Assassin's Creed (video game)
Assassin's Creed is an action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the first installment in the Assassin's Creed series. The game was released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in November 2007 and was made available on Microsoft Windows in April 2008.
The plot is set in a fictional history of real-world events, taking place primarily during the Third Crusade in the Holy Land in 1191. The player character is a modern-day man named Desmond Miles who, through a machine called the "Animus", relives the genetic memories of his ancestor, Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad. Through this plot device, details emerge about a centuries-old struggle between two factions: the Assassin Brotherhood, who fight for peace with free will, and the Knights Templar, who desire peace through control. Both factions seek an artifact called the "Apple of Eden", which can be used to control minds, with the Assassins wishing to destroy it before it can be used for evil. The 12th century portion of the game follows Altaïr, a high-ranking member of the Assassins, who after breaking the tenets of the Brotherhood during a botched mission, must assassinate a select group of targets to regain his lost honor. The game includes an open world comprising four cities—Masyaf, Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus—and focuses on the player's combat, stealth and parkour abilities.
The game received generally positive reviews, with critics praising its storytelling, visuals, art design, and originality, although the game was also criticized for the repetitive nature of its gameplay. Assassin's Creed won several awards at E3 in 2006, as well as several end-year awards after its release. A sequel, Assassin's Creed II, set during the Italian Renaissance and following a new protagonist, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, was released in November 2009. Since the release and success of Assassin's Creed II, subsequent games have been released, with various other Assassins and time periods.
Assassin's Creed is an action-adventure game set in an open world environment and played from a third-person perspective in which the player primarily assumes the role of Altaïr, as experienced by protagonist Desmond Miles. The primary goal of the game is to carry out a series of assassinations ordered by Al Mualim, the leader of the Assassins. To achieve this goal, the player must travel from the Brotherhood's headquarters in Masyaf, across the terrain of the Holy Land known as the Kingdom to one of three cities—Jerusalem, Acre, or Damascus—to find the Brotherhood agent in that city. There, the agent, in addition to providing a safe house, gives the player minimal knowledge about the target and requires them to perform additional reconnaissance missions before attempting the assassination. These missions include eavesdropping, interrogation, pickpocketing, and completing tasks for informers and fellow Assassins. Additionally, the player may take part in any number of side objectives, including climbing tall towers to map out the city and saving citizens who are being threatened or harassed by the city guards. There are also various "additional memories" that do not advance the plot, such as hunting down and killing Templars and flag collecting. After completing each assassination, the player is returned to the Brotherhood and rewarded with a better weapon and/or upgrade before going after the next target or given another set of targets, with the player free to select the order of certain targets.
The player is made aware of how noticeable Altaïr is to enemy guards as well as the current state of alert in the local area via the "Social Status Icon". To perform many of the assassinations and other tasks, the player must consider the use of actions distinguished by its type of profile. Low-profile actions allow Altaïr to blend into nearby crowds, pass by other citizens, or perform other non-threatening tasks that can be used to hide and reduce the alertness level; the player can also use Altaïr's retractable hidden blade to attempt low-profile assassinations. High-profile actions are more noticeable, and include running, scaling the sides of buildings to climb to higher vantage points, and attacking foes; performing these actions at certain times may raise the local area's awareness level. Once the area is at high alert, crowds run and scatter while guards attempt to chase and bring down Altaïr; to reduce the alert level, the player must control Altaïr as to break the guards' line of sight and then find a hiding space, such as a haystack or rooftop garden, or blend in with the citizens sitting on benches or wandering scholars. Should the player be unable to escape the guards, they can fight back using swordplay maneuvers.
The player's health is described as the level of "Synchronization" between Desmond and Altaïr's memories; should Altaïr suffer injury, it is represented as deviation from the actual events of the memory, rather than physical damage. If all synchronization is lost, the current memory that Desmond is experiencing will be restarted at the last checkpoint. When the synchronization bar is full, the player has the additional option to use "Eagle Vision", which allows the computer-rendered memory to highlight all visible characters in colors corresponding to whether they are allies (blue), foes (red), neutral (white), or even the target of their assassination (gold). Due to Altaïr's memories being rendered by the computer of the Animus project, the player may experience "glitches" in the rendering of the historical world, which may help the player to identify targets, or can be used to alter the viewpoint during in-game scripted scenes should the player react fast enough when they appear.
In 2012, bartender Desmond Miles (Nolan North) is kidnapped by agents of Abstergo Industries, the world's largest pharmaceutical conglomerate, and is taken to their headquarters in Rome. Under the guidance of Dr. Warren Vidic (Philip Proctor) and his assistant Lucy Stillman (Kristen Bell), Desmond is forced to participate in a series of trials revolving around the "Animus", a machine capable of translating the genetic memories of his ancestors into a simulated reality. Vidic instructs him to relive the early years of Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad (Philip Shahbaz), a senior member of the Assassin Brotherhood during the time of the Third Crusade. His investigation reveals that Altaïr, blinded by arrogance, botched an attempt by the Assassins to retrieve an artifact from their sworn enemies, the Knights Templar, leading to the death of one Assassin, and severely wounding another in the process. Though Altaïr manages to partially redeem himself by fighting off a Crusader attack on the Assassin home base of Masyaf, his mentor and superior, Al Mualim (Peter Renaday), orders him to assassinate nine individuals in order to regain his honor:
- Tamir (Ammar Daraiseh), an arms merchant in Damascus selling weapons to both sides.
- Garnier de Nablus (Hubert Fielden), the grandmaster of the Knights Hospitalier, who conducts alchemical experiments on the sick at his order's hospital in Acre.
- Talal (Jake Eberle), the leader of a gang of slavers in Jerusalem.
- Abu'l Nuquod (Fred Tatasciore), a pompous trader and regent of Damascus stealing money meant to fund the war.
- William V, Marquess of Montferrat (Harry Standjofski), the cruel and abusive regent of Acre.
- Majd Addin (Richard Cansino; based on Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad), a tyrant who rules Jerusalem through fear.
- Master Sibrand (Arthur Holden), the paranoid grandmaster of the Knights Teutonic, who plans to betray the Crusaders.
- Jubair al Hakim (also Tatasciore), a scholar using his position to seize and destroy all written knowledge in Damascus.
- Robert de Sablé (Jean-Philippe Dandenaud), the grandmaster of the Templars.
As Altaïr eliminates each target, he learns that all nine are secretly members of the Templar Order and that they were conspiring to locate an "Apple of Eden", a relic of a long-forgotten civilization said to possess god-like powers. During an initial attempt to assassinate Robert at a funeral in Jerusalem, Altaïr discovers that Maria (Eleanor Noble), a young Templar agent, had disguised herself as him in order to buy enough time for Robert to negotiate an alliance between the Crusaders and Saracens against the Assassins. Sparing her life, Altaïr catches up to Robert in the camp of King Richard I (Marcel Jeannin) and exposes his crimes. Unsure of whom to believe, Richard suggests a one-on-one duel to decide the truth, remarking that God will decide the victor. After Altaïr mortally wounds him, Robert confesses that he did not act alone, revealing that Al Mualim betrayed the Assassins and seeks the Apple for himself. Returning to Masyaf, Altaïr finds Al Mualim using the Apple to control both the inhabitants and the other Assassins. With the help of several Assassins brought in for backup, Altaïr storms the citadel and confronts his mentor in the gardens. Using the Apple, Al Mualim battles his apprentice with illusions before resorting to single combat. Altaïr stabs him with his hidden blade and tries to destroy the Apple, but instead unlocks a secret map within that reveals the location of countless other Pieces of Eden around the world.
With the trials complete, Vidic reveals that Abstergo is the modern incarnation of the Templars. Lucy, who turns out to be a mole planted by the modern-day Assassins, mysteriously disappears. While awaiting her return, Desmond discovers strange drawings covering the walls of his room, which foretell a catastrophic event that will wipe out humanity.
After completing Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time near the end of 2003, Patrice Désilets was instructed to begin work on the next Prince of Persia game, with plans for it to release on the seventh-generation consoles. However, at that time, neither Microsoft nor Sony had revealed what their next consoles would be. The initial development of the game from January 2004 was aimed as a PlayStation 2 title, following the same linear approach that The Sands of Time had taken. However, as more information came in about the capabilities of the next-generation consoles by September 2004, Désilets' team considered expanding the Prince of Persia acrobatic gameplay into an open world which would be feasible on the newer systems.
Désilets wanted to move away from the lead character being a prince simply waiting for his reign to start, but a character that wanted to strive to be a king. He came upon one of his university books related to secret societies, and its first material related to the Assassins, and recognized that he could have the lead character in the game being the second-highest Assassin, seeking to be the leader of the group. As such, the game began work under the title Prince of Persia: Assassin, inspired by the life of Hassan-i Sabbah and making heavy use of Bartol's novel Alamut. The assassin character was fleshed out over the course of the game's three-year development in an iterative fashion. The team had some idea of how the character dressed from Alamut and other historical works, in all white-robes and red belt, but had to envision how to detail this in the game. One of the first concept sketches, drawn by animator Khai Nguyen suggested the concept of a bird of prey, which resonated with the team. The assassin was named Altaïr, meaning "bird of prey" in Arabic, and eagle imagery was used heavily in connection to the Assassins. The team did take some creative routes to meet narrative goals and avoid technical limitations of the consoles. Altaïr was to be a heroic character with a bit of a "badass" edge, and the artist borrowed elements of the G.I. Joe character Storm Shadow, a similarly-skilled hero. Rendering long flowing robes was impossible to do on the newer hardware, so they shortened the robe and gave it a more feathered look, resonating the "bird of prey" imagery. Similar routes were taken with other parts of the gameplay as to take liberties with accuracy as to make the game fun to play. The team wanted Altaïr's parkour moves to look believable, but sacrificed realism for gameplay value, allowing the player to make maneuvers otherwise seemingly impossible in real-life. Having "leaps of faith"s from high vantage points into hay piles and using hay piles to hide from guards was a similar concept which borrowed from Hollywood films, but Désilets observed that Alamut described similar actions that the Assassins had undertaken.
To drive the story, the team had to come up with some goal that both the Assassins and Templars were searching for. Philippe Morin had suggested using the apple of Eden, which the team initially thought to be a humorous aspect for everyone fighting over an apple. However, as they researched into the game more, the team found that many medieval paintings of royalty and other leaders holding spherical objects similar to globus cruciger that represented power and control, and recognized that an artifact named the Apple of Eden would fit well into this concept.
Among this work was the idea of the Animus, which came about after the team's decision to focus on the Assassins. The team considered that the player would travel through several different cities, and potentially recount numerous assassinations over the past thousand years, including some fantastical ones such as John F. Kennedy which would require some element of time traveling. Désilets had seen a program on DNA and human history and was inspired by the idea if DNA could store human memories, then they could have an in-game machine that could be used for time and location jumps as well as explaining other aspects of the game's user interface to the player. Désilets considered this similar to what they had established in The Sands of Time. There, the game effectively is a story told by the Prince, and while in the game, should the player-character die, this is treated as a mistelling of the Prince's story, allowing the player to back up and retry a segment of the game. Ubisoft's marketing was not keen on the Animus idea, believing players would be confused and be disappointed that the game was not a true medieval experience. The game's first trailer show at Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2006 focused heavily on the medieval elements due to this. Later marketing materials closer to the game's release hinted more directly at the science fiction elements of the game.
Initial work on the game was to expand out various systems from Prince of Persia to the open world concept with a team of 20 at Ubisoft Montreal. A new next-generation game engine, the Scimitar engine, was created to support the open world, though this would take about two years to complete during which the team used the Sands of Time engine for development; Scimitar eventually was renamed to AnvilNext and has been used for most of the following Assassin's Creed games and other titles at Ubisoft. Elements like wall-climbing were made more fluid, and the team worked to smooth other animation sequences; much of the improvements here came from programmer Richard Dumas and animator Alex Drouin, both whom had worked together on the same elements in Sands of Time. Level designers and artists recreating historical structures had to work together to make sure nearly every building could be climbable while still holding the game's historical appearances. This also helped them to give the feeling to the player that they had as much freedom as possible within the game, a concept that had originated from the success of the Grand Theft Auto series.
In contrast to Prince of Persia, where the general path that the player takes through a level is predefined, the open world approach of this game required them to create cities that felt realistic and accurate to historical information but which the player had full freedom to climb and explore. Outside of special buildings, they crafted their cities like Lego bricks, with a second pass to smooth out the shapes of the cities to help with pathfinding and other facets of the enemy artificial intelligence. To encourage the player to explore, they included the various towers that help to reveal parts of the map. Historical, these cities had such landmark towers and inspired by those, the developers incorporated them into the map, making these points of interest and challenges for players to drive them to climb them. Another factor was guiding the player and devising missions for the player that still gave the player freedom for how to approach it but still creating specific moments they wanted the player to experience. For these cases, they used simple animations developed in Adobe Flash to lay out the fundamentals of what actions they wanted, and then crafted levels and missions around those.
As they started to recognize the need for cities in this open world game, Désilets wanted to make sure they were also able to simulate large crowds, as this had been a limiting factor due to hardware limitations during the development of The Sands of Time; with the PlayStation 2 hardware, they could only support having up to eight characters on screen for The Sands of Time, but the next-generation hardware was able to support up to 120 people. Having crowds in the game also led to the concept of "social stealth", where the main character could mask themselves in the open, in addition to staying out of sight on rooftops. Désilets had come from an acting background, and one element he had incorporated into the game was to make the player-character feel more like they were controlling parts of a puppet so that the character would appear more human. This led to the use of high- and low-profile action in gameplay that served in part as expressing the character's emotions, as well as allowing the player to continue to control the character during the game's cutscenes.
The fundamentals of gameplay were completed within nine to twelve months, and another year was spent improving it before they presented the game to Ubisoft's executives in Paris. Jade Raymond was brought in in late 2004 to serve as the game's producer, helping with the team's growth and the game's direction. Around late 2005 to early 2006, following nearly two years of development, the concept for Prince of Persia: Assassin had the game's titular prince was AI-controlled, watched over by the player-controlled Assassin that served as the Prince's bodyguard and rescued the Prince from various situations. Ubisoft's management and the development had debates on this direction; Ubisoft's management wanted another game in the Prince of Persia franchise, and was not keen on releasing a game with that name where the Prince was not the lead character. The development team counters that with a new generation of consoles, they could potentially make it a new intellectual property. Near the 2006 Game Developers Conference, Ubisoft's marketing team came up with the idea of naming the game Assassin's Creed, which Désilets recognized fit in perfectly with the themes they had been working on, including tying into the creed of the Assassins, "nothing is true; everything is permitted". The prince character was dropped and the game focused solely on the assassin as the playable character.
Following the E3 2006 presentation and the name change to Assassin's Creed, the Ubisoft Montreal team grew to support the last year of the game's development, with up to 150 persons by the end of the process. Added team members included those that had just finished up production on Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, as well as former staff that had recently been let go from Gameloft (another publisher owned by Ubisoft's co-founder Michel Guillemot). The Scimitar engine was completed, allowing the team to transfer their work and improve detail and art assets.
According to Charles Randall, the lead AI developer for the game's combat systems, the game originally only was based around the main missions of assassinating the main targets and had no side quests. About five days before they were to have sent the final version for mass production, they were contacted by their CEO who said his son had played the game and found it "boring", and gave them a missive to add side quest. The team spent the next five days hastily rushing to add the collecting side quests to give it more depth and trying to make sure these were bug-free to make their mass production deadline. While a few noted bugs did fall through, they otherwise had met this target.
On September 28, 2006, in an interview with IGN, producer Jade Raymond confirmed that Altaïr is "a medieval hitman with a mysterious past" and that he is not a time traveler. In a later interview on December 13, 2006, with IGN, Kristen Bell, who lent her voice and likeness to the game, talked about the plot. According to the interview, the plot centers on genetic memory and a corporation looking for descendants of an assassin.
It's actually really interesting to me. It's sort of based on the research that's sort of happening now, about the fact that your genes might be able to hold memory. And you could argue semantics and say it's instinct, but how does a baby bird know to eat a worm, as opposed to a cockroach, if its parents don't show it? And it's about this science company trying to, Matrix-style, go into people's brains and find out an ancestor who used to be an assassin, and sort of locate who that person is.
On October 22, 2007, in an IGN Australia interview with Patrice Desilets mentioned that the lead character's climbing and running were done by "Alex and Richard – the same guys from Prince of Persia."
Altaïr is voiced by actor Philip Shahbaz, and his face is modelled on Francisco Randez, a model from Montréal. Al Mualim's character is roughly based on Rashid ad-Din Sinan, who was the leader of the Syrian branch of the Hashshashin in 1191 and was nicknamed "The Old Man of the Mountain". Al Mualim was referred to as Sinan in Assassin's Creed: Altaïr's Chronicles.
It was made public in April 2008 that Assassin's Creed would be sold digitally and available for pre-order through Valve's software distribution Steam. The PC version of Assassin's Creed was released on April 8, 2008, in North America. Four bonus mission types, not seen in the console versions, are included. These four missions are archer assassination, rooftop race challenge, merchant stand destruction challenge, and escort challenge. Because of these four exclusive missions only available on the PC, it was released and is sold under the name of "Director's Cut Edition".
A pirated version of the game has been in existence since late February 2008. According to Ubisoft, a computer bug was purposely inserted into the pre-release version of the game by the publisher itself to unpredictably crash the game and prevent completion as a security measure, though players were able to use extra content available on the Internet to bypass it. The pirated version of Assassin's Creed was one of the most popular titles for piracy during the first week of March 2008. The presence of the bug and performance of the pirated version of the game was believed by Ubisoft to lead to "irreparable harm" for the game and resulted in low retail sales; NPD Group reports that 40,000 copies of the PC title were sold in the United States in July, while more than 700,000 copies were illegally downloaded according to Ubisoft. In July 2008, Ubisoft sued disc manufacturer Optical Experts Manufacturing, believing the company to be the source of the leak, citing poor security procedures that allowed an employee to leave with a copy of the game.
A digital rights management-free version of the game was later made by GOG.com, a digital distribution store and a subsidiary of CD Projekt and CD Projekt Red. It is available on the GOG Store and GOG Galaxy.
On July 10, 2007, during Microsoft's E3 press conference, a demo was shown taking place in Jerusalem. Features that were demonstrated included improved crowd mechanics, the "chase" system (chasing after a target trying to flee), as well as deeper aspects of parkour. This was the first time when Altaïr could be heard speaking. It was again showcased for 20 minutes on July 11, 2007. A video showed an extended version of the E3 demo and included Altaïr trying to escape after his assassination of Talal the Slave Trader.
Jade Raymond, producer of Assassin's Creed said: "For Assassin's Creed we wanted the score to capture the gruesome atmosphere of medieval warfare but also be edgy and contemporary." The musical score was composed by Jesper Kyd in 2007. Six tracks were made available online to those who have purchased the game; a password was given to people to insert at the soundtrack section of the Ubisoft website. Several tracks are also available to listen to on Kyd's MySpace and his official website. The released tracks as a whole have the archaic Latin chorus and dark orchestral music, while the track "Meditation Begins" features a kind of Saltarello with a very ominous, dark, ambient overtone with men whispering in Latin. The atmosphere in these tracks is what Jesper Kyd is known for and is effective in situ. The soundtrack is available from various online music stores.
|1.||"City of Jerusalem"||3:11|
|2.||"Flight Through Jerusalem"||3:39|
|3.||"Spirit of Damascus"||1:31|
|4.||"Trouble in Jerusalem"||4:04|
|6.||"Access the Animus"||9:34|
|7.||"Dunes of Death"||1:46|
|8.||"Masyaf in Danger"||3:43|
|10.||"Meditation of the Assassin"||3:43|
While the song "The Chosen (Assassin's Creed)" by Intwine featuring Brainpower was made contributing to the game, it was not featured in the game nor its soundtrack. Other songs that were used in previews and trailers such as "Teardrop" by Massive Attack and "Lonely Soul" by UNKLE also are not present on the soundtrack.
Several publications such as Eurogamer, while still awarding the game decent scores, pointed out a number of significant shortcomings. Eurogamer stated that the gameplay "never evolves and ultimately becomes a bit boring, and quite amazingly repetitive." In Andrew P.'s review for EGM (Kage), he wrote that the game features "a challenging parkour path of escape..." Famitsu awarded the Xbox 360 version of Assassin's Creed a 36 (9, 9, 9, 9), while the PS3 version received a 37 (10, 8, 9, 10) out of 40, positively citing the story, presentation, and acrobatics, while criticizing the one button combat, map layout, and camera problems. Game Informer awarded Assassin's Creed a 9.5 out of 10, praising the control scheme, replay value, and intriguing story, but expressing frustration over the "repetitive" information gathering missions. On The Hotlist on ESPNEWS, ESPN's Aaron Boulding called the game's concept of social stealth "fairly original" and added, "Visually, the developers nailed it." GameTrailers similarly praised the story (giving a 9.7 score to its story), and also cited repetitive gameplay and "moronic" AI as somewhat stifling its potential. "Assassins Creed is one of those games that breaks new ground yet fails in nailing some fundamentals," said Gametrailers. The game also received a 10 out of 10 from GamesRadar. According to GamePro, Assassin's Creed is one of the "finest gaming experiences ever created" if you are willing to be "patient" due to the lack of fast-paced action. Hyper's Darren Wells commended the game for its "great story, great graphics and intuitive controls." However, he criticised it for "some missions that don't feel right on the PC and its loopy menu system." Hilary Goldstein of IGN gave the game a 7/10, stating that "a bad story, repetitive gameplay elements, and poor AI lead to the downfall of one of the more promising games in recent memory." Conversely, he complimented the combat animations and the climbing mechanic, and admired how accurately Ubisoft depicted the major cities of Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus to their real-life counterparts.
Assassin's Creed won several awards at E3 2006. Game Critics awarded it "Best Action/Adventure Game,"; from IGN, "Best Action Game," "PS3 Game of the Show," "Best PS3 Action Game," "Best PS3 Graphics"; from GameSpot and GameSpy, "Best PS3 Game of the Show"; from GameTrailers "Best of Show," and from 1UP.com, "Best PS3 game." Creed was nominated for several other awards by X-Play and Spike TV. Assassin's Creed was listed by Game Informer at 143 in their list of the top 200 games of all time. It also received the editor's choice award from GameSpot. In December 2015, Game Informer the game as the third best game in the Assassin's Creed series to date.
Sales for Assassin's Creed "greatly outstripped" the expectations of the publisher.
In the UK, Assassin's Creed debuted at number one, knocking Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare from the top; the majority of the debut sales were on the Xbox 360, which claimed 67% of the game's total sales. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 releases of Assassin's Creed each received a "Platinum" sales award from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), indicating sales of at least 300,000 copies per version in the United Kingdom. On April 16, 2009, Ubisoft revealed that the game had sold 8 million copies.
A prequel for the game, titled Assassin's Creed: Altaïr's Chronicles, developed by Gameloft, was released on February 5, 2008, for the Nintendo DS. A port of Assassin's Creed: Altaïr's Chronicles has also been released for the iPhone and the iPod Touch and Java ME on April 23, 2009, as well as for the Palm Pre.
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