Assassin’s Creed was released for consoles amidst a sea of controversy. Despite its critical praises for its beautifully designed locales and fresh storytelling perspective, it was slammed by some for being too repetitive. Every mission is carried out in the same manner: interrogate an informant, pickpocket a citizen, and eavesdrop on a conversation. These actions would lead towards an assassination, which would complete a mission: rinse and repeat.
The PC version of Assassin’s Creed adds four new tasks to every mission, and brings higher-end visuals to the table. Is it worth picking up over the original, and does it make the experience any less repetitive? Read on to find out.
Assassin’s Creed puts you in the shoes of well, an assassin, named Altaïr (pronounced al-TAH-yir), and takes place in the Holy Land (the middle east) during the Third Crusade in 1191 AD. But, you aren’t exactly going back in time, literally. You see, Altaïr is the ancestor of modern day bartender Desmond Miles. Desmond was taken in by a mysterious organization for questioning, and strapped into a device called an Animus machine, which allows the user to revisit his ancestor’s past memories. Desmond is forced to relive his ancestor’s life against his will for unknown reasons.
The concept of the game is quite out there, but it does work. Every so often Desmond will have to “take a break” from the machine, and you’ll get to walk around in the real world to learn a bit of history behind Desmond’s family tree, as well as the true intentions of the organization holding him. The story progresses in a manner that simply draws you in. As soon as you think you’re going to be subject to a generic murder tale, the game throws you a curve ball and it suddenly becomes a mystery/moral piece that questions your objectives and actions. I couldn’t find myself to put the game down a few hours in, and the only time I was let down was by the ending, which was essentially a “look forward to the sequel” cliffhanger.
Surprisingly, Assassin’s Creed breaks the action game trend and delivers exquisite dialogue and voice acting. Despite the fact that Altaïr clearly has an American accent, his voice actor delivers his lines with an uneasy seriousness to them, which allows you to take the character seriously, and draws you closer to the game’s world. Every other character is spot on, especially the quarrelsome assassin brotherhood member Malik, whose contempt for our “hero” is perfectly displayed by his contstant hissing, and dressing down of Altaïr.
As soon as you boot up Assassin’s Creed on your PC, you will immediately notice how much of an improvement the visuals are in comparison to the console version. Cloth, in particular, looks photo-realistic; but the most impressive element, in my opinion, is the draw distance. In most games you’d be hard pressed to see more than a few screen lengths away from you before a number of buildings would be “drawn out” due to the engine’s limitations. Assassin’s Creed does no such thing. As soon as you perch yourself at the highest point in Jerusalem, your jaw will drop: it’s that awe-inspiring.
The free-running controls are excellent. If I had one complaint, it would be that they were too easy to use. Parkouring and climbing is almost automatic when you’re sprinting, which makes some sections too easy. When you’re at a high enough perch, you can do a swan dive “leap of faith”, which never gets old. The camera zooms out and in at a perfect pace, and really makes you feel like you’re able to do anything, and go anywhere.
Combat-wise, Assassin’s Creed doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but it gets the job done for the most part. Battles are comprised of a simple system of blocking, striking, and countering. Altaïr can lock on to a nearby target with the touch of a button, but it’s not 100% accurate, and will take some fidgeting if you want to select a certain enemy. At anytime, you can drop combat and run for it, at which point you can turn on a special “chase camera” to add to the thrill.
Combat itself is pretty fun, even if it’s not all that complicated. You can push enemies off rooftops to their doom, throw them into nearby merchant carts and execute really cool instant kills when you counter their moves. Overall, just like the free-running mechanic, it’s simplistic yet satisfying.
The biggest complaint against Assassin’s Creed is the similar manner in which missions are conducted. There are four towns in the game, and one hub world. Each town has a poor, middle-class, and rich area, and you will visit each during the course of the game to murder a specific target (a boss battle). The events that lead up to the actual kill are always the same, but the confrontations are vastly different from one another.
In the console version, you could have to rough up an informant, steal valuable intel, and eavesdrop in order to get the proper information on where and when the opportune moment would be to strike your target. The PC version adds four new missions: rooftop chase, archer assassination, guard assassination, and merchant roughhousing (all of these events are timed). In the original, you had to complete all three aforementioned missions to proceed, every time, which led to boredom.
Now, you still only have to finish three missions to progress, but you can choose from the total pool of seven. I found myself having a healthy mix with the four additions, and never really thought “this is tedious”. If I wasn’t feeling particularly violent, I would do the pickpocket, race, and eavesdrop missions. If I was feeling hungry for blood, I could complete the two assassination missions and the informant roughhousing, or simply mix them up.
Once you gather enough information, you can confront your assigned target, which is usually a greedy or malevolent leader of some sort. Generally, there are only a few different options in which you can kill them, and they usually involve either doing it in secret or alerting the guards to your presence. These targets range from defenseless weaklings to fully armored knights, and each has an accompanying preceding and post death cutscene. After death, the targets speak to you in a special “one on one” manner which is truly mesmerizing. It’s through these scenes that you really are able to gain a respect for the lives you take, and start to question your motives.
While many are quick to note the lack of replay value in Assassin’s Creed, I would contend that it does have more to offer than most action titles. Firstly, the game takes around 20 hours to complete, while a standard title would take 10-15. Secondly, it’s a completionists dream. There are 420 total flags scattered about the game, tons of citizens to save, and 60 Templars (mini-bosses) to find and slay.
Collecting these objects will not give you any bonuses other than health (which can be maxed out), however, so a lot of gamers will feel like it’s a waste of time without receiving the achievement points for them like the Xbox 360 version. There’s also the added bonus of being able to use eagle vision at any time, and kill anyone without penalty after completing the game once, but that’s really only a bonus for the most die hard of fans.
For fans who haven’t checked out the franchise yet: I highly suggest you do so. It’s a thrilling tale that sucks you into it’s beautiful world, and really shouldn’t be missed by action fans. If you’re a tried and true fan of the console version of Assassin’s Creed, I can heartily recommend selling your console copy and picking up the PC version. For anyone else, there isn’t anything radically different enough to sway you.
Simply put, the visuals are some of the best you'll find on the market. The locales are stunningly beautiful, and character movements are incredibly fluid.
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Parkouring is an absolute blast, and you'll never have problems controlling Altaïr. I do wish there was a bit more freedom involved, however, and combat feels too simplistic at times.
The music really draws you into the game, and you'd be hard pressed to find many games that use an Eastern style like Assassin's Creed. The sound effects are excellent, and succeed in drawing you into the world.
Completionists will adore the game's numerous extra goals and quests, and 20 hours is quite long for an action game. However, there aren't any extra modes or incentives to replay it again unless you're a diehard fan.
If you can get past the game's mission-based structure and lack of replay value for the common gamer, you'll find an epic tale of betrayal and intrigue in Assassin's Creed that really shouldn't be missed.