I plan on looking at Assassin’s Creed: Unity, but since I recall hearing in the Co-Optional Podcast (great podcast, watch it!) that it’s easier to trust someone’s word when you know more about their history with a particular game or genre, I’ve decided that, before reviewing a game in a franchise that I haven’t covered before (read: any franchise, since I just started doing this), that I’ll first give a brief overview of my history with the franchise: what I liked and didn’t like; and my standing on the franchise overall. That way, it’s easier to see if I have a bias I forgot to disclose in any way, or if someone would even find my opinion valuable. If they thought AC3 was bad and I thought it was good, and they vehemently disagree with why, they know they can’t really trust my opinion. I was going to do this at the beginning of the Unity review, but it got pretty out of control, so I decided to make it its own separate thing. With that in mind, I give you my history with Assassin’s Creed.
I first played the original Assassin’s Creed about a year after release. IT was in one of those “two for one” sales (other game I got was Ghost Recon I think) at an EB Games (Gamespot Gamestop for Aussies). I didn’t like it. It was just really tedious and repetitive in everything it did. The story was just boring and while having some intrigue, I wasn’t old enough to enjoy it. Altair came off as incredibly bland to me, and his initial “betrayal of the Creed” just made no sense to me other than that he was a massive douche. The Abstergo stuff was interesting, but didn’t really grab me. The most I remember is the example with a bird and migration at the beginning. The assassinations themselves were really formulaic and the monologues targets gave in their deaths was absurd. But I loved the free running, especially since my main platformer growing up was Mario. It felt really great to be able to climb anything in this open world, and I loved synchronising viewpoints and diving into hay bales. It was a memorable experience.
Assassin’s Creed II
My parents bought be Assassin’s Creed II when it came out, and I fell in love with it. Everything was better. The setting was beautiful — particularly Venice, which just looked gorgeous –, the missions were varied and the combat felt better. Ezio was much more likeable than Altair, and was unique at the time for being a charming gentleman in comparison to the more gruff characters of Gears of War and Call of Duty. His development, while simple, was nice, from brash young man seeking revenge to disciplined assassin. Plus, he had really good voice work. The supporting characters all felt right at home in the setting (Rosa and Altair are still my OTP), which also allowed for more interesting missions, not just scenery. I’ll always remember the Carnevale, which was just breathtaking. The modern stuff got a little more interesting, what with the whole bleeding effect thing and how they removed the UI for freerunning, but it still didn’t do anything for me. The music introduced us to the epic theme song that would be adopted by the entire series, and really helped sell the majesty of everything you did. II is still the best game for me for how much it improved the series and for its setting, which I’m still sad hasn’t been visited as much as it deserves.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
I borrowed Brotherhood from a friend (gave him InFAMOUS 2) a few months after release, and while it was fun, it just kinda happened. I don’t have much memory of it, but being able to rebuild the brotherhood and use your assassins freely was nice, though it didn’t feel revolutionary or anything. Ezio became kinda grumpy, but was still a good character, and this was a good stage in his life, when he was truly at his peak. The main bad guy, Mr. “I Look Like the Protagonist of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow“, was a good villain, because he was kinda charismatic in his doucheyness. The modern day stuff didn’t do anything for me, and the ending just kinda happened. I didn’t grow attached enough to these characters to really care what happened to them. A game that was obviously padding time, but still fun for what was essentially an expansion pack for II. Plus, it was fun to play around in Rome.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
I remember being somewhat hyped for Revelations because of the Woodkid trailer. The idea of playing as Altair again did interest me, even if he was a boring character before. He, and the franchise, had matured and learned lessons, and seeing Ezio as an old man felt fitting, as we’d been with him on his journey through this epic life of his. I bought it about a month after release. While the game itself barely changed anything at all, with the tower defense game being especially pointless, it was still good for just getting to see the end of this cycle of games. The ziplines and lifts were fun, and the platforming in general, especially those little freerunning-only sections, felt tighter. Also, while I’m sure trying to get full synchronisation was in other games, this is where I remember it at its best – The challenges were do-able, and challenging, but not outright impossible. But by this point, any new addition just felt like it was there so they could say they changed something. The bombs added a little strategy, but were an afterthought in the grand scheme of things, and by this point, Ezio felt overpowered as all hell. The overall plot was bland, but the progression of Ezio’s character was what to play for. He’s now an old dude lamenting a lifetime of missed opportunities, and just wants to let go of this life. The Desmond stuff was once again there, and once again boring. I gave zero shits about anything he did, and he came off even blander next to his counterpart-esque ally Clay. The ending sums up how I feel about Ezio’s games, “I’ve seen enough”. Sure, there was some fat, but overall, it was a nice end to a trilogy, but by this point, I needed something that felt much more different if I was going to play another Assassin’s Creed.
Assassin’s Creed III
III was the first game I was legitimately hyped for. I followed its development, marked the date, and pre-ordered the… uh, whatever edition that came with the statue. I was ready. When the game actually came out… Eh. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t that good either. Some of the challenges for getting full synchronisation were outright bullshit, like the infamous final mission (I tried for so long, but eventually just wanted to get through that level and its bullshit level design). The story was just bland, with Connor being very cliché and boring to me, as was the setting (I live in Australia, we give no shits about American history). Also, bad ending for the Desmond story, but at least it was now over. Seriously, they tried to make him interesting by giving him daddy issues, but he just came of as really whiny. Also, he looked like Adam Sandler in the new engine. Also, I kinda wiki’d Daniel cross… and he was underwhelming in the game. But there was some good. The focus on momentum was awesome, with the mocap really emphasising moving fast, and being able to pass under and over objects was pretty awesome. And the tree running (puns!) was pretty awesome as well. As was the little “go inside buildings” thingies. But, the bad frame rate just made it all lose something. I also may have been one of the few who liked the homestead missions. It felt like a nice little relaxing home, and I liked how it felt and looked. I especially like how the questline ended. I didn’t take to the naval battles as much as others though, and I honestly don’t know why. While the game was overall a disappointment and not as good as it could’ve been, it was okay if only for the new engine. The things unique to the game itself, like the story and setting, were what let it down. And the framerate, which jsut made the game really unpleasant. I actually only finished it late last year when I was bored, as I just couldn’t finish it in 2012 n(turns out I as literally two story missions from the end).
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Since I took late 2013 and almost all of 2014 off from triple-A gaming, I didn’t care about Black Flag. But I bought it on sale late last year (December-ish), and it was awesome. Edward Kenway is much more likeable than Connor, with a very relatable goal. “It’s not about need, Caroline. I want food that don’t make me sick. I want walls that hold back the wind. I want a decent life.” This simple line made him instantly relatable to me and I feel just about anyone who just wanted more than they had, even if they didn’t need it. Also, he’s voiced by Matt Ryan, Constantine himself (yes, the show isn’t very good, but he is). Seriously, not since Ezio have I seen such a charming son of a bitch. I’m still on the fence about whether or not Black Flag can top II in my ranking of the AC games, but Edward’s story just felt so much more self-contained and relatable. This game’s story just works. It’s about Edward’s coming of age, leaving his life of piracy behind at a time when piracy was being left behind. It’s about Edward accepting responsibility and being a better person. So yeah, story is awesome. The modern day stuff gave us more intrigue regarding Abstergo, and while there are issues with the silent protagonist (why do they do ANY of what John tells them to, really?), it was genuinely interesting. Also, Melanie Lemay is adorable. Gameplay is great as well. Mostly because the towns are smaller, there’s almost zero frame rate drop, and that was on old consoles (I got the game again for free with my Xbone and there, it runs much better… evne if Edward’s beard throws me off). The fluidity from III is still there, but with even more seamless integration of the various mechanics. Stalking zones are much more prominent, and chests are opened insanely quickly (Edward just… kicks them open). The sea battles are very fun, especially boarding other ships. The free running works very well in these parts, and I just love them. Even trying to get full synchronisation was easier, if only because you didn’t have to complete all challenges in one run. The sore spots I have with the game are the underwater sections, which are slow and suck, and the amazing amount of tailing missions, even in ships, that the main story missions had. Also, slight hiccupt with sound, where the last hit in a chain kill will most times not make a proper hit noise, and with slow motion, it just looks awkward… those are all the flaws…, this game was awesome.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
Because I enjoyed Black Flag so much, I bought Rogue during the same sale (it was long). I really only did it because I was bored, and honestly, I didn’t give the game the time it deserved. I mainly just beat the main missions as quickly as possible and moved on (which was easy, because the campaign is short but sweet (no tailing missions seemingly at all)), because I’d heard that the game did away with all the tailing shit, and that meant I could actually follow the story! I think I also wanted it over with quicker mainly because it just didn’t grab me like Black Flag‘s environments… and its protagonist’s accent was so… stereotypical. Seriously, he sounds like one of the first three voices you think of when you think of Irish accents. Since it was on older systems, being in the main cities also meant dropped frame rate, though it was more tolerable than III. The story, while having an interesting idea, didn’t really know what to do with it. Shay is just an Assassin turned Templar, so he plays like an Assassin. And even if they really had to do that, why not let us play as Haytham? Surely that’s how you should end the “Kenway Saga” (seriously needed to call it that, huh guys?). Plus, he’s just a lot more charismatic than Shay. The modern day stuff got worse, with you playing a silent protagonist I could’ve sworn was supposed to be the dude (or dudette) from the last game, but totally wasn’t. Also introduced a really annoying substitute for John from I.T., who just annoyed every fibre of my being. Also, she talked shit about Melanie for being ‘peppy’… peppy is better than outright obnoxious. Also, a guy I think was called Otso Berg, who is apparently the protagonist of the multiplayer modes from previous games, who I swear was trying to cosplay Deathstroke the Terminator. The new mechanic of hunting assassins was fun when you were just fucking around, but the assassins being everywhere during missions also makes them a big nuisance, and not in a good way. I wish they were removed while you’re on missions, it just felt unfair when trying to get full synchronisation. There’s also a big learning curve to fighting assassins, especially since I didn’t play multiplayer in the other games, but it’s a solid addition to the formula, though not one I’d like to see again. The best part of this game is the North Atlantic environments, and I wish I still had it (traded it in), because I never got around to doing the side stuff. I will revisit it one day, when it goes on sale again, because the ship stuff did get better, especially the chase cannons and the fact that the Morrigan was modified from the Jackdaw so that you didn’t jump onto the lift every time. Also, no underwater levels! Seriously, I’ll totes get back to it 🙂
So there it is, my history with Assassin’s Creed, which should be taken into consideration when reading my review of Unity. This was my first mature platformer franchise, and still one of my favourite sandbox franchises. It genuinely took risks with its settings for a while, and had an interesting idea for a narrative. I still look back fondly on my time with Assassin’s Creed II, and it’s one of my favourite games of all time. Same goes for Black Flag, particularly because of the writing, even if the tailing and underwater missions (!) let it down a little.
Originally published here on the 10th of March, 2015