Up Up Down Down: Assassin's Creed
It’s been almost six years since the launch of the original Assassin’s Creed. In that time we’ve gotten both superior sequels and predictable follow-ups. We’ve even gotten a handful of spin-offs, some which are better than others. The first Assassin’s Creed was both heralded and criticized for a number of things. Ubisoft attempted to create the next big action-adventure franchise, and in a sense, the company did exactly what it said it would do. That first game sure was rough, though.
On this edition of Up Up Down Down, we’re going to take a look back at Assassin’s Creed. As much as there is to hate about that game, I’d argue that there’s an equal number of things to love about it, even if the foundation was much improved for the subsequent sequels.
Up Up: Highly ambitious
Despite the major flaws Assassin’s Creed has going against it, there’s absolutely no denying that this is a very ambitious game. It’s almost ridiculously ambitious in the things that it tries to do, and it’s hard not to respect the effort Ubisoft put into creating a huge world rife with things to see and do. You could potentially get through the story in five to eight hours, but you could also spend dozens of extra hours completing side quests, helping people, and gathering collectibles. Completionists definitely have their work cut out for them.
Down Down: Ambition doesn’t deliver
Here’s where things turn sour fast. The world of Assassin’s Creed is easy to get lost in, and there are tons of things to do. Unfortunately, a lot of the extra missions are repetitive. There’s also no real incentive for you to go out of your way to complete optional tasks and discover hidden trinkets. Sure, some folks will likely spend hours upon hours obsessing over everything, but for a lot of people, there’s simply no reason to care about anything other than the main strand of missions.
Up Up: Intriguing premise
On paper, the story elements of Assassin’s Creed are quite interesting. The whole genetic memory thing, which links Desmond with his ancestor Altair, is kind of cool. It’s the type of futuristic plot device that could make for some really rad science fiction. Additionally, it’s just pretty cool being able to assassinate fools during the period of the Third Crusade in places like ancient Jerusalem and Acre.
Down Down: Actual story is dull as all hell
Despite the potential of the premise, the way the actual story in Assassin’s Creed plays out is a total bore. Instead of some cool nerdy sci-fi content, what you get are long-winded speeches from boring characters and cutscenes that drag on for way too long. There’s absolutely nothing even remotely interesting about either Desmond or Altair, and hearing the latter speak with the utmost monotony in his voice is just painful to listen to. Also, the whole damn thing is too convoluted for its own good, making it hard to care about anything that happens during the unskippable sequences.
Up Up: Freerunning is gloriously satisfying
If I had to give you one reason to play Assassin’s Creed, it would be the freerunning. Dashing along the edges of rooftops, scaling massive temples, and jumping from ledge to ledge make for some of the greatest moments in the game. Even more satisfying is being pursued by enemies and trying to outrun them using Altair’s mad parkour skills. Simply put, the exhilarating feeling you get from playing around the massive environments is incredible.
Down Down: Stealth gameplay is lame
Certain situations require a stealthy approach… and that sucks. The world lends itself to some hectic, high-pressure situations, but stealth feels like a chore here. There’s nothing fun about having to be discreet when you’re around certain enemies or taking on specific side quests. Thankfully, most of the time you break out of the whole stealth thing, you can engage in more freerunning to escape the bad guys, which is a lot better than tiptoeing around them.
Up Up: Combat is just plain fun
Make no mistake about it: The combat in Assassin’s Creed is a sheer delight. While there is a learning curve, once you get it, you can rain death upon your foes in highly stylized ways. The whole thing is almost like a fusion of sword fighting and kung fu movies, often pitting Altair against large groups of enemies, only to deliver them to him one by one so they can perish by his blade.
Down Down: You might get tired of fighting
Despite an ingenious combat engine, it can get a bit taxing having to fight dudes over and over again. This is actually what the bulk of progression relies on, too, so you can’t exactly get around it. You need to kill powerful leaders and their goons, so expect a bunch of enemy encounters. It’s all very satisfying, but it’s no secret that things get old after a few hours. If you get the chance while you’re not on a mission, just go back to freerunning.
Left Right Left Right: Check out Assassin’s Creed… maybe
Assassin’s Creed is one of those games that not everyone needs to play. If, like me, you’re just jumping into the long-running franchise, it may help as a sort of history lesson, because you’ll get to see how the series got its start, and you’ll know right off the bat what you love and hate about that first entry. You’ll also get to witness all of the great changes introduced later in the series. If you’re just a casual fan, however, perhaps you can stick with some of the more revered titles that followed the first game.
Oh, and if you do choose to play Assassin’s Creed, be aware that the first two to three hours are some of the most boring moments in gaming. Yeah, definitely keep a mental note of that.
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