Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles Hands-On

GameLoft is bringing Ubisoft's new breakout hit franchise to the Nintendo portable. But what kind of game is it? Find out here.

by

Given the immense marketing effort Ubisoft made in promoting its new series Assassin's Creed last year--coupled with the mere trickle of truly relevant gameplay information the company released over the last few months of development--it's not terribly surprising Assassin's became an instant hit upon release in November. It's even less surprising, given the game's success, that Ubisoft and developer GameLoft have fast-tracked a Nintendo DS version of the game, subtitled Altair's Chronicles, which is set for release next week.

Those hoping for the expansive landscapes and freedom to roam found in the console versions of Assassin's Creed will be disappointed because the DS game is far more limited in scope. It's essentially a side-scrolling action game, though the stages do give you a little bit of depth, so you can move into and out of the scene just a bit. The story and levels are presented linearly, rather than the free-form progression of the narrative in the console game. Most of the action we've played so far has focused on having us track down one assassination target after another. Obstacles in our way have included snakes, collapsing platforms, and spike traps--typical platforming pitfalls, in other words.

Assassin's Creed's runaway success has already brought the franchise onto the DS.

Fans of Assassin's Creed will note Altair is capable of pulling off some of his signature moves here, though we didn't find the controls as elegant as they were in the original game on consoles (or the general movement controls, for that matter). You can hold the right shoulder button to walk quietly and sneak behind an enemy, then hit A to assassinate him with the hidden blade. There's also an interesting torture minigame used for persuasion and interrogation, which is pulled directly from Nintendo's Elite Beat Agents. You'll see a simple diagram of your subject's body, and in order to apply intense pressure, you'll have to tap various numbered points that appear on the body as circles close in on those points. There's also a moving point you have to trace to contort the subject's arm into an unnatural position, which will make him finally cough up the information you want. There's another touch screen minigame for pickpocketing where you have to slowly drag the desired object out of your target's purse, without bumping into the other objects or the sides of the bag to arouse suspicion.

Combat is pretty straightforward in the game: You've got light and heavy sword attacks which you can chain into basic combos, and you can unlock more combos as you progress through the game. You can also find collectible blue balls of light, which you can cash in at will. Once you've acquired enough balls, you can purchase a health upgrade or increased sword power. (The prices increase for each subsequent upgrade, though.) Finally, you can block an enemy's attacks and counter them in a way that is similar to the console game, though the timing is a bit harder to pull off given the character model's less flamboyant combat animations. Lastly, we fought one boss, a circus strongman who swung a huge axe at us. When he embedded his axe in the ground, we had to approach and use our strong attack to hurt him before he could free his weapon. However, the requirements for the button timing and Altair's orientation to pull off this particular attack were a little bit fussy here for our taste.

There are a few stylus-based minigames peppered throughout the core action.

So far, we've seen no sign of the present-day setting or main character Desmond, both of whom featured prominently in the console version of Assassin's Creed. All the action in the DS game that we've played (which, admittedly, is only the first couple of hours) is set during the Crusades. Then again, the game's menus, health display, and other interface effects are all done in the same futuristic style you saw on the consoles, so we won't be surprised at all if Desmond pops up as we play further into the game. So far, Altair's quest has been focused on finding a particular chalice, which his mentor Al-Mualim seems bent on acquiring (though for what reason, we haven't learned).

Assassin's Creed on the DS has got the art style (if not the graphical fidelity) of the original game down pat, with pretty expansive environments and that distinctive Middle Eastern aesthetic. Our limited demo version of the game doesn't include any sort of peripheral modes or features outside of the core storyline game, so we'll have to wait for the final version to see what else is in here. Altair's Chronicles comes out next week, so we won't have to wait long.

Discussion

158 comments
Tr3vor93
Tr3vor93

some of you people need to calm down. the DS is not a joke, it was not really intended for hardcore gaming. i think that this game would be pretty good. (BTW, cartrages are FAR more reliable then discs.)

DooshBIGELOW
DooshBIGELOW

OBI- took the words right out of my mouth! WHY OH WHY do they waste good franchises on the DS!!?!?! this handheld is a Joke!!! this game would look sick on PSP!! look at god of war! amazing!! Cartridges are sooo 20 years ago!! GAH!! no more..bring these games to PSP pleeeaaassee!!

obi-dumb-one
obi-dumb-one

stay away stay away from me! it ruined ACs' name! no..wait......aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

eternalblade
eternalblade

Before this game releases in Australia. I just want to make this clear. "TO ALL ORIGINAL FANS SORRY IF THIS DOES NOT MEET YOUR STANDARDS, THE ONLY REASONS AC WAS PORTED TO DS WAS BECAUSE DS IS SELLING BETTER THAN THE PSP, AND THE COMPANY HAS OBVIOUSLY MADE A LUCRATIVE DEAL WITH NINTENDO".

The_Weekend
The_Weekend

here we go again ... another port that might tick the original fans off ...

Maximo03
Maximo03

If they had made a PS2 version of this, it would've been ported to the PSP. The title on the DS is a prequel to the original and also a completely new game... We'll find out if it gets ported to any other system, but if it does, I'm pretty sure the Wii and PSP will be considered instead of the big three, which already has the original, only because it's firstly on DS. I could be wrong though. Looks good to me, although it's more side-scrolling...

Steel_Rain777
Steel_Rain777

If they wanted to make it on a handheld, why not on psp?

K3ll3y
K3ll3y

I just got the game. I played the PS3 version and really liked it. So far this one is pretty good for being on a handheld. This game plays like an arcade game though, so I can see some people not liking it.

BontraXenderKyl
BontraXenderKyl

nah!! It won't be like the impersonating games that Nintedo copied from the good ones

tysse23
tysse23

I'll totally buy this game, I need some new DS games :p looks ok, played the ps3 version..beautiful..

freakyl-
freakyl-

I like the idea of the mini games, but not much else...

rybread13
rybread13

who cares if it does bad, if u liked assassin's creed for consol and u have a DS u wud want this to get more imput about the game. Open yur eye's ppl and look at the bigger picture!!!

Brizen__Beez
Brizen__Beez

As much as I would assume this game is going to be a flop, in a way it won't. Most DS owners are not above the Rated M for mature rating and have one way or another discovered Assassin's Creed through TV spots or the internet and would really like to play it. This is their way of being "allowed" to play something very similar to the console versions. Personally in my eyes, I wouldn't buy this game because I think it's lame and nothing compared to the actual gameplay of the original. But I have a sneaking suspicion that my little brother and all his 12 year old friends will gladly fork out their money to buy this game.

DIMANICUS
DIMANICUS

Why always "Chronicles" or "Revelations" or some other cheesy subtitle? Still, looks good, I have no DS, and I'm not swooning to get one from this game.

greatestMEalive
greatestMEalive

I don't think this will do well on the DS. If anything, I kind of think it'll be like the classic side scrolling, Prince of Persia. Taking away a gamers freedom is a bad idea.

Mmg247
Mmg247

Well it comes out today so hopefully in a few days someone will have reveiwed it =)

GrimBee
GrimBee

This game probably won't work too well on the psp, as a DS game its looks to be ok for a portable title. But a PSP game usually just tends to have the old "lets make it like a console game" asthetics that devs usually have for the PSP. With one analog stick and nothing much else (no touch screen) the gameplay would probably be very limited on the PSP - it was limited and basic enough on the consoles, and if it wasn't for the visuals - the game would be a seriously boring and predictable title. The DS, at least, has some gameplay mechanics in place that can mix it up a bit. If it passes by those bus journeys nicely then there is nothing to complain about. I would rather the DS version than a trimmed-down PSP version. This ain't no tomb raider anniversary! TRA on psp was exceptionally good for a PSP game, but assasins will seriously be toned down on the psp. And toning up what the DS has seems like a total waste. So the DS version seems just right... but thats just me.

esben1000
esben1000

This game looks like a Maybe, Maybe not. Everything can happen in my point of view. I always hope for good games on consoles whehter it's on the DS, PSP, Wii, PS3, X360 or PC. We all love games, and I like Assassin's Creed alot, so when this game airs here in the US, I will wish the best for this game. Ps. Stop saying this would be better on the PSP! I think both handhelds are great in different aspects. I won't hope that this only comes out on the DS - I would really much like also to see this coming out for the PSP. But what would the best thing be? I'll tell you, I hope that this game will take evrybody with storm, and later on there will be an Assassin's Creed game on all consoles out ther! Yes, both the Wii and PSP. Oh yeah, one more thing... I hate fanboyism! Skip that ***T! Peace here from Denmark. :)

chutup
chutup

Wow, I don't think they could have made it any worse if they tried. Flop confirmed.

spoon89
spoon89

LOL, a great game like assasins creed is coming out in the DS, i wonder how it is going to be, and i wonder what UBISOFT was thinking, i would have prefered it more on the PSP, but we shall see whether this game will be a success or just a wasteful piece of junk :D

jacob-goodlich
jacob-goodlich

why would they even attempt what they called the first next gen game on the ds, i admit assassins creed was dissapionting in some ways but im pissing myself for the sequal.

Bowser05
Bowser05

Shame on Ubisoft if this turns out to be a half-assed cash-in prequel. From the impressions it seems like an OK game at best. I guess we'll have to wait and find out. Gives me more time to find those darned flags :-\.

aussieboy911
aussieboy911

yeah im not sure if it was a good idea to put a free roaming game into a platformer. most of the fun of the original assassins creed was the freeroaming and i dont think that they will be able to get away with an arguably simple play mehanic when the world is half-topdown

godoo
godoo

well it seems like they are trying to make it good on the DS...i think consoles games that are "free roam" are hard to put on hand helds because they dont have enough power to support that, they have no choice but to cut it down to size

LordGavo
LordGavo

Hmm... The only reason I see it on the DS is because the DS is such a success, and it seems like it won't have much depth and is a easy way to get money. Still, graphics aside, it still can be a good game. Who knows. If it is, I might get it :].

grafkhun
grafkhun

IDK... seems like a cash-in... but we'll see.

Leanitus15
Leanitus15

Might be worth a look, it's about time I started getting games for my ds again lol

AEZAC
AEZAC

Grow up immature gamers. Graphics are not everything. This game has the possibility of being "good" Who knows, well see.

PumpkinBoogie
PumpkinBoogie

Hmm, obviously my previous suspicions are looking close to becoming confirmed the more I hear of this version of AC; the articles 'preview' of it (albeit they were just working off of a demo, but still....) seems to sound a bit as though even the writer that got to play it seemed a bit disappointed by it. As much as I'd like to hope for it's success (even though I don't have a DS just yet) , I somehow get the feeling that this was just built clearly for cashcow purposes. Seriously, they already have this thing ready and rearin' to go--what--only just 3 MONTHS or so 'after' the original console version....and they're pitching this as a 'prequel'?? And believe me I'm not say this as a put down to the DS, I admire the concept--but then at the same time even though most gamers know that AC is going to be turned into something of a franchise series, making a portable version this soon into the series rep I don't believe is a smart move. Ubisoft should have at least, did another big console version (perhaps slipping the prequel into that maybe even doing something for the Wii) , before doing a portable version. GOW didn't decide to do a 'portable prequel' only until almost 3-4 yrs after the original console's run; same with series MGS which didn't release the Portable Ops edition until quite a few yrs after a number of MGS PS2 versions. Sure the argument can be made that the DS has a large user base--which perhaps was Ubisoft's reasoning behind this--but I think it still not the best move they should have done for the series just yet. I hate to say, this might be one time I think Ubisoft might have made a misstep.

Ad-2cool4u
Ad-2cool4u

its probobly gonna be a let down, but if the story on the DS version has a tie in to the console trilogy, i'd play it for the story at least

madmanjim
madmanjim

it comes out next week what ?!!!! theyve only just anonced it this is gunna suck

Rurouni_Fung
Rurouni_Fung

Looks very interesting. It could be good. I think it would of been better if they didn't try to make it like the console version, and tried to make this a really good platformer.

Treblemaka
Treblemaka

DS is the most popular hand held gaming system in current production. Corporations need profit so why not give it a try?

Cookie2-0
Cookie2-0

lol does anyone else find it funny that nearly all big hit games seem to make there way onto the ds at somepoint

Pastehunter
Pastehunter

Man I wish this game will be good , but Im so affraid that it will suck :?

joey4uncw
joey4uncw

The game sounds really kind of disappointing based on the review. Hopefully it will be better than the way it sounds to me. I think I have a game like that on my phone. I was hoping they would make something new and exciting but sounds like the same ole same ole. I don't think I'll be partaking in this game.

Aerialslayer
Aerialslayer

Are you guys dumb or something? Look at this, PSP sucks, DS destroyed the PSP in this generation and will never ever beat the PSP. Sure the Graphics might be bad on the DS but the gameplay is outstanding, I've loved the DS since day one, I played th PSP and was VERY disapointed, let's face it, PSP is finished, done, never coming back. DS is the way to go. This game is going to be amazing and you all know it.

sktseany
sktseany

personally, i cant see it ding too well i think AC is only enjoyed with spectacular graphics but thats just me

gamer-clemm
gamer-clemm

I loved the Assassin's Creed for the consoles, I wonder if the DS version will be as good as the consoles.

jmartin1016
jmartin1016

Looks like a quick cash in. I love the 360 version, but this will problably fall by the wayside.

FFake
FFake

Omg, Resoultion of these screenshots is 430x242, DS resolution is 256x192... To all PSP and all f*cked up consoles fans - Yes, you have awesome, great, **** good Tekken: Dark Ressurection (which was on PSX 12 Years Ago, but with less kicks n' hits). But you don't have Trauma Center, Wario Ware Touch, Nintendogz, Picross DS and more... You, users of "next-gen consoles" have only bad 'remixes' of ooold hits: Awesome, grat, **** good Halo 3 is only bad copy of Quake (but with better graphic), Another Final Fantasy is the same game as first Final Fantasy, but with better graphic (and worse gameplay), Assasins Creed is bad copy of first Splinter Cell... Don't look only for graphic, play sometime Space Invaders, Boulder Dash or Bubble Bobble, and you will know, what I'm saying