I’m doing this a little late (Review day is technically Sunday, but I totally missed that). This week I’m reviewing Assassin’s Creed. Andriy was so kind as to lend it to me for the holidays so it’s only fair that I jot down my thoughts about it. Assassin’s Creed was released in mid-hype under the cover of lots of other mainstream releases. Although it came out on the PS3, I always associated it with the Xbox as part of the great bunch of games which came out in those heydays of 2007 (Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, Unreal Tournament 3, the Orange Box). However, it slipped under my radar as just another mainstream game. Although it was very popular, here’s something which set it out from the crowd: it’s not a First-Person-Shooter. I’ll explain later but the gameplay is simply unique.
You play as Desmond, a bartender who gets kidnapped by an evil scientist and told to use a machine called the ‘Animus’ to relive his descendant’s DNA memory. The DNA bit is a bit dubious, but it serves the game very well by providing a framework in which the game exists. You load memories and if you are attacked you lose synchronization with your ancestor’s memory. As it happens, your ancestor (Altair) was overconfident on one of his missions and got one of his fellow assassins killed and cocked-up the mission. As a consequence, he starts all over again as a novice. The (medieval) story is set in the Arabic empire in the midst of a war between Salah-al-din and King Richard the Lionheart. This gives rise to many rich and ‘diverse’ environments. There are various militias – German, French, Engliah and Arabic. They inhabit different cities. Wear different costumes. Speak diffrent languages. But the main thing is that they all bear the same weapons and they all want you dead. You exist on neither side of the war – your job is to kill templars and assasinate tyrants.
To carry out assasinations you must go through a standard set of challenges: Pickpocket some plans from an unwary soldier, carry out a side assasination for an informer, beat up and interrogate significant figures in the street. Once you have completed the standard set of tasks you go to a set lcation, watch a cutscene in which your target makes a speech then run after him and stab him. All this is incredibly mundane and repetitive, after the fourth assasination you get the lurching feeling that you’re just going through the motions. The game is broken up by side-quests such as ‘save citizen’ which just consists of exactly that, murdering a gaggle of young soldiers who were helping an old lady with her shopping in order to spawn a vigilante troop of brutish thugs to protect you from the forces of law and order. The second type of side-quest isn’t really a quest, you just climb a tall building and look around, this fills in blank sections of your map. The fighting becomes totally useless after you gain the ablity to block-and-counter attack because then the only thing necessary is to hold down Right Trigger and occasionally press X.
Do not fear however because this is still a really really good game, the entertaining aspects are just lost among other useless things. When I said earlier that the gameplay was unique – I meant it. Altair switches from free-roam sandbox to RPG levelling up, going on quests and earning new weapons/abilities, he uses platforming and a parkour engine to escape enemies in death-defying chases and he engages in epic fights which have some small similarity with Prince of Persia. Now looking back at it, I wonder if Ubisoft Montreal diverted the team that made Prince of Persia: Sands of Time to make Assassin’s creed. The two games are uncannily similar. One of the most entertaining things to do is to simply start a fight and then run crazily through the town and gather a good 15-20 soldiers on your heels. Then take to the roofs and fight them from increasingly higher ground. If the fight gets too much for you, there’s always the option to turn and run. It gets your adrenaline pumping like it should. Oh, and another reason to like this game is because it was made in French Canada by a French company. But, that’s just me.
At the time of writing, Assassin’s Creed 2 has been announced and details are leaking out bit by bit. Here’s what I think Ubisoft Montreal should do in Assassin’s Creed 2:
- Follow Prince of Persia’s storyline and have Altair get a nervous breakdown and return as a depressive who recites dark poetry and cuts himself.
- The ability to go completely invisible.
- Set it in 18th Century French Canada and have Altair assasinate the English tyrants.
- Assassination by long-range crossbow.
- Assassination by poisoning the target’s food/drink.
- Have Altair learn karate.
Montreal is also a castle in Jordan. Mt. Royal.
In light of all this, Assassin’s Creed receives a: