Close your eyes, and try to imagine yourself in a time, long, long ago. A time where you could climb atop towers, and in looking towards the horizon in any direction, you would see one....far off in the distance, a glistening blue.....a Blockbuster. It was in these times of prosperity that I was first introduced to it - Assassin's Creed.
Sitting in a bargain bin at the paltry price of $10 was Bioshock. I heard great things a few months earlier, and I knew it was worth the price. But sitting underneath it was Assassin's Creed. Another shiny red and yellow sticker with the attractive $10 was staring back at me. At 20 years old - I was at a dilemma. Which game do I get? Or do I spend the $20 and forego Mr. Sub...ignoring my ever growling stomach? Sorry stomach....this deal was too good to pass up!
I started up the game, and immediately fell in love. But that love faded fast, when I realized that Trophies weren't part of the experience. This had me moving onto Bioshock in a hurry. Fast forward another 5 years, and I would finally give Ubisoft Montreal's flagship series the chance it deserved.
Assassin's Creed follows two story arcs; which may be surprising to most first-time players. The first arc is, of course, Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, a Syrian-born Master Assassin, and member of the Levantine Brotherhood of Assassins. His timeline is placed during the Third Crusade; a time when the Crusaders and Saracens were at war for the Holy Land. The second protagonist, is Desmond Miles, a modern-day bartender with a mysterious past. So how do we bridge the 800-year gap you ask? A machine dubbed the 'Animus'; a gateway to viewing the genetic memories of ancestors. Desmond is a decendent of a long line of these Assassin's, and Abstergo Industries, a multinational corporate conglomerate, is set on diving into these memories (at any cost) to find an ancient artifact of incredible power; a "Piece of Eden."
AC's gameplay is mission based, as Desmond relives the Hunt for the Nine. Having lost the trust of his Mentor, Al Mualim, Altaïr was tasked with a series of nine assassinations of Templars across the Holy Land, visiting the cities of Acre, Damascus and Jerusalem. Each kill allowed him to climb the ranks of the Brotherhood once more. Through a healthy mix of eavesdropping, pickpocketing and interrogation, Altaïr is able to find clues on each of his targets, and must report back to the local Rafiq to share his findings before being granted the 'permission' to assassinate. This part becomes a little repetetive at times, but is broken up by side-missions that you can choose to do to break up the monotany.
Scaling buildings and the signature free-running, parkour elements that the franchise has become so famous for, really shine even in this early installment. The world Ubisoft has built offers an abundance of verticality, and adds a meaning beyond optics to the incredible details they put into the surroundings. Protruding stones and hanging beams suddenly have a purpose, and will become your best friends as you're escaping a chase. A terrific mechanic that's executed perfectly.
And hey, if the gameplay don't do it for you, the music certainly will! Jespyr Kid is easily one of my favourite composers, and the Assassin's Creed score is a perfect example of why. It does an incredible job of taking a game with hugely disparate timelines, and melding the tracks together for a seamless composition. "Traditional medieval instruments and modern synth sounds". Piano, harps, acoustic guitars for the Western flair, and oud, ney flute, buzuq, mizmar and mijwiz for the East. Sprinkling in some choral priest chants and Latin choirs to add a 'religious' tone, and you've got yourself the Assassin's Creed I soundtrack.
Assassin's Creed is fantastic. While it's no doubt been over-saturated with annual releases across the past decade, for me, the appeal is still there. I love the historical settings, I love the gameplay, I love the over-the-top epicness of the assassin's. While this entry might be a little outdated (and repetetive), I would still recommend it to anyone looking to experience the roots of the franchise. And of course, once you do, head on over to the Cartridge Club forums to share your thoughts. What did you think of Assassin's Creed I? How does Altair rank on your list of favourite assassins? Did you like the plot development of Desmond's story? I wanna hear it all!