(Review archived from November 4, 2018)
The Lost Archive has us assuming the role of Clay Kaczmarek who was the ill-fated predecessor of Desmond Miles in the Animus project. There’s not a whole lot of plot to be found in this expansion, but it’s here that we learn a little bit about the history of the enigmatic Clay. Obviously the main draw for Assassin’s Creed lies in its treatment of historical settings and characters. The ‘modern’ story segments have their charm as well, but they’re generally not considered to be the highlight of the series. So having an entire DLC expansion focus on a niche character in the modern AC timeline is an interesting choice at best. As a fan of the series, it actually was sort of interesting to learn about Clay’s history in the Order and with the Animus project, but I can’t imagine a casual player would find these story elements very interesting at all. In this regard, the Lost Archive dances right on that line of being “for hardcore fans only”
The gameplay elements are also very unorthodox from what one might consider to be a traditional AC style of play. The Lost Archive is a first person puzzle platformer. It’s not a style that’s completely divorced from the main Assassin’s Creed games. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the base game for which The Lost Archives is a DLC expansion, features segments utilizing the same mechanics in the Desmond’s Journey missions. These first person levels were unlockable in AC: Revelations by means of collecting Data Fragments scattered throughout the game. So if you’ve played AC: Revelations and are familiar with the Desmond’s Journey missions, The Lost Archive will feel completely familiar.
“The first person segments are my absolute favorite part of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations!”
– No one ever
The trouble with this approach is that these segments lack the pizzazz and immersion found in the base game. By contrast these levels feel bland, uninspired and empty. In this regard they remind me a lot of the VR Missions in Metal Gear Solid; an interesting curiosity but certainly nothing that could reasonably stand on its own (Does anyone remember what a smash hit Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions was? Yeah me neither). These levels work in the main game precisely because they serve as interesting diversions, a break from all the third person parkour action. Jamming several of these levels back-to-back is not quite as much fun. It’s not that the mechanics are bad per se; there are certainly some nice set pieces and moments of fun to be had, but ultimately The Lost Archives lacks a certain level of polish and sheen.
The setup here as I mentioned is that you’re moving through largely featureless platforming sections as generated within the Animus. Naturally you’ll encounter obstacles along the way in the form of moving blocks and laser traps of various types. To assist you through each section you can create your own platforms. Through most of the game you have two types of platforms, one is shaped like a flat rectangular plank, and the other one is shaped like a ramp. Late in the game you also gain the ability to create a spring block of sorts that launches you high into the air. The ability to create platforms at various heights allows you to ascend and descend through vast vertical areas. In some areas there are various ‘currents’ that will cause your platforms to move according to the whims of the current, and even float away if you let them. It’s telling in some ways that Portal 2, one of the runaway hits of 2011, released about 6 months prior to AC: Revelations. The Lost Archives (as well as the similar segments in the base game) almost feel like Ubisoft was trying to do something similar to Portal, a first person puzzle platformer relying on a specific quirky mechanic. Unfortunately The Lost Archive is neither as inventive nor as interesting as Portal 2 or even Portal (1) for that matter.
I know I sound like I’m being pretty harsh on The Lost Archives, but I don’t entirely mean to. I think it’s just so different from the base game(s) that it barely feels like it’s part of the AC series at all, let alone an expansion. And the sparsely interspersed plot is not particularly helpful in this regard either. If you really enjoyed the first person segments in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, you should definitely check out The Lost Archives. Likewise if you’re strongly invested in the lore of the series; it’s interesting to hear some of the history of Clay Kaczmarek, scantly dispensed though it may be. All others can probably skip this footnote to the main game. There are better first person puzzle platformers to be had out there.