Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stabbing people in the back is a useful skill to master in "Assassin's Creed". As crack assassin, Altair, who seeks redemption for an earlier botched hit, I have a list of nine very bad men to put paid to. Or rather, my ancestor has to and I'm sharing his memories of his greatest hits via a device that allows me to do so.

Assassins carry out a routine before striking. They infiltrate the target's city of residence; seek out as much information as possible about his whereabouts, activities, strengths and weaknesses; sneak past his guards and finally give him a taste of cold steel in his gut.

That's the theory, anyway. A more skilled player than me might just have the patience and timing to make his kills as smooth as butter and keep the body count to a minimum if he wished to sincerely follow the Creed. But where's the fun in that? Clumsy ol' me just blunders into a hornet's nest bristling with angry men holding pointy objects and having to slay them all. If I manage to poke the right target it's because he was stupid enough to stay and fight with his men. Of course, some targets choose the better part of valour, so those guys need to be timed properly or chased down, apologies to whomever stands in the way.

Fighting is easy to pick up. It's just a matter of timing Altair's attack against his opponents'. Time it right and be rewarded with a cinematic of a deft parry or a brutal finisher. There are lots of variations, and I believe that as Altair unlocks more as he progresses through the levels. Altair often gets surrounded with a mass of enemies, but by methodically picking off each enemy the body count racks up until no one is left to challenge the might of the Assassin. Yes.

But sometimes the fighting can get tiresome, so if there's no one important to kill in the mob another option is to break off and run through the crowd of civillians and climb over the rooftops to find a hiding spot -- a pile of hay or a curtained pavillion. Once the pursuers have lost line of sight, they quit their search (slackers!) and return to their posts.

On the way to the big party, though, there are certain buildings to climb to get a better picture of what's happening in the neighbourhood; hidden flags to collect; civillians to rescue from thugs and bullies; people to pickpocket from; others to intimidate for the information they hold, or just eavesdrop on surreptitious conversations between loose lips. Occasionally, a fellow assassin will point out certain secondary targets to eliminate on the quiet, or initiate a race across the rooftops just for fun.

So there's lots to do in between the big kills, although up to a point, even the variety of activities becomes repetitive after a while. Still, these asides are mostly optional. Completing any two or three per city is enough to unlock access to the big cheese himself, and his cryptic final words that make Altair wonder if he is on the right side of the war after all.

Many people have a problem with the ending sequence to the game. Just when you think there's more to come, the game stops on a cliffhanger. The problem is, you don't know the game's ended. You just keep walking around in a closed room where you can access clues about what's to come, then there's nothing else to do except wander around aimlessly wondering what the heck to do next. There's only one thing left to do: see that little box marked with an 'X' on the top right hand of your game window? Click that then get on with your life.

No comments: