Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review #122: Assassin's Creed

 7 years too late, but here I am!
 Assassin's Creed is, at the moment, Ubisoft biggest cash cow, it quickly became a yearly franchise after the first one, the one I'm writing about today. Rough around the edges, Assassin's Creed was the first entry in the series, so it's only fair that we start off from here.

 The game is set in two different eras: Present day, with Desmond Miles, and during the Third Crusade as Desmond's ancestor Altair. Desmond is captured, before the game's beginning, by Abstergo and is now strapped to the Animus, a machine that puts him in the place of his ancestors, in this case, Altair. Turns out Desmond is a descendant from a long line of Assassins, and by relieving Altair's crusade against the Templars, Abstergo aims to obtain something. Desmond's short sequences are easily the most boring, but they are a bit interesting, Altair's story is much more interesting. The story itself is alright, and while the dialogue is nothing special, it does have a couple of shining lines. Furthermore, the whole lore surrounding the Assassins and Templars is very interesting. Oh, and the game ends with one of the biggest cliff hangers ever conceived, not cool Ubisoft!
 First things first, Desmond is the means to tie up subsequent sequels, his sequences consist of him walking around and asking questions... now, the meat of the game lies on Altair. The game features an open world with three huge towns, an "overworld" that connects the towns and a smaller village where the Assassin's guild resides. The game employs a functional parkour system, while holding R1 and X, Altair will try to climb or jump his way through buldings, walls, stands, windows or what have you. It works well most of the time, but occasionally Altair will stop dead on his tracks, requiring you to let go and then press the buttons again, and sometimes while trying to run in a direction, he will try to climb a wall. Luckily, most of the time it works well, but it clearly needs refinement. As an Assassin, Altair should kill without alerting anyone, should he be found out, he'll enter alert mode, not unlike Metal Gear Solid's, while in this mode you can either kill all the guards that spawn or avoid their line of sight and hide in a haystack, or bend with walking erudites or civilians sitting on benches. It's more fun than it sounds.

 Combat is fairly simple, and Altair packs a couple of weapons to make his job easier. The Hidden Blade is useless in battle, but it can be used to kill unsuspecting or fallen enemies, but when it comes to fighting he wields a sword and a small knife. The knife doubles as the projectile weapon, according to the distance, Altair will shoot a knife or try to hit his enemies with it. Fighting with the sword or the knife, at close quarters, is virtually the same, you can mash on the attack button to attack, time a Counter Attack(Which may or may not kill, which means its usefulness can vary!) or sidestep. To be honest, combat is dead simple and easy, only a couple of enemies can perform counterattacks and most of the time mashing on the attack button is all you really need.
 The game is fairly formulaic once it gets going. Very early in the game, Altair gets his arrogance get the best of him and gets demoted to the lowest rank, and must now prove himself to the brotherhood. The game is divided in chapters("Memory sections"), each chapter has up to three assassinations for Altair to perform, quite conveniently, each assassination takes place in a different section of each of the three towns. Before each Assassination, you must obtain at least three pieces of information, which is done by performing sidequests. Sidequests come in a few forms: Climbing vantage points, races, eavesdropping, pick pocketing, assassinating some targets without alerting guards or saving citizens from guard abuse. It's easy to tell that the game can get quite repetitive. Fulfilling sidequests has the added benefit of increasing your hit points("Synchronization rate") so it's in your best interest to do as many of them as possible. Regardless, after you get the information you need, you are off to Assassinate your target, each of this major Assassinations are the highlight of the game, and while they usually go down the same, the set up is entirely different, as well as their last words. After each assassination Altair will also go up in rank, regaining a weapon alongside a skill.

 The game also offers some optional quests in the form of hidden flags throughout the towns and 60 hidden Templars for Altair to defeat, but since the PS3 version has no trophies, they are not worth it. One thing that really irked me is that you can't manually save the game, you must rely on the autosave system. The game autosaves every time you find a collectible or clear a side quest, but it would've been nice to be able to save at will. Another annoyance, albeit much minor, is that when you are selecting a Memory Section, the nice Abstergo scientist will nag on Desmond, it quickly grows annoying when you are just checking stuff out.
  Graphics are a mixed bag. Most textures are fairly muddy, and character models aren't very pretty. Hilariously enough, Altair is the only Assassin missing a finger, which is supposed to be a trait shared by the brotherhood, not even Altair's Mentor is missing his finger! Also, secondary NPCs share heads, even with the Mentor who is a rather important character, or the Assassin Knights in the Assassin's HQ having 20 fingers(I'm not kidding!)... yeah, characters don't look very good. On the flip side, the world itself is beautiful, towns are a joy to see from above, and having the screen filled with NPCs walking around is really nice. Music is used very sparingly, but it's nothing special, and the voice acting is just passable. Altair in particular was fairly unimpressive.

  Assassin's Creed was a very decent first game, but it clearly needed a lot of polishing, and as repetitive as it got, I found myself having more fun than I expected.
 6.5 out of 10.

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