Assassin’s Creed was originally released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2007.
It was a sprawling sandbox type game, set in the 12th century, and followed the protagonist, Altair as he performed various assassinations in various middle eastern cities. All this took place in a machine called the Animus that extracted the genetic memories of ancestors from the DNA of bartender Desmond Miles.
The game received a good response from critics, although the side missions lacked variety and a dearth of new ideas after the first few hours hampered excitement. Here we have the mobile version of the game, originally on Nintendo DS, and set as a prequel in terms of story as we once again follow Altair on his travels around crusade era Asia.The game drops the free roaming nature of the original and opts for a side on view of the action across levels that flow horizontally but still allow for a little 3D movement into and out of the screen.
The decision to switch to a side on, restricted style of gameplayis understandable, given this version’s roots in the Nintendo DS, but with games like Gameloft’s own Gangstar: West Coast Hustle, offering full 3D worlds to explore, I would hope that future games in the Assassin’s Creed mobile series are more ambitious and leverage the power of modern smartphones.
The graphics are good, with well animated characters and detailed levels throughout, although there is some level geometry that is a little simple. Presentation is equally good, with full voice work, nice cut scenes and a fantastic menu system based on the Animus.
The game starts to fall down when you get your hands on the controls.
They seem OK when you are bounding around some of the larger areas in the game, but the problems start when you try to do anything, and I do mean anything.
The controls are atrocious, truly terrible, with Altair regularly falling off the side of buildings when you didn’t want him anywhere near there, jumps that are impossible to time or line up, and combat that is rendered pointless.
The reason for all this is that the touchscreen controls are very badly implemented, rather like Castle of Magic, only seemingly worse. I started using the analogue stick but when it became apparent that this makes it almost impossible to run in a straight line, let alone swing on ropes over spike pits; I quickly switched to the D-pad. This at least lets you run straight, but has all the responsiveness of riding a turtle through honey. Even a simple task like pushing a barrel to reach a high ledge will have you seething with rage as you try to line it up for the fourth time.
Many of the jumps need precise timing to get across, which is bad luck as sometimes the virtual buttons don’t register when you press them. This can be incredibly infuriating when you have to jump over multiple gaps in succession.
I think that the control problems stem from the DS version, where using your stylus to guide Altair through the intricate levels was fun and precise, but Gameloft simply slapped a terrible virtual interface over the top of it for the mobile versions.
The game has some fun minigames such as pick pocketing that really add some much needed variety to a game that you will get a few hours out of, providing your smartphone doesn’t get thrown against the wall in anger before the end.
Combat, as I’ve said before, is pointless, and I’d recommend running away if you can, as standing and fighting both your enemy and the terrible controls will only put you in a bad mood.
I feel I can best sum my experience up with the game by telling you about one 15 minute nightmare quite near the start of the game.
The task is simple- climb up a ladder, run across some beams, swing over a couple of gaps and then jump from a beam onto a wall. In reality, this bit of the game is akin to torture, as you are constantly annoyed by women throwing stones at you that don’t hurt you but put you off balance and randomly knock you off the beams. You can’t dodge them, it’s all luck. Then, presuming they don’t randomly knock you off and you navigate the awkward swing mechanic over the gaps, you come to the main beam to jump across to the wall.
The jump needs a run up to make it, but the problem is that, as you run down the beam, the camera, for reasons known only to itself, decides to pan around the action, meaning that you have to bend your run around as you go to jump. Repeating this again and again is not fun, and the only way I could do it was to use the D-pad to navigate the beams and swings, then switching to analogue control for the main jump.
This is just one example from one level, and things like it are repeated throughout the game, and it is truly painful. Don’t get me started on the bosses…Overall then, a pretty game with a decent story and good ideas like the mini-games, but the awful controls and high frustration factor mean that I can’t recommend this game to you.