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Master the Art of the Kill

  • May 25, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+3
As a long time gamer, I've come across a lot of games.  Some of them make me want to keep playing until I realize I should have eaten or gone to sleep hours ago (Baldur's Gate II), some of them make me want to play until I see that oh so special ending (Final Fantasy), and some make me want to stab the nearest moving object.

Assassin's Creed is one of those games.  Of course, considering stabbing is one of the main features of the game, I find that it makes it all worthwhile.

The game story is set in the Middle East during the second Crusade.  Except that's a lie.  It's actually set in the near future as a rather dull character named Desmond relives his ancestor's memory through a psychotic machine called the Animus as he is held captive by a mad scientist type attempting to locate...something.  It's all very convoluted and occasionally drove me insane.  When you're in the future, it's all very drab and dull.  All you can do is some small pickpocketing and chatting with the nutcase scientist and his assistant.  While it gives some insight into the story, I found these interludes to be frustrating.

Now, life in the past is quite different.  In there, you play as Desmond being Altair, a discredited member of the Assassins.  As Altair, you get to sneak, jump, ride, and slash your way through the Holy Lands.  You start out without a lot of your cooler equipment, but this is really where the game get's cool.

The game's combat is meh at the best of times, but the combat isn't what Assassin's Creed is all about.  Instead, the point of the game that was emphasized (and rightfully so) is the free running mechanic.  With this is play, the world becomes your playground.  Altair is apparently half monkey, since he can do things no human should be able to do without being bitten by a radioactive spider.  Anything that is a possible hold is used to climb to the tops of towers.  Any narrow bit of wood jutting from a building acts as a stepping stone over the streets.  You can even jump right through a merchant's stand, crashing into the merchandise on the way.  The system is amazingly well done, and your really do feel like the city is an open world to be explored.

Some may ask where in the world stealth fits into this.  Honestly, stealth is all to easy in this game.  Press a button, then you go into low profile mode.  So long as you don't bump into anything, you're good to go.  This leads to some amusing instances of killing guards while the rest just look around for the killer like idiots.  Of course, the AI isn't completely moronic.  They do sound the alarm if you are somewhere where you aren't supposed to be, or if your disguise drops.  At that point, you just run and break the line of sight, then hide in the nearest haybail, bench, or garden.  The escapes are probably the most interesting part of the stealth mechanic, especially when you factor in the leap of faith mechanic, in which you jump off a ledge or building into a waiting cart of hay.  It's a lot of fun, especially when you hear the eagle screech as you jump.

Combat, regrettably, is not as strong suite for the game.  Altair technically has access to four weapons, but he's only going to really use 2, maybe 3 if you feel like entertaining yourself.  The long and short swords are stylistically different, but there is little mechanical difference between the two.  While using the short blade out of combat, you can use throwing knives which are one hit kills.  If you knock someone down, you can equip your hidden blade for a fancy stabbity kill.  The problem is, this is pretty much the variety.  Once you learn counter-kills, they are all you will ever use again.  While graphically impressive and rewarding, I could only stand watching the same animation over and over again for so long.  I therefore avoided combat not for the sake of it being difficult, but rather to avoid monotony.  Besides, the chase mechanic is much more exciting.

The formula for the game is pretty simple.  You start off in a city hunting a specific target.  You get your target from the local assassin's guild, then do a set of side quests.  The side quests are...dull, mostly.  You eavesdrop, pick pocket, and do minor assassinations.  The quests get repetitive, and they get that way fast.  You are encouraged to keep some level of stealth for most of them, but it's easily negated if you are caught.  Honestly, this was the most annoying aspect of the game, right before the combat.  However, once that was all out of the way, the real game began.

Each main target was a unique kill.  They ranged from a simple chase through the city streets to a man camped on a boat surrounded by water (Altair can't swim.  He's a desert dweller, after all) and armed guards.  Setting it up each time was a fun experience, unique and entertaining.  This is where the game really came to fruition.  Ease and difficulty ceased to be important: each one gave me a feeling of being a real assassin, stalking in for the perfect kill.

There are a couple of weak points toward the end of the game.  While the final battle is great, leading up to it is about half an hour's worth of back to back combat.  Nowhere is the weakness of the combat system more apparent.  I found myself wanting to stab someone...and sadly unable to do so.  However, the end of the game was appropriatly epic and mysterious, setting us up for Assasin's Creed 2.  Luckily, that game is on the horizon, with the promise of fixing most of the errors mentioned above.

One thing I seriously wish had been incorporated is the option to skip the sidequesting on replay and go straight to the assassinations.  Those, I would not get bored of easily.

So, to sum up, stealth mechanics need work, combat system needs a total overhaul, the side quests are boring and repetitive, but the assassinations and the free running is fit for the gods themselves.  Overall, I have to give the game a +3 on it's merits.  It falls short of perfection, and indeed even of amazing, especially with little reason for me to replay.  However, this is some of the best fun I have had with an open world game in quite some time.

I'd suggest picking it up at a local GameStop or other used video game store at a slightly reduced cost now, especially in anticipation of part two.  It's definatly worth the $20-30 or so.  Hope you enjoy it.

Good Gaming, everyone.

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About the reviewer
Sean ()
I'm an aspiring writer and genuinly enjoy anime, video games, and literature of all forms. Live in sunny San Diego and love it here.
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About this video game

Wiki

Assassin’s Creed is the next-gen game developed by Ubisoft Montreal that will redefine the action genre. While other games claim to be next-gen with impressive graphics and physics, Assassin’s Creed merges technology, game design, theme, and emotions into a world where you instigate chaos and become a vulnerable, yet powerful, agent of change.

The setting is 1191 AD. The Third Crusade is tearing the Holy Land apart. You, Altair, intend to stop the hostilities by suppressing both sides of the conflict.

You are an Assassin, a warrior shrouded in secrecy and feared for your ruthlessness. Your actions can throw your immediate environment into chaos, and your existence will shape events during this pivotal moment in history.

Key Features

  • Be an Assassin: Master the skills, tactics, and weapons of history’s deadliest and most secretive clan of warriors. Plan your attacks, strike without mercy, and fight your way to escape.
  • Realistic and responsive environments: Crowds react to your moves and will either help or hinder you on your quests.
  • Action with a new dimension - total freedom: Eliminate your targets wherever, whenever, and however. Stalk your prey through richly detailed, historically accurate, open-ended environments. Scale buildings, mount horses, blend in with crowds. Do whatever it takes to achieve your objectives.
  • Relive the epic times of the CrusadesAssassin’s Creed immerses you in the realistic and historical ...
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Details

ESRB: M
Number of Players: Single-player
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Console: Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3
Genre: Action Adventure
Release Date: November 13, 2007
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