Here’s a fact about me, about 5 years ago, Assassin’s Creed was my favourite video game series of all time, which looking back at it now must make me incredibly easy to please. So here I offer my views on the entries in the series, and detail exactly when the series fell off for me.
Surprisingly, the first game in the series is 10 years old this year, don’t hold out on a re-master though as the first game is as repetitive as an amnesiac in a hall of mirrors. It also started the series obsession with tailing missions, my biggest bugbear of the AC series as whole, why in a game about an assassin would I want to follow someone for half the game?
The original game’s repetition is one of the reasons why I didn’t finish it, that and I’d get bored about three hours in back tracking on seamlessly endless horse journeys, blimey this isn’t a good start for my ‘one-time favourite series of all time’ is it?
In the first game you play as Altiar, during the time of the crusades in a far east environment, going through what must now by referred to as: ‘the Assassin’s Creed plot’ wherein you find Templars and stick sharp things in their necks. Altiar suffered from a debilitating condition however, as he had as much charisma as a dead fish, which as a protagonist in a video game isn’t the best thing really.
This games also introduced us to a bridging future narrative, wherein someone in Modern Times is forced to live through the memories of an ancestor to find Assassin artefacts, our future protagonist is Desmond Miles, who was kidnapped by a company run by Templars to live through the memories so the Templars can find artefacts before the Assassins.
The game was released to ‘mixed reviews’ in 2007 which was apparently enough for Ubisoft to order a sequel and apparently ask that it be less boring this time…
Assassin’s Creed II
From a berk in a dressing gown in the crusades to a berk in a dressing gown in Renaissance Italy now, as the series shifted gear into ‘interesting’ territory now, as we shift into the shoes of Ezio Auiditore de Firenze, also known as ‘the best protagonist’ we’re introduced to a young Ezio chasing women and generally causing mischief until his family are executed for a crime they didn’t commit and he discovers that his father was an Assassin, he dons the robes himself in a quest for revenge and to clear his own name.
A cynical part of me thinks that Ezio was an overcompensation for the previous protagonists lack of likeability and charisma by being an overconfident Renaissance man, but as a protagonist there are certainly worse characters.
This is the game that introduced more assassination mechanics, such as air assassinations or hiding spot assassinations, which are a welcome addition to the series, it certainly draws less attention than running through a crowd with sword outstretched.
The setting, characters and story all improved from the last game, oh and the combat is much better too, it also introduced the series’ habit of including historical figures, in this game it’s Leonardo Di Vinci, who actually has a purpose to be there, he upgrades your weapons and equipment by deciphering texts you collect during the game, you also use his flying machine for a few missions, honestly though Leonardo might be the only historical character in the series that served a purpose, in later games it just felt like they were there just for the sake of it.
The biggest weak spot in the game however, is the final boss fight, which without wanting to spoil, is essentially a punch up with a fat bloke, the ending itself however gave the game some life moving forward, introducing a spectral being known as Juno, who is part of a God-like race that built the world before humans came along, the artefacts the Assassin’s and Templars are chasing are ‘Pieces of Eden’ left by Juno and her people, setting up more sequels to come.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Still in the shoes of Ezio, still chasing down members of the Templars, only this time training new Assassin’s to do the killing for him, which goes against the whole ‘Assassin’ thing really.
Following the events of Assassin’s Creed II, Ezio’s family villa is destroyed by Templars as Ezio moves to Rome to plot against the remaining Templars, while buying all the buildings and liberating districts, laying the foundation for Ubisoft sandbox games for years to come.
We may have moved city but this is essentially more of Assassin’s Creed II, which is good because ACII was great, it was nice to step back into the shoes of Ezio and get some closure on the dangling plot threads from II.
This should have probably been the end of Ezio’s story, but it wasn’t to be, we had one more visit to our Italian friend yet…
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Still with Ezio, now in his mid-fifties, we move away from Italy to the city of Constantinople for more Assassin recruitment, and a trip to the first AC setting, as Ezio visits Masyaf, and the old Assassin stronghold, and of course, liberates Constantinople from the Templars. Also, future Desmond is in a coma in the Animus, after spending too much time in it, and can only wake up by living through more of Ezio’s memories.
So, what does this game add? Well it adds more to Altair’s story too, as we see the last few years of his life and the fall of Masyaf as Ezio searches for Altair’s library. It also adds a hook blade, which lets you climb to ledges one foot higher.
While it is interesting to see the conclusion to Altair’s story, this game feels more like an expansion than a sequel, the Ezio sections were more arbitrary, with a half-baked plot concerning searching for keys to a library. Had they just released the Altair sections as DLC, it may have made more sense than stretching very few ideas into a full release. Still, though, Ezio is still fun to play as and the spark was still there gameplay wise so despite it being a slightly arbitrary expansion pack sequel it wasn’t completely bad.
Next week I’ll cover the series from Assassin’s Creed III to present day, detailing the series fall from grace, and it’s last few games of greatness…