Review by kiriyama2

Reviewed: 06/04/08

Sure the story's okay, but the gameplay really is not very good

Assassin’s Creed is a curious beast, I was looking forward to it with a fair amount of enthusiasm. I adored the idea of playing an assassin during the Crusades. Then I actually started playing the game, the first couple of hours were met with a harsh and not entirely undeserved amount of hatred. Then the game managed a complete 180, and I began to like it, and then the game somehow managed to veer wildly off course and flip the metaphorical car and set itself ablaze. Though, I suppose at the end of the day it’s decent. Also, take heed there is a minor spoiler in this review (I use the word loosely, as you find out in the first two minutes of the game anyway).

What one would assume from all the various trailers is that in Assassin’s Creed you just run around as an assassin running about the holy land just assassinating people for the hell of it. While that is true, there is the fact that the game actually takes place in the year 2012. You see, in the game you actually play as some guy named Desmond Miles who was kidnapped by a group of people. After being kidnapped Desmond was strapped to a device called The Animus to live the blood memory of his ancestor Altair to find some Templar treasure (I affectionately refer to it as The MacGuffin) for some vague not readily apparent reason. Which is okay I guess, as long as you get to kill important Crusaders all’s well right? It’s fine in theory, but the problem with that lies within the fact that the game seems almost begrudged to remind you of the fact that you’re not really Altair, you’re just some chump playing at being Altair. Even when you start to get really enveloped into the story of Altair’s assassinating the game has the screen go to white and say fast forwarding to a more recent memory. Perhaps its just me but that somewhat ruins the experience a tad. Hell even the story in the “real world” is somewhat boring and sort of boils down to an evil group wanting to do evil things with the MacGuffin.

That being said the story of Altair is that one day when he and his assassin brothers were out trying to reclaim the MacGuffin. They got attacked by some Knights Templar and Altair got separated from the other two. Having failed he returns to the Assassin Order’s headquarters where the leader casts Altair down to the lowest rank in the order for having failed his mission and disobeying the Creed. To regain his lost honor he must go out and assassinate nine targets. I actually rather like the “memory” storyline, because unlike the “real world” stuff it is actually interesting. Perhaps its because it casts an interesting take on historical fact, but it is quite entertaining.

One thing that’s worth noting about the way they tackled the story is that in essence you can’t die. When you do do something that would otherwise result in your death (say taking a header off a tall building, fighting twenty guards at once, landing in water) you just get “desynchronized.” Which is all fine and dandy, but it does sort of take away from the challenge a bit. The Animus crap also really does take away from immersion with the fact that you’ll be running through Damascus (or Jerusalem, or Acre), having a good time running from rooftop to rooftop when suddenly you’ll just slam right into a large blue wall with bits of computer code flashing around it whilst a little box comes up to inform you that the memory can’t access that area just yet.

Also when you do inevitably decide to engage in a bit of killing (or even tracking) and lock onto an NPC a computery box appears around the person as bits of code just jump around the person while the screen flickers around. Having a lock on system is all fine and dandy, but having one that instantly kills the immersion just seems to me like it was a bad design choice. For instance slash a city guard and off fly biological symbols and bits of code.

Sound is also reasonably well done, but the problem is outside of story characters there’s about four voices for the entire game. It also doesn’t aid the game when those same three, four voices repeat the same lines over and over, verbatim! For instance save a woman from a bunch of guards she’ll thank and make sure the people know what you done. Fine, that’s all peachy, but save another person, the same line with a different voice! It particularly begins to wear thin when you have to save people in excess of seventy times. Also the crowds have no variation in their speech as you wander through the towns save for the voice acting. That said the story important characters have decent voice acting. Granted its not the best, but they do sound quite good. But there is one curious thing regarding the acting. Everyone has their accent, they sound authentic, yet for some reason Altair just sounds too American. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily hate the voice actor, he did a good job. Its just that I suspected someone with an accent is all.

Now lets talk gameplay shall we? One would make the reasonable assumption that most, if not all of the game consists of assassinating your targets. Unfortunately most of the game consists of walking to the various cities and gathering information on your target. Which would be okay if not for the fact that for the most part the information gathering missions have a strange difficulty sense. For the most part gathering the information is really very easy. For instance sitting on a bench and somehow listening in on a pair of people talking (despite sitting about a block away, you’re still able to hear them perfectly) is really easy. The pick pocketing ones are also easy, just watch a couple of people from about five feet away, then walk behind one of the guys and lift the info from them. Which is particularly amusing, because you’d think a man wearing a white robe, with a sword on his hip and a multitude of knives would be easily noticeable. There’s also interrogation where you just go up and beat the man, sure they suggest you wait until he’s in seclusion but not one person will move to stop you, not even the city guard when you ram your spike into his gut.

There are also missions that assassin’s from the order will give you for information. These usually fall into the category of killing a certain number of people with a time limit. However a couple times there were missions where they would ask me to run about the city and collect flags within a time limit. Which also have the requisite box with computer jargon flickering around it. One problem I have with these informer missions is the fact that you will fail with no adequate explanation. One of the informers tells you to go off and kill some chump for him, so you go and run him through with the spike. Walk away from the kill with nary a witness get close to the other target and suddenly you’ll fail.

The other problem with the informer missions is that there is almost nothing you can do that won’t arouse the guards suspicion. Walk down the street and mind your own business, they somehow sense that your up to no good. Go to the center of town and walk by a building and they’re on your ass. Perhaps its because of his robe, and the assortment of knives, but they will suspect you for no adequate reason. Also you can run through town at full sprint jump up and start scaling buildings yet for some reason they don’t treat you at all suspiciously unless you happen to graze one of them of course. Unless they’re actively searching for you, you can run all up and down buildings leap nimbly from window to window with nary a second glance. However if you try to walk through an archway without the cover of a group of monks they’ll somehow treat you like you just murdered the entire citizenry of Damascus. Conversely you can murder a squadron of guard in full view of every citizen, save someone and engage in a quick conversation with the person you just saved and just stand there hands clasped together and they’ll not suspect you, regardless of having a long sword on your hip, and a short sword on your back.

Also when you do inevitably get on the wrong side of the guards it is embarrassingly simple to escape them. Normally what you need to do to escape them is climb some buildings and run to a nearby gazebo with large canvas flaps and they’ll just run by it. Or climbing the top of a large tower and dive off it and land in a platform full of hay, and they’ll be none the wiser. You’d think they’d be able to see Altair dive off and land in the hay, but no, they always just lose sight of you.

Another thing regarding the crowds is the fact that more often then not there’ll be beggar women running up to you, blocking your path betwixt you and the target, and if it’s a pick pocket mission you’ll instantly fail and have to evade, or cut down the guard. Sure, you do get the option to just grab the offending beggar and hurl them across the way, but you’ll still fail. Another thing is the fact that there are some NPCs that have the ever so delightful habit of slamming into you with all there strength and sending you sprawling, which of course the guards take offense to. Another irritation with the guards is the fact that early on in the game you are given a horse, to ride from Masyaf (the city for the Order’s headquarters by the by) to any one of the three cities. Which I appreciated, because that means I wouldn’t have to run from one place to the next. The problem with this is the fact that when your riding the horse if you are going any faster than walking speed every guard between you and your destination will hunt you down. It’s somewhat perplexing, considering that the reason they give you the horse is to get to the city quickly, yet if you do go quickly you’re suddenly a marked man. To me, it seems like a cruel joke on Ubi Soft’s part.

However, the game really does pick up when your actually on your way to assassinate someone. After getting the permission from the local Assassin’s Bureau you’re on your way to go kill that corrupt official. Which is quite fun actually, the blending in and getting close to the target and then the actual assassination is good. However, the problems with the actual assassination are the fact that there are too few of them. Also the fact that before and after actually assassinating the target the game puts in long cut scenes in which the target goes on lengthy monologues. Then after the assassination you have to go on the run and escape the guards and soldiers. Finally I was having a good time, but like I said, these don’t happen nearly enough.

Also around the sixth assassination it really seems to do away with the whole stealth aspect of the post assassination rigmarole. Because from that point on your almost always engaged in a swordfight with a number of guards. Both before and after the hit you fight through waves and waves of guards. Which in itself isn’t a bad thing, because the fighting is somewhat enjoyable if not a little bland. You get four weapons, fists, the wrist blade, the short sword and knives, and the long sword. Outside of the short and long sword the other weapons are useless in a fight. Punching the armed guards will get you gutted, and the wrist blade is only good on guards that are unaware that your going to stab them. Sure the knives can be used to kill an enemy at a distance but when your encircled they are really rather useless.

Whilst the fighting is simply adequate I think it should’ve been more focused on the actual assassinations. The game is aided little when you consider that the last hour or so becomes like Dynasty Warriors (in that your cutting through waves of guards or soldiers to get to the target.). Also there’s the fact that the game is not especially long. Something like seven hours, and when you beat the story mode there is really no reason to go back through it again. It’s a shame too, because this game could’ve been really good. However such as it is it’s just a remarkably bad affair. Sure the assassinations were fun, but they did not occur nearly enough.

If you really want to try this game, rent it. The game can easily be beaten in a couple of days, and it’ll save you the money of actually buying it. Granted it’s not the worst game made, it is by no means good. It’s a shame too because Ubi Soft has shown that they are quite adept at making good stealth games (Splinter Cell) and good sword fighting games (Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones). It’s just that I cannot in good conscience recommend this to anyone.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Product Release: Assassin's Creed (US, 11/13/07)

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