Few games come out based on historical events. Assassin’s Creed aims to represent as realistically as possible the world during the times of the Crusades in the Holy Land. This includes references to real historical figures of the time and the developers, UbiSoft, obviously aimed to have the player living and breathing in medieval blood, sweat and tears.
This is a game worthy of high definition. The camera pans are smooth, the texture is rich and the sound is first rate. Sometimes control is a little finicky, the average button combination being as it is (which is likely holding right trigger + A + B which makes you run, jump and climb).
The premise is set in the future *and* in the past. Initially you are cast as a descendant of assassins and the setting is the future. Not much is known about the world of the future within the game, but there are shadowy references to secret guilds of old.
A large corporation has kidnapped your character, and you are subjected to exploring your DNA through a machine known as the ‘Animus’. This machine is designed to read your character’s DNA and send you back to the medieval times re-living the adventures of your predecessor. When I mean ‘send you back’ I really mean ‘re-live’ and by ‘re-live’ I mean ‘play’. Confusing?
The idea is that you are re-living memories. The purpose (in the game) for this is unclear at first. However, it becomes clearer as you progress.
The game starts out well enough but there is a fairly large plot twist early which has a huge impact. You are then sent on missions to three different cities (Acre, Jerusalem and Damascus) to investigate and to enact the assassinations on nine different people.
The three cities are visually spectacular, and once they have loaded you can go to anywhere in the city that you have unlocked. Each city has three main sections, you unlock a new section in each of the three cities every 3 kills. So you have to complete an assassination in each city in parallel to unlock further sections.
Successful completion of an assassination comes with a weapon/life (called DNA synchronization) and skill bonus, plus a little bit more storyline.
As you develop your character, you obtain better skills and weapons. Your agility, skill and difficulty increases with each kill until you finally reach the last of nine assassinations, when it gets really interesting.
Initially there is a lot of cross-country travel (on horse). You must successfully navigate ‘The Kingdom’ to each of the three cities initially, which can take some serious time!
Now, I enjoyed this game. However there are some bones to pick.
Your player can be at times *very* frustrating to control. He’ll grapple and climb when you don’t want that to happen (in ways you don’t intend) and he’ll amazingly miss ladders which are right in front of him.
The travel via horse in the early part of the game becomes tedious – fast! Travelling by stealth (through the Kingdom) doesn’t impact the game, which means you can basically gallop from city to city. Cutting down soldiers on the way is fun, but rather pointless (at least story-wise).
The fight engine gives you a few options, but they can easily become a button mashing affair (which is somewhat successful). The best feature is the counter attack which can be deadly.
Stealth kills (with a hidden blade) is a very stylish way to accomplish kills. Killing by sword raises your profile to ‘Public’ which means you get noticed by guards.
There are a number of extra missions, and a number of ways to gather information about assassination targets, namely, eavesdropping, thumping info out of people and pick-pocketing.
You unlock intel of city surrounds by climbing to high points (Eagle Views) and viewing the city. This reveals missions and other info.
I’d highly recommend completing all the "Save the Citizens" bonus missions in each of the three cities that you visit. They can be very strategically valuable in helping you to complete assassinations!
Lastly, when you do complete an assassination, your job is only half complete. In each city you must successfully evade city soldiers and make it back to the Assassin’s bureau which can be very tough at times.
The toughest battle comes towards the end when you must duel against a number of Templar knights. You need a lot of patience, blocking and countering to get past this stage.
All in all, I like the trend towards historical games, lets hope that they continue to raise the bar.
If you’d like any help with any section of the game please email me: rob.sanders[at]gmail.com