Assassin’s Creed

14 06 2010

Just a fair warning: This is going to be my take and opinion on one of my favorite game series in recent years, Assassin’s Creed. As such, it’ll have some spoilers on events that take place in the game, so if you’re at all interested in the game’s story, I strongly recommend you read at your own discretion. With that said, enjoy!

Oh shi...

If the Assassin’s Creed (heretofore called AC) experience could be summed up in one image, this would be it. I remember first hearing about Assassin’s Creed years ago in the last pages of an issue of EGM. They mentioned a game about a modern man whose memory seemed stuck in that of a medieval crusader or warrior. The game had no name, but the concept alone intrigued me. A couple years later, in 2006, I read about a game called Assassin’s Creed. As you should be aware by now, I’m a huge fan of open world games. I’m also a fan of stealth games, and this game seemed to fit that exactly. Little did I know how well of a fit this game would be for me.

I eagerly looked forward to every piece of news I could get from the game. The setting was the first thing that caught my eye. I’ve always been a fan of early history, and not many games are set during the 12th century, and it’s even more uncommon to see an action game set during this time. The idea of being a medieval assassin was incredibly intriguing, and the gameplay videos only made me more excited each time I watched them. I’m a huge, HUGE fan of parkour, so its inclusion in the game only got me more excited. Since Ubisoft’s own Sands of Time, I found that I was a huge fan of parkour and that type of platforming. AC took it a step further by including free-climbing. You would see the game’s white-robed assassin climbing buildings, running and leaping across ledges like some sort of ninja. It was incredibly satisfying to me, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

If, for some reason, you don’t know what the gameplay looks like.

So ok, the setting and gameplay immediately struck me as incredibly fun and interesting. But what about the game’s story? Well, remember when I said I first heard of the game through EGM, something about a man’s mind being trapped in that of a medieval crusader? Well, the game isn’t exactly about that, but it certainly has a similar idea. Unfortunately for many gamers, what would be a great twist was spoiled very early on in the game’s life. The main idea behind the game is exploiting genetic memory, something all people are born knowing. The game uses the example of certain animal species, such as insects or mammals. They are born with instincts and knowledge in order to survive and don’t need to be instructed by parents or others on how to do these things. They’re simply passed down through genetic memory. AC’s main character (argue all you like, he was the main character) is a man named Desmond Miles. Desmond is a relatively simple, normal man in the year 2012 who is captured by a shadowy organization called Abstergo.

What Abstergo hopes to achieve by their capture of Desmond is finding the memories of his ancestor, Altair. Altair is the character you see in all the screens, the character you play as for 95% of the game and who many consider the “main character.” You play as Altair and complete assassinations of famous figures from that time period. One thing that I really appreciate in this game is its strive for accuracy. All of your targets are actual figures that existed and were killed around that time period. The creators could have easily opted for something easier and have you kill fictional targets, but instead they go the extra mile. As you go through the game, you’re introduced to an ongoing struggle between two factions: The Assassins and The Templars. The Assassins see themselves as defenders of truth, while Templars are viewed as the evil, seeking to control the masses and harm them. The culmination of the Templars’ plan is to retrieve a mystical artifact called The Apple of Eden.

I won’t really spoil the game’s story, suffice to say you find out what purpose the Apple has and its powers. The game ends on an incredible cliffhanger that left me and everyone else who played the game incredibly frustrated. Not because it was a bad ending, but because it ended leaving us with a ton of questions and an agonizing two year wait for answers. I’ll get to those in my next post.

Of course, however, the game wasn’t perfect. The setting was great, each of the game’s cities being a character in themselves, and the story was interesting, but many critics and gamers were disappointed by the way the game was actually played. It followed a distinct formula that never changed throughout the duration of the game. You would talk to your leader, the leader of the Assassins, who would divulge a bit of information about the game’s ongoing story, raise a few questions to Altair and then you would go on your way to one of your next targets. You’d arrive at the city, speak with the Assassin’s Guild contact, then do one of three required activities to gather information on your target. While it seems to make sense, you only had a few options to gather information. The most infamous were the eavesdropping missions, which consisted of sitting on a bench and overhearing two guards talk about the target. You do that and bam, one of three options completed. Once you had at least three done, you would return to the contact and finally go after the target. Kill him, make your escape, return to your master and repeat.

So yeah, it could easily get tiresome and repetitive, and even I have to agree with that. Really though, it didn’t ruin the game. The game had a pretty epic scope, graphics were good, music was fitting and the story was very intriguing. After every few contacts were completed, you would return to the “real” world and the modern time, playing as Desmond. Here you would find out a bit more about what was going on, but it wasn’t until the end of the game when you would find that Abstergo is a modern day front for The Templars, and they want Desmond because they know his ancestors have the location of the Apple of Eden and with it, they could control the world.

I could talk more and more about the game, but that’s good for now. The sequel, which came out last November, really changed things and advanced the story by leaps and bounds. Look forward to that in a few days and hear about my vote for Game of the Year 2009.

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