This is a game I was looking forward to for some time. The previews looked simply stunning and having loved the Prince of Persia games previously I couldn’t think of any better follow up (apart from the new, recently announced, Prince of Persia trilogy).
This is quite a negative way to start a review. The game is good, very good, and I had high expectations, but unfortunately the bad parts stand out too much to ignore, so I’ll start with them.
Assassins Creed sees you taking the role of a (potential spoiler alert) kidnapped man who was once a killer for hire. He has been taken by a corporation that specialises in some sort of scientific stuff that means they can see into your memories and, more importantly, the memories of your ancestors.
To be honest the story was one of the worst parts of the game for me. Not the fact that it existed, or it was badly written, but that it got in the way of the game. Ubisoft seem to be big fans of having vast amounts of unskippable exposition – and it gets on my nerves. I much prefer the games that tell the story in small amounts as you progress (Zelda, Call of Duty etc), and why can’t I skip the stuff? The first time around it’s mildly interesting, but if you die and have to sit through it all again – and that’s just not fun.
Another thing I didn’t like was the combat. Again, the combat itself was pretty good, but there’s just so much of it. Kill a guard and almost instantly you will be surrounded by more guards. The fights themselves are quite easy to win, and they look great (the first dozen times) but pretty quickly you get to the stage where you can use a single move to win (the counter attack) and so you just have to be patient and get on with it.
Finally, I didn’t like the side missions. Again, the missions themselves were fine, there just wasn’t enough variety to hold my interest – by the time you’ve completed the first three assassinations you have seen all the variety the reconnaissance missions have. Apparently the pc version of Assassins Creed includes a couple of extra types of side mission, and I suspect they would be a welcome change.
Now for the good stuff.
The control and animation system is the most complex, beautiful thing I have seen in any game, ever. The precision with which you are able to run and jump around the environment, the way in which you can climb pretty much everything, it all adds up to some incredible fun. In fact often I was perfectly content running around the cities ignoring the game proper – and the fantastic controls made the stupid flag collecting missions more fun than they should have been.
The cities are vast, and incredibly densely populated with both people and buildings. Around the cities are buildings that are a little bit taller than the others. Climb to the top and you can unlock another part of your sat-nav/ map making finding the individual missions easier. Once you’ve done this you can dive from the tower into a tiny tiny pile of hay which is much cooler than it sounds.
The assassinations are very good fun, each one takes place in a different environment with different surroundings, and different approaches to the ensuing fight. Sometimes the targets stand and fight, other times they runaway. Each is different and requires a new approach to beat and they provide a sense of relief and finality I wasn’t expecting. Unfortunately they are topped off with more exposition which dampens things somewhat.
The game looks fantastic – the animation and world look wonderful, and there are only a few places that suffer from load times. There is one cathedral in particular in Acre. The tower is huge and climbing to the top gives you the best view in the game – the dive from the top is hugely satisfying as well. What’s more, everything you can see from any point in the game can be reached.
Assassins Creed is both a wonderful beautiful piece of art, and a missed opportunity. The bad parts really do stick out, but only because the good bits are so nice and fresh. On the plus side the game lays a very solid foundation for future games in the series, along with other games that use the engine (such as the upcoming Prince of Persia).