Dangling high above a scenic view of Jerusalem isn’t such a bad place to be when you are the most powerful assassin in the world. The evil Templars are scattered throughout the city below while citizens scurry about town with no insight as to what is going on. Stealth is your friend here as you move through the crowds unnoticed, occasionally pulling a guard aside for a quick assassination. Hope you aren’t afraid of heights, because you will be spending quite a bit of time jumping from rooftops and diving from towers while adventuring in this Middle-Eastern world.
The story opens with a character named Desmond who has been kidnapped and brought to Abstergo Industries for special testing. Surrounded by a cloud of confusion, you are ordered to lay on an operating-like table called the Animus. There is no choice but to cooperate, as Desmond is slightly outnumbered and powerless. So you follow orders and begin the process of reliving memories of a strange character named Altaïr. You soon begin learning the backstory of the struggle between the Assassin and Templar orders and realize that there is more to this story than meets the eye.
Assassin’s Creed has you rising through the ranks of the Assassins and taking out slews of enemies along the way. The kingdom is composed of three cities called Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus. Each city provides a broad spectrum of repetitious missions that involve taking out targets, climbing to lookout points and playing a fun game of rescue the citizen. Provided you complete all missions involving a particular memory strand, you will receive a new rank which will upgrade your character with new abilities and weapons. Each memory ends with Altaïr polishing off a special Templar leader standing in the way of Assassin supremacy. As your targets lay dying in your arms interactive sequences begin, allowing you to become closely acquainted with the story. Each interaction is more gripping as secrets begin to unfold. Unfortunately, the biggest downfall of Assassin’s Creed is the repetitive nature of the missions. Each city feels like the one before, and Ubisoft never throws much new and exciting your way until the end of the game, and then it’s too late. Gamers are used to occasionally playing repetitive parts in games, but when it becomes the basis for gameplay it ruins the entire experience. This is the case for Assassin’s Creed, and it makes the experience a bore at times.
However, the game truly shines in its exploration and platforming aspects, and the cities are designed with the platforming assassin in mind. The level design is crafted in such a way as to allow ease of movement, while keeping the visual aspect aesthetically pleasing and practical. Countless hours were spent on my part vaulting through the cities and discovering new areas. Making rooftop escapes by hurling myself from a temple rooftop and clinging onto the window of a nearby building below, delivered the satisfaction I was craving. Exploration is exciting, but don’t expect to be rewarded for your efforts. Scattered throughout the holy land are a ridiculous amount of hidden flags, and a substantial amount of powerful templar knights for you to test your mettle against. Completionists will grovel at the feet of their achievement list as they spend countless hours scouring the lands for all the hidden bounty. If you aren’t a gamerscore nut, then avoid finding all of these secret goodies because you will be receiving no reward other than the satisfaction of a job well done.
Other notable points in the game are the controls and the combat mechanics. While the visuals provide an outstanding presentation for the eyes, the controls make that possible by providing an easy to use system that works naturally. Being able to move through crowds while running or walking is important, and Assassin’s creed executes it well. There are two “modes”, stealth and high profile, that are used when performing any given action. Your character is naturally in stealth mode. Walking, assassinating, and crowd control can all be performed with minimal detection, but pull that trigger and the floodgates open. With the trigger pulled you will perform everything in high profile. Instead of walking, you will run, when assassinating you may throw your target to the ground and kabob his head, and rather than gently sliding a citizen out of your way, you will collide with them lineman style. Though things may seem a little complicated, they surprisingly flow well together and simplify the process of moving around the cities. Combat also has many promising attributes, but they fall short on too many levels, most notably sword play. When facing off against an enemy (or many of them), attacking with your sword requires little strategy and is as simple as tapping one button repeatedly. It becomes frustrating when fights begin to require more thought, but the only real worthy combat skill was a counter attack. Creating a wider variety of fighting tactics and mixing it up with some advanced moves would have served the combat well. The targeting system was also undesirable as changing between enemies was difficult, and randomly locking onto targets became an annoying occurrence. I walked away from the combat with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth wanting a more fleshed out system in the end.
The main focus of Assassin’s Creed is the story, and it doesn’t disappoint. The characters and plots are very immersive, and there are plenty of pivotal moments that will make you want to play just a little longer. The story unfolds at a slower pace, but fits the overall mood of the game in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s dragging. Breaks in the action, when you are kicked back into the present as Desmond at the end of each memory strand, mar the flow of gameplay. This part of the story adds some great depth to the overview of the game, but seems to only serve as a checkpoint. It would have been much nicer to stay in the memory longer or to make the time out of the Animus more exciting. The strongest point of the story are the characters, especially those aiding the templars in achieving their vision. With secrets wedged in the storyline from beginning to end, you can’t help but stay glued to your television.
The bottom line is that this game has great expectations, but it never delivers the experience players want. It’s worth playing and should not be avoided, but don’t look for Assassin’s Creed to be the title that blows you away.