Assassin's Creed Valhalla has big cats, historically dubious horses, and dull sex
The latest entry in the "kitchen sink" of video games delivers on its promise
[Hi, I’m Chris Plante, and you’re reading Postgame, a weekly newsletter collecting the best games, stories, and videos in the video game community into a fun, digestible package on Sunday mornings. Learn more on the Postgame About page. Postgame is usually edited by Stephie Grob Plante, but she’s on a road trip so I’m all alone this week! Want to support Postgame? Please share it with a friend! Or even better, visit my work-home at Polygon.com!]
I usually travel a lot this time of year. To New York City for work. To Missouri, California, and Ohio for family. Maybe to Tokyo for a games conference or South Carolina for vacation.
This year: nothing. I suspect a lot of y’all can relate.
Since I can’t see the world, I’m hoping to bring some of the world to me. To celebrate Thanksgiving, Channukah, and Christmas, I want to order a couple of the best local foods from across the country. Stuff I’ve never tried before — maybe never even heard of. Thanks to the internet and overnight delivery and friends, I think I can make it happen.
But I need your help. Do you have a beloved local delicacy in city (or your hometown) that delivers by mail? If so, send me a link to their mailing site. All recommendations are welcome.
Here are my two recs if you’d to like join in the fun:
Four games to play
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
“For the first few hours, you’re thrown into the icy political drama of ninth-century Norway, where Viking warrior Eivor runs around snow-blasted islands having stern conversations about the future of her clan. (You can play as a male or female version of Eivor, or have the game swap between them at intervals. I went with female Eivor.) This extended prologue plays out a bit like a Scandi Phantom Menace, and, after a while, Eivor and her brother Sigurd give up and decide to build a new life in England. It’s for the best.” (Tom Bramwell, The Guardian)
“One of my favorite regions was one in which Eivor joined a community celebrating Samhain, a Pagan harvest’s end festival that likely influenced our modern conception of Halloween. Residents of a large settlement that’s split in the middle by a small river have decorated it all with turnips and lanterns. They give Eivor a costume to wear, the traditional Mari Lwyd costume with an animal’s skull, and tell her to knock on doors reciting poems for treats. It’s a night of mischief and celebration, which is a nice break from the violence of Viking life.” (Nicole Carpenter, Polygon)
“The game’s dozen major characters all suffer from a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, or something in between. Over the course of the game I helped each of them to overcome their depression or their anxiety. In the end they all returned from Snacktooth Island emotionally transformed, ready to go out confidently into the world. It’s a great message for kids — just like Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Young Horses’ previous game.” (Charlie Hall, Polygon)
“You probably haven’t played anything quite as infectiously adorable as Bugsnax. Alongside a swathe of new releases that centre around violence and high-octane action, its laid-back cuteness is the perfect antidote.” (Kim Snaith, GameSpew)
“The Pathless is at its best when it’s living up to its name — as the mysterious Hunter, I found myself most enraptured by this open world when I let my curiosity guide me. Built to satisfy that curiosity, the landscape is filled with engaging environmental puzzles, hidden bits of lore that deepen its main story, and gorgeous landscapes. Coupled with a simple but engrossing movement mechanic that makes exploration an absolute treat and an orchestral score that elevates the mythic quality of this new world, The Pathless is a journey absolutely worth taking. (Jonathon Dornbush, IGN)
“Godfall is a looter shooter, a genre of video game in which players shoot and kill enemies and then receive better guns with which to shoot and kill enemies. Here, however, your implements of destruction are melee weapons rather than firearms. Looter shooters are all about two things: the feel of the basic actions of the game and the fantasy of creating and outfitting your character. Godfall fails in both of these aspects.” (merrit k, Fanbyte)
“Godfall is the quintessential launch game. This gilded PS5 release shows off the power of the new hardware with its intricate, reflective halls of gold and obsidian, bioluminescent plant life, and enemies who explode in a shower of particles. “Next-gen is here,” it shouts, in a scream that’s barely perceptible over the whistle of high-speed steel. Underneath all of that sheen and noise, though, there’s nothing new at all.” (Kirk McKeand, The Gamer)
Three stories to read
🔍 Video games are a mirror. “I was very scared to play Yakuza: Like A Dragon as it promised to be a vastly different feel to the previous games in the series I hold so dear. But the second the intro started rolling, I fell in love with everything it had to offer, from its new battle system to the cast of all new characters to get to know. While I knew Like A Dragon would give me new fictional folks to fawn over, I was surprised to find that it also gave me a sense of comfort in my own real and scary reality here as an immigrant in the U.S.” (Monti Velez, Uppercut Crit)
💲 Video games are money. “In June, analyst provider Newzoo projected the games market to generate $159 billion this year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, Newzoo released a new forecast that sees this estimation increase to $174.9 billion thanks to the continued effects of the pandemic. Further, the company is predicting industry revenue to grow to $217.9 billion by the year 2023.”
🐱Video games are cat toys. “With a new generation of consoles arriving this week, gamers are faced with a slew of questions. ‘How fast are the loading times?’ ‘How does the ray tracing work?’ ‘Are the controllers better?’ ‘Which console should I get?’ You can find plenty of information on these are other queries about the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series here and elsewhere. But one critical question has yet to be answered: ‘How do I introduce my new game console to my cat?’” (De'Angelo Epps, Fanbyte)
Four videos to watch
What it was like to buy a PS5 on launch day in 2020
The first showdown between PS5 and Xbox Series X
“Game cameras are changing Hollywood as we know it.”
The best of the rest
“Police say 'hoax' emergency call prompted Ubisoft Montreal studio scare.” (Bryant Francis, Gamasutra)
I need to make time for this dungeon-crawling adventure about toxic start-up culture. (Funké Joseph, Paste)
Half-Life: Alyx now has developer commentary tracks. The pseudo-prequel is one of my fave games of the year — a shame most folks will miss the game because of the cost and headaches of VR. (Natalie Clayton, Rock Paper Shotgun)
“The Xbox Series X is not on fire, it’s just vaping.” (Matthew Gault, Vice)
“Queer identity in Watch Dogs: Legion should be more than flavor text.” (Carolyn Petit, Polygon)
“In Twitch’s fight with the music industry, streamers are paying the price.” (Bijan Stephen, The Verge)
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has lots of big ol’ cats… (Nicole Carpenter, Polygon)
… But should have more small, hairy horses. “Professor Landry said that the Assassin’s Creed horse most resembles the modern Friesian, whose ancestors the Romans could have picked up as they swept north from Italy. Friesians are the bane of horse experts: The extremely striking breed is a go-to for the entertainment industry, regardless of historical accuracy.” (Simone de Rochefort, Polygon)
Speaking of Valhalla: The game’s sex is rather dull, but the romance isn’t so bad! (Nicole Carpenter, Polygon)
I made a short appearance on All Things Considered along with The Washington Post’s Elise Favis to discuss the new consoles. (Vincent Acovino, NPR)
“Disney World reopened in Florida four months ago. Here's what it's like to visit it during the pandemic.” (Garrett Martin, Paste)
An oral history of a Top 5 episode of The Simpsons. (Sean Cole, Vice)
“The 29-year-old progressive political commentator [Hasan Piker] has risen to the top of the platform after 80-plus hours of live election coverage.” (Taylor Lorenz, The New York Times)
“Brands like Dunkin’ and Bud Light Seltzer want to win you over with memes. Here’s what it’s like to make them.” (Luke Winkie, Vox)
Sports are still good.
This week on The Besties
But what do you think?
Send links, tips, comments, questions, games, and favorite methods for getting rid of rotten pumpkins to @plante.
That’s a wrap. See y’all next time. Wear a mask!