A charismatic lead, engrossing plot primed with factoids and a twist on perspective, but struggles with dated hardware.Ever wondered, during the seven games that led you to this, what it must be like

A charismatic lead, engrossing plot primed with factoids and a twist on perspective, but struggles with dated hardware.Ever wondered, during the seven games that led you to this, what it must be like to wage a war for centuries on end, always relying on the perspective of the one side you have on offer?Some did, because Ubisoft, after repeated fan requests has done just that; give you a taste of the other side. You play as Shay Patrick Cormac, an Irishman in the North Atlantic, fighting in the Seven Year’s War, recruited to the Brotherhood, but missing the animist connections his predecessors have to eagles, fleshed further in Ratonhnhaké:ton’s likening to the wolf (missing, not as an oversight, because they’re present with other significant characters in the ensemble, like Achilles Davenport), quite exceptional where talent goes, even with his insubordination, resulting in seeds of doubt taking root early, observing interactions the Assassins have with the Templars they encounter. Inevitably, Cormac finds that he is unable to align with the cause of the Brotherhood, and finds himself sympathetic to what he finds to be Templar ideals. This is the first game which strongly references the grayness of the vigil that either side has donned, and the life they embrace, first encountered with Al Mualim in Assassin’s Creed, and seen again, with the ever dynamic Haytham Kenway (in AC III).

With Shay Patrick Cormac, you see an Assassin grow to become a Templar, as a choice, of his own volition, through outright rejection of the cause he fronts, leaving you with a plot that convincingly meanders into murky waters (literally as well, with Cormac’s ship, a shallower draft, ‘the Morrigan’, capable of river travel), and so also then, the gameplay experience, which skillfully inverts the naval combat missions (those red Xs are now allies), where you’re just as likely to be boarded by enemies as you are to board others, when you hunt assassins, and are in turn hunted by assassins, with all your cues, verbal/ from the animus, or through Eagle Vision (which you now use like some form of echolocation, as a directional prognosticator for Assassins in cities, encompassing building traversal, bush gyps and the crowd collected) to predicate the same thing i.e. the mechanic leading to a hostile offensive by said Assassins, inspired heavily by the (now absent) multiplayer mode which was introduced back in 2012 (bottom line being, those short bursts of innovative action outside of the slash and parry, that make for the backbone of the series, are still fantastic).

One thing particularly enjoyable about the mission design, this time, is the stronghold/outpost takedowns, again, made more interesting because of a Templar perspective. Cormac’s got grenades and air rifles, worthy additions to his already substantial arsenal of weapons, affording him surreptitious ease as a sharpshooting marksman. Now these fortresses aren’t just full of random guards twiddling their cutlass, dragging their feet around, filling those halls with their listless energy (as evidenced in previous installments), but brigands in the employ of the Brotherhood, and once you’re out of their good graces, they’ll come after you any chance they get when you’re on their dry land, and to clear each of these areas out, finally, you’re to go toe to toe with an opponent leader who is a match for your tactical prowess and skill in combat. Fun.

Another thing that you definitely enjoy, is the North Atlantic’s frigorific ocean which allows for a lot of ‘smash the ice boulders’, the causal sequence which follows is shattered hulls (of enemy ships), because of all the ice that forks in either direction when you fire directly at it. Also fun.

There is the staple history lesson, woven finely into everything you do in the game, and this AC pulled off better than Doctor Who, which decided that dabbling in pure sci-fi was more there inkling, so you find marooned wrecks of old Templar ships that are worth exploring; fun and memorable.

What really invoked a sense of wonder for me was the developer’s guidance on missions and the balance it had with independent open world interaction (you can basically do whatever you intend to, and mission design will keep you on track, plus, there’s more than one way to meet those objectives), the rich narrative that takes the convoluted plot of all the games thus far and weaves into three games simultaneously, bringing you full circle for closure to the ‘North American’ leg of the AC saga (it plays out prominently with the ‘Kenways’ storyline, offering insights into both ‘AC III’ and ‘AC IV: Black Flag’, finally tying it all up in a neat bud as a direct precursor to the events of Assassin’s Creed Unity ), and if you’re a buff for lore, the constant bombardment of information, fresh outlooks, and a return to ‘Abstergo’ will definitely blow you away. This is a game for AC fans. Period.

The role reversal, though criticized by some, is remarkable, and of course, as a Templar, the Assassins will come off as a group reviled as fear mongering terrorists (especially persuasive, because the whole point of the game is to bring to you a reasonable sway of belief), and the Templars themselves, a cogent force of community builders (incisive suasory through credible action).

But after all that praise, I have a question; why did this game receive no publicity given that it was launched on the same day as Assassin’s Creed Unity, when it is clearly one of the best in the lineup, a real exploration in creativity? Sure, it’s for the PS3 (now the PC), and it does in fact suffer slightly on that count (facial expressions, crowd physics, naval simulation would all get a significant bump upwards), and a revamped version for the PS4 platform would be most welcome (like AC IV:BF), but, I state this again, as a simultaneous launch, whether intended or not being inconsequential, no publicity, at all?

Huh. Well, I highly recommend this ‘Templar Assassin’, and do hope for a ‘Templar Assassin Chronicles’ in the future, which plays out on similar lines as this.

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