Review by Eddo89
The first issue that must be dealt with is the religious implication. I cannot pretend I'm not ignorant to the supposed derogatory of certain religions involved in the Third Crusade. If you are uncomfortable about accepting fabrication events around thar time, is best to turn away. There is also slight dishonoring on modern Christian beliefs and religion in general. As a whole, I believe that this game is not a direct insult at religion, just the nature of the setting meant there is conflicting view with accepted history.
Assassin's Creed (AC) is a stealth-orientated action with a main character that just oozes with coolness, or more bluntly than a sword, "kickass". The main action of the game takes place in 1191 AD with you controlling an Assassin named Altair. However, everything that happens is merely the ancestral memory of a modern day man named Desmond Miles, who was kidnapped and was forced to sleep in a machine called the Animus as Dr Warren Vidic tries to unlock a particular memory of DNA. So it contradicts modern science beliefs as well as history books. Perhaps Ubisoft may need to brace in case scientists gather their Bunsen burners and burettes and march in protest.
On a serious note, there is only one reason you want to even touch this game, one word in fact, "cool". I mean from all the trailers/intro scene you are bound to have watched in order to make your well informed decision, you would have seen the ruthless disregard of the hundred citizens, the hidden blade (coolest gadget association to a character since dual Silverballers to Mr. 47) and utter fluency in the assassinations. Let us not forget people with faces hidden in a hood have been cool since Star Wars and in modern young people culture. Now add the fact you can take anyone's life in an instance and a sixth sense ability to make out friend from foe. I mean, isn't this what a cool character is about? A rebel of authorities, a calmness that masks the undeniable power to control someone's fate. Ubisoft Montreal did do a stunning job in shaping this character into a virtual 'must-have' to call yourself a new-generation console owner.
As Altair radiates more class with every look, the environment drowns you with breathtaking beauty. It is claimed, all these housing, slums, churches, mosques, any structure is historically accurate. Despite the real does not have anything similar to the Animus, I doubt many people will contest these claims. It is as Jerusalem as one would expect. I'm absolutely sure Ubisoft themselves thought the graphics is amazing, so much that they insist on the player to climb tall structures so that they can show you a sweeping shot of the city. No less than 20 times per large city fact, blatant shameless show-off. Perhaps overkill, but shame is certainly the last word to associate with the city graphics. And is just not the outline, shape and colour I'm talking about here. The detail of the windows, doors, rooftop is intricate and heavily weighs in the historical resemblance. The orientation as well, they are not neatly lined up with a ruler then tidily calculate the distance between houses. Is all over the place making it looked rugged. Churches and mosque on the other hand shows no sign of the wear and tear look of the slums, accurately showing the importance of such buildings in the society. These are beautifully integrated in the city so it does not stick out like a sore thumb, is look the part it belongs to. So essentially, I felt there is extensive work with tremendous attention to detail. Virtually flawless.
What I'm more impressed however is down low, where you have to bump into shoulders of every third person to see. Realistic cities. I consider myself lucky to actually have NPCs that actually move anywhere in a game but I never encountered a game that actually feels like a city rather than a very exclusive district where only half a dozen people is allowed to traverse. No, this game has real cities with PEOPLE! Lots of them. While they are not sophisticated as in Oblivion for instance, AC's NPC is very generic, they do give the hustle and bustle, crowded atmosphere of a market place or down a main street. Naturally, less people in shady parts of town with drunks trying to bump into you often as they can. While there are loud merchants annoying you when you get to places where there are people. And Ubi has scored a victory in making characters that annoy to hell yet make it hard for the player to kill, mentally, they are the beggars. They pester you, stopping you as you try to get away from guards wanting blood. Can't have a city without them.
Character designs are nice. For generic NPC, they are just too repetitive. The designs of guards and soldiers differ region to region but civilian just look too similar. Again, it looks historically accurate. Fit the bill as Middle Eastern weather as well but nothing amazing. Important NPC was given the face-lift treatment in comparison so to make them at least distinguishable. Altair himself looks all right but it does seem a little odd to be carrying a couple of blades when the guards are looking for an Assassin.
Graphically, we saw the reason on why we buy the new consoles but the storyline is nothing to be scoffed at either. Here I also you a second reason to not to touch (with the first being the themes a little religiously insensitive), the ending actually need to have a couple of brain cells to work out completely and doesn't involve a happy, all-evil-banished atmosphere. This is a first part of what will be a trilogy, there are open questions with nothing spelt out for you. Let this serve as a warning should you be disappointed by the end.
We all love a bit of conspiracy, I mean, most best selling books is about how we are all lied to by someone or something. And there is plenty of conspiracy here. Essentially, there are two stories told simultaneously, one about Altair's task of 9 assassinations all the while he unravels evidence of a sinister plot for domination of the Holy Land. Story starts quite interesting with an Altair that completely alienates the player. Then we have a relatively mundane eight assassinations where, oh, we see the evolution from a devil to angel. Then in the events after that, as if the shackles were broken, or a dam broke, the story just takes off. Nothing held back, just a great story ending. Perfect way to end the boredom of the middle of the game.
Second story is about Desmond. As you can possibly tell, he isn't sleeping in the Animus forever. There is some constant rest as ordered by the assistant Lucy, to the disgust by the almost lunatic, Dr.Vidic. Whilst Altair's story seems to conclude, this is where the cliffhanger exists. Again, the story only explodes towards the ending, throughout the course of the middle part you simply sleep, have weird dreams and listen to Vidic rant about every conspiracy to the book. Don't sound too much fun. Where everything ends is completely infuriating, not that the ending is bad (see above two paragraphs), it seems to end just as if everything has just started and you definitely felt you just played an enormous prologue. Certainly, it got me hooked to the trilogy.
Good bedtime story, ate plenty of eye candy, now is time for fun fun fun. But is hard to get much fun here. Does reciting a line for the millionth time sounds fun? No, why? Because it just isn't. Alright, as much as I love the scenery, I don't really like to climb that many tall buildings, there is only so many times I want to eavesdrop, pick pocket and help to complete assassinations of useless allies. As a great believer of justice, how many times do I need to safe a damsel in distress, fending off lustful corrupted guards at the same times? The fending off part won't be so bad if they actually give us more than 2 ways to kill someone up close.
But let's start with the nicer aspect of the game first. Character movement is extremely smooth and for once I'm not tearing my hair out because I can't reach a cursed ledge or that there is only one-way to go there and is going a long way around. In AC, there is no feeling of being restrained by anything, you are free as a bird in most cases. You want to get up there, well, you can. There is no need to look for ladder or anything that prompts you that you are allowed to up, just look for things that appears to stick out and off you go, climb to your hearts content. Oh, he can't swim. I know it sounds weird for a man that can climb towers that is reaching the clouds yet couldn't swim for his life. So I was wrong, there are parts where it could make you bald, especially jumping into water for the third consecutive time.
Did I say Altair is a terrible Assassin? Every time he kills his target, the whole city guard will look for him and trying to poke at you with swords. In theory as the game will put it, you should run, break line of sight then hide in some haystack or a wooden hut on the roof, which the guards find no reason to search. Well, we can't all have brains now can we? Alright after that, you try to blend in the crowd, by walking very slowly while avoiding bumping into people carry a vase on their head, which a quarter of the population does. The goal is to reach the safe spot of the Assassin Bureau and you are finished.
Now did I say Altair was also a godly swordsman? Why hide when you can fight? AC's combat is terrible if I'm direct. Now let's see why.....1 button attack? Realistic-looking sword fights, yes. Absolutely brutal animations yes. Am I killing these people because I'm good or is just a simple stroke of luck that they didn't fend it, I have no idea. The game "levels" up your ability after every completed assassination, you get gradually stronger, no? More weapon, more moves. Well, who in their right minds would put the most damaging move as the first level up you receive? This is the counter attack, one hit kill guards, and stronger people require several hits with this. In the end, you play the game by timing. Regular sword attack, counter. Guard break, dodge. Grab, counter grab all the while you hold the guard button. Alright, now, what of the plain old sword attack you can do, the only attack you could do? Apart from weak guards, it is basically asking to be countered and you get a taste of your own medicine if you want to use it anywhere towards the end of the game. So essentially, the gameplay degraded to timing counters by the middle of the game. Not that it is hard much. And if being a good swordsman is not enough, health regenerates at an alarmingly fast rate even in combat. Now this sounds more like Wolverine with one claw.
Now, is not all that repetitive. I mean, there are the short blade as well as a long sword. It adds half a dozen completely new animations when countering attacks, so you can switch it around to look at things differently. I know is pathetic, this is how to keep you going. There other means of attack such as the throwing knives that is one hit kill, oh, finally something to make me feeling like an Assassin. And let's not forget the amazing hidden blade. While virtually useless when discovered, the animations for each kill are brilliant and brutal. And well, that's all there is to combat.
There is more annoyance than just repeating combat. Every time you access a new city, you need to take your horses and ride to them. The horses are nice, easy to control and can attack, what a shock (yes, been playing Oblivion) and have you can rear it. Looks good but serves utterly no purpose. And you could gallop with them as well. That is where we hit out hitch. The horse is sophisticated, you can trot, canter walk and gallop, so many different speeds yet the guards along the roads seem to have a vendetta or paranoia involving horses that does not walk slowly. Please, a horse that is just trotting is not an enemy of the state. Thankfully, you only need to do go through the journey 4 times, all other times you could fast travel, some sensible thinking at least.
The 'battles' (which I rather call counter fest) get much more epic towards the end, simply because the music and storyline is reaching critical point, and we are under the illusion the battles are good because of that. At least it makes an everlasting ill-judged thought that we had a grand fight in the end and therefore is good. There is this everlasting thought because you do not ever want to touch it, again. I mean, essentially you had replayed the game 8 times already when you had finished. Once for every assassination. So other reasons to replay? To collect the few hundred flags scattered around the map. If jumping everywhere looking for flags all over town for the next 10 hours and achieve nothing but to claim you are the best flag collector of the third crusade, be my quest. Even a completionist like myself struggle to find a reason to bother with it. And there is the small matter of finding all the Templars in the game. Sounds like a good idea if you still have time for more countering festival. Pointless work that makes the repeating of the same tasks in the main story looks relatively refine and gracefully interesting. You probably will spend 20 hours on it, quite an average for modern games. Again, only 3 hours of that 20 is actually doing something different.
I may have thrown you off in the gameplay but don't let it be the conclusive reason to look away from the game. It does get overly repetitive and simple but the drive to see what happens in the ending and the satisfaction of effortlessly dispatching enemies makes the deficiency in gameplay be somewhat overlooked. And of course the cool kid in tow, Altair. This is a solid title worthy of your attention but avoid it if you felt this could be a little religiously intrusive or only care for the gameplay.
Game Length: 6/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 12/06/07
Game Release: Assassin's Creed (AU, 11/21/07)
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