More Gameplay

Side missions come in two varieties: information gathering related to your assassination target, and optional scouting/preparation. The latter consists of two tasks: climbing viewpoints and rescuing citizens. The easiest way to find side missions is to climb a viewpoint and scout out the area, after which you can perform a "Leap of Faith" into a conveniently placed pile of hay. While we seriously doubt the ability of anyone to fall over 100 feet (repeatedly) into a pile of hay without serious injury, the view from above can be quite breathtaking and the swan dive into the hay is graphically impressive. Rescuing citizens is a bit more mundane; you find a group of guards harassing someone and commence the slicing and dicing. Afterwards, the grateful citizen will offer to help you, either by spawning some vigilantes that will delay any guards pursuing you or by spawning a group of scholars that you can blend with in order to reach restricted areas without killing anyone.

A third type of optional "mission" exists. Throughout the game, there are various flags scattered around the environment. You can try to collect all of these if you want to -- collect enough of them and you will gain another bubble on your "sync bar" (i.e. your health). Since you can have a maximum of 20 health points, however, there's no real reason to go out of your way to collect them all. On the Xbox 360 version of AC, collecting all of the various flags of a specific type will give you an Xbox Achievement; since there's no equivalent on the PC it seems the only reason to do this is for bragging rights.

The information gathering missions have a bit more variety. Some involve killing, some involve stealth, some are timed -- and some are a combination of any or all of those elements. There are nine different types of side missions, including four new mission types for the PC version of the game. Returning from the console are eavesdropping, pickpocketing, interrogation, guard assassination, and flag runs; new to the PC are roof races, archer assassination, escorting, and merchant stand destruction.

Archer and guard assassination missions are essentially the same thing, the only difference being that in the case of the former you assassinate archers on the rooftops and in the latter you assassinate guards patrolling the streets. These are both "stealth" missions, so you need to be careful that you don't attract attention -- if you ever get into an open battle during these missions, you will fail the mission and will need to try again. Later in the game, some of the stealth assassination missions will also have a time limit.

Eavesdropping, pickpocketing, and interrogation missions are also similar, in that you begin all three by listening in on a conversation. The difference is that for eavesdropping missions you have to find a nearby bench to sit on first, and on pickpocketing and interrogation missions you only need to stand nearby (but not too close). You also need to follow your target afterwards on these last two; on interrogation missions, you then beat up the person in order to "interrogate" them while on pickpocketing missions you will sneak up behind your target and filch whatever they are carrying.

The escort and merchant stand destruction missions generally involve outright conflict with the city guards. On the escort missions, you need to guide a fellow assassin to a "safe" location, killing any guards who try to stop you along the way. For the merchant stand destruction missions, you need to destroy anywhere between two and four merchant stands in a set amount of time; this is accomplished by throwing a nearby guard or other citizen into the stand. It may be possible to destroy merchant stands without triggering an encounter with the guards, but I was not successful in this attempt while playing the game -- and since the guards were easy enough to dispatch afterwards I didn't worry about it.

The final two mission types -- flag collection and roof races -- are timed missions. The roof races involve getting from point A to point B in a short amount of time, and this usually (but not always) requires sprinting across the rooftops. The flag collection missions also involve sprinting around an area in gathering a bunch of "misplaced" flags. Since I found the free running across roofs and climbing up buildings to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game, these last two were probably my favorite type of side mission. (There's plenty of killing to be had elsewhere.)

All of these side missions are sort of filler as you progress through the game taking out the major assassination targets. The information gathering missions provide additional background details for the story, but the major plot points are all unveiled in the assassination mission assignments, the actual assassinations, and their aftermath. Each assassination mission is also unique, unlike all of the side quests that fade into each other, making them all the more enjoyable. First you have to infiltrate the stronghold of the target, then you typically get a cut scene of sorts showing you exactly why this person deserves to be killed, and then you have to figure out a good way to do your dirty deed and make good your escape. Sure, you can just wade in with your sword swinging (though you'll still have to watch the cut scene), but there's a certain satisfaction to be had by sneaking up on the target and performing a stealth kill.

After each major assassination, you are presented with another cut scene that shows a dialogue between Altaïr and his victim. Like the "Leap of Faith", a certain suspension of disbelief is required as it's not uncommon for the person whose throat you just slit to go on rambling about his motivations for a good minute or two, but this is one area where the game takes a moment to flesh out the story.

All of the commentary on the previous two pages may give you some idea about what the gameplay is like, but it's probably just better if we show you some of the missions. We created videos of various missions during the second assassination target that are available for viewing at the end of this article. Note that these videos do contain some spoilers, and in particular the full 8 minute Garnier assassination sequence should be avoided if you want the story to remain a surprise. However, if you're not exactly sure whether you would like this style of game the videos should help answer that question.

Basic Plot and Gameplay Graphics and Design Decisions


View All Comments

  • Zak - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    I'm usually against AnandTech straying away from their core hardware reviews they've become famous for in the first place, but this is the best, most thorough, in-depth game review I have ever read! Very well done, most enjoyable reading. Thanks:)

  • mustardman - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    I'm curious why Anandtech recommended Vista without comparing the performance of Windows XP. They didn't even have a test box running XP or did I miss it.

    From my experience and experience from friends, Vista is still behind XP in gaming performance. In some cases, far behind.

    Am I missing something?
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    With modern DX10 GPUs, Vista is required to even get DX10 support. Having looked at DX9 Assassin's Creed, I can't say the difference is all that striking, but the DX10 mode did seem to run faster. (I could test if there's desire, but it will have to wait as I'm traveling this week and don't have access to the test systems used in this article.)

    Personally, while Vista had some issues out of the gate, drivers and performance are now much better. XP may still be faster in some situations, but if you're running a DX10 GPU I can't see any reason to stick with XP. In fact, there are plenty of aspects of Vista that I actually prefer in general use.

    Since this was primarily a game review, and I already spent 3x as much time benchmarking as I actually did beating the game, I just wanted to get it wrapped up. Adding in DX9 Vista vs. DX9 XP would have required another 20-30 hours of benchmarking, and I didn't think the "payoff" was worthwhile.
  • Justin Case - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    [quote]Unlike Oblivion, however, all of the activity you see is merely a façade. The reality is that all the people are in scripted loops, endlessly repeating their activities.[/quote]

    ...which is exactly what Oblivion NPCs do (compounded by the fact that they all have the same handful of voices, that all voices use exactly the same sentences, and that some characters change voice completely depending on which scripted line they're repeating).

    If anything, Oblivion's world feels even more artificial than Morrowind. One thing is the AI we were promised for Oblivion while the game was in development, another is what actually shipped. Most of the behaviors shown in the "preview videos" simply aren't in the game at all.

    Even with the (many, and very good) 3rd party mods out there, Oblivion NPCs feel like robots.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    Oblivion NPCs can actually leave town, they sleep at night, they wander around a much larger area.... Yes, they feel scripted, but compared to the AC NPCs they are geniuses. The people in AC walk in tight loops - like imagine someone walking a path of about 500-1000 feet endlessly, with no interruptions for food, bed, etc. I'm not saying Oblivion is the best game ever, but it comes a lot closer to making you feel like it's a "real" world than Assassin's Creed.

    But I still enjoyed the game overall.
  • erwendigo - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    This is a very old new, the DX10.1 suppor of this game eliminate one render pass BUT with a cost, a inferior quality image.
    The render image isn´t equal to DX10 version, Ubisoft then dropped suport for DX10.1 in 1.02 patch.

    A story very simple, nothing about conspiracy theory, or phantoms.

    Anandtech guys, if you believe in these phantoms, then make a review with 1.01 patch (this is yet on this world, men, download and test the f***ing patch), otherwise, your credibility will disminish thanks to this conspiracy theory.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    I tested with version 1.00 and 1.02 on NVIDIA and ATI hardware. I provided images of 1.00 and 1.02 on both sets of hardware. The differences in image quality that I see are at best extremely trivial, and yet 1.02 in 4xAA runs about 25% slower on ATI hardware than 1.00.

    What is version 1.01 supposed to show me exactly? They released 1.01, pulled it, and then released 1.02. Seems like they felt there were some problems with 1.01, so testing with it makes no sense.
  • erwendigo - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    Well, you writed several pages about the suspicious reasons of the dropped support of DX10.1.

    If you sow the seeds of doubt, then you´ld have done a test for it.

    The story of this dropped suport has a official version (graphical bugs), and in many forums users reported this with 1.01 patch (and DX10.1). Another version is the conspiracy theory, but this version hasn´t proof.

    ¿This is the truth? I don´t know, I can´t test this with my computer, but if you publish the conspiracy theory and test the performance and quality of 1.0 and 1.02 version, why don´t you do the same with 1.01 patch?

    This is not about performance, this is to endorse your version of the story. With this, your words earn respect, without the test, your words are transformed into bad rumors.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    I still don't get what you're after. Version 1.00 has DirectX 10.1 support; version 1.02 does not. Exactly what is version 1.01 supposed to add to that mix? Faulty DX10.1? Removed DX10.1 with graphical errors? I don't even know where to find it (if it exists), so please provide a link.

    The only official word from Ubisoft is that DX10.1 "removed a rendering pass, which is costly." That statement doesn't even make sense, however, as what they really should have said is DX10.1 allowed them to remove a rendering pass, which was beneficial. Now, if it was beneficial, why would they then get rid of this support!?

    As an example of what you're saying, Vista SP1 brings together a bunch of updates in one package and offers better performance in several areas relative to the initial release of the OS. So imagine we test networking performance with the launch version of Vista, and then we test it with SP1 installed, and we conclude that indeed somewhere along the way network performance improved. Then you waltz in and suggest that our findings are meaningless because we didn't test Vista without SP1 but with all the other standard updates applied. What exactly would that show? That SP1 was a conglomerate of previous updates? We already know that.

    So again, what exactly is version 1.01 supposed to show? Version 1.02 appears to correct the errors that were seen with version 1.00. Unless version 1.01 removed DX10.1 and offered equivalent performance to 1.00 or kept DX10.1 and offered equivalent performance to 1.02, there's no reason to test it.

    Maybe the issue is the version numbers we're talking about. I'm calling version of the game - what the DVD shipped with - version 1.00. The patched version of the game is, so I call that 1.02. Here's what the 1.02 patch officially corrects:

    * Fixed a rare crash while riding the horse in Kingdom
    * Fixed a corruption of Altair’s robe on certain graphics hardware
    * Cursor is now centered when accessing the Map
    * Fixed a few problems with Alt-Tab
    * Fixed a graphical bug in the final fight
    * Fixed a few graphical problems with dead bodies
    * Fixed pixellation with post-FX enabled on certain graphics hardware
    * Fixed a small bug in the DNA Menu that would cause the image to disappear if the arrow was clicked rapidly
    * Fixed some graphical corruption in Present Room with low Level Of Detail
    * Character input is now canceled if the controller is unplugged while moving
    * Added support for x64 versions of Windows
    * Fixed broken post-effects on DirectX 10.1 enabled cards
    I've heard more about rendering errors on NVIDIA hardware with v1.00 than I have of ATI hardware having problems. I showed a (rare) rendering error in the images that happens with ATI and 4xAA, but all you have to do is lock onto a target or enter Eagle Vision to get rid of the error (and I never saw it come back until I restarted the game).

    Bottom line is I have PROOF that v1.00 and v1.02 differ in performance, specifically in the area of anti-aliasing on ATI 3000 hardware. If a version 1.01 patch ever existed, it doesn't matter in this comparison. The conspiracy "theory" part is why Ubisoft removed DX10.1 support. If you're naive enough to think NVIDIA had nothing to do with that, I wish you best of luck in your life. That NVIDIA and Ubisoft didn't even respond to our email on the subject speaks volumes - if you can't say anything that won't make you look even worse, you just ignore the problem and go on your merry way.
  • erwendigo - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    Well, you talk me about some links, then here have some of them:

    The first and foremost:">

    In this one Rage3D (a proATI website) analyzes the reason of the dropped support of DX10.1, with a comparation of images of the different rendering modes.

    In this article Rage3D people found several graphical bugs of the dx10.1, they described them as minor bugs, BUT I don´t think that the lack of some effects in the DX10.1 are minor bugs.
    The DX10.1 with activated AA lacks of dust effect, and the HDR rendering is different from the DX10 version.

    In Rage3D thinks that this show a DX10 bug in HDR rendering, because they said that Ubisoft declared that HDR rendering in DX9 and DX10 paths are identical, and they tested that DX10 and DX9 HDR rendering are different. This point could be true, but it´s something strange that the DX10 HDR rendering path was buggy in the release version of the game, and in the 1.01 patch too.

    It´s more logic that the DX10 HDR was correct and the difference with DX10.1 HDR reflects different and buggy render path (Do you remember the lack of one render pass?).

    The speedup of performance of 1.01 patch (in 3DRage test) in the game looks like your test results. Then, the lack of DX10.1 support in 1.02 patch doesn´t affect the performance. Yes, in DX10.1 looks like that the AA is better than in other paths, but with this version you have lack of dust effect and different (buggy or not?) HDR rendering. Good reasons for the dropped support, I think.

    Consequences of your rumors about sinister dropped support:">

    Some people believe this version because you defend it in your review, but you didn´t test the veracity of this. The truth is that DX10.1 render path had bugs, and when you made the review, you didn´t know if the dropped support reason was the conspiracy theory or other reason, but YOU chose one by personal election.

    That Ubisoft and Nvidia didn´t respond to your email post proved nothing. At most, they were bad-mannered guys with you.

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