Sunday, 16 September 2012

Learning The Creed

This was originally published on Forces Of Geek on Thursday 6th September. Since this article I've been playing through the first game and I've almost completed it. I'm determined to finish them all before AC3 is released!

In my last article, I came to the conclusion that my gaming knowledge is clearly sub par. I call myself a gamer and yet, I stick to the same games I've played for years and rarely branch out into new titles - essentially, I am the embodiment of Nintendo. I decided that this simply won't do. How on Earth can I justify being a games columnist if I only indulge in one small slice of that delicious game pie?

So, first on my shameful un-played list is the Assassin's Creed series... yes, I decided to play all four games over the course of two weeks dedicating three days of gaming to each title respectively. Despite not completing them all I was able to get a taste for the series and my Master Assassin boyfriend filled me in on the story as I went along.

Before having played these games my view of the Creed series based purely on my own assumption and various comments from other people was pretty much as follows:
  • It has a historical storyline - that's pretty dull
  • Free-running is reserved for poseur kids who think jumping off walls is an achievement 
  • The controls look a bit complicated for my liking
  • It has alright graphics, but nothing spectacular
  • It's just another stealth based combat system - been there, done that
  • I don't fancy playing a game steeped in religious themes
  • Isn't this just the modern day (or antiquated, whatever) Lara Croft equivalent?
Oh, how wrong I was. It's not as if I would hail them as the best thing ever but the Creed games are pretty darn good.

Here are my first impressions:

Assassin's Creed

I wasn't expecting much from the first instalment of Creed, mainly because several friends told me I should skip straight to the second game. I'm glad I never followed their advice because Assassin's Creed is great and I hadn't played an action-adventure game in a long time. You start off as Desmond Miles, a barman who is kidnapped by the company who seemingly run everything as we know it, Abstergo. He is then forced to relive memories of his ancestor, Altair in a contraption called the Animus in order to fulfill an undisclosed goal.

In the Animus, I enjoyed the setting of Damascus, Jerusalem, Acre and enjoyed playing the rather arrogant character of Altair. I know a little about The Crusades and so I found myself engrossed in the story arc, a complete contrast to my assumption that a game steeped in historical fiction would be boring or tedious. I found I enjoyed being out of the animus as much as in it because both story lines were intriguing - although, I would have liked some more freedom outside the animus as there was very little to interact with.. or the ability to run.

As a lover of RPGs, I felt at home with how large the map was. I love open world games and usually take the longest route to get to my objective in order to explore the environment and undertake all of the optional side missions. I liked their range too (albeit slightly repetitive after a while), though I particularly enjoyed finding all of the viewpoints. As someone who suffers from vertigo, jumping from dizzying heights left me with a sense of freedom yet if I made one wrong move or fell, I panicked as if it was me that was climbing these monolithic buildings and structures. Basically, I pee'd my pants... I would make an awful Assassin in real life, which is probably why they wear white robes, to weed out the pee pledges.

Another thing that struck me and disproved my original assumption was just how instinctual the controls felt, especially the free-running. Despite facing my fears in-game, leaping from here to there and running up walls felt peculiarly natural.

Assassin's Creed 2

*Spoiler Alert* I absolutely love how this game began, the sense of excitement caught me off guard! I felt truly thrown into the deep end as I played Desmond on the run from Abstergo/Templars with Lucy.

One thing that bugged me however, was the voice of Shaun aka Danny Wallace. I found his voice jarring because I knew who it was and it kept distracting me.

Still, at least the controls hadn't really changed. I blitzed through the tutorials so I could focus on the story. I enjoyed the subtle humour in the game too (Thanks, Ubisoft!) as well a cinematic featuring the best line ever from Ezio's uncle - I laughed so hard:

It was great to see how Ubisoft portrayed various historical figures like Leonardo Da Vinci and the level of detail and care that was evident in those characters. I was also greatly amused by the aptly named Duccio, who as I would later find out, pops up in most of the games and there is even an achievement for knocking him out in Revelations!

The soundtrack, much like the first game (and subsequently the whole series) is beautiful and it works so well with the overall atmosphere of the game, Jesper Kyd did a fantastic job. Florence, Tuscany, San Marco all looked stunning too and I especially enjoyed renovating Monteriggioni. Visually, I preferred this to the first game and I wouldn't be exaggerating if I told you it's made me all the more determined to visit Italy (my next holiday, perhaps?!).

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

Brotherhood is the continuation of Ezio's story and I felt it was totally on par with the second instalment. It took me a while to get to grips with combo kills but ultimately, the controls still felt organic.

Of course that was until I started building up the order and recruiting new assassins. The new Brotherhood Assistance Maneuver (BAM) is an exceptional addition and really added a solid layer to the already astounding gameplay and story. On top of that, the multiplayer mode is unlike any other I've played. A stealth based multiplayer game is incredibly innovative and I liked that it was more about patience and stealth than my usual shoot anything that moves Halo sessions.

Without a doubt, this is the high point of the series, surely things can only go from strength-to-strength. Right?

Assassin's Creed Revelations

WRONG! Revelations is an interesting one. It's essentially the game I previously mislabeled and all my preconceived faults shone through. The controls have radically changed and the inclusion of the hook blade and the Istanbul setting couldn't make up for this.

Having enjoyed the tombs and puzzles in the previous games, the Desmond Miles memory sequences in this game irritated the hell out of me. I appreciate their inclusion and it works fantastically alongside the main story but honestly, I just wasn't very good at them and I desynchronised and re-started more times than I care to remember, largely due to the unpolished nature of a first-person element in a predominantly third-person series. I imagine the game will get better, but it's going to be a real challenge to push through this one.

One thing's for sure though, I am looking forward to going back to all of the other Creed titles I've sampled and completing them in order. I am also getting psyched for Assassin's Creed 3...

Until it's release I guess I'll just continue to walk the streets of Norwich, looking up at buildings and thinking to myself I can totally climb that, if I just start on that ledge and then jump to that crevice, swing from there and... yep, I'm totally hooked.

So, exposing myself to an entirely new series has got off to a promising start. Who knows, maybe in the future I'll be penning an article stating how engrossed I was by a FIFA or Madden title? Yeah.. I doubt it too.

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