So this Christmas we welcomed a new baby into our household. No, I didn’t have a kid. Come on, this is Loregy. What I got was an Xbox 360.
Yes, yes, I can already hear your eyes rolling, “Welcome to 2006.” The fact is, I have a rather beefy gaming PC, so I held off on getting either a PS3 or an Xbox 360 since virtually all of the best games for those platforms can also be bought for PC. I do have a Wii and a PS2, and since we’re being long-winded here, credit should be given to my father-in-law who gave me my PS2, and my mother-in-law who snagged me my Xbox 360, which makes them, well, really crazy cool in-laws.
So why get the Xbox? Because there was an ever growing stack of games on my wish-list that I felt must be played on a console with a large TV.
Two of those are Assassin’s Creed 1 & 2.
No this is not a review of those games. Good god, they came out ages ago. On a personal note though, I studied way too much western medieval history in college (this book will teach you all there is to know), and a script of mine currently in active development takes place in Renaissance Italy. So, suffice to say, the Assassin’s Creed games are crack laced M&M’s for me.
I bring up Assassin’s Creed 1 & 2 here for one, soul reason: The Animus.
For those who haven’t played the two games (and this isn’t a spoiler), you play an average joe with some very dangerous ancestors. This average joe is kidnapped and placed in a machine called the “Animus” that mines his genetic memory allowing him to witness fragments from his ancestors lives.
Why is this so ingenious? Because it allows for a level of immersion that is… well… simply unparalleled.
The trouble with sandbox games is you invariably find the edges of the sandbox. Why do I have a fatigue bar when I swim out into the ocean? What’s this invisible wall at the top of the sky? Why are their road blocks and constructions crews keeping me within the city? Oh that’s right! IT’S JUST A GAME.
The Animus plot device smashes this like a planet landing on your house. By making the Assassin’s Creed franchise a virtual game within a game, the limitations no longer become the fault of the game, they are the fault of the Animus. Magical boundaries keeping me within part of the city? A health bar? Cut scenes? Oh that’s right! IT’S JUST THE ANIMUS.
The game’s limitations no longer strip you from the game. Instead, they simply yank the immersion back one level to not you the player, but you, the average joe hooked up to the Animus.
The only drawback I see is it’s difficult to imaging another plot device that could work this well. Why is that bad? The fear is other games will begin using this device (not literally “The Animus” but something similar) until it becomes sadly cliche.
At the end of the day though, this is a perfect example of what lore does for games. It obfuscates the mechanics. It lets you forget that you’re playing a game.