Solium Infernum

So I’m currently playing THIS:

“Holy shit! What is that?” you ask. “That looks… kinda lame!”

SILENCE. It’s called Solium Infernum, it’s a play by email strategy game and you can buy it here.

“Wait, uh. Why would we want to buy it?”

JESUS CHRIST. Because it’s amazing, that’s why! It’s hugely creative and painstakingly designed to encourage scheming, risk-taking and being a bastard.

“Well, have you written about it in detail somewhere?”

YES, right here.

“And is it always that ugly?”

NO, sometimes the screen is full of text, like this:

“Oh…”

YEAH, well, what are you gonna do, y’know.

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Whiskey Monday: Ass Creed 2’s difficulty

To say the house I live in is at the top of a hill isn’t quite right. It’s at the top of the hill.

Going into town isn’t much of a problem. I put the word out to my roommates, and they meet me outside and spend fifteen minutes wrapping me in plastic bags, rags, dead towels and blankets, securing the fabrics with duct tape. When I resemble a morbidly obese tramp they carry me to where the hill begins and cast me down. I usually wake up at the bottom, shaken but uninjured, and can cut my way out of the fittings and go stumbling off on my way.

Returning home is more dangerous. Crampons and daylight are required. One point in the climb is known as The Englishman’s Wife, which is where the mossy incline of the hill tilts beyond the vertical and extends over your head. I had a nasty scare there yesterday. I leapt out, grabbing a tuft of weeds in each hand, and pulled myself up and over the ledge. It was after I’d stood up that the soggy lip buckled under my weight, tipping me backwards. As I fought to regain my balance, arms windmilling and death licking at the back of my neck, I realised the extent of my problems with

ASSASSIN’S CREED II’S DIFFICULTY

I really liked the first Assassin’s Creed. It had its moments. When I was being ridiculed by my friends for liking it so much I told them about those moments. I told them about tense escapes, terrifying swordfights, and the rush you got from instant-fail alert missions and some of the trickier assassinations. I told them “the final third of the game is different, man! Once all the features have been introduced everything starts getting really exciting! I’m serious! Let go of my balls!”

Those same friends are playing Assassin’s Creed II now, because of me. They’re currently asking “Uh, where’s the bit where it gets hard?”

And I have to bite my tongue, look down at my shoes and tell them that it never gets hard. Ubisoft Montreal completely pulled the difficulty.

I died six times in my game of Assassin’s Creed II, each of those times from acidentally flinging myself off a very high building onto flagstones 100 feet below. That’s not a game about assassinating people, that’s a game about not acidentally jumping off a building.

For obvious reasons the devs at Ubisoft have given their new Italian murderer about two dozen more tricks than their Middle Eastern murderer ever had. These new tricks, which range from smokebombs to paying gangs of thieves to lure away guards to being able to use your new SECOND hidden wrist-blade to assassinate TWO people at once are Assassin’s Creed II’s new features. They’re the selling points, and they had to be included.

But not only have Ubisoft not upped the game’s challenge accordingly, and not only have they increased the number of assassinations where your victims stands idly in the exact place that leaves them open to attack from your newest technique (no thought required!), but they’ve also added Medicine. Let me tell you about Medicine.

Ezio, your assassin, has a Medicine Pouch. It holds 5 Medicine initially, but can be upgraded to hold 10 or 15 Medicine. Tap left on the d-pad at any point and there’s a .75 second animation of Ezio popping a pill, which maxes out your health. As I said, the combat in the game’s no harder than the first Assassin’s Creed so assuming you’re a hardcore enough gamer to remember to tap left on the d-pad when the screens starts going fuzzy you’re working with a minimum of 350% more health.

Ubisoft are exploiting a gimpy little psychological hole, here. Medicine allows gamers to come close enough to death that most will still feel they’re surviving against all the odds despite there being no danger. Medicine’s just the start, anyway. There’s also armour Ezio can buy which further boosts both your health and your resistance to damage, or how it seems a lot easier to lose pursuing guards, and the change of pickpocketing from a sweating bullets minigame into holding down A and walking into someone.

Fuck that. This isn’t a game anymore, and my friends still think I’m a dick for liking the first game.

So, Ass Creed II is built for people who want to breeze through cinematic experiences. I appreciate that at this point those people way outnumber those of us who are a little more jaded and need something, anything, to be at stake for a game to be exciting, but this is what difficulty settings are for! Jesus! Why doesn’t Ass Creed II have one? It’s not like it’d have been some insurmountable technical challenge. It would have been changing numbers in a config file somewhere, making smokebombs more expensive and removing the option to use medicine while guards are looking for you. Little things. Give me my difficulty. Give me a game.