Wednesday, November 28th, 7:00pm CST – Whatever – ???
Saturday, December 1st, 10:00pm CST – Saturday Night Stardew
Did you miss my streams last week?
Tonight, Nov 21, 7pm CST – Paladins (totally not Overwatch)
Saturday, Nov 24, 10pm CST – THE RETURN OF SATURDAY NIGHT STARDEW
OH BOY Survivor Series. This is a show that’s one of the big four, has been around for decades, and almost never results in major story impacts since the brand split. With the rosters on each brand being separate, Survivor Series has become “the only time Raw and Smackdown compete against either other”, which isn’t true and means that things that happen in these matches have little to no effect on the weekly shows themselves. It’s all fighting over “bragging rights” that don’t come up until next year’s Survivor Series.
This year’s show has had a hell of a weird build. It went almost unmentioned until after Crown Jewel, which only gave it two weeks of build. From the start: three matches were a lock: Seth Rollins v. Shinsuke Nakamura, Ronda Rousey v. Becky Lynch, and Brock Lesnar v. AJ Styles. In those two weeks, Lynch was injured and Styles lost his WWE Championship to Daniel Bryan, so those matches changed to Rousey v. Charlotte Flair and Lesnar v. Daniel Bryan in the go-home Smackdown. The other matches were built utterly haphazardly, with most of them settled on the go-home show, but still mixed up their rosters before Survivor Series started. With these messes in mind, let’s tackle the show.
Holy hell, the first two thirds of this match were a damn disaster. Just a mess of miscommunications, missed tags, worked injuries, messy action and unceremonious eliminations. Where it clearly improved was after three teams were eliminated from each side and we were left with The Revival and Roode/Gable vs. The New Day and The Usos. We got teased with some action between Chad Gable and Big E that demands a singles match someday in the future. Big E nailed his signature, utterly self-destructive, spear through the ropes to the outside, which impaled Dash Wilder and looked real nasty. We wind up with The Revival vs. The Usos and both teams looked amazing. They’re great tag teams and I can only hope this spells better fortunes for The Revival on Raw. Usos land a win for Smackdown, which doesn’t count because it’s the pre-show.
Between this match and the start of the show, the women’s Survivor Series match gets their rosters set for both shows. For some reason, Raw ditches Ruby Riott and Natalya after they attack each other and replace them with Bayley and Sasha Banks. Both of these women should’ve been in their lineup from day 1. Smackdown lost Flair from their team to her singles match with Rousey, and they replace her with Mandy Rose and also select Naomi as their replacement captain. Being the captain of a Survivor Series team is more or less meaningless.
Jax was identified on Smackdown’s go-home show as the person who injured Lynch, so she’s greeted with boos on entrance. The match starts with a “Becky” chant from the crowd, and it’s not a great match from there. James gets a lot of time in the ring and shows some good offense, and Rose gets more time in this match than she’s been on TV in months. Banks and Bayley, being the only babyfaces on the Raw team, end up conflicting with the rest which ends with Jax (to tons of boos) causing Banks to be eliminated by Asuka, and then defeating Asuka to win the match for Team Raw. Jax, triumphant, eats more boos and seems surprised that the crowd hates her. Hello, you’re a heel, and you injured a super hot champion. You should be drinking this in and feeding off of it.
This is a great, if predictable, match. Rollins is fire in the ring and Nakamura is fresh because we haven’t seen him compete in months. However, they’ve been forced to wear their show colors, with Rollins bringing back a half-and-half Raw shirt, and Nakamura wearing an out-of-character all blue outfit. They look silly but the match is good. Rollins kicks out a Kinshasa and comes back with a Stomp to win.
It’s not really worth talking about this match because it’s only okay. Four hosses going at each other should’ve been more exciting. The Bar wrestled in a babyface style, which is an odd choice as they’ve been heels for quite a while. No, what’s worth talking about is the ending. Authors manager Drake Maverick pulls an Author’s foot onto a ring rope to cheat and save his team, which results in him being confronted by The Bar’s friend(?) Big Show. Big Show puts Maverick in a one-handed choke and Maverick pees his pants. This distraction causes the Authors to hit Sheamus with a tag team powerbomb, giving them the win for Team Raw. I expected Maverick to play a role in this match. I did not expect him to pee his pants. I love Drake Maverick and his commitment to entertaining a crowd is unmatched, but come on. Couldn’t he do something slightly less embarrassing?
For once, the cruiserweight championship gets main show (not pre-show) billing and they make the most of it. These guys put on amazing matches every week on 205 Live and go underappreciated by the bulk of the WWE audience. They both play their roles perfectly, with Ali being the high risk, high flying all-heart fighter and Murphy tossing him around like a mini-Brock Lesnar. The crowd starts dead but eventually gets into this match in a serious way and garners the first “this is awesome” chant of the show. It is awesome, and you can see these kind of matches every single week! Ultimately, Murphy is too much for Ali and pins him to retain his cruiserweight championship. This is a great match and both competitors looked fantastic.
I’m beginning to believe the rumors that Samoa Joe is working injured based on how he was immediately bodied by McIntyre and eliminated within three minutes. I can’t say it’s downhill from there as it never really gets great. The Raw team fights each other, McMahon jumps very far three times, and Strowman eliminates four out of five of the Smackdown team to ultimately get the victory for Team Raw. Listen. I know Raw had the big body boys, but a team with legends like Hardy and Mysterio should’ve gotten at least competitive booking. It ends with Best Wrestler in the World Shane McMahon as the last member of Team Smackdown. It just wasn’t a good match.
I am biased here; I do not like Ronda Rousey the person. However, this was an amazing, very physical match. Flair, as usual, is amazing and looks so good in almost every match she has. Rousey has diversified her moveset and it pays off here. It doesn’t look like a choreographed stage fight, it looks like a great wrestling match and earns another “this is awesome” chant from the crowd. It ends with Flair beating Rousey with a kendo stick, disqualifying her and giving Rousey the win. Flair, in a heel turn that is cheered by the crowd, beats the holy hell out of Rousey with the kendo stick, plants her with Natural Selection into a chair, and stomps on that same chair as it’s wrapped around Rousey’s neck. The crowd loves it. They chant “thank you Charlotte”. Does WWE expect the crowd to boo Flair here? They barely like Rousey before the match started. She limps to the back to a “Becky” chant and boos. This heel turn is maybe the only thing that mattered on this show but its payoff won’t come until Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania. Unless the rosters are mixed up, Rousey has to move on to her next promised title defense against Nia Jax. I don’t know where this leaves Flair on the Smackdown roster.
This match could have been bad. Recent Lesnar matches haven’t been bangers, and the switch from Styles to a now heel Bryan was sudden and unexpected. But it turns out to be a great match. It starts like all Lesnar matches, with lots of German suplexes from Lesnar and zero offense from Bryan but it takes a turn when Bryan hits a low blow after a ref bump. From there it’s all about Bryan outsmarting Lesnar. He’s working the leg, he’s escaping Lesnar’s holds, he’s reversing Lesnar’s attacks. The story here is that Lesnar is a beast, but Bryan is a technician and he’s smarter than Lesnar. Eventually, he gets caught in a F5 and eats the pin, but this was easily my favorite Lesnar match in recent history and Bryan doesn’t look like a joke coming out of it.
This whole show was a big rollercoaster. The singles matches were all highlights and the team matches were mostly forgettable. Very little of this show will matter long term, but what doesn’t sit right with me is that the meta plot of it (and this weekend as a whole when we include NXT Takeover) is that Raw’s roster is completely dominant to Smackdown’s and UFC fighters will beat WWE wrestlers every time. I’m bothered by this, unless it’s signalling an intention to make major roster changes to fix the “imbalance”, and it significantly downplays the skill and talent of the wrestlers in the company who don’t have UFC backgrounds. They’ve made their own talent look inferior to “real world skills” without any obvious gain. It doesn’t make any sense, but at least this show barely matters so maybe things will improve next month with TLC.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (ACO) is a role-playing game. I know I said it was moving in this direction with last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins, but this entry in the series is as much of a RPG as The Witcher 3. But where Origins last year pushed Assassin’s Creed further into RPG territory and further away from the focus of assassinations, ACO takes this series even further from its roots. In fact, this entry may as well be an entirely different franchise.
In ACO, you can select from the start whether you want to play as Kassandra (woman) or Alexios (man). Either way, you are a Spartan in exile, a descendant of Leonidas himself, during the Peloponnesian War. In the broad game world, Sparta and Athens are at each other’s throats. In the story’s winding path, you learn more about your destiny and how the Cult of Kosmos is attempting to leverage your bloodline to control the world.
This game is enormous, and I could spend hundreds of words describing just the game. Instead, I’ll sum it by saying this is a third person character RPG in a historical setting. Even though killing people isn’t your only course of action, most missions are resolved with murder and there are four different power structures to be murdered: the Cult of Kosmos, a seemingly endless string of mercenaries, an arena full of champions, and the national leadership of the Greek states. This may sound like a lot and it is; each of those is a different tweak on the game.
The cult is hunted through finding clues, usually by killing other cultists, sometimes through sidequests. Hunting the cult is some of the most fun this game has and it ties deepest into the main plot. While most cultists are just a name, some are given personality and character, and there are some genuinely surprising reveals.
The mercenaries hunt you when you’ve committed crimes, usually murder, sometimes theft or destruction of property. They’re an endless stream of difficult enemies with unique qualities (“takes less assassination damage”, “has a wolf companion”) in a way that sort of makes it like the Nemesis system in Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, except this is far less fleshed out. It’s one of the game’s biggest missed opportunities. With any amount of personality ascribed to these mercenaries, it might have added something significant to the mindless murder, but instead it’s just another long chain of bodies.
The arena, by comparison to the rest, is fairly simple; fight waves of enemies in an arena and then kill their champion boss. The fights aren’t particularly different from what you do in the game world, but they do take place in an arena full of obstacles to avoid and exploit. There’s a story to this arena that’s worth seeing to the end, but that’s about it.
The least fun of these are the nation takeovers. You have to first lower national threat levels by infiltrating forts and destroying supplies, stealing their war chest, and killing their leadership. Then you can take to the battlefield in a mass combat scenario that’s a lot less fun than it sounds. It’s just a lot of the same combat except with more enemies on screen, and most of them are occupied in fighting other nameless soldiers that are on your side, until one of the two nations wins. Your influence is in killing enemy captains and heroes, which are just the same enemies except with more hitpoints. If you were on the winning side, you get a big reward of gear. If you were on the losing side, you still get some gear. It ultimately does not matter whether Athens or Sparta controls a region, so it’s really just another lost opportunity but maybe it’s commentary on the game world.
I highlight these power structures because they’re the vast majority of the game, and where it loses the most Assassin’s Creed flavor. The focus of these power structures is mostly built on killing the people at the top, which is what you’d expect an assassin to do, but you’re not playing an assassin. The word “assassin” might not ever be used in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Where Origins reduced the functionality of the “single-button murder” that was a staple of the series, it’s almost entirely removed in ACO. No longer does catching somebody by surprise and pressing the murder button kill them outright. For most non-fodder enemies, it only takes a large chunk off of their health. The satisfaction I derived from this game was looking out over an enemy infested fort, sneaking around to kill all of the fodder stealthily, and then getting the drop on the cultist, national leader, general I was there to kill and fighting them without backup because I killed all their backup. This is a formula Ubisoft has been building on since Far Cry 2. It’s still fun, but Assassin’s Creed used to make sneaking in and just killing that one target without engaging in mass murder feasible.
Another major change is the addition of dialog options. Sometimes, you can talk your way out of bad situations. None of these are influenced by your character’s stats, which are solely focused on how easily you can kill someone, so the choice of dialog often feels like a guessing game. ACO doesn’t pretend that these choices are particularly meaningful, except that at six points in the main plot they can influence which of the nine conclusions the story reaches. Even then, the results are largely the same but who comes to the end with you changes.
This is emblematic of ACO. It presents the illusion of choice, but there’s really not much choice at all. Your choices don’t have far reaching consequences for being a story largely centered around your character’s special bloodline. The game world is wide open but it’s a static thing. Killing one nation’s leader just results in another filling in their place. Killing one mercenary moves you up the ladder, but another mercenary fills in behind you. Random name, random traits, no personality. The only murders that count are those against the Cult of Kosmos, but even half of those are just faceless people. I found two of the last ones just sitting alone in the woods. It seems that as Assassin’s Creed has opened up the world over the course of the series, it has reduced the player’s impact on it. Prior games were more linear affairs that could do things like jump 20 years in the future, or kill major characters and show the impacts of those deaths. In ACO, no one’s death means anything. By the end of the game, my character’s actions have had no meaningful impact on the game’s world. Maybe it’s a direct contradiction of the game’s “chosen one” story, or maybe it’s commentary on the meta narrative of the series, which is that all of this is largely meaningless because this world has been simulated to completion. Ancient aliens solved all of this long ago and humanity is just going through the motions. The ones who thought they could change things were wrong.
In this Assassin’s Creed game, you are not an assassin, you’re not part of a group of assassins, and you hardly assassinate anyone. In most aspects, this game and Origins before it are unlike any others in the series, and they benefit from it in some ways, but calling them “Assassin’s Creed” is a misnomer. The game is still historical tourism, with appearances by famous Greeks such as Socrates, Leonidas, Herodotus, and Pericles, among others, but it’s otherwise an entirely different animal from the series that came before Origins. I look back on the 70ish hours I’ve spent in the game, and I enjoyed my time playing it, but it’s a sort of hollow enjoyment. This is a popcorn game, tasty but void of nutrition or substance.
Reference: Ubisoft. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Ubisoft, 2018)
Source: Purchased from Green Man Gaming.