From a bite-size Mario game, to the epic open-world of Assassin’s Creed: Here’s what we’re playing this week.
Joe – Editor & Lead Writer
Assassin’s Creed Origins
Playing on Xbox Series S via Game Pass
When I think of Assassin’s Creed, I’m instantly transported back to my mate’s Uni house circa 2010, when evening entertainment consisted of 6 cans of cheap lager, questionable fried chicken and a jaunt through the streets of Florence with Ezio Auditore da Firenze. When the TV wasn’t being co-opted by the resident pot heads and their endless YouTube spirals, me and Ollie would watch each other climb the duomos of Italy, passing the controller back and forth as we took down enemies from the rafters.
Over 10 years later, my foray back into the world of Assassin’s Creed took me to Valhalla. A game that, sadly, I bounced off after roughly 10 hours. But this week, thanks to the wonders of Game Pass, I’ve rediscovered my love for the franchise with the excellent Assassin’s Creed Origins.
First off, the game looks great and runs buttery smooth thanks to the recent 60fps patch. Starting my journey through the desert dunes and into the town of Siwa, I’m struck by how cohesive the world feels. As my trusty camel meanders into the outskirts, children play excitedly in the streets, farmers tend to verdant fields and merchants spill their wares under the makeshift awnings. Valhalla, by comparison, feels like an overwhelming sprawl of disjointed locations without any real life or character.
Then there’s the side quests, in particular, the tombs to raid, which are an absolute blast and no two feel the same. Perhaps I’m in something of a honeymoon period with Origins, and I’ll start to find it repetitive when I’m 10 hours in. But for now, I’m enjoying the richly detailed open world, which feels just about the right size so as to avoid any choice paralysis. If, like me, you missed out on this one the first time around, Assassin’s Creed Origins is available to play now on Xbox Game Pass.
Tom – Lead Writer
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Playing on Nintendo Switch
My wife and I played through Super Mario 3D World together last year when it first released. It’s a fantastic co-op game, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It was merely a rerelease of a Wii U game though, and not something brand new, so Nintendo saw fit to bundle in another experience to sweeten the deal: Bowser’s Fury. Strangely I never made the time to try Bowser’s Fury until this past weekend, but I’m so glad that I did.
Bowser’s Fury is a miniature 3D Mario game, an experimental short that plays with many of the series’ conventions. For one thing, this is effectively an open world game. You’re free to tackle objectives in any order you choose, moving between different the islands of Lake Lapcat to solve puzzles and complete challenges. Items like the cat suit or tandoori suit are now stored in an inventory and accessed at any time, allowing you to quickly switch up your abilities based on the level at hand. Mario can also ride aquatic dinosaur Plessie, helping you to speed through the waters between islands with ease.
You’re doing all this because Bowser has become infected by some dark power, one that makes him even larger and more monstrous than usual. Bowser Jr. implores Mario to help restore his father to relative sanity, and accompanies you on your journey; a second player can control Bowser Jr., although his skillset is limited. The aim is to collect ‘Cat Shines’, which activate lighthouses that damage the kaiju-sized Bowser. Each of the game’s activities awards a Cat Shine upon completion, and gathering enough of them will let you grow to Bowser’s size to fight him mano a mario.
Lake Lapcat is colourful and serene, but every so often, the sky will darken and rain will start to pour; this portends the reawakening of the rageful Bowser. He’ll drop boulders and breathe fire at you, forcing you to take cover as you try to activate a lighthouse, or simply wait for him to fall asleep again. Bowser’s attacks can work to your advantage, though; some Cat Shines are hidden behind blocks that can only be destroyed by his flames. There’s a delicate dance to attracting Bowser’s attention without getting caught in the blast.
Bowser’s Fury only lasts a few hours; call it six if you want to collect all 100 Cat Shines. Still, it’s an enjoyably refreshing Mario experience, and a potentially illuminating one. There hasn’t been a brand new 3D Mario game since 2017’s Super Mario Odyssey. When the next game does finally emerge, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not it takes cues from Bowser’s Fury. There are certainly far worse places to draw inspiration from!