I officially finished the project, over a year later. I absolutely broke the rules here or there — disqualifying games, or marking them as done, far before their ends. I can say I gave every game I played a fair shot, though. I sunk hours into games I thought I’d be terrible at, and ended up adoring them. I suffered through games that were objectively, unquestionably terrible. And it was worth it, all along.
I’m going to finish writing about the last handful of games, and then I’m just going to keep going. I’m still playing games, of course. I’m on the last stage of sonic mania, I’m slogging through the Witcher trilogy. I’m adoring Divinity: Original Sin 2, which I think is going to be my Game of the Year. And I have so much more to say.
Today, though, let’s talk about a game I thought I’d hate, and ended up loving: Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. I bought this game because I bought and xBox One, and I wanted things to play. I played through, I don’t know, the first ten minutes, and gave up in complete annoyance. I couldn’t sneak, I couldn’t sail the boat, and I sure as hell was never going to kill a whale, so what was this game going to do for me?
The project made me come back. I played it on the heels of multiple open world games, where I was completely controlling who my character was. I play goody-two-shoes. I can’t help it. I don’t like being mean in real life and it doesn’t make me feel good to be mean in video games, although I think there’s a lot of entertaining story telling to be found by playing that way. I wish I could have seen the renegade storyline in Mass Effect, but I was too busy being a perfect paragon. I’ll be snarky (THANK you, Dragon Age) but not mean.
So I chafed, at first. Here’s this character who is honestly a bit of a dick. Kenway’s in it for himself, and he acts accordingly. I can have him do all the stupid missions in the world, but I’m not in control of what he says or does. The story is being told, and I’m along for the ride. I thought I’d hate it. I did hate it, for about the first 1/4th of the game. And then suddenly I realized how freeing and relaxing it was to be part of a story that I am not telling myself. All I had to do was be good at the mechanics, not good at picking the right choice.
And the mechanics were a blast. Once I figured out how to successfully sneak, something that has totally evaded me in every other AC game, I was flying. I still hated chases (KENWAY I TOLD YOU TO JUMP UP WHY ARE YOU SUDDENLY GOING SIDEWAYS DOWN THAT BUILDING) but loved slowly working my way through an area, staying undetected.
I also originally hated the boat. I will say I never really got GOOD at boat battles — but by the end I was competent at them and didn’t panic every time the game threw a hostile map my way. I even didn’t hate the sea shanties, although I often wished I was better at chasing so I could pick up more for some variety.
It was a joy to play, is the thing. It was a joy to play in the way that not all the games I’ve worked through have been. Running, jumping, fighting, shooting, knocking people out — it all felt NATURAL, and good. I was surprised. It was one of the many moments where I thought I’d be horrible at a game and then realized to my surprise I was not. And, now I’m looking forward to the new AC game. My repertoire has expanded!
I never did kill a whale, though.