Cult of the Fiver | January 2015

The new year means new games! I’ll dig myself out of post-winter-sale hibernation to check out Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Age of Wonders 3, and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

Cult of the Fiver: Ace Combat Assault Horizon

It’s USA ALL THE WAY BABY! When some Communists or Russians or whoever are causing trouble, Americans are ready to shoot them a lot, or blow them up, or HIGH FIVE THEM TO DEATH HECK YEAH. Hop in the cockpit or gunner’s seat of some billion dollar grade-A USA asskicking military hardware and SHOOT STUFF! WOOOOO! EXPLOSIONS! HIIIIGHWAY TO THAA DANGER ZOOOONE!

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is worth your $5 because… it’s a pretty simplistic hyper-arcade style flight sim. There’s a bunch of different planes to choose from, with different types of flying vehicles featured on different levels. The pace is frenetic, with stuff blowing up constantly. The simplified controls mean that you don’t really have to worry as much about flying, much like an on-rails shooter.

But don’t pay full price for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, since… as a flight sim or Ace Combat game it falls way short of the mark. It’s far too simple, although it can be frustratingly difficult at times. The different planes you can fly often boil down to a cosmetic choice, as it doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference in the actual gameplay.

Store page(s): Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam

Quick Tips:

  • There are many planes that can’t be shot down without going into “dogfight mode” so don’t even bother firing missiles at “leader” planes otherwise.
  • Flares are pretty useless and highly limited in number. Stick to evading missiles with aerial acrobatics instead.
  • Generally you should have plenty of ammo to finish a level, so you might as well fire missiles in batches to make taking down “high HP” targets easier.

Age of Wonders 3

Cult of the Fiver: Age of Wonders 3

Age of Wonders 3 is a top-down, turn based strategy game that is divided into two parts. The first is a strategic map where you raise armies, capture and defend outputs, and explore for new quests and resources. The second part is a tactical combat mode where you pit your armies against enemy armies to vie for control of territory.

Age of Wonders 3 is worth your $5 because… it’s got a ton of depth in both the tactical and strategic maps. The strategic map plays out similarly to Civilization but without most of the micromanagement aspects. The tactical combat is well executed and manages to reward careful play without making the whole experience feel too slow. The sheer variety of heroes and races to play as keeps multiple playthroughs interesting.

But don’t pay full price for Age of Wonders 3, since… it’s got a number of balance issues. For instance, it’s really hard to have enough of an army to defend all your cities. In a game like Civilization, you could generally be assured that your border cities needed more defense than your interior cities. However, it’s very easy in Age of Wonders 3 to just blitz past the border cities and take the opponent’s capital or key resource cities and cripple them. The tactical combat can sometimes drag on, and the automatic resolution often ends with unnecessary unit deaths.

Store page(s): Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • The campaign mode is really rough – you’re always outnumbered and outgunned when you start a campaign map level. Blitz early and often if you want to survive!
  • When attacking a city, concentrate your units to one side. The AI takes a few turns to catch on to this strategy, which will often lead to giving you an early advantage.
  • Explore ruins to gain artifacts you can give you your heroes – this can make them significantly more powerful. In the campaign, items you give to your leaders carry over from one campaign mission to the next.

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag

Cult of the Fiver: Assassin's Creed 4

Yarr, meharties! Mizzen the foremast! Swab those mortars, my trumps! Every duck of cloth to the wind! Ubisoft’s long-running Assassin’s Creed series takes to the Caribbean sea to tell a story in the age of piracy. Stabbing, shooting, and sneaky bush-hiding in tropical climates dovetail with naval combat and high-seas piracy!

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is worth your $5 because… it’s Assassin’s Creed done right, and that makes for a solid core experience surrounded by a number of fun and interesting systems. The high seas piracy is done right, and it’s one of the best ship combat sims available today. The world map is packed with stuff to do, from assassination missions, myriad collectibles, hunting, and even diving missions to undertake.

But don’t pay full price for Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, since… it’s still the same Assassin’s Creed it always has been. The core game is staler than a year old box of saltines. Some of it gets pretty repetitive as well – there are far, far too many chests and other collectibles. Still, most of the irritating stuff is optional, and there’s plenty to do even if you skip the parts that annoy you.

Store page(s): Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Focus on capturing forts early, as they’re not terribly difficult to take and reveal important locations on the world map.
  • In addition to hunting for upgrade materials, you can buy them at certain weapon shops in major ports.
  • There’s a mobile tie-in title that makes the Kenway’s Fleet minigame a bit easier to manage and therefore more profitable.