Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey – a review


As a reader and a gamer, this was inevitable – a second game related book. Although the first was a book that led to a game – Witcher – while this arose from a game. But both related to games that absorb/distract me.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

by 

Gordon Doherty (Goodreads Author) 

THE OFFICIAL NOVELIZATION BASED ON THE POPULAR VIDEO GAME FRANCHISE.THE OFFICIAL NOVELIZATION BASED ON THE POPULAR VIDEO GAME FRANCHISE.

They call her misthios–mercenary–and she will take what she is owed.


Kassandra was raised by her parents to be fierce and uncaring, the ideal Spartan child, destined for greatness. But when a terrible tragedy leaves her stranded on the isle of Kephallonia, near Greece, she decides to find work as a mercenary, away from the constraints of Sparta. 

Many years later, Kassandra is plagued by debt and living under the shadow of a tyrant when a mysterious stranger offers her a deal: assassinate the Wolf, a renowned Spartan general, and he will wipe her debt clean. The offer is simple, but the task is not, as she will need to infiltrate the war between Athens and Sparta to succeed.

Kassandra’s odyssey takes her behind enemy lines and among uncertain allies. A web of conspiracy threatens her life, and she must cut down the enemies that surround her to get to the truth. Luckily, a Spartan’s blade is always sharp.

            Review 4.4 stars

As a fan of historical fiction and a gamer, this was an enjoyable book throughout. I admit that I finished the main questline of the game, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey before reading this novelisation. And I played Kassandra preferring the performance of the voice actress, Melissanthi Mahut.

Kassandra is a mercenary who is caught up in a conspiracy that threatens her life – and the future of Greece. Here past is entwined with Sparta’s past and one she can’t avoid.

This novel was as immersive as the game but building on what I already knew of the ancient Greek world and from the game world. Not surprising from Gordon Doherty, a writer of ancient historical fiction who clearly knows how to make a historical period come alive – in this case, the Second Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta at the head of their respective Leagues.

Once finished, I was interested to see how far the historical detail departed from reality, knowing that some have called the Assassin’s Creed universe ‘alternative history’. In this storyline, there are elements and a few characters that are fictional and perhaps ‘alternative’. But the background, the world and many of the principal players are historical – like my favourite, Brasidas. The characters come alive – helped I admit by meeting them in game – although they may not have the complexities that some readers might expect.

The game is visually stunning – as Greece is – but this novel adds the smells of the world from the flowers and sea breezes to the unwashed bodies and corpses. There are moments that are darker, more visceral and realistic. That’s the power of crafted words.

I’ve idolised Sparta – sometimes – but I’m convinced now that Sparta is not the place for me. Athens is more suited to my artistic and democratic temperament – but under Perikles.

This novelisation adds more to the plot – even alternative motives and actions that embellish a storyline that must work in a game setting where it’s hard to have multiple endings. For me, there were few surprises, but I enjoyed the development of characters and situations that fleshed out events and structure. Time was more akin to what one would expect – journeys take days and weeks; scouting out a target can take weeks, if not months; events occur over months, even years. We mustn’t forget that the Second Peloponnesian War lasted almost thirty years, from 431 to 404 BCE.

This novelisation ended with a clever scene that worked for the Assassin’s Creed universe and was perhaps better although different from my ending. A fun and recommended read if you enjoy this genre of book.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – four stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – four stars

**

I’m still exploring the game of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, although I am now on side-quests and exploring places unfound – and I have yet to slay the Minotaur. At some point in the future, I will review the game – if there is the demand. For now, the focus will be on books – albeit the current one is non-fiction.

Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt – a review

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I was struggling to find a book to review this week: okay, I have some with short reviews to expand on, but I can’t fully remember the key points that I had to make. And I am behind with my reading as I’m struggling with finding characters I like. I also wondered if anyone would notice me missing a week.

Would you have missed a review? Or are the reviews interesting?

However, I was determined to write something. I never said these reviews were exclusively about books so how about a game instead, I decided. This felt inevitable back in April when I posted W is for Witcher, looking at the origins of the Witcher games. That post looked in depth at some of the elements, but my experience playing the game was limited back then – but not now.

Let’s don our armour and sharpen the swords then.

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The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is an action-adventure RPG based on The Witcher series of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, it is the sequel to the 2011 game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, in which the player becomes Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher – a monster hunter for hire. He possesses superhuman abilities and is a master swordsman. a dying breed that makes their living killing the monsters that threaten people.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Polish: Wiedźmin 3: Dziki Gon) is the third and final instalment in the series of games developed by CD Projekt RED featuring the witcher Geralt of Rivia. The game was originally scheduled for release in late 2014, then pushed back to 24 February 2015, and finally released on 19 May 2015. During the first two weeks since release it had sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, more than doubling the total sales of its predecessor The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

The game has proved to be one of the most successful and popular games of recent years – if not ever.

Review 4.9 Stars:

Back in April, I was new to the game, but I was sucked into The Witcher world – and just starting out on my journey. Since then, I have logged over 500 hours of playtime, finished the main game and the two ‘expansions’ – Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine. I am now on my second playthrough, using the New Game + feature, whereby a player can start the story afresh but with the level reached at the end of the first playthrough – so my Geralt was level 55 and the monsters were boosted too.

In deciding to re-play, I had to have found the game more than just entertaining – in fact, the storyline is engrossing with multiple endings possible and the settings are brilliant. That excellent storytelling has been great, underpinned by reading the 1993 collection of short stories by author Andrzej Sapkowski as well as his second series – see my reviews of The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny.

CD Projekt has built on the world of Sapkowski, and there are plenty of references to past events within both the main quest line and in the side quests – and the overall world-building is impressive. There is a clever aspect to this game – cheeky at times even as the depth of the narrative produces amusing references to other games, books, artwork etcetera. What other game would have a major-domo called Barnabas-Basil Foulty.

Graphically the game is immersive and, well-not exactly beautiful, except in the final region of Toussaint, but the settings reflect that this is a world ravaged by war as well as monsters. The countryside and cities – rough, bleak and vibrant – feel real albeit not cinema-realistic, but I never expect that in a game.

The gameplay element is more complex than other games with a lot to learn and master – and that has been ratcheted up in my second playthrough as I have decided to tackle it on the hardest setting – Death March. This time, I must prepare Geralt for battle and not plunge in all gung-ho – or he dies too easily. Some of that though, is down to oddities in aspects of the game mechanics, like Geralt’s a habit of auto-finishing enemies off while there are others still alive.

The quirks in the mechanics have been annoying – like his inability to jump more than a few inches – but these are very minor compared with the massive number of pluses. One minor irritation in the main game is the NPCs wandering the world who tend to bump into Geralt or his mare, Roach. In Toussaint, the people have more manners (or the developers improved the AI).

Some players have had issues with Roach floating in the air – but I had no problems, so I suspect this glitch was sorted in a patch. My Roach seems to wander off, but she is usually looking for something to eat or drink when Geralt is busy – extremely sensible. It would be cool to build houses but that is not an essential, although Geralt gets a vineyard to do up in Blood & Wine – with BB’s help. By then, you can also dye Geralt’s armour.

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I must end this lengthy player-review by saying that my favourite aspect must be Gwent. This is an in-game card game that is popular in the Witcher world and was invented by the dwarves – they get annoyed when a new deck is introduced in Blood and Wine, initiating a clever side-story. Most innkeepers, merchants and even central characters play Gwent, and some sell individual cards. Geralt can collect cards and take part in Gwent quests and tournaments – with trophies. I must admit that I even have a physical Gwent set with the game board and all five sets of cards. Does that make me a card-geek?

In summary, a great game that has justified the countless awards and accolades received. I will be enjoying Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt for many more hours playing on Death March – despite the quirks and glitches. I’m eagerly anticipating the rumoured Witcher 4 – even if it will be some years before it emerges. Plus, I still have five more of Sapkowski’s Witcher books to read.

Setting: 5*

Storyline: 5*

Gameplay: 4.5*

Graphics: 5*

Entertainment: 5*

Features: 5*

 

Sword of Destiny – a review

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Ever since I met Geralt of Rivia in the game, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and posted about it in W is for Witcher, I have been exploring the origins of that world in the creations of Andrzej Sapkowski.

After reviewing the first book in Geralt’s chronology – The Last Wish – I kept reading. I will eventually review the game but I have many hours left so today my Witcher journey continues with a review of the second collection of short stories, Sword of Destiny:

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Sword of Destiny (Saga o Wiedźminie #2)

by

Andrzej Sapkowski

The New York Times bestselling series that inspired the international hit video game: The Witcher.

Geralt is a witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent.

This is a collection of short stories, following the adventures of the hit collection THE LAST WISH. Join Geralt as he battles monsters, demons and prejudices alike…
The Witcher series 
The Last Wish
The Sword of Destiny 
Blood of Elves
The Time of Contempt
Baptism of Fire

The Malady and Other Stories: An Andrzej Sapkowski Sampler (e-only)

Review 5 stars

I’m attempting to remain chronological in reading and reviewing Andrzej Sapkowski’s absorbing books about Geralt of Rivia, although I first met the White Wolf in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt video game. I also know that there are some shorts that might not fit this chronology.

However, the six short stories in this second collection are on the one hand standalone but on the other, there are strong threads linking them – not least the White Wolf himself, Geralt of Rivia.

Some see him as emotionless and ruthless, but his potion-subdued emotions emerge, and he is torn by his heart and by his destiny. Sapkowski creates an evolving and complex character who has a code, relationships, habits, quirks, dreams, nightmares…and destiny.

That destiny unfolds in the stories – and I know in later books. However, the author doesn’t use a linear style for the plot, weaving the threads with flashback memories, nightmares and encounters. Some readers might find this approach confusing, but when the pieces fall into place, I sat back and admired the craft, grinning with pleasure.

Each story deals with an event in Geralt’s journey, introducing both new characters and old ones, like Dandelion, the bard and Yennefer, the sorceress. From the opening story, The Bounds of Reason, when we encounter the mysterious Borch Three Jackdaws, we realise that this is neither a black-and-white world nor classical fantasy, but a multi-faceted and richly-visualised world of many hues, some grey and muddy, some earthy and verdant, and some red as blood or purple as lilacs.

Each character, in this and the other stories, has levels of complexity, none more so than the child called Ciri in the last two stories – The Sword of Destiny and Something More.

I could write about all six stories, but other reviewers can do that better. Do I focus instead on Yennefer’s devious attractions or Dandelion’s humorous escapades? Not this time – even if they are both play memorable character-driven episodes.

Ciri is the person who fascinated me most, watching her cope with events as a child, her raw emotions and reactions, seeing her encounter Geralt and struggle together with Destiny. The whole plot comes together in their story, with seeds sown in one of the key stories in The Last Wish collection and continued in the novels (and games).

Everything takes place in a world that mirrors issues that our society still struggles with, like prejudice and racial segregation. Pogroms directed against elves and dwarves echo the horrors that the Jews suffered, totally – and witch burnings were for real. And the persecution of ‘minorities’ continues. People even dislike Witchers so abuse and exploit them – so why not send all Moslems back where they belong.

Geralt’s world is filled with monsters, and sometimes the human ones are the worst – as in ours. Sapkowski takes folklore and cleverly twists it, posing dilemmas. What side do you stand with, Order or Chaos? Are all dragons evil because a knight-errant must rescue maidens in distress? Sapkowski also raises topical issues, such as the struggle to preserve the natural world, vanishing species struggling to survive. Do we have a right to their land?

I have just taken a few enjoyable steps exploring Sapkowski’s creation, even if I’ve visited the world others built from his imagination. Playing the Witcher 3 game and reading the early books creates moments of ‘understanding’ about this complex world. The depth originates in Sapkowski’s mind, so I must keep reading.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

#AtoZChallenge #roadtrip 2018

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This year, #AtoZChallenge Bloggers are being asked to pick ONE post from our #AtoZChallenge 2018 offerings and link it up to share.

The Road Trip – #roadtrip – is where bloggers continue to visit each other from May thru March. So, for me, that will be a chance to visit more of the #AtoZChallenge posts that I missed, especially of those visitors who managed the full A-to-Z. I even found some amazing new sites to follow, notably: Song A Day, a great music blog that is expanding my musical tastes (and inspired my 2019 #AtoZChallenge theme).

Plus, this informative folklore website, The Multicolored Diary, by Hungarian storyteller Zalka Csenge Virág, which delves into areas that fascinate me.

Folklore and mythology, as well as storytelling, are tied to many of my #AtoZChallenge posts, even if video games were the starting point.

When I was looking ahead to this road trip, in my #AtoZChallenge: Reflection, I hinted at what might be my favourite post and why, asking, “Will the writing-related research or the gaming-experience lift the award? H is for Hellblade or L is for Lord of the Rings? Or maybe something unexpected.”

Were you taken in by that red-herring?

Did you guess that my favourite post was W is for Witcher?

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Or why? Well, that had less to do with the average number of comments, and more to do with ongoing research into the world that has emerged from The Witcher series of fantasy novels by distinguished Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski.

There proved to be so much to explore, from a Slavic mythology and folklore tradition that I barely knew to a game that I had only just started – The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. That game is my current escape, not least for the Gwent card-game within that fantasy world, but also for its excellent storytelling. As my Thursday Creation Review tomorrow will show, Sapkowski’s first collection of short stories, The Last Wish pulled me into the world of Geralt of Rivia and laid the world-building foundations, sowing seeds that resonate within the games.

Did you rate any of my posts as a favourite?

Are you sharing a favourite of your own on this #AtoZChallenge Road Trip?

Have you found any stand-out posts that we need to read?

If you are on the Road Trip then please be sure to include this phrase in your comments:
“Stopping by from the #AtoZChallenge Road Trip!”

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#AtoZChallenge: Reflection

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

2018 was my fifth Blogging From A to Z Challenge and the aim of my theme was “to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling” …

This was a perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper, in some cases finding the myths and legends that had inspired a new generation of storytellers. I wasn’t surprised at how many had ‘ancient roots’, nor was I surprised that there were universal themes arising.

However, I was intrigued how many cultures were represented as I expected most games had Celtic, Norse, Japanese or Chinese roots. Okay, I half-expected Korean mythology to work in somewhere as South Korea has a large games industry. The surprise was (a) the cross-fertilization between cultures – see Z is for Zelda; (b) the use of less prominent mythologies – see W is for Witcher.

I was pleased that most of the posts inspired comments, even a little debate. However, I was amazed that J is for Jumanji,  K is for King Arthur and T is for Tomb Raider received none – especially when R is for Resident Evil received six comments, excluding my replies. (I replied to every comment.) Was that because Resident Evil is the most successful game-to-movie adaptation? Or was it because King Arthur has been overdone in everything from legend to Hollywood blockbuster?

Maybe I spent too much time trying to get the posts out. I admit that I didn’t visit many A-to-Z bloggers beyond the ones that I follow regularly – I have a lot of catching-up to – in the Road Trip. (The Road Trip is where bloggers continue to visit each other from May thru March.)

However, as well as my posts linking with my Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin accounts, I did manage to add my post-address to the Daily Lists as well to my comments on other sites. Towards the end of the Challenge, I was writing the following day’s post with a few hours to spare – and I consistently forgot the #AtoZchallenge hashtag, except on my Theme post.

My frantic approach was partly because I hadn’t even remembered to sign-up until mid-March. That began some in-depth research which included some ‘product testing’. I need to give myself time in future if I am going to reduce the pressure and visit more sites.

Looking ahead to the Road Trip is coming on May 23, I’m trying to decide which was my favourite post and why. Will the writing-related research or the gaming-experience lift the award?

H is for Hellblade or L is for Lord of the Rings? Or maybe something unexpected.

What would you choose?

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Z is for Zelda

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The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

 

What other game character can end this challenge than the Princess of gaming herself?

 

Game: The Legend of Zelda is a high-fantasy action-adventure video game series created by Japanese game designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. Each game in The Legend of Zelda series tells an important part of the history of Hyrule. The Japanese version of the game on the Famicom is known as The Hyrule Fantasy: The Legend of Zelda.

Release Date:

  1. First release – The Legend of Zelda – February 21, 1986
  2. Latest release – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – March 3, 2017

Developer/Developer: Nintendo

Genre/gameplay mechanics: The series’ gameplay incorporates elements of actionadventure, battle-gameplay, exploration and puzzle-solving games. These elements have remained constant throughout the series, but with refinements and additions in each new game. Later games include stealth gameplay. The role-playing elements, however, have led to much debate over whether the Zelda games should be classified as action role-playing games, a genre on which the series has had a strong influence. The games pioneered several features that were to become industry standards. The original Legend of Zelda was the first console game with a save function that enabled players to stop playing and then resume later. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time introduced a targeting system that simplified 3D combat.

Setting: The Legend of Zelda takes place predominantly in a medieval Western Europe inspired fantasy land called Hyrule which has developed a deep history and wide geography over the series’ many releases. Hyrule’s principal inhabitants are pointy-eared humanoids called Hylians, which include the player character, Link, and the eponymous princess, Zelda.  Some games take place in different lands with their own back-stories. Termina and Lorule serve as parallel worlds to Hyrule, Hytopia is a connected kingdom, and Koholint is an island far away from Hyrule that appears to be part of a dream.

Storytelling: The series centres on Link, the chief protagonist, and the timeless battles between good and evil. Link is often given the task of rescuing Princess Zelda and the kingdom of Hyrule from Ganon, who is the principal antagonist of the series; however, other settings and antagonists have appeared in several games. The plots commonly involve a relic known as the Triforce, a set of three omnipotent golden triangles. The protagonist in each game is usually not the same incarnation of Link, but a few exceptions exist.

Releases + Expansions: Since the original The Legend of Zelda was released in 1986, the series has expanded to include 19 entries on all of Nintendo’s major game consoles, as well as a number of spin-offs.

IGN and GamesRadar selected their Top Ten Zelda games in 2016 and 2017 respectively,  while the top three from aggregated scores for all the games on Metacritic in 2017 were:

  1. 99The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – (November 21, 1998) – Metacritic’s highest-rated Zelda game, ever. “It’s no surprise why: Not only was the game the first in the series with 3D graphics and time travel, the 256-megabit Ocarina of Time was the largest game ever produced by Nintendo at the time. Over 7.6 million copies have been sold worldwide.” As GamesRadar said, “It popularized so many techniques that are ingrained in 3D gameplay – Z-targeting, camera control, world layout – that it’s easy to take for granted, particularly when later Zelda titles improved on them so well.”
  2. 97The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – (March 3, 2017) – The newest entry in the Zelda franchise, IGN’s Jose Otero said, “is a masterclass in open-world design and a watershed game that reinvents a 30-year-old franchise.” According to GameSpot’s Peter Brown, “there’s so much to see, to accomplish and to learn that you never feel like you have control over the world. This is a great thing.” GamesRadar said, “It’s, in a word, breath-taking, and it marks a rebirth for The Legend of Zelda that sent shockwaves through the entire industry.”
  3. 96The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – (December 13, 2002) – “Set in a vast sea dotted with small islands long after the events of Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker charges a cel-shaded Link with rescuing his sister, solving the mystery of the flooded world and again defeating the menacing Ganon.” Zach Ryan of IGN said, “This version of Link is so expressive and charming that it’s hard not to love him right from the outset. It refined everything that made Ocarina an instant classic to near perfection.”

Platform of origin: Family Computer Disk System

Origins (Chronological) include:

  1. The 1980s – Hearing of American novelist  Scott Fitzgerald‘s wife Zelda, co-designer Shigeru Miyamoto thought the name sounded “pleasant and significant”. Paying tribute, he chose to name the princess after her, and titled it The Legend of Zelda.
  2. The 1950s – principally inspired by Miyamoto’s “explorations” as a young boy in the hillsides, forests, and caves surrounding his childhood home in Sonobe, Japan where he ventured into forests with secluded lakes, caves, and rural villages. According to Miyamoto, one of his most memorable experiences was the discovery of a cave entrance in the middle of the woods. After some hesitation, he apprehensively entered the cave, and explored its depths with the aid of a lantern. Miyamoto has referred to the creation of the Zelda games as an attempt to bring to life a “miniature garden” for players to play with in each game of the series.
  3. The 1900s – Link and the fairy were inspired by Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.
  4. 12th–13th centuries – The Master Sword was inspired by Excalibur in the Arthurian legend, first mentioned in Welsh mythology, as in the Mabinogion as; ‘Caledfwlch’ . The similarities lay with the swords being kept in stone until the chosen one, the ‘hero’ takes it out to save the land. It’s fascinating when a Japanese cultural icon like The Legend of Zelda has a root in one of the British Isle’s oldest legends – one that creeps into works like The Lord of the Rings, as well as King Arthur. Myths and legends echo each other and the human condition, so why not in video games.

 

 

Adaptations set in the ‘Zelda’ universe – as well as the 27 video games, the franchise also includes a cartoon adaptation, multiple comic book adaptations, and soundtracks.

  1. TV – An American animated TV series based on the gamesaired in 1989. It is heavily based on the first game of the Zelda series, The Legend of Zelda, but includes some references to the second, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
  2. COMICS –  individual manga adaptationscommissioned by Nintendo have been produced in Japan since 1997, and are now being released in English.

Recommendation: The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo’s most prominent and successful franchises, selling over 80 million copies as of 2017. Many of its titles are considered by critics and fans alike to be among the greatest video games of all time. The Legend of Zelda series has received outstanding levels of acclaim from critics and the public. Ocarina of TimeThe Wind WakerSkyward Sword, and Breath of the Wild have each received a perfect 40/40 score (10/10 by four reviewers) by Japanese Famitsu magazine, making Zelda one of the few series with multiple perfect scores. Ocarina of Time was even listed by Guinness World Records as the highest-rated video game in history, citing its Metacritic score of 99 out of 100. In Nintendo Power‘s Top 200 countdown in 2004, Ocarina of Time took first place, and seven other Zelda games placed in the top 40. There is a devoted and extensive community behind the games.

Alternative ‘Z’ thoughts:

Z is also for the weirdly watchable 1974 Boorman movie Zardoz with Sean Connery, almost mentioned in my O post, where I said, “O is also for Oz, as in the L Frank Baum’s wonderful book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz …There were numerous adaptations, including games, but none that sparked my research brain – despite Baum’s origins.”

For those that don’t make the connection, the Baum book is the source of the name ‘-zard [of] oz’.

 

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

Hela da