Assassin's Creed
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After he finished working on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time for various platforms in 2003, videogame developer Patrice Désilets commenced work on a sequel, intending it to release on consoles of its time, unaware of the capabilities of next-generation systems. However, his efforts ultimately turned into an open-world game feasible on newer systems, with the title still envisioned as a Prince of Persia game. As next-gen consoles came out, though, the game would ultimately become a Divorced Installment entitled Assassin’s Creed. Does it hold up today, or does it show its age?

The franchise’s first installment follows a bartender, Desmond Miles, subject to experiments on the Animus, a system allowing him to go back in time to assume the role of an ancestors, an assassin named Altaïr, active during the Third Crusade during the twelfth century, with his guild opposing the Templars, both antagonistic factions seeking peace through conflicting means. The story is easily one of the game’s highlights, given its basis on reality, but many intertwined narrative/gameplay clichés, such as having to do favors for people in order to get information from them and advance the plot, easily bog it down.

Altaïr’s main goal is to assassinate nine individuals to regain his stature in the Assassin Brotherhood, the game largely following a methodical structure where he gathers information in an Israeli city through means such as eavesdropping on conversations whilst sitting on a nearby bench, stealthily assassinating targets assigned by a non-player character (in which case detection by soldiers forces players to redo all such killings), pickpocketing certain individuals, or following an orator after one of their speeches and beating information out of them. Assassination sub-missions tend to be the most annoying, although luckily, players don’t have to see through all such tasks to advance the storyline, with scenery scoping from the top of tall buildings sometimes opening more advancement opportunities.

Occasionally, due to the difficulty of remaining wholly covert, Altaïr will have to fight guards, most combat sword-based, the assassin largely alone in his efforts to resist, although harassed citizens whom he rescues will sometimes open up help from vigilantes, the hero himself able to eventually return to secretive disposition by staying in hay piles or rooftop shacks for a few seconds. Combat against multiple adversaries can be somewhat difficult, made even more so by the lousy targeting system, although mastering the eventual ability to counterattack can make such battles more manageable.

While advancing through the game somewhat opens up Altaïr to more health points and ways in which to defend himself, the game systems feel generally unrewarding, tedious, and repetitive, although as long as players don’t exit the game, there are some instances where he can retry certain mission objectives from checkpoints, and while exploration can sometimes be fun, the gameplay ultimately loses its luster. This player, furthermore, didn’t find much use for Altaïr’s ability arsenal aside from counterattacks, given that attacking normally fails around nine-tenths of the time. Overall, the gameplay does have things going for it, but often becomes a chore.

Control, however, fares significantly worse, given some loose aspects such as the traversal of rooftops and ease of unintended actions such as Altaïr kicking away from walls into enemies, not to mention the hit-or-miss nature of the mentioned counterattacks. There are also some instances where a more detailed mini-map during standard gameplay would have been helpful, particularly during the time-sensitive seek-and-kill missions, the player needing to go into the main interface to view streets and buildings. The lack of manual saving is also a burden, with the occasional autosaves not always keeping Altaïr’s current location, and there are redundant traversals of the game’s world from the assassin headquarters with each new story mission. Ultimately, interaction could have been far better.

The voicework in Assassin’s Creed is mostly good (although hearing-impaired gamers definitely won’t appreciate the lack of subtitles), but the game barely tries in terms of its soundtrack, with very few, if any, memorable tracks.

The franchise’s initial entry also falters with regards to its visuals, given a choppy framerate, inconsistent camera, dull grayish hues, bland textures, and so on, although there are some cutscenes where the player can change the view.

Finally, finishing the main quest can take from half to a full day, and the game actually has some lasting appeal, given tasks such as finding hidden flags and killing all official Templars.

In the end, Assassin’s Creed is a game that had strong potential, given the mild entertainment of its exploration and open-world gameplay, solid voicework, enjoyable narrative, and reason to come back for more, although there are many areas where it falters, particularly with regards to its repetitive combat and hackneyed play elements, loose control, unmemorable soundtrack, and unpolished visuals. It definitely shows as the first title in its franchise, yet would nonetheless spawn a vast media franchise consisting of many sequels, spinoffs, and even a movie. Regardless, it’s certainly not the best diving board into the series, with many other games implementing what play elements it has better.

The Good:
+Gameplay can be fun.
+Good voicework.
+Enjoyable story.
+Some lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Repetitive combat.
-Wonky controls.
-Forgettable soundtrack.
-Glitchy graphics.

The Bottom Line:
Not a great start to the series.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 6/10
Controls: 3/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 5/10
Graphics: 4/10
Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Difficulty: Annoying
Playing Time: 12-24 Hours

Overall: 5.5/10

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