Did you know that in 2014, the Assassins Creed franchise released 4 new games, 1 HD remake of a game, 2 fictional novels, 1 non-fiction novel and a board game as well? AC: Unity and AC: Rogue, the big releases of the year, did ok in terms of reviews and community response, but as for the all of the spin off games and novels, I didn’t even know they existed until I looked it up. Assassins Creed Monopoly is perfectly fine by me though.
So apparently we have assassins coming out of our ears, which is fine by me seeing as I don’t even seem to know about most of it, but unfortunately the stuff I do know about isn’t particularly good. Lets flashback to 2007, when the original and frankly seminal Assassins Creed game was released in all of its magnificence. I mean sure, it was a bit samey in places and not as feature heavy as the games that followed, but Assassins Creed had a great setting, a great story, great characters and it set the groundwork for something very special indeed. And that something special came just 2 years later in 2009, when Assassins Creed 2 was released to critical acclaim and took us on a trip through renaissance Italy in the late 15th century. And it was phenomenal. Everything that people had wanted from the first game was present here, more mission diversity, more features and more mechanics. But the real success of this game was in the narrative and the characters and the settings. With story of life, loss, political intrigue, war and conspiracy set to the fantastic and diverse backdrop of Tuscany and the Romagna and experienced by perhaps one of the most fondly looked upon protagonists in recent gaming memory, Assassins Creed 2 undoubtedly set the bar for the games that would follow it and sadly, the bar hasn’t moved yet.
The problem as I see it, is that instead of looking at all of the things that made AC2 great, like the story, characters and setting, Ubisoft just focused on one thing in particular. Content. Perhaps that’s a little bit of a vague word though, so to be specific, they saw that people liked all of the side quests and collectible stuff in AC2 and decided that these things would be the underlying selling point of all their future games. From a marketing standpoint I suppose it even makes a strange and slightly awful kind of sense, giving people more proverbial ‘bang’ for their buck. But it’s all just kind of a bit shit. Let me give you an example. In Assassins Creed: Black Flag, probably the most successful of the recent AC games, there is around 60 little islands to go and explore and perform your wanton acts of piracy, but unfortunately, as you’ll find when you get there, there isn’t actually anything interesting on any of them. There’s normally a viewpoint, an animus fragment and one or 2 other in-game collectibles, none of which are even remotely exciting. On top of that, when you scroll over the island on the map, it actually tells you what’s on it before you’ve even got there, which kind of makes it all a bit of a waste of time. Thanks chaps.
Well anyway, it’s E3 at the time of writing this and no doubt Ubisoft are gearing up to give us some Assassins Creed: Syndicate hype, which will most likely come in the form of a some gameplay and no-doubt feature many, many terrible cockney accents. But with the failure of last year’s Assassins Creed: Unity, is there actually any hope of getting the AC train back on the rails, or is it all just going to culminate in a mass of uninteresting worlds, dreary characters and awful stories, held together with the glue of hope and optimism. Well here’s a few things Ubisoft can do to make ACS better than it’s predecessors. Notepads out lads.
- Make the world worth exploring. It’s all well and good when you boast ‘our biggest game world yet’, but kind of a letdown when you then proceed to tell us the locations of every single thing in it. Instead of doing that perhaps, let people discover the mysteries and secrets of the world for themselves. Because that’s actually, you know, fun.
- Have an interesting character please. Perhaps the expectations for protagonists were set a bit too high with Ezio, but I think it’s fair to say that the characters we’ve been introduced to since have been utterly underwhelming. Haytham was moderately interesting I suppose, but ultimately rubbish and also, as it turns out, not a protagonist so much as an antagonist. Connor was even worse than Haytham and had about as much personality and passion as a plank of wood and as for Edward, well he was a pretty good pirate, but didn’t seem to have any motivations for actually being involved with either the assassins or templars. So yeah, a well fleshed out character that’s more interesting than a bar of soap would be quite nice. Actually it has already been announced that the game is going to follow twins Jacob and Evie Frye and you will be able to play as both of them, so that’s already a good start in my eyes. Also it’s the first main game in the franchise to feature a female protagonist, so yay for equality!
- Don’t rely on gimmicky stuff to make the game good. Bits of this game have already been announced and a small portion of gameplay has been shown. Confirmed terrible gimmicks so far are a grappling hook (presumably taking more than just inspiration from Far Cry 4) and carriages you can actually drive! Whilst vehicle combat does actually sound like a lot of fun, especially as this being marketed as some sort of Assassins Creed meets GTA (Grant Theft Carriage presumably), let’s face it, drivable carriages are not going to be saving grace of this franchise.
So just a couple of points there. It’s sad really, the reason so many fell in love with this series was because of how innovative and completely engaging it was and now it’s just become this stagnant, annualised heap of a cash cow. But hey, who knows, maybe this year will be different. Maybe this year Ubi will listen to the fans. I guess we’ll find out more at the Ubisoft press conference today (unless you’re reading this in the future). See you on the other side.