What the What? Assassinate the Who Now?

When I bought Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood a wee while back, I figured it’d be fantastic to experience a virtual Rome, having spent some time there earlier this year. Little did I know that, despite various indications to the contrary, the game would be in… Danish. A language I don’t speak. Or rather, I should say that the interface is in Danish, and the world of the game is in English (and the odd random bit of Italian they throw in there for some weird concept of authenticity).

It’s kind of an interesting combination, as it turns out, and an excellent test of the game’s usability. Given that all the instructions I’m given are in Danish, I’m forced to more or less predict what the game wants me to do. Fortunately, the game pretty much wants me to do something like “go to A, kill X” – the general algebra of contemporary gaming. So actually, I’m able to get through it fairly well.

Yet there’s an odd feeling at the back of it. I feel like a crack Assassin who got slipped a roofie or something. I get told the gist of the mission in a narrative sense, then stumble off toward a distant crosshair and, on getting there, cast about for who to kill (or, more rarely, some object to take). There’s something about the lack of an intelligible UI overlay that removes that sense of competence from the game. You’re never quite sure on the exact details of what to do, so you guess – take a stab at it, so to speak.

I had a similar experience with Splinter Cell: Conviction, but that game was so freakishly dull as well as super confusing that I didn’t make it far. With Assassin’s Creed I’m more inclined to plug on with it to explore the disoriented feeling some more. There’s almost an authenticity to it – as if I really was transported into the body of an assassin in (English-speaking) Rome, trying to figure it out.

Like a really bad-ass Sam Beckett.

22 August 2011
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