Having recently completed the original Assassin’s Creed, (yes, I know its taken me around 10 years to beat it!) I thought now would be a good time to share my thoughts on the first in a very long line of games for this series.
I’m going to come out with it, Assassin’s Creed is both boring and frustrating. Yet, it has so much potential. This is most obvious in the story and the character arc. The game is about Desmond Miles, your average bartender who is also descended from a long line of Assassins, who fight a secret war with the Templar Order. You know, a typical family background. Before the start of Assassin’s Creed, Desmond has been abducted by Abstergo, the modern company run by the Templars, to help locate a unique artefact. It turns out that one of Desmond’s ancestors, Altair, came into contact with the artefact and so Abstergo wants Desmond to relive Altair’s life during the Crusades. I know, you need to take a leap of faith with the plot, however I can’t deny its a pretty unique concept, as you have the modern day plot and then the Altair plot running through the game. I will say that Altair’s story is more interesting as it has more action compared to Desmond’s more exposition filled plot.
Speaking of Altair, he is another positive element of the game. Without revealing too much of his story, his character arc is one of redemption. At the start of the game, he is an arrogant man who is, to be blunt, full of himself. This leads to a series of tragic events that lead him to be demoted in the Assassin Brotherhood. The only way he can redeem himself is to assassinate nine Templar targets. I’ll admit that the way the developers tease all of Altair’s skills and weapons in the tutorial, only for him to suddenly have amnesia on how to block an attack is a little ridiculous. On the other hand, it does give Altair a great journey for him to embark. The same could not be said for Desmond, who is basically Assassin’s Creed’s version of Princess Peach. I kid you not. Do not expect this guy to do much, except whine on about how he is being treated and not being told what is going on. I think it is Desmond’s character that really drags the modern day part of the game down. If there was at least one action sequence, it would have the modern day plot a little more engaging, instead it felt like it was just pulling me away from the bit of the game that interested me.
So what about the gameplay, you ask? Oh boy. This is where Assassin’s Creed really messes up. The main part of the game is all about travelling to one of three cities, completing a few tasks that would help locate the target and then you assassinate said target. OK, fairly simple. Apart from the tasks you have to complete are all the same: pick pocketing letters, interrogating someone, assassinating other targets, delivering a message to another assassin; collecting flags for some reason or eavesdropping on conversations. These are the same tasks you have to complete regardless of what city you are in or which person is your target; the only difference is what information you acquire. I’ll be honest after the third time of completing these tasks, and knowing I had to do it another six times, I did despair. It almost seemed like the developers knew that players would be bored, as you only have to complete three tasks out of the six to then be able to go onto the main assassination. Why make three task optional when they are all boring? Its a shame because the picture you get of each target, if complete all six tasks for each, starts to blur the moral line of killing some of them; which you don’t get if you only complete half the tasks.
Now repetitive tasks could be forgiven if the actual assassinations themselves were interesting, which they sort of are. Each target is unique and each assassination takes place in a unique location. However assassinating someone is actually rather dull. You can only use your hidden blade out of combat but I quickly found out you don’t need to use your hidden blade, the signature weapon of the Assassins, to complete the assassination, your sword will do. So there is no need to be stealthy, you can simply charge at your target and engage them in combat, like you would do with any other enemy.
Unfortunately, the four side activities do not improve things either. The first activity you can do is climb various high building in the cities and ‘synchronise’ that viewpoint. This will reveal some of the map in that area… just not on your mini-map. Yes, the mini-map is basically useless. The second side activity is to save civilians who are being harassed by the guards. This is a simple combat activity that rewards you with either vigilantes or scholars, who will prevent guards from chasing you or a moving hiding spot respectively. Now completing the viewpoints and saving civilians will also reward you with a health block for every 15 of these tasks you complete. This is great, except once you’ve hit twenty health you won’t be rewarded with any more health, even though there are still civilians to save and viewpoints to climb. So like the main tasks, there is literally no point in completing every single one of these side activities!
But Thero, what about the other two side activities, surely they help to redeem the game? No, just no. The third side activity is to travel around the world and kill 60 additional Templars, that are hidden. Now these Templars will be a challenge, initially, but once you have your counter ability, they will be no more difficult than your standard guard. The final activity is to find a grand total of 420 flags to collect. 420, let that sink in. The problem is they aren’t difficult to find, its just boring to run around and collect them. The worst thing is, that there is literally no reason, unless you’re playing the Xbox 360 or Playstion 3 version of the game, to do these two activities. They don’t unlock unique weapons or armour and you don’t get any achievement unless you are playing the consoles I mentioned above. These activities are in the game to waste your time.
I don’t want to end this review on a bad note, so I’m just going to talk about the visuals. Even today, the locations and characters look good. Don’t get me wrong, you can tell this is an old game; but for an old game the graphics aren’t that bad. The three cities have their own design and you won’t even get confused as to which city you are currently in. The fact that their layouts and appearance are so different from one another, makes it a joy to go free running across them.
So, I finish this review by saying I wanted to love Assassin’s Creed, and to some degree I do, but the game also left me feeling frustrated and bored. While the story and Altair offer an interesting gaming experience, at times it felt like the developers were aware of how short the story was. Instead of excepting this was going to be a short game, they decided to fill the game with meaningless activities that would leave even the most patient gamer bored. Which is a shame because I feel that a lot of people stopped playing long before the last third of Assassin’s Creed, which I felt was incredible. If you are new to the Assassin’s Creed series, then I strongly advise you don’t start with this game, as it won’t really show you the best the series has to offer; if you are a fan of the later games, I suggest you give Assassin’s Creed a go, just to see where it all began, but don’t be surprised if you give up half way through.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have 200 flags to find…
Assassin’s Creed is available on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.
All images were taken from the Assassin’s Creed Steam Store page, apart from the featured image which came from smosh.com.