Review: Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines
Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines, for the PSP, was announced back in early June during the monster E3 expo. The original Assassin's Creed title was a love or hate game so it's understandable as to why there were some mixed feelings with this title. So, let's see if the PSP has what it takes to recreate the unique and powerful experience of Assassin's Creed.
- Worth The Time?No, it doesn't add anything to the Assassin's Creed world.
- Things LovedIt's great to see Assassin's Creed on the PSP, the game looks really good, the core gameplay has been translated well.
- Things HatedThe game is far too short and there isn't anything to come back to once you're done, the visuals can be bland, the story is uninformative and doesn't really add a great deal to the life of Altair or the Assassin's Creed world, the upgrade system is far too simple and it wouldn't make a difference if it was there or not, the game is too easy, the cities are all too similar and there isn't any reason to explore them, there could have been so much more to it and it really doesn't make full use of the PSP's capabilities.
- RecommendationIf you can get it really cheap, some hardcore Assassin's Creed fans might get some value out of this, but you'd best avoid it as it doesn't add much to the Assassin's Creed story.
- Name: Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PSP Exclusive
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Griptonite Games
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Price: R350
- Reviewed On: PSP
Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines takes place sometime after the original Assassin’s Creed, but before the events of Assassin’s Creed 2 – by a few hundred years that is. In the game players once again take on the role of Altair, ancestor of Desmond Miles and protagonist of the first game, as he roams around the island of Cyprus, going through the cities of Limassol and Kyrenia, to assassinate the last remaining Templars. The story focuses entirely on Altair, his studying of the piece of Eden, that he acquired at the end of Assassin’s Creed 1, and his relationship with the female Templar, Maria, that he spared near the end of the first game. It’s an interesting premise to the game, as fans will no doubt be eager to jump into the shoes of Altair again and see what happened after the cliff hanger ending of the first game, but sadly the story, among other things, are brought down by a lot of flaws.
While Desmond Miles is inside the Animus during the game, he does not actually feature at all as he’s only going to be staring at the blue, Animus overhead screen (which acts as the central menu) that he sees while lying down on the machine. What’s worse is that the original voice actor for Altair is not present in Bloodlines, so instead you’re going to be hearing a very irritating substitute. However, perhaps the worst thing about the story, if the above isn’t bad enough, is that it doesn’t tell you much at all and is a rather empty experience in this regard. Sure Altair’s diary entries, the ones that you get to see anyway, as he speaks about his discoveries with the piece of Eden, are interesting enough, but they just hardly reveal anything and neither does the story as a whole. Essentially, Bloodlines’ contribution to the story, other than filling in a few interesting blanks, some of which are revealed in Assassin’s Creed 2, occurs while you’re actually playing Assassin’s Creed 2, as it gives you a few small opportunities to make a connection and say “hey, this is from the PSP game.”
I understand that they can’t include critical story information in the PSP title since most don’t have access to the console, but I think the developers should at least compensate for those who go out and buy the game. It seems the story in Bloodlines is mostly a fan service that just serves to add in a little more information to Altair’s journey, but the sad part is that most of it, and more, is revealed thoroughly and in detail in Assassin’s Creed 2. This leads me to believe that either Bloodlines is a cash-in title, a game for fans or an actual attempt to create an Asssassin’s Creed experience on the hand held console. Then again it could be a combination of all three.
Fortunately, there is one area where Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines succeeds, and yet also fails, is with its gameplay. What’s good is that it sticks solidly to the Assassin’s Creed formula presented in the first game, so you can expect to be sticking your hidden blade into people, doing leaps of faith off of tall buildings, climbing and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. However, the fundamental structure of Assassin’s Creed 1 has been done away with to a massive extent in Bloodlines. There is no system of investigation followed by assassination and neither are there any side quests that need to be done in order to progress. Instead the game is linear, where you’ll just be running from area to area to complete your main quests and enter and exit cutscenes. The game world is still open and you can go wherever you want, but the locations are not that large and there is nothing really to explore, so you’ll mostly be staying on a linear path. There are still side quests to do, but the only reason to do them, and it’s not a good one, is to get money, which is used to purchase upgrades for Altair. The system is really simple and the upgrades are basically things like increased health, more weapon damage and faster regeneration speeds – none of which you’ll actually need because the game is really easy.
The combat system is more or less identical to Assassin’s Creed 1. You start off with the four weapons (hidden blade, short blade/throwing knives, sword and fists) from the first game and all of Altair’s abilities, minus the upgrades exclusive to Bloodlines. When entering a fight the camera will zoom out allowing you to see enemies in a 360 degree radius, you’ll be able to counter attack, dodge, throw enemies, combo and run away – all identical to the first the game. Altair does have one or two new moves, such as the climbing assassination technique, where he reaches up to pull an enemy off a ledge while climbing, and they’re welcome additions, but they don’t really change the game much. The controls to execute all of these moves work best with the PSP’s layout and it won’t take you long to get used to them, even more so if you’ve played the console versions as they’re mostly identical. Still, the combat works and it’s still fun, although you need to time your counter attacks and strikes a little better.
The game’s missions, like all other aspects of the game, are very simplistic in their nature. They’ll mostly revolve around going out to collect something, kill someone or getting to a point. However, what’s great about them is that quite a number of the missions actually cater well for stealth fans, referring mostly to the level designs in these missions, so you’ll be able to take down a fair amount of enemies without being seen. Judging from this and from the above, you’ll most likely come to the conclusion that Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines is a simple game, and this is entirely true. Some might like the fact that there is next to no learning required to play while those who played the first Assassin’s Creed will feel as though they’re playing a very watered down version or, more appropriately, an exoskeleton of it. On that note, view points from Assassin’s Creed 1 make a return, except this time around there’s hardly any incentive to synchronise or “unlock” them because, as mentioned above, side missions aren’t really worth your time.
Graphically, Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines is good, very good in fact, but the problem is that it’s quite bland with its visuals. Most of the cities you’ll explore look the same and feel the same if you factor out the change in colour scheme. Still, some of the other locations you’ll explore, such as palaces or buildings, do look really cool on the PSP system. The character models look mostly good and move well, but they are a little rigid at times. Altair’s animations look overall great and you’ll be seeing some familiar killing strikes and counter attacks that appeared in Assassin’s Creed 1, in addition to a few new ones. Fortunately, you’re not going to encounter many bugs while playing Bloodlines and the game runs smoothly without any problems. For good or bad, the game uses most of the same sound tracks that you would have heard in Assassin’s Creed 1, except you won’t hear the high alert, after-assassination, awesome musical score that featured in the first game, which is disappointing. Either way, the music is still good and sets the theme of the game well.
One of the worst things about the game is that it’s extremely short. You’ll be seeing the credits rolling after 5 hours of gameplay, maybe even less if you rush through the game. And that 5 hours is without attempting any side missions or activities at all, but only doing the main missions of the game. I think that’s quite bad when you’re paying about R400 to play this game, but then again God of War: Chains of Olympus was even shorter – but heck, that was a fantastic game. What’s even more disappointing is that after you complete the game there really isn’t anything to come back to unless you want to replay missions or, inexplicably, feel the need to collect treasures to fully power up Altair, although there really isn’t any reason to do so. So you’re looking at a prime example of what I call a “play and throw away” title here. When you get to the end screen you’ll be feeling that they could have done a lot more with the game and you’ll most likely forget about it soon after.
The last thing to talk about would be the PS3 connectivity. Connecting Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines to the PS3 version of Assassin’s Creed 2 will unlock special in-game bonuses for both games. To connect the two games, simply plug your PSP into your PS3 machine using a USB cable. On the main menu of Assassin’s Creed 2, go to “Extras” and select “Connectivity”. On the PSP game, on the Animus menu, select “Connect to a PS3 System” on the bottom left. It will only take a few seconds and then you’ll get your rewards. The best part is the 11 000 gold and 6 special weapons that you’ll get as part of your reward for Assassin’s Creed 2, while one of the cool bonuses for Bloodlines is that you’ll unlock the ability to block with the hidden blade. It’s definitely worth it to connect the two games.
In conclusion, Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines is a shallow and extremely simple game that could have been so much more. Admittedly, the best thing about it is that Griptonite Games have recreated the Assassin’s Creed experience on the PlayStation Portable and it is a functional and fun game, but it’s just that it’s plagued by too many flaws. Fans of the series will most likely enjoy this game or any action fan for that matter, but it’s not entirely worth your money as it doesn’t contribute much to the Assassin’s Creed story and neither does it last very long. One thing that can be said though is that the groundwork has been set here and I think that Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines can be so much more if an increased amount of effort is put in. After all, it does provide a solid action-semi stealth experience that works well on the PSP. I guess at the end of the day Assassin’s Creed is a game far better suited for the next-gen consoles, where it can take full advantage of all the power that they have to offer in order to create the fantastic and immersive experience we’ve come to expect from Assassin’s Creed. I hope the future can change my opinion on this, because let’s face it, the PSP has done some amazing things so far.