Mobile devices and games might be far more popular, but for many people, the console remains the ultimate gaming device. Which is perhaps why we keep hearing about games on mobile devices with “console quality” graphics and sound — the iconic Infinity Blade series is a prime example of this. But while many games have tried to recapture the magic of console gaming, not many have been able to succeed in all respects. Yes, they may look good in the graphics department, but there are inevitable compromises, be it in terms of buggy and complex gameplay (the case when you port a console/PC game like GTA or Max Payne directly to a mobile device) and severely restricted versions (like the Batman: Arkham series).
Which is why we said “really” in our headline. No, it is not as if there are no compromises in Assassin’s Creed Identity. It’s just that the game felt as immersive as many of its editions do on consoles and PCs. This is perhaps the first Assassin’s Creed game on a mobile phone or tablet that, well, feels like a PROPER Assassin’s Creed game. Ubisoft had kept it in developer mode for a while and released it in a limited number of regions, but it is finally available for Indian gamers. And well, it lives up to the hype.
Of course, it does not come cheap (at least not for those used to sub-Rs 100 games on mobiles) at Rs 300, and its download size of over 2 GB is verily wince-worthy. But once you have surmounted those financial and digital obstacles, what you are left with is a very good gaming experience indeed.
The story of Assassin’s Creed is a mix of history and science fiction, with conspiracies, time machines and all sorts of machinations blending in and out! It has got so complicated from its rather simple “stalk and kill” roots that going into it in detail will take too long, though there are close to half a dozen books on the storyline, for those liking that sort of detail. Let us keep things simple and say that the game places you in Italy at the time of the Renaissance and in the shoes of an assassin and have to find out about a mysterious group of people known as The Crows. Yes, for the uninitiated, you play the game as a cloaked, hooded assassin who doles out death silently and by stealth. And hold the outrage for a while – you might deal in death but your heart is in the right place and you dispense fatality to those who deserve it. The game is arranged in a series of missions, most of which revolve around a bit of killing, but as you are just one person against a host of corrupt forces, you have to be discreet and watch your step.
It is here that the game gets into console territory. While previous mobile versions had made the whole “hunt, track and kill” process rather simple, Identity lets you wander around towns and villages and take your time in taking down your victims, just as you can on the PC and console avatars of the title. Yes, you can climb walls of most houses and get stunning bird’s eye views of your locales. Yes, you can jump into haystacks from a height. And yes, you can also blend into environs and crowds – it might seem odd, considering how garishly you are garbed – hood, cloak and dagger-laden sleeves, but hey, that’s the way it happens in gaming. Finally, yes, when push comes to shove, you can pull out your rapier and go toe-to-toe with the baddies (we would not recommend it in the later stages of the game, though).
The graphics are fantastic and rich in detail, from brickwork to carvings to the costumes of characters. We played it on the iPad Pro, and while Ubisoft recommends playing it only on an iPad 3 and above or an iPhone 5 and above (alas, it is not available yet on Android), we really think the game works better on the iPad Airs and the iPhone 6 series. On the iPad Pro, however, it truly shines. The speakers bristled with rustling grass and carried whispers of the people in the street, and even the unsheathing of daggers came with a satisfying ‘click.’ If you have not an iPad Pro, fear not, the sound is very good on earphones as well. Gameplay has been tweaked to suit touch screens, so running is as simple holding your finger down on the left of the display and moving in the direction you want, while pressing down on the right side gives you a 360-degree view of your surroundings. So gorgeous is the game that we reckon you will end up doing the latter as often as the former. You do have a few special attacks up your sleeve and acquire weapons and armour depending on how successful you are in executing your missions. Pun intended. There is plenty of replay value here as you try to improve your mission performance and earn more – thanks to the simple gameplay, you will keep going back for more.
No, it is not perfect. You cannot just go anywhere or climb any wall, as you can in most console editions of the games. Roaming rights are somewhat restricted and so are weapons and powers as compared to console editions; game and mission load times were long, even on our iPad Pro; and well, we still cannot understand why a game which is such a hefty download insists on pour being connected to the Internet while playing it.
But even with these shortcomings, we have no hesitation in calling Assasin’s Creed Identity one of the best hardcore games (as opposed to casual) we have seen on a phone or tablet. It is perhaps the first edition of the game that might tempt Assassin’s Creed veterans to actually play the game on a mobile device. Yes, we actually said that. That good. Should you download and play it? If you have the hardware, the bucks, an appetite for adventure and a love for spectacular locales, absolutely!
Available from: iTunes App Store
Tested on: iPad Pro
Price: Rs 300