I Hope Mirage is Amazing

*Make sure to check out the latest episode of Xenia Gaming Zone. In episode 3, we played Sea of Stars. You can find the video in the XPG GRIT video gallery, or access it directly from the Xenia Gaming Zone playlist on YouTube.

Contributed by DJMMT

Personally, I like when things end. I like reaching the end of a game or TV show. I like finishing a movie or book series and knowing definitively that it’s over. Sadly, endings are a dying practice in entertainment. Especially games. I don’t think any publisher/developer is more notorious for not ending things than Ubisoft. And I think the best example of this is the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

I have been an Assassin’s Creed (AC) fan since the beginning. I played the original game on the XBOX 360. I have played every existing console release AC game since. I was not a huge fan of the decision to change the franchise’s gameplay model to that of an open world RPG. I think the franchise’s top two games are still Brotherhood and Black Flag. That said, I very much enjoyed Origins. I like it better than Odyssey. I will say that Odyssey had better DLC though. In fact, I consider the Odyssey DLC to be some of the best story focused DLC I’ve played in any franchise or genre in years. But it also took me 200 hours to get 100% completion in Odyssey.

As a kid with loads of time, limited money, and a considerably shorter/non-existent backlog, I used to love long games. My birthday is in April. That meant that it could be as much as eight months before getting another game, for Christmas. So a game taking forever was a godsend. I remember playing Pokémon Red & Blue and never getting bored. Because I didn’t have other things to play that I hadn’t already beaten. I was happy to take the time to catch all 151 Pokémon (Yes, I’m that old.) twice. Now, things are much different. Even if we ignore all the baggage of being a married adult with a full-time job, there’s still just too many games to play. My backlog is atrocious. And it includes a lot of games that are actually worth playing. If it was all shovelware and indies that can be ignored if necessary, that would be one thing. But my backlog includes Horizon Forbidden West, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and The Last of Us Part II, just to name a few. I don’t have time to spend hundreds of hours collecting things for a few extra experience points or special armor. I don’t need DLC that just drags on and on because it can. I like when games end.

For a long time, people complained that games were too short. They got angry that games could give everything they had to offer in a single playthrough. They wanted bigger maps and more to do. This is why we now have never-ending live service games with tons of microtransactions, vague endings that always leave room for more content, and bloated maps filled to the brim with pointless collectibles and side missions of little to no substance. And I don’t have time for it. I yearn for more games to be like God of War (2005). Good graphics, amazing gameplay, compelling writing, and a clearly defined ending with a small amount of replay value, for those who just don’t want to move on. And, of course, a manageable total playtime for a single playthrough. I like my AAA games to be about 40 hours. I’m happy with them being up to 60. I’m fine with them being as short as 20. I don’t usually pay $70 for them. But so many AAA games today are gigantic maps that take forever to traverse, because most games have garbage fast travel systems, filled with hours and hours of fetch quests and collectibles. I’m so over it.

A while back, I started Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. I played it for about 30 hours and then stopped to play Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope. Ironically, it was a Ubisoft game that made me stop playing a Ubisoft game. And even more ironically, I will again be taking a break from Valhalla to play the recently released Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope – Rayman in the Phantom Show DLC. But I always intended to return to Valhalla, and recently I did. Honestly, it was pretty easy for me to jump back into Valhalla. I picked the controls back up pretty quickly, and I wasn’t too far in to begin with. It’s kind of ridiculous to say I wasn’t too far after 30 hours, but that’s the point I’m getting at. In the 20 or so hours I’ve spent playing Valhalla since returning to it, I’m just overwhelmed with the amount of things that I still need to do. I have spent most of the time since going back to the game in the Ireland expansion. This is a low-level expansion to the game that was actually perfect for me to jump into as a refresher for the full game. Compared to the rest of Valhalla, it’s not even that big of a map. Yet it’s taking forever. Because the game is just that long.

As I play Valhalla, I feel dread as I realize how much content I have left to get through. It’s not even that I’m not enjoying the game. I like the game a lot. But I don’t want to devote 200+ more hours to beating it. I want to play many other games. And that’s on top of the fact that many other games I want to play are being released soon or recently launched. I want to pick up Starfield, Baldur’s Gate 3, Super Mario Wonder, and Super Mario RPG. I have and would like to play Sea of Stars, the Yakuza series, and DOOM: Eternal. I’m also currently in the middle of Pokémon Scarlet and Returnal. Playing one game for that long with so many others waiting in the wings is kind of annoying. The problem is that the games I tend to like all seem to have adopted the open world, bloated content model. So the backlog keeps growing, because it’s impossible to catch up. Even just staying caught up on Assassin’s Creed has become difficult, with how often they release games and DLC now. I’m really excited for Mirage and Codename Red (Japan), but I’m absolutely not going to finish Valhalla before Mirage launches. 

I’m looking forward to Mirage, because it’s a return to the classic Assassin’s Creed model, and it’s been reported as being much shorter and contained. That news made me really happy; and I am not alone. I saw lots of people posting comments that they were glad to hear that the next AC would be both stealth focused and much shorter than the previous two games. I hope this game is amazing. I hope it sells a ton and reviews extremely well. Not because I particularly care about Ubisoft being successful. I want it to set a precedent both for Ubisoft and general AAA development moving forward. It’s time to leave bloated open worlds behind for several years and return to story-focused games with an emphasis on core gameplay and contained, standalone content. The audience is primed to return to the golden age of gaming for the plot.

AAA publishers need to see that gamers are no longer interested in games that are long for the sake of being long. For many years, the value of a game was measured in how many hours it took to beat, but that mentality has changed for a significant percentage of gamers. And even for those it hasn’t, since games go on sale so much faster these days, with the exception of Nintendo first party titles, most games do end up getting their $1USD = 1 hour+ of play ratio anyway. So I really think this is the moment for this shift in development mentality to occur. It starts with just one publisher taking a risk with a big franchise and being successful. Then the other publishers and studios will copy them, as has always been the case. Assassin’s Creed can definitely be the franchise for that. It carries the name, budget, and brand recognition needed to make an impact. And Mirage can be the game that changes the tide. But that only happens if the game is actually good. So far, it looks like it will be, so I’m very confident that it will be received positively. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

XPG Terrence

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