Assassin's Creed Reader Review
Looking at Assassins Creed as a spectator must be fun, you'll see exciting chases across buildings. You'll see cinematic sword play and you'll see and hear some strange but interesting narrative of a good story.
I've followed the production of this game ever since they first announced it. I was amazed and imagined a free roaming city with you as Altair going on missions like in Thief or Hitman, performing some stealthy and acrobatic manoeuvres to avoid being detected and to sneak up on your prey in the shadows. I was imagining that the immersion would be perfect and that the game wouldn't have loading screens and that you'd move from objective to objective, you'd really feel like you were an Assassin hundreds of years ago.
Sadly, the expectations I had were different from the game that Ubisoft Montreal had in mind when they made the game.
Strange as it may seem Ubisoft decided that the medieval setting of the game with the Holy Crusade as a background setting wouldn't be enough for a game about an Assassin.
You are a man in present time called Desmond and through the use of a special device you are able to relive the experiences of your ancestors through buried memories in your DNA.
Yeah I immediately saw big warning signs in front of me as the story was presented to me like that.
It adds a layer on top of the medieval story that may not actually be worth much and in this the first game it actually serves to annoy you as that particular layer never leads to anywhere in the game as that part ends in a cliffhanger.
Through Desmond you relive some of the experiences of Altair, an Assassin with an attitude problem who has to learn the Creed of the Assassins to get back his former status as one of the Master Assassins.
The Hidden Blade
It's a curious thing to craft Game Mechanics. You can spend ages in the details of the systems and then emerge out later after a year or two and realize that you've completely forgotten about the bigger macro decisions of the game.
Assassins Creed is a game primarily about running on rooftops and fighting it out. There are a few extras like eavesdropping, pickpocketing and horse riding but the basics of the game really consists of the basic movement and fighting.
And that's where the game really shines. The movement is great to see, Altair is one of the most agile characters in a videogame yet. He might compete with Nathan Drake from Uncharted in basic running on a flat ground but if you move them up on a roof then Altair will run miles ahead.
And then there's the combat which is simple but effective, there are basically just two buttons to the combat. One to block attacks and one to attack/counter. There's an additional grab/throw and break grab that you might use at times but it's hardly necessary.
A one button combat system might sound like it may be shallow and that's true if the combat consisted of nothing but one attack animation but they've managed to put a great deal of animations for attacks and counters so that the combat becomes a fluid dance.
The extras like eavesdropping and pickpocketing are too few in number to matter and while they are functionally good they don't add much to the game just because there is not enough variation to it.
First to get it out of the way, I played this on the PS3 and I thought that the game was solid and running at a stable framerate. I was actually wondering why there were complaints at all. But that was up until I reached the very last mission (funnily enough the one smallest in scale), first problem was a duel in an enclosed area where the fog surrounding you caused severe fillrate problems. Then there was an extremely slow part in the last village with a huge gathering of villagers but here I also think it was caused by some fillrate related problem because there was a fog like effect active again. For a game that had been so stable up until those occasions that was really detrimental to my impressions. It would have been so easy to just scale back on the effects and just optimize at those specific occasions. It's almost as if they hadn't tested up until that point. That's how bad it was.
Then more importantly there is the problem with the Game Design and the convoluted storytelling. By the nature of having a story arch that's outside of the main game-world you will never achieve the same kind of immersion as you would if the character and the world never switched contexts and that was a major disappointment to me.
Partly because it meant that the game would magically transport me between sections and break the natural movement and progression that they otherwise utilized. But also because of the loading screens with Altair standing in a blueish fog.
The other big problem of the game is something that is normally a good thing. Ubisoft has streamlined the interface to help the players by showing you where you need to go and what you are expected to do there. This is portrayed via icons on a Map. To get these icons to show up on the Map you need to find a vantage point on the tall towers that are in the cities.
The problem that I experienced with that was that everything you did was always the same thing, you'd find the location and you'd eavesdrop on a conversation or you'd lock on to a pickpocket target or an interrogation target. Then the challenge started and a minute later it was finished and it always played the same.
Ubisoft should have created more of these challenges but I also felt that they shouldn't have shown you what the challenge was and surprised you. They also were way too short when hey could have really added to the game by you tracking a target from one point of the map to the other. Then they could have added sequenced challenges so that you would have to complete one to unlock the next. And they completely forgot about rewarding the player for performing these actions. Getting an 'achievement' for solving all these monotone tasks mean nothing to me. Give me a piece of equipment I can use in the game. Give me an outfit that I can use to stealth into an area.
And that was the third big problem. The assassinations. They always played out the same, you'd try to use your hidden blade to stab the target in the back and sometimes you'd succeed and sometimes you wouldn't. It almost always meant that the alarms would activate and that the guards would storm you so you'd have to fight it out and run away.
This is a part of the game where they would have benefited immensely from looking at Hitman and Thief and taking in what made those games so good.
Assassins Creed is a game where they give you the basic Game Mechanics but it's up to you to take enjoyment from the game. I had a great time just moving about on rooftops, hacking and slashing and reaching the tallest buildings.
But for the game to be the great game it could have been it needs to increase the stealth aspect of the game as well as removing some of the streamlining and actually make the game more chaotic. It's somewhat similar to Fable in a way, Fable was a solid game but it had no surprises and it never evolved. That's what Assassin Creed needs, it needs to evolve. It has all the basic mechanics there and it wouldn't be hard for them to add new types of equipment that will help out in other missions or just in the specific mission you are playing.
They also need to increase the immersion in my opinion but this is somewhat problematic since they are now tied down by the story but they could certainly fix parts of that by reducing (and possibly completely removing) the loading screens.
7 / 10