Suspension of Disbelief: Assassin’s Creed Primer
Suspension of Disbelief is a weekly feature, in which we review movies, books, TV shows, and other popular culture for the skeptical teens.
In preparation for the release of the ever-anticipated release of Ubisoft's 'Assassin's Creed III' in four or five months, it's about high time we ran through the series so far. Why? Well, The Cabin In The Woods has already been done and there's a lot of skeptical cannonfodder here that I will no doubt get to in a later post. For the moment however, I'll take you through the four games in the series so far; through the good, the bad and the crazy. Hopefully by the end of this we'll come out the other end excited for the next installment and also realising that the whole New World Order side to the story is an incredibly in depth conspiracy that is unfortunately widely believed.
Please do not lose faith in humanity while reading through this article; neither I, nor Teen Skepchick are responsible for any of the story, no matter how much we would get paid if we were.
Also, RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF SPOILERS AHEAD, IF YOU WISH TO PLAY THESE GAMES BASKING IN IGNORANCE DO NOT READ AHEAD.
Let's take a trip to the middle east!
The first game in the series is set during the Third Crusade (apparently The Last Crusade was a different (and fictional) event, so no Sean Connery or Harrison Ford unfortunately), in a time where the term assassin apparently found its origin from the word: 'Hashashin', a term that was used as an insult, implying their use of hashish, as you might well imagine.
In this middle eastern epic we follow Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad; who wins the award for the video game character with the hardest name to pronounce in recent history, beating our other main character, Desmond Miles, by about five orders of magnitude.
While Altaïr struggles to regain his honour as an assassin who has broken (you guessed it) the assassin's creed, by serving his master Al Mualim and uncovering the templar conspiracy to find ancient/futuristic/alien/atlantean artifacts called 'pieces of eden' (which I will get to in the Assassin's Creed II part of this review); barman Desmond is captured by a company called Abstergo because of his shared ancestry with the assassin order which he swears he knows nothing about. This company, like in all good conspiracy theories, is but the capitalist face of the templar order, and want to extract Desmond's memories to find the whereabouts of the aforementioned pieces of eden.
This pseudoscientific method of jumping from the present day story to the (much more entertaining) ancestral story is based around a glorified easy-chair known as 'the animus'; a machine that can extract memories of people's ancestors from their DNA… because DNA can do that… apparently.
Well, while the science might be off by so many margins that it's practically left the solar system and is due for a collision course with betelgeuse, the storytelling is the flagship of this series; and as the plot unfolds it becomes clear that there is something more going on. Once the templars have been subdued, Altaïr discovers that the real enemy has been by his side all along, and, in what is by far the best part of the game, Altaïr faces off against his master, Al Mualim, who is in possession of one of the apples of eden. Once this fight is over, Desmond is woken up and returns to his room in his rather comfy cell, to find glyphs written in blood on the walls of his room by Abstergo's last captive.
Also, I should mention that the evil scientist who captures you is accompanied by a woman named Lucy who turns out to be an undercover assassin, and is probably as close as this series gets to having a strong, female character. Which is quite sad considering how much fans called out for a female assassin in III, and that their wishes weren't met.
Adding to this, the gameplay throughout the original AC game is very repetitive with little in the way of sidequests. The story only really picks up to the point of excitement at the very end, and to be honest, if I hadn't been told that AC II was amazing, I don't know whether I would have expected this game to warrant a sequel. Sorry Ubisoft.
Oh well, let's take this murderous sausage-fest to the italian rennaisance!
Assassin's Creed II:
Health Warning: This game is one of the most awesome things you will ever experience, please wear protection while playing and consult your doctor if convulsions continue for more than a week after playing, or if you continually puke rainbows uncontrollably.
In chapter two of Desmond's tale, the aforementioned Lucy helps our protagonist escape from Abstergo. Once he is free, he voluntarily joins her team of assassins, and this time Ubisoft actually gets the gender balance right, at least in the future timeline. (Yay!) He's strapped into the animus once again and his DNA, through the magic of this high-tech supercouch, harkens back to the life of Ezio Auditore, the sexiest man in gaming and a main character that you actually get invested in.
Not only is Ezio a much more likeable main character, with a heartbreaking backstory that could get even the most apathetic gamer clambering into his shoes, but the gameplay itself is much improved in ACII. There are a bunch of sidequests that are very enjoyable, the history of Leondardo Da Vinci and Rodrigo Borgia are explored laced with the salt of conspiracy, as is the fashion of the franchise, and both navigating the world and the combat system are much more enjoyable, customisable and altogether adding to the power of the game to draw you in.
Seriously, you should play this game, then when I rant about the New World Order you'll both feel my pain and have played an awesome game.
Ezio Auditore is from a rather classy family, but the pazzi conspiracy takes the life of his father and two brothers. The young man barely escapes and with the help of Mario 'it's a me' Audiore, begins his journey to become a master assassin and avenge the death of his family members.
As you might have guessed, it's the templars pulling this off wearing a papal mask. However, the meta-story begins here, when people/aliens/strange celestial things with the names of Gods contact Ezio to give Desmond a message, (I know right?) that he needs to save the world in 2012, from the solar attack that destroyed their past/future/weird society many centuries before. Yeah, it's that whole angle, but that's okay because this is fiction, although, as I've learned from blogging about this previously, some people don't understand the distinction.
If you're not sold already, let me tell you one thing that should inspire you…
Ezio has a fist-fight with the pope underneath the vatican.
Just let that sink in for a minute and be reminded that Ubisoft is not paying me a penny.
Also, the music is awesome.
For the love of all that is sacred play this game if you haven't!
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
In what popular game critic Yahtzee Croshaw described as Assassin's Creed 2 and a half, Ezio returns with an awesome beard and is getting very comfortable with his journey being over (seriously, you help the people of Monteriggioni for like half an hour with the most relaxing music playing on a loop) until he is ambushed in his uncle's mansion by an attack courtesy of the Pope's son: Cesare Borgia, a real historical figure who probably didn't attack a half-naked italian with a cannon barrage to further the New World Order. Mario is slain in the resulting battle and Ezio heads to Rome to finish what Cesare started.
This game has a lot more play time than the first two, at least in my experience with it. There are multiple, really involving side-missions, the story is long without ever getting boring and it's got more Ezio in it. Who could ask for more? Well, Desmond did apparently, because he's now moved to the site of Mario's death with his assassin buddies to escape Abstergo and is seeing Ezio ghosts because the animus is apparently driving him to insanity. That, or he's the videogame equivalent of the little girl from The Sixth Sense.
There are more apples of eden, there is incest, there are crazy people from the past who look like they're from the future, and then for some reason the alien/human/past people decide to force Desmond to murder the female lead.
Nice job Minerva, once again females are underrepresented in the modern-day assassin world.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations
In the epic quest to milk as much money out of peoples' hunger for more Ezio; Ubisoft send our old-man assassin to Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey) to learn about everyone's favourite unrelatable protagonist; Altaïr. Meanwhile Desmond is stuck in the animus and must make strange blocks in front of him to move around rooms that look like a lazy art gallery.
On the bright side the graphics are pretty incredible.
The problem with revelations, it would seem, is that there wasn't enough content to justify releasing a full game. The story was short and nowhere near as gripping as Ezio's other two ventures, and although Altaïr's story is incredible and his death scene even better, we don't really get enough of him to appreciate what they've done to his character. What I did like however, was that they actually gave him the right accent this time; finally there are no more Americans in the time before America was colonised.
There was a lot of retcon work in this game however; Desmond suddenly remembered being trained as an assassin when he was little and being taught the creed from an early age despite being completely surprised by what he was told in the first game. I prefer continuity to be honest.
Desmond wakes up at the end of the game with the knowledge of what to do next and the way is paved for ACIII; starring a native American/British assassin in the new world who becomes bosom buddies with the founding fathers… which is a little strange. But it is also set to be the final story featuring Desmond, and the conclusion to the whole 2012/end of the world arc. So maybe when this is all over Assassin's Creed IV will be a little more rational?
Only time will tell…
So; here's the final score.
Ass Creed: 6.5/10
Ass Creed 2: 9/10
Ass Creed Bro: 9/10
Ass Creed Revelations: 7/10
And that's all she wrote
[Image credits: blogspot, fanpop, gamewallpapers, techdigest]