The Questionable Future of Assassin’s Creed

Posted November 12, 2015 by Cody Rostron in Video Games

The first time I played Assassin’s Creed, I was enthralled. It was early in my gaming life, and seeing the presentation of such a large, sprawling world was a major eye opener. And I was genuinely surprised by its twist! Revealing that you are a man in the present day channeling his ancestors through a computer was just cool science fiction. Nowadays, people shout and scream about how awful all the present day stuff is–I don’t disagree–but I did have a soft spot for it at one point. And overall, I did have a soft spot for the Assassin’s Creed franchise up until Assassin’s Creed 3.

Eight console sequels later and my expectations get lower every year. I go into nearly every game with an open mind, so while I have no ill will towards the series, it’s more of a “Meh” feeling about it overall. Maybe it’s because Ubisoft release a new Assassin’s Creed game every year. But then, so does Activision with Call of Duty and I don’t have a “Meh” feeling about that series. Maybe it’s because I fell so hard for this franchise early on that I am just now getting to the hangover.

The excitement of looking at an open world has faded; every game has an open world now. The characters never felt as important or as engaging as Ezio and his family ever did. The cool science fiction twist that the first game started has become more ancillary and random. Once all those frames fall away, you’re left with gameplay, something that Assassin’s Creed doesn’t excel at.

I don’t know about you but these people stick out in a crowd.

The peak was Assassin’s Creed 2, which isn’t just my favorite game in the series but one of my favorite games of all time. I love Ezio, I love the dialogue, I love the maps all across Europe, and I love the Villa you call home. Once I heard that the developers behind Assassin’s Creed 2 were coming back to make a game set in the American Revolution, my head nearly exploded.

I preordered that game the first moment I could. Funny enough, it’s the last preorder I’ll ever make. Assassin’s Creed 3 isn’t bad, but even worse is that it isn’t great. It’s just somewhere in the middle. Connor is a boring character and so are the A-to-B style missions. But more importantly, the American Revolution is a terrible place to take a parkour-driven action game. Every house is two stories high, and climbing through forest trees just isn’t as engaging as jumping from rooftop to rooftop during the renaissance era. The one thing it got right was ship combat–so much so that Ubisoft green lit a whole separate game just about pirates–but ship combat wasn’t enough to fix my broken heart.

Alternate Title Assassin’s Creed: Arrrh

It wasn’t until Assassin’s Creed: Unity hit that I realized I don’t need to like the Assassin’s Creed games anymore. In fact, I don’t even need to play them every time they come out. Grand Theft Auto and Fallout make impacts on the market because of their absence, so maybe I just need a break. I skipped Rogue and Unity, figuring I was going to skip Syndicate too, but once I heard outlets compare Jacob and Evie with Ezio, my ears perked up. And honestly, as stupid as it sounds, I wanted to play as a female assassin again, someone that brings something new to the table.

15 or so hours later I’ve come away from Assassin’s Creed Syndicate with a positive reaction. Not a great one but certainly better than any in recent memory. Eighty percent of my time was spent playing as Evie, and she is far more interesting to me than her brother for a multitude of reasons. She’s stealth focused, a history junkie, and seemingly more considerate.

That being said, this series still relies on old tent poles. Seventy percent of the time you’ll climb or walk the right way, and look great doing it, but that other thirty is annoying and shouldn’t happen. In my younger days I just thought I sucked at video games but now it’s become a hindrance on the game itself. It’s things like that which keep me from enjoying Assassin’s Creed the way I used too. I’ve played better stealth games, I’ve played better action games, and I’ve played better RPGs. Jack of all trades and master of none isn’t always a good thing. These additions, like the grapple, are interesting, but nothing more than that. Remember the hook blade from Revelations? Yeah neither do I.

So now that I’m lukewarm on Syndicate: What comes next?

The future of this franchise is interesting. It certainly isn’t going anywhere, and now we have a movie to build up too. But the one thing that everyone complains about is the framing device, the present-day animus jumping. Early on, I thought Desmond’s story was going somewhere. People would complain and whine, but I would defend it saying, “No! it’s all leading to this really cool conspiracy theory place involving religion and history!” Instead, it ended with Desmond killing Kristen Bell and dying at the alter in the next game. There was also some space god.

Once all that happened, I jumped to the other side of the argument: Just drop the animus stuff. I’ve always been more interested in the historical politics around the Assassin’s and Templars than the war between them. However, I get the feeling that Ubisoft doesn’t want to drop the present-day stuff because then everything before it feels meaningless. Well at this point, I think we all realize that it’s meaningless either way.

But the games seem to react the same way Ubisoft reacts to its audience: very fly by the seat of your pants type stuff. “People like ship combat? Let’s make two games about that.” “People like the Batman Games? Let’s give him a grapple gun.” “People want the American Revolution? Let’s give them that.” I want it all to mean something. Make a game that has a tight beginning and end. With the news of a soft launch for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (soft being relative), maybe this will shake things up for the franchise. Maybe they’ll finally give us a Tokyo assassin, or maybe they’ll finally make a modern day game. No animus, no Templar/Assassin war.

The only thing we know is that the games won’t stop coming any time soon.

About the Author

Cody Rostron

Writer, Graphic Designer, and Artist, But most importantly a huge nerd.