Sunday Thoughts: 29/11/09

Nine days ago, Assassin’s Creed 2 released. At roughly 6:37pm, I inserted the disk into my Xbox 360 and started installing it. At 6:46pm (I’m making these times up, you know), I started up the game. Since then I have completed said assassin-related piece of eden (I finished it last night, to be more specific) and I’m still playing the game. I have every intention of finding every treasure, collecting every statuette, finishing every side mission, translating every glyph…

You get the idea. This is the only game I have ever played in which I have been motivated to do such an obsessive compulsive thing – and I really mean ever. So what is it that makes a game such a joy to play that I would even consider collecting everything there is to collect?

Well, it’s not the Gamescore. I’m not particularly interested in neither Achievements nor Trophies, only really trying to do something that will take a couple of minutes or is directly in the way and may as well be done anyway (such as bile-bombing a tank in Left 4 Dead 2), so we can rule that out right now.

Assassin’s Creed 2 looks great – it’s a beautiful game (no, I don’t mean it’s football). If it didn’t, however, it wouldn’t really matter. Gameplay always comes before graphics, so if a game doesn’t exactly look like Pamela Anderson but still plays like she does in bed, then it’s still a great game. So no, graphics do not make a great game. If a game looks like a Ferrari Modena but handles like the Titanic post-sinkage it’s a bad game regardless.

Clearly, my adoration has something to do with the gameplay itself, which makes sense because Assassin’s Creed 2 is close to being my game of the year, if only Uncharted 2 didn’t exist. Yet I didn’t try for all the trophies in Uncharted 2, either, so what’s making me want to play AC2 that much? Well, I enjoy running around large cities via the rooftops, and I really enjoy the climbing. I also love the combat in AC2, countering is roughly 12.3 times more realistic than anything in a hack ‘n’ slash game, making it really enjoyable to me. In fact, the kills in AC2 are so satisfying that I wince every time I crush a guard’s face with a mace, or plunge my hidden blades into his eye sockets, despite having played for so long.

I also really enjoy the deception. Sending a group of courtesans or mercenaries to distract a group of guards so I can just stroll leisurely through the chaos to get past is a great thing, as is sneakily poisoning a guard for the same effect. A smoke bomb to the ground and I can take out the majority of a 20-strong group of guards before the smoke clears, or just climb a wall to escape, which is another great feeling. I’m even curious as to what ‘The Truth’ is, which is a mark of a good storyline.

And there we have it, the reason why I would play to collect things like this: Great feelings. Everything you can do in Assassin’s Creed 2 feels cool, whether assassinating 2 guards at a time or disappearing in a cloud of smoke, you feel like a, for lack of a better word, badass. There is nothing more badass than taking down a crowd of guards with their own weapons, except maybe walking away calmly afterwards. It’s these feelings, and the fluidity of the game itself, that keep me playing so much.

I will continue to wince as I take down guards in AC2, and I will continue to collect things as I do so, just because of the feeling of the game. Many developers could learn a lot from AC2.