In case you haven’t heard, there’s a whole bunch of big things released today, Oct. 27. All on the same Friday, we have:
- Assassin’s Creed Origins;
- Stranger Things 2;
- Super Mario Odyssey;
- and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.
It’s rare for four high-profile releases to coincide like this, although it’s not totally unheard of. But the time has come to make a choice as to which of the four we’ll start off with, for it’s impossible to play or watch all of them simultaneously (well, unless you have some wild setup in your place and are very dextrous).
Fortunately for those who have yet to make up their minds, we’ve got four staffers of Polygon with very strong opinions to offer their takes on what hot new thing to start off with. Below, they plead their cases.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
— Owen Good argues for history over fantasy
Assassin’s Creed Origins is the game I circled on the calendar for Oct. 27. It’s not a slight, nor is it a challenge, to the other big name titles launching on the same day. Wolfenstein belongs to an alternate reality, and Mario is even further from that. But I am a reader as much I am a video gamer, and I am a sucker for historical fiction. For a decade, nothing has indulged me like Assassin’s Creed.
I have every Assassin’s Creed game — at least all the ones that have launched on a console — even if I haven’t finished every one of them. I know the series’ longest standing problem has been repetitiveness in its gameplay. That’s become a bigger problem as the series has moved forward in time, into eras that are the staple of high school history classes in the United States. Assassin’s Creed was at its best, I felt, when it delved into things my teachers either didn’t mention, or I wasn’t paying attention when they did.
Cleopatra is the only big name in Assassin’s Creed Origins whom I know going in, and what I know of her comes mainly from Shakespeare and Elizabeth Taylor. The most mesmerizing preview detail has been the depiction of the pyramids, which I’ve understood from history books only as crumbling ruins the color of the surrounding sands. It takes a video game to teach me that these buildings, in fact, had a polished white exterior to reflect the setting sun from the west bank of the Nile. I never got that in world history in high school, nor in any college course.
Of course I expect collection missions, assassination targets and other variants on the same thing I have done in Tuscany, the Caribbean or colonial America — it wouldn’t be Assassin’s Creed otherwise. But because it’s set in ancient Egypt, what intrigues me even more is the idea that I don’t always know if the NPC I’m talking to is a made-up character or if they have an historical antecedent. That was the draw of the first game, flawed though it may have been. (Was Garnier de Nablus a real person, for example? Yes, actually.)
Ubisoft has made fictitious persons, real persons, and combinations thereof fit together in its strange alternate history timeline where someone (Da Vinci!) is an assassin sympathizer and another (Robespierre!) is a Templar. In Origins, the game will introduce Amunet, bringing us back to the timeline of the statues underneath Ezio’s villa in Assassin’s Creed II. That’s where this series’ allure really lies. Those statues seemed to foreshadow what would be coming, the other lands or times in which we could expect adventures. Yet everything since involved a person born after Ezio Auditore da Firenze’s time.
But the reality is that the series’ main character has always been a place and a time, not any person. The Middle East in the Crusades. Revolutionary France. The Spanish Main. All of these have appealed to the imagination in ways no single figure, real or fictional, ever could. It’s true escapism not just to inhabit the persona of another character, but to go to the time in which they lived.
Stranger Things 2
— Charlie Hall on the allure of nostalgia ... for Stranger Things 1
I miss Barb.
I mean, I know she’s not coming back. She’s dead, and even the show’s producers have gone out of their way to tell its fans that. But I really miss what Barb represents.
The original season of Stranger Things took me completely by surprise. It was July, and I was in the middle of several big projects, including moving a lot of old personal items into storage in an effort to try and sell my house. That’s when my friend and coworker Ben Kuchera asked me to proofread his story praising the show.
One line in particular jumped out at me:
Everything from the show’s logo to its spooky synth score are meant to tell you, loudly and with great clarity, that you are about to watch something that feels as if it might have come from an old VHS tape from your parent’s house.
Just a few weeks before, I’d put a stack of old VHS tapes away in a box. There were a few Disney movies, old Charlie Brown specials and other things my folks had taped off of television in the ’80s and ’90s. There were reruns of the original 3 2 1 Contact, Small Wonder, TaleSpin and Big Bird in China. I’d hung onto them all this while because they felt like rare and precious things. Sure, mostly all of them were available on YouTube or for sale on Amazon. But these were my copies that I had watched over and over again as a child, and now they were artifacts that I wanted to share with my own children.
Digging into the first season of Stranger Things absolutely felt like adding to that library of old VHS tapes. Certainly it’s a more mature show than a made-for-TV Sesame Street special, but it absolutely comes from the same era of television.
The throwbacks in Stranger Things go beyond the camera angles and the soundtrack. There’s something about the structure and the pacing of the show itself that feels like it comes from another era of television. The characters themselves, ever over a short 8-episode arc, are given time to breathe and expand. But there is an urgency to it nonetheless.
It’s only in a show like Stranger Things that you could have a character like Barb. And it’s only in a show like Stranger Things where viewers could grow to care about her as much as they do. It’s as if the writers and the showrunners went back in time and surgically implanted her, along with Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Will Byers, directly into our collective memories.
After the first season was over, I began to miss them. But, there was no dusty box in the attic to pull them out of. So I had to wait.
This time around, Netflix is sweetening the deal, further tugging at my seasonal emotions. It’s fall here in Chicagoland, and my family is making plans to go out trick-or-treating this weekend by test-fitting homemade costumes on top of sweatshirts and galoshes. Stranger Things’ second season sounds like the perfect show to curl up with on the sofa once my seven-year and my four-year old have fallen into a candy-coated coma. It’s something familiar and seemingly from another time, a rare treat for adults to enjoy together.
Super Mario Odyssey looks like a really good time. Assassin’s Creed Origins might be the best game that the series has seen in a long while. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus may prove to be a satisfying, cathartic experience in the end. But right now I want to spend time with some awesome, loving kids dressed up like the Ghostbusters.
I want to go back to the Upside Down. And if we can’t save Barb, then maybe we can see about saving Eleven. I’ve been so very worried about her for the last year and a half.
Super Mario Odyssey
— Chelsea Stark considers an antidote for global unease
I realize I drew the easy straw by volunteering to defend Super Mario Odyssey as the first thing you should play or consume this weekend. It’s easy to just jump onto the Mario hype train, what with all the Game of the Year-worthy praise it’s received, the ridiculously cute capture mechanic, or the fact that it’s just, “NEW MARIO ON SWITCH!” But I’ve got another reason to recommend snapping up this game before anything else:
It’s fucking joyful.
There is an ever-present dread surrounding 2017. Everyone is anxious. Looking at Twitter or Facebook or any other newsfeed can release a cascade of anxiety, until you just want to throw your phone/laptop/television into the ocean and jet pack away towards the sun. Without diving into political statements, the heightened tension between human beings everywhere is soul crushing. There is no Good News anywhere.
It’s important to remain active and engaged, to know about what’s going on the in the world. But it’s just as important to unplug. And what the world needs right now is some gloriously psychedelic goofball game where you inhabit a stack of Goombas.
Every single point in this game seems designed to elicit joy. Mario’s movements are fun to execute. There are so many cute characters. (I’m looking at you, adorable Shiba Inu in a hat.) And I dare you, just try not smiling during every new capture. Seeing every classic — and new — Mario enemy wearing the iconic hat and ‘stache is like huffing pure serotonin.
It’s rare for me get sucked in by marketing hype, but I can’t stop listening to the game’s bewitching theme song, “Jump Up, Super Star!” It’s a palette cleanser that we all desperately need right now. (And I’m going to embed it just so I have an excuse to listen to it again.)
There are other amazing games coming out today (and one amazing Netflix original series), but I think we’ve all collectively earned ourselves the option to capture a joyful gaming experience first.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
— Russ Frushtick wants to savor this single-player shooter
When Wolfenstein returned to us back in 2014, expectations were pretty damn low. At best, we’d have a mindless action game to kill a few hours. But, shockingly, Wolfenstein: The New Order was way more than that. Complex characters with emotional gravitas, satisfying gunplay, and yes, a large handful of dumb/fun moments made it an unexpected blast to play through.
To be honest, I’ve kept myself mostly in the dark about the sequel, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. Sure, I watched the E3 trailer, which featured some truly epic moments, but beyond that, simply based on the pedigree of the first game, I knew they had my interest. MachineGames, the developer, seems willing to take risks and push the boundaries of what a single-player shooter’s able to do.
We’re also living in an age where a single-player-only shooter is becoming a true anomaly. For fans of games like Half-Life 2 and BioShock, we don’t get many bites at the apple these days. Gotta live it up when we can!
What will you pick first?
This poll is closed
Assassin’s Creed: Origins
Stranger Things 2
Super Mario Odyssey
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus