Assassin’s Creed Review

Posted: May 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

Nothing is true, everything is permitted..

Assassin’s Creed, released November 14, 2007, was developed by Ubisoft. It’s a 10 to 12 hour game depending on the player’s skill level. Assassin’s Creed is a great, but somewhat flawed, game that doesn’t quite live up to its potential.  The world of Assassin’s Creed is  the game’s biggest draw. The game takes place mostly in the Holy Land 12 centuries after the birth of Christ. As Altair, you will be able to explore Jerusalem, Damascus, Acre, and several other locations. Each city is, in and of itself, a work of art. They are beautiful and teaming with citizens going about their business.  The city drunks might attack you if you bother them, beggars will ask for money, city guards will harass civilians just because they can, and preachers will preach about God, religion, and the Third Crusade.

Each city is huge and you can fully explore each one. You can travel on horseback from one city to the next without visual hiccups. Graphically, everything is gorgeous, but there are a few instances of pop-in (texture movement) and some frame rate issues. One major disappointment about the world is that all bodies of water contain man-killing acid. If Altair puts just one little toenail into these bodies of doom—INSTANT DEATH! There is also no Day/Night cycles and no weather.

The animation is excellent.  During combat, the fluid animations are jaw dropping and while Altair is climbing the meticulously-crafted buildings, the animations are used to their fullest extent. Pay close attention to Altair’s hands and feet when he is climbing and you will notice that his hands and feet will almost always have a grip and a foothold. The sounds you hear are also incredible.  The sounds of the citizens and guards talking, the sounds of swords clashing, and the sounds of birds chirping are excellent.  There are however stock comments throughout the game that you will hear, mostly from the guards who will shout at you and the civilians constant cries for help might get on your nerves.  (“You dare disrespect me? That will cost you your life!”) One sound effect worth special mention is the sound Altair’s hidden blade makes when Altair assassinates someone. A bell goes off simultaneously when the blade makes contact with the victim. (Perhaps a “For Whom The Bell Tolls” reference.)  The voice acting and the soundtrack are both top notch, but ironically Philip Shahbaz (Altair), is the weak link in the cast.

Assassin’s Creed’s storytelling is a little uneven. Some parts are fantastic while other parts are just bad and the ending is a confusing cliffhanger. All in all, Assassin’s Creed manages to pull an exceptional tale.  Altair’s 12th century tale is a memory that is being forcibly extracted from a modern day bartender, Desmond Miles, by a team of Abstergo scientists.  Desmond experiences the past through his ancestor, Altair’s, memories. The Abstergo scientists are searching for a piece of Eden that Altair supposedly found sometime in his lifetime. It is never fully explained 1) what the pieces of Eden are, 2) why Abstergo wants them, and 3) who exactly Abstergo is. All Desmond knows is that the Piece of Eden is a powerful artifact.  In the world of Assassin’s Creed, Desmond’s DNA stores the memories of his ancestors. It’s an interesting idea, but the sections where you play as Desmond are terrible because Desmond and his captors are boring and uninteresting characters.  Altair, his story, and the characters that inhabit it, however, are much more fascinating.  Altair is a member of an Assassin group (the historical Hashshashin group that was fully operational at the time the game is set in). This fact adds a special wrinkle of depth to the world and story of Assassin’s Creed.

The story starts off with Altair, a high ranking member of the Assassin’s order, in Solomon’s Temple searching for a piece of Eden for his master, Al Mualim (the excellent Peter Renaday). Al Mualim is the head of the Assassin order.  While on his mission Altair breaks several of the order’s codes, including killing an innocent civilian. Altair confronts a crusader named Robert de Sable and is defeated and shamed by de Sable.  For his irresponsible actions, Al Mualim strips him of his weapons and his rank. In order to redeem himself, Mualim sends Altair on a journey across the Holy land to kill nine people. Who they are and why Mualim wants them dead is revealed as the story progresses.  Because of his callous actions Altair is unlikable at first, but as the narrative reaches its conclusion Altair has made a character arc. He’s not the same man he is at the beginning of the game.

Ubisoft feigns a cop out when it comes to the assassinations of these nine men. When Altair tracks a target down in whatever city they are living in, a cutscene will take place where Altair’s target will do something evil and brutal. This serves to temporarily negate moral conflict, but when the characters are on death’s door, their final words  will reveal that they weren’t evil and/or they thought what they were doing was the correct moral choice. These characters are interesting. Some are guided by their various religions, while others are motivated by their own moral compass or their greed. This moral uncertainty eats away at Altair as the narrative progresses. His conversations with Mualim about the morality of their actions are the best parts of the game.  Another interesting fact about the nine men that Altair is tasked with assassinating is that they’re all real people that disappeared at the time that this game takes place. Ubisoft’s tactful blending of fact with fiction serves to create an excellent tale that is only slightly hampered by Philip Shahbaz’s voice-acting, the sections with Desmond, and a confusing ending.

Assassin’s Creed’s gameplay also has its share of ups and downs. The story is very linear and controlled and is set in a beautiful open world. The world is gorgeous to look at, but there is very little interaction outside of the story elements. The gameplay is broken down into three pillars. There is stealth, combat, and platforming. The story forces you to fight more often than not, so if you were planning to play this game as a stealth game you will probably be disappointed. (The enemy artificial intelligence isn’t good enough for Assassin’s Creed to have been a stealth-only game anyway.) The combat is fantastic and Altair’s animations during combat are superb. Altair has a sword, throwing knives, a short knife, his fists, and a hidden blade. The hidden blade is unique, versatile and can be used in stealth and combat.  Ubisoft created unique animations for each weapon Altair uses in combat, so you probably won’t get tired of combat in Assassin’s Creed.

Combat never gets old.

Platforming (the climbing and jumping from roof-to-roof) is where Assassin’s Creed truly shines. It’s smooth, fun, and never gets old.  In order to track down each target in the story, Altair must rely on three (and only three) things to get the job done. Altair can pickpocket, sit on a bench (to eavesdrop), and beat up targets. He does these three things in order to gain information about his main target. These three methods of acquiring information can get boring quickly considering that you must do these things over and over again in order to get to the main target. Also, beating people up with fists is just embarrassing in Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft designed Altair to only be able to punch with his right hand. It looks as awkward as it sounds. Having this awful gameplay mechanic was a huge misstep by Ubisoft.

Outside of story missions the only three things you can do are climb to the top of tall buildings to develop your map of the world, collect flags, and rescue civilians from obnoxious city guards. When you rescue citizens, they will form into a group and do their best to assist you the next time you have a run in with the enemy AI. The gameplay in Assassin’s Creed is fun, but severely lacking in variety.

Assassin’s Creed is an immersive, fascinating game that no gamer should miss out on despite it’s many flaws.

8.4 out 10

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