Thursday, May 15, 2014

Assassin's Creed Part 1: The Beginning and the Build

On this blog, you hear me talk a lot about how Pokemon made me who I am today.  It's true:  Pokemon was my first game, got me into gaming, and helped me make friends, but what about consoles?  Well...

The X-Box 360:
    I remember back in middle school, I was at a school with a "media magnet" in which you did the broadcasts and all that jazz.  Well, the first year was journalism.  I remember (for some reason) doing research on the seventh generation of gaming consoles.  Up until that point, I had only ever played handheld systems, but with all the Wii-hype, I was excited; I had seen the commercials of the two Japanese guys coming to people's houses saying "Wii would like to play" and I loved them!  I used this paper to validate my love to my parents, showing how the Wii's technology was superior to the X-Box 360s, the sales were better, the line up was better for people my age and families, and so on.  At the time, I hardly had even heard of the X-Box or PS, so I was biased.  Sure enough, we got the Wii and I called the X-Box 360 a system not worth my money.
     However, as time passed I discovered Tobuscus on Youtube.  I loved his videos on his main channel and one day drifted onto his game play channel.  At the time, he only had a few games: Fallout New Vegas and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood were my favorites.  I watched them nearly religiously for a while, and soon decided I NEEDED an X-Box 360.  Luckily, my sister's fiance (then boyfriend) had one of his own that she would play on and loved.  She helped persuade my parents into buying it and we tag-teamed them into our corner.  However, money was tight and as Christmas approached, the family warned me that I wouldn't be getting the Console.  I put on a brave face and dealt with it.
    Christmas morning, 2010.  I didn't see a big box sitting there as I expected.  I opened my presents one by one until the family handed me 2 presents together--a mushy bag thing and a square.  Being the derp that I am, I opened the bag thing first.  To my confusion, I was met with a wad of cables.  "What the hell are these for?  The TV?  My camera?  Not for my Wii, they're black...maybe for my O_____O" Those thoughts are immortalized on camera as I slowly realized I needed to open the other box.  I threw the cables aside and pulled the beautiful X-Box 360 slim into my arms.  My parents were so awesome, they even bought Assassin's Creed 1 and 2 (as well as the included Medal of Honor game which only kept my attention for a few hours until I beat it.)  I instantly began the first game.  So began the days of the Assassins.  I played Assassin's Creed I all the way to about 75% completion...until one fateful day...when I accidentally hit New Game instead of Continue.  I was crushed.  Hours of play lost with one accident from the times of a single save file.  From there I started II up straight away and cut my losses.  But how they played is only the beginning.

The Gameplay:

AC I:  
       After having watched Brotherhood, I expected quite a few features to be present such as blending with
the crowd, different weapon types, fancy jumps, and swimming--however, Altair was quite the minimalist.  The game's introduction does give a great feel for what the game will be like though and I was instantly sucked up into it.  A lot of people dislike the Assassin's Creed/Prince of Persia/all that stuff style of gaming with parkour as a feature, but for me, it's huge fun.  I loved the combat with it's simple button-mashes and the gorgeous atmospheres around me.  Up until that point, the most gorgeous thing I'd seen was Twilight Princess which is a visual masterpeice in my opinion, but Assassin's Creed was something different.  The characters talked, moved, walked, ran, and felt like real people with real weight to them.  The landscapes were fun to traverse and the cut scenes were glorious.  However, as I said, I had expectations going into the game that were not met.  One time I thought to myself "hey!  Look at that chest on that little island in 3 feet of water!  I'll just walk right on over and---O GOD **** IT!"  I also found the parts playing as Desmond very annoying because he was slower and less awesome than Altair, but hey, that's just Desmond for ya.

AC II:  
      Here's where it got good.  New features, a smoother control scheme, a faster character who learned new skills with you, and a fantastically beautiful world.  To this day I think the Renaissance era games are the most beautiful, with their vibrant colors, expressive characters, and interesting places.  Still though, some features were not present.  Both visually and technologically though, the 2nd game far surpassed the first (which can be expected after a few years).  The game was released 2 years after the 1st, which was the last time there was more than a yearly gap between main series games.

AC B:  
       Holy mother of Slostronaut.  This game was very similar to II, but just SLIGHTLY better with new jumps, better fighting mechanics, more weapons, the ability to call in help and recruit assassins, and so much more.  I remember one thing I loved was the horse to travel between the cities as the map grew ever more expansive.  One of my favorite features that has since been removed (or put to a much smaller extent) was the shop building.  I LOVED having a bank in every town and really feeling like you were making an impact as you cast out the Templars and repaired the city.  I bought art, weapons, outfits, anything and everything with the gold from missions.  The game was everything I wanted.  A lot of people didn't like the defending of towers, but I found them to be a fantastic change of pace from the rest of the game and really wish they would make a return.
AC R:  
     Revelations was a bit of a tougher nut to crack.  Older Ezio played like an older man so I can see how this would put some people off, but you'll see later why I loved this.  One thing I hear a lot of people ripping on was the use (and over-use) of bombs.  While I can agree they were very forced and over used, I do think they were fun and was sad to see them all together missing.  I liked combining different things into fancy mixes of the perfect bombs.  Most other features were similar to its predecessors, but I did like the flashback style, returning to good ol' Altair I liked the segments that made you really see Ezio's age, where he was truly injured and felt...human.  This will come into play again later, so remember this.

              Here's where some things changed for me.  There were features I loved and features I hated.  First of all, the minigames.  If you can't tell by now, I love games inside of games--the tower missions, recruiting assassins, directing attacks, minigames--and this game and AC4 are FULL of fun games.  My personal favorite is Nine Men's Morris which I play constantly in the games.  I also liked the ones on the homestead with throwing the balls. Which reminds me, Homestead missions are THE BOMB.  I LOVED hooking up people, helping them with tasks, and all that stuff that made you feel closer to characters like I had to my brothers and sisters in the first games.  They were great.  However, keep them in mind for later.
             One thing I hated though was the open world.  In games like Skyrim, an open world is rewarding with hidden goods all over, secrets to find, and enemies to fight everywhere, all with easy to navigate paths 80% of the time.  AC3 had a different take.  I found the Frontier area pointless and hard to navigate.  It allowed you to call a horse easily which SHOULD have made it easy to traverse, but instead got you glitching in a tree.  Everything was shown on the map and this area had like, 3 fast travel areas that were often not near enough to were I wanted to be.  This was frustrating.  Also frustrating was how dense the cities were.  Yes, this makes sense, yes this looks cool, but trying to navigate--especially when trying to get to one oddly placed item--was a hassle (especially since the roofs were heavily guarded).  More stuff I loved came in the form of the naval missions which apparently, everyone else loved too, seeing as it spawned a whole game essentially on that premise.  Back to things I hate though, I never once used "Connors signature weapon" the Tomahawk.  It was inefficient, felt funny, and I always preferred a sword.  

              Now, I haven't played all the way through this game, only about 30%.  But from what I can tell it controls very nicely.  Sometimes the frame rate does a weird thing that makes Edward run very fast and it looks very unnatural and weird.  The combat feels smooth and the running is...mostly ok.  The ship steers like....a ship.  I have a lot of trouble with naval battles, but they are really satisfying and I love being a pirate!  The harpooning, as weird as it is, is super easy and a nice time waster.  Again, minigames!  Controlling the fleet of ships is, like Brotherhood's assassin's missions, very satisfying.  Otherwise, not much to say yet!  Not bad but...not outstanding.  

              So there we are!  The first of two parts!  Next time, I'll talk more specifically about why I think the Ezio trilogy was superior to the previous and concurrent games using Ezio's character and how it effects the games.  Hope you enjoyed this!