Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
I’ve barely scratched the surface of The Swords Of Ditto, but I’m definitely itching for more. This is the first game from a studio called onebitbeyond, and it plays like a modern reimagining of classic Zelda games, taking all the exploration and one-screen-at-a-time dungeon crawling and melding it with breezy cooperative multiplayer and a bit of roguelike randomization.
Just how indebted is it to Zelda? Well, it starts by calling back to the opening of Link’s Awakening, with your little hero of legend being woken up on a beach; only in this case, they’re led to their doom at the hands of the world-conquering witch Mormo. Years pass and another hero in your lineage takes up the mantle, this time hoping to actually journey across the world, weaken Mormo’s grip, and prepare themselves for the big showdown. If that adventurer happens to die at any point, another will take their place. The world will have greatly changed in the intervening years—jumbling around the location of dungeons and landmarks—but you’ll at least be able to plunder your predecessor’s grave for all the gear and money they’d amassed before they bit it.
I’m still unsure of how I feel about the roguelike element. The game is surprisingly hard once you get into the dungeons. Rooms fill quickly with hard-hitting enemies and traps, and your youthful heroes are pretty fragile, only able to regain health by chomping on the junk food in your inventory. My first character died in the middle of an optional dungeon I was exploring at the behest of some random quest giver, and since it was seemingly an aberration spat up by the game, I wasn’t able to go back to it and find out where exactly this dangerous cave was leading. If there’s an equivalent somewhere in the world of my new run, I’ve yet to come across it, and for a game like this, where trudging into the unknown is so much of the appeal, it’s hard to swallow the idea that you could quickly get crushed and be completely unable to revisit whatever dungeon you stumbled into.
There’s also a four-day time limit to your adventure—clearly a nod to another Zelda game, Majora’s Mask—but assuming you have the right resources, you can rewind the clock and continue building yourself up. And you’re going to need that extra time because the only way to open up dungeons is by leveling up your little hero through combat, which is a strangely inconsistent process with some enemies giving you XP and some not for a reason I couldn’t quite understand. If it weren’t clear already, there’s a level of unexplained depth here that’s both irritating and intriguing. But with its Cartoon Network look and well-executed Zelda-style dungeons, Swords Of Ditto has hooked me enough to make me want to keep digging. [Matt Gerardi]
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is free on Xbox One this month for Xbox Live Gold subscribers, so this seemed like a perfect time to go back and reacquaint myself with the last “traditional” Assassin’s Creed entry from before Origins came along and turned it into a proper action series with fun combat, frustrating stealth, and tons of loot. I prefer Assassin’s Creed when it’s being weird and dumb, so I thought it was oddly disappointing that Origins had some of the series’ rougher and stranger edges sanded down (not that Origins is totally down-to-earth). That being said, returning to Syndicate—and its grimy version of Victorian London—is much harder than I expected.
I like the simpler combat mechanics, which make the game feel more like an old brawler than a tactical action game, and I think that suits the gang-filled London aesthetic of Syndicate more than something like Origins’ Dark Souls-y approach would. One unexpected issue, though, is the parkour stuff. In my memory, running around a big city in an older Assassin’s Creed game was effortless and fun, but climbing and leaping across buildings in Syndicate is sometimes halted and frustrating, at least before you get the slightly game-breaking grappling hook.
Also, Syndicate has two playable characters who are functionally the same (beyond a few late-game perks), but it inexplicably seems to prioritize the smarmy Jacob Frye over his significantly cooler twin sister Evie. It’s annoying to see a boring man given prominence in some cut scenes and on the box art when there’s a more badass woman standing in the background, but at least the two of them have a fun sibling dynamic that occasionally allows them to acknowledge how off-putting Jacob is. [Sam Barsanti]