Review by Great_Khan
Reviewed: 08/29/08 | Updated: 09/01/08
A Glorified Tech Demo Thrown Together Cheaply.
Back when the Next Gen consoles were initially making their bids for my money, this title was up there as one of the most important in getting me to join the modern age, unfortunately for Microsoft and Sony's bank accounts, the game was released on PC, bringing the total of games I was interested in on consoles down to below what was reasonable. And what can I say, I'm thankful for this PC release, because if I had have forked over $800 for a PS3 and this game I would have been furious, because this is not a game. This is the initial prototyping stage of a game, it's fully functional in it's controls and movements, and it's graphics are quite shiny, but no, this game is not complete. This is a game which still had much more to be done before it was completed. This is an initial tech demo that the game designers would have shown to their publishers in order to get funding to get their game made, with the rough outlines of a game placed around it.
Assassins Creed feels like a bunch of game designers created a platformer based around jumping, climbing and hanging off stuff, then got a bunch of guys who were fantastic at creating graphics involved. At which point they decided they wanted to make a game really, really urgently, and in turn added everything else in the game in with little to no thought. The resulting game appears to have been constructed purely from the creators first ideas, with no other thoughts given. Basically, the whole game feels like the designers brainstormed for ideas until they came up with a single idea, and ran with it, no matter how boring, useless or just plain idiotic the idea was.
They wanted combat, so they tacked together a rough and extremely simple way of doing it, which fails to make combat interesting, free moving combat would have been much more entertaining. They figured out one game mode and stuck to that for the whole game. Realising that would be boring, and figured out side quests would be necessary, exactly 4 "mini-games" came out of this, all of which seem to be very basic ideas that you would assume would have come up in about 5 minutes of discussion, all of the which are the same for each of the levels, and all of which involve doing the same thing somewhere between 20 and 150 times. The script appears to have been created by a bunch guys saying "How about this happens" and everyone agreeing with them, no matter what the idea was. They wanted large levels, so they made one large level, and then recreated it three times with three different skins, to create something which feels almost exactly the same. They wanted a free roaming game, so they made it sandbox, gave you three or four people to talk to in each level and decided that was enough to warrant making huge expansive levels. Hell, the created an entirely unnecessary rural area in between the four remotely worthwhile cities so it was just that little bit more expansive, and promptly forgot to put anything inside the giant expanse, apart from a few dozen soldiers who do nothing of any threat as you ride your horse past them. Assassin's simply doesn't have enough in it to be such a giant sandbox game. Instead, a huge portion of this game involves walking, or riding to the important places.
The storyline is contrived, with idiotic, cliched twists at the beginning and end of the game. For some reason the guys at Ubisoft didn't think that their game about 12th century assassins should be about 12th century assassins, resulting in an asinine early twist which takes the perfectly plausible and interesting themes that the knight based content is about, and promptly renders them stupid, unbelievable and unimportant. The result is that after every mission you do, you get punished by getting dragged out of the game and the world which is truly visually immersive, and have to deal with 10 minutes of boring sci-fi stuff, which serves little purpose other than to try to make you feel that the interesting side of the game is in the greater scheme of things irrelevant. Good plan writers, really good plan, your plot revolves around the boring side of your plot trying to tell you that the interesting side of the plot is really useless and unimportant in the big picture... Wise move, way to make the player enjoy the game... Not that there's much hope of the player getting much fun out of this anyway, the characters are so standard and cliche ridden it's painful, admittedly Altair is fairly cool, but stands out more in his model design and animations rather than his dialogue. All the twists you can see coming from a mile away, thanks to wonderful little last minute conversations with your victims that tell you information about the future with absolutely no regard to subtle plot creation.
Not that plot creation is all that important, considering that the game randomly cuts off before the plot is ready, the game ends before the story is complete. A little note to writers, if your game ends in 6 hours, and is only up to a halfway point, and only contains one boss fight, and ends on a "cliffhanger", there's something you should know... that's not an ending, that's still the start. The guys who wrote this don't seem to know that scripts are longer than three pages long. I'm no English major, but I understand structuring to the point that if you've only got enough content to fill in three chapters of a book, and you characters are only just starting to get into any dramatic events, that is a sign that your story is incomplete. If you have written a succession of huge 35 chapter books, which end on cliff hangers, like say, Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings, that can pass as a book, but what the writers of this game have done is end their Lord of the Rings when the Hobbits are about to leave the shire. This isn't even at the levels of being poor, slack writing, this is half way to being poorly and slackly written, I assure you, the conclusion to this game will be just as dull, predictable and cliche filled as this, and it will be poor and slack, but it's so incomplete that they haven't made it that far yet.
The sci-fi edge also adds to another unenjoyable hindrance, to exit the game you have to quit three times, log in once, and quit again. That's right, you quit the 12th century mode, you quit the futuristic machine you're in, you quit to the menu, you then have to log in with your account again, and then exit to windows. Sure Alt-F4 works, but still, did these guys do ANY mapping at all with their design?
The game had so little planned in it, that I was able to complete all of minor side-quests (Lookout finding, citizen saving, and investigation pieces, none of which are ANY fun at all mind you) and finish the rest of the game in under 6 hours... I'm pretty sure I could beat this in about 3-4 hours if I just rushed to each of the missions as quick as possible. Why, because the game is incomplete, generally unfinished and shallow, mechanical and finally far too easy.
The mechanical feeling this game has is what makes it most annoying, combat is mechanical, gaining map visibility is mechanical, avoiding guards is a mechanical process, mission structure is too, and worst of all, investigation is as well. One of the elements which promised to be up there as the most desirable turns out the be one of the most dull, at least in lookout finding you get to jump about from building to building, which is of some enjoyment, to perform investigation, you usually just walk after people. That's it. Walk after them, then depending on the mission, you pick pocket them, or you punch them, end of game.
Combat is most definitely the worst offender here, It's easy enough at the start, but once you get the counter ability, you are basically invincible, all concepts of intelligent planning are thrown out the window and replaced by the simple thought of, "I will charge the mark, fight his 30 guards, dispatch them with ease, then run after the guy I'm meant to kill, and kill him in a straight fight". And this is fool proof, counter pretty much renders you invulnerable from attack, it one hit kills half the time, you can simply hit the counter button, and regardless of the attackers direction, you'll counter it successfully. Oh, and best of all, killing brings your health back. That's right, you don't need to seek refuge after getting hit, you just need to counter some more attacks. The game clearly notices how pathetically broken it's combat system is, and you during the final half hour of gameplay you can easily see them throwing every cheap idea they can think of to make it harder, Screenfulls of opponents, heaps of Templars, a superstrong guy who needs to be countered about 10 times and has the ability to stop you from blocking, this removing your ability to counter his attacks, however he doesn't do this enough for you to actually lose, because he has no idea of strategy. Finally, after giving up on all ideas to make itself somewhat difficult, the game gives the final (and only) boss the advantage of only needing to hit you once to kill you. Still it only took three tries to complete.
In fact, there is only one thing is this game that isn't mechanical, and that is the movement in climbing, and jumping around on buildings. There that's the only element of this game that serves a purpose, and seems to be the only part of the game that the designers actually bothered thinking about in the slightest. The animations are stunning, and you move around with such style it's a pleasure to perform. It's smooth even when you're missing some of your abilities (everyone loves starting their game with crippled characters don't they), and only gets simpler to control as you gain skills such as grabbing ledges when ever you like. In a good game, this would be an impressive trait, but instead you get given a terrible game, where things that relate to the game are all solved with simple combat, which defeats the games strong point anyway. In fact I found myself running from attacks, not because of the challenge of defeating their slow moving and dim witted slashing, but to use the enjoyable platforming engine for some purpose, no matter how little I actually need it. Of course you're much faster than your opponents on foot anyway, so in reality you can beat them simply by running along the ground anyway. In the end, your spider-like abilities to scale walls are irrelevant to the game, and in order to make a world worth playing monkey man in, they've built a world far too large to store their miniscule ideas in, resulting in huge expanses of useless, empty space, full of nothing but endless buildings and towers. Ubisoft have obtained one impressive piece of game design, and rushed out a horribly boring piece of game to place it in.
You see. the problem is, that this isn't a real game yet, it's the skeletal basics of a game, which still needs to be completed, the fact they feel like it's fair for them to charge $100 for this offends me somewhat, because with a 6 hour play time, you're literally getting 3.6 minutes of game time per dollar, which is unreasonable, there's no replay value at all, there's not any multiplayer, there's not even any side quests above "Find the 150 flags scattered around this 4 square kilometre block" for you to do. There's only one thing to do in this game that is interesting in this game anyway, so if it ran for 12 hours, the game wouldn't really be much better. Not worthy of any money at all, you're probably getting ripped off by rental costs, but if you rent it, you'll have the game finished by the time you need to hand it back.
Rating: 1.5 - Bad
Product Release: Assassin's Creed: Director's Cut Edition (AU, 04/10/08)
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