At the beginning of summer, as I was nearing the end of The Witcher: The Wild Hunt, I asked the Internet for a game recommendation that would tick some very specific boxes for me, including open world, entertaining combat, some crafting, all that stuff I loved about The Witcher.
My friend Will texted me and said “The answer to your question is Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I know you’re going to look at every recommendation you get, because you’re a nerd like that, but that’s the game you want to play.”
We call sharing good, insightful ideas like this with each other, “Wil(l) thinking.” Of course, he knows me that well and of course he was right. It only took an hour of Assassin’s Creed: Origins for me to know I was going to be spending quite a bit of time in ancient Egypt for the near future.
So in late July, I while I was playing it, I wrote this on my Facebook, and for some reason I didn’t post it here. I think it’s pretty entertaining, so allow me to correct that right now:
I was playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins last night (61 hours in, level 31. Not sure how far I am into the story) and I tamed this hippo, because I thought it would be amusing to have a giant hippo waddling around with me.
I have this cool chain assassination skill, so I like to wait for Romans to ride by in a line, grab the one at the end and follow up with the one in the middle before any of them realize what’s going on. More often than not, the one in the front keeps on going and doesn’t notice his two buddies aren’t with him.
(SIDEBAR: Unless you want to kill an entire village, don’t poison the corpses. I’m real sorry about that, formerly-populated tiny village against the mountains.)
But last night, the guy in the front turned around and threw a spear at me … which REALLY PISSED OFF Harriet the Hippo, who charged the guy, knocked him off his horse, and proceeded to murder the fuck out of him.
So I’m like, “Harriet, you are such a good friend! Thanks for helping me fill the streets with the blood of my enemies. I’m going to set you free to celebrate!”
And that’s when I discovered that Henrietta the Hippo has two states: tamed and aggro. I was like, “Here you go,” and she was like “THANK YOU NOW I WILL MURDER YOUR FACE TO DEATH!”
I want to tell you that I ran away and climbed up a tree or something, until she calmed down and went on her way. But we all know that wouldn’t be true, and Bayek needed some hard leather to upgrade his armor, anyway.
So I thanked Henrietta the Hippo for her service and her sacrifice, looted the corpses, and went about my business.
Every villain is the hero of their own story.
So I finished the story about 10 hours ago, and since then, I’ve been running around the map, as a massively overpowered Bayek with a flaming sword and everything, Leeroy Jenkinsing my way across the world. I’m hunting the Phylakes, and have two left.
Hey, speaking of those guys, here’s a fun thing that happened. I was trying to draw a Phylake away from a populated area, so I could focus on him and not risk his allies showing up to distract me. I mean, I’m just trying to cut his head off with my flaming sword and honestly who can blame me he and his friends have been hassling me for literal months. GOSH.
I pull him into a field, and hit him in the face with an arrow that does not do nearly as much damage as an arrow to the face would do. But considering I climbed all the way up a mountain and then fought a bunch of Romans without pausing to catch my breath, maybe I can just agree to suspend my disbelief for a minute.
He comes at me in his fancy chariot, and I’m like “Yeah, buddy! Get ready to be set on fire!” and I roll out of the way, slash at him, and set him on fire. It was so great, until the grass I was in also caught on fire, which then caught me on fire.
Thinking quickly, I ran out of the grass, did the STOP DROP AND ROLL I’ve been preparing for my whole life, and jumped up onto the top of a … something with a grass roof.
This Phylake dude is super mad that I set him on fire (fair) so he starts throwing fucking JAVELINS at me (also fair). I switch to my secondary bow, a predator bow that is both on fire and able to be controlled by me in a first person view that is so much more fun than I thought it would be, I wish I’d bought it earlier.
I target the Phylake, and lock on. As I track him, the fire on my bow catches the roof on fire. Which catches me on fire. Which kills me.
I’m not saying I didn’t deserve all of it, because I was clearly the aggressor, but I will say that when I respawned, I put the fire weapons away and fought this dude with a spear, a pair of fuck you up swords, and poison arrows.
When I defeated him and looted his corpse, I got a Legendary flaming sword, because the universe has a sense of humor.
Okay, so I’m pretty much wrapping that up and looking for something new, which turns out to be Baldur’s Gate 3.
I haven’t played one of these CRPGs since the late 1900s, and I didn’t like it at first. It felt so different from the games I’ve been playing for the last twenty years, it took about 30 hours, spread out over a week or so, for me to understand how Baldur’s Gate 3 wants to be played, what kind of game it is. From the camera controls, to the turn based combat, to the very real consequences for every single thing I do, it’s just nothing at all like the Assassin’s Creed and Witcher RPGs I’ve played this year.
It took me all this time to stop trying to make it Baldur’s Gate: The Witcher’s Assassin Redemption, and actually play Baldur’s Gate 3. I did a TON of savescumming while I failed over and over to inderstand that this game will not to reward my choice to be a Murder Hobo at level 2. Instead, it rewards commitment to character and class choices, role playing, and careful battle strategy. It’s just as fun as being an OP Murder Hobo, but it’s much more satisfying. When I get through a difficult encounter or challenging series of role playing choices, I feel the same kind of accomplishment and joy I’ve gotten both of the times I rolled Critical Successes in my life.
Put simply, it’s the most faithful recreation of playing D&D I’ve ever experienced with a CRPG. It reminds me of everything I loved about the OG Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment, and Fallout: 2, but it’s refined by time and has clearly learned from all the great Bioware games. I just love it.
I love it so much that last night, I realized I need to start setting an alarm for my bedtime, because if I don’t do that, I’ll sit down when Anne goes to sleep to “just play for a little bit”, and the next thing I know it’s 2am. That’s also something I haven’t experienced since the late 1900s, and WOW does it turn out I’m a lot older now than I was then, and my body has comments when I stay up too late.