I reviewed Assassin’s Creed: Liberation today. I think we can safely consider it the natural follow-through on the Assassin’s Creed review I wrote back at the beginning of 2008. You can trace a line from one to the other and see the things that Ubisoft has endeavored to repair about the original, highly flawed game, and which of those efforts have done as much harm as good.
I find the entire Assassin’s Creed series vexing. It’s “open world,” except it’s not, really; its mission structure comprises some of the most limiting and rigid game design in the industry, a far cry from actual freedom. Ubisoft has sold it heavily as a game about stealth and anonymity and remaining invisible in the face of overwhelming odds, but its sneaking and enemy mechanics aren’t really much better than those in Metal Gear Solid… the original PlayStation Metal Gear Solid, that is. Everything about appeals to me in theory but often falls flat in execution. I would very much like for Assassin’s Creed to be a better game, but it is not, and that frustrates me.
I saw signs of hope in Assassin’s Creed II — those Prince of Persia-like tomb quests were incredibly fun. But the needle keeps drifting further and further away from my ideal of games. ACIII looks a lot better than Liberation, but not as better as I’d like it to be based on what I’ve seen and heard
And, I suppose I have to accept that this is a deliberate and conscious choice on Ubisoft’s behalf. What I want isn’t what the larger audience wants, and I don’t doubt that very careful market research and play-testing have revealed that they’ll make a lot more money by creating a frictionless, practically self-playing video game that requires minimal player investment and effort. I guess that’s why I spend my free time writing about the liberating world design of 25-year-old games: Because I am a pointless relic of a games critic.
One of these days, someone who calls the shots is going to realize I’m about the worst choice imaginable to run a site like 1UP, and I’ll be out of work and sleeping in doorways downtown. Let’s keep it between us for now, though. I’d like to be able to continue interviewing my personal heroes for as long as possible.