I used to be a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. The original game was the very first game I ever got for my Xbox 360. It was pretty darn good for being the first game in the series. Sure, there wasn’t a lot of weapon options or customization, and at times it could feel a little repetitive (eavesdropping, anyone?), but the game was still a hell of a lot of fun to play. I have fond memories of climbing various landmarks to take in the beauty of the game and then leaping rooftop to rooftop, dropping down to stab an enemy in the neck.
And the ending! I didn’t see it coming. The ending of the game revealed that the developers had so much planned for this series. I certainly did not see it coming! The Pieces of Eden, the end of the world, the spectacular conflict between Assassins and Templar — the first game showed that the series would have so much promise.
Assassin’s Creed II delivered on that promise. The 2009 entry in the series certainly refined the gameplay mechanics, adding more weapons, new firearms, and dual hidden blades. Better yet, the characters and story were more polished. Ezio was a great character who was explored in more ways than Altair was. The plot of the game focused on Ezio getting revenge for the murder of his father and brothers, eventually leading him to join the ranks of the Assassins. On his journey he also comes across Leonardo da Vinci, which is definitely one of the best ways Ubisoft used a historical figure to add to the story and intrigue.
I can certainly say with confidence AC2 is the best AC game. It was the peak of the series, but the next two games weren’t too shabby themselves. AC2’s sequels, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Revelations, which conclude the Ezio trilogy, didn’t do a whole lot to improve upon the game but they did advance the story. Each game added more that expanded upon our knowledge of the Pieces of Eden, the First Civilization, Subject 16, and the eventual end of the world. Some fairly criticized these games for their lack of innovation: It was around this time that the Assassin’s Creed game mechanics started to feel too familiar. Each game was almost identical and the only reason to get them was to further the plot. Sure, Brotherhood introduced multiplayer, but I personally never found it to be too exciting or worthwhile to play. Revelations introduced bomb crafting and the hook blade, but they just felt like gimmicks to try and make the game stand out. Some of the best parts of Revelations was when the player could play as Altair. These sequences gave him more depth and characterization that was lacking in the original Assassin’s Creed. Unfortunately though, Brotherhood and Revelations were mainly fodder to tide fans over to when Ubisoft would switch up the time period and really bring the excitement back to the series.
However, this was not to be. For months I eagerly anticipated Assassin’s Creed III. From the first few images released to the developer diaries, I was counting down the days to when AC3 would release. When I did finally get it I could not have been more disappointed. The first few hours didn’t even see you play as Ratonhnhaké:ton. Instead you got to explore the backstory of his father. Sure, having Haytham turn out to be a Templar was a twist I didn’t see coming, but those first few hours were still boring. Not to mention the fact that immediately afterward you have to hunt and play hide and seek as Ratonhnhaké:ton when he was a child. Once you finally do start becoming an Assassin, it’s only after playing through several boring hours.
Now, this is the part where I admit I couldn’t finish AC3, something I bet some of you also couldn’t do. I think I got as far as the Boston Tea Party, but I don’t remember playing any further than that. The story just didn’t captivate me as much as the series once did. I didn’t like the combat or setting — the combat wasn’t as much fun as previous games and colonial Boston and New York just didn’t have an Assassin’s Creed feel. I could barely run along rooftops and when I was able to they offered little variety or fun. And the free running through the trees! It seemed like a good idea but this mechanic was not very well done. Never before in an Assassin’s Creed game did I have to stop, survey the situation, and make a cognitive decision on where to run next. The parkour in previous Assassin’s Creed games flowed so much better.
Simply put: I wasn’t having fun playing Assassin’s Creed III. What once was one of my favorite game series quickly turned me off with a single entry.
If it’s not obvious yet, I certainly feel like Assassin’s Creed III was the beginning of the downfall of the Assassin’s Creed series. After being disappointed by the travesty of AC3, I was curious to where they would go next. To Feudal Japan (something I think plenty of people want)? To Ancient Egypt? Maybe they would instead stay in America and venture to the Civil War?
What did they decide, you ask? To make a buggy game about pirates and then slap the AC name onto it. Now, that may be a bit of hyperbole, but from everything I’ve heard about Black Flag, the game was for those who wanted to live the pirate life and did little to advance the AC story. I had zero interest in the game and elected to skip it. I also think this is where it started to become clear that Ubisoft was milking the series. Brotherhood and Revelations did nothing especially innovative for the gameplay, but at least they advanced the story. Black Flag just seems like Ubisoft wanted to continue the annualization of their franchise and make a quick buck.
We’re now a year removed from Black Flag, and where is the series now? Ubisoft just released Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the AC game with the most bugs and glitches yet. The game is almost unplayable. Just watch that video above: you’ll see Arno fall through buildings, climb on an invisible beam, terrible frame rate issues (OH MY GAWD), dumbass AI, and an overall unpolished game. That’s a sad statement to make seeing as how this game has been in development since BROTHERHOOD WAS COMPLETED!
Now, even after all of that, I’m not gonna lie: I actually kind of want AC: Unity. Just a little bit. For all of its bugs and glitches, the combat definitely looks overhauled and improved — the game is more of a stealth game now as opposed to stealth/action, emphasis on the action. I’m sure my reaction is just a knee-jerk to seeing an AC game that vaguely resembles what the franchise was like at its peak. But the game-breaking glitches are seriously turning me away from what once was one of my favorite game series. In a couple weeks, I’m sure my desire to play it will subside. I don’t want to support this game as it stands.
Ubisoft’s problems extend beyond the scope of the Unity itself. When a company is so terrible that people are comparing it to EA, you know that company has fallen. Aside from releasing a broken game that requires some serious patchwork, Ubisoft’s problems started when they made comments saying that there were no female assassins for the co-op missions because it would require double the amount of animations, double the amount of voice-work, and just extra development. Let’s not even get into the amount of microtransactions available, something that definitely shows the greed of Ubisoft.
Now, I haven’t even gotten to talking about Assassin’s Creed: Rogue yet. From what I have read, it seems like Rogue is similar to Brotherhood and Revelations: little gameplay tweaks but more story for the hardcore fans. Rogue features a Templar as the protagonist and gives players more insight into the Assassin-Templar conflict. It’s an interesting concept, but ultimately it just seems like a way for Ubisoft to make some extra cash by milking their flagship franchise for every possible drop they can.
So, where can Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed franchise go from here? Well, obviously the first thing they can do is make Unity playable. Once patches are released and the game can be enjoyed will we truly see how great the first AC game on these new consoles can be. From there, Ubisoft seriously needs to work on their reputation. The way they have been behaving is making EA look good.
After that they need to bring new life to the series. Go somewhere with the series that consumers will love. While I seriously want them to go to Feudal Japan, a game set in Ancient Egypt could be interesting. Medieval China, the Russian Revolution, or Ancient Rome could all also be entertaining locales. The historical setting is what brought me into the series and I hope they go somewhere new and exciting. Just, please Ubisoft, make me, and millions of others, love your series again. That’s what I want most.