Review by Drac_Mazoku
"If Sonic was an Assassin..."
For those who have finished Assassin's Creed II on X-Box 360 or PS3, you know that Ubisoft left a large gap of years toward the end of the game. The reason? Well to create side stories of course. So we received two DLC for the main game. But Griptonite Games also created a DS game to fit in this time period. Unlike their other Assassin's Creed game, Assassin's Creed Bloodlines on PSP, Discovery is not trying to copy its big brother. Instead we get a 2D platformer game starring Ezio. Does it works? Well, read to find out.
The game takes place between the first and second DLC of the main game (which mean between Sequence 12 and 13). The Templars, still under the lead of Borgia, is trying to prevent Christopher Columbus in his project to find the New World. While this problem does not concern Ezio at first, when he learned that a false Inquisition is taking place in Spain to capture and kill his fellow assassins, Ezio will then leave Italy to save them, while protecting Christopher from time to time, and ultimately, stop the conspiracy created by Borgia.
The game, being a small side-story, does not show as much in terms of historical representation of 15th century Europe. But still, it managed to include some historical figures and events, and because of that, we always feel that the story is really more mature than the standard DS game. There's not a lot of development and no big surprise though, which is a shame. Overall, we learn nothing new about Ezio story, and nothing new also about the Templars, and their mystical search of the Pieces of Eden. So if you want a game that will make you learn more about the Assassin's Creed secret Lore, this is not the game for you. Overall I gave the story a score of :
One of the less important point for me in a game. But I admit that Discovery graphics really amazed me. The whole world, while being on a 2D plane, is in 3D. There's enough details on the characters and the environment, and the animation is really fluid, which is really amazing on the DS. When you assissinate someone without him seeing you, there's always a big close-up like in the console Assassin's Creed.
If I have to say one bad thing about the graphics though is the fact that everything look...soul-less. I can't say why, but as I was playing the game, almost all the stages looked really depressing, and they, most of the time, looked all the same. Either you're in a city (Italy and Spain cities looks identical mostly), either you're in a building or underground maze. There's very few variation outside of that outside the bonus room and maybe one or two stage outside the cities. So yes, while the graphics are really something, they're not the most attractive to look at, only because of the setting of the game unfortunately.
Almost all the music is taken directly from the console Assassin's Creed. Yes the quality is not as good, but still quite an accomplishment in itself. Though, like most modern game, the music is more about the atmosphere than real melody. It does the job, but nothing really stand-out for me (I miss the 8-bits days, where there was tons of limitation, so composer had to create catchy melody instead).
The sound in itself does the job too. You'll know when you're using your hidden blade, when you're slashing with your sword, when you're climbing a wall, no problem. The main attraction here though is the voice. For a plateformer game, there's a lot of line of text, and EVERY LINE has been voiced over. From the Animus training mission voice, to Ezio, and all the NPC, you don't have to read one line if you don't want to (except the mission objective). And the actors all do a great job in my opinion. Only for such a feat, I gave the sound a score of :
Ok, here's the core of the game. Assassin's Creed II: Discovery is, like I said, a plateformer game. You run and you jump. That's the basic of it. Though, when I say, you run, you really run. I mean we're talking Sonic the Hedgehog speed here. And when I say you jump, you also REALLY jump. A lot of time, you'll be on the roof-top, and you'll be making crazy jump to go from one to an other. And since the controls are very tight, you'll have no problem to navigate through the stage.
But since this is an Assassin's Creed game, there's a few catch. First, you can jump on any wall of the game, and climb them. so you can easily explore the stage horizontally, but also vertically. Also you can have a deeper battle engine than most platforming game. At heart it's still very basic, but we're not talking jumping on enemies a la Mario or Sonic. In all stages, there's guards to kill. The main way to kill them is to push the attack button next to them when they don't see you (when you see their back), which mean instant-kill with your hidden blade. If they see you, then you'll use your sword to kill them. Basically, you can either block or attack. If you push the attack button quickly a lot of times, you can do combo. But the main way to kill a lot of them is to counter, which you do by holding the block button, and then pushing the attack button just before an enemy attacks you. Finally, you have one last weapon you gain later on, which is the throwing dagger. Like the name imply, it's a long range weapon that you use to kill enemies from a distance. Overall, it's really simple, but it does the job, and goes beyond simple plateformer.
Finally, you'll have 3 kind of missions. First there's the "normal" mission. Basically, you have a goal, you need to reach it by any mean and that's it. Then come the stealth mission. In those, if you're seen by guards 4 times, you fail and need to restart from the beginning (or to a checkpoint). So you need to either kill the guards without being seen, or hid yourself in various place. The main drawback of this is that you lose the great feeling of speed this game has. Finally, my favorite kind of mission, the one where the only thing you need to do is run as fast as you can without stopping. It comes often with a rain of arrows and a time limit, so you can't stop and need to react to everything quickly. This is where the game is at its best.
Now I have three negative points to bring. First, there's no boss battle...at all!!! Not even at the end of the game. I know Assassin's Creed is not about big boss battle, but it felt weird in a plateformer game to not at least have 1 or 2 stage presenting you a different enemy that you need to kill in a different way. Second, the use of the mini-map. At the bottom of the screen you have a mini-map. This only show the guards and the direction they're looking, nothing else. A view of the building would have been great. A lot of times, I tried to kill a guard from a distance while throwing a dagger, only to hear the sound of my dagger hitting a wall I couldn't see on the map. Finally, some of the stage design can be flawed. You don't see much what's below you, and when you run at full speed, you will sometimes make a small mistake because it's clearly impossible to know what's coming ahead, which can lead to instant death when you're falling from too high.
But those 3 things are quickly overlooked, and then fun still stay. So overall I gave the gameplay a :
Finishing the main game is not very long. There's 33 basic stage, and while some of the later one may ask for a few tries, overall with some time, everyone can do it. Where the game really shine is in it's replay value. To finish it 100% it will take a while. Here's a list of things you can do:
-In every stage, you'll be rated according the time it took you to finish it, number of guards killed and the number of damage taken. You'll get a score between 0 and 100. Getting a 100 on every stage add a lot of replayability
-Each score you obtained in the stages add up, and the more points you have, the more thing you unlock. This goes from new difficulty modes, new costumes and new abilities
-In addition to the 33 basic stage, there's 10 bonus ones, which will test many of your abilities. To unlock those, you'll need to fully explore the regular stage to find hidden map. Each map will unlock a stage.
-Finally, you start the game with 5 Health bars. You can upgrade that by ripping wanted posters hidden in the game. 10 wanted posters give you 1 more Health bar. By myself, I found 50 posters, which give you a big total of 10 health bars, I don't know if there's more.
So as you can see, there's a lot of things to do once you finished the game if you want a 100% save file, which is why I gave the replay-value a score of :
Before I finish, I just want to add some pointless things. The game does not use the touch screen (or if it does, you never need to). I don't mind, since not all DS game need to do so. Another pointless thing, if you have a DSi, you can use the camera to take a picture of you, and put it on the Wanted Poster. I only have a DS lite, so I didnt tried this, but quite frankly, it has no use anyway.
In conclusion, this game was definitely a big surprise. I was expecting a poor game trying to get easy money by using the Assassin's Creed brand. What I got was a very solid plateformer with a lot of unique twist. Of course, Assassin's Creed fan would be the first one I would suggest this game, but really, any plateformer fan will find something to enjoy in my opinion. I bought it brand new for 30$, and still think it was well worth my money. So if you see it cheaper, don't hesitate to take it.
FINAL SCORE : 8/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 03/03/10
Game Release: Assassin's Creed II: Discovery (US, 11/17/09)
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