Assassins Creed: An Eaglet Born
December 4, 2009

These past few weeks has brought on a stream of great new games for our eager community. Call of Duty, Left 4 Dead 2, Dragon Age Origins and Assassins Creed 2 are all notably high powered examples for the within-a-week-or-two-of-November-17th release date. My attention is a bit more focused on two of these releases, specifically the ones with 2 in them. Yes. That’s right. L4D2  and Assassins Creed 2 (or as Yahtzee puts it, AssCreed 2). But before we get into reviewing L4D2 (as Dan will do sometime in the future), or AssCreed 2, we take a look at the originals, the games that promoted the name enough to warrant a sequel. Since Dan took L4D, I’m taking up Assassins Creed.

I’m going to get to my point early for this one. Assassins Creed is, at best, a gimmick. It’s an idea mixed with a physics engine and slightly salted with the beginnings of a storyline. It’s Ubisoft’s desire to recreate their success with the Prince of Persia series so they took what made Prince of Persia fun – running across walls, on rooftops, and killing things – and refined it. Add that to currently popular notions of sandbox worlds where everything within the capabilities of the game is permitted, and the idea that you’re a badass assassin who can shank things with ease and you have AssCreed 1. They even took the Prince of Persia gig where dying is no longer dying but desynchronizing, and all that happens is that you probably have to watch some unskippable cutscene again.

I’m not saying that any of this is bad really. Free running, free roaming, free killing is still a bunch of fun and games as you do extravagant jumps across buildings, miss a ledge and grab a window just in time. It’s great to be able to run around town and just pick off all the archers with throwing knives as you leap into the air and stab a templar through the throat with a blade that springs from your ring finger. It’s epic when you’re surrounded by city guards and you kill them off one by one with flashy counter kills. The idea is great. It’s fun, exhilarating, and cool to watch. The problem is that it takes 10~15 hours tops to beat.

No, I don’t mean only 10~15 hours. I mean a grueling 10~15 hours. The reason Assassins Creed is a gimmick instead of a game is because Ubisoft landed themselves with this great idea. They built the mechanics and the physics engine for it. They even incorporated a storyline. But they forgot to add the flair, the diversity.

You are Altair, a masterful assassin who is bested by no other. If life was the disease, you are the cure. And what do you do? You’re running around, doing chores. The game is composed of 9 assassination missions total, and one final boss fight. There are 3 major cities. Each city has 3 districts. Each district has some 8~10 viewpoints, 8~10 civilians to save and 6 information gathering missions. There are 8 types of information gathering missions. Do you begin to understand why its grueling?

To initiate each assassination, you have to do at least three of the six investigation missions. For those of you interested in the story, or in completion, you do all six, save all civilians and climb all the viewpoints. The point with this game, is that it can be done in 3 hours or 3 days. Ubisoft never understood that planning the route, creeping in, and stealth assassinating the target was this game’s main point. Of every hour spent on this game, a good 40 minutes is spent doing menial side quests, saving civilians, punching gypsies and retards in the face and running from guards. Of course, there are also the flags, but let’s face it, no one really gives a damn about 100% completion.

What Assassins Creed does, is it opens up another market of gaming. It breaks the mold of traditional games, not like Braid or N+ does, but to a similar effect. It started the distillation process of good games and new ideas and shows you that new things can be done even with popular things. It attempts to make things work. Of course, they failed a bit on the execution but nonetheless, an attempt was made. I’ll review Assassins Creed 2 soon after I spend the 20 hours beating the game myself (instead of watching a friend play it).