Last week I wrote about the Assassin’s Creed film and how it met my expectations of being a bad film. I spoke briefly about how I had been distrustful of Assassin’s Creed in recent years, with bad decisions, game releases and of course the film generally not making me as excited as I used to be. It could be because I’m getting older and starting to enjoy more specific things these days (I always did but still…) but for the purposes of today’s editorial, I wanted to explore the reasons why I liked Assassin’s Creed in the first place and why that has changed.
So my first Assassin’s Creed was actually the second one – I didn’t have a PlayStation 3 until 2009 – as a Christmas present. I have a lot of fond memories playing Assassin’s Creed II, following Ezio Auditore’s adventures throughout the Italian Renaissance, meeting influential figures like Leonardo Da Vinci, Rodrigo Borgia and Niccolo Machiavelli. It was also my first stealth based game and I found myself enjoying the mechanics involved, coming up with creative ways to complete a mission. I like to think I played Assassin’s Creed reasonably well and definitely contributed to my enjoyment of stealth games in the future.
The most important aspect of Assassin’s Creed that I enjoyed though was the history of it all. I learned a lot of new things from Assassin’s Creed II that I had no idea about, as I was doing GCSE’s at the time and focusing on Civil Rights and WWII. Assassin’s Creed served as a springboard for me to learn a lot about the Italian Renaissance, the Borgia’s and the Ottoman Empire. (Assassin’s Creed: Revelations) I won’t go as far as to say that Assassin’s Creed inspired me to pursue history further but it definitely helped.
I played all of the Assassin’s Creed games from II to Unity – I did go back and play the first Assassin’s Creed and enjoyed it too – I found a lot to enjoy in all of them. II was my favourite for getting me into the series in the first place. Brotherhood was good, and I think I was one of the few among my friends who enjoyed Revelations. When Assassin’s Creed III came along I also liked playing it, but I understood that it had problems – didn’t have a compelling protagonist for instance and he made a LOT of mistakes. Of course, there was one aspect of III that everyone liked, which was the ship combat that was introduced, something that would be expanded upon in 2013.
When Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was announced I was sceptical at first – a main game released so soon after III – but as it turned out it quickly became one of my other favourite Assassin’s Creed games. The Golden Age of Piracy, the expanded naval combat, interesting story – except the modern story, I stopped caring about that years ago – and of course the music, all combined in to a great game that I could go back to again and again. What I find funny is that whenever I watch Pirates of the Caribbean, I want to play Black Flag, and when I play Black Flag, I want to watch Pirates. I guess that’s how much I get into pirate based material.
Of course, there was something yet to come. In 2014 the game which started the process of losing additional interest in Assassin’s Creed; a series that I had once adored for it’s integration with historical events, it’s gameplay and even the conspiracy theory stuff at first. But then, Assassin’s Creed: Unity came out, and everything changed (okay so that’s a bit overdramatic but I wanted to get the point across). When it was announced, I was excited; the French Revolution was an era in which Assassin’s Creed belonged. And after it was fixed, there was still a great deal to like, as much as before and maybe even more.
When Assassin’s Creed: Unity released, it was one of the glitchiest games that I had ever played. There were funny bugs to be sure – I enjoy the Elder Scrolls games where bugs are essentially nostalgic – but then there were the game crashing variety ones, which would ruin the game for me. Yes, they fixed it but it still failed to diminish that first experience for me. The fact that it’s developers thought that it would be okay to release Unity in the state that it was in dropped my respect for them immensely. I couldn’t truly enjoy that game afterwards. I had some hope that they would take some time in order to learn from their mistakes.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (then called Victory) was leaked by Kotaku soon afterwards.
It was like the end of Wizard of Oz when the old man behind the impressive image of the Wizard is revealed; the wonder was gone, replaced by a cynical fear that they didn’t truly care about quality any more. I have heard since then that Syndicate was good, but I just can’t bring myself to play it now. I’ve been told that it explores the Industrial Revolution pretty well and the twin protagonists were interesting characters, but that just doesn’t interest me any more.
Which brings me to my original question; what caused me to stop liking Assassin’s Creed?
Several reasons I suppose; the annual release schedule that they had, trying to match Call of Duty? Sticking to European and American settings rather than Feudal Japan or Imperial China? Or other interesting periods? The fact that it’s essentially the same game over and over with very little change? Assassin’s Creed has been immune to true to change for years, but I don’t think that’s the reason. I like repetition – Pokémon, Lego games, Legend of Zelda, Star Wars – when it’s done right. But there’s this sense of hopelessness to Assassin’s Creed and it’s unwillingness to change, not willing to go to different places in the world, releasing games year after year and not bothering to check for bugs. Not to mention the Free-to-play elements that have been brought in and the fact the gameplay is a bit dated these days in comparison to better stealth experiences. This all combines together to create a situation that I don’t particularly enjoy.
If you’ve read this far, you probably think that I hate Assassin’s Creed now. The truth is, I really don’t hate Assassin’s Creed. I just think that in recent years decisions have been made that are wrong, and I don’t think that I can bring myself to be excited for these games anymore.
Ever since Assassin’s Creed: Unity, I have not played any Assassin’s Creed or any other Ubisoft games for that matter, because I don’t really trust them anymore. I hope that I’m proven wrong – trust me, I do – but for the moment, that hasn’t happened yet. Maybe this yearlong break will benefit both Assassin’s Creed and myself. I suppose I have to remain hopeful.