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A bartender named Desmond Miles has been kidnapped and forced to use a machine called an Animus which analyses the subject's DNA and allows the user to view and play out events from the lives of their ancestors. Desmond is being made to view the life of his ancestor, Altair ibn La-Ahad.
It is the height of the Third Crusade. Richard I of England and his Christian allies are battling against the armies of Saladin for the holy land. Altair is part of a secret organisation known as the Hashashin (which will come to be known as Assassins) and is trying to stop Robert de Sable, the leader of the Knights Templar, sworn enemies of the Hashashin order, from obtaining a sacred artifact. In the attempt however, Altair broke the 3 creeds of the order: never kill an innocent, never expose yourself and never bring harm on your brotherhood.
Altair is demoted to the rank of an initiate, the lowest rank of the order, and stripped of his weaponry by Al Mualim, the founder and leader of the order. Altair is charged with the assassination of 9 Templars in order to redeem his rank and honour.
One by one the Templars are killed, severely weakening their position against the Assassins, all the while Altair climbs the ranks, regaining his equiptment. After fighting his way through a grand battle the final Templar and Grand Master of the Templar order: Robert de Sable is killed in a duel on the battlefield infront of King Richard I of England himself and reveals to Altair that there were in fact 10 Templars searching for the artifact called The Apple of Eden, the 9 Templars slain by Altair himself and Al Mualim, the leader of the Assassins. Mow Al Mualim is all that remains and he is free to use the Apple himself.
Altair returns to the Assassin base to find that everyone's mind is being controlled by Al Mualim, who is using the Apple on them. Altair confronts him and, despite it's power, Altair defeats his former master, vowing to destroy the Apple of Eden himself. When he touches the artifact it projects a holagram of the entire world, including land masses at the time unknown, marking locations of other artifacts, suspected to be more Apples of Eden and, deciding the artifact should be studied, Altair decides against destroying it until it can be understood...
Meanwhile in the present day the scientist working for Abstergo, a company that is a front for the Templars, has finished with Demond as they were after the locations. Having served his purpose Desmond comes out of the machine to find he has gained a simplest form of the extra sensory abilities his ancestor, Altair, displayed and he can see strange symbols smeared in what looks like blood on the Walls of the room he has been sleeping in.
You can also hack the computer by the Animus which reveals emails to the assistant of the scientist co-ordinating the experiment, a woman named Lucy, implying she is not what she seems.
Refreshingly, Assassin's Creed was created specifically to exist in environments and locations not previously seen in games and it's sandbox style gameplay enables free exploration of the Assassin home city of Masyaf and the cities of Jerusalem, Acre and Demascus.
Upon scouring each city there are what I will term side missions, but really are just saving the odd citizen from being attacked or delivering the odd letter. You can use a free running technique to climb buildings and towers to gain better, or more secretive views, aswell as finding collectable items like different flags or finding and killing special hidden Templar knights scattered around each city. That said, around the middle third of the game it becomes extremely repetitive and you find yourself going 'climb a building, save a citizen, climb a building, save a citizen, kill someone...' However soldiering through this area of the game really pays off and it picks up again as you head into the final third. The idea of the Animus at first felt to me like a way of explaining your control of Altair and the things involved in the gameplay like the HUD and I felt this was an element that made it a really unique game. For example you do not have health in the traditional sense, instead you have a synch bar which goes down in the same way health would, but also if you do things that Altair did not do, like kill civilians. By the end of the game though the Animus has become a key part and far more than just a contextual element.
I enjoyed the ending, even if it is a bit of a Hollywood ending that sets up sequals. Besides, the producers always insisted that from the start it was always supposed to be a trilogy with other games filling in the gaps. I also think it does a good job of conveying the conflict although at some point the balance of power has obviously shifted dramatically as in the present day you are informed that the Assassins have almost been completely wiped out whereas in the game they go from what I woukd term as pretty even with the Templars, to almost entirely destroying them. I'd like to see how that changed, but for now I felt it did a good job of grounding the games storyline and general universe believably.
We are told that they are at war because of a difference of opinion. They share the same goal: peace. However the Templars would purchase this peace at the price of mental slavery, using the Apple of Eden to end all conflict by mind control. The Assassins however feel that the prize of peace cannot be justified ends to the mean of reducing humankind to mind controlled zombies and must not be allowed to happen.
I love this game. It reminds me alot of Metal Gear Solid games (my favourite games of all time) in terms of stealth gameplay and the illuminati side of the plot but where Metal Gear is really very linear you are really let off the chains in Assassins Creed. You'll find yourself at a point where you think you're an amazing, you'll effortlessly take down scores of guards, then one will do something you didn't expect and catch you off guard. I found by the end that I didn't want to let any Templars escape me alive. It's an engrossing fictional conflict. I also loved that it was set in real places with real historical figures. Al Mualim really existed, he really founded an organisation called the Hashashin, and it really is where we get the modern term assassin. There are slight differences in dates which in the game are explained as being the Templars making up things after the fact to hide their activities.
Graphically it's a beautiful game and the story carries an enormous weight to it's setting. I think they've done well to make it look this good. Personally I'm someone who doesn't really believe good graphics equate to a good game, I don't really feel graphics play a particularly important part, but it really hammers home the vibe for this game, here they make an overwhelming impact on the game's mood.
Where it falls down is noticibly the middle third where you are ground down by repetition, and it's tough but rewarding enough after you've moved on. It's also an extremely glitchy game and lacks any multiplayer element, which I find, in today's climate of online play, to be extremely strange.
You'll forgive the glitches and the repetitive middle section, believe me. This is an outstanding game, there is room for improvement, which only serves to excite for future games. 9.5/10