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Alientraveller

  • Bio British nerd who's unable to discern highbrow (mythology, religion, history and Shakespeare) from lowbrow (movies, comics, video games, pop music).
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UPDATE: At the moment I only plan to contribute sporadically and uphold my moderator duties. I've been an AC fan for five years and understandably other things grab my attention more nowadays: at the moment I'm just not very into video games and have a lot of films and books I need to consume, not to mention my fellow history buffs, there's a lot of major anniversaries this year like Waterloo 200, Magna Carta 800 and so on. I'm gonna keep enjoying AC media but until the film comes out or something really imporant happens (even Initiates offering updates again) I'm not going to actively contribute, just tending here and there.

AC and me

Well I was quoted by Empire magazine about ACII so I'll toot my own horn:

"Assassin's Creed II was the first video game I ever played from start to finish, and had little difficulty grappling with the control. It was a game where I could run around and be the protagonist, who compelled me to continue living out his entire life. It was so good, Ubisoft released the DLCs as actual games: the spin-offs and Assassin's Creed III itself improved on many aspects, but were not quite as well-rounded as ACII." [1]

First time I saw Assassin's Creed was a two-page ad in Empire magazine of Altair reaching out to stab a Knight Templar: my reaction was, "Gosh, they've made a game about the Hashashin." I was really intrigued, but was disappointed by the mixed reviews and the modern day subplot, which I thought diluted the concept.

A couple of years later, I heard about Assassin's Creed II and while I felt sad they were abandoning the Islamic Golden Age (an era I hope Ubisoft revisits someday, even if it's a remake), I was intrigued by the Renaissance setting and heartened by promises it would improve on its predecessor.

I eventually rented the game and I loved it: Ezio was cool even before donning his father's robes, and I was happily wrong about the modern day story. The whole idea of the First Civilization and Pieces of Eden was a fantastic way to tie mythology into the historical playground of the series (even though I am a Christian, I wasn't bothered by the alien astronaut notion either). ACII was the first game I actually played from start to finish, and was perfectly fine with the controls.

I was sad Ezio's fate would probably be only discussed in ACIII, so I was heartened by news of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, which I bought a PS3 for. I loved seeing all the characters again as well as the city of Rome, and the War Machines missions. But looking back, the game was glorified DLC and was frustrated they still didn't conclude Ezio's story. Cesare Borgia was also an irritatingly childish punk, not loathable or sinister the way a great villain ought to be. Two awful missions also prevent me from replaying the side missions (Young At Heart and Malpractice).

I enjoyed Assassin's Creed: Revelations because Constantinople was a breath of fresh air and the ziplines made navigating it so much fun. The pacing was off compared to the other games, due to the repetitive main mission structure, but that didn't mean the platforming missions and Sofia romance were bad. I felt the side mission structure was a lot more sensible too, with you liberating zones and recruiting people to protect them. I found the ending incredibly moving too: the sacrifice of 16, the death of Altair, Ezio's farewell and seeing the tragedy that befell the FC. (Moreso than Assassin's Creed: Embers, which left me more perplexed than tearful.) I do feel it was a missed opportunity to not show Altair's visit to Constantinople in 1204 though.

ACR PS3 copies also came with ACI, so I played that between the first and second Altair memories: it really was a slog. People claimed Ezio wasn't stealthy yet I was slaughtering entire armies to protect women with short term memory. I think Kieron Gillen put it best on Twitter when he described ACI as basically walking slowly between concrete buildings. Altair's arc was good but I liked him more from reading the Codex and reading Assassin's Creed: The Secret Crusade.

I loved Assassin's Creed III almost as much as ACII: sadly volunteering here spoiled the first few plot twists, diluting their impact on me, but I still enjoyed the whole epic, and Haytham and Connor, and all their acquaintances, though not as lovable as Ezio and his merry men, were still complex and intriguing protagonists. I think this review sums up how rich and deep ACIII's story was better than I ever could.

That doesn't mean ACIII wasn't ambitiously flawed: overhauling freerunning led to a lot of problems on buildings; making stealth harder seemed to involve guards seeing through buildings or having to backtrack when eavesdropping left you exposed; and for some reason the new map made it harder to discover new things. The Homesteaders were wonderful, but the generic civilian AI could've benefitted from this R&D as their behaviour doesn't really change despite the weather. Also, the apprentices were so cool that it's a shame we didn't get to see more of them. I also feel Ubisoft should've taken us to Philadelphia for the final mission, with us stalking Lee at his home, just as previous games took us to a unique location for the final confrontation.

It's a bit frustrating I had to read Assassin's Creed: Forsaken to get clarification on what happened to Connor's mother: as it is now, Haytham's mention of "fourteen years" doesn't make any sense either. I do have this theory that Charles Lee really did burn the village: afterall, who told Haytham it was Washington? Him. He could've added that Washington burned the village in 1764 to further misplace the blame for creating Connor, which makes him a truly magnificent bastard if he actually manipulated his own Master to rid the Patriots of their Assassin. This would also explain why Connor didn't strangle Washington in anger or something because the "fourteen years ago" would've confused him too ("Is he talking about... my mother?"), as Ziio died eighteen years before.

Though I enjoyed Desmond's missions (each representing the gameplay pillars of navigation, stealth and combat), Daniel Cross's appearance ruined Assassin's Creed: The Fall. To be honest though, I was astounded by the ending - though I knew many would hate it - and its implications. To be frank, ACII had a more disappointing ending as at the time I had no idea whether Ezio's story would be followed on so soon. I'm not sad to see Desmond go: I liked him but did not love him like Ezio, Connor and even Altair or Shaun, and at least the beige guy got to save the world.

I really enjoyed flying and turning invisible in The Tyranny of King Washington, and wonder if episodic DLC should've been the approach for Brotherhood and Revelations, though I still understand why they made those games the way they did (namely, I doubt the maps would've fit into DLC). Still miffed Duncan, Dobby et al. didn't appear though.

I loved Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, it was an incredibly moving tale of redemption. Matt Ryan was incredible as Edward Kenway, I truly felt like I'd walked a mile in a man's shoes. It's a testament to his performance that he was subsequently cast as Constantine, but I hope someone in the film industry noticed how good Olivia Morgan was too. I haven't replayed the game simply because of the lengthy progression aspect, and the stalking missions became tedious because the blowpipe didn't have the silent but deadly option anymore.

I liked Freedom Cry, it felt good liberating slaves and how the music built to a crescendo as Adéwalé shut down the sugar plantations, but I do feel that because a game's graphics simply aren't as convincing as a film depiction of slavery, the sequence on the slave ship just didn't move me. I raised this point to Jill Murray on Assassin's Creed: Initiates, but she felt games still have a right to explore sensitive issues regardless. This is why it's important graphics advance to catch up with writers' visions.

I also downloaded Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD which was a breezy play. Despite any weaknesses I found due to the game being a PSVita import, I found Aveline de Grandpré a delightfully charming protagonist, I found her three personas truly original, and I found the swimming mechanic superior to the main games (here's hoping Unity really allows us to explore the Seine).

As if 2013/2014 wasn't busy enough, there was also Assassin's Creed: Brahman! There really needs to be an AC Anthology comic. I enjoyed it, despite being the first AC media I found confusing. We didn't really get to know Arbaaz Mir other than he's a Kama Sutra Errol Flynn type, but Jot Soora's story became quite poignant.

I used to say Altair was like Superman, the archetype, Ezio was Batman, the archetype made into a three-dimensional character, and Connor would be Wonder Woman, the freedom fighting minority figure with an axe. After playing ACIII I'd say Ezio is Iron Man due to his brashness, and Connor is the uncompromising Rorschach. I also used to say Desmond was Nightwing, Batman's protege who named himself after a Kryptonian bird, but now I'd say he's Robin because you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a dead one.

Articles I'm proud of

Oh, by the way, I've cracked the code
I've figured out these shadow organizations
And the Illuminati know
That they're finally primed for world domination
And soon you've got black helicopters comin' cross the border
Puppet masters for the New World Order
Be aware: there's always someone that's watching you
And still the government won't admit they faked the whole moon landing
Thought control rays, psychotronic scanning
Don't mind that, I'm protected cause I made this hat
From aluminum foil (foil)
Wear a hat that’s foil lined
In case an alien's inclined
To probe your butt or read your mind
Looks a bit peculiar ('culiar)
Seems a little crazy
But someday I'll prove (I'll prove, I'll prove, I'll prove)
There's a big conspiracy
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