Assassin’s Creed: Templars #1 (Comic) Review

Assassin's Creed: Templars #1 (Comic) Review

It’s been fascinating to watch the Assassin’s Creed series evolve over nearly a decade (yep, it’s been that long!). While the Abstergo future-esque undertones were severely downplayed before the launch of the original in 2007, Ubisoft has doubled down in recent years, framing the centuries old conflict between the Templars and the Assassins as an ongoing, seemingly never-ending battle. This setup allows them to take plenty of liberties when it comes to settings and stories that can span just about any time period. That includes Assassin’s Creed: Templars, which gives us a better look at the underrepresented “villains” of the franchise.

The narrative is framed by way of the “Black Cross,” a Templar agent with a mysterious origin, whose identity is pretty clearly given away throughout the issue—albeit with many questions left unanswered for future installments. He’s the so-called “bogeyman” of the order, wielding a special pin weapon that functions as a blade of sorts. His first run-in is with Thaddeus Gift, a corrupt Templar who was caught stealing from the order, before shifting to a new narrative that frames the rest of the five-issue series.

Assassin's Creed: Templars #1 (Comic) Review 1

I wouldn’t say that I was hooked, all told, but the tale was interesting enough and I can see some promise with the main arc. It involves a young man named Darius, who, after the death of his father, discovers that his family may be embroiled in something larger than life and is sent to China on a special mission. It’s here that he encounters Roo, a woman of questionable morals, and of course, the Black Cross. That’s…basically where the first issue ends.

Assassin's Creed: Templars #1 (Comic) Review 2

As you can probably tell, the story is a tad shallow at the moment, partially because it has to do so much table setting to incorporate both Cross and Darius into the overarching core. It does this in a rather interesting way with very little in the way of dialogue, preferring instead to move everything forward with shorter bursts rather than lengthy, page-length exposition. It mostly works, especially the frame where Darius first enters a town in China, greeted by multiple dialects and languages. It really drives home that fish out of water feel without saying much at all.

Artistically, Templars isn’t exactly stunning, but it does catch your eye almost immediately with a wide array of bright hues. The Phantom of the Opera undertones of the main character are palatable, and although the story goes for a noir-like feel, the art style manages to straddle that line without overdoing it. For a series about killing people en masse there isn’t a whole lot of gore either, which was surprising. While the awe-inspiring scenes are few and far between in the first issue, it’s consistently well done. Normally however, at this point I’d be on the edge of my seat for more, and I’m not at that stage yet with Templars. But it does have my attention.

The Assassin’s Creed Downfall

The Assassin’s Creed Downfall

When the original Assassin’s Creed was released it slipped by me. I don’t remember why, but I know it wasn’t until my brother bought the game months later that I finally played it, and it had the potential to start an amazing and beloved franchise. Instead, Assassin’s Creed has become a series known for disappointing fans and breaking promises. Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood did a lot to improve the core mechanics, but the original is still the best game in the series.

First of all, Altaïr is the best character the series has had so far. His character design is the only one that ever made me feel like an Assassin. He wore plain white robes with a hood and every game since has put a lot of effort into creating incredibly intricate and ornate costumes that simply make the character stand out in the crowd, which seems counter-intuitive when you are attempting to murder high profile targets. Black Flag and Unity have done a better job of this, but Altaïr has always, to me, embodied what an Assassin should look like. Ezio was by far the worst in this regard. He was apparently able to go unnoticed while wearing a bright, red cape, and the logo of the Assassins on the front of his waist like it was a heavyweight championship belt.

The gameplay did leave something to be desired. When you are first learning the ropes and taking down your initial targets it can be a lot of fun, but most of the game has a very rinse and repeat formula that definitely can get repetitive and tedious, but I miss the option of stealth. Since then the series has become increasingly action-oriented. When the series started, the wait and counter style of combat was simple and could get boring if that’s how you approached every situation, but you’re playing an assassin, not a soldier. Fighting was a last resort and the goal was to get in, kill your target, and get out without being noticed by guards or having to fight at all. By the time Revelations came out it seemed like they had abandoned that idea completely and taking down targets always involved a fight with either the target or a large number of guards.

The story in the original AC was actually good. For those who started the series later this might seem hard to believe; after the first game there have been god-like hologram people, apocalyptic prophecies and all sorts of terrible science fiction plot points that only lead to increasingly exaggerated eye rolling. The best thing this Assassin’s Creed series did story-wise since the first game was kill off Desmond, but they couldn’t even let it move on from there. They added sages and had one of their hologram people live on in the Abstergo servers.

The original game opened with the idea that people could access their ancestors memories through their DNA using the animus. We were introduced to the Templars and assassins through Altaïr, and we learned about the each of their beliefs as he did. Throughout the game you also learn about Desmond Miles, what Abstergo is, what their up to and about their mysterious, previous captive, subject 16, who clearly went insane during his time there. It was the only game in the series where I didn’t want to shut the game off as soon as I left the animus and was stuck walking around as Desmond.

The first game started as another Prince of Persia game by the series’ creator, Patrice Désilets. When the game wasn’t taking the direction the publisher wanted it evolved into a new IP. Désilets left Ubisoft during the production of Brotherhood, and it shows. That is when the series really started to fall off and since then the only good things I’ve had to say about the AC franchise have had very little to do with the original, core gameplay. Revelations and AC3 were terrible and the only reason I enjoyed Black Flag was because of the parts where it was a pirate game, not a game about assassins or Templars or ancient, hologram wizards.

Every year I play another AC game and find myself finishing my experience by saying “never again.” Never again will one of these games suck me in, but every year I read interviews and watch trailers and convince myself that this one will be different; this one will make AC good again. This one will go back to what made this series good to begin with. It will forget about the present day story nonsense and let me assassinate people without being forced into fighting 20 guards who take turns attacking me one at a time. The teams at Ubisoft are clearly talented. They are able to beautifully recreate iconic cities and are capable of making great games, but whoever is steering the Assassin’s Creed ship is leading it astray. I think instead of playing Unity, especially while Ubisoft continues to patch it’s plethora of bugs and glitches, I’ll go back and replay the game that has kept me coming back with hopes of more.

The Secret World (PC) Review

The Secret World (PC) Review

Everything Is True

Funcom and Ragnar Tornquist have a lot riding on The Secret World. It’s a subscription based MMO coming out at a time when that business model is failing for anything that’s not World of Warcraft. It’s a game coming on the heels of Age of Conan which previewed with a lot of promise but failed to live up to it in the end game. And finally, it’s the first MMO that Ragnar Tornquist has led, which is a big departure for a man normally associated with some of the most treasured adventure games in the genre, the Longest Journey series. So when it came time to sit down and evaluate The Secret World what was there was not the abject failure some had speculated, but instead a complex, moody and surprisingly original MMO with some significant issues.

The Lesser Of Three Evils

The Secret World starts things off with an oblique cut scene. After creating your character with a decent—but not wildly robust—creation system and picking a faction, you’re treated to your character, in bed, swallowing a magic bee. I’m not making that up. The magic bee grants you mystical powers, and after a few days of trashing your apartment and gaining some minor mastery over your newfound abilities, your faction recruiter shows up, and you’re eventually whisked away to learn more about your chosen organization, and the fact that Dark Days Are Coming, the marketing catchphrase used throughout TSW’s promotion, which also happens to be the premise of the game.

The basic plot—and surprisingly, TSW does have one that matters to the game—is that pretty much every myth, conspiracy theory or urban legend you’ve ever heard of is not only true, but alive and well in the modern day and ramping up to steam roll the world as we know it. Three factions, the old world Templars, the power obsessed Illuminati, and the chaos theorists known as the Dragon, have a shaky alliance going to fight this rise in the paranormal. None of them are particularly noble or good, but all of them have an interest in not ceding their authority of the world to slumbering, near-omnipotent, Lovecraftian elder gods.

Months Of Paranoia

This is an MMO. So, if you’re not playing it every day, for hours at a time, trying to get to the “end” as quickly as possible for review purposes/bragging rights, you’ll definitely have your days filled with everything from Sasquatch encounters to shady corporate shenanigans to the tune of $15.00 per month. But first, let’s talk about what The Secret World does right.

It’s obvious from a mechanical perspective that The Secret World has been built by people that have played a LOT of MMOs and are tired of many of the conventions that MMOs take for granted. That’s not to say it completely throws out the rulebook, it doesn’t; in many ways, it’s still quite conventional. But there are some essential tweaks made to formula that bring much more convenience and sociability to the table than other competitors.

To read Wayne’s full review of The Secret World pick up the August/September issue of Comics & Gaming Magazine coming soon to Zinio and a newsstand near you.