Monday, May 10, 2010

Top 50 Games - 42 & 43. Assassin's Creed 2 / Assassin's Creed

The Assassin's Creed series is a funny case for me. The more I think about the games, the less I like them. I could certainly do without the sci-fi conspiracy babble, but I don't think it ruins the experience. The first Assassin's Creed was a strange beast. The early coverage did a lot to hype me up; "Finally, a medieval game that isn't high fantasy!" I thought. And while it isn't swords and sorcery, AC certainly has its share of fantasy. I also thought that Assassin's Creed was going to be nearly perfect, and it turns out that it was riddled with flaws and repetitive design. Needless to say, I was disappointed. I never bought the game, but I borrowed it from my friend for a week, and (here's the important part) played it while eating my way through a stack of Hershey's Chocolate with Almonds. Somehow, despite the game's tedium and ridiculous artificiality (excused with the 'Animus' context), I found myself having a really good time. I got sucked up in the wild conspiracy theory story (hint: Templars), got used to the unusual marionette control scheme, admired the details in the costumes of the guards and their holy cities. The folks at Ubisoft listened to everyone's complaints and addressed them head on for the sequel. What's funny is that by alleviating the frustrating quirks of the first game, Assassin's Creed 2 ended up abandoning many of the series' signatures and was more like Grand Theft Auto: Renaissance Italy. That was fine by me though. While Assassin's Creed has its own minimalist charm, AC2 feels like a fully featured game able to compete with the big dogs. The plots of both are stupidly compelling, and by the end of the second game things truly get laughable, but what really matter are the game worlds. Damascus, Acre, Jerusalem, Florence, Tuscany, Venice... These, ironically grounded in real life, are some of the most fascinating spaces I've ever occupied in a video game, and such beautiful virtual tourism is the true legacy of the franchise.