Summary (4/5): Coming off of Spider-Man, there’s no way I can give this game five stars. You know what they say: a rising tide covers the small rocks first.  OK. No one says that. That’s not a thing. But that’s what I got.

This game is frustratingly expansive and overwhelmingly detailed.  It’s a long, slow burn with many of the best parts of past AC installments like sailing, hunting, and serial murder.

But, I’ve only just started playing! I haven’t met any actual Assassin’s of the eponymous Creed yet. I’m only level 13, but I love kicking people off of mountain tops and long walks on the beach.  Because I think it will be about fourteen years before I’m done playing this game, I figured I’d go ahead and write a review based on my initial impressions.

WARNING: SPOILER TIME!

I’m personally not very spoiler sensitive, but some people are. So, just be warned. From this point forward, I’m going to just give you my thoughts.

First of all, I’m playing as a woman named Kassandra.  As far as I know, this is a first for the full-blown console games in the AC franchise.  Since I almost always play as a woman when I get the chance, this is a fun, welcome change.  (Maybe on another post, I’ll discuss why I like playing as a woman.) However, I think I might come to regret that decision because I discovered last night that there are some situations in which you might, uhm, couple with other characters and there are no qualms against same sex relationships, either.

The story is pretty abrupt. I thought I was just some scrappy neighborhood errand girl, but in about five seconds I’m this crazy brawler. But then I go from solving neighborhood mysteries involving bandits to taking murder-for-hire contracts. And suddenly I’m pretending to be on the side of the Spartans even though I’m there to murder their general. But part of pretending means actually pursuing this very elaborate and lengthy campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Athenians.  So, AM I actually against the Athenians? No idea, but I actually am killing them, their leaders, and I’m burning their supplies and de-staffing their forts.

I read a couple of reviews of this game before I started playing and I was a little concerned because several reviewers mentioned how difficult it is to level up and you can expect to play for a very long time before you reach level 15 or something.  I’m not sure how long I’ve been playing, but I’m at level 13 and it doesn’t feel to me like I’ve been playing for very long.

However, I should point out that I typically play as a completionist. I like to complete as many side quests as I can before moving forward with the main quest. This has undoubtedly helped me in the leveling up issue.  But as this type of player, I am experiencing a bit of frustration in that there are too many side quests and some of them have to be completed in a set amount of time. Because I play sporadically and usually not for more than an hour at a time, I’m finding it difficult to complete any of the timed missions.  

I’ve also started skipping side missions because there is a lack of clarity for me about what needs to be done.  For instance, there’s a side quest that says “Complete all bandit tasks” or something.  I’ve completed four of them. I have no idea what I did to do that and I recently picked up another mission like that.

I also don’t understand what is good and what is bad in this game. I heard that there are several endings to this game based on your decisions, but I don’t know how to make the “right” decisions to get a particular ending. I like to play as a “chaotic good” in games and as you wander around sometimes you can loot things and sometimes you have to steal things. “Steal” is written in red and I assume that’s bad. But does it affect the ending? I don’t know.

I guess I could look these things up, but I feel like the game should explain things more clearly for old people like me.

Another reason I’ve been skipping side missions is because Greece is a very rocky, mountainous landscape.  And that’s how it is in the game. It’s difficult to travel in a straight line or very quickly in this game, so if a side mission sends you to the other side of a mountain, it can be tedious just running and climbing everywhere.  I wish I were Spider-man in this game.

But the landscape and weather and other environmental elements are freeeeeaaaking incredible.  This game is lush!  The terrain is widely varied and highly detailed. Vegetation changes slowly as you move from one microclimate to another.  There’s lots of different kinds of flora. And fauna as well.

That level of variability and detail continues to human settlements as well. The towns in this game are very organic with lots of different kinds of buildings with different neighborhoods and areas. Oh! And the forts! I really like playing in the forts because of all the opportunities to sneak around and hide and shoot at people.  Every fort is so elaborate and different.  ALTHOUGH, most of them seem to be wildly understaffed. That could just be a function of the fact that I’m still at a fairly low level.

There’s obviously some repetition in some elements of the game, but there are so many different kinds of elements that it feels extraordinarily varied and detailed.  Beautiful.

At level 13, I’m not very far into the skill tree, but it’s interesting. You have three different categories of skill type: Hunter, Warrior, Assassin.  Because I like to sneak around and snipe, most of my skill points have gone into the hunter and assassin trees.  Using the skills in a fight actually takes a little practice, but I am picking it up quickly.

Back to the leveling up thing. A couple people have mentioned that when you level up all the animals and most of the bad guys level up, too. I don’t like that for a couple of reasons. First, the reason I do side quests first is to level up so that I will be really strong for the main mission. If the main mission levels up with me and I can’t roll into a battle and wildly outclass all the NPCs, then there’s not a lot of point in doing all the extra work. Second, it’s actually hard to kill people sometimes. There are characters that I shoot directly in the head and they just get mad at me and come to fight. And then they stab me one time and I die.  We’re the same level, but I guess we have different levels of armor or weapons.  Anyway, my point is that it makes sniping and sneaking less satisfying because it is actually harder and/or ineffective to play that way sometimes.

Bottom line: I’m enjoying this game a lot, but not as much as Spider-man.  Spider-man was fast and funny and colorful.  This is a much longer game with some more thoughtful elements.  Obviously, with all the blood and stabbing and poison and setting yourself on fire by accident because you stood too close to a wall brazier while trying to light it, this game is not for children. Also, there are curse words in English and Greek.

Pros:

  • Art & environment
  • Action
  • Skill tree and fighting
  • Some funny moments/dialogue here and there

Cons:

  • Takes a long time to travel
  • Hard to play in my preferred style
  • Stilted storytelling
  • Frustrating/tiring level-up scheme