Monday, December 14, 2009

The 2009 Select [Button]: Improvement

by Daniel Bullard-Bates

Most Improved: Assassin’s Creed 2

Assassin’s Creed had a lot going for it: a conflict set in the middle east during the crusades, beautiful graphics and exciting assassination missions, but the game was bogged down by repetition and strange design choices. Fortunately, the developers at Ubisoft took almost every piece of criticism from the first game and worked it into the sequel. The mission structure became more varied, the settings became even more colorful, the main character learned how to swim, the player’s skills increased along with the character’s, and so on. Basically, everything Assassin’s Creed did, Assassin’s Creed 2 did better. The sequel still had a few problems (the free running system doesn’t always perform as desired and some of the mission types are still a drag), but the Assassin’s Creed series went from being a decently fun game with an interesting historical setting to a unique, exciting franchise in just a few years.

Honorable Mentions: Left 4 Dead 2 and Uncharted 2 both improved substantially when compared to their predecessors, but the first games in each series were already solid, so the change was not nearly so dramatic.

Least Improved: Overlord 2

Seeing the progress made between Overlord and Overlord 2 was exciting at first. They improved the camera, gave the player more comprehensive control over their minions, and changed the morality system so that it encompassed two different kinds of evil, while the first one had a black and white morality. In the first game, I chose between giving the villagers food and keeping the food for myself. In the second, my options were killing all the villagers or bending their wills to my service. They even maintained the dark sense of humor from the original, which is a large part of what makes the series fun. Unfortunately, for every problem they fixed a new one popped up (just like playing whack-a-minion). While control of the minions was improved, the minions themselves seemed more idiotic and less likely to notice and interact with objects and enemies. The camera and the control mechanism were tied together, which resulted in the main character never looking where he needed to, resulting in irritating deaths and confusion. The morality system required the player to hunt down hundreds of individuals with no way to track them, which quickly became too cumbersome to be worth it, and the magic system was drastically over-complicated. I have a soft spot for both games, but Overlord 2 managed to make a mess just as often as it cleaned one up, resulting in a mediocre sequel to a mediocre game.

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