A conveniently skewed view of history. Corrupt religious leaders. Serious men in silly white dresses who leap flamboyantly about with knives strapped to their wrists. Jade Raymond. What do these things have in common? They're hallmarks of Assassin's Creed, which has quickly grown from a single, divisive game to one of the most popular franchises of the current console generation. And if you've been paying attention, you know that makes it a perfect target for our continuing Week of Hate coverage. Specifically the part of that coverage in which we take a moment each day to nitpick a beloved series to death.
It may seem like we’re reaching if the first thing we pick on isn’t even part of the main series, but if you’re hunting for glaring flaws in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, this is the most obvious. Not every game in a series can be great, but it's hard to think of many that have had such a clear divide as "console good, handheld bad." However fantastic the central Creed games might be, their handheld spinoffs – specifically Altair’s Chronicles, Bloodlines and Discovery – look like a bunch of stunted, malformed clones next to the (doubtless embarrassed) originals.
Art by Alex Barrett
Chronicles wasn’t terrible. It also wasn’t Assassin’s Creed, instead giving us a Saturday-morning-cartoon plot and a version of Altair who used a grappling hook to dodge death traps installed on the roofs of small houses. Discovery was a perfectly good Sonic the Hedgehog clone ruined by clunky stealth elements, and Bloodlines – while being the only handheld game to successfully replicate AC’s freeform exploration and climbing – was dull, brown and hampered by too-small explorable areas and idiotic enemies. With the 3DS and NGP bringing more muscle to the table, it’s possible we’ll see an AC spinoff that breaks the trend in the near future, but we’re not holding our breath.
For its time, the first Assassin’s Creed was revolutionary, and the thrill of being able to freely run, climb and kill in a huge, open re-creation of Crusades-era Jerusalem was intoxicating. However, that intoxication made it easy to ignore the fact that AC was actually a very short game, padded out with grindingly repetitive side tasks. And for those without the patience for grinding repetition, it was hell.
Above: It feels like we followed and beat up like a dozen of this exact guy
Follow that guy. Pickpocket that other guy. Save that citizen. Climb that tower. Go and collect a bunch of flags within the time limit for your incompetent friend. And then when you’re done, get teleported all the way back to your headquarters so you can backtrack through miles of countryside, head to the next city and do it all over again. It might not have been so bad if not for the fact that many of the side tasks weren’t optional. You actually had to complete a few of them before you had enough “intelligence” to assassinate each of your targets, meaning that the interesting parts of the game were withheld until you’d accomplished enough arbitrary bullshit.
Because fuck beggars.
Above: Seriously, we're sick of their shit
The PC release of the first Assassin’s Creed was apparently a hugely pirated game, and publisher Ubisoft didn’t want its sequels to suffer the same fate. Their solution? One of the most horribly draconian DRM solutions ever devised, which required a constant, uninterrupted connection to Ubisoft’s authentication server just to play the game.
If your wireless connection briefly hiccupped, Assassin’s Creed II would immediately kick you out, with no chance to save your game. Ditto if something went wrong on Ubisoft’s end. The DRM made the game practically unplayable for some, and while it was eventually toned down and then removed entirely, the fact that it was ever there in the first place was a slap to the face to PC gamers.
After we settled accounts with the Borgias in Ezio’s timeline, the modern-day location of the Apple was revealed. As Desmond, we hunted through the Coliseum for a secret chamber – finally, the answers to Assassin’s Creed’s apocalyptic mysteries were within our grasp! And then… THIS happened:
Great. Not only did we not get any answers, but we got a whole bunch of new questions, the biggest being “Wait, what just happened?” Why did Juno hijack Desmond’s body to stab Lucy? Whose voices did we hear over the credits? We won’t know until Assassin’s Creed III, because there’s apparently nothing people who’ve bought a $60 game like better than a massive cliffhanger.
Apr 26, 2011
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