Monday, November 14, 2011

Extra Life: Hours 17-22


Having a blog entry in draft form is an itchy and annoying thing, yet I have been sitting on my Extra Life: Hours 13-17 entry for awhile now, staring at its unending blankness, attempting to conjure up some sort of Kirkwallian ghost to spill its spectral secrets and assist me in the opinionated blathering about Mark of the Assassin. But alas, continual silence. I think the problem is that I only played through it once, and it's hard to talk about anything Dragon Age 2 related after only one go around. I used my second playthrough character, Skye, adding more dual-bladed roguishness to the mix, and brought along my honey bunny, Fenris, to aid Tallis with her thievery mission, which projected me on a very sarcastic and fairly mean path. But, as with the main DA2 quest, I can clearly see another narrative trail winding away to the east, begging me to use my mage, mix up my party and try again in order to experience Tallis's story from all dimensions. So I think I will. The blog will stay in draft format until I can find the time to test drive it again, choosing opposites to see what Assassin has to offer in terms of variation. I have to believe there is more to this particular chapter (note: I haven’t watched any of Redemption) than my first impression of it as a goofy side quest; much like when your favorite uber-dramatic television show goes off the rails for an episode and gets all farcical with time travel or alternate reality situations. I mean, who would believe that our hero of Kirkwall, rich and satisfied, would suddenly decide to join a strange elf on a mission to steal some random shiny? Pure silliness, indeed. Instead, I give you Extra Life: Hours 17-22, where I come full circle in my neo-gamer life, erase my existing save file and begin replaying the original Assassin’s Creed.

Hours 17-22: Around 2am, roughly 17 hours into my 24-hour gameathon, I started to feel the spins. Sort of like imbibing a bit too much alcohol, but from a more internal source, as in, my own body turning against me. After finishing the Dragon Age 2 DLC, I figured I would dive back into Deus Ex, a game that had been politely sitting on top of the 360, waiting for me to continue...playing the first chapter (/hides head). But I’m ridiculously inept at Deus Ex when I am fully awake and functioning, let alone 17 hours into a gaming marathon, so... After browsing through our library titles, I stared at Assassin's Creed, it stared back, adoringly, and I decided it was time. My memory of the original game was spotty at best, visions of mechanical difficulties and ultra-repetitive missions ghosting through my mind. I especially recalled how frustrating it was for Altair to stealth assassinate a guard using actual stealth, as I usually just clumsily countered with my sword until a pile of them were dead around my feet. No matter how much I wanted to replay the original, I figured that being spoiled by the sequels (especially since I had just invested 13 hours into the most recent chapter, with its picture perfect controls) was going to be a detriment to my success in revisiting Altair's realm, and frankly, sort of a drag. But after about an hour into my replay, I realized something pretty remarkable. The great pit of disconnect between Jerusalem and Rome wasn’t the game, it was me.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, my love of video games stems from childhood and carried on throughout high school and into my college years, finally petering out around 2002. I spent five years being a social butterfly, flittering from this bar to that club to this state and that country, before finally settling back into a more domesticated lifestyle with a lad who loved video games. He brought me Bioshock and Guitar Hero, and I fell back in love with a whole new world of video gaming. But I was also struggling. First person shooters weren’t something I was too familiar with (if you don’t count holding a plastic gun in my hands and aiming erratically while playing House of the Dead 2 in the arcade, which I do not), as I was always more Final Fantasy than Doom. And then came Assassin’s Creed. Being a super-big time-holy-crap-gushity-gush-gush romantic and an Ancient to Medieval Western Civilization history lover, I was all lovey dovey, eyes a’ sparkle with Altair and his bratty temperament. Playing the game itself was really tough for me, however. I had not yet reacquired all of my hand-eye coordination skills from my childhood, and sometimes movement was clunky and stilted. I spent most of my time running or respawning. But I did it. I finished it on December 27, 2007, a date I not only remember because it is logged as the last day I earned an achievement in the game on Live, but also because it was the night before my birthday, nearing midnight. After the last of the big fights I recall jumping into the air and dorkily yelling ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!’ I think I almost broke out in tears, I was so delighted (and exhausted), mostly because it was really, really hard work.

Now, however, I am breezing through like a mother-effing champion. I can almost feel Altair sighing in relief as I escort him around the Kingdom, collecting flags here, stabbing Templars there, throwing archers off towers, and all the while stealthily assassinating almost every guard I see. I feel like Jessica 2.0 or something equally nerdy. When an achievement popped the other night for stealthily killing 50 guards, and I had yet to even move out of the poor section of Damascus, I felt almost ashamed for the meek little mouse I had turned Altair into four years ago, when he is so obviously meant to be held in the hands of someone who knows how to use him properly. More than anything else, though, I finally have a good measure for how much I have grown in the past four years, not only in gaming knowledge due to RSS journalism feeds and writing this blog, but in actual skill. When it came to Assassin’s Creed, my mindset was wrong, thinking it was the freshman effort of the game designers that made the mechanics so off-kilter and clunky. Nope, it was me. I’m back, and am spending way too much time with Altair, running around, hunting for Templars, checking the scene and happily breathing the air around him, much like the copious amounts of time I have spent with Ezio in the past three years. Oh, and I’m collecting flags. Forever.

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1 comment:

Wombat of Doom said...

I've talked a little on the Ontological Geek about how the first time I tried to play Assassin's Creed, I didn't enjoy myself because I was just flat playing it wrong, trying to never be seen by anyone, ever, being completely invisible, never attracting attention at all, and never just horsing around on the rooftops. The game is not a lot of fun if you play it like that.

To really get at the wonderful experiences in some of these games, you seem to both require a certain modicum of skill, and you have to meet the developers halfway, I find. When I went back to the first game not too long ago, I realized that I actually think it's the best of the three I've played (Revelations is out today! Whee!). The controls aren't quite as solid as Ezio's, but I think the game as a whole might almost be better.

Anyway, thanks for writing.

--Bill