29 February, 2016

Review – Assassin’s Creed Identity

If there’s one thing worse than Templars, it’s probably the Crows – your guess is as good as mine. And if there’s another thing, its escort missions, or maybe tailing mission, just a heads up, this game as plenty of both! Here are my thoughts on the latest entry in the Assassin’s Creed series.

Review – Assassin’s Creed Identity banner

Assassin’s Creed Identity

There’s a hilarious and quite frankly dismaying disconnect between the tenants that Identity purports to be built upon and its true nature. Assassin’s Creed Identity is ostensibly about you creating and developing an assassin, evolving their skills and appearance in a more realised and customisable manner than the mainline console releases have previously offered. It strives to adapt the established combat and open world systems into a lighter, mobile-friendly experience, and even transports you back to renaissance Italy – you know, Firenze with the Medicis, when you could feel good about the franchise.

Naturally, your interest depends largely upon your willingness to play a polygonal action game on a mobile device, but all things considered, Identity seems to have a pretty solid foundation right? It’s not even free-to-play, but maybe it should have been…

Review – Assassin’s Creed Identity rome

Unbelievable though it may sound, especially considering the subtitle and intent of this game, your identity is that of a white man. You may not select gender or race, but you can select between half a dozen milk white dudes with varying degrees of facial hair. You do choose a name, either randomly generated Italian, or one of your own. This name along with your Assassin’s decidedly white face, is slapped on the top left corner of your screen at all times.

Story such as it is, is delivered through loading screen text and codex entries, there is no voice acting at any point. Your assassin isn’t just a silent protagonist, as far as the narrative is concerned they’re a nameless one too; story text refers to them simply as ‘the assassin’ – a good job then that intrusive interface is there to remind you that they have a name, which you theoretically care about.

While I might describe the gameplay of Identity as unwieldy and cripplingly boring, the game does succeed in capturing the worst elements of the Assassin’s Creed mission design. A literal third – no I’m not actually measuring – of the missions, are of the escort or tail variety, which if completed without issue are merely tedious. However, as stealth, such as it is, depends largely upon use of environmental and civilian interactions; hiding in hay stacks or ‘blending’ into groups of monks, frustration was a more common outcome in my time with the game. Follow that script to the letter or risk exposure, damn creativity and freedom. 

Frustration of this breed is made all the more unbearable by the lack of check points. Missions may be short, but losing five minutes of dull and contrived progress, because the target visibility timer ran out before the objective changed is annoying – consider how much worse it becomes after four or five consecutive failures. As a result, ‘loot a chest’ missions become depressingly welcome in Identity.

Review – Assassin’s Creed Identity assassination

The ‘story’ campaign involves a group called the Crows and takes places across ten limp missions, though there is also locked second campaign called, ‘A Crimson Sunset’ that’s apparently coming soon. Non story missions can be undertaken as contracts; so you can pretty much jump into an escort mission as often as you like. These can be played at higher difficulties for better rewards, because this game is so perilously focused around that daily grind, desperate to get you hooked on that loot treadmill.

Identity isn’t open world in the least, and that’s not surprising given the platform; short missions with one or two objectives drop you into large and graphically impressive areas. The problem is, there is no reason to explore these areas, you’ll gain nothing by doing so as objectives are so one-note and the combat so trivial; meaning you’ll rarely have revise your approach to a situation. As I eluded to above, the ‘story’ missions are so tightly scripted that there really is one approach; perhaps you go around building rather than over it – it’s irrelevant.

The combat amounts to little more than the rhythmic tapping of one on-screen button, to be honest I’m not sure the rhythm is necessary or even advisable, but it added much needed texture to my encounters. You may choose to break up battles using your assassin’s abilities, which were few and mundane in my experience. Or by summoning a ‘hired’ assassin to jump in and help out, as Ezio’s recruits did in Brotherhood. These assassins are one-hit-wonders, AI-controlled versions of other player’s characters, which proved virtually indistinguishable from my own.

Review – Assassin’s Creed Identity shadowblade

Much of your assassin’s identity is decided when you pick a class prior to playing, either; the Berserker, Shadowblade, or Trickster, with a fourth, the Thief unlockable through the Heroic Shop that we’ll get to later. Secondary classes can also be adopted after the fact. I went with Shadowblade the most assassin-like in name, with the hope it would provide for more interesting combat scenarios than a raw fighter. It did not. Francesco Gaspari, my assassin, can throw a dagger ineffectually every thirty seconds, usually doing less damage than a sword hit, from only a short distance away. And unleash a rough-looking fan of daggers to thin crowding enemies every fifteen seconds – I too am confused by seemingly backward cooldown times.

Colour coded loot is really what character development boils down to, which brings us neatly to the stores. Though this is not a free to play game, at £3.99, there are naturally two in-game currencies, you earn both exceedingly slowly, but one can be bought with real money. The Heroic Shop uses only the earnable currency and to the game’s credit contains most of the features I could conceivably be interested; more mission types including harder more rewarding tiers, different maps, and some outfits to visually distinguish my assassin. The ‘normal’ shop also has outfits, in addition to boosts, item boxes, and the like. It takes the coins currency, which is also used in the Forge, an item crafting/recycling system, and character levelling. This currency can be bought, for reference a single outfit, one item to change an assassin’s appearance, is currently anywhere between 60,000 and 85,000 coins. £7.99 will net you 75,000 coins.

Review – Assassin’s Creed Identity Monteriggioni

As with any such app, Identity is hell on the battery, but runs real well on my iPhone 6, it looks sharp with large environments, though lacks any real visual flare. The Assassin’s Creed free-running movement makes the leap poorly to mobile; the on-screen joysticks are unwieldy and imprecise, though it offers the alternative of tapping to move. You have no control over climbing, you can go up or down a surface relatively easy but that’s it, no shimmying or sideways movement. There is simply none of that Assassin’s Creed flow or sense of speed.

Review – Assassin’s Creed Identity 2/5 poorAt best, you can watch a high-resolution, white man run up and down largely empty streets – and enjoy a high framerate on modern devices. The action is a pale imitation of its cousin’s; combat is trite, movement insipid, and mission design almost amusing in its dogmatic attachment to that which has degraded the series since its inception. If one can enjoy the action, there is long tail of progression waiting to be chipped at, or indeed purchased for prices I find ridiculous. Assassin’s Creed Identity is a pitiful specimen on almost all counts.

1 comment:

  1. Why can't i find any tail contracts?? I have got only escort, assasination,pillage...