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Spoiler Alert!

Contrary to its sweet box depicting a stealthy, medieval assassin decked out in (incongruously clanky) ninja-type gear, this is not a game about a medieval assassin. Instead, it is a game about — buckle up, my friend — some guy in the present day who is kidnapped by a mysterious corporation…and forced to repeatedly hook himself up to a machine…that not only can access the stored ancestral memories that lie dormant in his DNA, but can turn these ancient memories into a virtual reality world…that he can interact with in order to unlock additional memories; in his case, the memories of his awesome assassin predecessor…who apparently carried the same gene for white hoodies that he does. Got that? No? Well, through the magic of the printed word, you can read it again. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

So yeah: in this game, you’re not an assassin skulking his way around Crusades-era Levant. You’re some guy being forced to relive the memories of a skulking forebear who was, sadly, much cooler and tougher than he is. This ancestor was in a Middle Eastern assassin’s guild during the Crusades, and the corporation that has kidnapped you is trying to figure out what your ancestor was up to. To this end, they hold you prisoner for days, forcing you to spend every waking hour hooked up to their machine so they can observe your ancestor.

I could have saved them a little time, though. Most people in the middle ages had pretty monotonous lives, and he was no different. But instead of hauling a plow or working as a galley slave, his was the tyranny of climbing. All he did, all day long, was climb buildings, jump from building to building, and occasionally jump off of them into piles of hay. Oh, and from time to time kill people… primarily the panhandlers who were always crowding him.

And that is basically it. This guy didn’t have time to chat, or buy or sell items, or sleep, or sit back and take in the genuinely beautiful environment, or really interact with the world in any meaningful way at all that didn’t include climbing it or — every hour or so — stabbing it in the neck.

This may have been a good life for him. It was certainly better than the lives of the people he lived among, which consisted primarily of shuffling around and occasionally making their final mistake by jostling him. But I can’t say that I enjoyed it. I was hoping for more than just leaping around a pretty world. I would have liked some non-player characters, some items and weapons, some indoor areas…basically, some variety.

But I guess that’s life in the middle ages. Modernity is nothing if not bewildering diversity, and life in the 1200s was nothing if not soul-sucking tedium interspersed with shocking, gruesome violence. The life of your character’s assassin ancestor was a little better than that: climbing mosque minarets and church steeples, leading frantic rooftop chases, and assassinating well-protected Levantine elites is not boring, per se. But it was boring to do from my couch for 15 hours. A little more violence and a little less walking around town bored might have made things more interesting…but I suppose that’s true of just about everything.

(A different take on AssCreed.)

7 Comments

  1. Matt said on February 22, 2008:

    This just solidifies my hypothesis that most games do not, in fact, suck. It’s merely a preference thing. I fucking loved Assassin’s Creed, and named it my personal favorite game of 2007. Merely walking around with the parkour simulator that Ubisoft Montreal created was enough for me. Add in the breathtaking graphical splendor, and I was glad that I payed $70 for the game (fucking Toys R Us, wasn’t even the special edition). But as I started to talk to people, they had different takes on it. Some hated it to the point they couldn’t finish it. But there were also a few that felt exactly the way I did. So, when we take it as that, any game is both good and bad at the same time. Assassin’s Creed was just more high profile, and that’s why we have so many different takes on it.

    The game obviously could have been better, and that’s why I’m dying for a sequel, but the entertainment value was there for me. And again, that’s for me.

  2. TrueTallus said on February 22, 2008:

    So, Matt, you’re saying nothing is true and everything is permitted?:)

  3. TrueTallus said on February 22, 2008:

    More seriously though, doesn’t it suck that so much potential fun can go untapped from a game? What is it that allows one person to settle delightedly into the experience a developer has meant for a title while another is left cold?

    I just finished Assassin’s Creed last week and loved it through and through (thanks for the recommendation Matt and Shota!). But I’m curious to know how much of an adjustment my mindset would have needed to make the experience as boring and unsuccessful as it was for JD. If I think about the things I did in the game, and my reactions to them, I can see how a series of relatively minor differences in my approach to AC would have made it closer to a chore than a great game. Is it, then, just an attitude adjustment (and the behavioral differences that result from said adjustment) that can change a potentially great game (and I have to point out the possibility that not every game can claim to have that potential) to a tiresome one? Maybe I’d actually like Chronicles of Riddick if I could find and maintain the right mindset while playing it.

  4. Tyson said on February 25, 2008:

    I have been playing Assassin’s Creed quite a bit and have enjoyed it for the most part. I think it can get tedious and monotonous but when that happens, I start killing innocent bystanders. I look at it more as relieving them from their daily lives.

  5. Matt said on February 25, 2008:

    It’s funny that you bring up Chronicles of Riddick, TrueTallus. That game is sometimes at odds with its own damn self. I just got to the underground prison area (the more secure one, I guess), and it’s making me do the whole “fetch quest” spiel again, and I can’t seem to get into it. The game is basically an FPS with adventure gaming bits thrown in for variety. But I can’t play a game that has both of those styles in it. It’s either I play an FPS, or an adventure game, not both at the same time. If I’m in the mood for that adventure style stuff, then maybe I’ll get back to it, but I would still rather play it’s FPS counterpart. So I don’t think it’s your mindset that needs changing, rather the team should have kept with one style throughout the game, instead of adding two styles without the guarantee that they would mesh well. Or at least make the game more organized, where I knew where that one fucking guy I need to beat up is.

  6. jay said on February 25, 2008:

    TT, I have often thought about the idea that some games are good and not for me while others are simply not good. It’s like jazz versus boy bands – I don’t get jazz but know there is something to get and don’t begrudge people who appreciate it, but boy bands just suck.

    If you don’t like Riddick that’s ok, just realize it’s jazz and not a boy band. See my review for more detail (which I’m sure you already did).

  7. TrueTallus said on February 27, 2008:

    Jay, I agree with you that games can be good regardless of my ability to enjoy that goodness, and Riddick certainly seems to have enough going for it to be in that category (despite all the times I got lost like Matt and had no idea where the moron I was supposed to be shivving had snuck off to). I’m curious to find out, though, whether going into the game with the right expectations might have let me enjoy it as much as you did, regardless of my gaming preferences. I guess I wouldn’t be surprised to know that a great game can actually be enjoyed by anybody, so long as they start out on the right foot and are willing to meet the game on its own terms.

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