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Assassin's Creed review

Disclaimer: I've only played up to Assassin's Creed: Rogue. But that's still eight games.

Assassin's Creed is a popular AAA franchise that has the structure of a sort of "open-world" game with a main questline that is the only thing worth doing in the game (I should probably make an article about that). The story's revolves around a machine called the Animus that allows subjects to relive the memories of their ancestors. The player uses this to explore the distant past and learn about a timeless conflict between two secret groups: the Templars, who seek world peace through control, and the Assassins, who seek world peace without sacrificing individual liberty.

I actually think the story is reasonably good for the first few installments, so my criticism is going to center on the game mechanics. There are a few different types of challenges the game offers: combat, chases, and stealth sections.

Combat

Depth in games

The combat is shallow, degenerate and easy. There are a lot of facets to the problems:

Why AAA games and stories suck

Difficulty settings

Chases

The biggest problem with the chase scenes is the movement mechanics. There's a lot of ambiguity in your limited controller input, and so often your character has to guess what you want - which should be easy based on context - but he's very often wrong in ways you can't predict or account for. One example I like to ridicule is that when you're running toward a chest-high wall needing to vault over it, sometimes your Assassin just stops in front of the wall and won't move. Too late, time to go back to the last checkpoint...

Let's also mention how insanely scripted the path you take is in some of these scenes. In the last one in Assassin's Creed 3, you have to run through a burning and collapsing ship, and there's only one path the game will let you take, but it *doesn't force you to take that path* or give you any indication of what it is. If you step in the wrong spot, your Assassin will either get stuck on thin air or be stunned by a scripted explosion that you couldn't have seen coming. The result is trial and error gameplay and each time you fail you lose an entire minute or two of progress.

Trial and error

Stealth

The guards' AI is inscrutable. It often seems inconsistent whether a spot counts as in their view, or whether they'll investigate when you're in view and duck into a bush (yes, sometimes that works), or how long it takes their suspicion meter to start draining. Often, it comes down to hiding in a bush for twenty seconds watching the guard teeter on indecision about whether to check the bush, and it seems like there's nothing you can do about it.

The guards don't have ears, and don't even raise an alarm when they see a dead body.

And yet, these sequences are incredibly hard sometimes. They put you in situations with so many guards that you absolutely depend on their inconsistent blindness and stupidity. They also usually fail you instantly if you're caught, which is frustrating because of how easy combat is in this game (you know you could easily fight off all the guards if the game would let you try). For several games of the series (most of the Ezio ones), the only way they could find to create difficulty was instant loss on detection. And most generally, the problem is that the game's movement mechanics just don't seem designed for stealth. In the first game stealth played a much smaller role and was never (in my memory) an instant loss condition.

Story

The story also goes to shit after the first couple games.

Let's examine the rescue mission in the real world of AC3. The Templars capture Desmond's dad and offer to trade him for the Apple of Eden - an artifact of immense power. The obvious question is why the Templars don't just kill Desmond and take it when he walks into their base alone carrying it. Why would a badguy do the reasonable thing? We writers can't be expected to come up with a legitimate way for the hero to win from a disadvantaged situation. So Desmond walks into the room they're holding his dad in, with some two dozen Templar guards, and what does he do? *He uses the Apple of Eden to easily knock them all out and save his dad for free*. The Templars knew how this thing works! If that was a possibility they would have been prepared for nothing if not that!

In Assassin's Creed: Rogue, the one where they explore you playing as an assassin turned Templar, Shay's betrayal of the assassin order is literally based entirely on miscommunication. He is sent by his assassin commander Achilles to a city to retrieve an artifact, and when he does, the city is destroyed by the plot (a questionable mix of earthquake and random explosions and fire). So "of course" Shay "logically" assumes when he gets back that Achilles knew this would happen and didn't care; and Achilles makes no effort to explain himself, but is enraged that Shay would insult him like this and tells the other assassins to "get him out of here" (while we as the audience know that Achilles is a goodguy and must have not known about this). No wonder Shay changed sides!

After AC3, it seems like they've just given up on the real world story. AC3 ended on a massive cliffhanger that left the entire planet with an ambiguous fate. The next two games, Black Flag and Rogue, do not the slightest thing to explain what happened. You play both as a throwaway character working for Abstergo Entertainment who has no lines no name and no face and the endings reveal absolutely nothing. How long has it been? Does the general public know anything about what happened in the end of AC3, or did the Templars manage to cover it all up? What the hell is this cult of Juno - MAY SHE GUIDE US INTO THE GREY - that popped up in Black Flag? How long have they been around? Were they part of things before? Are they going to be again? I saw the first couple hours of Assassin's Creed: Unity, and it looked very much like it's going to be another non-story with the same horrible gameplay.

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