Monday, November 24, 2014

A Review: Assassin's Creed (PC)

Similar to what I wrote for my review of sorts for Dead Space, I do not see the point in writing a full review for a seven year old game (as of 2014) that has over 134,000 hits when looking for a review of Assassin's Creed.  Granted the first game search will include the reviews for every game in the Assassin's Creed library due to it's lack of a subtitle or number, but I plod on . . .  Unlike some reviews (on Steam), I never had any issues booting up or playing Assassin's Creed.  The game never crashed spontaneously, the sound never cut out randomly and there was no visible skipping either by the game or by Altaïr.

So Assassin's Creed, the first game in the series of the same name, was released by Ubisoft back in 2007.  Before playing this game, I had played Assassin's Creed: Altaïr's Chronicles back in February and that was it.  All I knew about the series was that you played as an assassin at various points throughout history. . . assassinating people.  I had no idea about any of the "present" day activities as Desmond or anything about the Animus accessing ancestors memories coded within the DNA of said Desmond.  That was a bit of a shock, although it did not bother me by way of a story telling mechanism.

I was a little surprised at the beginning of the game by the typical use of the Metroid-effect of starting out as Samus does in a fully powered suit only to have something happen that brings you back down to n00b status.  So that happened.  By the time I neared the end of the game, despite having gained all of my equipment back (better sword, throwing daggers, short sword, grasping abilities while falling), I never felt that I was the master assassin that I was supposed to be by that point in the game/story.  I felt that I was a guy who was great at freerunning/parkour and who was decent in a fight against anywhere from three to 15 enemies.

There's only eight here, but you can't see the other umpteen that showed up shortly after plus the couple that I had killed before the picture was taken.  And it's blurry because I done just killed a guard.
Being ganged up on was actually one of the most frustrating aspects of the game for me.  There would be times when I would be shoved by a homeless citizen (who has some sort of mental illness as they are always walking around, gibbering and will seek you out if they spotted you) into a guard and then you are wanted by every visible guard.  There were plenty of times when I would be fighting two or three guards, then a small contingent of four to six would reinforce the main unit and I would just give up as by the time they were all done swinging at me, my life would be down by a good eight to ten hit points.  Especially in the later levels, guards seemed to have gained in their sword fighting ability, multiplied in numbers and their proverbial trigger fingers were whatever is the next step after itching.  

There was one battle in particular that occurred near the end of the game that caused me to stop playing altogether.  Granted each time I would watch a "how-to" video my confidence would again perk up a bit, but then after two-to-three more tries and failing, I would give up.  <Pity>It would seem that each time I would reach a rooftop, I would be pursued by a never ending supply of guards and Templars and rarely would each enemy soldier patiently wait their turn to attack me.</Pity>

The information gathering missions were a lot of fun at first, but that was before the guards became increasingly aware and al lot easier to trigger into their blood frenzy.  The problem being that once the guards become aggressive towards you, any side mission you happened to be on (assassination, pickpocketing, physical interrogation, eavesdropping, racing another assassin or picking up flags on a short route throughout the area), your mission would end then you would have to evade the guards until your "Social Stealth Meter" which lets you know how noticeable you are to the guards goes to yellow which means that you can then hide which will then reset your "SSM" and then you can return to the person who gave you the task in the first place to start it all over again.  Whew.  By the end of the game (the last two stages I played through), I gave up trying to complete every single task and only completed the ones that I had to in order to proceed with the main assassination target for that portion of the storyline.

The one side mission that I always completed was also the one that I had the most fun doing.  Climbing to the top of designated buildings would de-fog a portion of your map in the given district the stage was taking place in.

These portions of the stages were fun because you often had to parkour up to a building then jump to an adjacent building  leading to the tower/building that you had to climb.  There were a couple of specific leap/upper-body-pulls that always made me nervous even though being able to "make it" was guaranteed.  Guaranteed, unless you were already spotted by guards who would then shoot arrows at you (rate of fire was reasonable) or throw rocks if you were not too high already.

Another thing that bothered me about the game was the amount of time it took to exit out.  I understand that the process to quit the game was probably designed to create a sense of immersion for the game, being that because you are playing as Desmond who is viewing an ancestors memories through a machine, and in order to exit the game, you would have to exit the machine first.  That is all well and good in theory, but in practice it creates a series of unnecessary steps that only caused me annoyance.  To give you some idea, in order to exit out of the game, every time, you would have to go through the following steps:
  • Pause the game to bring up the menu.
  • Select "Exit Animus."
    • This exits you out of your memory and back into the present, now controlling Desmond inside the Animus laboratory.
  • Pause the game to bring up the menu.
  • Select "Exit Game."
    • This brings you back to the profile select
  • Select existing profile, which for whatever reason only works with the mouse and not the controller.
  • Select "Quit Game."
    • You are asked if you are sure that you want to exit the game.
      • Yes I am sure I want to exit the game.
        • Exit game.
In my personal opinion, quitting a game should not take that long.  Maybe going from the pause screen to the quit button and if I'm asked if I want to "Save & Quit" or simply just "Quit," I am perfectly okay with those options.  Then I should be out of the game.  If there was something to do when you are outside of the Animus at times that are not designated by the game, then maybe I could see exiting the machine you are hooked up to, but from what I have seen, there is nothing.  You can walk around the lab and one of two people there continuously ask you to return to the machine so that they can continue with whatever it is that they are having you do.  Maybe this was something that was passed over in beta testing?

While this experience has nearly tainted the Assassin's Creed series for me, I do have the second game on Steam and I feel that after a few months, I will probably give that game a try.  I feel that some redemption might be in order.

Flowing Through the Loins of My Pain

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