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September 8, 2016

Let’s discuss Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (FINALE).

[heavy drinking intensifies]

Let me ask you something: why is Sam in this game?

No, seriously.  Why is Sam in this game?

[remorse intensifies]

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is -- if not the capper to the entire franchise -- the last chapter of Nathan Drake’s story.  It’s a way to say goodbye to the characters that have run wild for nearly an entire decade.  It’s supposed to be the culmination of everything Naughty Dog has to offer -- the zenith, given the resources and knowledge behind it.  The phrase “greatness from small beginnings” is one repeated a few times throughout the games, so one would think that they’d deliver on that conclusively with this finale…even though it’s very likely we’ll be getting a new and/or rebooted entry somewhere down the line, because AAA franchises.  But whatever.

Drake’s Fortune started out with three core characters: “the hero” Nate, his mentor and partner in crime Sully, and the intrepid TV personality Elena.  We can argue all day and all night about whether or not any of them are good, but what’s really important is that they’re key players throughout the overarching story (such as it is).  Well, in theory, at least; Sully spends nearly all of Among Thieves out of the picture, having decided that he’s too old for this shit…but not old enough to walk out on the two adventures that follow.  Elena the Ever-Scorned has to fight for her right to earn screen time in every game except the first, despite being Nate’s main squeeze.  Still, I can buy that Naughty Dog is pushing these three as the primary trio.  Chloe and Cutter were unceremoniously given the boot for A Thief’s End, after all.

So here’s my question: if Sully and Elena are so important -- to Nate and the story overall -- then why do they both get sidelined so that A Thief’s End, the fourth and final entry in the franchise as we know it, can introduce an entirely new, never-before-mentioned brother?

In a game (and franchise) full of mistakes, Sam is by far the biggest of them.  And that’s saying something.  Back in third grade, I took heat for introducing a new character within the last few pages of my story.  Obviously it’s not a one-to-one comparison with A Thief’s End, but that was a rookie mistake I made when I was nine, and didn’t have millions of dollars behind me.  Also, my story was a dumb adventure about cows going to space.  It wasn’t exactly top-shelf art -- though I guess given the nature of Uncharted and the AAA delusions of blockbuster grandeur, I was already qualified to be the lead writer and director of the franchise.  But I digress.

It’s obvious why Sam is in the game.  He’s there so that Nate can finally have a consistent, well-defined, socially-acceptable motivation: in order to save his long-lost older brother from the throes of a villainous drug lord, he has to go out and find an ancient treasure.  Sam is also there to try and provide an anchor to Nate -- some means of helping the audience understand what makes him tick.  So it follows that we’re given a couple of flashback chapters to explain how two rough-and-tumble orphans ended up becoming the Drakes, and treasure hunters to boot.  Well, sort of.  It doesn’t really explain how they actually become brilliant, well-read, well-trained explorers in peak physical and mental condition, but who cares?  The important thing is that there’s a new character to help make Nate into more of a character.  Well, in theory.

Here’s problem number one.  Sam is basically a carbon copy of Nate.

The UC games have a habit of putting Nate together with one other character (not all the time, but more than enough to take notice).  Most of the dialogue between the pair consists of quips and one-liners, unless they’re trying to help the player progress through a section of the game.  It’s not what I’d call an ideal situation -- and it becomes less ideal thanks to A Thief’s End.  I was always under the impression that you should put different characters next to each other, so that they could play off of one another and accent their unique traits.  Naughty Dog didn’t seem to get the memo, because looks aside, Nate and Sam are nearly indistinguishable from one another.

They’ve got the same physical ability.  They’ve got the same skill set.  They’ve got the same knowledge, though Sam seems to know more about pirates.  But critically, they have the same general dialogue; it’s almost exclusively a bunch of shitty quips and awkward jokes.  And sure, not all of those lines have to be gut busters, but I’m hard-pressed to think of a single one that even put a smile on my face.  Not only does it come off as awkward and cringe-inducing, but there’s just so much of it that it wore me out an hour into the brothers’ reunion.  If that.

And yeah, I know.  Not every conversation between them has to be some heartfelt connection, or a way to tackle the drama in their day-to-day lives.  As a little brother, I get that; you have to meet a shitty joke quota while also sniping with the occasional insult.  But neither I nor my brother would dream about doing that for upwards of 11 hours; at some point, you have to mix it up.  Or just leave the room.

And while UC4 does mix it up eventually, it’s too little too late.  Not to mention that it’s not enough to counter the overwhelming amounts of nothing that the dialogue becomes by way of repetition.  How many times does Sam call Nate fat because something collapsed when he touched it?  Too many.  (Side note: is that why they took out Doughnut Drake?  Because it would’ve made for some nasty implications if Sam made those fat jokes to a morbidly obese Nate?)

I guess what I’m getting at here is that after four games, I’m still struggling to see Nate as anything above passable (on a good day).  I’m not even willing to go that far anymore thanks to the devs doubling down with Sam.  I thought that the interaction of the two would bring out the best in both, but it basically just amounts to that gag in The Simpsons where there are multiple Duffmen scheduled to work at the ballpark that day.

The first conclusion that comes to mind when it comes to Sam is that he’s solely there to retroactively build Nate -- like they realized that they couldn’t do another redo of the same general story with the character (or plot) that they had.  “It’s the story you never knew!”  Or something to that effect; even though UC3 pinned Sully as the lynchpin behind Nate’s turn to treasure-hunting thievery, UC4 runs that back and reveals that it was all thanks to Sam.  Honestly, I’m inclined to think that that was a bad decision; for starters, it’s a surefire way to undermine the relationship that the canon’s been nursing for the better part of a decade, and a disservice to Sully -- who I’d argue is the best character in the whole wretched franchise.

But don’t get me wrong.  If there’s anyone who’s undermined by Sam’s presence in the game, it’s Nate.  Because actually, it turns out that Sam meant so much to Nate, and the little brother practically clung to his sibling’s shin.  And actually, it turns out that they had to run away from the orphanage forever because…uh…the old lady whose house they snuck into died of natural causes, but Sam assumed that the cops would take them in anyway even though an autopsy would’ve cleared them of guilt.  I mean, granted, Sam was probably afraid that whatever crimes he’d committed in the past would’ve caught up to him and forced him to be locked up tight, but that’s not a definitive reason and it doesn’t explain why he had to drag Nate into a life of thievery.

…I just realized that I should’ve had a safe word whenever it’s time to talk about Uncharted.  It would’ve helped immensely.

But anyway.  Actually, it turns out that it was Sam’s idea to abandon everything they ever knew so they could become treasure hunters and honor their mom’s legacy -- so rather than give Nate agency or any say in his future fortunes (let alone the role in the plot), he’s pretty much reduced to a peon doing things just ‘cause.  And actually, it turns out that Sam was such a big influence in Nate’s life that he’s willing to drop everything -- including Elena, FOR THE THIRD CONSECUTIVE TIME -- to go try and find treasure, even though there are plenty of other ways to keep his brother safe from drug lords (but hey, anything for a barely-justified motivation to do “one more job” before retiring for good). 

And actually, it turns out that Sam lied the whole time to get the treasure for himself.  And Nate too, maybe.  But mostly for himself.

That’s the big twist of the game, I guess.  It kind of got me, but only because I thought that Naughty Dog was being serious with its shitty writing.  So going by what Sam said, his blabbing about Avery’s pirate treasure convinced Hector Alcazar to believe wholeheartedly that the treasure exists, and to desire it for himself.  So he tasks Sam with finding it within three months, or else the elder Drake will bite it hard -- somehow.  Like, it comes off as an empty threat because Sam makes it out of the country with ease (and indeed, continues to travel around the world), so I found it hard to believe that Alcazar’s men could even find him, let alone kill him.

Then main villain Rafe Adler reveals that Sam lied to get Nate to go along with the treasure hunt; in reality, Rafe used his money to bail Sam out of jail without a fight, all for the sake of finding the treasure for himself.  In fact, Alcazar has actually been dead for six months by the time the game starts.  So in a nutshell, Sam was basically hired by Rafe to do what he couldn’t over the course of 15 years -- but Sam decided to play turncoat, track down Nate, and drag him into the adventure as a way to honor their globe-trotting mother’s legacy get rich.

*sigh* I’m done.  I’m just so done with this franchise.

I mean, I’m already technically done with it by virtue of finishing the four console games.  But I’m sick of thinking about it.  Every time I do, I’m given another reason to hate it, what it stands for, and video games in general.  It’s like…were they even trying?  There’s a part of me that wishes they’d come out and say “nope, we just phoned it in” -- because if this is the best they can do, then I’m about ready to weep until my body turns to powder.  Just…every last part of me, turned into dust.  Gone.  And that’d be more pleasant than having to deal with UC or Naughty Dog ever again.

So.  Let’s go ahead and start unpacking this game.  The whole game…with the proper music, of course.

--Why did Sam feel like he needed to lie to Nate?  Did he really think that his little brother and devout follower wouldn’t leap at the chance to find Avery’s treasure?  Or did he just preemptively assume that Nate would refuse him, not knowing that he’d abandon Elena at the drop of a hat without a justifiable motivation?

--Why does Nate have a shit fit when the lie is revealed?  In true UC fashion, characters flip-flop on their position all the time, and that includes Nate bouncing between “WE HAVE TO GET THE TREASURE NAO” and “NO WAIT I’M SCARED LET’S FIND A DIFFERENT PATH”.  Why is he so mad that he’s been lied to when he’s on that journey because of the lie he told Elena?  Why is he so mad that he’s been dragged out of suburbia when he was furiously trying to relive “the glory days” in his attic and daydreaming about adventure while talking with his wife?

--Speaking of which, does Nate really, truly care about his wife, knowing that he ditches her THREE TIMES (technically four) to chase after treasure that might not even exist?

--But getting back on topic, why is it that nothing genuinely comes from the revealed lie?  Why is there neither true fallout nor a heartfelt reconciliation between the brothers who totally care about each other, you guys?

--Why didn’t Rafe bring in Nate and Sam?  This franchise suggests that the only ones who can solve ancient mysteries and figure out dormant puzzles are the Drake brothers, so why not increase your chances of success by putting Nate on the payroll, especially when doing so means helping him do what he loves while supporting his home life?

--As a corollary: Is Rafe an idiot?  How do you spend 15 years looking for treasure and turn up nothing, even when the next clue is basically right under your nose yet inexplicably left untouched in your search again and again?  Further, why would you spend 15 years looking for treasure when you have a major company behind you?  Okay, sure, you want to prove that you’re not a trust fund baby and can earn something for yourself, but why not use your company to maximize profits instead of funding a wild goose chase and coming off like a crazy person?  How much money have you wasted just to try and prove a point?  That point being that you’re unfit to run a company?

--Why do Nate and Sully, two characters who seem to know pretty much every criminal and malcontent in the warlord, not know about Alcazar?  Why do they never even bother to do so much as run a Google search?  Why does Sully agree to a big heist at an auction before trying to figure out a way to safeguard Sam from Alcazar’s theoretical hitmen without the need for a big whompin’ treasure?  Is a big whompin’ treasure the only things these guys understand?

--Why is this game padded as hell?  That’s true of UC2 and UC3 as well, but it reaches a fever pitch with UC4; after all, how many times do Nate and crew act like the treasure is within reach, only to the clue du jour to simply reveal the location of the next clue?  How many times can you string players along on a little scavenger hunt without any payoff?  I only ask, because…

--How did Avery, Tew, and the other pirates accomplish anything in this game?  How did they possibly amass the funds, resources, and manpower needed to not only construct Libertalia, but also every puzzle- and trap-laden location Nate visits?  Are we seriously supposed to accept that men and women from centuries ago were able to travel the entire globe, from continent to continent, and successfully set up their trail of breadcrumbs without the help of modern technology?  Further, are we supposed to accept that the pirates were able to build machinery and mechanisms as advanced as what we have today before America even became a twinkle in George Washington’s eye?

--Why does Rafe hire a bunch of gunmen to try and find Avery’s treasure?  Why not bring in the sharpest and most enlightened minds money can buy -- like, say, experts in the field of history or anthropology?  I know Nadine Ross was looking to restock the war chest, but why were they the ones Rafe brought in first?  Did he expect them to be valuable consultants?  Or was it just so that Nate could have enemies “on even ground” to shoot down?

--Why is Nadine basically invincible throughout every hand-to-hand encounter she has with Nate?  I get that she’s a trained soldier and Nate in-game is lucky to even manage a basic shuffle, but how infuriating is it that you’re only capable of getting hurt by a boss because the game says so?  Also, are we really supposed to believe that Nate, the guy who’s punched out countless enemies before -- of varying size, strength, and skill -- can hardly touch one person until the game gives the OK?

--Why do these games only have the villain dynamic of “main baddie and his/her helper”?  Why do these games have villains that barely leave an impression, and are constantly undermined by their own reckless stupidity?

--Why does this game -- if not the whole franchise -- end with a poorly-implemented sword fight, featuring gameplay mechanics that A) completely invalidate the “skills” you’ve “honed” over the course of UC4, and B) have zero precedence and will presumably never have precedence again?

--When Sam splits off from the rest of the group in the last act to try and get his hands on the treasure, what makes him think he’ll succeed?  Setting aside the fact that he’ll be walking straight into an ambush by Rafe’s goons, how does he expect to transport countless riches?  Given that (at the moment) he’s without a boat, a plane, or even a truck, is he seriously implying that he’s going to carry all of that treasure in his pockets?  Or, given that he says he wants to “see it through to the end”, did he just want to head into the ambush to look at Avery’s treasure?

--Who thought it was a good idea to feature a gameplay aspect where Nate has to take a jeep’s winch and hook it up to something to help it roll out of mud?  Is this the pulse-pounding, epic gameplay that the franchise thrives on?  Or would that be the sequences where you have to tug on stuff with the winch to pull it down?

--Why is the epilogue so sugary sweet that it threatened to make all my teeth fall out?  Why does the guy who lied, cheated, and stole his way to the top (relatively speaking, since every UC game puts Nate back at the status quo of neutrality) get to live in luxury at a beachside paradise?  Is it because he’s been coded as Jesus in this game?  But if he really is Jesus, then wouldn’t that imply that he sacrificed something crucial to him -- his life or otherwise -- as a means to help others?  Why is he being rewarded with a cushy life, a savvy teenage daughter, and a loyal wife when any acts of altruism he’s done happened offscreen in a time skip?

--I’m all for a good female character, but how cloying is it that Cassie Drake (no relation to Cassie Cage, because monogenre what a coincidence) is introduced almost right off the bat as a sassy yet brilliant and gifted adventurer, to the point where she shows up on the cover of a major magazine?  Is being better than everyone else just her birthright as a carrier of the Drake genes?

--I’ve said before that I don’t buy into/care about stuff like the spinning totem at the end of Inception, or the “Alfred’s hallucination” theory from The Dark Knight Rises, but can we just make it official canon that Nate and Sam both died while trying to escape from Avery’s exploding ship?  I mean, they both end up heading into the light (because delusions of cinematic grandeur), so maybe we can have these guys die and the perfection in the epilogue is all based on a heaven-born fantasy?  Can we just have one consequence that doesn’t get run back or ignored?

--Did Naughty Dog not jerk off enough with one inclusion of Crash Bandicoot?  Why do we have to play through it -- and the same level, no less -- twice?  Was it just to pad out the game?  Was it to pointlessly delay a limp-wristed reveal?  Or did they really need to keep on strokin’?

And many more questions remain…but you get the point.  I know I do.  And yet, despite those questions, bear in mind that I still think UC4 is the second best of these games.  That should tell you more than enough.

The graphics are good, and I like the idea of unraveling the mysteries of the past.  But that’s about where my praise for the game -- and UC as a whole -- comes to an end.  The story in UC4 is a complete mess, overstuffed with empty content with characters that are either blander than cold, watered-down oatmeal, or about as consistent in characterization as a Mexican jumping bean.  You might as well take a sledgehammer to the suspension of disbelief, for all the good that it’ll do you here.  Momentum alone isn’t enough to save the game, because between the bland action and countless plot contrivances (Naughty Dog Teleportation™ is in full effect yet again, putting characters major and minor exactly where they need to be for the plot to happen), I have an easier time believing that a baboon can chuck a mountain than anything that happens throughout what could generously be called a story.

And none of that would matter -- none of it! -- if the gameplay was there.  But it’s not.  UC4, like its predecessors before it, tries to be all of the genres and ends up being none of them.  As the symbol of the monogenre, it’s a shapeless pile of sludge that neither commits to nor succeeds at anything.  Lame gunplay, shallow stealth, tedious and inconsistent platforming, busywork puzzles, and setpieces fundamentally no different than Crash Bandicoot.  Not to mention that the repetition of ALL of those elements -- in this one game and across the franchise -- negates whatever thrills there are to be had.  It’s all a bunch of smoke and mirrors -- except the “smoke” is no denser than steam from a hot bowl of soup, and the “mirrors” are riddled with cracks and stains.

And none of that would matter if they just gave us a likable main character.  But he’s not.  Nathan Drake is awful, and his awfulness is only highlighted the longer you play as him.  Even if you ignore the fact that he’s in stereo via his brother Sam in UC4, at best he’s just a bland stand-in for escapism and wish fulfillment.  He’s boring to look at, boring to watch, and boring to listen to -- yet he’s apparently the greatest human being who ever lived, capable of doing no wrong. 

And when he is called out for doing wrong -- just barely called out -- it comes off as a slap on the wrist.  You don’t fucking lie to and abandon your wife FOR A THIRD TIME and get to have her come back to save your ass.  You just don’t.  And yet Nate and Elena still have time to start getting intimate with each other mere seconds after another near-death experience.  Like…seriously, it seems as if the only thing keeping these two together is a gallon of adrenaline shot right into their veins.  With a bloodlust cocktail to wash it all down.

It’s sad, really.  Because you know what?  Sully’s pretty much the proof of what Uncharted should have been.

Sully is, in my opinion, the only good character in this entire franchise.  (Well, except maybe for Cutter, but Sully’s here more often.)  Yes, Sully is a criminal too.  Yes, he also kills a lot of people -- probably more than we’ll ever know, since he has a few decades on Nate.  Yes, he’s often in it for the treasure.  But you know what?  At least he’s honest about it.  At least the game is honest about it.  Sully’s a thieving scumbag who’s either in or pushing retirement age, but there’s no pretension about him being a hero or a good guy.  He’s in it for the money, and is only not in it for the money when it means caring for the people within arm’s reach (Nate, Elena, etc.)  Sully doesn’t give a shit about preserving history -- and in his case, that’s fine.

So no, it’s not about me projecting and hating a game because “HARUMPH, THIS GAME DOESN’T HAVE NOBLE HEROES!  0/10 WORST GAME EVER!”  Remember, I’m the guy who has a secret fondness for Carl Johnson, a guy who killed his best friend on a moment’s notice -- and I’m the guy who thinks the crime lord D-Mob from Def Jam: Fight for New York is super-rad, irrespective of his ability to unleash a quadruple power bomb.  It’s not about being a hero, or being a villain.  It’s not about being virtuous, or being greedy.  It’s about being a good character.  Gameplay-wise and especially story-wise, UC doesn’t have what it takes to satisfy me on that front.  And that, my friends, is precisely why I hate this entire franchise.

But it’s still better than Watch Dogs.  Not by much, but it’s still better.

Now look.  It should go without saying, but all of this is my opinion.  It’s not an objective report, nor is it to be taken as some undeniable law, punishable by death for anyone who disagrees with me.  If you enjoyed this game or any of the others, then great.  More power to you.  But I didn’t, and I hope that you can accept that.  Everything I’ve written thus far has only been a way for me to explain why I hate Uncharted, not why everyone should hate it.  It might seem like that sometimes, but it’s not intentional.  I just got lost in the throes of passion at some points -- as you can guess.

With that said, I hope that anyone reading this does a few things for me (besides refraining from writing scathing comments just because I’m not slobbering over Nathan Drake).  One: stop.  Two: take a deep breath.  Three: think things through.  Four: ask yourself the important questions.  “Did I really enjoy this game?”  And more importantly, “Why?”  I’m not asking for an answer like a stern teacher demanding you to hand in your essay.  I’m saying it because I want you to reason and internalize your position -- with evidence, with personal experience, with whatever.  Think carefully about why you like the game, and how good you find it.

I’m not asking for much, I think.  Nor am I asking for people to agree with me.  What I want is for people to avoid blindly following or supporting the things they profess to love -- UC well among them.  It’s not like I’m accusing everyone of being too sycophantic, but there are people out there.  As an example: just look at this video that takes the franchise to task.  More specifically, look at the comments; there are a lot of them that either get tied up with semantics, miss the point of the argument, or just plain insult the critic because he took shots at UC -- AKA part of a multimillion-dollar franchise that can stand a little criticism from one corner of the internet.  I’m a firm believer in humanity’s worth and potential, but seeing “fans” go nuts trying to pardon a work makes me want to…well, you saw the opening line, didn’t you?

Again, it’s fine if you like UC, or any game, or any piece of art.  But you have to be willing to accept that it’s not perfect, and be able to know why it works (if it works) instead of letting it completely dominate your psyche.  Saying stuff like “You’re only hating the game because everyone else likes it” in the face of a lengthy and thought-out argument is like saying “I have no witty response and no ability to think critically, so I’m just going to insult you as a way to poorly play the white knight”.  And more importantly, it leads to a bigger problem down the line.

If you believe that something like UC is perfect or high-quality, then how can you possibly expect something better?  How can you possibly demand it?  How can you justify that you deserve it?

As a Kamen Rider fan, I know what it’s like.  I got into the franchise with Kamen Rider OOO, and thought it was incredible -- and I’ve been watching the other installments to find the show that’s either as good as or better than OOO.  That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m hoping that it does happen someday.  (Maybe it’ll be Ex-Aid?)  If I started blindly accepting every successive series as DA BEST, then I’d be lying to and hurting myself.  Instead of seeing the individual qualities -- bad or good -- of each installment, I’d basically just be watching and clapping my hands like a braindead seal at the sight of each new Rider Kick.  It’d be love, but it wouldn’t be genuine.  Just superficial.  Just passive.

I wouldn’t be willing to ask for something better -- for something to achieve the great heights I know the series is capable of.  True, there’s no way my pleas will ever reach the showrunners or Toei -- thanks to the ocean between us, as an example -- but at least I’d be able to find some sense of personal satisfaction, and even growth.  “Hey, Kamen Rider Drive is pretty freakin’ good!  But I have problems with this, and this, and this.”  Or “Man, Kiva has some serious issues.  It’s a shame, because this, and this, and this are really strong.”  It’s how I learn to appreciate stories as well as judge them -- by thinking critically about the strengths and weaknesses of the media I consume.

I’m biased on that front because, as I’ve said, my dream is to be a writer.  I wouldn’t be much of one if I couldn’t dissect why a story works or doesn’t work.  With that in mind, you don’t have to be (or want to be) a writer, or developer, or anyone in any creative medium to want to see the best out of fiction.  And no, it’s not even entirely about analyzing (or over-analyzing) what makes a story tick. 

Even if you don’t want to dive too deep, you still have more than enough potential to know what’s good and what’s bad.  Own up to that shit.  If there’s a negative, call it out.  If there’s a positive, celebrate it.  Don’t play blind or deaf to any tale, whether you like it or not -- because otherwise, you’re sending a message that you only want the worst out of your stories.  That you only deserve the worst. 

And you know what?  Against all odds, I think Naughty Dog feels the same way.

For the time being, UC is dead.  It’s died of natural causes, and can now rest in peace having done its job.  We’re truly at the end of an era; the days when AAA games could get by with the stuff pulled in Nathan Drake’s adventures are winding down, if not over already.  We live in a world where indie games are blowing away the competition for a fraction of the price -- from Journey to Inside, and everything in between.  Storytelling in something as scornful as video games is plenty possible thanks to the Telltale brand and individual projects like Life is Strange.  The breadth of games has expanded with titles like The Witcher 3 and Xenoblade Chronicles X.  The challenge is there with entries in the Souls series.  The mechanical complexity is there with any number of fighting games.  Platinum Games exists.

There’s always going to be a place in the world for AAA fare and the monogenre.  But we’re at a saturation point; we’ve seen what the worst of the bunch has to offer.  Is UC among the worst?  That’s debatable.  Still, the important thing is that what worked in 2007, or 2009, or 2011, or even here in 2016 isn’t going to work forever.  It might not even work anymore.  I can’t confirm anything, but considering the praise lobbed at The Last of Us, I suspect that Naughty Dog understands they’ve hit the limit of what they can do with Nate and crew. 

Maybe they’ll reboot the franchise somewhere down the line -- either with his daughter Cassie as the new lead (to play to the call for female protagonists), or as a prequel starring a young Sully.  It’d be a chance to start fresh while cribbing on the brand.  I’m not entirely on-board with that, given the baggage…but I’m not entirely against it, as long as there are substantial changes.

All I know is that the future’s looking brighter.  Stupid AAA fare has long since drawn ire, and will continue to do so -- not just because of people online trying to play contrarian, but because there are real complaints worth raising.  Is it any wonder that Assassin’s Creed, a franchise that once rode high on the backs of diehard fans, opted to skip out on its annual release this year?  Do you think that would’ve happened if people were willing to just suck down whatever a big company dished out?  No.  Change is coming, and the companies that can’t adapt to that change will wither and crumble.

How fitting it is, then, that UC -- a series half-built on finding ancient relics of the past -- is a relic in its own right.  Whether you love the franchise or not, I think we can all agree that there’s so much more that can be done with video games.  Anyone with a games collection of even two games understands that much.  Limitless possibilities and potential await, and we don’t have to experience it from over the shoulder of a generic action hero.  We can do more.  We can have more.  We can ask for more.  And without a doubt, we can wait for more.  More is coming -- and it’ll be more than enough to surpass UC, even if you’re a diehard fan.  Mark my words.

Well, probably mark my words.  After all, I’m the king of wishful thinking.

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