Ever since I saw the first commercials for Assassins Creed I knew this was a game I had to play. As a history buff, the chance to play a game set in the Holy land during the time of the Crusades was simply irresistible. Now as you may have heard there is a bit of a unique twist about Assassin’s Creed that essentially makes it a story within a story but I won’t spoil the discovery, even if you do discover it fairly quickly into the game.
You play as Altair, a member of an assassin’s organization and you are charged with killing a number of different targets. Now these targets are or were actual, real life people who lived and disappeared during the period so a lot of care has been taken to achieve historical accuracy. While there is a lot of action in the game you cannot forget that you are an assassin. You have to rely on stealth and information gathering in order to learn about your target and find the best way to “get” to him. You’ll skulk around in shadows, eavesdropping in on conversations and pick-pocketing targets to steal important documents. Sometimes you just have to use the time-honored tradition of beating the information out of a hapless person. The planning stages of an assassination attempt are often as fun as the act itself because there are numerous ways you can approach each mission. The missions become more and more difficult as guards and the general populace starts to be more on the watch for you. While you can get by early on with your skill with the sword, the need for stealth becomes increasingly more necessary. The game play is not just limited to the assassination missions. There are side tasks such as rescuing townspeople from harm and the like. These mini missions can give you a nice opportunity to practice your swordplay.
The story is set within three historical cities: Jerusalem, Damascus, and Acre. The city design is where the game really shines. It is perhaps the best example of a living, breathing, interactive city ever seen in a video game. Each city is meticulously designed. You can, and I did, spend lots of time just wandering the streets, passing through the markets, watching the citizens go about their daily business whatever it may be. You can completely immerse yourself and almost forget what you are there for. One of the coolest things to do early on is to climb one of the many great towers and simply look around at the vast surroundings. What you see isn’t just mere window dressing. Everything you see, every building, tower, even the Holy Dome of the Rock can be visited. The lighting, shading, and colors are nearly perfect. The landscape visuals are simply breathtaking.
But it’s more than just pretty scenery. The sounds are equally impressive. Merchants hawk their wares, beggars plead for a handout, birds sing and dogs bark in the background. The voice acting is very good and integral to the game. There’s a lot of talking and a lot of listening that is necessary and the developers have done a wonderful job in making the characters unique and not repetitive. Oddly, only Altair’s voice falls in the category of the average.
The animation and controls flow exceedingly smooth although they do take a bit of getting used to. The buttons control different parts of your body (arms, head, legs) which is quite unique but once you get the hang of them it brings a definite realism as you scale walls, and jump from rooftop to rooftop and battle it out on the streets with your sword.
Assassin’s Creed is not a perfect game. The parallel story would have been best left out as it really adds nothing to the main Crusade-era story. The game play can be a bit repetitive after a while but on the whole, there is so much to do and see that you will certainly come back for more.