The Armchair Madcap

Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews

Breaking the Creed: Ruminations on Being a Terrible Assassin

With the announcement of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations at this year’s E3 (as well as the gorgeous promo video that accompanied it), I decided to get off my rear end and go see first-hand what all the hubbub was about. I rushed out to my local GameStop and picked up not only the first game but the second one, too. After all, I’m a gamer and a history buff – what’s not to love about a video game series that combines the two?

Add in the ability to mercilessly slaughter my foes from the shadows, and I’m in.

After playing the first game, I can personally attest: there are quite a few things not to like.

I’m not going to waste a lot of space here ranting about glitches or clunky gameplay – other people have done that before me, and they’ve done it better. Just look at this [helpful comic] by DeviantArt artist Keiva-som-ko, which pretty much summarizes a lot of my frustrations with the game. And I recognize that it doesn’t help that I’m playing the game four years after the fact in my quest to start the Assassin’s Creed story from the beginning.

Thing is, I don’t think it would have mattered if I had picked up the game the day it dropped: I’m just unequivocally terrible at playing it. I can’t even blame this on the controls. I just lack all of the qualities that make a good assassin.

Let’s look at the evidence, shall we? Altaïr, the protagonist, is a master assassin, able to kill even the most cunning of foes without being spotted, willing to wait patiently until the precise moment to strike. I’m a college graduate hopped up on caffeine and chocolate who can’t even wait for water to boil without checking the pot six times. These two personas do not mix well.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I was spotted by guards simply because I refused to crawl along at a snail’s pace, hunched over like an introspective scholar with a bum leg. Is it so wrong to want to get across the city sometime this month? And why are these guards so jumpy anyway? Do they attack every person dressed in white who happens to move past their post faster than a glacier?

I could understand this level of astuteness from the guards in the later levels, when tales of my deeds as an assassin have spread far and wide and have struck fear into my enemies. But I was attacked practically twenty feet from the starting gate when I rode my horse past some guards at a light canter. Are other people never in a hurry in this game? Why do people always say “He’s lost his mind” every time I jog past? Am I the only person who has places to be and people to kill!?

Further complicating matters was the fact that I decided to go for 100% completion on the first play-through, meaning I fulfilled every side mission and climbed every tower in the game. This involved a lot of crisscrossing the city, alerting every guard I hadn’t already stabbed through the gullet, and it involved a lot of time I could have avoided sinking into saving civilians who probably shouldn’t have gotten themselves caught for stealing in the first place.

At roughly the half point of the game, I gave up on stealth entirely and just decided to murder every guard who threw himself against me. The end result wasn’t a failed mission or a lower score: it was a ridiculously high body count that I could limp away from in my scholar disguise, only to saunter up to my target and stab him in the jaw with my hidden blade. If the point of your game is to sneak up on opponents and murder them creatively, don’t make the easiest method of killing them be to stand in an open area and shout, “I’m an assassin!” at the top of your lungs. My attacks should be more subtle than the Kool-Aid man smashing through a brick wall.

Altaïr swoops in on his unsuspecting victims.

Okay, so I’m terrible at stealth. That’s no reason to dislike the game as a whole. Nope, the reason for my lukewarm disfavor lies squarely in the fact that I don’t like Altaïr as a character, let alone as one with whom I’m supposed to identify. Let’s be honest: he’s an ass in the beginning, and he stops being an ass only long enough to drum up a little sympathy in the final acts. In fact, my favorite character is easily Malik, the fellow assassin who spends 90% of the game cursing out Altaïr and making him run errands.

Add in the conspiracy theory that drives the story (and bear in mind that I always roll my eyes at conspiracy theories), and I’m really just sticking with the game because I know things improve at least a little in the sequels.

I suspect this is an example of me being overexposed to a title before actually playing it. I had seen a number of friends play Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II, had read wonderful reviews of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and had been paying attention to the loyal fan community that had sprung up around them all, especially on DeviantArt. Looking through artist Doubleleaf’s [art gallery] in particular led me to believe that these were characters with actual personalities.

You had so much potential, Altaïr… So much potential.

I will admit that the final mission of the game as well as some of the foreshadowing within character conversations got me at least a little excited for the series again, and I know I like Assassin’s Creed II protagonist Ezio much more than Altaïr. Which is good, since I already bought the sequel and everything.

So, my question is this: did you play Assassin’s Creed as well? If so, did you have a better experience with the game than I? Were you a true master assassin, stalking your prey through the streets? Or did you find yourself cleaving through wave after wave of guards, just trying to get to the payoff at the end?

5 comments on “Breaking the Creed: Ruminations on Being a Terrible Assassin

  1. scottsinope
    July 1, 2011

    You can walk swiftly or jog through most alleys. Make a bee line for your end point. Start to climb a building in front of you and stop just as your head crests. You will see the guards, if any, in front of you. Wait for them to turn away, jump up and stab them. Look for guards on other roof tops from your new vantage point and throw knives if close enough. Near every archway entrance/exit there is a roving group you can use to walk with. They will turn around at the point you can safely exit and start walking swiftly.

    If the guards are not at full attention you can run for a little bit, but as soon as they see you slow to a walk and just ignore them. They might shove you, but quickly move on to harassing the guy who drops a box.

    This will get you across the cities quickly. If you want to go faster, remember you are faster and a better climber then most guards and can shake them once you reach your end point.

    I loved the original. You have to remember the day it dropped there had been NOTHING like it ever made, it was like GTA III, literally a whole new world. Following Lucy and waiting a year to learn what the blood on the floor and walls was all about kept you on the edge of your seat waiting for AC II.

    • AnonFleance
      July 1, 2011

      Those are definitely all very good suggestions that I wish I’d been aware of while I was playing, though I don’t know how much they would have helped me with my personal lack of patience. ^_^; I’m very much used to RPGs rather than action titles. I enjoyed bits and pieces of the story, and I definitely appreciate that there was nothing like it when it dropped — I’m glad the new idea got its due credits; I just wish it had been executed that little bit better. Still, I’ve been led to believe that most of these gripes are addressed/fixed in the later titles, so I’m glad I already have the sequel at my disposal.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Tiffany
    July 15, 2011

    You have made me laugh today 🙂 I enjoyed reading, as usual. I was actually surprised that the gameplay wasn’t what you thought it would be. After all, you’ve watched how many of us playing it? (Okay, watching ME play it didn’t count. LOOK, HAY!) But fair enough, not your type of game. I can’t really comment too much on it, as I mostly just drool after the art. But you made good points, as did that hilarious comic.

    • AnonFleance
      July 15, 2011

      Thanks for reading, Tiffy! As it turns out, I really enjoyed Assassin’s Creed 2 much more than its predecessor, and I believe that’s the one I watched you play? If not, it’s definitely the one I watched Daniel play the most. Perhaps that’s what I was so disappointed with AC1 — it wasn’t the game I was looking forward to! Glad you found the comic amusing — I had to share it. :3

  3. Pingback: The Trials and Tribulations of an RPG Fan (Living in an FPS World) « The Armchair Madcap

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This entry was posted on July 1, 2011 by in Action, Video Games and tagged , .

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