Assassin's Creed - Like, Dude, it's Cool
After two years of hype I finally got to play through Assassins Creed. A game that has surprisingly refined controls if you ask me. It feels like Spider-man meets Prince of Persia with a little GTA thrown in for good measure. But it doesn’t outright copy any single part of those titles. And those parts add up to something great. It has flaws but I feel like the game is owed something positive after being criticized for repetition. There’s not another game like it around. You can’t say that very often. Usually every game gets compared to ever other game.
Assassins Creed starts out almost disappointingly as far as my expectations went for the story. I avoided spoilers for a long time so I went into it with screenshots of a roof jumping guy during the crusades literally burned into my mind….And then I started a new game. I’m a guy in the future, in a hooded sweater, beside a mind reading machine bed called the Animus. His name is Desmond. My initial reaction is pretty shocked. Already the game has let me down by fooling me into thinking it was something else. How often does the idea of the future with flashbacks work? It’s just so rare in any form entertainment. It’s a clunky way of telling any cohesive story and comes off as goofy.
So I hear this old man talking about a bunch of science and blah. And the woman named Lucy going on about whatever. Then I start the real game I had read about. It begins pretty slow for an action game. And one of my bigger complaints throughout the game is prevalent here. I’m the guy that skips cut-scenes when I know they’re pointless. The intro is just that. You know your little village in the hills is under attack. Then you get to listen to the “mentor” in the story tell you a bunch of things. The game has fairly cryptic dialogue so it makes it hard to pay attention. I have trouble with slow pacing. It’s a grey area because you want the player to know the story, and you don’t want anything to be missed. But at the same time, it’s almost fan service for over half the cut-scenes. The basic plot is outlined and in-between there’s just so much information that ultimately leads you nowhere.
Then you do a bunch of stuff, and finally get to leave Masyaf. The horse riding mechanics are pretty bad. Tank control bad. Connecting each of the four major cities is a place called The Kingdom and it’s just a bunch of snaking roads with ruins spread out. Up to this point I wasn’t impressed. It was when I got to that the game finally lived up to what it promised. It’s the first city you go to and after you scale that first tall building to find targets you realize the potential. Each wall is like its own puzzle when you climb it. Finding ledges and areas to grab, etc.
The three major cities, , , and , have three separate districts. Poor, Middle, and Rich. And each district has a set of investigations, free missions (saving a citizen/lookouts), and an assassination target. You find the headquarters in each city for mission briefings. This is where that repetition comes in. You talk to the guy, he tells you to find more info, and you go out to perform 2-3 required investigations. Those involve Pick-pocketing, interrogations, and listening in on conversations. Then you get to the assassination. That’s it. So when people talk about repeating things, that’s why. You do the same 2-3 investigations nine times. Nine targets, divided into three districts of three cities. It’s that simple.
And that’s where I disagree with all the negativity because you have to look beyond that. For one, the game is gorgeous. The graphics are jaw-dropping. I never encountered frame-rate issues. Everything looks so darn good. Each city has its own architecture which leads to its own challenges. When I said climbing a wall was like a puzzle, it’s also a new puzzle for every city. In for example, there’s a lot of brick walls that can’t be climbed, like a fortress. But in it feels a little older and there are cracks in the walls, more ledges, etc. And I think that’s part of the difficulty increasing. Instead of easy, normal, and hard it’s done through AI awareness and the city architecture. Even the separate districts look significantly different from each other. Poor districts tend to have more places to grab onto because of deterioration and wear.
Climbing is as simple as holding a button and navigating the wall. Altair is so easy to control you feel like you can do anything. He’s nimble and fast. You choose to be stealthy or violent to get any job done. You have a sword, throwing knives (I loved those), a short blade, and a retractable knife under your sleeve. With the retractable knife, the animations are pretty awesome. You walk up behind somebody and push the assassination button. Altair then takes care of business. It just rules. You can drop guys in the streets without anyone noticing. There’s also a combo system. It works the same as the counter system, in which you press X immediately after making contact with an enemy sword. It’s timing basically. Makes a one hit kill and saves time.
I defend the repetition because there’s a huge difference between doing things over and over, and having fun doing it. Here, I was repeating missions but they were fun, especially attempting them in different environments. It might have been a market, a dock, or a castle. It made for different ways of executing the objective. And that’s most of the game.
So after you get to the ninth mission it slows down again. Reaching that point I felt like I would be finishing up soon. Little did I know there was about two hours of game left! This was the other huge issue. The game drags on. I was forced to jump through hoops battling off waves of enemies trying to reach the “true” final assassination. It’s there you find out that these templars (nine of them, plus one spoiler character) found something in that first temple and it’s the Piece of Eden. You kill the spoiler character and activate the piece. It reveals a map showing where the pieces are around the world. This is what Abstego industries has been looking for, and why they kidnapped Desmond. Since Desmond’s ancestor, Altair, had seen where they were located. The game ends on a huge cliffhanger. The Templars are actually the founders of Abstego industries and are looking for the pieces. If you wait around the end of the game long enough you can go into Desmonds room, use eagle vision, and see markings on his wall. The markings are for a Mayan date predicting the end of the world. Very cool.
It’s a pretty great game. I listened to a pod-cast recently. One of the lead developers from Uncharted: Drakes Fortune was on. And she had mentioned that Assassin's Creed gave the player too much freedom. And that when you’re in a cut-scene you can walk around and that removes you from the game. I tend to agree with her on that and a few other choices they made. The basic premise has laid the groundwork for a wonderful franchise and these little complaints will be fixed in the future.