Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 4/8/2008
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Nothing is true. Everything is permitted. This is a saying heard throughout Assassin’s Creed and it really sticks with you. So does the thick plot that has come to take the game industry by storm as well as one of the greatest game characters of all time: Altair. The plot is actually weird at first because it’s a sci-fi story. You are actually Desmond Miles capture by modern world Templars. They stick you in an Animus and use your DNA to access your ancestor’s memories to find the Piece of Eden which can be used to control people’s minds. That one ancestor is Altair set during the crusades. The second story is of Altair who ends up losing his rank and status among the Assassin Brotherhood by failing a mission due to eagerness and stupidity. Your master, Al Mualim, sends on special missions to assassinate key leaders throughout the holy land (Acre, Jerusalem, and Damascus) to keep them from taking the Piece of Eden and using it to win the war.
As you can see the plot is very interesting with a lot of twists. How is the game though? You have a huge open world that is full of side missions and hundreds of buildings to climb. Assassin’s Creed has a parkour climbing system as well as a puppeteering system. You control each of Altair’s limbs in two different states. The “socially acceptable” state allows you to use eagle vision which can show enemies and key targets. You can gently push people away from you and this is key because is you’re running around the city knocking people over the guards will come after you, and towards the end of the game everyone is highly suspicious of you and just a few people knocked over will have the entire guard on your tail. The third thing is obviously combat, but if you hold down the run button you start climbing buildings, grabbing people to toss them, and jumping around.
Assassin’s Creed really tried to introduce crowd psychology into the game and it works here but does feel limited. If you climb buildings people will react by stopping and staring and saying things accordingly. If you use ladders people don’t mind so much. While using rooftops is faster and keeps you away from most guards you must watch out for guards on rooftops who will shoot you with arrows if you don’t get down, kill them, or move away quickly. The climbing works well enough, but there are some controls issues, clipping issues, and other issues with the camera. When Altair is facing a different way then the camera he will jump towards his way instead of the way you’re telling him too. Also, if you run around a pole or near a crate he’ll start climbing it instead of just jumping over or going around. This can get downright frustrating when you are running away from a dozen guards and trying to find a hiding spot.
The game also introduces anonymity via a symbol near your health bar which stays white when no ones suspect you but will turn yellow when you are watched and flash red when guards are on to you. When it does this getaway quickly or kill whoever is watching you. Don’t just kill out in the open or people will run around screaming and call guards. Get away from dead bodies quickly because guards will come by and try to find who killed them or citizens will give you away. If you are caught you need to kill all guards after you or hide. To do this you must break their line of sight and the symbol will flash yellow. When it does find a hiding spot quickly before it turns red again. You can hide on benches between people, stacks of hay, in groups of monks praying, or draped boxes on rooftops. Stay there for a few seconds and you will be anonymous again. You can avoid all this chaos by just jogging, staying calm, don’t flail around and jump around like a monkey in crowded areas, etc.
This whole crowd system is really something else and works well, but feels repetitive and predictable because of the recycled sayings, animations, and it always happens the same way. The combat is the same way because while you can gain new abilities it feels like a counter fest. You can attack with a sword or short sword, throw daggers, but most guards always block and you just stand there with the block button held down and wait for someone to attack and then counter which is usually an instant kill. This gets repetitive and the combat isn’t as deep as it could be since combos are limited, and animations are repeated often. It does control well and feels smooth so I guess that’s better than broken.
The most repetitive thing and the game’s biggest flaw are the constantly repeated missions that repeat dozens and dozens of times. You can save citizens, do some time trial flag gathering missions, escort missions, assassination missions (probably the most fun), interrogation, eavesdropping, pickpocketing, and climbing tall buildings to find viewpoints to put more missions on your map in that area. Sure they are fun at first, but after you have saved the 30th citizen, or climbed the 50th building it gets old and you just want it to end. Some more mission diversity would have been nice.
While it’s cool to be an assassin, sneaking up behind a guard and shoving a punch dagger in his gut, and then running away while he falls to the ground without anyone suspecting otherwise is satisfying you must look good doing it too. Assassin’s Creed looks amazing, even today, and the PC version sports DirectX 10 graphics with some slightly higher resolution textures. The game looks a lot better than console versions and is well worth another play through just for that alone. While the graphics are amazing technically, artistically the game feels very Middle Eastern with a great soundtrack to support that, voice acting, and the whole game feels true to its time. The architecture is great, the clothing, lifestyles, and jobs people do in the game, but it all does kind of look the same with a lot of greys, browns, and whites.
Overall Assassin’s Creed is an amazing experience with a story you will talk about long after you finish the game, great crowd simulation, and the true feeling of being an assassin. If there was some more mission diversity, visual diversity, and smoother controls the game would be perfect. This is a game you can not miss and every gaming fan should play this.