In an industry where imagination is considered a capital flaw, the good ol’ American buck is the only god the publishers pray to and known series are milked without shame, it’s remarkable how a title like Assassin's Creed managed to see daylight. True, Ubisoft Montreal Studios already had the resurrection scroll in their curriculum vitae, but when the first title of a brand new franchise is eagerly awaited by everybody, maybe there's some fire where the smoke comes from. For those who learned how to travel to alternate dimensions and just returned, Assassin's Creed revolves mostly around Altair, an assassin that apparently lived around the times of the third Crusade. In the beginning, during the year of our lord 1191, he's sent by his master – Al Mualim – to find the treasure of the Knights Templar, located in Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, and to bring to Masyaf, the assassin's stronghold.
Due to his arrogance however, Altair rushes to kill Robert de Sable, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, at which moment the entire missions fails miserably, and the other two assassins that followed him are taken in for questioning… more or less. Returning humbly to Masyaf to report the outcome, Altair helps to repel the Templar's attack on the fortress but is stripped of his rank by his master due to his failure to abide to the Creed, with the general idea being “Don’t question me again, or we will nerf you”. To regain his lost weapons and abilities, Altair is sent to murder nine men, which can be found in Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus, the idea behind that being that it will bring peace to the Holy Land, although Richard the Lionheart and Saladin are still “negotiating” the terms.
There is more than meets the eye however, as besides the cryptic information you will extract from the unfortunate victims, there’s also a science-fiction element in play, which is presented right from beginning and gives a “cool” aura to everything and elegantly explains some of the components of the game (such as the health bar).
After a quick mission in Masyaf to identify the traitor that helped the Templars, Altair will then travel to Damascus. To get there, you can either walk or use the level 70 epic mount called a horse. After leaving the assassin's stronghold, you enter a generic area called “The Kingdom” – pretty much a no man's land between cities, filled with Christian and Muslim soldiers that have nothing better to do than hunt you down, towers which you can climb to get a better view of the surrounding (View Points), a few villages and flags which you can gather, which you can find in all the cities as well. The game is not Windows Live! Enabled, however, which means that the flags will not offer achievements for you to brag on the forums with, as they do for the Xbox 360 version. They do increase your maximum hit points, should you choose to collect them; I chose to ignore them.
Once you have reached Damascus, you will have to climb one of the towers in order to find the Assassin's bureau, which exists in every city (apparently with no one knowing about it) or you can take the long way round and look for it “manually”. But before you try to kill some poor fellow you will need to approval of the officer in charge of assassin activity in every city, and for that you will need to gather as much information about your target as possible: what does he do, where does he hang around, who are his friends etc.
Enter the investigation missions, with their number being extended by four when compared to the 360 version. The simplest way to do start the assassination is to eavesdrop on various conversations, by sitting on a bench and listening to what people a few steps away are saying, you can pickpocket certain documents or use certified interrogation methods (read fists) to extract information from some poor bastard that happens to know a thing or two about your target.