Gaming

Assassin’s Creed Origins Review: Steps back to leap forward

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After taking a year off from its annual release cycle, Assassin’s Creed is back. A newbie to the games swan dives into Assassin’s Creed Origins to see if the changes to the formula is enough to revitalize the franchise.
Assassin’s Creed is one of modern video games’ landmark series. It’s actually been a decade since the first game was released, which started off a hugely successful multimedia franchise spanning games, comics, novels, and even a Hollywood film.

Recent years haven’t been as kind to the brand, though. The annual releases on every platform eventually wore on critics and consumers, as review scores and sales dwindled after the peaks of the second and third main games. Ubisoft, the series creator, eventually gave Assassin’s Creed a one-year break before putting out this latest installment.

I mention all this because even as a games enthusiast, I went into Assassin’s Creed Origins having zero experience with the whole franchise.

Back to the beginning

For a series newbie, the setup is perfect. Origins basically tells how the Assassin Brotherhood, the secret organization that each protagonist from every game is part of, came to be. It takes place at the tail end of Ancient Egypt. The two pharaohs Ptolemy and Cleopatra are at odds over who should be the rightful ruler. Meanwhile, the threat of Roman imperial influence on the nation, spearheaded by Julius Caesar, hangs heavy over the embattled Egyptian monarchy.

Amid this political turmoil, you play as Bayek, the medjay of the province of Siwa, and the very last of Egypt’s ordained protectors. You are on a quest for revenge against a shadowy cabal planning on taking complete control of the country.

No other big budget game comes to mind that tackles this particular setting, so my interest was piqued, despite the rather messy intro. Fortunately, that interest blossomed into a mostly enjoyable 42-hour experience!

Gorgeous and gigantic

That enjoyment had a lot to do with how much I wanted to be in Origins‘ staggering simulation of Ancient Egypt. From the way sand blows in the desert winds to how sunlight gleams on the surface of the Nile; from the architectural apex of Greek and Egyptian antiquity in Alexandria to the fading beauty of Egypt’s capital Memphis; and from the artistic Hellenistic heights of Greco-Roman Cyrene to the ever-enduring mystery and majesty of the Pyramids of Giza, Origins renders it all in stunning fashion.

Even the depiction of life and culture in that age is impressive. Markets and ports bustle with merchants peddling wares and laborers working on galleys. Guards on horseback and chariots patrol cobblestone streets and escort traders across land and sea. A whole mountain village is dedicated to extracting salt for mummification, with the statue of Anubis, the jackal god of death, perched on a shrine overlooking the settlement.

So, even though I found the quests at the beginning to be worryingly banal, I sought them out just to learn more about the world. A good deal of them flesh out the overarching narrative, too, as they illustrate the villains’ tyranny manifesting in numerous, logical ways.

Likable leads

Bayek’s character shines through his interactions with the populace. I found that he could laugh at himself while still being fiercely passionate in his sense of justice and respect for tradition. Him being a father and a husband reflects on how good he is with kids and understanding of parents with family problems.

His relationship with his wife Aya is also refreshing. They are both extremely competent as warrior assassins and trust each other’s ability. While they share the goal of revenge, they each have distinct motivations that set their character arcs apart. Affection is something they don’t hesitate to show one another. They display moments of emotional vulnerability, but they deal with it maturely like you’d expect from a long-married, caring couple.

The rest of the cast doesn’t come close to this level of characterization, but this core pairing is solid enough that it made me want to see their story through to the end.

Gameplay is a grower

I’m grateful for being so drawn into the world and these two leads, as I wasn’t having a great time with Origins until I played way more of it. After unlocking more abilities, gaining more tools and weapons, and generally getting a hang of the mechanics, I eventually found the gameplay rewarding in itself.

While still having an action/stealth adventure foundation, Origins builds a light RPG structure a la Horizon Zero Dawn on top of it; you level up, get stronger, and gain access to more abilities. You can improve your gear with crafting materials you collect from hunting animals, dismantling equipment, or shopping at vendors. There’s a variety of weapons and shields with stats and unique perks, and they also have levels that determine their effectiveness.

Because Bayek’s capabilities are tied into hard numbers, I was frustrated on numerous occasions during fights and sneaking up on enemies that were just two or three levels higher than me in the early goings. I was still grasping the fundamentals of combat and stealth, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to get spotted while trying to sneak into a base, surrounded by multiple guards, and killed in the ensuing melee.

More demanding mechanics

The fighting system has been revamped, too. It’s reminiscent of Dark Souls in that you’re throwing measured strikes with your weapon while dodging or blocking incoming blows, and every button press has Bayek committing to whatever action you take. If you throw out a strong attack and miss, you will likely get punished with a counter-attack. There is no stamina to worry about though, with only slight pauses in between attack and defend animations to keep you from chaining infinite combos. You do have an “Overpower meter” that gradually fills up in combat. Once it’s full, it allows you to either do a powerful one-hit super move or speed up your every attack for a set amount of time, depending on what weapon you have equipped.

It’s not as tight and responsive as the Souls games, though. I struggled at the sluggishness of striking and the skittery enemy movements.

Going into a heavily guarded fort or bandit hideout, you have one major advantage. You can take control of Senu, Bayek’s trusty eagle companion, to fly over the map and mark locations of your quest objectives, enemies, treasure, and other items you can interact with. It’s critical prep work before entering hostile territory, but even then it didn’t feel like enough for me to confidently clear out encampments without alerting everyone in them.

But once I got comfortable with the controls and earned more abilities, the gameplay started to click with me.

Slow but satisfying surprise

Around eight hours and 15 levels in, I was better at sneaking past enemies and smarter at fighting them with fire bombs and warrior bows. 20 hours and 25 levels in, I was silently headshotting guards and slaying lions and crocodiles. 40 hours and 35 levels in, I was clearing out fortresses and palaces using sleep darts and poison traps and brutally executing entire garrisons with my assortment of legendary dual blades, spears, sickle swords, and staves.

Assassin’s Creed Origins is the perfect example of a lovingly crafted virtual world with a strong sense of place that is truly captivating, so much so that it carried me to discovering joy in seemingly simple systems. It’s a slow starter, for sure, but it turned out to be the biggest surprise for me so far in this year of stellar video games, and I’m glad I took the leap on Assassin’s Creed at the right time.

SEE ALSO: Middle-earth: Shadow of War review — System overload

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Gaming

ASUS releases the ROG Zephyrus S17, M16

ASUS adds three new gaming laptops for gamers and creators alike.

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ASUS Republic of Gamers Philippines (ROG) released brand new gaming laptops equipped with the latest Intel 11th Generation CPUs. Lead by the award-winning ROG Zephyrus series, together with the crowd favorite TUF Gaming family. Released in their latest event, the ROG: Unleash the Legend Inside Digital Launch. With this, ASUS finally completes ROG’s roster of gaming laptop products this 2021.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17

Starting off with their newest lineup we have the ROG Zephyrus S17!

ASUS tweaked its gaming experience with its Rising Optical Mechanical Keyboard design, adding a 5-degree tilt to improve airflow by 25 percent. Having provided optimized typing comfort, this assures its user’s full control of any modification. They implemented ROG’s AAS Plus technology, together with the ROG Intelligent Cooling feature. Also with a new redesigned Arc Flow fans create a quiet and efficient airflow system. Having said this, it favors the Zephyrus S17’s thermal capacity. It maximizes cooling and performance for the laptop’s build.

Geared with up to the latest Intel Core i9 11th Gen CPU, paired with up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, the Zephyrus S17 delivers top performance to provide users the best experience in gaming and other heavy-duty tasks. With up to 32GB RAM and 3TB SSD storage, the Zephyrus S17 maximizes its hardware to perform at a high level. The laptop also has display options of 4K UHD, 120Hz refresh rate, or WQHD 165Hz. The Zephyrus S17 caters to both gamers and creators alike.

ROG Zephyrus M16

The latest addition to the Zephyrus M line, the ROG Zephyrus M16 arrives with the newest specifications, but also a renewed design. Designed within its prism aesthetics is a 16-inch screen display in WQHD resolution with 165Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and an Adaptive-Sync. Users can enjoy the 16:10 aspect with a 94 percent screen-to-body ratio. Having this said, it elevates their gaming experience to another level. Artists can also expect top-grade visuals with Pantone Validated colors across 100% of the cinema-grade DCI-P3 color gamut, supported by Dolby Vision

This gaming laptop can run through any application. The laptop is powered by the latest 11th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU and paired with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 GPU. The Zephyrus M16 brings powerful performance to deliver the best output and deliver it through its beautiful display. With RAM of up to 32GB and SSD storage of up to 2TB, expect quality performance across many applications. With its battery lasting about 10 hours, ROG produced the immersive experience in its thin-and-light form factor. Made possible thanks to its 90W Hour Battery and Thunderbolt 4. 

TUF GAMING F17/15

The TUF Gaming series has been known for its gaming performance at affordable options. This year, ASUS redesigns the TUF Gaming F17/15 with great value for the latest CPU and GPU specifications. Equipped with the newest Intel Core i7 11th gen CPU, with available options from the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti to RTX 3060 options. With a 144Hz refresh rate screen, users can experience high and stable FPS while playing their favorite games. 

New variants of the TUF Dash F15 are available. Now also equipped with the new NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 GPU.

Price and Availability

The ROG Zephyrus line will be available in-stores starting 3rd quarter. In August 2021, the Zephyrus S17 will be coming with the following items: ROG Ranger Backpack, ROG Delta Headset, ROG Chakram Core Gaming Mouse, a Type-C PD Adapter, and a pre-installed Windows Office Home & Student 2019. The price starts at PhP 184,995. 

By the end of July 2021, the Zephyrus M16 will be arriving and comes with the ROG Backpack, ROG Delta Headset, ROG Chakram Core Gaming Mouse, a Type-C PD Adapter, and a pre-installed Windows Office Home & Student 2019. The price starts at PhP 129,995. 

The TUF Gaming F17/15 and the TUF Dash F15 with Intel 11th gen CPUs and RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti GPUs are already available in the market since June 2021. Both lines are available with the new design of the TUF Gaming backpacks. Price starts at PhP 54,995 

ASUS advised that coordination with your preferred store is convenient when ordering or reserving products.

To view the full price list click the link here.

 

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Entertainment

Plunge into a dark world in Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness

A thriller series based on Capcom’s beloved franchise

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Infinite Darkness

Resident Evil proved to be one of the most popular game franchises of all time, spanning different console generations. For over 25 years, Capcom produced some of the most jaw-dropping, horrifying game releases that shake people to their core. Just last May, they released Resident Evil: Village to a fanfare of everybody simping for Lady Dimitrescu.

Apart from the games, Resident Evil also received several television and movie adaptations, bringing the same horror to the big screen. From live-action movies to animated TV series, these provide a good amount of fan service to long-time fans of the games. For 2021, Capcom has a new series that I believe fans will also appreciate upon release in RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness.

A series of unfortunate events

The world of RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness still revolves around the whole zombie encounter-theme the games follow, but on a rather global scale. In the year 2000, U.S. special forces were sent to intervene in the ongoing civil war in the region of Penamstan. However, tragedy struck when the helicopter fell from the sky, and the special forces were annihilated. At least, that’s what they believe happened.

Fast forward to 2006, back in the United States, a hacking incident occurs within the White House. To avert more disaster, the government invited four agents to investigate but were met with strange circumstances. As it turns out, a horde of zombies infiltrates the building and the agents, along with the U.S. S.W.A.T. team, fight them off.

It’s an anime series that tackles a ton of mystery about the events of the past, and how they catch up in present time. In essence, the agents seek to unravel what truly happened that day in 2000, and how they could avert another disaster from happening.

A familiar face returns to the scene

Remember how I mentioned that there are four agents assigned to the investigation? Well, one of them is Leon S. Kennedy, one of the main playable characters in Resident Evil 2. In this series, he looks a bit older and wears a more formal attire than a police uniform. In an interview with Director Eiichiro Hasumi, he explained to me why they picked him in the first place.

According to him, Leon’s character provides a “lot of freedom to move around” in terms of the storytelling aspect. Compared to someone like Chris Redfield, for example, Leon’s character doesn’t necessarily tie him down to any specific roles or places in the story.

As seen in his character design, Leon looks a bit more tired — as if the youth in his aura was sucked out of him. Director Eiichiro notes that he is “in a slightly bitter position” compared to his younger self. How exactly will this version of Leon deal with the crisis of Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness? We’ll find out soon enough.

Managing your expectations a bit

So, what can you expect from RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness when it comes? For starters, it’s a fully animated TV series that Director Eiichiro hopes would be easily digestible for everyone. It’s a series that reveals everything slowly, and eases you in on what’s happening with every bit of new information.

Secondly, while I’ve already mentioned Leon’s presence, you will also see Claire Redfield, another protagonist from Resident Evil 2. In the series, she serves as a volunteer for TerraSave based in Penamstan, and even does her own set of investigations. Where these investigations will take her, you’ll have to find out on your own!

Finally, there will be zombies and zombie killing, like a lot of it. I mean, it’s par for the course for the games to have zombie killing, so the anime series should include it. As for the zombies they will be killing, again, you have to watch the series to find out.

RESIDENT EVIL: Infinite Darkness will arrive on Netflix on July 8, 2021.

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Gaming

Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2: Price and availability in the Philippines

A immersive, gaming-centric experience like no other

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Legion Phone Duel 2

Lenovo continues to break ground on bringing the gaming world to a wider audience. As such, they launched the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel last year to do exactly that. Their own take on a proper gaming smartphone received a mix of adjulation and criticism, but it didn’t stop them. This year, they’re bringing the heat with the new Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2.

Legion Phone Duel 2

The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 doesn’t necessarily stray away from its predecessor’s overall design. Although, with a 6.92-inch AMOLED display, it’s certainly a little larger for a good reason. Also, this time around, the Legion Phone Duel 2 sports a whopping 144Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ support for clean and crisp gameplay.

Inside this machine, you will find a Snapdragon 888 5G CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, and a 5,500 mAh battery for intense and extensive mobile gaming.

Legion Phone Duel 2

Another prominent gaming feature of the Legion Phone Duel 2 is its Octa-Trigger system. On the phone, you have eight airtriggers to map onto different actions during gameplay. In essence, it’s as if you’re already using a controller for your phone to play your games. Along with Lenovo’s Dual HaptiX technology, you can also expect precise touch feedback, as well.

The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 is available for pre-order beginning June 18 until June 30, 2021. It comes in two colors in Ultimate Black and Titanium White, but only the former is available during the pre-order. As for the SRPs, here are the available configurations:

  • 12GB RAM + 256GB storage — PhP 39,995
  • 16GB RAM + 512GB storage — PhP 49,995

SEE ALSO: Lenovo Legion Phone Duel review: Raw gaming power

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