What are you playing this weekend? We’re juggling a few games here at Push to Smart.
I find myself waffling between being totally engrossed by Xenoblade Chronicle‘s creative world and put off by its “offline-MMO” like gameplay that includes an exhaustive amount of sidequests and backtracking. The art style calls back to games like Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy XII without feeling like a derivative of either and the score outshines even more recent AAA JRPGs from both the Tales and Final Fantasy series. I have grown attached to the characters of Xenoblade and the mystery of the Monado, but I worry if the overabundance of distractions will keep me from ever reaching the game’s climax.
Tales of Xillia
It’s not often I beat a 40+ hour RPG and immediately want to go back and play it again, but Tales of Xillia is such a charming and fun experience that I immediately started a New Game+ after the credits rolled. At the beginning of the game, you choose one of two protagonists through which you experience the narrative. During key turning points in the game you’ll be separated and reunited, the missing party members alluding to big events and character beats. This could have felt like a gimmick to artificially lengthen gameplay but it all feels very natural, and is more like an enticing tease for the second playthrough than a cheap ploy. Each character has their own motivations and distinct dynamics between eachother instead of being loosely tied together to the protagonist. When the dynamics change due to events that take place offscreen, I found myself even more compelled to play the game through Jude’s eyes.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Assassin’s Creed IV fixes a lot of Assassin’s Creed III‘s problems, though feels empty in parts. It thankfully tweaks the notoriety system back to one conducive to the free-running at the heart of the series, and hirable factions make a welcome return. Even half-baked minigames new to the series in III, like hunting, are more rewarding this time around. Additionally, Edward Kenway’s laissez-faire views of the creed–and everything else–lend themselves well to hours of exploring the seven seas without the nagging obligation of story progression. I find myself spending a few hours at a time just sailing around, chasing literal white whales and British convoys without any regard for the series’s increasingly convoluted contest between assassins and templars. On the flip-side, of course, the lack of satisfying dramatic stakes means Edward’s story isn’t nearly as compelling as his predecessor/grandson’s in Assassin’s Creed III. While I’m having fun sailing with the Jackdaw‘s crew, I’m not sure I’ll enjoy the game as much when it comes time to wrap up the story (the framing narrative for which is hilariously on-the-nose this time around).
Zelda : A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds borrows many aesthetic and thematic elements from 1991’s seminal A Link To The Past, but it’s not just a throwback. A Link Between Worlds builds upon the series’ formula originally established in A Link to the Past and perfected over the last two decades. Instead of having players work through the usual temples to regain all of their familiar tools, Link’s gadgets are available from the beginning of the game. Now the challenge is to master different methods for navigating Hyrule (and Lorule) by changing Link’s orientation in it. This gives players the chance to apply twenty years of mastery to new challenges, celebrating the series’s roots while expanding upon them.