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Trunk Gaming

Game Review: Assassin’s Creed Origins

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Initial Release Date: October 27, 2017

Developers: Ubisoft, Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Bucharest, Ubisoft Kiev, Ubisoft Shanghai

Publishers: Ubisoft, Square Enix Holdings

Genre: Action-Adventure

Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Now more than ever, there is a viciously competitive gaming market. In the old days you would wait for months for that one big name title to be released, and then everyone would rush out and buy it and live the game for months on end. In the current gaming market, you might have three or four gangbusters games released on the same weekend. This November alone, “Call of Duty,” “Star Wars Battlefront,” “Doom” and about a dozen other titles that used to be the “one” title you waited for all hit the market. This is a blessing and a curse. There are plenty of titles to play and choose from, sure, but at $60 or more a pop, how do you choose what to play without selling all of your organs on the black market to feed your gaming need? Well, TrunkSpace has got your back, and we like to let you know which games are the solid games to play – the type of games you would have waited on pins and needles for months back in the day. We’re not just slapping a number rating on our reviews, we’re looking at this game and telling you our take on it as if we were gaming-besties. This installment we’re talking about “Assassin’s Creed Origins” and spilling the beans on the gameplay with no story spoilers.

Story-wise, this game has you playing as Bayek of Siwa in Ancient Egypt. Bayek is a noble character but with a dark cross to bare. You, along with your trusty camel and eagle, navigate through a twisted world of corrupt leaders, and experience the struggle and tribulations that the lower class must endure… so it’s not that different from current day standards, but let’s not open that door. Instead, lets talk about the seamless and dynamic flow of the gameplay, the real meat of the experience to be had.

Those of you who are already trained Assassins out there from the game’s previous installments will recognize the familiar format and formula, but there are some definite derivatives from the earlier games. Origins will have you busy for hours, and you can really invest as much or as little time as you like leveling up and combining those RPG elements of the game with the action-adventure and harrowing heights that come with the story. It’s the roleplaying elements of this series that really sets it apart from the previous Assassin’s Creed games and provides a new level of addictiveness. We found it to be really engaging. You have free will, and you’re forced to decide what is right or wrong and contemplate how your actions affect the story… or you can just try and kill everything that walks, but be warned, that is a dark, digital road to travel in this gaming realm. You level up as well as your weapons, armor, etc., and that must be used to complete or achieve certain tasks.

Remember “Oregon Trail?” (We’ll pause for the kiddos to Google) Okay, now that we’re all informed, you can fully appreciate this comparison. You know how in “Oregon Trail” you had to hunt and survive off of the land and try not to die of some random disease? Well, Origins asks this task of players but in a much more in-depth way. You have to use your trusty eagle, Senu, to spot animals and navigate the vast terrain in order to hunt and help craft your armor, weapons and more. This is done so in a respectful manner, and it’s an interesting idea to ask of players to create their tools. You don’t just find a key and open a treasure chest. You hunt, loot and build your way into a better Assassin.

To borrow a phrase from Danny Trejo in those Sling TV commercials, if you can be picky why not be picky about your gaming? Well, Origins has you covered. There are XP based upgrades that really cater to the player’s favorite way of approaching the game. If you like to stealthily dispatch your targets, you can pick to unlock/learn those abilities that will help you achieve this. On the flip side, if you want to Conan the Barbarian it up and run into battle head first, you can build up your melee and fighting skills. We found this to be a really nice hook to the game and possibly a window into what gaming will be in the future. It’s not a cookie cutter side scroller. It’s a unique and immersive gaming experience that has you well vested in not only your character but the characters you interact with in the game. This goes back to the freedom of choice we talked about. There could be a dozen ways to take care of a room of guards. You could pick them off one by one, go straight into battle, or… maybe you set a wild animal loose in the crowd of guards to distract them while you sneak past.

The parkour element of the original Assassin games is present, of course, but it’s improved in our opinion. Before, you needed to parkour your way to an elevated spot to assess your objectives. There is no need for that in Origins, but don’t fret. It’s still a huge part of the game, and they somehow managed to make it even smoother and more fluid than ever before. Nathan Drake would be jealous of how elegantly you can scale almost anything in the game including ancient Egyptian statues, pillars, buildings and towers.

That pretty much covers the meat and potatoes of “Assassins Creed Origins.” In a gaming industry being flooded with “must play” titles each month, we can give you the Power Gloved thumbs up on this title and say it really is a “must play” and not just a rental. You’re going to want to buy this, build up your character and delve into the online aspects as well. The storyline element of the game can be completed in about 24 to 32 hours if you are just trying to play through, casually. There are easily hundreds of hours of gameplay to be had here, though, which is quite a bit of gameplay for your bitcoin! While Origins is similar enough to the original Assassins games, it has some truly unique and diverse additions that deepens and enriches the gaming experience and adds hours of addictive fun!

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Wingman Wednesday

Patricia Summersett

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Photo: Tristan Brand

So much can be done with a voice. It has the power to affect people almost instantly, whether through song, prose, or the emotionally-tinged delivery of a well-written line or a verbalized thought, genuine or otherwise. The eyes may be the gateway to the soul, but the voice is its narrator.

One actress who knows the power of voice better than most is Patricia Summersett. The Michigan native can currently be heard as Princess Zelda in Nintendo’s immensely popular “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” Her credits also include voice acting in the games of the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise and “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege” as well as onscreen roles in “Helix” and the upcoming film “Maz.”

We recently sat down with Summersett to discuss the process of working in video games, how she felt about taking on such an iconic character, and how ice dancing compares to a career in acting.

TrunkSpace: Video games take years to complete. At what point are voice actors brought into the process?
Summersett: Great question! In my experience it’s been a little bit different every time, depending on the style of the game and what kind of character work you’re doing. If it’s just voice. If it’s grunts. Or if it’s motion capture. For Zelda in particular, I was brought in about a year ago after some of the cinematic and all that stuff had been completed, or at least enough to be able to track what was needed narrative-wise. So, yeah, about a year for this one. Other games it’s been… sometimes I’ve been on a project for two years before the game is even close to coming out. Sometimes probably more and sometimes a bit less. You rarely do things the month before a release. You usually do things four to five months before something is released, minimally, because there’s so much tech-heaviness at the end of it.

TrunkSpace: Because the voice aspects of video games serve as plot points for moving the game forward, are there less opportunities for working off script than in film or television?
Summersett: Ooh. That again would probably depend, sometimes, on the process of the game itself… on the style of the game. I would definitely say for games like “Breath of the Wild,” for sure, much less opportunities. It’s quite precise work that’s already very technically planned out, down to the minute millisecond of what you’ll be doing. With that said, every once in awhile improvisation is needed and within the structure of a sentence or certainly the color of what you’re putting into a phrase, that’s all very malleable and that’s why they hire you, so that you can give an interpretation.

TrunkSpace: So when you’re physically doing the work, are you working with a director in the same way that you would in film or television?
Summersett: I think there are definitely similarities for sure. For “Breath of the Wild,” for example, I worked with Jamie Mortallaro and there were usually several people in the room or behind the computer and often one, two, or three people weighing in on what’s being done at any given time. Certainly the relationship with the director is a very important one and when it goes well and it’s a very supportive thing, it can definitely make a project.

TrunkSpace: Zelda as a property is so iconic, particularly to those of us who grew up in the 80s. When you’re working on something that is so established and has left such a mark on pop culture, does it feel like more than just a job when you get in there and start the process?
Summersett: Yeah. I did feel a bit like that. There was definitely an extra added layer of what felt a bit like magical pressure. (Laughter) I do find every game that I do and every project that I do… I love the work always and it’s always special, but it was definitely tinged with an extra layer of… it was a really special room to be in.

TrunkSpace: Actors always say that they can get that special feeling when they’re working on a film or television show, as if the quality of the final product is written in the cards. Are games that same way?
Summersett: Definitely!

TrunkSpace: Gamers can be very fanatical, particularly when it comes to their beloved franchises and the characters within those franchises. How have Zelda fans reacted to your take on Princess Zelda?
Summersett: Well, I’ve received a heck of a lot of support. Obviously not everybody is totally on board with it because people have such a longstanding idea of what she should sound like with the 30 years of the franchise as it is, but I get approached every day with really beautiful words from people. It’s really spectacular. I’ve received a lot of support and it’s been very nice. I’m very happy when people enjoy it because, obviously I did my best. (Laughter) I put my whole heart into it.

TrunkSpace: Do you take a different approach in preparing for voiceover work than you do with onscreen work? And by that we mean, is readying a character different?
Summersett: It depends on the process because some video games, and some TV/film, you don’t get a lot of airtime in it or it’s entirely based on barks or grunts or something extraordinarily technical. With any sort of character development that I ever get a chance to sink my teeth into, I usually go with my theater training. My background is theater so I consider it a full body experience and I work with a narrative and intention and the things that I learned through my 10 years of acting. To me it’s all the same. They’re all characters and it’s all a narrative. If you’re lucky enough to get something to be fleshed out, that’s fantastic.

TrunkSpace: In theater it’s about projection and a lot of times onscreen it’s about taking a more subtle approach. Does video game voiceover work fall somewhere in the middle?
Summersett: Yeah, I think it does. I love that about voiceover work because you can go from… for example, another character that I do is a character in a game called “Rainbow 6: Siege” for Ubisoft. It’s this character called Ash and a lot of what was required for that particular job was full on belting, screaming, shouting for a couple of hours at a time. You need a lot of voice stamina for that. And then something like Zelda, on the completely other side, was really, really fine-tuned, pitching your voice a particular way and going with a very soft delivery. So, much like theater, TV, and film… there’s a lot of variation within the form.

TrunkSpace: Do you have to take special care of your voice when not working to ensure that you can keep working?
Summersett: Yeah. In general, I think with any kind of work that I do, if I know that there’s stamina involved or if you have to keep your voice pitched at a certain place, it definitely requires warming up into the work in the morning. I’ve done a lot of years of voice training… I also sing… so they all kind of apply in the same way to voice work. Sometimes I avoid eating too much milky foods, for example, before I go in and sit in front of a microphone. One thing that I do is I sometimes might eat an apple if I’m getting a lot of crackles. Stuff like that.

TrunkSpace: It’s a fascinating aspect of the job because you hear all of the time about athletes taking care of their bodies or carpenters taking care of their tools, but really, the voice is your tool in your particular trade. Even talking in a loud room could be a strain and put your work at risk.
Summersett: For sure. I tend to avoid loud situations where I have to speak at a peak volume for a long period of time with loud music. I find that quite overwhelming and I always feel it the next day. I go into those situations less and less. My sister is an opera singer so we’re often exchanging notes and that sort of thing. She’s got a whole regime as well with the Mccloskey technique and avoiding certain foods that are too acidic… all that stuff.

TrunkSpace: Has the industry changed at all for you in terms of the freedom of it, especially with technology continuing to advance?
Summersett: I am finding that I am more portable than I used to be, for sure. There’s a lot more self-takes. There’s a lot more recording from my Yeti mic in a room and bringing that Yeti mic with me when I go. The interesting thing though is that while that is definitely true, on the flip side because I’m often back and forth between Canada and the US as a citizen of both countries, everything has accelerated in the speed at which jobs get pushed through and you need to be in the place where you will be working too. There’s a certain degree that can be quite mobile and then another thing is that you have to actually be in the town where you want to work in because so much of it is turned around the next day.

TrunkSpace: In the age of the internet, confidentiality agreements are par for the course in the world of entertainment. We’d imagine they’re particularly strict when it comes to games?
Summersett: Yeah. It’s amazing how much of it is about secrets and leaks. It’s quite fascinating around the mystery of what’s going to get released next… more so than the other industries.

TrunkSpace: It’s like politics.
Summersett: (Laughter) Yeah.

TrunkSpace: We read that you were a competitive ice dancer prior to pursuing acting. That is a sport that requires so much training and focus. Did you apply that same work ethic to your acting career when you made the transition?
Summersett: I certainly did and do. Obviously it’s not necessary to be a competitive athlete to get into acting, but I do find that for me it has helped, I think, with confidence and endurance over the many years. And maybe even just when I do things like motion capture and things that are highly technical… I do rely on my athletic training and my training for spatial awareness and that sort of thing.

TrunkSpace: So much of both worlds, ice dancing and acting, seem to be about commitment and just putting in the work in order to continue to improve.
Summersett: Definitely. When I was a competitive ice dancer, I lived to be a competitive ice dancer. My entire existence was around that. It was obsessive. And I do think acting projects can be like that as well, which is one of the reasons why I love the career. They are similar in a certain way. When I moved from ice dancing to acting, ironically I found acting a more sustainable lifelong thing. (Laughter) It’s such a crazy career, but you can obsess about it your whole live, which is fantastic. (Laughter)

Photo: Andrea Hausmann
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