Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles should look somewhat familiar to you. It was released in 2008 on the Nintendo DS and in 2009 for iPhone. And now Gameloft has ported the adventure to Android.
If you were a fan of Ubisoft’s ambitious Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 production, you know the set-up. An assassin named Altair is scouring the Holy Land for the means to bring down the Templar knights, an organization with sinister designs on the world in this narrative. The iPhone game serves as a prequel to the console game. Altair is in search of a specific artifact called "The Chalice," which possibly has the power to bring the ugly Crusades to an early, merciful end. But seeking this relic raises more questions than it answers, setting up the console game, which I consider to have one of the best fictions in videogames in quite some time despite its uneven game mechanics.
As Altair, you must use your stealth abilities to seek the Chalice. The rooftops, awning, and beams that stretch across the grand cities of the medieval Holy Land are your playground. Careful movement above the sandy streets will keep you out of harm’s way for the most part, although occasionally you must descend to the avenues below and draw blood. Altair has a sword that can be upgraded, but there are other devices and items he uses in his quest, such as a grappling hook and bombs. Altair’s signature weapon, though, is his hidden dagger that is used to silently execute enemies and not raise the alarm of dozens of guards and Templar reinforcements.
Some kills are just messy.
As you explore the Holy Land, you will pick up hundreds of blue orbs that can be traded in for upgrades, such as expanding Altair’s health bar or the aforementioned sword. Personally, I tended to lean on sword upgrades because I wanted to make sure I could overpower enemies in any combat situation. I would accidentally blow a stealth situation by walking through a crowd too fast or stumble off a rooftop and land on the street below, just within striking distance of a Templar.
Naturally, this raises the issue of control. I think the control stick here is a little looser which does prevent absolute precision and will cause occasional mishaps, but for the most part, I really don’t have any major problems with how the game handles. The combat buttons work great, although the shield button placement over by the control stick is awkward. While there are some automated actions, like scrambling up a wall, I do wish that some small jumps were also self-propelled. The jump button works without a problem, but an auto-jump would help casual gamers by taking one less button out of the mix.
One feature in Assassin’s Creed I do not care for, though, are the minigames. I think they are pointless holdovers from the DS version. They felt tacked-on back then, like Gameloft was trying to integrate the DS touchscreen some way… any way. They don’t fare much better here. They function, but add nothing to the overall game. They feel gimmicky in a game that needs no gimmicks.
As mentioned earlier in the review, Assassin’s Creed looks fantastic. Everything — from the textures on Altair’s robes to the crackling fire effects — is brighter, crisper, and more detailed in this edition of the game versus the DS. However, Assassin’s Creed is not necessarily the smoothest play on a Droid. There is some framerate chugging here and there that mars the experience. However, some users have mentioned that Creed runs better on newer handsets.
Assassin’s Creed for Android is a solid port of the iPhone version – which was in turn a solid port of the Nintendo DS game. Performance is likely to be affected by your handset model, so keep that in mind. But otherwise, this is a lengthy, challenging adventure for a great price.