Assassin’s Creed: The Story So Far
Lately I’ve been thinking about the different things I like to see in a game. The four things I’ve thought up that I really love to do in games are platforming, stealthing, freeroaming and leveling up.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present JPH’s Four Elements of Gaming Awesomeness:
I feel the need to clarify that when I say “freeroaming” I do not mean “sandbox.” I’m talking about games that drop you in big sprawling areas and let you explore them yourself, not games that let you choose your missions in a nonlinear order (though there’s certainly nothing wrong with that).
Anyway, to this day I’ve only played two games that fit in that yummy, chewy sweet spot in the center: Assassin’s Creed 2, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
Assassin’s Creed is definitely my favorite game series. Now that I’m playing through Brotherhood I’m not sure if Deus Ex is still my favorite game anymore. Brotherhood has such a brilliant combination of sneaking, parkour and murdering that puts me right into the mindset of a ninja, and I can’t think of any other game that’s ever mixed stealth with platforming, with the exception of a browser game I played like a bajillion years ago.
Assassin’s Creed 2 was easily my favorite game of 2009, and Brotherhood is looking to be my favorite game from 2010. But the weird thing is, I didn’t always love Assassin’s Creed. The first game in the franchise I sort of almost despised.
If you weren’t paying much attention to the gaming community when AC1 came around, it was a very flawed game. It had a solid concept (sneaking and freerunning in a big sandbox replica of an ancient historical city) but it was let down by heavy repetition of a few painfully tedious missions. Some people were forgiving enough to look past all that and consider it a good game regardless. I was not one of those people.
Oh, sure, I liked it quite a bit at first, but by the time I reached the end credits I was ready to throw the game disc out the window. It’s hard to remember exactly why, but just thinking of AC1 makes me kind of annoyed. I think most of that was due to the lack of variety in the game, but there were a lot of other reasons.
Part of it was because I pretty much hated the main character. Altair certainly looked like a badass, but his voice actor had a strangely Midwestern accent, which seemed rather glaringly out of place in the world of Assassin’s Creed where virtually everyone and everything else seemed very historically and culturally accurate (that in and of itself impressed me in a world where most games (including Ubisoft’s very own Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) assume “foreign” means “British”). And from the very first scene in the game, Altair always just struck me as an arrogant prick. I could never bring myself to like him.
Part of it was because the game had one of the most egregious examples of “[insert support character] was evil all along!” I’ve ever seen in a game. It definitely isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen (that medal goes to Fable 1 for Maze) but it seemed to have been pulled right out of the writer’s ass.
So yeah, I do not have fond memories of that game. But then Assassin’s Creed 2 rolled around. I wasn’t expecting it to be that good, though I was hearing from virtually everyone that it was much better than its predecessor. Once I got my hands on it and started playing I practically couldn’t stop. I beat the game, collected all the feathers, did all the side-quests (even though they served me no purpose since I’d already bought every item in the game) and reached 100% completion, and I was even tempted to start the game over and do it all again because I just wanted to play the game more.
Some people consider AC1 to be just as good as AC2 if not better, but those people are very much in the minority from what I’ve seen. It’s pretty much common knowledge to most that the second one was superior. When I try to compare the two games side-by-side it often seems to me like the second one was developed by a completely different team; one that looked at the basic concept behind the first game and said “Okay, so how can we make that fun?”
Obviously that’s not the case. What really happened was that Ubisoft listened to all the criticisms and adjusted the content accordingly. The #1 complaint for the first game was its lack of variety, so for AC2 they added in a huge multitude of varying missions involving stealth, platforming and cleverness. The #2 complaint was that there weren’t enough assassinations, so this game had plenty of assassinations throughout the main story and a pile of optional assassination contracts on the side. People found Altair to be fairly unlikable, so they gave us more time to get to know AC2’s protagonist Ezio. And thank goodness Ezio actually sounded Italian.
I could go on for hours listing all the ways I found 2 to be much, much better than 1, but to sum things up, AC1 was a huge disappointment for me, while AC2 became one of my favorite games.
Recently I’ve gotten my hands on Brotherhood and have been playing through it. This is another game I’ve heard mixed things about. Some people say it’s an awesome game that has a lot to offer, while some people say it’s basically Assassin’s Creed 2.5 with nothing to offer that couldn’t have just been DLC. Frankly, I’m of the former.
This game is fucking fantastic. I’m going to have to devote multiple posts to the different aspects of the game, but let me just say that while Assassin’s Creed 1 had a lot of obvious flaws that 2 easily fixed, Brotherhood also improved upon the second game in ways that I didn’t even think of.
It seems like with each step this franchise takes it gets closer and closer to perfection. Maybe with Revelations we’ll finally have the Best Game Evarr.