For the last 10 years, Assassins Creed has graced our home consoles. Originally a new Prince of Persia game, AC was made at its own standalone title that borrows heavily from that franchise. I loved The Prince of Persia games, even the one where they played death metal and used naughty words, and as much as I wanted to enjoy the original AC, when it came out in 2007, I found it difficult to enjoy. The story focused on an ancient war between a creed of assassins (ohhh! I get it), and a secret organisation of Templars, which continued on into the future where people were able to use a machine; called an Aminus, to live out the memories of their ancestors.
Gameplay wise, were repetitive missions and dodgy game mechanics, not to mention the story that is hair pullingly confusing. The bosses were a colossal piece of dog-piss, and to this day, I have never finished the original game. I loved the setting, with all the major holy-lands being a five minute horse ride from each other, but things like the constant eavesdropping missions and the button that makes your horse move a little bit slower otherwise you were pulled over, could fuck right off!
I was going to sack off the entire series, but AC:2 looked impressive and thought I would give it a little crack. I loved the original’s climbing mechanics, and while the game was not perfect, a lot of the gameplay was fun, so in a brand new setting (Italy this time) with a new character (the legendary Ezio we all now know and love) I gave it a go and bloody well loved it.
They had really hit the nail on the head with this one and changed the game completely. While the core concept and all the things that made the original AC was still there, everything they added was moulding it into the franchise that would leave a powerful mark on the gaming industry. Of course it still had the bastard future storyline, that was just confusing as hell, but we will let them get away with it as the main focus of the game (playing as Ezio in Renascence Italy)
It was at this point that Ubisoft realised that they had a golden goose and decided to milk it for everything that it was worth by doing annual releases (and sometimes multiple games in the same year). First came AC: Brotherhood, which continue the story of Ezio and was a direct sequel of 2, picking up exactly where AC:2’s confusing finale ended as he formed the brotherhood of the creed of assassins (ohhhh! I get it!!!). The game itself was another piece of magic. It was actually better than AC:2 (probably my favourite of the series… other than the one everyone loved – Black Flag, which we will address in a moment), so the golden goose’s eggs were still master-class pieces of gold from the heavens.
It even added in a multiplayer, which was incredibly fun, when the fucking servers worked! Me and my fellow Bearded Robot bonded profusely over this and had some great times playing it.
At this point, AC was the series to follow. Everyone loved it. Unfortunately this was when it started to slowly slip from grace.
Next came AC: Revelations (a cliché “Re” word sub-title – see: Revolution, Revelations, Reloaded, Redemption, Requiem, Returned, Redemption, Revenge, Retribution, etc), which AGAIN continue on the story of Ezio. In fact this was Ezio’s final outing as it told the end of him, as well as explaining the end of the original AC and what happened to that assassin as well.
The game was more or less the same as Brotherhood, which was not a bad thing particularly, it just failed to deliver anything new. It added in optional tower defence mini-games (which, along with the multiplayer, would be one of the things that AC has added in and later thrown out over the years), but the story was lacking and the gameplay didn’t add anything new other than a hook blade which made Ezio’s reach a little higher when climbing.
Story wise, it followed Ezio as he made some dramatic revelations (ohhh!) about all the events that had previous transpired throughout the series at this point.
Revelations was not at bad game, but it was the beginning of the end.
After this came AC:3, with a new protagonist and storyline set during the American Revolution (maybe should have called it AC: Revolution?) and, while the gameplay was engaging as we went from the busy cities of Italy, to the forests of colonial America, the game was so goddamn boring! The protagonist was a native American, and I have to say that their tone of voice are not the most engaging, so making the main character a Cherokee made him quite uninteresting. The game didn’t actually begin for about 6 hours as we played as the protagonist’s dad, who then didn’t even turn out to be the main antagonist! More of a sub-baddie. The story was a mess and it was a chore to complete. It did add in boat combat, which became the backbone for the next game; Black Flag.
It did also finish off the future story line, bringing it to a confusing climax, killing the main protagonist of this time and seemingly ending it for good.
The future storylines of the next load of games became minimal and tried different avenues, such as being first person, and being more focused around puzzle solving. They eventually became non-existent and being a real afterthought that had no link to the main focus of the game; whatever period they were trying to tell.
It is worth mentioning that at this point, there were quite a few other AC games that had come out on various handheld devices, such as AC: Liberation (which was eventually ported across) but we are not here to talk about them as we are focusing solely on the main canon stories of the series and the big AAA releases on the major home consoles.
AC: Black Flag came next and literally blew us out of the water as it was a fantastic swash buckling adventure that took place on the high seas in the Caribbean. Here players felt that AC had really returned to its AC:2/Brotherhood roots and given us an amazingly fun game to play. It was brilliant. Everyone enjoyed sailing the black flag (ohhhh!!!) of the ship; the Jackdaw.
We played a loveable rogue, who becomes an assassin/pirate, as they build up their secret pirate island, discover buried treasure, raided towns, and took down the British (once again, following AC:3’s British murdering ways. I am sure French Canada hate us for some reason).
It had amazing ship to ship combat, that was intense, underwater wrecks, Mayan ruins, and so much more. It could have easily have been the start of a pirate focused game series and sacked off the AC shackles entirely (which I reckon Ubisoft should have done, and are regretting not doing it now).
Of course, as with every AC games, there is always something that grinds the gears, and this was the bloody eavesdropping missions. You needed to stay within a close proximity of a target, not being seen and not getting too close, whilst avoiding enemies and always being able to hear their long winded conversations. It was a drag, and was stripped out for the next entry.
After my disappointment with number 3, Black Flag was a refreshing return to what made the series so good, so the only way was up right?
Next game Assassin’s Creed Unity. This was an abysmal. The ship combat was gone and we found ourself in France during the French Revolution. Historical characters and events were once again shoe-horned in, into this buggy and terribly designed hell. It still had the core AC gameplay in mind, which makes the game playable, but overall AC: Unity was terrible. It was dull and boring and almost as bad as number 3, if number 3 wasn’t memorable for being such a disappointment following the Ezio trilogy.
Ubisoft’s main focus here was for 4 player co-op missions, and the unity between players (Ohhhh!!!), which always turned out crud, and for series that brought out a new game every year, unless you are Call of Duty, which seems to be able to get away with it, having multiplayer missions that are only online, is a terrible idea since after a year, there will be no one there to play them, making them only playable in the first year or so of this game’s release.
Even worse, the game had a companion app (as everything did at the time) and made it that you couldn’t complete the game 100% without it. All terrible gimmicks that have since been removed from the gaming industry (much like Loot Boxes – which is another drawback AC has tried to add into their series. I feel whatever is currently trending, Ubisoft will add it into their game).
I am sure you have heard of AC: Unity’s terrible glitches and bugs online, which became a huge controversial matter that managed to get a lot of media attention.
Well, thinking back now, it was deserved. Unity was just a big dollop of shit that made the series a laughing stock; a smear on the franchise that it has never washed off.
At the same time, as AC: Unity was released, due to the fact it was a next-gen console (Xbox One/PS4), they needed to make sure they had made enough money from the people who had not yet moved over (as this was still a thing back then), so Ubisoft released AC: Rogue for last-gen consoles (PS3, Xbox 360). This was a return of Black Flag in every sense, other than it was set in the north-eastern states of USA (which is not the best place for Ship combat, but it worked).
The game was a reskinned Black Flag that tried to recapture what had made that game so good, but mimicking it like John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Only this time around it followed the story of an assassin who worked for the Templars, this time around, as a ROGUE assassin of the creed (ohhhh! I get it!) who hunted down and killed the other assassins. It was marketed exactly the same as Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which said we could play as the baddies and kill Jedis. But much like that game, this too quickly switched sides and made the protagonist an overall good guy.
I will say that it was much better than AC: Unity, and the ending of this game nicely tied into Unity’s beginning, as we see the main protagonist of Unity as a child and find out exactly who killed his father, which was a really nice touch.
I did actually really enjoy AC: Rogue, but that might have been just because I was terribly disappointed with Unity and was glad I played them this way around (as Rogue would have been rubbish following on as a poor man’s Black Flag).
Next we headed to Victorian London for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. The gimmick of this game was playing as two different assassins (which didn’t really matter but apparently they had different play styles and abilities, but when you play the way I do, it doesn’t really matter as no one is safe from a hidden blade in the shadows), and had carriages to drive around in.
It was here that AC sacked off Multiplayer and focused solely on the story, which was okay. It was not anything amazing and right now, two years later, I have near enough forgotten all of it.
The setting was nice, but so have they all been. There were a lot more inside locations, making the city feel a lot more alive, as you can run through buildings to escape more than were previous included in older games. You can see I am stretching here.
Being set in London was good for a British person like myself. I found it interesting exploring, but if you are as interesting in the setting as you have been for the other games, then you would not have even noticed.
One thing I would point out is that AC love making really interesting stories and unique ideas only available for extra money. Recent DLCs for AC: Origins have fighting mummy’s and Egyptian gods, and AC: Syndicate had you on the hunt for Jack the Ripper, which would have been wicked, if the core game was good enough to make me want to buy the DLC.
While Syndicate was better than Unity, it was still a bit of a disappointment which made the whole game forgettable. As with every AC, I did actually do quite a lot of it, as each one I would have played about 30+ hours on it, doing maybe around 70% of the game (a lot of it is collecting shit which is just a colossal waste of time for the one hundred percenters), so I know that, when I was playing the game, I got the most out of it. As I know people who have just focused on the main story, and others who have sacked of the games entirely, but for some reason, with me, I do want to see them through to the end. Maybe it is something to do with the gameplay, as it is solid and always works fine (for the most part), as well as the rich environments that the games are set in. It is clear that a lot of people did their homework to make the games as immersive as possible, but they always lacked in more ways that one. I think I continued playing the AC franchise in hopes that another Black Flag or Brotherhood might squeeze their way through the woodwork and amaze us once again.
Ubisoft need to learn that while the core gameplay is engaging and fun, it is now box standard. They need to go big, not just in terms of the map (which is a hint to what my AC: Origins review will be about), but in the story of the game and the effort put into the missions.
Assassin’s Creed has the potential for greatness. It has shown us such things in the past and Ubisoft has taken a year off the annual releases to focus on making the best AC game that they can do…
Which will be my next Bearded Robot article, so check that out later today or in the next couple of days, as we embark on the origins of the creed of Assassins (ohhhhhh!!!!!!!).
To be continued in: Assassin’s Creed: Origins – Review!