Monday, April 30, 2012

Assassin's Creed: Worth Playing?

I, like many of you, have found that nailing down some solid game time can be a challenging feat. The other elusive component to quality gaming, money, isn't always available either. The scarcity of these two pieces, often leads to a few questions: Is it worth my time? Worth my money? And most importantly, what's worth doing and what can be left alone? We answer these questions for you here, on Worth Playing.

Release Date:
Nov 14, 2007
Played on:
Xbox 360
Hours Played:
Achievements Points Unlocked:
Price at Purchase:

The Set-up

If you've paid any attention to gaming over the past few years, it's fair to say you know the overarching theme of Assassin's Creed. You take the role of present day gent  Desmond Miles, reliving the genetically inherited memories of his ancestors. This feat is achieved through a technological marvel called the Animus, pulling desired memories to the forefront and allowing its user to experience them first-hand. In this initial installment, one ancestor in particular is of interest: the great assassin, Altaïr ibn La'Ahad. The Ubisoft team takes you back in time and meticulously reimagines the time period and the individuals who molded it. As you reenact the assassinations administered by Altaïr, compelling secrets about friend or foe alike reveal themselves.

However, chances are you played this game so long ago that you couldn't tell the difference between a templar and a clergyman. You might be asking, "Hey, who's this Altaïr goon and why should I care about what he did a kagillion years ago?". We dive in, spend the time and answer this question in the first ever, Worth Playing.

What I Did

As I started this play-through of the game, a memory of repitition haunted my time with Assassin's Creed. I had previously rushed through the story years ago on Playstation 3 and ended up with a sense of fatigue and no lasting impression of what I had just experienced. At around the 10 hour mark, the research, report and kill routine began to chip away at the enjoyment this game offers. Scaling buildings and prancing between rooftops is a truly thrilling experience and one that has remained so as this franchise has matured. However, around the twentieth "save the citizen" mission later, my focus shifted to getting them done as quick as possible. The sheer number of activities akin to these is only shadowed by how little completing them actually helps you complete assassinations.

Regardless of their worth, I completed every activity or mission available to me in each city. I did not however, collect the variety of flags that are scattered through out the world. I collected them all at Masyaf, the assassin HQ, and was rewarded with an enlightened, memory sequence, that was previously greyed out. Having plenty of lighting in my home, I didn't see the value of spending hours collecting the flags only to have more lit up memories, so many flags were left untouched.

Outside of the flags, I completed every viewpoint, citizen, investigation and assassination that was offered. Additionally, I activated nearly every memory glitch that appeared, providing more cinematic camera angles to certain situations.

What You Should Do

take your time

Assassin's Creed is a game about stealth and story. When you think about these two things, it's fair to say that hurrying or rushed are not words that come to mind. And for good reason. Ubisoft's first take on the building scaling mechanic, while very impressive, shows its shortcomings in excruciating detail when chaotic direction is given. Altaïr will get hung up in positions that should be easily maneuvered when a calculated approach is neglected. Even more frustrating than not jumping to the next handhold; jumping off the 10 story structure completely. The game also offers an intriguing story that brings meaning to each assassination and rushing through certain sections takes away from this.

climb, view and investigate; ignore the rest

The strong story mentioned above can be expanded into greater detail by completing the investigation activities required before each assassination. These include tasks such as pick pocketing, eaves dropping and flag collecting. You may learn some interesting information that, while not materially useful, adds to the experience. Be sure to watch for glitches that appear to get a cinematic view that really adds to the storytelling moments.

In addition to investigating, it's worth climbing the majority of the viewpoints in each city just for the sense of direction. Discovering them also reveals more available investigations in the area so stake them out if you pass one. Outside of these two points, the other activities aren't really worth your time so I won't get into any more detail on them here.

frequent breaks

This is a game that can go from awesomely entertaining to ultimate exhaustion very quickly. If you are feeling burnt out on timed killings and interrogations, save the game and walk away. Assassin's Creed is best enjoyed in 1 - 2 hour spurts and then left to marinate in your mind until the next time. Playing too long gets tedious, frustrating and laborious. Just step away.

The Verdict

I had an excellent time with this second play-through of Assassin's Creed following the suggestions listed above. What I found most rewarding was the story progression and how events experienced by Altaïr corresponded with what was happening to Desmond. This is a must play for any Assassin's Creed fan that has forgotten the beginning of this franchise that has evolved and grown over the years. 


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