gore & Cannoli 2 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £10.39)
THE original was a surprise hit and now Belgian indie firm Crazy Monkey Studio have teamed up with Claeysbrothers to bring out the sequel. The side-scrolling shooter picks up the same action style, but we are 15 years down the line. Wise-cracking mobster Vinnie is back and looking for revenge by chasing a ghost called the Dark Don. Cue battles with cops, gangsters, Nazis and zombies. It’s a decent tale, but it never really takes off as you chase this mysterious figure.
The highlight is the gameplay. You blast anything that moves — by yourself or with up to four friends — and you can pick from a healthy arsenal. The levels are a mix of action sections and light puzzles but there is a handful of boss fights to keep things fresh. We loved the comic book style and the level of detail. The 1940s soundtrack has some catchy jazz numbers in the speakeasies and more epic tunes in the fights. The acting has some cheesy one-liners and ropey accents. It does feel shorter than the first game. Some of the levels have more to blast, but we wanted more. It’s not subtle but it is bags of fun.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…