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SummaryAssassins Crave Platforming
The Good- To some extent - the graphics.
- The sound.
The Bad- The controls sometimes.
- Cheaply implemented and unnecessary mini-games.
The Bottom LineAssassin’s Creed is clearly one of the games that helped to define the landscape in the last decade: combining lavishly decorated open worlds with historical backgrounds it managed to achieve... something. Big sales, mass fan-following, those endless cosplaying attempts, eventually a movie.
The original game tells a story of a 12th century chap that works for the original assassins (or hashashins) guild. There were rich, picturesque landscapes that begged to be printed and framed, large ancient cities of middle-east to ogle at, streets filled with hawking vendors, chattery passers-by and occasional town psychopaths... At the same time, after taking the initial dip in the virtual world and progressing for a while it became clear that Assassin’s Creed was stuffed to the rims with mundane repetitious gameplay, where one had to complete the same limited number of tasks until he was allowed to participate in assassinations. This variety was upped in the Director’s Cut edition, but even then it wasn’t of much help. To make matters worse Ubisoft's game enjoyed a totally disastrous control scheme – it’s as bad to play with mouse and keyboard as it is with a gamepad. This is a truly an epic achievement (dzink!) that helped to dissuade me from continuing despite the mentioned colorful world. I haven’t played the other parts, though I’d like to believe that with so much money dropped at least some of them are decent.
But here we have a handheld port, demake, conversion, that deals with the events that precede the original story. There are no flashbacks and modern world sequences in here. In case you haven’t played the first title – there you were held in a medical facility, where the big pharma tried to extract genetic memory from your character, who’s believed to be related to the 12th century assassin. And part of the story is told through that perspective. Anyway, it is totally absent from Altair's Chronicles, where you only play as Altair in the historical setting.
As is the case with many mobile remakes – it is very entertaining to take a look at how the developers approach this... shrinking process. Here, Gameloft, a Ubisoft mobile division, tried to stay partially true to the original ideas while having a simpler game mechanic, that perhaps is better suited for the handheld. Not to say that open-world games couldn’t be executed on mobile systems. Altair’s Chronicles is a mix of a 2D platformer with the elements of parkour from the original game. Most of the time it’s running through the roofs, climbing and jumping, rope swinging and occasionally fighting that utilizes a combo system as well. Oh, and you can push your opponents making them fall to death. I totally love pushing everyone to their death when I get the opportunity. In games, that is. He-he.
Despite being three dimensional, the game is viewed from the side and can remind you of pseudo-3D platformers and beat ‘em ups. If you don’t take fights in consideration it’s pretty much 2D. This becomes evident during the more platform-oriented stages where Altair’s Chronicles start to look like Pandemonium or Shadow Complex where the Z-axis becomes a nice looking gimmick for the most part. Surely, there are some stages that use the third dimension more prominently in the peaceful areas but only so often, and it's easier to forget about that during all the jumping since it was designed with only two axes in mind.
While the original had its share of parkour, a platform game requires their own set of sensibilities. So there are pits, spikes, swinging blades and more ways to lose. The big brother was more forgiving when it came to your acrobatic failures unless you fell from a high tower or into the water – Altair couldn’t swim at all. I guess they knew they had to with controls like this... At the same time, the DS title is often unforgiving, not being afraid to execute one touch kills. Thankfully, there are plenty of checkpoints, nearly at the beginning of any course of obstacles.
As I said, the game is in full 3D, although the DS is generally ill suited for that task, and games usually remind me of Nokia N-Gage that came out a year before DS and wasn’t exactly a powerhouse. Some of the objects on the screen are clearly made of 2D bitmaps to ease the load on a puny graphical chip. But still there are streets with characters roaming back and forth, guards that are usually set to aggressive mode and many, many climbable walls.
When it comes to the rest of the inheritance it’s not as impressive. For example, the ability to dissolve in the crowd or impersonate scholars that was prominently featured in the big Assassin’s Creed is only seen once in Chronicles and basically doesn’t exceed a small tutorial section and the following stage. Overall, level structure is very linear without any side-objectives to complete or much to collect – yet another tedious part of AC. The only exception is the blue orbs that serve as a form of upgrade currency that lets you improve the character a bit.
The second screen of DS is used to display a map (a very useful bit in a totally linear game) during the play and also to show dialogue lines. There are a several mini-games that were supposed to utilize the console’s extra features: in one that simulates pickpocketing you’ll need to move a key out of a poorly drawn pocket of some poor fella, and in another you’ll have to uncover the sand covered treasure by blowing into the microphone hole; and there’s one dedicated to torture – you have to draw lines on the screen to follow the sensitive pressure points on the body of your victim. None of those add much to the game, but they are also quick enough to not be a hindrance.
But it’s fun for what this is – a fast platform romp with the occasional glimpses of another dimension and hints of the big brother in the air that don’t distract you long from the main course. A very light interpretation of the game, similar to other Gameloft ports like Prince of Persia. Interestingly enough, the next mobile AC that came out for DS lacked even those atavistic properties and instead became a full-fledged platformer.