Assassins Creed: Romancing The Creed (Episode 2)

(image courtesy of http://wordinprogress.com)

(image courtesy of http://wordinprogress.com)

After I had done everything that you had asked, completed every quest, collected every flag and everything else, I felt this sudden emptiness inside.  We were still together and we were still in love but like any relationship, we had to spice up our “love life” so to speak.  I quickly proceeded to check when the inevitable sequel would be released but as always, you were one step ahead of me.  A sequel was already planned for release in November 2009 and so typical of you, you had thought of everything.  You showed me beautiful HD images of Italy and Venice.  I’ve always wanted to go to Italy and the fact that it would be during the days of a festival just made it that more exciting.  However, the consoles were set to get you first so I had to wait until March 2010 before I could see how beautiful you had become.  I passed the time by trying to figure out the symbols that were painted by subject 16 and spent a lot of time on a wiki dedicated to you.  Eventually, time passed and March crawled into view.  Finally, our second Journey had begun.

It’s funny but when I picked you up at the store, I drove home slowly, unwrapped you gently, and installed you patiently.  I was always ever so gentle with you and treated you the way I felt you should be treated.  You did something though that I didn’t quite agree with.  Somewhere, among your time not spent with me, your parents had begun to dabble in the online world, met other people and had other ideas.  One of their ideas was to always be connected to the internet in order to travel to our beautiful locations.  I was immediately taken by surprise at this because at the time I had no internet connection.  How were we going to explore the arty world of Florence and Venice if I couldn’t get us online?  Well, you know that story better than I do.  I would not let such a thing as petty as the internet keep us a part.  It’s actually quite humorous, using the internet to find a way to keep us offline and explore the Renaissance era.  I found a way, by downloading a hacked piece of software that made your parents believe you were online when you weren’t.  I remember the sensation of finally getting it to work.  I spent a couple of hours trying to figure that out but it was completely worth it.  When you finally loaded up, you led me through another worm hole, my destination being another sleeker Ubisoft logo.  I waited patiently and then you showed me yet another pure white screen with Assassins Creed II, the word creed beautifully designed in red.  I let you hover for a few moments and then just as before, you reminded me of why we were together and why the wait was worth it.

1486, Venice Italy,

A festival is taking place, fireworks dance in the night sky, couples skipping across bridges.  All is well until an ominous presence in the form of a gondola comes into view.  Two men, with grim expressions looking ahead.  They both wear masks but the one is undoubtedly the master, wearing a full white mask covering his eyes and cheek bones, leaving his jaw revealed.  The other wearing a black mask that just covers the eyes.  We then see two woman making a deal with a mysterious person, who drops a pouch of coins into their hands.  Carnivale is in full swing, a barrage of fireworks lighting up the evening sky, while masked men and woman dance merrily together enjoying the freedom that such festivities bring.  The two men on the boat arrive with a group of soldiers.  As they enter, two courtesans notice them.  One of them approaches the group, and escorts the man wearing the mask that only covers the eyes away from the soldiers and into the thick of the crowd.  They both start dancing, smiles on both of them.  They both look up at the colored night sky as he spins around in a choreographed fashion.  When he finally looks down again, the courtesan has disappeared.  The man looks left and right, desperately trying to spot her.  He turns around and suddenly a hooded man appears, striking him quickly.  His vision blurs and time itself seems to have slowed down for him.  Struggling to comprehend what has just happened, the man looks though the crowd hoping to catch the eyes of the man with the white mask.  He succeeds.  As their eyes meet his left hand reaches up to hold his throat as blood trickles out over it.  The man with the black mask crumples over slowly revealing the Assassin, crouched, hidden blade revealed, ready to fight, behind him.  

The man with the white mask order his soldiers to kill him.  The Assassin leaps forward and punches one soldier, counter attacks another, steals a spear and stabs a different soldier, before finally giving a slight smirk to the soldier that was punched.  The hooded Assassin drops the spear as he chases after the man with the white mask.   The man runs frantically through the city, the Assassin not far behind.  Jumping from gondola to gondola to the side of a building, making his way up.  Keeping his target in sight the Assassin leaps from rooftop to rooftop, tiles dropping to the canal below under his feet.  The man with the white mask reaches an archway leading into a courtyard shouting orders at a group of armored soldiers who are waiting patiently.  The soldiers move up, guarding the one and only entry way, careful not to let themselves be exposed while they hide behind the walls.  The man with the white mask catches his breath and moves to the entrance. In the distance, on top of a perch, the Assassin appears and drops down to street level, dust blown away around him as he lands.  The man with the white mask starts antagonizing the Assassin, while he walks forward hidden blade drawn.  The man with the white masks then mentions the Assassin’s mother which causes him to stop walking, disarm his hidden blade.  As the taunts continue, the Assassin pulls a lever just underneath his wrist and you hear a mechanism loading.  As the man with white mask finishes his threat the Assassin extends his left arm, palm up, aiming directly at his target.  His right hand reaches over to his left wrist and then the sound of a gun shot echoes against the walls.  Pigeons scatter at the noise.  The man with the white mask falls back slowly, blood gushing out behind him covering his Templar badge in blood.

After seeing that, I knew we were going to have one hell of an adventure.  You allowed me to play as Ezio Auditore Da Firenze, an Italian nobleman who’s destiny was far greater than he would ever fathom.  I witnessed his birth and at this point I knew this was going to be something much more than what our first adventure entailed.  You immediately instilled an emotional connection just by placing me right at the beginning of this mans life.  I was with him every step of the way.  From the conspiracy against his family, to learning about the assassins, meeting Uncle Mario, and making the discovery of The Ones Who Came Before.  We shared the same emotional responses, from shock and sadness, to exhilaration and confusion and finally to accepting one’s destiny. But it wasn’t only Ezio’s character that I fell in love with, it was the whole world as well.  Through you, I was able to meet Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the great minds of our time and I got to appreciate the brother that Ezio found in him.  I got to see just how corrupt the world had become having a Templar assuming control of unimaginable power.  I didn’t know it was possible but you managed to show me how much love and care your parents truly had.  Everything was improved, the fight mechanics, the free running, the introduction of new weapons and upgraded ones like the dual blades and the pistol.  The world was absolutely gorgeous and polished to near perfection and you managed to keep me invested in the world for months, littering the map with treasure chests to loot, feathers to collect, and contracts to complete.  Not to mention the hidden glyphs embedded in the world around me.

You also allowed me to witness Desmond’s escape from Abstergo with the aide of Lucy Stillman and watch his training, taking place in what seemed to be an abandoned warehouse.  Experiencing the bleeding effect and for the first time being worried about what it might do to his Psyche.  I got to meet Shaun and Rebecca, without whom, this adventure would not have been able to take place. With the aide of Shaun, Desmond and I were able to hack glyphs and solve puzzles and hack the memories of Subject 16, revealing a disturbing revelation. Conspiracy’s aside, seeing the relationship between Desmond and Lucy grow made me feel like I was part of something wonderful despite the world gone to hell.  With everything you managed to create, the one thing that stood out, that made me pay attention was the love that went into this world.  You could see it  from the view points, hear it in the sounds of swords clashing and most importantly I could feel it with every secret discovered.

We were all a family and the bond we shared was cemented for now and forever more.

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Assassins Creed 3 Review

When I started playing this game last week Wednesday, I was amped up and super excited.  I bought the freedom edition which came with an awesome figurine of Connor with the old American flag behind him, a George Washington diary, a metal case with art work by Alex Ross, and something else.  The George Washington diary looked awesome but unfortunately somebody at the printing company screwed up.  Some of the pages were bound in on each other which I found rather disappointing.  But luckily this is a review of the game not the journal but I suppose I should have taken that as a warning sign.

The game continues directly from where Revelations ended.  Desmond, Rebecca, Shaun and Desmond’s father, William Miles arrive at the grand temple where they are supposed to unlock the secrets to saving the world from a big ass solar flare, an event that would take place December 21, 2012.  You relive another of Desmond’s ancestor’s life, Ratonhnhaké:ton, pronounced “Ra-doon-ha-kay-doon” or his western name, Connor Kenway.  The time period is set from 1753 to 1783 way after the revolutionary war ended.  I’m not going to delve into the plot at all with regards to Connor’s or Desmond’s story but just how the game plays and what the experience over all was.

First off, the game is stunningly beautiful, especially in winter.  When you’re running around the frontier, jumping through trees and watching patrols amble their way in the snow, you can’t help but admire the beauty of it all.  The level of detail with regards to the frontier is breath taking but Boston and New York not so much, mostly because there really wasn’t much to see in these towns.  They were still new towns developing so it felt kind of bland.  If they could’ve used the anvil next engine in say France it would be freaking beautiful.  It would have been absolutely stunning if they had this engine for the previous instalments.  A nice new addition to the weather is rain and storms. I could almost smell the petrichor in the air (that’s the scent you smell right before it rains). The character animations are a big step up when compared to the older games and the fluidity of the movements make it that much better.  The best thing about this game is the naval battles.  Commanding your own ship on stormy seas and blasting the shit out of enemies was the biggest high point of this game.  It looks beautiful, believable, the controls are easy to grasp and it’s generally just a shit load of fun.  You can also hunt animals but it becomes a bit tedious and very time consuming.  The quick travel returns but kind of defeats the purpose of quick travel because you actually explore the tunnel and have to find a way out.

But more importantly one of the greatest things about Assassins Creed is the story.  Right from the beginning when every one of us fan boys was trying to decipher the symbols that were painted on the lab walls and floors, we were trying to figure out just what the hell was going on.  Then Assassins Creed 2 wet our appetite even more with the glyph locations and the video titled the truth showing Adam and Eve.  Brotherhood was just as good and Ubisoft kept the modern story arc going and always left you wanting more and googling to your hearts content, desperate to solve the mystery.  When Revelations came out I thought that the Ezio saga was getting stale but it did still have some pull and I thoroughly enjoyed the final chapter of Ezio’s adventure and was anxiously awaiting how Desmond fits into this web of conspiracy and it’s here that Ubisoft lost the plot.

Visually and if you only play the naval battle missions and spend all your time in the frontier, this game is a freaking master piece but unfortunately I feel that Ubisoft has put a lot of effort into places that isn’t relevant to the Assassins Creed experience and has missed the bar completely on this one.

Assassins Creed 3 is the buggiest triple-A game I have ever played and that’s with the day one patch.  Connor got stuck in walls at times, I saw a chest move by itself, guards that stop patrolling, a ladies dress that defied gravity and so much more that I was actually tempted to send hate mail to Ubisoft.  There were no tombs to discover, not a hell of a lot of platforming and nothing worth discovering either.  Side missions have lost all meaning to the story and present little to no challenge at all.  Synchronizing one hundred percent no longer adds to the enjoyment of replaying a level because your optional objectives are not always challenging, instead they become excruciatingly painful.  The combat system has been dumbed down to the point that you might as well not even get into a fight because all you have to do is wait for a guard to attack and then either disarm them or counter attack them.  While I am aware that this is roughly the same as the previous games the combat in here specifically lacks any excitement. Also when a line of guards is about to fire at you, you have a chance to grab a nearby enemy and use them as a human shield but there are times where you can’t see the warning indicator and you will get shot to hell and loose a substantial amount of health in the process.  Speaking of health, it regenerates after a combat sequence and it is almost impossible to die unless you deliberately run off a cliff or miss the warning indicator and get shot at twice by rows of guards.

The biggest problem I have with this game is the story.  The main story arc of saving the world ended way too easily and it left me with a, Is that it?, kind of feeling.  I was sorely disappointed at how Ubisoft spent all this time building up this awesome story and then just ending it with hardly any drama or emotion.  None of the characters had a sense of impending doom upon them.  They expressed concern sure, but not one of them showed fear or even panicked.  It’s like they didn’t really care or understand the ramifications of this thing.   They were all completely emotionless except for maybe a few small scenes. Ubisoft tied up a few loose ends but everything was just so easy.  It almost feels like they got bored with their own story and personally, after investing five years worth into this series, the ending and the answers that we get leaves me with a horrible taste in my mouth.   Connor’s story was also exceptionally boring and he had no character development at all.  He was either, whiney, neutral, frustrated or angry and he was just doing as he was told.  Granted he was driven by revenge after his village burned down but you would think that after years of training to be an assassin that he would have some form of enlightenment or understanding and start realizing that there are bigger things happening in his world besides his needless lust for vengeance.

This is an empty shell of an Assassins Creed game and it honestly hurts to say such bad things about it.  For a game that has had a three year development process, it felt rushed, unpolished and had a general lack of care and effort put into it.  If this is how they treat their top IP franchises I don’t want to imagine how they treat their lowest IP and this review is coming from a dedicated Assassins Creed fan boy who owns all the original games for PC and PS3.

If you’re a fan you will probably appreciate the finer things this game has to offer but if you’re new to this IP rather play the first four and give this a miss and watch the ending on You Tube.