I recently played Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect for the first time. Both seemed to be very good games in the ten minutes I dedicated to each (reviews indicate that with prolonged exposure my liking of Ass Creed will diminish and my enjoyment of Ass Effect will swell). When I finally cave in and buy a 360 I will likely pick up both.
Still, I am somewhat startled by the way many people view these games. Beyond confirming graphics are largely irrelevant to my enjoyment of a game, I realized that almost every game is clearly evolutionary, even great games. Despite fighting the urge to be reactionary, the fact that these games are praised so heavily forced me to pay special attention to each game mechanic. The result left me with a mix of “ha, told you these aren’t as good as you thought!”, “my god I am so grumpy I’m denying myself the obvious pleasures of these games”, and “at least I can write something boring about all of this.”
Here is a brief rundown –
Assassin’s Creed is Thief plus Price of Persia with a hint of Zelda and lime. People noticing dead bodies and much of the feel comes from Thief, the architecture and excellent climbing stuff comes from Prince of Persia, riding everywhere on a damn horse is reminiscent of many games, specifically from the Zelda series, and diving off structures into lava while an alien bursts from your stomach comes from Alien 3. I haven’t noticed the battle system anywhere else so I am willing to accept they didn’t directly lift it from another game, though there are thousands of titles I haven’t played so who knows.
Mass Effect’s lauded dialog system reminds me of Indigo Prophecy‘s dialog system and of the simple choose-a-word-to-discuss system from the Ultima games. Besides being obviously descended from KOTOR, other specific bits reminded me of classics – the huge amount of info on every character, race, location, etc. is straight out of X-Com and the large number of planets to mine on seems Starflight inspired. While discussing the betrayal of some important alien I had a major Fallout flashback and in a moment of lucidity I realized that despite the 3D models and camera (which I hate, by the way) nothing had really changed in Western RPGs.
Now the caveat is that many Western RPGs, at least the Bioware/Black Isle ones, are amazingly well written. Almost all games, even classics, are compilations of earlier ideas slightly reinvented and one or two, if any, new ideas. What often makes a game great is how it combines specific elements, and like when preparing a meal, it is not necessary to invent new ingredients to end up with something spectacular. I do not want to begrudge either Assassin’s Creed nor Mass Effect and I still look forward to playing both. I simply want to suggest people who are not well versed in games watch their hyperboles.
Our missions are the following – I will stop being reactionary and fight my desire to hate everything popular (highschool is over, afterall) and you will go play more games and by doing so realize nothing is as impressive as it seems. And then kill yourself.