Contrary to its sweet box depicting a stealthy, medieval assassin decked out in (incongruously clanky) ninja-type gear, this is not a game about a medieval assassin. Instead, it is a game about — buckle up, my friend — some guy in the present day who is kidnapped by a mysterious corporation…and forced to repeatedly hook himself up to a machine…that not only can access the stored ancestral memories that lie dormant in his DNA, but can turn these ancient memories into a virtual reality world…that he can interact with in order to unlock additional memories; in his case, the memories of his awesome assassin predecessor…who apparently carried the same gene for white hoodies that he does. Got that? No? Well, through the magic of the printed word, you can read it again. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
So yeah: in this game, you’re not an assassin skulking his way around Crusades-era Levant. You’re some guy being forced to relive the memories of a skulking forebear who was, sadly, much cooler and tougher than he is. This ancestor was in a Middle Eastern assassin’s guild during the Crusades, and the corporation that has kidnapped you is trying to figure out what your ancestor was up to. To this end, they hold you prisoner for days, forcing you to spend every waking hour hooked up to their machine so they can observe your ancestor.
I could have saved them a little time, though. Most people in the middle ages had pretty monotonous lives, and he was no different. But instead of hauling a plow or working as a galley slave, his was the tyranny of climbing. All he did, all day long, was climb buildings, jump from building to building, and occasionally jump off of them into piles of hay. Oh, and from time to time kill people… primarily the panhandlers who were always crowding him.
And that is basically it. This guy didn’t have time to chat, or buy or sell items, or sleep, or sit back and take in the genuinely beautiful environment, or really interact with the world in any meaningful way at all that didn’t include climbing it or — every hour or so — stabbing it in the neck.
This may have been a good life for him. It was certainly better than the lives of the people he lived among, which consisted primarily of shuffling around and occasionally making their final mistake by jostling him. But I can’t say that I enjoyed it. I was hoping for more than just leaping around a pretty world. I would have liked some non-player characters, some items and weapons, some indoor areas…basically, some variety.
But I guess that’s life in the middle ages. Modernity is nothing if not bewildering diversity, and life in the 1200s was nothing if not soul-sucking tedium interspersed with shocking, gruesome violence. The life of your character’s assassin ancestor was a little better than that: climbing mosque minarets and church steeples, leading frantic rooftop chases, and assassinating well-protected Levantine elites is not boring, per se. But it was boring to do from my couch for 15 hours. A little more violence and a little less walking around town bored might have made things more interesting…but I suppose that’s true of just about everything.
(A different take on AssCreed.)