Assassin’s Creed is set in 1191 AD, when the Third Crusade was tearing the Holy Land apart. Shrouded in secrecy and feared for their ruthlessness, the Assassins intend to stop the hostilities by suppressing both sides of the conflict. Players will assume the role of the main character, Altair, and will have the power to throw their immediate environment into chaos, to shape events during this pivotal moment in history, and truly experience the art of a master assassin.
System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release dates: November 13th 2007 (USA), November 16th 2007 (EURO), November 21st 2007 (AUS) on Xbox 360 & PS3, with a PC version on March 28th, 2008
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
The game starts in AD 1191 where Richard the Lionheart has just recaptured the port city of Acre from the Conquer of Muslims. With a base of operations established, the Crusaders prepare to march south. Their true target is Jerusalem, which they intend to recapture for Christianity. However the Muslim forces are massing in the ruins of Arsuf, intending to ambush the Crusaders and prevent them from reaching Jerusalem. These war maneuvers have left the rest of the Holy Land wide open. While Richard and Saladin battle one another, the men left to govern in their stead have begun taking advantage of their newfound positions of power. Exploitation, manipulation, and provocation rule the day. You’ll find many fantastic unexpected twists in the storyline from start to end.
Watch the Assassin’s Creed launch trailer.
The game’s goal is to complete nine assassinations given to Altair by his clan master Al Mualim. To accomplish this, you have to use stealth and a variety of intelligence gathering tactics to collect information on your target. These tactics include eavesdropping, forceful interrogation, pickpocketing, and completing tasks for informers (other assassins who will give you information in exchange for assassinating targets or collecting flags). You may take part in any number of side missions, including climbing tall towers to map out the city and saving citizens that are being threatened or harassed by the city guards. There are also various side quests unrelated to the story such as hunting down and killing Templars and flag collecting or simply free running in the different cities.
During gameplay “Low profile” commands allow Altair to blend into nearby crowds, gently pass by other citizens, or other non-threatening tasks that can be used to hide and reduce the alertness level. “High profile” commands are more noticeable, and including running, scaling the sides of buildings to climb to higher vantage points, and attacking foes. Performing these actions at certain times may raise the local area’s awareness level and thus amps up the difficulty level. Creative Director Patrice Desilets explains this and the gameplay mechanics of the fighting system in the following video.
Watch the Assassin’s Creed fight system video.
So what are the main features of Assassin’s Creed?
* Be an Assassin – Master the skills, tactics, and weapons of history’s deadliest and most secretive clan of warriors. Plan your attacks, strike without mercy, and fight your way to escape.
* Realistic and responsive environments – Experience a living, breathing world in which all your actions have consequences. Crowds react to your moves and will either help or hinder you on your quests.
* Action with a new dimension – total freedom – Eliminate your targets wherever, whenever, and however. Stalk your prey through richly detailed, historically accurate, open-ended environments. Scale buildings, mount horses, blend in with crowds. Do whatever it takes to achieve your objectives.
* Relive the epic times of the Crusades – Assassin’s Creed immerses you in the realistic and historical Holy Land of the 12th century, featuring life-like graphics, ambiance, and the subtle, yet detailed nuances of a living world.
* Intense action rooted in reality – Experience heavy action blended with fluid and precise animations. Use a wide range of medieval weapons, and face your enemies in realistic sword fight duels.
* Next-gen gameplay – The proprietary engine developed from the ground up for the next-gen console allows organic game design featuring open gameplay, intuitive control scheme, realistic interaction with environment, and a fluid, yet sharp, combat mechanic.
Watch this Assassin’s Creed music video showing off the animation during gameplay.
As a conclusion I have to point out some minor flaws in the gameplay. It still boggles my mind why they would have inhabitants repeat the same lines over and over and over and over… it’s not that hard for such a big-budget game to record 10 extra different lines for each of the mini-mission characters and give the inhabitants a 100 extra one-liners to mix things up, it would’ve made the game much more genuine. Same for the mini-missions, if they had doubled or tripled the diversity in them, it wouldn’t have felt like I was doing a boring chore on some of them. Another such complaint I have to point out is the game’s wonky A.I. that has you save a (wo)man from bullying guards, but after (s)he thanks you and you move on, (s)he will then act surprised to see dead body’s lying around, this breaks the immersion of the game world from time to time.
Now let’s see how much fun Assassin’s Creed is on a scale from 1 to 10?
FUN FACTOR – 8.0
Assassin’s Creed aims to be a next-generation game that sets a new standard in the action-adventure genre beyond Ubisoft’s previous Prince of Persia games (it’s created by The Sands of Time team). But in the end only sets a new standard with its free running city exploration and animation aspects. While that’s no small feat, as mentioned in the conclusion above, it falls short by not being as realistic as it aims to be. Assassin’s Creed should definitely be explored by those of you looking for a fantastic free roaming world to travel and adventure in, as well as fans of great mature story telling, because those two points are where Assassin’s Creed shines like no other game before it and that’s what ultimately kept me playing through to the end. I suggest renting it first and playing it for an evening to find out if the unique controls to travel its world, and the missions in it, feel rewarding to you. They did feel great to me and since I never once got stuck in the game I can safely recommend it to adventure gamers, but for everyone else it might be a “hate it” or “love it” game.
Graphics – 9.0
The game’s graphics look very impressive. The historic cities are a work of art, they were built by the game’s designers from the building plans of the original cities and look as genuine as it can be. To be able to climb every rock and wooden panel that sticks out on every building or wall is truly fantastic. The real crown jewel is Altair himself, his movements are extremely lifelike and you can feel the power behind each rooftop jump or slash of his sword. It’s slick and fluid thanks to the amazing animations for every body part movement as he moves about the cities and combo that he unleashes on unsuspecting knights. I’ve only had the framerate stutter once in a chase scene, but the very next moment I was escaping as a huge open city passed by me without a hitch. Yes there are some pop-in item issues, but when you get such huge cities to explore, you can’t complain much about it. It’s a beautiful world to explore, especially if you turn the HUD elements off in the options menu.
Audio – 8.0
The soundtrack was composed by British Academy Award winner Jesper Kyd. It aims to immerse you into the mindset of Altair and the environments of the game through a thematic, context-sensitive, score. The combination of epic orchestral compositions with acoustic, percussion and vocal performances delivers a deeply spiritual aesthetic with Hollywood flair. The voice acting is also good for the main character Altair and the people around him, like Actress Kristen Bell who loaned the emotional range of her voice and appearance to the game. But as mentioned before, the city folk tend to repeat the same lines a lot, which damages the immersion created by the beautiful music, sound effects and good voice acting.
Ingenuity – 8.0
The game’s greatest asset is the freedom to go everywhere and the flow of moves and combos you can execute when you’re in combat. While the free running you can do instantly, the combat is deep and gets expanded as you progress through the story. It’s really too bad the missions get so repetitive that you’ll most likely find yourself getting bored halfway through (I’m looking at you, assassination investigation mini-missions). But that’s redeemed somewhat through the exploration of the different cities and the unique attack/defend combat mechanics that are mapped to Altair’s body parts through your controller’s buttons placement.
Replay Value – 7.5
It’s possible for the game to last you in between 20 to 50 hours, depending on whether you’re a “run from point A to B person” or a completist that wants to kill all the Templars and find all the flags. On average you can expect the game to last 30 hours as you journey The Kingdom while walking, running, sprinting, jumping, climbing, fighting, killing, free falling and blending. Especially if you like parkour (free running) it’ll be fun and addictive enough to keep you and (so far) 2.5 million other buyers entertained for a good while. Look forward to the upcoming release of Assassin’s Creed 2.