The Assassins Creed (should there be an apostrophe in there somewhere?) series, while doing nothing for the reputation of hoodies, has become one of the most popular series of the current generation and some of my favourite games… in some ways. I haven’t reviewed any of the games yet, so I thought I would take a look back at the series and offer some opinions.
The first game introduced us to the series premise… and not a lot else! We met series protagonist Desmond (possibly the least interesting character in gaming), who has been captured by the secretive Templars who want to learn about his ancestors, members of the order of Assassins. The Templars use a machine called the Animus to access Desmond’s ancestors’ memories through his DNA. Now this is, or course, impossible. But this lie doesn’t bother me, and it does serve as a good framing device for the series. Its also a good excuse for various mechanics like the interface and having to ‘synchronise’ with your ancestors memories to access the desired information.
And so we enter the footsteps of Altaïr, an arrogant, shallow character who was an assassin at the time of the crusades (it seems that un-interesting-ness is genetic!). Altaïr must travel across the holy land, working with his Assassin brothers to track down and eliminate Templar agents.
The main problem I had with this game was that it is incredibly repetitive between the intro sequence and the finale. I ended up having to take a long break from the game between missions, to avoid getting bored. And then we get to the ending sequence and we are introduced to the other part of the overarching story, which I’m not a great fan of, but we’ll get back to that later!
Assassins Creed 2/Brotherhood/Revelations
In the second game, Desmond escapes from the Templars with the help of his fish-faced girlfriend and joins up with a scooby-gang of fellow Assassins. They also have an Animus, and this time Desmond enters the memories of Ezio, an Assassin from renaissance Italy.
Here, the storyline and general gameplay improve spectacularly. Ezio is a character that actually has some depth and goes through some real character development (and is clearly a genetic freak in the otherwise bland family line!). Much of the repetitiveness has gone (though there’s always some ‘collect x of this’ or ‘do this x times to achieve y’ missions, there is some variety to them) and the characters and set pieces are much more interesting.
Ezio’s (and Desmond’s) story continues in Brotherhood and Revelations. While these are large games, with lots of story and content and some extra features and gameplay additions, they do feel more like expansion packs that proper games. There certainly isn’t as much of an improvement between these games as there was between 1 & 2, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth playing!
I really like the gameplay in the series. The free-running and climbing around on the rooftops is a lot of fun, as is planning out your moves and quietly dispatching your targets. The tomb-raider-esque puzzle dungeons are quite enjoyable too, if a little frustrating at times. There is a slight sense of detachment from the action, as you basically just hold a trigger and the A button and point the character in the direction you want to go, but there is still enough of a sense of control that you don’t really notice it.
I love roaming around in the past and fighting the hidden war between Assassins and Templars. And, as I said earlier, I even like the Animus as a framing device for the story. However, the other part of the overarching storyline is my least favourite part of the game! Its a cheesy sci-fi story which was clearly thought up by the world’s biggest Stargate fan. Without giving too much away, it involves another race of beings living on Earth and some magical artefacts that can affect peoples’ minds and give them magic powers. This has the same feeling as the supernatural endings to things like Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones, for me at least, it kinda ruins the experience. But I feel I should point out that this is usually only the last chapters of games that are otherwise very enjoyable!
Well, while this isn’t technically a review, I can definitely recommend the Assassins Creed series (well, perhaps not the first one, but the rest are great!). They have given me a lot of enjoyment, despite the few issues that I have, and they are also one of the few games that I actually go out to buy on launch day. They are among the best games I’ve played this generation and well worth checking out, if you haven’t already!