25 September 2012

Assassin's Creed Week: Dissecting the Creed: The First Assassin's Creed (2007)

The game that started it all Assassin's Creed introduced an assassin, Altair, and the foundation to a much bigger story. That of the ancient war between the Assassins and the Templars. 

Altair was notable for two core points, first for inventing an American accent centuries before American accents even existed (though in Revelations he did speak in a more appropriate tone) and because of the work he did to revitalise the Assassin's Brotherhood after the taint of Al Mualim. 

This leader of the Assassin's fraternity was an enigmatic for much of the series with more information becoming available on his outlook initially in Assassin's Creed Bloodlines and latterly in Assassin's Creed Revelations. 

Regardless Altair proved pivotal in both protecting the future of Creed and expanding upon it's tenants his cold demeanour, at least initially, meant that while an iconic figure was created in the shadow of the Third Crusade he would be eclipsed by his Renaissance successor, Ezio Auditore. 

Nevertheless it is notable that many of the achievements Ezio accomplished were partly, or entirely, due to the work done centuries before by Altair while the Creed, interpreted and quantified by Altair in the Codex and the Three Ironies, proved to be both a moral compass and a functioning work ethic (so to speak) for Ezio.

In this regard Altair should not be judged too harshly on how he might have been interpreted in the first game. He was a catalyst for future events and as with both Ezio and Desmond serves almost entirely as a tool of The First Civilisation (or Those Who Came Before). In the context of his larger role of safeguarding the Assassin's Creed and Brotherhood Altair was more than simply an adequate protagonist.   

There were however criticisms. The most central was this, every primary mission in Assassin's Creed was fundamentally the same. In other words it was somewhat repetitive. This was not an unreasonable assessment. With limited weapons and a somewhat weak combat system the game struggled to offer much variety in this regard.

Indeed, this problem was accentuated by the decision near the end of the game to have you fight through many waves of Templar soldiers. Considering that until this point players had generally either stealthily made their way around enemies or simply run from major confrontation if detected this was a difficult decision to comprehend from a gameplay perspective as it focused attention of the game's weakest aspect - the combat.

Thankfully Ubisoft recognised these failing and corrected them both in Assassin's Creed 2 which I'll talk about in a post tomorrow. 
Cities have always been important in the Assassin's Creed series.
However, I believe the game benefited from the largely unique setting and backdrop. Ultimately the cities were part of the appeal and have always been - yes being pushed around by a group of madmen, and then being harassed by musicians in Assassin's Creed 2 and Brotherhood, could sometimes be annoying but they added a character to the setting rarely seen in videogames (and at very least we got our revenge on those pesky musicians in Revelations). 

Whether Assassin's Creed 3, with it's smaller New World settlements can match the feeling created by wandering the streets of the major cities represented in the series - beginning with Damascus, Acre and Jerusalem in Assassin's Creed - will not be known until it is released. Ultimately vibrant cities have been part of the Assassin's Creed template since the beginning and while it would be a shame to see that facet diminished it will not be to the detriment of the series if Ubisoft can create a similarly dynamic setting in the settlements and forest of colonial America.  

Desmond interrogating by Abstergo meanwhile was an effective way to illustrate that the Templar - Assassin war continues to this day and the Animus proved a highly effective tool. Consider that there are very few button markers or gameplay prompts when Desmond is left to his own devices thus reinforcing the idea that the Animus is different from his regular reality. 

Assassin's Creed did a fine job of bringing a game to our screens that had a complex back-story and historical setting which appealed to millions of gamers and spawned a series larger than anyone in 2006 thought it might grow to be. If there is an overarching criticism of the Assassin's Creed series than it is this: it's too complicated. 

Is it? Perhaps but how many games have a plot sophisticated enough to make you think about it? If anything I wouldn't say it's a criticism at all. Ubisoft created a franchise with a deep narrative and they started it all, quite successfully, in Assassin's Creed.  

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