The prequel to the big hit, Assassin's CreedAssassin's Creed Altair’s Chronicles may be the prequel to one of 2007 biggest titles on Xbox 360 and PS3, but partly due to the technical limitations of the Nintendo DS, it’s far from being the free-roaming sci-fi action adventure that we’d hoped.
Though the game features Altair, the same young assassin from Ubisoft’s previous title and takes place during the Third Crusade, with a similar Holy Land setting and array of clock-and-dagger characters, the sci-fi storyline from Assassin’s Creed paves its way for a simple, yawn-worthy yarn and a shallow journey in search of a sacred Chalice.
Assassin's Creed Altaïr's Chronicles is a 3D action platform game, along the same lines as another Ubi title Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, in which you follow a linear path across the various locales.
It’s standard platforming fare for the most part as you leap across rooftops, climb ladders to evade guards and solve simple environment-based puzzles that involve balancing across beams, jumping over spiky traps, pulling levers and pushing boxes. There’s also a large portion of sword-slashing combat as you bid to see off the dozens of Templars who attempt to block your pathway to the sacred Chalice.
In terms of scale, graphical quality and overall game-play experience, it’s a far cry from Assassin’s Creed. The acrobatic and fluid movement of free-running around the city has been achieved to a certain extent and there are times when racing across the ornately designed buildings and stone-clad rooftops is exciting, but the clunky control system and the limitations of the graphical power of the DS, coupled with some poor camera angles, means that it’s sometimes difficult to judge jumps. This means that you fall frequently and frustratingly to the ground, and every time you do so the guards are alerted and then you have to spend time, that you didn’t want to, fighting them off or dashing around in search of the nearest ladder that allows you to escape to the - supposed - safety of the rooftops.
By DS standards the graphics are still superb with finely-detailed environments and good use of light and shadow techniques, where sun reflects and bounces off the gilded domes and light cascades through and around trees and other objects casting shadows on the town’s walkways. And there’s also commendable detail in the city's architecture, market-stalls and building facades. It’s just a huge shame that you can’t explore the cities further.
Despite it being a rigidly linear adventure, Ubisoft strangely took the decision to put a huge green arrow on screen that crudely points you in the right direction, even though it's blatantly obvious which direction you need to take. When the developer has obviously placed a lot of emphasis on creating an alluring environment, which it does extremely well with the overall look of the game, it does slightly ruin the illusion.