Yet another intense Saturday, and I find myself close to wrapping things up. I’ve finished Glowcestershire and Snotinghamshire without any trouble (little action combat-wise; basically mopping up a bunch of annoying barbarians and taking down two somewhat tricky bosses…definitely anticlimactic after Wincestre; kinda regret doing that one first). I still saw little point in ruining the wicker man ceremony for no good reason, so I gave Cynon his proper sendoff (again), and contrary to my usual bloodthirsty nature, this time I decided to spare Modron. While I didn’t exactly trust her (y’know, since she tried to kill me and all), I didn’t see her as a pervasive threat like Rued, and she could potentially serve as a check should Tewdwr (who, to be honest, I didn’t trust all that much either) ever step out of line. That, combined with how Gwenydd grieved the time I did deliver final justice, convinced me that Modron hadn’t lived too long just yet. On the Hemming-succession front…really decent man, BTW, a thousand times the leader as those clowns Guthrum and Halfdan, I hated having to watch him die (…it is possible to put Trygve on the throne despite his objections, but 1. I think giving a leadership role to a geezer who openly expressed his desire to die with his master is a rock-stupid idea, and 2. I don’t want an obnoxious loose cannon like Vili in Ravensthorpe. Grow up a little, make something out of your life, and MAYBE I’ll give you a seat at the table. Again, these are not earthshaking choices, but it’s a nice touch to be able to subtly shape the course of Eivor’s life in the way that’s more suitable to the player.
Just completed the whole Yggdrasil adventure, which means that I’m back to where I was when I cut my first game short. I’ll wrap up Hamtumscire next week. For now, since I’ve come so far (and since I haven’t done video game ratings in a long time), I’d just like to give my personal evaluations.
First, the side activities:
Treasure collecting (gear, Books of Knowledge, ingots, leather, iron ore, titanium, opals, supplies, Roman artifacts, cosmetics) - 10/10. Thoroughly enjoyable, highly rewarding, and like in previous games, gives you the perfect excuse to go all over the map and test your assassination and fighting skills. A must no matter what!
The Order of the Ancients - 9/10. If it weren’t for that damned Orlog opponent, I would’ve given this a perfect score. Using all the various means and travelling to the four corners of England to slay the devil piece by piece was a richly satisfying experience. Definitely makes up for never getting to do it in Origins!
Cairns - 2/10. Blech. The easier ones aren’t too much of a hassle, but the latter ones have ridiculous height requirements, and these are rocks, I remind you, not bricks. This is one of those tasks where you can be literally inches from victory and have it snatched away over and over and over and over. And this, a child’s activity which isn’t even supposed to have a “victory” requirement! It seems that every AC game needs a task that’s a source of endless aggravation, and this is Valhalla’s. Unforgivable.
Offering Altars - 3/10. Give stuff, get a skill point. Unless it’s some really hard-to-get thing, in which case it’s waste a lot of time, get a skill point. Feh.
Flyting - 9/10. Here’s the beauty of it: It’s not just Monkey Island-style cornball insults. The flyters put their unique spin on things to keep things interesting. One of them requires you to degrade his appearance but not his fighting prowess, one of them has a higher ground them, one has cold weather theme, and one gives compliments and requires you to do the same! (Oh yeah, there’s also Fergal the Faceless. ) This is not only one of the best-written parts of the game, it’s the only place where you truly get to see a gamut of personalities in the common folk. “Rap battle”…hmph.
Treasures of Britain - 7/10. Can get a bit frustrating in parts (I’m not a fan of puzzles where it’s easy to lose your direction), but overall it was a interesting experience diving underground and getting those tablets. Excalibur is really nothing to write home about, unfortunately (and I couldn’t find any cool stuff from dual-wielding greatswords), so get it for the trophy.
World Events - 5/10. Definite mixed bag. The worst ones were when I had to search for something but I had no idea where it was. I remember a sleepwalking husband, a little boy holding a fallen Norseman’s axe, and a strawman that needed to be lit on fire, and finding them all was absolutely insufferable. Other than that, some were super-easy, some were a bit of work, some were utterly harmless and some drew a bit of blood. Don’t ever call it “daily life”.
Legendary Animals - 6/10. While it was definitely cathartic sinking my teeth into these beasts and going all out with my spears, this suffers from the old “Minecraft enemy problem”, i.e. they never get more powerful but you do, so once you beat the first, the others are only going to keep getting easier. (This is not to be confused with the current Minecraft enemy problem, i.e. the enemies are so freakishly overpowered that they kill you in five seconds and this is never ever going to change. ) Glad I did it, but seeing those heads on the wall not the rush I thought it would be. Mainly it’s the same deal as slaying the Zealots, it’s nice just to make the landscape a little safer.
Lost Drengr - 6/10. Much the same deal as the Legendary Animals; once you’re powerful enough, all you gotta do is rack ‘em up. The dagger you get from Ragnar’s final resting place could be a great weapon, but I gave up that weapon long ago so I can’t say.
Daughters of Lerion - 4/10. You want a challenge, tough guy? You GOT it! In hindsight, while beating them was highly rewarding, I can’t say that I really liked facing these terrors. They use all kinds of cheap tricks that there’s no way to really prepare for or anticipate, making victory largely a matter of attrition; chip off the last of her life before you run out of rations. Thor armor is very good midgame protection, but I definitely don’t like getting only four of five pieces. You definitely want that Mentor’s Cloak sooner rather than later.
Animus Anomalies - 6/10. Okay, not great. I liked taking a break from the rugged lands and seeing vistas I’d never get to otherwise. The problem is that the later puzzles are real slogs (that two-sides one must have taken me half an hour), and victory seems more a matter of dogged persistence than working out what you’re supposed to do. If they allowed you to save your progress and return to finish them later, that would’ve been a considerable improvement.
Fly Agaric - 4/10. While I enjoy a psychedelic jaunt every now and then, the clues for the most part were way too vague (Am I looking for a certain tree? A pillar? A patch of ground? WHAT??), and I had to brute-force a lot more than I wanted to (Did any of you figure out the Earth/Air/Fire/Water one?). At the end the programming staff apparently ran out of ideas and said “Screw it, just fight some jotnar.” This is definitely a part of the game that could’ve used more time and effort.
Standing Stones - 5/10. Another mixed bag. I think I lucked out on a couple of them, and fine tuning the POV bit by bit by bit was always annoying. On the plus side, it’s a true revelation seeing the image come together; I always appreciate a well-made optical illusion.
Flying Papers - 7/10. The only things I didn’t really like where when Eivor jumped to the ground instead of to the rope or pole I wanted to (largely my same beef with the races in AC2), but this was a minor quibble. Otherwise it was fun running and jumping like a maniac and not hard at all. The paper staying in place at the end for a few seconds was a big plus.
Cursed symbols - 3/10. Can’t honestly say this was very fun or rewarding, and after a while it started getting way too repetitive. Climb stuff, shoot the symbol. Move stuff, shoot the symbol. Get through the poison gas, shoot the symbol. Rinse and repeat. The worst part was that it all seemed so pointless. Who’s been planting these evil symbols at random locations in England? What do they want? Are they a threat? Will I encounter them in the future? No answers. Just have to be happy that a few random spots no longer force you to walk half-crouched. Whatever.
Orlog - 1/10. Hey, what’s Norse for “AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH”?
Drinking Challenges - 2/10. I liked that as long as you’re paying attention, you can win every time (except for the one you’re supposed to lose…you’ll know it when you see it). Other than that, you’ve outguzzled one, you’re outguzzled ‘em all. I consider this more a social obligation than an activity that’s supposed to have any benefit whatsoever.
Hunting/fishing - 1/10. Repeat after me: Random. Drops. SUCK. And that’s assuming you can even find the right spot in the first place. I haven’t gotten a single reindeer antler yet, I have no idea where to find the kind of dogs that leave dog fangs, and having to find the right species AND size for fish was gross overkill. Fish if you need the cash and leave 100% completion for the 100% masochists.
And the arcs:
Grantebridgescire - 4/10. Talk about a baptism of fire. One of the two level 20 areas, and I have to solve a murder mystery, which requires a long, long, long slog through a swamp. Soma is a fine person and a worthy ally, and it was satisfying rooting out the turncoat, which are the only reasons I didn’t rate this lower.
Ledecestreshire - 6/10. My first glimpse into the deeply troubled mind of Ivarr the Boneless, and the long and occasionally comical hunt for the useless curmudgeon Burgred. I was actually a little disappointed that he got to live at the end. A bread-and-butter story (complete with a bread knife fight…you had to be there) with a fairly satisfying conclusion but ultimately nothing special.
East Anglia - 3/10. Blah blah honor blah blah blood will have blood blah blah sink to his level…is the concept of “too dangerous to leave alive” just too difficult for anyone besides me to grasp? I’m glad that Oswald survived his tumultuous journey, but I really do not like that doing the sensible thing means that he whines like a baby and the whole wedding is so humdrum and lifeless it could have been real wedding.
Lunden - 7/10. Phew. Two fairly routine takedowns (“Well, if she didn’t want me to shoot her in the back, she shouldn’t have run!” ) leading to an intense waterfront battle; suffice to say that you will definitely want to stay well-fed for this one. Stowe and Erke are two truly good men…a rarity in this game…and deserved everything they got.
Oxenefordscire - 3/10. All I remember is a whole bunch of dumb squabbling with Sigurd, getting yelled at for failing to prevent a murder that happened long before the arc even began, throwing a couple punches in anger, and Fulke turning and Aelfred making off with Sigurd. A whole bunch of drama that’s supposed to be this big compelling story and just struck me as Amateur Nite. Pretty good battle at the end and that’s about it.
Cent - 2/10. It…happened. A bit of cloak and dagger with Fulke, a few good lines from Cynebert, the archtypical shameless opportunistic sleazeball, and that’s about it. Even though the raven figure slid into place, I never got the sense that I’d actually achieved anything. So do they just experiment with democracy now?
Lincolnshire - 5/10. And you thought Donald Trump took an election defeat badly. Other than the chance to strike another blow at the foul Order, this was more a personal quest for Eivor than anything. Incidentally, my choice of Hunwald for ealdorman was essentially the “height can’t be taught” dilemma in basketball, i.e. if you have a choice between drafting a short but skilled player or a tall but unskilled player, pick the latter because he can learn skills but the short player can’t grow taller. Aelfgar may have the better sword arm, but he’s full of himself and cares too much about his personal fortune, and there’s really no way to fix that. Hunwald’s a dumb, flailing kid, but plenty of great leaders started out as dumb, flailing kids; he’s full of passion, eager to learn, and will do his darndest for Lincolnshire. Ultimately, though, it’s not a super-important choice, so this land left me with some fond memories, another Warden scalp, and not a whole lot else.
Sciropescire - 4/10. This was a literal case of the least despicable man in the room taking the prize, which I suppose I’ll have to be reasonably happy with. I would’ve rated this a lot higher, in fact, if Ivarr’s denouement wasn’t so utterly repulsive to my sensibilities. Just once, just ONCE I’d like someone, anyone, to say the simple truth: Ivarr was evil. Not honorable, not following the proper tenets of Odin, not “a product of his time” , EVIL. If Ubarr wants to be a starry-eyed fool, let him, but I’m calling a fiend a fiend and others should too. Damn.
Vinland - 8/10. Fun! It’s always tricky handling the First Nation peoples in a way that’s neither patronizing nor insulting, and I think Ubisoft did a great job here. Beautiful scenery, too!
Suthsexe - 6/10. Crap just got real, yo. A nicely epic conclusion to Fulke’s story, but I have to take off points for Guthrum’s presence and the horribly forced dialogue. Not every ding-dang-dong thing has to be about honor, dammit! Killing that worthless lump Dag was cathartic but doesn’t make up for all the other tedious blather.
Jorvik - 9/10. Amazing how much drama it’s possible to fit in such a small space. This, in my estimation, is the arc that hit all the notes just right. Steadfast allies, bloodthirsty foes, the ever-present sinister taint of the Order, escalating tension, treachery, not knowing who to trust, the one seemingly insignificant early event that blows the lid off of everything, and of course capped off with a good ol’ fashioned slobberknocker. Add to that our introduction to Ricsige, the best not-the-real-villain-but-you’re-still-going-to-have-to-kill-him-at-some-point I’ve seen in a PS4 game. A romp!
Eurvicscire - 1/10. Eat a rotten seal tail, Halfdan. Eat ALL the rotten seal tails.
Wincestre - 9/10. Yeah, definitely should have saved this for last. A true challenge of Eivor’s detective, trust-building, and fighting skills, all alone and deep in enemy territory, and overlooking everything is the king of kings himself, Aelfred. A major hurdle which truly cemented Eivor’s status as the hero of England. And that constantly tolling bell at the end was just haunting.
Glowcestershire - 7/10. A big party goes horribly off the rails and Eivor is caught in the middle. This played more like a Telltale Games episode than an AC mission, and I found it a refreshing change of pace. What really made it work was the characters, all of whom played their parts to perfection. Cynon was perfect as the well-meaning but deeply flawed and troubled leader, Modron as the conflicted outsider willing to go to extreme measures, Gwenydd as the cute but slightly little off-putting young tyke, and Tewdwr as the intolerant stuffed shirt who gradually comes around. I ended up finding things to like and dislike about everybody, which is exactly the sort of nuanced personalities a game like this needs. A very well-written story which more than made up for the lack of action.
Snotinghamscire - 3/10. This much is clear: I’d much rather do stuff with a dying legend than slog through a big weepfest. Vili’s friendship with Eivor was one of those “because we said so” deals that never made any sense to me, and I still see no reason why I’d ever want him in Ravensthorpe. In all, this was an drearily heavy and downbeat tale of “honor” I was glad to just get the Helheim over with.
Hordafylke - 5/10. Win some, lose some. Sigurd breaks ties with his useless father, Eivor finally tells Odin where he can cram his honor, fends off the murderous treachery of a man she thought was his friend, then gets her life shoved in her face by Sigurd…and…she just takes it and quietly returns to Ravensthorpe alone. An incredibly long, revelatory journey so she could…kinda-sorta toss out the garbage she’s been fed all her life.
Hopefully Hamtumscire will kick butt, but it’s not a certainty. If Eivor has the slightest pity for Aelfred, I will be severely disappointed.
Mastery points: 55
Main weapons: Gungnir L10, Fafnir’s Fang L10 (Gungnir’s numbers aren’t that much better than the other spears, but there was no way I was passing up a one-of-a-kind weapon.)
Bows: Light - Skadi’s Wrath L10, Hunter - Arc of Elan L10, Predator - Longbow L10 (If it ain’t broke! I might have gotten something better, but I’m not taking the trouble to bump it up to L10 to find out.)
Abilities: Ranged 22 levels, Melee 22 levels; no change. (Haven’t found all the Codex Pages; maybe they’re the key? I’m so loaded now that there’s no need to go out of my way to find out.)
All flytings completed, Charisma level 6. (I’m amazed at how easy this was. I got three incorrect response total, and I never had to redo a single one. I’m actually curious as to who requires a Charisma level of 6…other than Maximillian, the highest anyone needed was 4.)
Settlement level 6. DONE. And after expending every last drop of Raw Materials, I have 8,200 Supplies left over (and I still haven’t gotten all the treasure chests). Let me talk about this game’s balance issues one of these days.
All Raids, World Events, Ingots, Books of Knowledge, Roman artifacts, flying papers, Treasures of Britain, Legendary Animals, Lost Drengr, Daughters of Lerion, Animus Anomalies, Fly Agarics, Standing Stones, and Cursed Symbols. Obtained Thor’s Battle Plate, Thor’s Helmet, Thor’s Gauntlets, Thor’s Breeches, Drengiligr, Excalibur, Gorgon Shield, Soldier’s Flail, The Morrigan’s Guard, and Gungnir. (Don’t remember how many of these are tied to rewards. If you remember something else, ask and I’ll tell you if I have it.)
= TO BE DONE =
The rest of the main story and The Grand Magester of the Order of the Ancients. Any day now, honest!
Obtaining the last Thor armor piece and Mjolnir. Both tied to the previous for some bizarre reason.
4 cairns. Not sure if I’ll ever give enough of crap and/or have the patience to do these.
The remaining treasure chests. Some of them are in really tight locations that I’ve worked for the better part of an hour on and still couldn’t crack.
The remaining hunting and fishing orders. Bleah.
The remaining trophies that I actually feel like obtaining. I see 10 in all and I suggest that nobody hold their breath.