Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Assassin’s Creed has stood the test of time.
The years certainly have rolled by. The original Assassin’s Creed, now a decade old game, spawned a franchise that is still alive and well today, with 10th games in the main game series. In addition, the franchise has seen novelizations and even a movie adaptation. But now it is time to take a retrospective look at the game that started it all.
Assassin’s Creed is a third-person action-adventure game that takes place in 2012. The game’s protagonist, all-around normal guy Desmond Miles is kidnapped by Abstergo Industries. Abstergo is a big shady corporation that forces Desmond into an Animus, a machine that enables him to relive the memories of his ancestors. Abstergo is particularly interested in a certain ancestor of Desmond’s, an assassin called Altaïr, who lived during the Third Crusade towards the end of the 12th century.
This intriguing setting is one of Assassin’s Creed’s biggest strengths. For those who are new to the series, the game’s story evokes numerous questions. Like what are those writings that Desmond sees on his cell wall? And what are Abstergo’s true motivations? Another thing that should be praised about the original is that it still looks really pretty. The character models are detailed, and the cities of 12th century Jerusalem and Acre, among others, feel like they are teeming with life with all the NPCs inhabiting them.
The combat is fun as well, although the fights mostly turn into being surrounded by bad guys attacking kindly one at a time. Still, the brutal but elegant counter kill animations manage to satisfy throughout the game’s 15-hour-or-so-campaign.
The biggest downfall of the game is its repetitive nature. Without spoiling too much of the game’s storyline, the main missions are structured as follows: The leader of the assassins, Al Mualim, sends you to a city, where you must first collect information on your target, then assassinate him. Al Mualim then gives you a new piece of equipment and gives you another target. Rinse, and repeat. Nine times. The formula begins to lose its appeal steeply by target number four.
Additionally, the player character Altaïr is dull as ditchwater, particularly when compared to, say, the charismatic Ezio Auditore of the sequel. Altaïr seems to have no personality other than occasional spouts of arrogance, which doesn’t make him very likeable at all. Also, his American accent feels out of place, particularly when everyone else around him talks in a Middle-Eastern accent.
To summarize, Assassin’s Creed has aged well, though there are numerous rough spots, repetitiveness being the biggest. These have since been polished by the game’s successors. For those new to the franchise, it still pays to play this game through as the story arc of the modern-day protagonist Desmond does continue from one game to the next.