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Assassin’s Creed Odyssey falls far short of its own wondrous sandbox – TechCrunch

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It’s hard to imagine a better demonstration of the state of AAA gaming today than Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, a game where the whole of the wine-dark Classical Aegean is available for you to ply with your oars — but which operates according to a risible, cartoonish video game logic that seems, if possible, even more anachronistic. Should you play it? Absolutely.

(Very minor spoilers ahead.)

In case you haven’t been following the Assassin’s Creed… well, odyssey, the last few years, the game took some time off following the lavishly produced but ambivalently received Unity and Syndicate games, set in revolutionary Paris and Victorian London, respectively. The series, critics said, was wearing itself a bit thin despite the fabulous set dressing.

You can imagine everyone’s surprise when AC returned in Origins, set in an enormous swathe of ancient Egypt. New systems nudged the game from the stealth action of its roots toward the expansive, open-world RPG currently in vogue. It was a little rough around the edges, but the scale was welcome, as was the shift away from the increasingly turgid Assassins versus Templars secret society scramble.

The news that the next game would take place in Ancient Greece at the time of the Peloponnesian War thrilled me to no end. I’ve always been a fan of the Classical era, Homer and Herodotus and Periclean Athens and all that. I’ll also admit to an unironic love of “300” and the story of Leonidas’s last stand — the graphic novel, not the movie, which was awful.

Are you kidding me? Look at this.

Here, then was that world brought to life with all the fidelity that Ubisoft’s hundreds of artists and modelers could bring, with a narrative combining secret societies with classical warfare, historical figures and high-seas adventure (I loved the pirate-themed AC Black Flag). On paper this is the greatest game ever to grace the screen.

And in a way, it is. Ubisoft’s rendering of the Classical world is so beautiful, so massive, so obviously a labor of love and skill and intensive research that I have spent much of my time in the game simply gawking.

The costumes! The statues! The landscapes! The light! It’s a feast of details at every location, from the idyllic backwater of Kephallonia, where your hero begins their story, to the sprawling, bustling Athens just approaching the zenith of its glory. I (that is to say, my character) walked past the Theatre of Dionysus in its construction, which I have visited in person (now ruined and restored, of course), and on up to the Acropolis, where I scaled the Parthenon and looked out over the tiled roofs under one of which, for all I know, I may find Plato sitting and writing The Symposium.

Seriously.

Then I meander to the harbor, board my black ship and split the seas to explore any of the islands in the entire Aegean — any of them. The whole Aegean! Well, most of it, anyway. Enough that you won’t ask for more. Here be mythical creatures, political machinations, stormy seas and sunny shanties.

The world that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey inhabits, I feel confident in saying, is the largest and most impressive that I have encountered, with special credit given for having to reflect reality to a certain extent, which is not a limitation shared by its eminent competition in the open-world genre, like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Breath of the Wild.

In my opinion, both as a gamer and a lover of antiquity, it is worth the price of admission to experience this world, to see and hear Ancient Greece in a way that was heretofore impossible, and simply to revel in the almost inconceivable level of craft that was so obviously put into this mind-boggling world.

And now, having made that judgment, I will proceed to trash the game I just recommended for about two thousand words.

The game itself

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the game itself, is embarrassing to play. The characters you interact with and the minute-by-minute gameplay are so uneven that I truly believe that Ubisoft simply didn’t have time to adequately play-test it. It feels like the game was just too big to run through once they’d made it so they just shipped. If someone from Ubisoft were sitting next to me as I played, I would expect them to be cringing constantly.

It’s an incredibly lopsided collection of old and new ideas, balanced and unbalanced systems, good and bad UI, intuitive and baffling combat, beautiful and repulsive graphics, and excellent and laughable voice acting. I haven’t finished the game, let alone all the side quests, but although I expect to encounter more good things as I go, the bad things were apparent pretty much from the first few minutes and haven’t abated.

The AI of the people in this game seems to have regressed 10 years to a simpler age. They are truly idiots all, from people on the street to elite soldiers.

Good old Adrastos the Logician, engaging in hand to hand combat.

One of the first things that happened when I got my horse and learned to have it follow a road was that it mowed down a few laborers. This, I found, would happen everywhere I went: every character in the game walks right in the center of the road and dives madly out of your way as you canter down it, screaming and cursing. Wild animals cluttered the road, and reacted confusedly as I approached, throwing themselves under the hooves of my steed, Phobos.

This was my first taste of what would become a theme. Why, I asked myself, wouldn’t these people just walk on the side of the road? The developers clearly accounted for horses riding down it, and have behaviors and barks for when that happens. But it’s so weird, so unrealistic, so video gamey. Surely in this lovingly rendered world it is not unusual for a horse to run down a mountain road? Why then do they behave in this way? Because the people were not created intelligently — it’s as simple as that. None of them.

I once emptied a military camp of guards and then set about looting the place. A woman was being held captive in a cage — not an uncommon thing to find — so I let her out. As she escaped, thanking me, I turned to take the items out of a nearby chest. The woman, mid-escape, screamed with rage at me for this theft, snatching a nearby spear and rushed me in righteous anger. What?

Perhaps I can’t expect every peasant to be a genius, but guards too (of all ranks) are unbelievably dense. They will step over the corpses of their fellow men to get to their post and not say a word. They will fail to hear the clashing of swords, or not notice a guy being violently flipped over and disemboweled, a matter of feet away. They will follow you one by one around corners where you can dispatch them individually and fail to see or care about the ever-widening pool of blood. They are as dumb as the dumbest guards from games that came out 10 years ago.

“Mother of Spiders”

Not much better are the much-ballyhooed mercenaries, who come after you if you do too many bad things. It’s not really clear what the bad things are, but eventually you’ll see a red helmet icon on your map and know you’ve been naughty. They’re basically guards with special weapons and a few characteristics like “weak to fire” or “takes 20 percent less ranged damage.” Technically they have backstories but you have to drill down to their description to find them, and by the time you’re doing that you’ve probably already killed them. You can recruit them for your ship, like you can recruit anyone, but they generally amount to stat bonuses with funny names like Demos the Drunk. He didn’t act drunk — just had a spear I wanted, so I took him out. I mean, the variation is welcome, but it’s nothing like, for example, the nemesis system in the Mordor series.

Combat is a real mix. You are no longer a fragile assassin who can be killed from a few good hits, but a powerful warrior with supernatural skills like instant mid-battle heals and teleportation. This is combat between equals, but your equals are generally stiff types with two or three attacks they repeat over and over, glowing a bright red or gold before doing so.

A slippery-feeling dodge system zips you through these attacks, or you can parry some of them, then slash away at your attacker. Some guards or targets, especially if they’re a level or two above you, will take minutes of patient slashing before they drop. I was sent on a hunt to kill a legendary boar that I gave up on after a couple minutes because I had only taken its health down by a quarter while not being hit myself.

Compared with other action RPGs it’s pretty listless stuff. More appealing is the stealth, which the fools of guards are obviously there to encourage, since you can empty a camp or fort of its occupants systematically and it can be quite satisfying. But with the perfect knowledge effected by scouting such a place with your eagle’s x-ray vision, it feels more like bullying than anything.

The Peloponnesian War is going on around you, though you’d be hard-pressed to notice most of the time. You don’t exactly take sides, since whatever area you’re in, your enemies are the ones in control. You can weaken the faction in power by various means and force a battle (a melee in which the combat, now against dozens, feels frustratingly sloppy), but ultimately the guards and camps feel much the same as one another — Spartans have different helmets from Athenians.

I thought at first this would be deeper than it is. I had looted a variety of armor pieces, several of which suggested I could use them to blend in among the Athenians whom I was at that moment working to undermine. So I donned them and headed to the nearest camp, hoping to walk about unsuspected, Hitman-style, sowing chaos by releasing caged animals and setting fire to supplies. Nope: I was immediately attacked on approaching the gate, before I’d even come in or done anything suspicious. The guard that had never seen me before apparently recognized me as the bloodthirsty mercenary who’d wiped out a camp a mile or so away, minutes earlier. No espionage for me.

It’s never really clear who you’re fighting or why, because the locations and people are just names. It doesn’t matter if they’re Athenian or Spartan, just that they’re the ones between you and the treasure chest. I guess that’s the life of a mercenary, but it doesn’t make you care a lot.

That was a quest?

The RPG elements, from gear to abilities, have almost no integration with the game itself. From the very beginning you can see your whole skill tree, including things involving the magic spear that you don’t yet know is magic. You gain new abilities and upgrade your ship not through interesting quests or meeting interesting people, but simply by spending points and resources.

When your ship’s captain says the hull ought to be upgraded, it’s not the start of a quest to find some cool big trees or visit his hometown where he left his ship-building tools and pals. It’s literally just a reminder to stock up on wood and iron and press the button to upgrade in the pause screen.

When you meet a talented carpenter whose brother is being held by bandits, it isn’t a quest to reunite these guys for a power team that enables a ship repair superpower. He just turns out to be a regular guy who increases your hull strength by a couple of percentage points.

Quests, talked up ahead of release as being fully voiced and emergent, as though you’re receiving a request from help from a needy merchant or the like, are nothing of the sort. Every one I’ve encountered so far has been a variant of: Kill these five wolves specifically. Kill these three Spartan elite guards specifically. Kill these bandits. Sink these ships.

Each has a flimsy justification (they’re blocking the road; they stole money from me) and are often atrociously acted. In one I found the quest giver asleep; he obligingly woke me up to say he wanted to take the fight to some bandits who had been demanding money from him. As soon as I agreed, those very bandits appeared not 10 feet away and instantly ran him through. Quest failed.

There are deeper side quests, to be sure. But the hundreds of quests you’ll see on quest boards or appearing randomly in the wild are like this, and rarely give more than a spritz of XP and gold. Sometimes you can recruit the quest-giver, though they might or might not be helpful on your crew.

I wish that they had taken the time and effort that went into creating 20 or 30 of these quests and made one single side quest with multiple steps, characters that mattered a bit, and provided substantial rewards like a new ability for your ship.

Even main story quests, such as the targets you’ll be taking on, can be disappointingly shallow. You’re supposed to be following threads and clues, but several are just handed to you: Here’s some lady. Here’s her exact location. Go kill her. No dialogue, no footwork, no alternatives. Stab this person and take their shiny thing. Shouldn’t I at least try to get some information out of her? Why isn’t there even a death cut scene like in so many of the other games?

The writing is hit and miss. The main story and its immediate side quests are fine — I’m perhaps 25 hours in and I’m interested to see where it’s going, even if it’s not particularly surprising. And it helps that the writing and voices for the main characters are leaps and bounds above the rest.

I chose to play as Kassandra, as opposed to Alexios, for a lot of reasons. And I love her. She’s well-acted, her writing is funny and occasionally realistic, and I like that she is indistinguishable from her male alternative in every way. Your companions, especially Herodotos and your exuberant captain Barnabas, are great.

Yet other characters are ridiculous: badly written, worse acted. Even major ones. I remember one exchange with a soon-to-be-target who was pressuring me to torture some poor sap. His voice acting was so bad, especially compared to his interlocutor Kassandra’s, that I was laughing out loud. He was far from the only example of this.

Games like The Witcher 3 have spoiled us on the quality of the writing and quests, but that should be a new bar to meet, not a high-water point. It’s sad that Ubisoft hasn’t upped its game here, so to speak; it feels like 90 percent of the game I’ve played so far is purely mechanical, and even at its best it sits like a layer of butter spread thinly across an enormous Greek piece of toast. But what toast!

It’s tantalizing to see how good a game like this could be, only to be let down again and again with elements that would feel out of date 10 years ago. I’m having a great time when I’m not shaking my head at it, and enjoying the scenery when I’m not being attacked by one of the evidently 50,000 bears out for my blood in the Classical world.

As I wrote earlier, to me it is worth buying just for the good parts. But as someone who cares about games and loves the idea of this one, I can’t help but observe how dated and baffling it is at the same time. It doesn’t live up to the world it was created to inhabit, but that world is practically a complete game in itself, and one that I immediately loved.

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Sweet Tooth is hopeful post-apocalyptic fare—but beware its Walking Dead vibes

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The trailer for Sweet Tooth.

Netflix’s new fantasy series, Sweet Tooth, first looks like a crudely fictionalized version of 2020. A disease colloquially referred to as The Sick spreads rapidly among humans while overwhelming infrastructure, grinding daily life to a halt, and racking up a body count. When this story begins, society tries to put itself together again. An unnamed narrator calls it “The Great Crumble.”

This disaster, however, can’t be contained even to the extent of COVID-19. No cure or vaccination has been discovered, so most humans opt to live in isolation either as individuals or as disease-free groups. This withdrawal has allowed nature to essentially step into the void—animals previously only seen in a zoo roam free, and landscapes grow out in full to replenish what society previously destroyed for resources.

Oh, and in Sweet Tooth, the next generation of kids appears to include half-animal/half-human individuals called Hybrids. The ratio of column A to column B varies—some talk, some don’t; many look like traditional kids with small animal features; all retain abilities like heightened hearing or smell—but no one seems to know anything for sure. Why did this evolution happen? How many are there? And, most pertinent, what makes Hybrids immune to The Sick? In the face of all that mystery, some portions of this new world look at Hybrids as a hopeful evolution of humanity, a group of individuals society should protect and help thrive. Others, though, see Hybrids as a hindrance to humanity getting past The Sick and returning to normalcy. In particular, Hybrids’ immunity to The Sick has swaths of this new world curious about whether their DNA can be harvested for treatment or prevention.

In the middle of this whole mess sits Gus, a deerboy Hybrid who simply lived a quiet life in an isolated Yellowstone cabin with his father until, well, you can probably see where this is headed. Luckily, that predictability doesn’t make the journey ahead any less fun.

Grin, grim, grin again

So, our Tom Sawyer-loving deerkid has to set off on a country-traversing adventure of his own, and throughout, he’ll encounter numerous individuals with unknown motives who may want him dead or may partner up to become a found family of sorts. I watched a large portion of the series with a teen sibling, and needless to say they were able to call out many of the individual episode’s twists and turns. Sweet Tooth covers a lot of well-worn movie and TV territory, but it will still likely have you in for the long haul if you’re fond of any of the numerous kids-versus-the-world adventures of yore (from The Goonies to Harry Potter).

That said, I was amused by the series’ unique approach to some common aspects of its intersecting genres (kid adventure, post-apocalypse). When Gus and his first new partymate (a former football player turned hunter/assassin named Tommy Jeppard, aka Big Man) inevitably encounter a militarized group of people, that community isn’t full of former cadets or marines. Instead, this amateur army learned its tactics because they were previously a devoted group of friends who played games like Overwatch or Halo. And the scientists who remain and must sort out this disease mess aren’t former government lab jockeys; they used to be regular-old medical care providers. They very much continue to grapple with the trauma of watching all these patients of The Sick deteriorate as this new world asks them to step up and lead, so these docs have their humanity in tact rather than operating only with some “anything for the greater good” mentality.

It would be very, very easy for Sweet Tooth to become too dark, too emotionally heavy, or too tiresome for viewers who have lived some of this stuff IRL in the last 16 months. Again and again, the show gave me flashbacks to when I used to follow The Walking Dead, which I had quit watching entirely after hours and hours of despair. Like TWD, Sweet Tooth has our heroes going through cycles where they encounter many different groups of people who initially seem nice and helpful only to reveal themselves to be something else later on, often with tragic results. (When will people in TV and film learn that there may be no scarier, more dangerous place than white picket fence-lined suburban neighborhoods? Sigh.) In another notable zombie-brains-show similarity, the bad guys (whether that’s a disease or a disassociated lunatic military man) seem to come out on top more often than not, at least in these first eight episodes.

Despite that, Sweet Tooth never veers entirely into ruin porn or nihilism. Mostly, that’s because of its central figure. Unlike Rick Grimes (The Walking Dead), June (Handmaid’s Tale), or many other characters existing in an apocalyptic new reality, Gus is still a kid. The world hasn’t beaten him down into expecting the worst all the time, and his general optimism and wonder keep this story feeling light enough despite many gut punches along the way. Sweet Tooth‘s source comic wrapped in 2013, and production on this Netflix series began long before COVID-19 took over. The creative team had already made a few decisions to tone down the bleakness of the source material, and the benefits of those choices are only amplified by the context viewers bring to the show in summer 2021.

I have yet to actively seek out any pandemic-related pop culture. Maybe my appetite for it will eventually change, though let’s revisit that in a decade. But given how all-encompassing this ongoing global situation has been, of course you can’t help but consume some of it, even by accident. For me, the stuff that works so far has had some degree of optimism or hope underneath the adversity, chaos, and tragedy. The risotto episode of How to With John Wilson, for instance, includes overrun grocery stores and scenes from hospitals, but it ends by underscoring our need for human interaction and the newly realized immense value in it.

On the surface, Sweet Tooth isn’t about the pandemic at all. This show is for teens, and it is not subtle about hammering home a central idea regarding humanity’s role in destroying our planet through climate change and an insatiable thirst for more. However, the show’s plot prominently features a worldwide pandemic, making it impossible to not think about that through the lens of these eight episodes. Ultimately, Sweet Tooth points to a few positive messages amid the disease darkness.

First, don’t be jerks to the youngest generation. We don’t yet know how this will impact them, and they are the future who will unravel this mess and navigate its lasting impact. Additionally, pushing forward necessitates extending kindness to others. The weight of the world is emotionally on everyone’s shoulders (if not physically, to a large extent). And when it’s impossible to know when your next event, trip, family reunion, or whatever thing you look forward to will happen, some other kind of hope must exist for you to believe in if you want any chance at emotional and mental survival. Gus gives that hope to admittedly broken-down individuals like Big Man, and it’s easy to imagine him spreading that optimistic outlook wider in S2 given the pessimistic way things wrap this time around.

Traditionally, summer always felt like a dumping ground for networks to try unusual things as people vacation or generally get out more; bigger series headliners tend to wait for fall returns or premieres accordingly (see Y: The Last Man or The Foundation in 2021). But recent years have seen surprises emerge at the end of spring and become their own critical darlings (HBO’s Los Espookys) or megafranchises (Stranger Things). Whether Sweet Tooth can travel the same surprise path to stardom remains to be seen, but it’s at least nice to have a new show worth following as we enter another summer where travel might be complicated (though, mercifully, not as complicated as it is in Sweet Tooth).

Listing image by Kirsty Griffin / Netflix © 2021

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Test out next-gen space tech in Kerbal Space Program

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Most games lose relevance after a few years, but the indie rocket-building game Kerbal Space Program is a bit different. It’s a glitchy, 10-year-old underdog of a game with a cult following of programmers, engineers, astronaut candidates, and your typical lay explosion enthusiasts, and it has a unique and active community of modders who’ve been fixing bugs, adding new features, and generally keeping the game fresh for nearly a decade.

In the game, you are the omniscient director of a space program composed of literal little green men (and beloved little green woman Valentina Kerman—we see you, trailblazer) that you send skyward in spacecraft of your own design. It often feels like watching those blurry old videos of rockets launching only to come straight back down in an explosion of fiery schadenfreude: you feel a little bit frightened, a little bit sadistic, and you really want to try it again.

Art imitates life

One of the most prolific Kerbal modders is Chris Adderley, Nertea in the game, who is an engineer at the Canadian space company MDA by day, designing ground-based systems that retrieve data from spacecraft. But in his off time, Adderley gets into the pilot’s seat himself. He started playing Kerbal Space Program soon after its release, and in 2013 started building his first mod for the game—a pack of spare parts, including a xenon fuel tank and a magnetoplasmadynamic thruster (just try saying that three times fast).

Since then, he’s designed dozens of additional mods, including a Mark IV Spaceplane and space station add-ons like centrifuges and inflatable habitats.

“I build stuff that I’d like to see us as a species build in the future,” says Adderley.

Recently, Addlerley decided to take some of the most plausible far-future theoretical rocket engine concepts and build them in the game—introducing a way for gamers to try out these sci-fi concepts in a simulated environment that can teach us how they might actually work, on a more practical level, in the future.

Adderley combed through dozens of scientific papers that outlined theoretical blueprints for these ultra-advanced propulsion systems, looking for those that were most realistic.

“Everybody tries to sell their project as the propulsion system of the future,” says Adderley. “You need to kind of think a little bit critically about what people have hand waved.”

He crunched the numbers, considered how much power a specific engine would need, how to deal with the heat produced, and how you’d harness the energy to propel the virtual rocket further. “That was superfun, which might be a supernerdy statement, but you know.”

In the end, he built out 13 different engine concepts, including fusion engines—like The Expanse‘s Epstein drive is theorized to be—fission engines, and antimatter rockets.

Though we don’t yet have the technology to implement these specific-impulse demons, there is some real world value in being able to simulate advanced engines in a low-stakes environment. In fact, it’s such a great sandbox that engineers at SpaceX and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have used Kerbal graphics in their presentations. In 2018, NASA released Open MCT, a telemetry data visualization software designed for operating spacecraft, to the public on Github. It’s costly and time-consuming to test these systems on real spacecraft, so some participants ran their programs through Kerbal instead.

For Sumontro Sinha, an aerospace engineer and fusion researcher at the Propulsion Research Lab at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Kerbal is the go-to for testing out new ideas and training new engineers.

“Instead of Powerpoint slides and pages of equations, just make the ship and see how it works,” he says. “If it works in Kerbal, then it has a good chance of working in real life.”

Donut power

The spherical tokamak fusion engine is based on the fictional spaceship in 2001: A Space Odyssey, sans HAL the killer AI. Adderley found the actual science behind it in a NASA study, in which the paper’s lead author, Craig Williams, says NASA funded a number of projects focused on developing advanced propulsion systems. Williams’ team designed an engine that uses the energy produced by a fusion reaction to generate thrust. Fusion occurs naturally in the interior of stars like our sun, where lightweight atoms are superheated to the point where their electrons and neutrons decouple and neutrons, normally repellant to one another, fuse together and produce massive amounts of energy. One of the biggest challenges in producing this energy on Earth is that you need a way to confine the resultant plasma and harness its power.

One way to do this is with a tokamak, a device that generates a donut-shaped magnetic field that keeps the superheated plasma in place. In Williams’ engine prototype, this tokamak would be nearly spherical—more like a donut hole. The exhaust produced would propel the vehicle to over 166,000 mph, taking passengers to Jupiter in just under 4 months. To put that into perspective, the deep space probe Voyager is traveling away from our solar system at 35,000 mph.

When Williams’ paper came out in 2001, the authors wrote that the capability to produce this type of engine might be 30 years out. Now that it’s 2021, Williams is revising his estimate. “We’re probably not any closer,” he says. His paper came out in an era of enthusiasm for advanced propulsion, but much of that zeal has waned until recently. “You can’t really make much progress when there’s no active program going on, “ he says. “Until you start the clock again, that 30-year projection will just keep moving forward.” Bummer. But in the decades between now and humanity’s era of two-week Saturn vacations, you can still try out your own digital version of Williams’ engine.

Ride the nuclear lightning

The Afterburner fission fragment rocket engine is based on another NASA-funded engine concept study from 2011 that utilizes the energy created in nuclear reactions to propel a spacecraft forward. Reactors filled with Americium, a highly radioactive rare material that is a byproduct of uranium-driven nuclear reactions, generate fission products that flow down a chamber. This chamber is injected with hydrogen gas, which gets intensely excited when it meets up with the fission fragments and generates a plasma that is funneled through a powerful magnetic nozzle as thrust.

With this breakthrough, a round trip to Mars would take 292 days, including a 60-day stay on the planet. While the engine is slower overall than a fusion engine would be, it’s far closer to what we’re technologically capable of at present.

“The nuclear thermal rocket is a technology that is getting developed, and it’s already been demonstrated,” says Jason Cassibry, who leads the Propulsion Research Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In April, DARPA selected three contractors to demonstrate the first phase of a nuclear thermal rocket, and NASA and the DOE put out a call for similar preliminary designs in February. Cassibry says fission fragment and nuclear pulse engines are not far behind, but they have additional engineering hurdles to face, including figuring out how to divert all that energy away from the hull of the spacecraft so it doesn’t burn up in space.

This story originally appeared on wired.com.

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Arcade1Up pinball cabinet review: Fine for families, interesting for modders

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Enlarge / Say hello to the Arcade1Up Attack From Mars physical pinball cabinet. The chassis is physical; its games are all virtual. Read below to understand what the heck that means.

Sam Machkovech

If you’re of a certain generation, chances are you have imagined (or, at this point in your adulthood, built) your own home arcade that resembles something out of the golden ’80s era. One useful path to making this a reality, especially in tighter quarters, is the “multicade,” an invention that squishes multiple games into a single cabinet.

But what if your old-school gaming dreams revolve around something bigger and bulkier, particularly pinball? Until recently, your options were either buying a bunch of original pinball cabinets or building your own ground-up emulation solution. And the latter is complicated by the realities of how pinball plays and feels.

I’ve wondered how long it would take for that to change in the gaming-nostalgia market, especially as companies like Arcade1Up produce and sell more multicade cabinets for home use. The time for change is now, evidently, thanks to a handful of manufacturers producing pinball multicades. Arcade1Up in particular launched three distinct pinball emulation cabinets this year, each revolving around a different license.

Thanks to Arcade1Up, I’ve gone hands-on with arguably the most interesting product in its 2021 pinball line: a collection of 10 classic tables, all created by Williams during its arcade heyday but emulated for more convenient home play. What exactly does $600 get you in terms of emulation and build quality?

Time to get Mad and Medieval

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