Runny, Jumpy, Stabby

Noonish

I’ve just wrapped up Assassin’s Creed 2, and my goodness.

(There’s some spoilers here, but nothing severe.)

If you’d said to me a few months ago, you know Hoye, Parkour seems like a lot of fun, but you know what would make it even better? Stabbing your way through a Templar conspiracy in Renaissance Italy. With a heavy dollop of science fiction spooned over the top. I would have said, that does sound kind of neat, but I don’t see how those things could possibly go together?

And I would have been wrong! They are terrific together, and AC2 is a great game. There’s running about, there’s the sneaking and the stabbing that I love so and you periodically get to punch minstrels just for being minstrels, which puts a small-minded, mean-spirited smile on my face every single time. So much so that even though it advances the story not a whit, sometimes I just wander around Venice, seeing the sights and looking for minstrels to punch.

Maya doesn’t play this game with me, incidentally, but when the time comes I will tell her that even though you shouldn’t hit people even if they’re asking for it, unsolicited lute-playing definitely constitutes asking for it.

The ending is pretty weak, though in principle it doesn’t seem like it should be; honestly, what could be bad about a fistfight with the Pope? But it does feel like the game betrays itself in a number of ways in the last hour; ending a beautiful open-world stealth-and-free-running game by pushing you down a long hallway is bad enough, but having to butcher your way through a bunch of stand-up fights you’ve been explicitly trying to avoid the whole game, culminating with a boss fight? It’s really too bad, particularly considering it resorts to the old, put down-your-weapons-we-do-this-like-men cliché to give you a boss fight that’s a lot more like punching a fat minstrel than anything related to the core gameplay.

Without giving too much away though it’s right about here that the narrative decides to play the long ball, something good enough to forgive a bit of lax design in the gameplay. So I’m going to pick up AC3 when the time comes, for sure.

I should tell you though, the bigger and prettier video games get the more distressed I am that all these huge, glorious open-world environments are essentially one-off, unrevisitable, single-use things; there’s no way revisit Rapture, for example, no matter how pretty it was, without being assaulted by the same locals again. The lost wastes and huge castles of Ico or Shadow Of The Colossus, the magical brass-and-oak detail of Riven, the blown out dystopias of the Fallout series or the shiny, polished futurism of Mass Effect and Halo, they’re just built, used once and abandoned; there’s no way to build on those enormous efforts, to curate or extend or even just revisit existing virtual spaces.

Which is just horribly, horribly sad, I think.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted March 14, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    So I forget, did you play Crackdown yet? Because it turns out parkour ALSO combines well with orb collecting, leveling up, and superhuman powers.

  2. mhoye
    Posted March 14, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I have not! But mein leben, I have such a stack of great games to work through these days.

  3. Posted March 15, 2010 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I started the original Assassin’s Creed but never finished it. I think I got tired of walking around slowly everywhere. A very pretty game, but I guess just not to my tastes.

  4. Posted March 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Ted: AC2 is a vastly better game than AC1. AC1 is basically the tech demo for AC2.