Two posts today, what is going on? Well, in all seriousness, I had a rant burning in my chest about this and I needed to let it out.
I have tried several different methods to approach this post, but it all became too convoluted and wordy in my last attempts. Instead, I’ll jump straight into this. I know I’m not the only one, but I’m getting pretty sick of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Now, I won’t lie, I loved this series and I put a lot of hours into the games. Upon the release of Assassin’s Creed III, I found myself hating the game much more than I ever anticipated. In comparison to the previous games Connor, the Mohawk protagonist of the game, was the least relatable character I had ever come across. He was arrogant, naive and bratty. I couldn’t sympathise with him enough to actually care about what happened to him. Alongside this, the modern day story line had also run dry. The sudden changes in Desmond’s appearance was off putting and the forced nature of trying to tie in the game with the Mayan prophesy of 2012 was just too much.
I realised that the beginning of the franchise’s downfall was after the second game, when Brotherhood was released. I enjoyed the game very much and it’s only in hindsight that I see its flaws. Brotherhood was a continuation of the protagonist’s story from the second game, Ezio, who was beloved by the majority of the fanbase. Now, initially I didn’t have a problem with Ezio returning, but I’ll get onto that later. Brotherhood was limited in scope as the player could only be in one city, Rome, whereas in the previous installments there were a wide range of places to explore. Admittedly, the map is fairly accurate as I vaguely knew my way around when I actually went to Rome. But in the game, it just didn’t sit well with me. After having the freedom to explore several different cities, I was suddenly restricted to only one. It’s a beautiful city, and the game makes full use of it, but all I wanted to do was jump on a horse and go to other places as I had done in previous games. I feel like I need to be at least fair to the game, as it wasn’t entirely terrible. New types of AI had been introduced, multiplayer had become a thing and the story was still pretty good (which is what I mainly played the game for). I thoroughly enjoyed how the games tied in historical events to their established story, it was fascinating and educational in a way. The game had come out at the same time as when I was watching the TV series The Borgias, starring Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI. Alongside this, but I was learning about ‘worldly’ Popes during the Renaissance in my history class at school. It was like I was learning while not being in school, and I like to learn so I was in it for the story.
Now, I did mention that I had an issue with Ezio as a recurring character. I love the guy, but he was there for 3 games and all I could see was an amazing character growing older and older. I’m sure the developers meant for him to look tired of this seemingly futile war with the Templars but this seemed like too much. Ezio is in his 50s during Revelations, and I did like this game for its incorporation of Altaïr, as his story was left untouched after the first game and I’m quite fond of that section of the lore. Again, the game was limited to one city, this time being Constantinople (present day Istanbul), although there is one sequence of the story where the player is taken to Cappadocia, only to be thrown back into Constantinople with no escape. The design of the map is amazing, I wouldn’t knock an Assassin’s Creed game for the aesthetic aspect of it as they are very well done. However, by Revelations, I was beginning to think that less and less love was going into these games. Alongside this, Ezio is looking significantly older and worn (out) and as he is a fan favourite, it made it even harder for people to accept Connor into the ranks of these great characters. I found it difficult to switch to Connor after playing as Ezio for 3 games and having Altaïr’s name mentioned when he wasn’t a playable character.
And so brings us to Assassin’s Creed III. How I loathe this game. I did like a few parts of it, such as the new hunting feature and the inclusion of the bow and arrow and rope darts, but that was about it. I hated Connor as a character, as I’ve already explained but allow me to elaborate. There were times when Connor was acting out of spite towards other characters, and I’m all for a flawed protagonist as it makes them seem more real, but in this case it was like he was acting that way simply because he felt as though he could. During cutscenes where he would behave aggressively towards Achilles, the closest person that the character has to family by this point, had me feeling completely exasperated. Understandably, the native American is angry at the English settlers for burning his home, in which his mother died. I could agree with this reasoning behind his revengeful outlook on life, but when every sequence of the game has him asking or screaming “Where is Charles Lee?”, I eventually grew tired of it. Ezio’s revenge-fuelled quest was much more tastefully done, as he begins as a weak character who is brought to his senses and starts to see the long term plan and wider picture. Connor is narrow minded and acts on impulse (he’s like Cersei from Game of Thrones, she’s really not as smart as she thinks she is and neither is Connor). Not only this, but Ubisoft had decided to set this game in 18th century America, where certain missions included the removal of the English flag to replace it with the American one. Of course, the game is set around the time when the Declaration of Independence was signed and so the tensions between the Americans and the English were high, but this almost seemed like too much. I was definitely getting a lot of ‘Murica vibes from this game, and that just made it laughable.
It’s because of Assassin’s Creed III that I completely avoided Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag until a couple of months ago. I was convinced that I would never play another game in the franchise until I was told by a couple of my friends that I would enjoy it. They were even saying it was the best one since Assassin’s Creed II (2009), which is a compliment and a half seeing as that game is probably the best game out of this series. I have to admit, I am greatly enjoying the seventh (yes, seventh, and that’s not including all the spin-off games) installment of the franchise. There is so much to do that I don’t even know where to begin sometimes, I am completely spoiled for choice and it’s been a long time since Assassin’s Creed has been like this. Playing as a pirate, who is neither here nor there in terms of the war between the Assassins and Templars, is also extremely refreshing. It is an interesting take on the series, almost as if you become an outsider looking in on the situation. Edward is also a very likeable character, speaking his mind as he sees fit but a reasonable man who is also deeply set in his way of life. It has its issues, like all of the Assassin’s Creed games, but I’m glad I went for it. However, despite my positive response to this game, I do not think I will be buying Unity (2014) or Syndicate (2015).
Upon release, I heard that Assassin’s Creed: Unity was suffering from a lot of bad press. The game was delayed for 2 weeks, which you would think was to make last minute improvements and changes to create the best possible product for consumers. Wrong. The game was plagued with graphical issues, problems with connectivity and even the frame rate was criticised. The developers also had not listened to the criticisms of their previous games, outlining that the restrictive nature of only having one city available was a hindrance to the gameplay experience, and Unity was set solely in Paris. The game had also caused controversy in France, as the developers were denounced for their portrayal of key historical figures during the French Revolution. This solidified my refusal to buy it. If the developers can’t produce a top quality game then why bother giving them my money? Rock Star worked on Grand Theft Auto V (2013) for 3 years to create something brilliant, and while I personally am not a big fan of the series, it was the best selling game of the year for a reason. Ubisoft are churning out Assassin’s Creed games in a similar fashion to Activision and Call of Duty. The company knows it’s making good money from these games, but that is no reason to create a sloppy and superficial game. The industry needs to become more about the quality of the video games and not the amount of money it makes on release. Ubisoft even released Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (2014) at the same time as Unity for the older generation consoles. If this isn’t a ploy to practically take money out of our pockets, then I don’t know what is. After this catastrophe with Unity, I figured there would be no point in wasting my time with the upcoming game, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, which will be released later this year. As far as the teaser trailer goes, I am not even remotely interested in this game, despite its setting being in Victorian London.
If Ubisoft were to take more time in creating these games, then they would undoubtedly be much better. Instead they are used to bring in quick money, which gives them a chance to create more careless and depthless video games. I am happy to continue playing the first, second and seventh installment of the franchise but that will be about it as I feel they are the only ones worth buying. I can cope with the technical issues I have found within these games because I actually enjoy them and I will probably review them in the future. I would happily play Unity or Syndicate, but I am not willing to buy them after witnessing the gradual decline of the quality of these games. I’ve been hearing good things about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015), so perhaps I’ll turn my attention to video games that put an emphasis on the calibre of the game rather than the amount of income it brings in.