Review by Bkstunt_31
"Oh, the wasted potential!"
Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles is a prequel to the console version of Assassin's Creed. Since I enjoyed the console version so much, I had to get the Nintendo DS prequel. Did it live up to my expectations? More importantly, will it live up to yours?
The original Assassin's Creed story featured a modern day protagonist who had to relive his ancestor's (Altair's) actions in order for a mysterious organization to find out what had happened to a particular object that they wanted. This game features Altair in an unknown amount of time before the first game took place. In it, he is asked to find the same object that was being sought after in the first game, an object which can influence the minds of men and must be destroyed. It leads Altair through Acre and Jerusalem, as well as through a few new locations.
So it has ties to the first game, as well as new locations, so why the low score? Well, that's simple: the story isn't very good. At no point in the game does it ever tie into the original protagonists (one of the first game's best story-related aspects), nor do I see how it even leads into the original game either. In fact, the only tie-ins would be the "same person" in the form of Altair and the locations. There is very little real story in the game at all, and it feels more like just a small dose of platforming action instead of a true title. The few characters that WERE introduced were boring and cliche'. The only part I really liked was the little quips Altair would say just after stealth-killing someone ("Be quite, can't you hear the angels singing?"). The story's quality is just plain poor, leading me to wonder to myself if they are just making this game for a quick cash-in on a now popular series. If they are, that's just one of the WORST things a developer can do...
Game play: 6/10
As I said before, the game feels like little more than just a small dose of platforming action. The original featured huge cities full of things to discover and places to climb. In this game, you are strung along pre-determined paths with no discovery whatsoever. In fact, there are arrows that constantly point to where you need to go, which are largely unnecessary since you can't really travel off your beaten path anyways. At least the famous Prince of Persia/Assassin's Creed platforming is somewhat present, but unfortunately this is both a blessing and a curse. The actions that Altair can preform are all straight from the original, and usually function decently but can be so frustrating at times when you try to do something and Altair does something differently. All of these frustrating moments will occur when not doing the selected action will lead to death, meaning you WILL find yourself replaying certain parts of the game over and over and over. Thankfully, there are so many save points that the length of these frustrating sections will be relatively short, though that doesn't excuse the death-bringing bad game mechanics. In fact there was one point of the game where I didn't even get past it how I was supposed to, since the game mechanics didn't seem to want me to (I ended up glitching past it somehow). Inexcusable, really. I really expected more from this title, considering how grand the original game was.
As far as fighting goes, it pretty much consists of hitting an attack button until the enemies die. Very original and intuitive, no? As you progress through the game, you'll learn more moves and even get new items, and you can even upgrade your health and sword. Now, the combo moves are okay, but the items/new weapons are pretty much worthless, and are only present for a few novelty uses (go back to mashing the attack button). Also, the ultra-cool counter kills from the original are pretty much non-exsistant here. Well, there goes one of the coolest features of the first game! Also it is worth noting that another thing that turned the first game into a classic, chasing down a mark and hunting and/or assassinating them, is completely taken out of this title (which is a pity, to be sure). What we are ultimately left with is some sub-par platforming action from a very acrobatic Altair.
The graphics are decent, really, for the DS. The characters are of course rather blocky, but really not any more than some other high-budget 3D titles (such as Final Fantasy III). However, each city looked exactly like every other city, even though the original showed us how different they can be. The lack of detail and variety is pretty bad. On top of that, there was a certain point in the game where my character disappeared entirely! How is that even possible nowadays? Do they not test these games? Maybe they should hire me to catch their bugs for them (Or maybe they shouldn't rush out their games)!
The animations were pretty darn smooth, actually, which is impressive since the backgrounds, story, and game play have all disappointed me, You do have to press buttons well ahead of time in order for Altair to pull of the combo that you want him to, though, so I guess you could say that the game isn't the most responsive. Fairly average, overall.
Music/Sound Effects: 7/10
The music is fairly standard: it features a mixture of classical middle-eastern style sounds which you've undoubtedly heard before if you've played other Ubisoft titles like the first game or the Prince of Persia series. The music is pretty comforting, actually, which is nice. The alert music is more dramatic to keep up with the pace of battle. The sound effects are completely average, sounding exactly like you would expect, but it was still nice to hear an enemies death cry.
Upon completing the game, you can go through it again in another difficulty (whoopee!), and that's about it. You can also replay certain chapters and partake in some training, but other than that once you've beat it the first time, there's really no reason to play again. I should also note that the game was rather short, but not too short, as it took me a couple of sit-downs to get through it (though that could be due to having to repeat certain sections over and over).
Overall, a pretty depressing title. I really did hope it could do better, the original was so good. The thrill of the chase and the kill is taken out entirely, and you're left with some sub-average platforming. Hopefully this means that they are putting all of their talent towards another great console title, so let's hope so, because as it is this title FEELS like little more than a cash-in. If you have to, this game was pretty hard for me to find, but I ended up picking it up brand new at Walmart's budget section (that should tell you something about it right there). I would recommend trying to pay even less to get it used, if you could. Have fun and keep playing.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 09/25/08, Updated 04/11/11
Game Release: Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles (US, 02/05/08)
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