ASSASSIN’S CREED (SERIES)
With Assassin’s Creed Odyssey taking the historical series further back than ever, we take a look back at the generation-spanning saga’s own past
During its prerelease the first Assassin’s Creed looked like the reason to give up your dusty PS2 for good and move to the glorious (at the time) world of next-gen. It seemed like a true step forward. A huge, historical open world set during the first Crusades, with cities teeming with life where you could blend in with crowds, and, of course, jump off really tall towers directly into hay. It was a leap of faith many were willing to take. For the most part the story follows Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad in 1191, a member of the secretive Assassin Order, as the organisation wages a strategic war against the Templars for the control of a mysterious precursor artefact, The Apple Of Eden. Stripped of his Master Assassin rank after a mission goes wrong at the beginning of the game, Altaïr must work his way back through the ranks as he takes on nine contracts on behalf of his mentor. But it also follows Desmond Miles in 2012. He’s a descendent of Altaïr who’s been kidnapped by Abstergo, a company front for the modern-day Templars. Using the Animus, technology developed by Abstergo, the Templars force Desmond to relive the memories of Altaïr through his DNA so they can learn more about the Apple.
Ubisoft kept the modern-day elements close to its chest in the
“A JUMPING-OFF POINT FOR SO MUCH THAT CAME AFTER… ALL THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS ARE HERE.”
pre-release for the game, so it came as a bit of a surprise. It added a sometimes-confusing layer that, while nicely mysterious in this first game, did end up getting a bit overcomplicated in some of the later releases. But this framing allowed for plenty of sequel material, and enabled Ubisoft to incorporate into the series a deluge of conspiracy theories about the ongoing secret war between the Templars and the Assassins in ways that were sometimes so silly they were simply delightful.
Taking many cues from Prince Of Persia (at one point Assassin’s Creed was conceptualised as a new entry in that series), the game’s historical setting was something not many other games explored, especially not with its level of detail. The ancient cities looked incredibly believable, and were fully interactable as you slid through crowds, blended in on benches, and clambered all over the likes of Damascus, Acre, and Jerusalem – you unlocked more districts as you progressed in the story, the map defogging as you climbed up towers and used them as viewpoints to reveal missions. These cities and the Assassin fortress at Masayf were connected by Kingdom, a large open world littered with collectibles that you rode around on horseback. Kingdom was a neat concept, though somewhat limited due to technology constraints: the map was mostly empty, and mainly just a series of areas connected by valley pathways. Structured one assassination at a time (though at points you could choose which ones to pursue first), you had to build up knowledge of the target by undertaking various city missions. These did get a bit repetitive, being a mixture of things like eavesdropping, following people, and roughing lads up. The more you did, the more intel you gathered about things like unguarded routes, though when it came to actually undertaking the assassination you could usually bungle your way through it, stealthy or not. Compared to later entries Assassin’s Creed is quite basic. But it was a jumpingoff point for so much that came after, both in later Assassin’s Creed titles and city-based open worlds in general. Going back, things do feel a bit empty; animations are slow and stiff, and missions repetitive. But all the essential elements are in here, and recur all the way through to even the latest games in the series.
FORMAT PS3 RELEASED 2007 PUB UBISOFT DEV UBISOFT MONTREAL
The freedom to climb and perform Leaps Of Faith was incredibly empowering.
Combat was stiff and hard, until you earned the ability to counter-kill just about anyone.
Blending in with crowds, you could nudge people away to make your way through.