Ubisoft’s historically rich but narratively fictitious ongoing series, Assassin’s Creed, is indeed a rocky one. While the riveting stories offered are crafted from significant historical events and eras, Ubisoft always manages to botch the gameplay side of these games one way or another.
I was interested in visiting the one that started it all, the first Assassin’s Creed, to see if it was perhaps one of the better entries. This is now my fourth AC experience (or rather third and a half, having never actually fully completed Black Flag), and I am both disappointed and somewhat angry. How does the first one hold up? Not too well. Not too well at all.
Where this game falters the most is the fact that it is so painfully repetitive. I can’t stress this point enough, how awfully repetitious AC is.
There are three major areas in this game: Damascus, Acre, and Jerusalem. Each area has three districts: poor, middle, and rich. Each district is ruled by a Templar. If you’ve ever played an AC title, you know the Templars are just essentially rivals of the Assassins. Your job is to hunt down and assassinate each Templar in their respective district. You find out their whereabouts by pick-pocketing, eavesdropping, and interrogating their followers, as well as completing missions given by ally informers. The informers either have you collect flags, or stealth assassinate guards, both within a time limit.
None of these deeds are all that difficult, and they are the only ones the player undertakes throughout the entire duration of this game! It’s outrageous! Find your target. Kill him. Return to your master (Al Mualim). Get an upgrade. Traverse down the mountain. Ride a horse to the next area. Rinse, cycle, repeat. The worst part is that this must be done nine(!) times. It got boring after the second time! One can just tell that Ubisoft’s imaginations were obviously not working with them on the project in terms of producing creative gameplay.
One can also tell their minds were clearly focused on producing a compelling narrative, though, given the dialogue-heavy sequences and narrative-driven characters. Although I’m not a story-in-video-games kind of player, I can’t lie when I say the story surprisingly had me invested, especially by the end.
An aspect I can actually praise gameplay-wise is the combat, which there is an abundance of if the player partakes in the side-activity of saving citizens. The combat mechanics are finely programmed, and fighting off hordes of guards was definitely the most fun I had playing this game. The controls felt unresponsive at times, but were fine for the most part.
Another one of the better aspects gameplay-wise is the detailed map design. The towns are fun for exploration, as well as just for climbing and jumping around in. Sometimes the flow of movement can turn on itself, feel a little wonky or a little too specific.
Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed’s deep and complex narrative seeps into its gameplay. Every time you pick-pocket, eavesdrop, or interrogate, you must sit and wait for the enemy to finish talking. Each deed needs to patiently explain itself, stalling the player and becoming a distraction.
One final (and possibly the most irking) negative point to mention is the addition of “harassers.” These irritating, scruffy shits serve no purpose other than to screw up your stealth missions by shoving you. My cover was blown multiple times because of these hard-to-avoid drunks. In one instance, I got pushed off of a boat by one, which lead to an instant death by falling into the lake.
Assassin’s Creed is a repetitive, shallow, disappointing first entry in a deeply rich and interesting, history-focused franchise. It’s too bad that this game has such an engrossing story, but what you have to do to reach its end is terribly dull and tedious.