Saturday, October 27, 2012

Diary of an Assassin – Second Entry

Oops, I already completed Assassin’s Creed. It only took me 15 hours, though I suspect further sequels will take substantially more time. The visuals and mechanics still hold up five years later, though it is not without faults, Assassin’s Creed is still a spectacular first dive into an open world setting.

The introduction and tutorial seemed exceptionally long, however. After the 17-part tutorial introduces nearly every weapon and technique, only to become available after you complete certain key missions, making me wonder why the tutorial is overly long in the first place. When each new weapon or technique unlocks, the option to practice them in training becomes available to get a feel of how they work in combat, making the first tutorial unnecessary.

I’m a bit sad after finishing Assassin’s Creed I won’t see Altair until Revelations. His character arc felt redeeming. When first introduced in Solomon’s temple, I didn’t like Altair. He’s a jerk playing by his own rules and didn’t seem to deserve the title of assassin as he strolled up in plain sight, not even trying to hide in the shadows unseen. Those first few moments took me longer than it should because I was looking around the room, thinking to myself, I shouldn’t just walk up to him, right? But when he’s stripped of his rank and title, his build up back to master assassin is earnest and not without effort.

Once I get out into one of the three cities, though, exploration shines. Free running through the streets of Jerusalem, galloping from rooftop to rooftop, and jumping into piles of hay is so satisfying. Comparing the difference between the old Tomb Raider games where most platforms were based on a grid cube system to seeing Altair run and jump off a building at angle, land on a platform hovering above the street, keep his momentum as he jumps off again, only to land in a roll on another rooftop is simply amazing.

I can plainly see how people describe Assassin’s Creed as repetitive. Effectively, each mission breaks down into a monotonous process: head into town, find the informant, climb towers until you can find and complete any three combination of pickpocket, interrogate, or eavesdrop, return to informant, assassinate target. While the PC version has a dash of variety for side missions with informant missions, they are often more difficult than your run-of-the-mill pickpocket or eavesdrop. Tearing down merchant stands while being chased by guards, losing line of sight with the guards, then making it back to the informant in time can be harrowing.

Besides the repetitiveness, pacing felt fine right up until the end. Making my way through the funeral was tense enough, but once I discovered my target had already fled I head off into the hills to find him, going through wave after wave of soldiers. Combat certainly isn’t the lowest point of Assassin’s Creed, but it still feels a bit clunky when taking on crowds of guards and soldiers. Then I still had to head back to my town to take out my master. It feels like a case of, and then, where each final objective delivers another final objective.

If this were 2007 I would talk more about the ending and the writing on the walls, but seeing as the series goes on and more of it is - hopefully - explained in later games, I’ll save that discussion until I have more information. Now that I’m done with Altair for a while, time to dive into the dark middle chapter of the series, Assassin’s Creed 2.

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