Practice makes not-so-perfect

25Apr09

Assassin’s Creed was one of the most innovative games of 2007 and my first installment on the PS3. As far as freedom in video games go, AC represents a gem leading the way into the latest next-gen video gaming age. However, some glitch in thinking programmed that gem to replicate itself a hundred times, leaving you with tacky ring pop-like jewelry. And even worse, the candy has gone stale. And it’s that flavor you hate.

Story

By the time I forced myself to finish Assassin’s Creed, I wasn’t even sure what war I was fighting anymore. Okay, that might be an expression I can only successfully apply to Final Fantasy XII, but you get my angsty drift. The thing about AC‘s story is that while it fulfills a lot of its shiny worth, the game either abandons or just falls short with other golden opportunities.

Explore lush environments as the reckless young assassin, Altair.

Explore lush environments as the reckless young assassin, Altair.

Introducing Desmond Miles, lab rat for Abstergo Industries. Apparently Miles directly descends from Altair Ibn La-Ahad, an assassin who lived during the Third Crusade. After disregarding tenets of the Assassin’s Creed in an endeavor to murder Robert IV de Sablé, Masyaf, the leader of the Creed, demotes Altair and forces him to relearn what it means to be an assassin.

As the plot thickens, Altair begins to realize that not everything between the assassins and their enemies, the Knight Templars, are black and white. Under Masyaf’s influence, Altair lets go of his arrogance, but he also notices pieces of a giant puzzle that add up to a much different picture.

Unfortunately, the dramatic reveal lacks any real bang, because you could see it coming a mile away. There exists an uncanny parallel between Masyaf and Warren Vidic, the self-important asshole who forces Desmond to relive his ancestry in order to provide Abstergo with valuable intel. Moreover, the abrupt and frustratingly inconclusive ending makes you blink stupidly a few times before cursing in violent fury. Some video games are designed simply for entertainment; others offer a more rewarding ride. But when the end credits for Assassin’s Creed roll, you actually feel like some part of you is missing. Oh, wait. That’s just the hours of your life you wasted.

Visuals

The graphics and sky diving from dizzying heights never get old.

The graphics in Assassin’s Creed are gorgeous, simply put, and crystal clear. The way the sun hits the environment, like when it filters through the beautiful haze of Jersalem, brings a sense of awe that makes you eager to absorb the scenery again and again. Despite the repetition, the places you visit never become mundane in terms of visuals.

Not to mention that the world is huge, and ripe for exploration. The Animus’ glitches add some cool and futuristic effects, as well.

Gameplay

Most of the story revolves around three cities: Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus. You revisit these areas a few times over, and with each return you cover a little more of the large city maps. The ability to free roam fills you with a sense of exhileration. There are so many nooks and crannies, and so much to take in, that you could spend hours traveling down every alleyway and scoping out every rooftop.

Assassination targets are your rewards for putting up with so much crap.

Of course, there are those damn flags to find, too. Every area on your map boasts its own set of flags, and trust me, they’re a pain to collect considering the grand landscape. After wasting a certain amount of time with the mindset, “Oooh, it’ll be like old school Spyro the Dragon all over again!” you soon come to remember what happened to Spyro, and that games just aren’t made the same way anymore. It’s like developers simply forgot what makes bonus stuff fun in the first place.

You’re also tasked with locating and assassinating sixty Templars—a much more manageable task considering you don’t have to target sixty or more per vicinity, although oftentimes Templars are even more difficult to hunt down.

The repetition only worsens. For the majority of the game, the only real worth lies in assassination targets, but  most of the time you’re stuck trudging through the same old missions before you can unlock your target’s location. In fact, the whole damn game resembles something like this:

Although the graphics don’t fall short on variety, the gameplay certainly does. Every city functions on the same basic level. Find the Assassin’s Bureau and sit tight through some boring dialogue, and then take your pick of assignments: informants, pickpocketing, interrogation, and eavesdropping. On the way, complete your map by finding all the viewpoints, save citizens who are being assaulted, avoid the extremely annoying crazy and poor people, and take out some guards on the rooftops.

Rooftops are the only true way to get around relatively unhindered, so it’s no surprise how much time you’ll find yourself spending up there. If you’re spotted and half the city’s guards declare a manhunt for you, unless you want to run around like a moron all day, you have to flee to the roofs and find one of numerous hiding places until the alert dies down. After awhile, all of this becomes more work than play.

Ironically, even though the game’s “twist” doesn’t surprise, the last couple “memory blocks” of the game are the most rewarding. You actually fight swarms of bad guys, and not just the bothersome guards whose moves you counter with one of the most virtually flawless combat systems in terms of how predictably it executes. The only challenges in Assassin’s Creed emerge from the repetition, which when you think about it, is pretty sad.

Lifespan

Blending with scholars to bypass guards is one of the other few minor highlights of the game.

There are definitely extras to go back for in Assassin’s Creed: flags, Templars, perfect assassination kills, other missions … flags, Templars. But once you do finish the game and you endure the eye-gouging ending, unless you’re a masochist, you won’t want to polish off any of the remaining tasks.

The whole thing is just aggravating, like when you spent hours beefing up a certain someone in Final Fantasy VII and then she dropped dead because she was a helpless, creepy retard with a pretty face. And the only reason you were pissed at a certain someone else was because he was practically the equivilant of that jerk kid on the beach who wrecks your meticulously designed sand castle, calls you a booger, and then runs off to eat some sand and pee in the ocean. I mean, you spent hours on that sand castle, and what did you walk away with? A sun burn and a mental image of that stupid kid seared into your brain. Well, that’s pretty much all you get by playing Assassin’s Creed.

Recommendation

Assassin’s Creed proves incredibly innovative and gorgeous, but it seems like the developers tried too hard to accomplish just that. While the levels are open and gorgeous, and the music strengthens the amazing backdrops, most of the gameplay consists of mind-numbing repetitive tasks that will make you want to go jump off a fifty-foot building into a foot-high bale of hay.

AC is certainly worth a rent, and for while the game provides decent entertainment, but when your gut starts telling you to stop, for God’s sake, just listen. Unlike Desmond, you can actually exit the Animus and run the hell away.

Assassin’s Creed
Systems: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, DS (2008), PC (2008)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft


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8 Responses to “Practice makes not-so-perfect”

  1. 1 Orionsaint

    Great review! You really nailed it. I finished the game, but it took me a while, because I got bored of it and picked up where I left off a few months later., eventually finishing it. By the time you’re reaching the end it feels more like work than fun.

    The combat is broken. Here’s what I did whenever enemies surrounded me. I grab an enemy throw him to the ground. Stab him with my wrist knife. Repeat the process. It doesn’t matter how many enemies you face either. Because when you throw someone to the ground. The rest of the enemies just watch.

    I couldn’t be bothered to collect all the flags. Again it seemed more like work than fun. Where is my incentive? The reward? Maybe if it unlocked new costumes or characters, but the most you get is an achievement and that’s just not worth the trouble.

  2. 2 Jaym

    I still have to finish it because I bought too many games when I bought my 360 and simply haven’t gotten to finishing this one (but I had to try it out a bit!), but I didn’t find any of these issues to be problems, and I’m really looking forward to the sequel this year!

  3. 3 Matt

    Agreed on all points, collecting the flags just felt stupid and extraordinary hellish once I realized there where so many in each area and the rewards were slim.
    Jumping off buildings is so much fun, but they could of done SO much more.
    I find it hilarious that you hated the gameplay enough to make a pie-chart of it, who doesn’t love pie, eeemmmmm…Pie.
    Sounds like someone has a lot of angst about the 1st third of FF7, you and the other 20 million people that played the game.

  4. 4 WITA

    @Ryan Thanks!

    @Jaym Ohh, just rain on my many, many flags. Kidding! At least someone enjoyed this game, haha!

    @Matt Lmao I know, right? I’m damn proud of that pie chart! XD Although it was a pain, considering the first site I found to make a pie chart (before I messed around with it in PSP) used Java, and for some reason it made my browser crash. So yeah, go pie chart (not Java)! … And it’s possible I may have too much fun with Paint Shop Pro 9. I think I’m a Jedi Master in skillz of late, though … 😉

  5. 5 nick

    Thanks for confirming my suspicions, wita. I didn’t make it into this much depth in my analysis of the game … because I abandoned it after about 2 hours. The “tutorial” phase at the beginning of the game was so painful and long that by the time I finished that, my soul was already being crushed by the repetitiveness of it. The visuals are definitely amazing, and I probably spent an hour of the two I played just jumping across roof-tops and diving into those carts full of hay … but that wasn’t enough to keep me interested. Instead, I just decided to replay Fallout 3 for the THIRD time.

    • 6 WITA

      Hahaha, I don’t blame you. And at least you were wise enough to stop before it really got bad. I, on the other hand, stuck with it till the bitter end out of some sick sense of, “This is my first PS3 game … must finish …” Sigh.

      I’ve never actually played Fallout 3, or any of the Fallouts, y’know. Are they just for Xbox?

      • 7 nick

        Nah, it’s available for Xbox, PS3, and PC. And it’s the first in the series that I’ve played; I actually started playing it completely by accident … had been out of the videogame loop for a while, and asked a friend to lend me a good game. Ended up putting like 90 hours on it the first time through, and played it even more after I finished the first time. If you’re into action RPG’s, it’s tops. The map is enormous; I still didn’t get to everywhere in 90 hours. And then they went and released another map, set in Pittsburgh, which I haven’t checked out at all.

  6. 8 WITA

    Oh, sweet! Sounds like fun. I’ll add it to my wishlist hahaha.


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