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November 2008
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Leap of Faith: Why All Games Should Be Like Assassin’s Creed

Like most video games, Assassin’s Creed (website) has its good parts and bad parts.  It’s the truly great part of the game that makes it so much fun.  If you’ve played it, you already know I’m talking about the Scimitar engine – the software that lets you run, jump and climb in a way that’s so easy, so predictable that obstacles in the environment disappear.  You can use every architectural feature to climb buildings.  You can run along narrow planks.  You can drop from ten feet up to assassinate your target from above.

Developer Ubisoft designed this engine using things they learned in the good-but-not-this-good Prince of Persia series.  They’ll be using Scimitar again later this year for the next installment of that series.

I normally advocate for choosing the right engine for each game; but even without the wall-climbing features of Assassin’s Creed, I think any third-person action/rpg game would benefit from its ability to move quickly up small ledges, hop fences and climb ladders.  If a game involves running around at all, I think it should have this.

The control scheme in Assassin’s Creed is well-designed, although it has a long learning curve.  Once you understand the nuances of the controls, you can move quickly (and silently) through a crowd, cross the city over via rooftop, or fight a legion of city guards without a scratch.  My favorite tactic for getting across the city is to race across rooftops and, when a guard notices me, tap the target button, throw a dagger at him, untarget him and keep running.  You barely have to stop.

Sure, Assassin’s Creed has its flaws as well.  I hope a sequel will introduce a “skip cutscene” button.  I don’t mind seeing a cutscene the first time, but I think it’s my right as an American to be able to skip it each additional time – especially if I’ve just died and am re-playing a level.  And the combat is mundane and unimaginative for a game where you have to fight in every level.  (Fortunately, the combat is also short and you always have the option of running away.)

But this is a game with such elegant movement that I keep going back to it, even though I have to watch the same cutscenes every time.  Check my profile for my Xbox 360 gamertag – two Achievements to go.

Epic Spoon is a blog about video games, from guys who like to play video games. The opinions expressed on Epic Spoon are those of the authors of the blog, and in no way represent the opinion of the Internet. Read each author's profile to get a better idea of his intentions on this blog, what type of games he likes to play, and who he is. If you like what we have to say, bookmark us or our RSS feed. If there's something you've got to say, or something you want to ask, you can find our e-mail addresses in our profiles.