Thoughts on Assassin's Creed

by Samm Bennett
I just finished playing Assassin's Creed (or, at least I think I did, more on that later) on XBox 360. At the moment, the thing that sticks out the most is the drastic change in core gameplay leading up to the end of the game.

While the game welcomes users to use stealth and strategy while playing, in general it's not always required. To some extent, I would actually say this was detrimental to the game, as I would occasionally make a mistake in the execution of an assassination, and then just swing my sword around to finish the missions. Not nearly as cool as jumping from the shadows, but I digress. The point which I am trying to expand upon is that, although Assassin's Creed expects some stealth, there are many opportunities to be a bumbling brunt and just battle hordes of guards. However, the emphasis is obviously placed on using stealth and crowds to sneak about on missions, and actually running away in order to avoid combat when caught.

Yet, for some reason, the last two assassinations actually force the user to just hack away at enemies - no alternative options are provided in which the user can use stealth. It is as if the user was playing a completely different game entirely. And while the crowd fighting can be entertaining, it is still buggy and not the reason I'm playing the game. And while I'm on the topic, I really hope to see sequels allow the user to manipulate enemies a bit more during fights. With such an emphasis on crowds, I very much expect to be able to push guards into each other.

Another aspect of the game I found disappointing was the use of beggars. Instead of providing a potentially useful ally (beggars assist you if you are kind to them) or attempting to teach some sort of useful social message, Ubisoft just presented an annoyance to users. I suppose that the developers actually did the opposite of the latter suggestion, as beggars did nothing good for me and I always had to shove them about. The worst part is that the user isn't presented with an option - the beggars want money, but Altair carries no currency. What's the point?

And now the biggest question with Assassin's Creed - what the hell happened at the "end"? I really must put in end in quotes there, as the only way I knew I had arrived at that point was when I researched my latest achievement. While I am usually a fan of stories where the audience must draw their own conclusion, the game offered nothing even approaching closure. At least in Matrix Reloaded I had a screen saying "To be continued." The ending offered was more on par with something I would see before a season finale - not quite so good when I'm expected to shell out another $50 in two years and dedicate another twelve hours.

I don't mean to be overly critical here, though. I think Assassin's Creed had many amazing technical feats: the large cities, massive crowds, and so many climbable surfaces are just a few. The game was also pure fun too, even with the frequent annoyances such as misguided throwing knives and a character who refuses to arm himself in combat. Yet, I feel the game could have been so much more if the dev team met it's promise of a city which responded to your choices. As for the game's story, I'm still not sure how I feel about the almost cliched approach it took. The betrayal of the master was obvious quite quickly, and so the conspiracy felt almost half-baked (although if there is causation there I cannot be sure). Here's hoping the sequel can patch up these issues.