I am going to be playing Assassin's Creed until Christmas time, so I've decided I would catch up on some of my reviews of its games, media and so on. As such, while it's a bit late to declare it Assassin's Creed month on The United Federation of Charles, we'll be doing a month of Assassin's Creed.
Assassin's Creed is the game which started it all but, sadly, is the worst game in the series. This isn't to say it's bad but there's a lot of parts which are. All of the game's enjoyable parts would be refined and perfected for its sequel while the worst would be discarded.
In short, most gamers I know suggest newcomers skip Assassin's Creed and go directly to Assassin's Creed 2. Those interested in the story of Altair would be best served by picking up the novel, The Secret Crusade by Oliver Bowden. There's a lot of potential in this game but it's largely unrealized.
|The Holy Land is an interesting setting, foreshadowing the great locations of future games.|
The central conceit of the game is you are playing a video game within a video game. As such, things like death and re-spawning are glitches within Desmond's story as well as your own. It's a surprisingly immersive device and one of the series' great innovations. The majority of the game is attempting to maneuver past the guards present in the Holy Land to eliminate a series of targets belonging to the Knights Templar.
The stealth elements are emphasized over the action ones, which can result in some levels of frustration. Later games in the series offer a wider variety of choices for assassinations, including more or less just killing your way there. Many times, Altair must modulate his speed so not to draw attention to his activity. This prevents high speed chases when those would be very welcome to spice up gameplay.
Unfortunately, after each target, you have to return to Alamut (the Assassin's Headquarters) in order to get your new assignment and this is a tedious journey each time.
|The horse-riding is fun in the game, more so than in later ones.|
Altair is learning about how to become a better murderer, not reforming. It's doubly problematic when many of his victims prove to be more sympathetic than Altair himself. I'm not sure our protagonist "winning" is a good thing. It doesn't help many of the Templars have sympathetic backstories and motivations with only a few really 'deserving' to die. The fact, at one point, Altair lets King Richard of England live despite the man's many well-known historical atrocities is difficult to swallow.
Despite this, Assassin's Creed has a lot going for it and you can see where the game would go on to form an amazingly popular franchise. The Animus works wonderfully as an explanation for most "video game-isms" of the series because your character, in a very real way, is playing one. The Modern Day segments, while widely criticized are one of my favorite parts. I love conspiracy fiction and this is an excellent example of it.
|The Animus is a great concept. Even if, yes, genetic memories are incredibly stupid.|
In conclusion, Assassin's Creed isn't as good as other entries in the series. Everything good about it is taken to future entries in the series with the bad elements left behind. Altair is an unlikable hero and the travel times kill the enjoyment factor.
The game is slow when it needs to be fast paced and seems to punish you when you really want to go wild. It is, however, the game which began one of my favorite series. The foundations are there for something great and I would recommend giving it a try used, even if I'd keep the receipt.