Review by liltagg
A solid game for the action/adventure lover
I will say this right out: this is not a stealth game. Sure, sometimes you have to remain quiet and 'blend in' to the crowds, but you never really blend. I will get more into that later.
Firstly, the story. A huge disappointment. It had great potential, and I'm sure in the inevitable sequels to come, it will live up to that potential. However, the story in this first stage of Assassin's Creed was basically tailored for a future. The ending does not satisfy, but leaves you simply going 'What the hell?' The 'big plot twist' is the first thing you learn after hitting the start button while hovering over 'New Game'. The story, in a way, is appealing. It sucks you in. You WANT to find out what Altair does next. However, whenever the 'plot twist' happens, you groan out loud and quickly hurry to get it over so you can continue on. In this story, there is one other so-called 'plot twist' that anyone with observation skills can see coming from miles away. This story has potential, and I hope to see it come full circle in the promised sequels. But for now, it simply disappoints.
The sound of this game is great. It makes you feel like you're in the middle of a bustling city, even if the people talking around you can get repetitive. There are merchants yelling out their wares, men standing on church steps or podiums crying out their latest sermons. It makes you feel like you're there, and it feels good. There really is no background music, which I very rarely even noticed. The absence of it really didn't matter.
For the graphics, the scenery is absolutely awe-inspiring. Scaling the largest view-points in town to look over the city was amazing. Altair's movements are fluid and look the way a real person would look when performing the movements. People either shifted out of your path or fell aside as you ran through them, rather than serving as stone walls as so many other people in games seem to do. Guard types get fairly repetitive (you can always tell what 'level' of guard you're facing, because...all the various guard types look different, but there is nothing to differentiate guards of the same type.)
Now for the core: The gameplay. As stated above, this is simply not a stealth game. This does not have too terribly much to do with the way the game was made, but by the guard AI. You can disappear into thin air (at least in their eyes) by simply walking into the middle of a group of scholars. Nevermind those knife pouches, or the sword belt around your waist, you're impossible to notice. If a guard is about to notice you, you can simply press down on the 'Legs' button to enter 'blending' mode, which makes you walk slowly with your head down and your hands pressed together in a sort of praying position. You're the only white-robed man that screams 'Assassin!' on the block, but you're suddenly invisible. Leaping into a sort of kiosk-like contraption with sheets covering all view inside also causes you to disappear into thin air. The guards won't bother shoving them to the side to check if you're in there, they'll just look around for 5 seconds before giving up and going back to their patrol route. It makes no real sense, and while making it easy for the casual gamer, the people playing to be the big bad assassin will be disappointed that it's so simple.
While the story unfolds, you get 9 main assassination targets. You get lesser targets during this time that end with you gaining information from your fellow assassins as well. For the 9, you can choose 1 of 2 main ways: You can figure out the location, you can figure out the route your target takes, you can learn where all the guards are, and then you can attempt to assassinate them (this ends in failure annoyingly often, which leads to the second way) or you can just walk through the front door and fight your way to them. The first is fun for a little while (it may remain that way for those of you who love this kind of thing.) However, I preferred walking through the front door and fighting my way in.
Above all, the combat system excels. As you assassinate your targets, you gain rank. From gaining rank, you gain new weapons and new skills. Among these skills are counters to enemy attacks and enemies attempting to grab you, a running tackle that forces foes to the ground, and a way to drop from high up points safely. Once you gain all the types of countering and you master combo attacks, you feel like you're a swordmaster. You dance about the area, killing all enemies swiftly and calmly, dispatching guard after guard. It's when you meet one of your 9 targets that this suddenly changes: You go from master of battle to novice in training. They counter your every attempt at combo attacks, they counter your every attempt to grab. Almost all of my personal battles with the 5 I fought with instead of assassinated went exactly the same: Wait for them to attack, counter, knock them to ground, quickly pull out the hidden blade and go in for the kill. It was annoying to me that after all the guards you kill, you're suddenly faced with someone you have to be defensive with. This combat system is not for everyone, though. Those that are unable to master it will be frustrated, and likely toss their controllers aside a few times because of it.
Then there is running around cities. This was another part of the game that was greatly enjoyable. Vaulting from rooftop to rooftop, scaling walls, and running across beams to move above everything instead of through it was generally exhilirating. Climbing the large towers of the Holy Land made it look like Altair was actually climbing, rather than just walking up an invisible ladder.
All in all, this game was very solid and provided a good amount of enjoyable moments. The ending will leave many people grumbling under their breath for a while, and the lack of good stealth options will leave many of the assassin loving people staying away from this one. It also has a low replayability, except for the 360 achievement enthusiasts who want to go back and kill every templar and collect every flag to unlock a few more points. Solid graphics and great combat are brought down by a shoddy story and poor AI. Hopefully these will be fixed to make the next Assassin's Creed as legendary as this one could've been.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Assassin's Creed (US, 11/13/07)
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