Initial Impressions: ASSASSIN’S CREED

I didn’t really know what to expect when I finally got around to popping Ubisoft’s ASSASSIN’S CREED into my PS3.  I’d read some stuff from the guys at Penny Arcade a long time ago talking about how at first they didn’t like it, but then they did.  I had friends who were telling me that they got kind of bored of it after a while and my dad said he didn’t like it much because he’d found the combat to be cludgey after getting through games like FALLOUT 3, UNCHARTED, and BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM. Yet, despite all the ho-hum responses, the general consensus in the gaming world seems to be that ASSASSIN’S CREED is a great game and, indeed, it even has two high-profile follow-ups.

The gameplay is a mix of 3D platforming, timing-based combat, and sneaking puzzles.  The main mechanic is the sort of auto-traversing system the developers created for the player in an attempt, I assume, to not only make the controls a little easier and streamlined, but to also make the feeling of running across rooftops much more fluid.  Players simply have to run in the direction they wish to jump and the character will determine on its own the best place to land, whether that be grabbing a pole, landing on a balcony, or even latching on to the side of a wall.  For the most part this works well and does make the menial task of getting from one place to the other much more interesting and dynamic.  The system isn’t perfect, though, as the character will somewhat regularly jump to some other target or miss a jump entirely.  This is most likely due to some amount of ambiguity as to where to land based on where the character started and the direction the player was holding.

Combat is similar to a 3D fighting game like SOUL CALIBUR, but I found after a bit of practice, it amounted to standing around waiting for the enemy’s attack animation to start then hitting the counter-attack button.  This, after a while, made me less and less worried about getting into fights with city guards.  As a matter of fact, that leads me to one of my two biggest design complaints.  In the end all the sneaking around one is supposedly trying to do as an assassin, is made rather voluntary since with the simple counter-attack strategy, even the whole garrison of city guards can be casually taken down.

My second big complaint is the odd choice to make it impossible to do an assassination job without being detected.  It could be my lack of experience with the game (though I have played a number of games prior to this one), but despite setting up a need to gather information on the target before being allowed to take him down, the player is not given an opportunity to make the kill discreetly.  In some instances this is because of story twists where the player is set up and the target knows he’s coming, but in other cases, there simply is no way to get to the target without alerting the city.  I personally find this irritating as the designers had just forced me to do all these repetitive tasks to get the information on how to do the deed correctly.  If I’m not going to be given a chance to take the guy out without being detected, why not just let me roll in, sword swinging, and kill everyone on the way in?  In addition to this is a somewhat absurd paused time after the player makes the killing blow on a target that allows the soon-to-be-deceased character several minutes of chatter to progress the story and bring up morality questions.

The premise of the story itself is rather interesting and someday I may go back to the game to see where it goes.  I would also be interested to see what the developers changed or added to the newer titles and if they come across as any less absurd as a result.

A Long Absence

Hello all you beautiful people.  It’s been a while since my last post here.  A lot and not that much at all has happened since the last post.  I’ve tried out quite a few games and been reading through 10-year old Game Developer magazines.  I’ve also gotten up to speed on general iPad/iPhone development using Objective-C and the iPhone SDK.

I’ve been getting into the habit in the last few weeks of sitting down with a game I’ve never played and trying it out for an hour.  I have a few reasons for doing this: a) as a designer, I want to look at what other games are doing/have done, b) I want to analyze how well other games pull a gamer in within the first moments of a game and how much of the game the player can get a feel for in those moments and c) I like to play games.  My plan was/is to write up my impressions of the games I’ve been running through.  So pretty soon you should be able to look forward to some notes on Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Assassin’s Creed, NickToons Unite!, Open Season, Sonic Heroes, Sonic & Knuckles, Jimmy Neutron: Attack of the Twonkies, Kirby Air Ride, and World of Warcraft. As you may have noticed, I’ve been raiding my little brother’s library for titles I hadn’t played.

Reading through the old Game Developer magazines has been interesting.  Not only has there been a lot of great information I’ve left sitting on my shelves for all these years, but it’s pretty fun reliving the history of game development through articles written when I was in college.  I’ve been reading them chronologically and just got to 2002 last night, a time when the Front Line Awards were praising the nVidia GeForce 3 graphics card, Maya 4, and the “new” Titanium Powerbook G4.  It was also funny to notice an ad for the 2002 Game Developers Conference while wearing the freebie shirt I got from attending the 2002 Game Developers Conference.

lastly, I just want to mention that the Pragmatic Programmers’ iPhone SDK Development by Bill Dudney and Chris Adamson is a great book for getting up to speed on the basics of iPhone/iPad development using Apple’s iOS SDK.  I found it well written and the progression of topics well thought-out.  I also liked that the authors chose to be tutorial-level detailed with new topics, but as the reader progresses through the book, the authors leave the implementation of previously learned material to the reader.  It does the dual job of forcing the reader to actually learn what there doing and practice it, while also making the book itself more readable and hold more information (since they don’t have to reprint the same instructions over and over again, lots of space is saved).  so yeah, good book.  Great resource.  It’s been super helpful in getting me my first iPad gig.



Currently playing: World of Warcraft Trial Edition