Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines Review

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Title: Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines
Developer: Ubisoft, Griptonite
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 592 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Direct Download

EU Availability: Digital Download | Direct Download

Ever since the last generations of handhelds, developers have been making games that take big franchise names and throwing them into the handheld market.  Many of these games are also canon with their own stories, and some of them are spin-off games that don’t have anything to do with the canon storylines for their franchises.  Both the Nintendo DS and the Sony PlayStation Portable did this, and they are still doing this with games on the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita.

Such franchises back in the last generation were both first party titles and third party titles.  Franchises like God of War, The Legend of Zelda, Gran Turismo, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill, and others.  Games like Silent Hill: Origins, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, and God of War: Chains of Olympus brought console-quality franchises and gameplay to handheld games, allowing you to take the fun gameplay anywhere you wanted.

Many franchises jumped into this trend, from older franchises to newer ones.  Ubisoft had thought of this as well, bringing their Assassin’s Creed franchise portable.  While their first outings on the Nintendo DS and Mobile were very limited on gameplay, offering 2D gameplay instead of console-quality gameplay, they developed a game for the Sony PSP which gave players the opportunity to not only see the current star of the series in action, but also played like the console games.  Here is our official review of the PSP title, Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines.

Story

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The story of Bloodlines takes place mere moments after the end of the first Assassin’s Creed game in the times of the Holy Crusades.  Players, like the first game, will be taking on the role of the assassin Altair as he pursues the remaining Templars from Acre to the island of Limassol as they strive to recover the mysterious artifact known as the Apple of Eden.

As Altair and his prisoner, Templar Maria de Sable, pursues them through hidden resistance and fellow Assassin contacts, he is in a pursuit of knowledge of why the Templars bought the island that Limassol is located on as well as studying the origins of artifacts that he has come in possession of along the way.

The story of Assassin’s Creed Bloodlines isn’t a terrible one, but it’s not an overly great one either.  It takes place right after the events of the first game, allowing you to see more of Altair’s journeys, though there isn’t a huge amount of plot to it.  It is very simple with pursuing the Templars and doesn’t add an incredible amount of emotion.  As such, you will need to play the first game before tackling this one.

Gameplay

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Bloodlines plays out much like the first Assassin’s Creed game.  You will be able to explore large, open world environments while interacting with NPC’s, going to Safe Houses, doing quests, and performing missions to continue the storyline.  The game is also set in a 3D Third-Person Perspective, much like the console games do.

From the very beginning of the game, you will be climbing and running along rooftops and traversing areas to find collectibles and finding new areas to explore.  While the introduction of the game has a limited amount of exploration, once you get through the first Boss Fight, you will have much more free-roam and exploration to do.  That will lead you into story missions, but also allows you to move around and do whatever you would like.

As you roam around the cities of the game, you will have to blend in to not be caught by Templar Guards as well as being able to collect Silver and Gold Templar Coins that are scattered around each area you explore.  These will give you money to purchase upgrades for Altair, whether it be more Health / Synchronization Bars, more numbers of weapons, higher damage from weapons, and more.

As you go through the game, whether on a story mission or not, you have the opportunity of being caught and chased by the guards.  To remain blended, you have to act in a certain way.  When you move, you can either Pray, Walk, Run, or Sprint.   The faster you’re moving, the more suspicious the guards will be of you and your movements.  Be too careless or have a weapon out when moving, and the guards will chase after you and attack you.  At that point, you either have to find cover until they call off the alert or take down all of the guards.  So, there is a stealth element involved in the game.

The difficulty of the Stealth portion has much to be desired, though.  While guards will become suspicious of you if you pull out a sword, they will pay no mind if you run.  Assuming you are not sprinting, you can literally run right in front of guards without them batting an eye.  The only times I had them automatically initiating a pursuit is when I start climbing up buildings or bumping into them in a sprint.  Otherwise, the AI detection really doesn’t pick up on you much at all.

Combat is simple as well.  You have four weapons available to you in the game, which you have from the beginning.  You have a Sword, Throwing Knives, Hidden Blade, and Fists.  The Hidden Blade is the most stealthy of the weapons, as it can be used to instantly kill someone you sneak up behind.  The Throwing Knives can do this as well, as you can target someone a fair distance away and toss a knife to instantly kill them.  The Sword and Fists are used for close-quarters combat.  Once you engage an enemy, you can attack them with your Sword, or Throwing Knives.

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Actual combat with the sword is what you will be doing, for the most part, as enemies that are close and locked onto you cannot be hurt by the Hidden Blade or Fists.  You will attack them and Parry them.  With the proper timing, though, you can link this Parry into a combo that will end in a Finishing animation.  When you learn the timing, the game becomes incredibly easy.  With proper timing, you can easily taking down up to five enemies surrounding you without getting hit a single time and not having to worry about blocking or dodging attacks.

The limitation to combat is the Throwing Knives.  As incredibly useful as they are, you can only carry so many.  You can upgrade this, but you still need to retrieve every knife you throw.  Along with this, your Health will regenerate.  The game also encourages you to never hurt an innocent person.  If you choose to assassinate a civilian, the game will punish you by taking away your health and forcing you to wait for it to regenerate.  As the Assassin’s Code states at the beginning of the game, you never hurt innocent people.

Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines is a fun game, though the missions are very repetitive.  From start to end, your missions will be to go assassinate someone without being detected or to interrogate someone without being detected.  As fun as the gameplay is, it happens so often that it feels very, very repetitive, with not much else to do, other than quests from NPC’s that are just like it.  Still, with this method, the game should last you a fair 7-8 hours for a single play through the game.  It’s not incredibly long, but also not incredibly short.

Controls

Controlling the game is something that is easy to do but can also be pretty frustrating.  As it stands, will make use of most of the buttons on the Vita, aside from the Right Analog Stick and the R button being used very lightly, if at all.  You can redirect some buttons to the touch screen and right Analog Stick, though it’s not as fluid with the game’s controls as you will not be able to redirect the Camera Control to the Right Analog Stick as well as with other 3D PSP games.

You can move Altair around the map with the Left Analog Stick, and the D-Pad is used for switching weapons.  The Face Buttons will be used for various other functions, mostly with interaction and combat.  The X Button is used for Sprinting when being held down, as well as jumping across ledges and rooftops.  It’s also used to dodge when in combat.  The Square Button is your primary combat button, initiating an attack, whether it be with the Hidden Blade or throwing a Knife.

The Triangle Button is used for interacting with people, letting you talk to NPC’s to take quests or talking to Story Characters to go to the next Story Mission.  The Circle Button will be used primarily for grabbing enemies when in combat.  The L and R Buttons are also used.  When you hold down the L Button, you will be able to move the camera around with the Face Buttons.  The R Button can disengage combat as well as be used to run or sprint.

All in all, it isn’t an incredibly difficult control scheme, but having to hold down L to move the camera can be very annoying, requiring you to stop moving while adjusting the camera, increasing frustration when in the middle of a boss fight.  Mapping the Face Buttons to the Right Analog helps, but it does stay a bit frustrating.

Presentation

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Presentation for this game has highs and lows.  As far as how the game looks, it was a pretty fancy-looking PSP game when it came out.  It didn’t look quite as crisp and clear as the PS3 Assassin’s Creed games, as it had a good number of jagged edges, but the overall presentation was pretty good.  Each of the characters, particularly the Templars and Altair have a huge amount of detail for a PSP game.  Smooth out some jagged edges and it could pass for a Vita game.

How the game plays is where the problems come up.  Although this is nowhere near like Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, the game has a few bugs in it that will get on your nerves.  The biggest issue is when you want to minimize the game and do something else on your Vita.  If you put your Vita in Sleep Mode or go out of the bubbles for a few minutes, it crashes every so often.  When you put it back in, the game will think you just removed the UMD Disc on the PSP and ask you to put the disc back in.  When this happens, you have to completely close out of the game and restart from the last Auto-Save Checkpoint.  This doesn’t have incredibly often, but it happened several times when I played the game.

The other downer point is getting stuck in buildings.  Once when playing the game, I ran over a staircase and suddenly found myself inside one of the building structures, surrounded by walls and no doors to exit from.  This only happened once, but it did happen.  Granted, this is nothing like the glitch-heavy Vita Assassin’s Creed game, but it is still there.

Overall

While the game has some very annoying glitches and the missions stay very repetitive throughout the entire game, Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines was a good first entry into the handheld market, bringing the iconic gameplay from the first game and giving players another chance at seeing Altair’s escapades with the Templars.  It’s not as long as the other games in the series, but is a game that any fan of the original game should play at least once.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines a 7/10

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