Assassin's Creed is a series all about history - well, that and stabbing people in the neck. So, for the release of Origins, we thought we'd celebrate by delving into the history of the series. It's a lot less messy than doing the stabbing in the neck thing ourselves.
There will likely never be a better entry point to Assassin's Creed than Origins, released today. A prequel set a thousand years before the events of Assassin's Creed 1, Origins can be enjoyed as your first experience of the series.
If there are moments of serenity in the original Assassin's Creed, which turns 10 years old next month, they are surely to be found in the act of scaling towers - a way of pacing consumption of the landscape that has shaped almost every subsequent open world escapade, from Rocksteady's Batman Arkham games to the mighty Breath of the Wild. The city is a fading murmur beneath you, the cries of beggars and traders and the jingle of guard awareness icons whisked away by the wind. The occasional frustrations of shouldering through mobs or scrambling across uneven rooftops are forgotten. There is nothing but the scuffle of toes on masonry and the rattle of Altair's sword in its sheath.
Everybody knows bugs. There are funny ones and stupid ones. There are annoying ones and actually-damaging ones. But however they manifest themselves, bugs sit right between a game's maker and its player, a sudden manifestation of mistakes that have been made, a crack in the simulation, a bump right back down to Earth.
"Let's say that you're faced with a game where you need to develop more than 230 features with the use of a production team of over 300 developers in a schedule that didn't allow any revision of your design, and that at the end, your game must be commercially successful and critically acclaimed. How do you do it? That's what I had to face with Assassin's Creed II."
This is the game I've been waiting for. While the original Assassin's Creed may have been short on variety, there's no denying the quality of the visuals and the immense possibilities of the openworld sandbox it presented to us. On Xbox 360, at least, it was a technological marvel that laid the foundations for a sequel that takes all the coding genius of the original and combines it with a gameplay package that exceeds expectations. While Modern Warfare 2 ranks as the multiplayer game of choice for console owners, it's Assassin's Creed II that offers the most complete package for those more enamoured with traditional single-player experience. Ubisoft Montreal has done good.
Assassin's Creed is a game that comes with a bit of history. Way back in Face-Off Round 6, the PS3 version was savaged for its hugely disappointing performance, general blurriness and the feeling that its development was treated almost like an afterthought compared to the more technically solid Xbox 360 game. Times have changed. The quality of Ubisoft's PS3 work has come on leaps and bounds (its penchant for mammoth mandatory installs aside) and the fact the quality level has been sustained across the entire company with its many and varied studios is all the more impressive.
With regards to Assassin's Creed II, the comparison video augers well, suggesting that slight blur aside, the graphical assets are indeed identical cross-platform. You can get a more in-depth view with the jam-packed 720p comparison gallery.
Here's a sequel that takes precisely zero time to prove it's not simply a repeat of its forerunner. Remember all those super-long, super-serious conversations between unsmiling men? From the very off, Assassin's Creed II features gags, flirting and urgency. Even Desmond, the glowering buzzcut bloke whose ancestors' memories the Assassin's Creed games document, gets to grin, joke and make eyes at a lady. What, what, what? Light-heartedness in my gritty historical stealth game?
Some years back, I had a condition, which began to affect the way in which I lived. I know, I know, "get a blog", but bear with me. This was during university. Being a philosophy graduate, I had plenty of spare time. I also had a good friend, and fellow philosopher, with a "PlayStation", as it was those days, and a copy of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. Given the choice of extracting a semblance of meaning from Kant or chucking Rodney Mullen around half-pipes and down stairwells, we often (read: always) took the later option.
Non-linearity may be everywhere these days (with the option of being everywhere else), but as inFamous suggested and Assassin's Creed II now hopes to prove, a bit of linearity goes a long way too. Sucker Punch's PS3 game had those underground bits where you collected new powers, and they were some of the best and most focused bits of the game. Ubisoft Montreal's second crack at Assassins-versus-Templars pulls the same trick, hiding self-contained, Prince of Persia-style platform levels around the open world, virtually none of which is obligatory, but each of which rewards you with a special metal seal, which together will add up to a great, unidentified reward.