I’m really glad people are bringing back games that look and feel like original PlayStation games. There was something about the games on that system that just have a great feeling and the limited tech was perfect for horror games. It’s why that genre is so coveted on that platform and why every PS1 survival horror game garners high prices. Sure, they’re flawed, a little clunky, some might say ugly, but if you grew up with that system you would know what I’m talking about. The hardware limitations helped add to the mystery and creep factor.
Fatum Betula is one such game made like it was on the system. There’s no story, no characters, no goals, you just wander around the limited areas and try to get all 10 “endings”. There is a singular goal if you can call it that. You might put liquid in the water where a tree grows inside of a church of some kind. Each liquid gives you a different ending. The way you acquire these liquids is very abstract, confusing, and honestly, you need to play this game with a guide or you will never understand what to do. It’s almost a piece of art rather than a game.
When I first started out, I climbed the stairs inside the main “hub” and couldn’t figure out what to do. The controls are purposefully annoying with just a menu, save, and action button. The inventory menu looks like a PS1 one game, and I love it. The graphics are pixelated, blocky, and do the shifty thing that PS1 games did when moving the camera. It turns out that you’re supposed to stand still and stare into the void by the tree and a weird creature will come up and drop off the vials you need for the liquids. Then I had no idea what to do without addressing a guide. There’s one section where you are walking over a lake and must sleep inside an ancient Japanese hut. When you wake up the entire game is glitched out, on purpose, with just a red Japanese symbol texture as the skybox and it’s very disorienting. You then have to get a knife, cut a rope, and the character will give you the liquid you need to give to the tree.
Once you do drop the liquid off to the tree you get a weird ending of stock footage that’s pixelated and low-res with some sort of message. It’s bizarre but also so cool to see. This is where the guide is needed because technically you can beat the game in about 10 minutes. It took me an hour with a guide to get all 10 endings, and for a sale price of a couple of dollars, this was a weird and interesting ride that I quite enjoyed. Part of what the guides have you do is get a certain amount of items and then save them because you need to reload to do something different. There’s a cat you can kill, feed, poison, etc., and each time that gives you a new liquid. It’s better to save before doing each action.
Fatum has eerie sound effects, creepy music, random noises, and it’s just a super weird experience. If you ever played LSD Simulator on PS1 you may have an idea of what this is about. Don’t go into this expecting a linear adventure, horror story, or anything like that. It plops you in and you must figure out what to do by thinking very abstractly and outside normal video game conventions. The final ending would most likely be impossible to figure out as you must put immortality liquid in the autumn river, then enter the church, exit, and at random the moon will appear behind the church, but you must reload and try again if that didn’t work. Things like this would make 99% of curious players just delete the game and get a refund, but use a guide and just enjoy the visual treat.
Life is Strange is one of my favorite games of all time. It just captured the small-town teenage adventure that a lot of us can reminisce about. It was one of the few games that I played that were so emotional and really made you feel for the world and characters you were in. The series keeps trying to capture that lightning in a bottle and doesn’t quite do it as the first game did. That magic is hard to reproduce, but True Colors is still quite an emotional game with great characters.
You play as Alex Chen, a young woman who is leaving foster care life for a small town in Colorado called Haven. Not only is there a town mystery to solve, but you are also trying to find a purpose and reason to stay. You end up living with your brother, Gabe and slowly start unlocking your past and the mystery of the town. That’s as far as I want to go with the story, anything else will literally spoil the game as there are quite a few big twists and turns and even just revealing certain things that happen are a surprise and are unexpected. What I will say is that the story focuses a bit too much on this town mystery and less on your personal feelings with those around you despite Alex’s “power” involving raw emotion. When I first started the game I will admit that Deck Nine have a great way to get to the point of how the main character feels about the world around them. When you open your phone you can read text messages and bulletin posts that help explain what’s going on outside of Alex’s life. I recommend reading these texts at the very beginning of the game because she ends up blocking some people and after reading this long thread it kind of helps you see more of what Alex is feeling in her life.
The first chapter is slow to build, much slower than in previous games and the story doesn’t really pick up until right at the end of Chapter 1. The game also doesn’t have much gameplay. You do get to control Alex in certain areas to “explore” which only consists of hearing her internal dialog and commenting on things you can look at. I don’t feel this really adds to anything and just feels like an excuse to make this a game and not an interactive movie. This is a serious issue with adventure games these days. There are no puzzles, no real exploration, just lame gameplay excuses to make you feel like you’re controlling anything. I understand this is so it doesn’t scare off casual gamers, but adventure games are known for their puzzles. The only gameplay in here is a certain scene where you are doing a LARP (live-action role play) that the town takes part in and the game kind of has a light make-believe RPG thing going on. There are things to “collect” like looking at certain objects and interacting with things that can be missed and listening to people’s internal dialog with Alex’s powers.
There are major choices to be made in the game and that’s the true core of Life is Strange. These choices are pretty tough and really change the outcome of the story, but there aren’t as many in True Colors as in previous entries. There only are a few major choices where the game pauses and lets you chose. Other things are dialog options, but I never could really tell if these made a change or not and that’s a real weakness with this game. You could argue it’s so organic that you don’t notice, and maybe that’s better? I’m not quite sure, but I know only the major choices I made were obvious in their effect. I also found there may be too many characters in this game and we aren’t given enough time with any of them. Even Alex’s love interest, while touching and emotional, feels shallow and one-note. There isn’t enough time spent with this person to establish this connection. It’s more in line with just a few actions that took place and suddenly they love each other? It doesn’t feel super organic, and Alex’s other friends aren’t allowed any insight into their past like with Cloe or Max in the first game. I cared a lot about Alex, but not too much about anyone else because of these factors.
The game isn’t impressive to look at on a technical level, there are some last-gen textures here and there, but the lighting is great, and the facial animations are fantastic. The characters’ emotions really come across thanks to the details put into the facial animations. While the game looks miles better than previous entries it still feels like parts are older than others. The music is fantastic as always and carries the Life is Strange atmosphere from previous entries. It’s good enough to listen to outside of the game and I still listen to the first game’s OST all the time. The music plays in just the right moments and really helps carry the emotional scenes through to the end and adds an extra punch to the gut.
With that said, True Colors does what previous games did well in, but doesn’t quite capture the magic of the first game. There are too many characters and this brings the focus away from the core characters, and we don’t get insight into their past to care about them much. Alex’s love interest feels shallow and underdeveloped, and the mystery of the town itself also brings the focus away from helping the characters grow. I feel there are just too many distractions in the story to make it feel as wholesome as the first game. The visuals, while looking great in spots, feel dated, but the facial animations are fantastic. The music is amazing and helps Life is Strange to establish an atmosphere all on its own, but I also feel the choices aren’t as obvious in this game. What’s here is a great game with some seriously emotional scenes that are well done, but don’t come in expecting out of this world storytelling like the first game.
Space rock operas aren’t something you see in gaming much and The Artful Escape is a visual and auditorial treat for the senses. You play as a young boy who is living in the shadows of his late uncle who was a famous folk singer in the town he lives in. He feels forced to follow in his footsteps when he actually is a metalhead at heart. You are sent on an acid trip of a space rock opera through a universe of weird space creatures and worlds. You meet a man named Lightman (voiced by Carl Weathers of Rocky and The Predator fame) who is the most famous person of this universe and shreds like no other. He wants to help you overcome your fear of being yourself and you go on a journey together to impress the Tastemaker which is the ultimate deciding creature in this universe.
Don’t think too much into the story as it’s mostly filler for just a sidescrolling walking simulator with light rhythm mechanics. You move always to the right and can hold down a button to shred your guitar. It sounds awesome and I never got tired of hearing the licks repeat, and each planet has its own licks, but the visual flair and usefulness of these are never explained and despite being able to just hold down the button and shred while you slide down slopes, jump over platforms, and bounce on things some times the background interacts and the background music will swell as you jump and shred. It’s cool when it does and sometimes gave me goosebumps because the music is so good, but 75% of the time I was just holding down the button not sure when it will trigger an interaction.
At the end of each stage, you come across a boss of sorts that displays a Simon Says-style rhythm pattern. There’s zero challenge here as you don’t need to memorize anything as you can play as the buttons appear. You also don’t get penalized for messing up and that note just starts over. I found this mechanic fairly pointless and just filler as some of these sessions are only a few notes long. It sounded and looked cool, but that was it. There’s pretty much zero gameplay here. The sidescrolling and shredding are literally an excuse to turn this story into a game. I also loved the art. There are crazy creature designs lots of vaporwave aesthetics going on with a menagerie of lights and colors all over the place. Sadly, that’s all the game really offers. While the voice acting is also good, the dialog isn’t anything exciting and I didn’t care at all about any of the characters. The game is so short that you don’t get any time to really invest in these characters.
So what we get is a three-hour adventure with great visuals and music, but boring gameplay mechanics that only enhance the game in rare moments. I also found the engine is poorly optimized as even on high-end hardware the game dipped well below 60FPS on some areas with lots of lighting effects going on. Turning everything down to low didn’t help much, so this is clearly an optimization issue. With that said, The Artful Escape is great for metalheads who want to chill out for a few hours and enjoy the visual treat, but otherwise, you aren’t missing much here. This sadly is just another adventure game where the developers think it’s cute or revolutionary to forgo any gameplay and solely focus on the visuals and music, but they forget this is a game first.
If you were really into gaming back in the mid-2000s then Psychonauts is a game you either played or heard of and that’s thanks to Tim Schafer’s voice being heard. The game was critically well-received but sold poorly due to a lack of advertising and support from the Publisher. The game was great on PC and Xbox, but didn’t do so well on PS2 due to the system’s lack of power and had framerate issues and downgraded visuals. A few years later a petition was released to put the game on Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360. I remember signing that petition and that’s how I finally played the game. It was visually brilliant, but did have issues with the camera and felt a bit repetitive.
Here we are 15 years later and that same brilliance has happened again. You play as Razputin, a large-headed boy whose dream is to be a Psychonaut. This team of mind-bending heroes is trained to enter people’s minds and rid them of anything dangerous and help people get back to being mentally more stable. I won’t spoil the story and tell if Raz gets in the Psychonauts or not, but the game’s main hub is the Psychonaut headquarters. The story itself is entertaining with the main villain, Maligula, who needs to be stopped before she…does something. It’s never really told what danger Maligula can do to the world as Psychonauts‘ story solely focuses on just the team and never anything outside of it or how they affect the world around them. It feels like a very claustrophobic world and seems a bit strange to be like this, but the voice-acting is wonderful and the dialog is clever and witty at every turn and it never misses a beat. While the story feels a bit rushed towards the end and feels a little too convoluted for what it is, it’s entertaining and all of the characters are a joy to see on screen.
Psychonauts’combat has always been something to be desired and kind of takes a back-seat to platforming and that’s the same for this game. You get one melee button and have to use other Psi-Powers in tandem with this and it feels too easy and a bit lazy. Most of the Psi-Powers aren’t useful in combat so I just stuck with Psi-Blast, Telekinesis, and Pyrokenisis which sets things on fire. Enemies are either too easy or are just damage sponges and towards the end of the game, it really feels unbalanced and just an annoyance. While the combat plays well and there are no control issues, it just feels like it needs more work if there is going to be a sequel. Bosses also just felt like damage sponges and aren’t really challenging. Even the final boss is a push-over. Thankfully the game mostly focuses on platforming.
With that said, platforming and collecting is where Psychonauts shines the most. Each level oozes personality and style. The art in Psychonauts 2 is absolutely gorgeous with some of the most creative levels you will ever see gaming. This is art in raw video game form and they just don’t make them like this especially in the AAA form. Most of the Psi-Powers are used for platforming and this is another issue with those powers. They are either really useful for a few things or useless for everything but one thing. Projection is gained last and towards the end of the game, it’s mostly used for that level and collecting a few items in others. Mental Connection is used to swing between nodes, Time Bubble is used to slow down spinning fans and platforms, Clairvoyance is mostly used to read people’s minds for fun and use their eyes to find treasure in hub worlds. Despite this, you can collect 2D Figments which are colorful sprites scattered around, Emotional Baggage and their associated tags which are needed to collect the bags, Memory Vaults, Relics, and others. You can skip all of this as it’s mostly for completionists and achievement hunters, but you’re missing out on most of the more difficult and fun platforming if you do. The hub areas, which there are four of, have Psi Cards, Half-A-Minds, and Psi Ranks to collect. There are vending machines to spend the cards on and you can use Psitanium to buy pins which passively enhance some Psi-Powers, but I felt this was a last-minute tacked-on feature since the combat is already easy.
With that said, the game’s art style is bananas. It feels alive and there’s so much detail in every single level and neither level is the same. There’s a 60’s style acid-induced mind-trip level, an amusement ride level, a library, a hospital, and others. They all feel unique and I couldn’t wait to see what the game brought next. While the story does feel convoluted it’s still entertaining and seeing the characters on screen was never dull. While most people will skip all the collecting, you miss out on a lot as won’t see what all the levels have to offer. This is an interactive art and there’s no denying this is just one of the most artistically impressive games to be released in the last decade. While it’s not technically impressive since it uses Unreal Engine 4, but it still looks good with great textures, good lighting effects, and there were no bugs in my playthrough.
Overall, Psychonauts 2 is a mascot platformer dream and you only get these games once a decade these days. While indie games have taken over this hole in the gaming space it’s nice to see larger budget AAA games do this too once again. The story is entertaining albeit a little too claustrophobic in its world-building and convoluted for what it is, but the character writing is clever and the voice acting is well done. There are lots to collect and the platforming is top-notch, but the combat is a miss here due to being too easy and unbalanced life-bars and bosses being damage sponges and nothing more.
Up until this point, Assassin’s Creed had pretty much overstayed its welcome. With the release of Rogue, it was clear Ubisoft was just wanting to use the series as a yearly cash grab. While no single game is inherently awful or bad, the formulaic nature of every game playing nearly the same but with new characters and story just wasn’t appealing anymore. The game was starting to feel less unique and made from love and care and more just copy and paste and insert a few new characters. Unity was the series’ first next-gen outing with updated visuals, mechanics, and co-op. Unity scales the series back to its roots and focuses solely on the narrative and less on varied mechanics. For instance, naval battles are gone as the game focuses just on Paris set during the French Revolution. So, like in the original games, we get to run around a large town area full of chests, side quests, and things to collect to gain money to buy customization pieces. Then there’s the meat of the game which is the story missions.
Honestly, this is where AC shines best, just a large historically accurate city with fun story missions and a few side quests. Unity’s side activities are abundant and completely optional. These range from various co-op quests to helping solve mysteries using your Eagle Vision, finding chests that contain various amounts of money or customization pieces, emblems, and secret relics. I personally feel there’s too much here and it’s all padding and filler. I spent a couple of hours doing these activities just to try them out and they don’t interest me at all. Once you finish the game there’s no reason to keep playing unless you’re a completionist and want to achievement hunt. The series has always been great for that.
Unity has a five-tier difficulty system in which missions are rated from one to five diamonds. Of course, you can increase your rank by buying or finding better armor pieces and weapons. You also need to buy skills to increase this rank as well. I finished the game at rank four and never found the game overly difficult combat-wise. You should never engage 8-10 enemies anyways and that’s been a rule in the series since the beginning. The skills you can unlock are rather useful and some are acquired just by playing the game. Poison darts, health, lockpicking, and various things like these have been done in the series before and at this point, I don’t find it necessary to lock these things away anymore. Just give them up in the beginning and let me acquire armor pieces. It’s just another excuse to pad the game and make you finish missions for skill points. The only reason to acquire franks in the game is to increase your ranking and allow you to buy armor and weapons, however, this is completely optional. You should be at least rank four by the end of the game, but I didn’t have to end up buying much.
The story itself is decent at best. At least we get to see Arno rise and fall as an Assassin and regular person. You start out playing through Arno’s childhood and how he discovered the Assassin Brotherhood and he is on a path of vengeance to kill the murderer of his father. You also have a love interest, Elise, who you knew as a child, and the strife they go through is okay. Unity’s story was never gripping or kept me on the edge of my seat. There were a few twists and surprises, but nothing amazing. The ending is rather disappointing and typical. The “real-world” here with Abstergo mostly takes a back seat and you never control any character like you did Desmond. It’s told through dialog and pre-rendered scenes. It’s mostly pointless and I wish the series would just get rid of this part of the story. I say this in every AC review I do, and I’ll keep saying it.
Sadly, while it did go back to its roots in terms of scope, the game still has mundane boring combat. The animations are silly with weird clipping issues and the game is still just a parry fest. You can unlock heavy attacks, but when the enemy’s life bar flashes yellow you parry and attack. Its uninteresting and head-on combat has never been the series strong point as it should be avoided. Most of the missions require you to find a target, assassinate them, or find your way into a stronghold and gather evidence for something. Eagle Vision is key here as it lets you see enemies through walls and tag them on your mini-map. As the game progresses these strongholds get tougher and bigger and more confusing to navigate. A new addition to assassination missions is side objectives that allow you to make the hit easier. There is usually one assistance and assassination opportunity that requires extra thinking and leg-work. Sure, you can just charge in and kill the target, but usually, in later levels, there are just way too many enemies around and you will never even make it. You also can’t finish the missions unless you’re anonymous so the target will lay there, you then have to run away, and then work your way back without being seen to finish the job. It’s best to just do it the correct way the first time around and it’s satisfying every single time.
I found these side objectives are rather neat and fun. Sometimes you can free some people to start a distraction and clear out an open courtyard which gives you quick access to the target. The assassination opportunity puts you right in front of your target without being seen. One mission had me kill someone attending a ball in a mansion. I freed a fireworks cart that would force the target out of the ballroom and into the hallway which let me blend in with the crowd and kill her without fighting through guards. Some of these were fiddly and you have to be in the right position at the right time or you will blow it, so a lot of trial and error is still needed which can be really frustrating, but satisfying once you figure out where the target is and the quickest way to them. I did find traversing the buildings can still feel finicky and too sticky. Sometimes I just wanted to hop down to go to a specific platform and Arno would hop around like a bunny and jump down or go up to something when I just wanted to run straight. It made me fail some missions, and this is still an issue that needs to be addressed.
The visuals of Unity are outstanding, but it’s a technical nightmare. At launch, Unity was one of the most broken games to ever be released, and while now it’s been patched up just fine, the engine is horribly optimized and runs like garbage even 7 years later on new hardware. The anti-aliasing is a resource hog and I had to turn it off just to get 60FPS on an overclocked RTX 2080. Back in the day, it was impossible to run the game maxed out and get 60FPS and it ran even worse on consoles. At least Paris is beautifully recreated and the historical buildings look beautiful and are fun to explore. Everything just looks so good here, but at the cost of a terribly optimized game engine.
With that said, Unity isn’t the worst AC game, but not the best either. I appreciate the return to simpler times with just a core story to focus on and one city to explore on foot. There are still too many side activities to pad the game and the ranking system is guilty of this as well. Combat is still boring and rough looking and climbing around things is sticky and fiddly. While the new opportunities during assassinations are fun to accomplish it makes the trial and error that much more prominent and frustrating despite the satisfying pay-off. Unity is worth a play through if you have the rig to run it, but don’t expect a next-gen revolution.
Here we are, another year, another Assassin’s Creed game. Having to actually say this is just sad as Assassin’s Creed has always been a good series. The games are high quality, play well, and look amazing for their time, but when you release that same greatness over and over with only minor changes it can grow tiresome. I was personally done with AC when Black Flag was released. I just couldn’t get through it. I already played them all up until that point and I felt AC3 hit the series peak, but they had to keep going.
Syndicate doesn’t do much new, but as it’s the last of the “older AC style games” it does everything very well but is also a little too familiar. While we do get new characters and the continued “real-world” story of the Assassins vs the Templars, the most interesting part of any AC game is the historically accurate world you explore. This time its 19th century England, specifically the London area and surrounding cities. You play as two characters this time, Jacob and Eevie Frye who are rogue assassins that are trying to stop the Templar plot in London. The main villain is Starrick who is pretty decent and well hated, but overall, the actual story is not much to really care about as it drags on a bit too long and takes forever to really go anywhere. Most of the game is just interaction cut scenes on what to do for the current mission and very little progression overall. Eevie is trying to obtain the Shroud relic which grants eternal life and Jacob doesn’t believe in the relics and pieces of Eden and wants to just stop the Templar threat. Both characters play exactly the same minus a few skills, but Jacobs’s missions lead him on a separate path.
Assassin’s Creed has been slowly eeking in RPG elements over time and I hate them. It doesn’t belong in this game at all and it really shows here. The entire map is sectioned off with leveled areas up to level 9. Of course, story missions also require you to be at certain levels and the only way to level up is to complete missions and use your points in the skill tree. Once you acquired enough skills you will level up. The grinding isn’t too bad here, but a few times the story missions didn’t give me enough XP to level up so I had to end up liberating sections of the map. This is where the game really becomes formulaic and you can see the series has hit a brick wall. Each side mission that requires you to liberate an area repeats throughout the game. The missions range from assassinating templars, to bounty hunts that require you to kidnap the target dead or alive, then there are child labor camp liberations where you just have to assassinate the foreman and free the children, and there are gang strongholds. The gang in this game are the Blighters and they all dress in red so they stand out. You just need to kill everyone in these areas. Once you liberate all areas of the city you then have to fight the gang leader. You get an opportunity to do it out in the open, but more often than not the thugs will take you down as there are so many of them. Whether you kill the leader or not you have to challenge the gang to a stand-off and just eliminate a bunch of them in a closed-off area. Once that area is 100% liberated you can recruit those green-dressed members to fight for you.
After you liberate your first two areas these missions get old really fast and I didn’t bother with the last two cities. Most of the main missions are pretty much this combined with just unique areas and circumstances. Kidnapping, assassinating, stealing, blowing things up, and of course, there are secondary optional objectives you can meet for more XP and money, but some of these just seem impossible to accomplish, it was fun to try and strive for these, but if I blew it I didn’t bother restarting or anything. One new addition to the series is vehicles in the form of horse-drawn carriages. These drive okay for the most part but are pretty much useless once you start unlocking more fast travel points by syncing up at high points. They drive okay, but there are a lot of physics glitches in this game and often you’d see horses fly off into space or freak out and run off into the abyss.
Syndicate has a lot of great-looking outfits and items to unlock. Each character has an outfit, gauntlet, and sidearm to equip. Most of these have to be crafted or met at a certain level and you can find them by meeting secondary objectives on missions, locked chests, or by just playing the game. I feel the game is far too small in scope to need RPG elements. Once you get to level 8 you can finish the game and there’s no point to continue playing anymore. The only reason you need to level up and get better equipment is to survive the story missions. I was able to finish the game in about 13 hours, and I still felt this was dragged on. Without the grinding, the story takes about 6-8 hours to complete with 8 sequences. I enjoyed the story and the Frye twins have great personalities, but overall it felt average and forgettable at best. They didn’t go through enough personal issues, they got away scot-free for going against the Orders rules, and overall the entire Assassins Order played no part in this game. The missions felt like they were just stringing you along and barely had a story to tell as an excuse.
As it stands when I finished the game, I felt the side stuff was pointless and boring. I enjoyed the unique story missions the most and yes, acquiring skills is just fine and the skill tree was actually useful. My characters felt more powerful as I leveled up and it made doing certain things easier like when Eevie can stay still and become invisible when she masters the Stealth tree. There are crowd events to complete in each area like stealth kill a messenger or scare some bullies, but these aren’t fun. They are just there for completionists and to pad hours onto a game. I felt no reward or accomplishment when just checking these boxes for items I won’t even need to use. You can upgrade each piece of equipment once to add a stat, but this is mostly for melee combat. Which in fact is terrible. It tries to be like Batman Arkham‘s combat system where you mash one button and then counter or break defense. When the enemy’s health bar flashes yellow you can press the parry button and when the health bar is gray you can break their defense. It doesn’t chain together smoothly and half the time it felt unresponsive. Some of the kill animations are also way too long and there’s a lot of clipping and while it feels and looks brutal it’s just button mashing.
The overall movement and flow of Syndicate feel a bit janky. A lot of time the character would hop around like a rabbit when I was trying to get down somewhere to hang on to a specific thing. A lot of the times this blew missions and I had to restart. You can free-run up or down with two separate buttons, but you also get a grappling line and it doesn’t work as you think. You have to be directly under a building to grapple up and you can grapple across rooftops, but it does come in handy for assassinating people in large open areas. The problem is you can’t grapple back out quickly as you must be right next to a building. This felt only half useful most of the time. Other than this the only side missions I enjoyed were with real-life people such as Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Dickens. These missions are always enjoyable in AC games, but the same repetitious missions repeat here as well.
The game does look absolutely stunning though. For the time, the game was ahead in terms of technical achievements for graphics and no GPU could run the game at maxed-out settings and 60FPS, but now that it’s been five years I can see why. The Anvil engine is horribly optimized and runs poorly on GPUs that are four generations newer. I had to turn anti-aliasing completely off on an overclocked RTX 2080 as I couldn’t get 60FPS with everything else maxed out at 1440p. That’s the game’s fault, not my system. When you do get it running well it looks stunning even today. Great lighting effects, outfits that look gorgeous and beautiful recreations of historical buildings. I enjoyed exploring London. However, the facial animations and models on everyone but the main characters looked horrendous and the same five-character models repeat. The game is a little rough here and there, and I also found on my 1660ti system that the camera had jerkiness to it despite hitting 60FPS with everything maxed out and anti-aliasing set to FXAA (otherwise you lose 20FPS and it’s not worth the cost).
As Syndicate stands now, the series really needs to reboot or needs to go back to simpler times when you just had a nice narrative and a few things to collect. Outside of the mediocre story and somewhat fun story missions, the side missions are repetitive, formulaic, and get old fast. There are only chests and newspapers to tear down off walls and even these are old as they have been in every single game except the first one up to this point in time. You can make beautiful historically accurate worlds, you can have state-of-the-art graphics, but in the end, the series will get stale and tiresome fast.
Let’s get one thing straight, Assassin’s Creed needed a reboot for sure. Syndicate was by no means bad, but the only thing really changing were the locales and the gameplay was getting stale. Origins ups the ante with the largest game yet, but…also adds RPG elements? RPG isn’t something I associate with Assassin’s Creed. At least the story is entertaining and the new settings are daring and beautiful all at the same time, but do the RPG elements hurt more than help, and is the series going to find itself stuck in a new rut it can’t get out of?
You play as Bayek of Siwa, a man who had his son murdered by The Order of the Ancients, and he is on a story of vengeance and revenge. Bayek is actually a great character with a good amount of personality and spirit. He’s a likable character and isn’t just hellbent on revenge. He changes over the course of the story becoming even cold and bitter towards the end (not a spoiler), but this is also the story of how the Assassins came to be. The origins of the Creed we have all come to love. This is also long before the Templars stepped in too.
One of the first things you will notice in the game is the size of the world. It’s incredibly massive, and sadly, too massive. Almost two-thirds of the map isn’t explored during the story and is reserved for just going around and finding collectibles and doing side quests. There are dozens upon dozens of side quests and these are needed to grind levels. That’s the first major damper on this game. Yes, it has RPG elements, but you need to grind just to complete the story which is not ideal. The cap here is level 44, and thankfully the first twenty or so levels come fast. By the eighth hour, I was already level twenty, but it slows down a lot after that. You need to be at least level 33 by the end of the game and those last 15 levels are a serious grind as missions are the fastest way to level up and most don’t grant more than 3,000 XP. You would think that higher-level missions would give more XP, but the game chose quantity instead. The higher you get the more you need to complete to move on. I hate this so much and it feels like an absolute chore.
The combat is refreshed and isn’t a total parry fest like previous games were. You have light and heavy attacks as well as a block and parry button. It works well enough, but it’s still just button-mashing in the end. You get an adrenaline bar that can be used for powerful attacks that are unlocked in the skill tree. Ranged weapons are added in the form of bows. There are various types of weapons and bows. Two-handed and one-handed weapons plus various bows with different ammo types. These come in handy when hunting animals and trying to take out guards from a distance. However, your level will impede one-hit assassination kills and how much damage your bow can do.
You do get the hidden blade in this game about a fourth of the way through the story. Assassinating is the same as usual and just as satisfying. Leapfrogging from guard to guard is fun when you are at least two levels below theirs. The game is tightly locked around this two-level plateau and if you are three levels or more below the enemies they are almost impossible to kill. It makes the game more frustrating as you just want to take these guys out, but you need to come back when you level up so you don’t die all the time. The whole RPG system just hampers Assassin’s Creed’s fundamental gameplay that was best when you could just go into any fight and take them out with stealth if you were good enough.
You can loot weapons off of enemies, chests, and other places and even upgrade them at the blacksmith, but I found this useless as I was getting a constant stream of better weapons by just playing. I didn’t even really need to buy anything either. It’s just a wasteful system which means I didn’t really need any money too. I just refilled my arrows when needed and sold stuff to empty out my inventory and maybe bought outfits for Bayek which all look great. You don’t get any armor in this game as your health and damage are all determined based on your level. You can hunt animals for their skins to upgrade your hidden blade and overall armor rating, but that’s about it. I didn’t even bother doing this as hunting is just another chore added to the game that isn’t really needed. One of the few things the series scaled back on was collectibles. There are hidden scrolls, Ptolemy statues to destroy, and of course, viewpoints to sync up with, but most of the collectibles are in the form of taking out guard outposts and looting them. You need to kill the captain as well to make the fort takedown complete. I found this boring and tiresome after I did a few and just skipped these entirely.
There are some entertaining side quests, and most are different, but a majority require you to either rescue someone as you can carry them out of a camp and put them on your horse, or assassinate someone. These got old quickly and even the dialog in between didn’t matter much. Some missions have you “investigating” an area, but again, just filler to cram on more hours to the playtime. The most enjoyable part of the game was climbing up to viewpoints and doing story missions. Naval battles are also back, but only during a few scripted events, and they are fun, sure, but it’s nothing different than previous games. You play as Bayek’s love, Aya, during these missions and they mostly consist of just taking down ships with different life bars. There’s no upgrading, no customization, or anything like that. You get this set ship and controls for about three missions. You can use boats in the main game, but they are just used as transportation and nothing more as there isn’t a whole lot of water in Egypt.
I can’t deny that the story was entertaining, especially towards the end, but the game is just beautiful. Large sweeping vistas of deserts and climbing the Pyramids of Giza is memorable and incredibly fun. However, a lot of the realism that was well-loved in previous games is gone. This isn’t a painstakingly recreated Egypt with buildings that are realistic down to the brick. It’s a hodge-podge of real-life objects thrown into a somewhat realistic-looking Egypt landscape wise. The game re-creates the biomes and environments of Egypt, but the map is large areas smashed together. While it flows well and looks pretty, I don’t particularly care for this. I like the smaller more realistic and historically accurate places. I liked reading about each building I discovered or a real-life person. Yes, there are real historical figures here like Cleopatra, Ptolemy, and Caesar, but they’re fictional recreations and their backstories aren’t told anywhere. If this is sacrificed for larger open worlds I just don’t want it. Assassin’s Creed is getting too big and there are not enough interesting things within to fill it.
In the end, Origins‘ RPG system hampers the game at every turn. You have to stop advancing the story to level up with mostly repetitive side quests which are filler to force you to explore the world. While the main story is really entertaining, I still didn’t care about Layla or the real-world stuff with Abstergo. You cut away maybe a few times to this, but that “side-story” just doesn’t feel like it ever goes anywhere. Just keep me in the historical world and that’s it. We don’t need the Animus, we don’t need Abstergo or any of the science to make an excuse to keep exploring various worlds. We don’t need The Apple of Eden, or any other artifacts. Origins also has a poorly optimized engine with frequent slowdown and AI issues everywhere. I even had plenty of physics glitches. Sure, it looks stunning, but there are problems here. The combat system is fine, but again the skill tree doesn’t even help much here as most of the skills felt pretty useless and I didn’t even need them. These systems were never needed in an Assassin’s Creed game. I don’t mind more side quests, but make them optional like they’re supposed to be. The RPG system is the worst thing to ever happen in the series and sadly it seems like it’s here to stay.
Oh boy, right when you think Assassin’s Creed can’t get any bigger or better. Valhalla is by far the best game in the series, but it does still have many problems that have plagued the series in the last few entries. Over the 70 hours I spent in the game, I felt satisfied and had a lot of fun in the game, and never was it boring, but there are parts that still feel like a chore and the game is still very bloated despite the fat trimming from Odyssey.
If you couldn’t guess already, Valhalla is set around when the Vikings invaded England and tried to take down the Anglo-Saxons and their Christian faith. The game thankfully has unique characters again, interesting dialog, and a plot to actually care about, well minus the real-world stuff with Layla. You play as either a male or female Eivor who is your hero in this game and is set to build up the village of Ravensthorpe, stop The Order of the Ancients, as well as a plot revolving around your brother Sigurd being sucked into the Christian craziness as he thinks he’s a God.
The main gameplay loop in Valhalla is an alliance map that allows you to pledge yourself to territories throughout England to gain their trust to eventually take down the evil King Alfred. There are about a dozen territories to conquer, but each has a mini-sub plot in which you have to deal with that kingdom’s troubles. The characters are rather interesting and I grew to care about them thanks to the sharper writing over Odyssey’s dull cookie-cutter banter and annoying accents. Getting to pledge to these kingdoms usually ends in storming a keep or castle and putting that king back in power or helping him hold it. One plot involved a murder mystery, and another involved a king’s son who didn’t want to step up to the throne, and some of the kings are dying and you must secure the throne. It may sound repetitive, but actually, with each area being different with a unique plot I always looked forward to the next one.
Of course, while that’s the larger scope of the objective of this game, and it’s a welcome new breath of fresh air for the series, you also have the smaller gameplay loops within such as of course the RPG elements that have been scaled back and also seem pointless. Now instead of actual levels, you have a power level that increases and gives you two skills points every time you level up. There is a new skill tree/web that gives you stat increases and unlocks some new abilities, but the auto-assign works just fine here as the level cap is 340 and by the time you get there you will have unlocked pretty much every important skill. On top of this, the loot system is now gone in favor of unique armors, weapons, and abilities that must be found in the world and are hidden. While this does feel more Assassin’s Creed-like it’s still a chore to go around finding these dozens of armors and weapons throughout the world. They usually aren’t too hard to find, and some of them can be fun, like the Assassins Bureus that are back.
The only way to do other things like customize your ship, upgrade your armor and weapons, etc, is to find chests throughout the world called Wealth and these give you supplies to upgrade your own village. You use this to unlock new facilities. This can also feel like a grind, but over the first twenty hours, you will eventually unlock all the important buildings. Traveling around England is done by horseback mostly and sailing on rivers, more on that later. Just like any AC game exploring the world is a lot of fun. The world is about one-third the size of Odyssey so it’s less overwhelming, but still too big honestly. AC worlds have become too large and bloated for their own good and it just ends up being mostly padding and filler, however, completing the main story and finding all of the Order members isn’t as much of a chore as in Odyssey. Sure, there are power levels set in each area, but I was able to complete these underpowered if I kept my armor and weapons upgraded. Thankfully that’s what is great about the armor and weapons being unique. You can technically stick with the default stuff and just upgrade it over time and ignore everything in the game. Even upgrading your village is mostly optional.
When it comes to combat the game shines and feels great. The combat system is the same as Odyssey, but tweaked and feels better this time around with some brutal combat. Beheadings, slicing off arms, exploding bodies, etc. While the death animations get old fast, each weapon has a few unique one of its own. At least you get the hidden blade in this game and can one-hit assassinate guards regardless of power level. This is a huge positive change as stealth in Odyseey took a back seat. Any guard that is more powerful you get a quick-time event that determines whether you can one-hit kill them or not. This can also be turned off in the options so every enemy is a one-hit kill just like good ‘ol Assassin’s Creed game should be. This allows the satisfying leapfrogging and double assassinations of enemies around camps and makes clearing some out faster.
Finally, sailing has taken a backseat and ship battles are now gone. Instead, you get river raids which allow you to sail around the rivers and basically raid villages for wealth that is used to upgrade your village, again these are completely optional. They are fun for a while and are fairly easy to get some resources. There are various other activities in the world like aligning runes, stacking stones, and Mysteries which are mini-side events that happen in the world that can be completed in seconds or minutes and they can be pretty entertaining. They also give you XP so it’s a great way to level up if you want to complete the Order story tree. Over time you will naturally level up by completing territory pledges in the game to around level 280 which is recommended for the ending. After this and up to 340 is optional to complete the Order tree as there is one Zealot that is level 340 and I was able to beat him at 315 with ease by the end of the game.
The game itself looks fantastic despite the Anvil engine being poorly optimized and requiring too high of system requirements for what is seen. There’s no ray-tracing or DLSS and yet the game requires a 3000 series Nvidia GPU? It looks slightly better than Odyssey so I don’t understand this. On my overclocked 2080 I still had FPS drops on the Very High settings. On my 1660ti I had to keep everything around High and still dropped below 30 FPS in some areas. It’s just an engine that needs an overhaul and needs to run better. I also ran into crashes and glitches even almost a year after release. Despite all of this, the game’s art style captures medieval England and each area looks beautiful with sweeping vistas and mountains. The soundtrack is also one of the best in the series to date and I regularly listen to it outside of the game. It’s just amazing and well put together.
This game won’t change your mind if you hate Assassin’s Creed, but if you’ve been on the fence for a while I suggest jumping in here. It strips down the RPG elements a lot and feels more like a traditional AC game just bigger and with most things being optional. I had a lot of fun hunting down the Order members and finding gear and weapons. However, the real-world stuff with Layla just needs to go. Outside of the beginning scene you only go back towards the end of the game and it’s just so uninteresting and there’s so little of this that you forget what happened in the previous game. The endings that involve “ancient high-tech” and the Animus should just go away as we only care about the historical parts of the game. I even noticed that the scenes with Layla look extremely dated like they were made a decade ago with the last low-resolution textures that should be on an Xbox 360 with lower poly models and worse lighting effects. It seemed tacked on or just planned years ahead of time and they clipped it into this game to make it fit the story.
Overall, Valhalla is a fun game and a well-made AC game. It does feel bloated with too much optional stuff to find around the world, but it’s just optional and you aren’t forced to find it like in Odyssey. I was able to complete both main storylines easily and the RPG elements scale nicely with the story and can even be turned off. The game looks and sounds amazing despite the poorly optimized engine, and the story was actually good with well-written dialog and characters I cared about. There were unique assassinations even! However, the series still needs to scale back and just go back to the way AC was in the past. One single story had a beginning and end with some optional content thrown in. It takes 50 hours just to complete the main story after completing all pledges, and then another 20 hours to level up enough to finish the Order storyline. Over 100 hours in to actually get 100% completion, possibly even 120, and that doesn’t include the DLC that can take 15-20 hours to easily 100% those! It’s stupidly bloated and feels insane, but thankfully it’s just optional. AC in general just doesn’t have the interesting gameplay loop for grinding and it was never supposed to be an RPG. These elements feel shoehorned in as an excuse to make the world bigger and extend gameplay time. The series has never needed any of these.
Man, I am completely exhausted. That’s the feeling you will get when trying to slog through this insanely beautiful yet equally insanely bloated mess of a game. I have a complete love/hate relationship with Odyssey. It’s been installed on my PC since it launched in 2018 and it’s taken me three years to finally get around to completing it. There is so much to digest and chew with this game that I don’t know where to even begin. I have a lot of negative things to say about this game and will probably go on a tirade about certain mechanics and systems the game has, but there is still something here to be enjoyed.
Let’s just start with the story in which Odyssey doesn’t really have a meaningful one. Unlike previous games where there was a hand-tailored narrative tightly woven between assassins and templars, this game seems to forget most of what Assassin’s Creed’s makeup really is. The game features a seemingly generic male or female protagonist whom are trying to bring their family back together after a tragic event that took place while they were children. Therein lies one of the first major issues with the game: The story has no meaning and takes way too long to unfold and there are no characters worth caring about. The game features generic dull voice acting with badly faked (I think it’s faked?) Greek accents with cookie-cutter models that repeat throughout the game. They are mannequin-like and stiff and just boring. Gone are the well-thought-out historical characters we can grow to love, but instead Ubisoft thought it was cute to shove nearly every single major famous Greek person in this game and give them lifeless personalities and stale dialog to spew.
The second issue lies with the fact that this is an RPG and not really an action-adventure anymore. In fact, assassinations take a major back seat in favor of head-on combat, which rolls into the level grinding and enemy leveling that plagues this entire game. I miss the days when you can just do what you what when you want in an AC game and that’s that. I miss the well crafted and unique assassination levels, but instead, we get generic everything as Odyssey is the epitome of quantity over quality with every single aspect of the game. There are a lot of layers to the gameplay loop in Odyssey, but let’s just start with forts and restricted areas in general. The combat itself is fine. It’s slightly tweaked from Origins which I haven’t played much of yet. However, it’s boring and dull and repetitive like the rest of the game. You get to assign four abilities from the skill tree for ranged and melee, each respectively. There is a heavy and light attack and most of the game requires you to perform a perfect dodge so time slows down and you can get hits in to fill your ability bar. Each segment is needed for various abilities to activate and you will rely heavily on this. The combat looks good and feels fine, but it’s just the usual AC button mashing, dodging/parrying fest we’ve grown tired of.
There are probably hundreds of them in this game, and that’s not an exaggeration. Most side quests, some story missions, and the Cult of Cosmos main/side storyline make you go into a lot of these. This was fine back in the early days as these areas felt unique and well-thought-out, but here it’s just a random splattering of various enemy types. Each fort/restricted area has a variety of things you can do to “complete” that area. Burn supplies, steal loot, kill a leader to bring that area’s stronghold down (which as far as I know doesn’t mean anything), and kill various types of leaders. Some have specific mission based items. The issue here is the whole RPG/leveling thing as assassinations now require you to be at a higher level before you can one-hit kill them like in past games. So, taking down an entire fort can be a slog when you have to fight every enemy head-on.
It doesn’t help that these areas don’t feel well put together with hardly any cover to hide inside most, and it takes forever to become anonymous. You can’t blend in as you could back in the older games. It’s either doesn’t get caught from the awful AI that seems to make enemies just wander around aimlessly with no set patrol pattern, or fight it out head-on. That’s your only option. I miss the satisfaction of running through a restricted area and just assassinating everyone with a leap-frog type of momentum. It was incredibly satisfying to get everyone without blowing the horn, but in Odyssey, this rarely ever happened. The game keeps the entire world either two-level above or below you and no more or less. You can’t go back to a previous area at level 5 and just slaughter everything in sight. Eventually, that area levels up too.
If that doesn’t sound bad enough the main story missions are locked away behind these level walls. I would then have to go do maybe a character world mission to go up two levels to finish the next few story missions. This would normally be okay, but I don’t care bout a single character in this game! For such a massive and detailed open world everything in it is so boring and lifeless. I only kept playing to explore the world and nothing else. Let’s also not forget the “real-world” that AC games keep shoving in our faces. There’s maybe an hour of this at the most, and I never went back during the main story. The Cult of Cosmos is where most of the “real-world” jumps are, and yes, I could care less about those too. Can we please just completely cut out this real-world Abstergo nonsense already? It was okay with Desmond Miles in the Altair/Ezio saga, but now it’s just stupid and silly.
Honestly, the game is mostly just overbearing and exhausting to explore and ingest. I tried the old strategy of going through each area and doing all the side missions and quests, but that became incredibly boring fast. The entire game comes to a screeching halt as you constantly run into leveling walls and need to stop one mission to do another to get certain items or complete repetitive “kill all of these” missions to get the XP to level up. The majority of XP comes from completing missions. Discovering new areas, killing enemies, and other things like this don’t ever give you enough to level up. I just wish this whole RPG system was gone as it really hurts this game badly. Then there’s the loot system with armor and weapons, and you can engrave them and upgrade them, but this was a completely useless system as I was constantly getting new loot from dead enemies that were higher levels. This was a completely wasted system and was poorly implemented.
I also haven’t even gotten into the ship battles. This has become boring as well and the first 15 hours of the game are a serious chore as you have to sail around a lot to get to new areas in which you need to hit every synchronization point you can find so you can fast travel around the map. I didn’t have a sync point in every major area until maybe 20 hours into the game. It’s that much of a grind. Ship battles are exactly like they have always been. Shoot javelins or arrows to bust down a ship, you can board it, you can also use flame arrows or ram it. That’s pretty much it. It’s very basic, dull, and underwhelming despite how nice the ships handle and how fantastic the water looks. You can upgrade your ship and assign lieutenants that add stat boosts and change your crew theme, but this mostly seems pointless as I spent almost no time in the water once I could fast travel around the map. This is mostly used for dull missions that require taking down certain ship types and that’s really it.
Through the first 15 hours of the game, all I wanted to do was constantly quit. I felt like I was making progress and then suddenly I had to grind 2-3 levels to get the next set of story missions and that required completing dull side missions of all kinds. There are notice boards in every major town that offer these apart from the ones just sitting out in the world. There are also timed missions that expire like this is some MMO, and boy are these the absolute worst of the bunch. I honestly can’t say I ever felt like the game was actually a lot of fun. The forts are probably the worst part of the game, and sadly, it was the opposite in the past. I wound up just jumping in, killing the person I need for the mission or item, and jumped out. I stopped completing forts about five hours in.
Traveling around on horseback is also boring as you have to clear large swaths of land before finally getting enough fast travel points, and I just can’t express enough how big this game is. It’s too big and bloated for its own good. Most people probably will never finish this game as it takes a minimum of 30 hours just to grind through the story. I spent 15 hours just trying to complete everything and gave up in the end. The final system I want to mention is the mercenary system. Committing crimes will get a bounty on your head and mercenaries will come after you. You can defeat them to climb the tiers, but finishing this requires being level 50 which is the cap and it’s not worth it. There are at least 50 some odd mercenaries to kill and you will end up killing at least half by the end of the game just because they are there and in the way. Thankfully you can pay off your bounties on the map to get them off of your back, so it’s completely optional.
Overall, Odyssey is just too damn big and too generic to be considered a memorable game. Sure, the game wonderfully recreates ancient Greece with many amazing monuments, buildings, statues, and towns, but they all start looking the same after a while. There are far too many forts to conquer, the leveling requires way too much grinding of boring side missions and lame quests and becomes incredibly overwhelming and exhausting even as soon as five hours in. There just aren’t any interesting characters and the story is fairly simple and dull. I couldn’t care about anything in this game except exploring new areas because that was at least fun. Naval combat hasn’t evolved much, there’s a useless equipment upgrade system, and assassinations have taken a back seat over combat. Hell, you don’t even get the hidden blade in this game. The skill tree, which I didn’t talk about, is also a mix of overreliance on certain abilities as they do large amounts of damage, to not caring about a good majority of others. It’s a poorly balanced skill tree and I didn’t use 90% of them. The entire game is just unbalanced, a boring grind, and most of the game feels like a chore with no pay-off. I hope to eventually try out the DLC as it seems more entertaining, but we will see.
So, it sounds like I hate the game, but I don’t. I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when I finally did grind that next level and could move on. Most of the fun was literally just exploring the land and no, not even looting stuff that I came across as I skipped most of it. The world is beautiful and is looks amazing, but there’s so much here that’s just generic and pointless. This is my least favorite AC game to date (alas, I haven’t played any games between Black Flag and Origins, so that might change.) If Ubisoft had cut the game down even by half and removed the RPG system this game could have been much more than the sum of its parts. Lastly, I’d like to mention that the engine is poorly optimized and runs like garbage on hardware well above the recommend specs. Even after numerous patches there’s slow down everywhere.
Alienware isn’t really known for amazing gaming peripherals, in fact, due to their own ecosystem, some people put them dead last, but they aren’t low quality or anything. They are just aimed toward Alienware owners because their design and aesthetic matches the current generation of PCs and laptops that are out. This is only the second Alienware keyboard I’ve ever used as the last one was released almost a decade ago. I have to say, this keyboard definitely caters to this generation of computers, and especially my Area-51m R2 in white. I have the matching mouse and headset, so why not try the keyboard right?
Well, I’ve always been against using full-size keyboards with laptops as what’s the point? There’s a keyboard built into the thing! However, with the emergence in popularity with 60% mini keyboards, I decided to try this first at a lower cost, and while I don’t mind it, a full-size keyboard does not pair well with a laptop, especially with a chunky braided cable. Even wrapped up and held with a cable tie the thing was always in the way and the cable was so stiff I couldn’t really get it to sit where I wanted it constantly pushed the keyboard back and hit my mousepad and what not. While this isn’t an issue on a desktop I’m not going to knock points for this as it’s obviously a full-size keyboard meant for desktop PCs.
When it comes to looks Alienware nailed their current design blueprint. It matches my laptop perfectly and looks minimalistic. This isn’t a flashy keyboard with lots of macros and gimmicky spinning things and whoopdy-doo-dads. There’s a volume wheel and that’s pretty much it outside of standard FN media keys. The low profile is nice and thanks to this the keys are raised up away from the base plate. I did notice some deck flex in this thing, probably due to the low profile design, but it wasn’t noticeable while typing. The keys themselves are Cherry MX Reds so there is some clicky noise when typing. There are multiple RGB lighting zones, but for those who don’t want to install the Alienware Command Center for RGB control the keyboard has built-in lighting effects to cycle through which look nice. I didn’t have to install any drivers on my Area-51m R2 and Command Center just recognized it. There was no firmware update needed either.
Typing on the keyboard feels nice. The response of the Cherry Reds is great, but I did hear a little pinging when typing, but it was only with particularly hard presses. There is a USB 3.0 passthrough on the keyboard, but it requires a separate cable to be plugged in, so what’s the point of the passthrough then? I guess it could bring a USB slot closer to you as an advantage, but if you don’t need a USB slot closer to you right at your keyboard then don’t bother plugging it in. Overall, the keyboard is mostly recommended for current Alienware owners who want to keep their aesthetics matching, but for anyone else I wouldn’t really bother as there’s not too remarkable about this keyboard that the competition hasn’t already done or done better. But, if you want a minimalistic RGB keyboard with nothing fancy going on then this is a great choice as most gaming keyboards can be pretty gimmicky and flashy.