13th October, 2023
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we’ve found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: mirages, strange places, and superheroes.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We’ve Been Playing, here’s our archive.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Xbox Series X
What a breath of fresh air Assassin’s Creed Mirage is. After a trilogy of hulking, hundred-hour Assassin’s Creed sagas, I’m far enough through Mirage – in one week – that the end is in sight. And I don’t want to leave. Ubisoft Bordeaux’s version of Baghdad feels dense, detailed, lived-in and exotic, all sun-drenched and alluringly unknown. And the history nerd in me is enjoying learning all about the period’s advancements in technology and astronomy.
Mirage’s new Investigations tab is great, too. This menu is a genuine advancement – a visualised version of your quest log that pulls in side-missions, collectibles and your progress towards the game’s big assassination targets. Consolidating all of this could easily have been confusing, but it always manages to feel interesting to use – planning what to do next or reminding yourself of where you’ve been in Baghdad so far.
Ubisoft has been clear that Mirage is something of a throwback rather than a blueprint for the series going forward. Next year will likely see the return of full-fat Assassin’s Creed in the shape of Assassin’s Creed: Codename Red, set in feudal Japan. But Ubisoft has also suggested the franchise will now diversify, and use the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Infinity platform to offer a more varied range of experiences and genres. So here’s hoping we see more of Mirage’s city-sized experiences in future, and that some of what’s so good here is remembered.
You Awaken in a Strange Place, pen and paper
I wrote about this game once, about a year ago, but I went back to it at the weekend and it impressed me all over again. You Awaken in a Strange Place is a pen and paper RPG along the lines of Dungeons & Dragons, except, to begin with, none of it exists. Creating the game is a part of the game itself.
You and three other people think of a genre, an adverb, and then a place. We had “a smutty horror in Dracula’s Castle”, because, well, I was involved. Then you make a statement about the world, and whatever you say about it turns out to be true. We had something like “time jumps around” and “you get to the castle through a secret forest”, and something about a train. I don’t remember what it was about the train but there was definitely one there. And quite magnificent it was too.
Then, you make your characters, and as you do, you think of two skills the characters are good at, and two they’re not. And these collected 16 skills then become the only – and I repeat only – skills you can use in the game. Then it’s over to the person running the game to spend five focused minutes – secretive minutes – squishing it all together to create something resembling a campaign. And off you go.
It’s alarmingly immediate, and I love that about it. There’s no prep before, and nothing to follow-up on afterwards. It’s all done there and then. So, in the space of around three hours, we had a Murder on the Orient Express adventure with Dracula, in which my Hollywood starlet was turned into a vampire and all hell literally broke loose. But we caught the killers in the end. It was great.
LEGO Marvel, Switch
If you’ve ever played a Lego Game or seen a Lego movie, you’ll be well aware of the humour I fell in love with playing with Lego Marvel Super Heroes. When it first landed, in 2013, I was in my peak Marvel phase as a teenager. And this game captured all of the epic scope of the movies while remembering it was both a video game and that superheroes can be quite ridiculous, actually.
This ridiculousness has become even funnier now I’m an adult. One moment that really had me laughing was when Hulk destroyed his computer because it doesn’t work the way he immediately wanted to. We’ve all thought about doing that!
Also, if you’re a fan of Marvel and The Fantastic Four, you’ll know The Thing’s catchphrase is “it’s clobberin’ time”. But throughout the game, he can’t get it out. Every time he tries to say it, he’s interrupted. Not only is this relatable – I’m all sure we’ve had things we’ve wanted to say but can’t – it created an immense feeling of glee when he finally did get it out.
There are so many gags that caught me off guard – it’s a huge part of the game’s charm. And it’s this distinct brand of Lego humour that’s stayed with me over the years, and that keeps me coming back.
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