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.
Beautiful indie games are something that comes only once in a while. When you think about these games like Journey, Limbo, Inside, Braid, Monument Valley, and Flower. These are memorable games that most core gamers know of and look up to when it comes to quality indie games, and what defines an indie game. Omno tries this but doesn’t quite reach that height for several reasons.
So, when it comes to these minimalistic indie games they usually try to tell a story with no voice acting through music and action of the protagonist. Games like Journey and Inside pulled this off amazingly well, and I even remember tearing up a bit with Journey despite no written or spoken dialog being present. Omno has some great music and tries to pull off the adventurous fast-paced snowboarding/gliding on linear pathways with epic music and opening up to a beautiful vista kind of like how Journey did, but it doesn’t quite work here. Once you land you get the camera ripped from you and your little guy walks up to the vista and the camera pans around. That detracts from the user’s perspective and takes away that epic experience. Diving into the open area without any cuts adds to the sense of exploration and discovery because now I don’t quite know where I landed, but if I get a camera cut it kind of ruins the surprise.
Most of what Omno consists of are repetitive puzzle-solving open areas that all play out exactly the same. There are white orbs you must collect to unlock the final puzzle to move on, but there are optional things you can do to get 100% in the area which isn’t hard. I was able to 100% the game on my first try without a walkthrough. You get an area map once you get to the waypoint and this shows where the orbs are. Each area has about five and one orbs requires gathering white cubes from animals and plants around the area. Once you have enough this unlocks one of the five orbs. You then have a few books to find that have a dialog about another creature going on their pilgrimage. Some orbs require platforming puzzles or moving blocks or shuffling things around. It’s very easy and I found almost no challenge in these puzzles. You do unlock new abilities as time goes on such as teleporting to certain waypoints, surfing on your staff, and dashing.
There is a small sense of progression and each new area is beautiful and looks great. However, I felt like it was a chore by the tenth one because I knew exactly what was coming up. Find five orbs, gather the cubes for that one orb, find the books, solve at least three puzzles, etc. It became predictable and there is really no story or character development between this so the game relies on pretty graphics and whimsical music to keep you going. The platforming and controls work okay most of the time but I felt dashing was a bit hard to control and landing was a bit slippery. Many times I slid off a cliff or block just to start over again.
If the game was just a linear adventure traveling through these valleys I feel it would be a better and more memorable experience. Having a dozen levels that play out exactly the same for literally no reason is boring and a chore despite how pretty the game looks. Maybe four or five spread out between more eye candy would have been better for this type of game, but what’s here turns into a slog towards the end. I still recommend the game as it can be finished in less than four hours and it is charming to look at and explore, but just be prepared for repetitive level design and unchallenging puzzles. The story is pretty much nonexistent and there’s no type of character development even through actions. Omno (I think that’s his name?) has a flying axolotl type creature flying around with him and the creature is sick maybe? At the beginning of some levels he picks him up and the thing looks like it’s dying? I honestly don’t even know.
When I think of casual games I usually think of games that are relaxing, stress-free, usually offer a good story and characters, and have a great world to explore. With mobile games, this is true as well, but I feel that despite how great Assemble with Care is it’s held back by the casual game constraints too much. The mechanics and idea of taking apart devices and fixing them is an itch that games like House Flipper and PC Building Simulator scratch, and when I saw Assemble with Care I thought it was going to be the same. The fact that a voiced narrative is included was just a bonus.
You play as a female hobbyist repair woman who travels to Belariva for a vacation and relaxation when she ends up getting involved in the town’s squabbles. She runs into a mayor and his daughter and a cafe owner and her sister. She is the key to get each party to resolve their family issues and of course, her tinkering helps that. The story itself is well voiced and UsTwo games are well known for gorgeous visuals and unique gameplay, but the game falls short here. Every chapter, out of thirteen, has a device you need to disassemble and fix and it’s really neat. I couldn’t wait to get the next device as they did get slightly more intricate as you went on, but the game handicaps itself by allowing snapping of parts that are allowed only in one spot so it’s not really a puzzle anymore. The biggest challenge came in disassembly as there’s no much to tell you how to do this.
Various devices range from a GameBoy Advance SP, a watch, a music box, a record player, a portable cassette player, and others. You get everything you need laid out in front of you such as a screwdriver and cables or various parts to repair the item. Long pressing allows you to take things apart and there is a swiping motion for screwing things in and out. You can rotate the device as every side needs to be inspected. Most of these puzzles can be completed in just a few minutes and each chapter has voice dialogue at the beginning and end.
The art is great in both the story stills and the 3D graphics of the objects. Bright watercolor drawings and flat pastel textures just pop on the screen. I didn’t want the game to end, however. I felt like more chapters could be added as the story isn’t memorable but entertaining and a bit touching. I still wanted to know the fate of each party’s families and for less than an hour of gameplay, UsTwo did a great job with the storytelling. Sadly, once the game is over there’s no reason to go back at all. The puzzles will never change and they’re way too easy to be replayed. I wish the puzzles weren’t as easy and had more intricate and smaller parts or just something more complicated.
When it comes to “vise” type controller for phones there’s been an increasing demand for quality now that mobile games are pretty much console quality. We still get nice simple games, but sometimes we want our console experience to be super portable. It used to be that Apple took quite a while to catch on to official controller support. It wasn’t until iOS 13 that Bluetooth controllers for officially supported. They have been available on Android for nearly a decade, but the cheap Chinese devices never quite held up. So there are two animals you can tame. The traditional controller with a phone clip or the vise style controllers. I personally prefer the vise as it feels more like the Switch or a traditional handheld console. I always felt the controller and clip were super heavy and view angles got weird.
Within the last couple of years, major gaming companies are making official controllers for phones. With games like Call of Duty: Mobile, PUBG, and GRID: Autosport, there’s a reason why. These games play phenomenally better with controllers. The Kishi isn’t perfect, but it does a great job giving us quality where we need it. The vise actually folds into itself which is something I can’t say for cheap Chinese devices which I have used. They have this weird sliding mechanism that’s spring-loaded and just felt too rigid and universal. This controller is hand-tailored for iPhones and using my iPhone 12 Pro Max was a dream with this controller.
The first issue I ran into is that unfolding the device is a pain. There are two pull tabs that are oriented awkwardly and don’t have a nice snap or click when they unlatch. You have to pull the simultaneously and just let the controller kind of fall apart and some wiggling is required. The controller is basically two halves of a controller that is connected with a soft rubber band that is anchored with plastic pieces at the end that have a peg that allows for stretching. There’s a rectangle backpiece in the middle that has support begs that rests on the back of the phone. It feels tight and I never felt like the device didn’t stretch enough or too far. There are spacers for smaller iPhones so the band still gets tight. You insert your phone into the lightning port side and slide the other half on and it just pulls tight and it works. The right side is solid, but the left side has a bit of giving and wiggle, but this is because there’s no port to keep it in place, but I never noticed this while gaming ever.
The controller feels solid in the hands and like a handheld system. Of course, ergonomics are only half the battle and the other half is how the buttons feel. The alternate analog placement (Xbox style) feels amazing. These are some damn fine analog sticks and I felt they weren’t too loose or tight. They click nice and are just full-size analog sticks that feel similar to an Xbox One controller. The D-Pad is weird, but at least it rolls and rocks and isn’t separated like the Switch or PS4. You can easily use this with fighting games is my point. The face buttons are similar to the Switch but feel a tad stiff. They aren’t loud and clicky like Moga controllers are, but you eventually get used to it. I noticed that after a week they loosened up a tad. The Kishi has triggers similar to the Xbox and two shoulder buttons. The shoulder buttons are stiff as well and the analog triggers are a little loose for my taste, but you get used to them and they aren’t a deal-breaker.
There are three other buttons: one for recording and taking screenshots, a home button, and a menu button. They are located below each analog stick and are out of the way. Other than that my next favorite feature is the passthrough charging but it’s oriented at the bottom and out of the way of your hands. This allows for longer tethered gaming sessions. You can use a power bank in your pocket or sit near an outlet, it’s great. When you’re done the controller easily snaps back together, but only after you figure out how. You have to orient the tabs inside just right or it won’t go together. It took me too much time trying to figure this out, but essentially the small gray tabs on the inside need to touch and you know it’s oriented correctly. Then the back plastic piece just snaps on to keep the halves together. It’s a rather compact thing when it’s all said and done and easily fits into small pockets.
With that said there’s not much left to say. There is an app that upgrades the firmware, but mine didn’t need it. Other than that if the game supports controllers is will recognize this device. I have yet to play a game that supports controllers that won’t see the Kishi. The only issue was Real Racing 3, but there’s been a long-time glitch that requires you to put the game in airplane mode to use controllers, so that’s not the Kishi’s fault. For the price point, you’re paying for quality and this is well worth $100. I know console controllers are $40 cheaper, but this thing is a bit more complicated to make and has more moving parts. I think it’s well worth the money and turns your iPhone into a portable handheld gaming device.
UsTwo’s next game is a small adventure game where you play as a girl named Alba who is trying to save the local wildlife reserve from corporate hotel moguls. You run around the island trying to gain 50 signatures on a petition to give to the mayor in hopes it will stop the construction. The main gameplay loop of the game is taking photos of 62 different animals on the island via your phone and scanning them with an app. Other objectives include picking up trash, restoring birdhouses and feeders, and rescuing animals from toxic chemicals.
The island is broken up into small areas so it’s easier to navigate and find where you need to go. Side quests have a green arrow and main objectives have gold ones on the map. The entire game is broken up into three days and you will complete most of the game within two hours fairly easily. Sadly, most of the game is running around back and forth between areas with very little to actually do. Picking up trash and fixing items is about all there is to do here. You can also replace photos on info boards, but most everything is done during the main story as you will come across every area at some point. You can talk to most of the townsfolk, but they have nothing important to say except to waste your time as per NPC regulations. They don’t even offer side quests which feel odd.
I did enjoy taking photos of the animals as tracking them was a lot of fun, but sometimes there is just one bird you can’t find somewhere to complete a side objective and it’s quite irritating and frustrating. While the idea of respecting nature and animals is a great message to get across in a game I felt nothing for the characters as there wasn’t enough time to do any world-building. For most of the game, you’re just trying to get the 50 signatures and nothing really happens until the last 20 minutes of the game. For such a large island I felt there could have been more to do with maybe some mini-games or more side objectives. Even adding more animals that aren’t 90% birds would have been nice as well. Animals are categorized into rarity, but I don’t see how this has any bearing as there’s not point or rating system for finding these animals. Hell, there isn’t even an achievement for finding all the animals in the game!
The game at least looks really pretty and the low-poly art style with bright vivid colors is great. The game has good lighting effects and the sound effects of animals everywhere are a nice touch. Alba controls well as she runs around the island and I didn’t run into any bugs or crashes of any kind. However, on my iPhone 12 Pro Max, I still ran into frequent slowdown especially when zoomed in on the phone. This phone is more than capable of running this game at 60FPS stable, but it needs better optimization. You will end up seeing what the entire game offers in the first 30 minutes of the game, but that’s not to say this game is boring. Two hours is probably just the right length, to be honest as any more and it would overstay its welcome due to the lack of things to do. I highly recommend this game to young players for the message it delivers and any gamer for just a relaxing and chill game.
Well, this is an awkward position I thought I would never be in. A lifelong Android user switching to an iPhone. Both sides would ask why and I have many reasons for the switch. For one, Samsung hasn’t impressed me outside of their ungodly priced fold phones since the Note 5 was released. Every phone since has been almost the same with just newer parts inside. While technically, Apple is guilty of this as well, I feel their ecosystem evolves and changes and improves within itself while it almost seems every phone manufacturer is held back by Android itself.
I switched over mostly for the games as Apple always gets the better games whether they are console ports or not. Apple Arcade is a huge step up over Google Play Pass any day. I also haven’t done a phone review in a few years because what’s the point? Every Android phone is basically the same these days minus any gimmicks. I feel I’m well qualified to do this review as a contrast and comparison as I have had nothing but Android phones for the last decade. My first phone was a Motorola Droid back in 2010 and that review is on this site now. The last iOS device I had that wasn’t an iPad was an iPod Touch 4 which is also on this site. So, this is my first ever iPhone and it has been a very interesting transition.
The Unboxing and Setup
Well, I was shocked that I walked out of a T-Mobile store in Portland while I was on vacation with a brand new sealed iPhone 12 Pro Max, and it was blue by the way. A gorgeous color for the phone. My wife also made the switch about 3 weeks ago, but she’s gone back and forth between the two companies since the iPhone 4S came out. As I opened the box and did the usual SIM swap and started the phone up I felt I was in for a rough transition. I had so many paid games and apps on Android, how was I ever going to switch over? Sure, I had some paid games on iOS from my iPad I had a couple of years ago, but a phone?
Well, the unboxing was pretty underwhelming even for an Apple device and I checked my first box for things I don’t like about the iPhone and Apple in general: No charging adapter is included. The second checkmark was a lightning cable to USB-C. You can’t use just regular USB-C cables, but only these cables. Apple’s stupid proprietary crap strikes again and I hate it. I had to order a set of cables and chargers on Amazon as my Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra cable won’t work and it didn’t even recognize charging on the adapter.
With that out of the way, I tried doing the Android to iPhone transfer app and it’s complete garbage of course. The iPhone said it would take over an hour to transfer 8GB of mostly just photos over and that’s unacceptable with a good wifi connection and fast speeds. There is also no way to stop the process as you must shut the phone down and reboot. I then ran across the app just freezing and locking up and even after I selected just texts and smaller files to transfer it never transferred anything in the end. Wonderful. The rest of the setup was easy enough, but I found another thing I hate about Apple. Their security is good but too strict on the user. I realized I had a passcode on my iPad and I was trying to figure it out and just couldn’t after sign in. I wanted to reset the password and I was told it could take days or weeks as my request has to be manually processed to make sure it’s me. Excuse me what? I just spent over $1,000 on your device and you can’t let me reset my password like everyone else automatically? Even worse, if I didn’t remember my iPad passcode I was boned for good as Apple can’t reset these. Why? Thankfully I remembered my iPad pin lock passcode and I had the Apple account password saved in Google Passwords so I was safe there, but I just really hate their security on the user’s end. It’s just too blasé.
After the initial setup, I took a good look at the phone itself. It’s sleek, sexy, and well-designed like always. The iPhones started to look ugly around the 5th generation era up until it was redesigned again with the iPhone X. I’m glad the aluminum back is back as well as the sides. I hate the glass backs as it makes the phone more fragile. Samsung loves this for some reason and I’ve always hated it. The phone feels like an iPhone again. Round edges and no curves around the sides. It’s sleek and uniform and I really do like it. The blue color is subtle yet fits the design well, but these big-ass camera bumps will always be ugly.
Hello iOS, My Old Friend
Once I was plunked onto the home screen I sighed. It’s the same! Nothing has changed in 13 years. While that’s true on the surface I know iOS has evolved a lot in other ways since the 4th generation. While even then I could make folders Apple thought to finally give us something similar to the Android app drawer with the App Library that is accessed by swiping all the way left. It auto-organizes into categories and you can search, which is nice but very limited. Apple also finally allowed widgets which have always been a big selling point for Android phones. They work well, but since this is a newer implementation not a lot of apps support it. It’s nice to finally have my email, weather, news, and calendar all on one screen rather than switching through apps or that horrible swipe-down window thing they did a while back.
However, there are still no themes, alternate third-party home screens, or anything like that you can get on Android. I can’t truly make the phone look unique without jailbreaking it. Not even colors! I can only change the wallpaper and that is it. I understand Apple has their own thing going and it’s their OS and their own phones, but let us do what we want! At least create an official theme store on the App Store. I could change the always-on image, theme, and many other things on my Note20 and that will greatly be missed, probably the biggest thing that will be missed. While some people feel it’s a hassle and is too much, it’s a staple of the Android ecosystem.
Let’s talk about ringtones as well. What’s with this Garage Band nonsense? I either have to buy ringtones on the iTunes Store or import them with a third-party app. Zedge is the go-to app for ringtones on Android and it still sucks on iOS. It’s such a hassle I just wound up buying some ringtones and I’m upset you can’t change ringtones for each app like you can on Android, only system apps. Unless the developer created special ringtones for you to pick you to have to hear the same sound as everyone else. Get with the program in terms of customization already Apple, it’s not that hard.
As I dove into the settings I felt simply lost. Even five days later I’m still trying to find things and noticing stuff that needs to be adjusted. Part of this is Apple’s incredible security as I am now able to choose whether apps can track me, use GPS, and I have complete control and am told what each app wants to do. That’s amazing! Android is still lacking in this matter and it’s still too much of an afterthought over there, but Apple has nailed it and they keep all of these app developers in check with it. I feel the system settings need a serious overhaul as these haven’t ever changed, not even once. They keep the same categories and just add more stuff inside. While most of it seems security-related at least there’s a lot of options and you do have control over what every app does. Screen Time was a recent thing a few years back and even this is something not available on Android phones. Everything is well categorized, but there’s just so much here it can feel overwhelming.
Apple took out the fingerprint scanner and now relies on Face ID and I have to say it just works really well. Compared to Samsung it’s a joke how bad Samsung’s facial recognition is. Even their in-screen fingerprint scanner is finicky and doesn’t always unlock when you want it too. Face ID just works fast and I haven’t had any issues with it in any lighting condition. However, I do hate that I have to still swipe my phone after unlocking it. This is a dumb thing that needs to change already.
There’s an App for That
While Android phones still sell ten to one over iPhones everyone caters to Apple. Anything and everything is on the App Store and it all runs and feels better on iOS over Android. While most apps work fine on Android you still get compatibility issues across devices. The upside to the App Store is it’s all made for one device essentially and most apps just feel better. I ran apps on this phone that have been on Android for years and I noticed features that didn’t exist on Android or they just ran better or looked better. You also don’t get as much garbage on the App Store and it’s at least filtered out better. The App Store is just better looking and sleeker than the Google Play Store. You get front-page feeds, articles, and lists that make it feel like a store. While Google Play is sleeker and better designed it’s still essentially a mess of apps all over the place. Apple does a good job siphoning apps into your interests and keeps the good stuff away from the garbage. Not to mention Apple Arcade is a much better value than Google Play Pass. There are so many console ports that are top-notch quality because it’s just one phone you have to develop for. Android gaming is so hit or miss because if you run a lower-end phone you’re not going to be able to play much, and Apple gets all the timed exclusives. While there are quality games on Android, and pretty much every mainstream game, there are so many on iOS and they just run and feel better.
A lot of the time with games on Android I would be locked out of higher graphics settings because my phone is too new and it takes months for the developers to fix it. Another issue would be higher quality assets won’t download because the phone is too new as well. I also would have crashes, or the game just simply wouldn’t be available for my phone for some strange reason despite being the most popular and newest device on the market. Android users gets locked out of a lot of stuff if a developer doesn’t enable the app to be compatible with certain devices.
That’s the joy of iOS – everything just works. There are always crashing issues on Android with something or something on the phone that is somehow broken, in beta, or needs to be fixed and is ignored. Google leaves everything up to the phone manufacturers to add or fix anything they didn’t do in the latest Android build. That also leads to phone updates. With iOS, you get them the day Apple makes them available. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I was of waiting months or sometimes a year after Google released the latest Android build. There is so much waiting and even then there are things always wrong with the latest build with Android. I used to have to reformat my phones after each major Android update. Then there’s the blockade of the mobile provider as Samsung might have the build ready but it might take 3 months for T-Mobile or Verizon to approve the OTA update. While it’s gotten better over time, I still have to wait months for the next update and Samsung only supports their phones for 2 years and then they stop updating. With iOS, you get support until that architecture just can’t be supported anymore.
So with that said if you have the latest iPhone, you know every game will have the best graphics settings and run the best. It’s that simple. With Android, there are low-end devices, mid-tier, and high-end all with different results. Android phones also use off-the-shelf parts and literally up until the last 2-3 years Android OS has finally stopped getting laggy and constantly freezing over time. iOS is snappy and always feels fast and rarely ever freezes or crashes. A lot of times apps would just freeze and crash or completely stop working on my Note20 Ultra. It was rare, but it shouldn’t happen at all. Sometimes a new phone would cause my emails to not come through, I’d have mobile data connectivity problems, wifi calling wouldn’t work properly, or something along those lines every single time. With iOS, you have a worry-free experience all around.
Please Die iTunes
My #1 complaint about the iPhone still stands to this day and it hasn’t gotten easier. You still can’t transfer files and photos over with any type of ease unless it was already on an iOS device. I spent an entire afternoon trying to figure out how to transfer photos over from my old phone. I know there’s the iTunes method, but you have to keep everything in a single folder and there’s no sub-folder option. I’d essentially have to reorganize everything. I can’t drag and drop, and third-party transfer software is still limited. It’s all complete nonsense and it shouldn’t be this hard for just photos. I wound up just storing them all in the cloud in the end because unless you transfer everything to iCloud you’re pretty much screwed if you want it on your phone. With Android, you can copy anything over to the phone or SD card with easy like any removable storage. I thought by now at least regular media would be easy to transfer over. iTunes still sucks, it hasn’t changed one iota in the last decade, and it’s still limiting.
To Stay or Not to Stay
With less than a week with my iPhone, I have to say I’m really impressed. Very little needed transferring as any of my old accounts on apps still support Google even on iOS. I will say that Apple Maps is awful and I still prefer Google Maps and the same goes for Chrome. While it’s not as feature-rich on iOS as Android it’s still miles better than Safari. There are some built-in apps that are great like iMovie, Clips, the AR measuring app, and Pages. Apple has always been the best at productivity software and there’s nothing like this on Android at all. Google itself has barebones offerings like Google Docs and Notes, and every other manufacture is laughable in comparison. These built-in apps are top-quality and incredibly useful.
The thing is iOS feels polished and stable while Android still feels like an ever-evolving OS because it is. It started out very rough and because of the open-endedness and hundreds of different phones, it took much longer for Google to get where it is than Apple. Even 10 years later Google still isn’t where Apple is in terms of controlling and keeping a lock-down on their ecosystem. I have to learn every new Android phone because each manufacturer has its own version of the OS and this can get tiresome after so long. Each major Android update seems to offer and do less and less while Apple still has major features implemented into each major update. While I love the customization and overall openness of Android I am not such a die-hard fan that I refuse to see its issues. Android has a long way to go still before it becomes as well established and polished as iOS. On the games front, iOS feels like its own platform like Nintendo. Android has always felt like a third-rate generic video game system platform and that has never changed. Sure, you can run emulators easier which is a huge selling point for mobile gamers, but iOS is just a better-polished platform. It feels like the phone version of Nintendo. Complete control, top-notch quality, and they don’t play games with developers. It’s Apple’s way or the highway and sometimes that’s for the best.
I miss not being able to charge apps to my phone bill, customization is still very limited, and overall the majority of the OS hasn’t changed at all while Android feels like night and day compared to 10 years ago. But is that a good thing? Apple hit its stride and was happy with it while Android 2.0 felt like some beta OS that you sign up for funsies. If I don’t complain about Google themselves I can point my finger to phone manufacturers. Samsung’s software has gotten much better over the years, but there are still problems. OnePlus is less bloated than Samsung, but their phones are always all over the place. LG relies on gimmicks and Google themselves can’t even make a solid stable phone with their own OS. Google’s phones always feel like Kickstarters. This type of varied quality control is literally the bane of Android’s existence and what’s stopping it from completely taking over iOS for good despite having a majority of the market. I feel if Google made a bold decision and kept Android for themselves they could seriously compete and fine tune Android just for their own phones, but instead their using off the shelf parts like everyone else with lesser results. The fact that Samsung is the flagship for Android is strange indeed.
So, the question remains. Will I stay with iPhone? It’s too early to tell, but so far unless Samsung or Google do something truly impressive with Android I don’t have a real reason to go back. When you think about it all though we are really at a plateau in terms of raw power from smartphones and features they can have. In the end, most people won’t notice a speed difference between the two systems, and I don’t see the point even benchmarking my iPhone here. It plays games well and most at 60FPS. We’re getting to a point where video game consoles are at. They’re all the same with different OS and controllers. The lines are blurring as barriers are being broken down every year.
Quality of Life Differences
This is the what both OS come down to. What quality of life things I noticed over the week of having the iPhone. For starters, I can’t say it enough – organization on the iPhone is bare bones. Why cant’ we at least alphabetize the apps in folders? On Android you can even rename the apps and change the icons! On the plus side controllers work better with iOS and Apple really pushes and advertises games that have controller support. I used a Razer Kishi with my iPhone and every game that supports controllers had zero lag with it. I do like how the contacts can have more details within them such as how each person is related to you and you can even create an emergency medical ID that gets sent to emergency responders if it’s supported in your area. I like the swipe down shortcut drawer as this is usually only a feature on Samsung devices, but it’s customizable here with large buttons and works well. Dark Mode also works much better on iOS than Android. Every app just works with it while it has to be implemented into each app on Android. I got so tired of half my apps not supporting dark mode or glitching.
I also prefer how Apple Pay works over Google Pay. Double clicking the power button brings up the wallet and most shopping apps support it within. I never used Google Pay because it was such a hassle and it fought with Samsung Pay. Samsung Pay was a permanent weird swipe up tab at the bottom of the phone and most of the time I’d accidentally bring it up. You also have to manually keep NFC on which sucks battery life and there’s no shortcut for Google Pay and it doesn’t work within apps.
With that said, hate it or love it, and despite some limitations, what’s here limited or not just simply works. You can’t say that with Android even 10 years of being a user. Something’s always broken on Android no matter what phone manufacturer you go with, and while I’ve used everything from OnePlus, Samsung, LG, and Motorola, I have to say it’s nice to not have to worry about that anymore.