What comes to mind when you hear Assassin’s Creed? Assassins versus Templars? Order? Brotherhood? Faceless, skeleton-less eyeballs? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) With the next installment of the series set to release October 23rd, I wanted to revisit some of my favorite (and not so favorite) bits of the past seven console titles. So let’s catch you up, shall we?
We will begin with the game that started this epic rollercoaster that is Assassin’s Creed – ACI. The very first AC game featured the Syrian master assassin Altair Ibn-La’Ahad in the midst of the crusades. Altair is cocky, perhaps a little arrogant, and thinks he knows what’s best. The tune soon changes when a raid on Solomon’s temple goes horribly wrong due to Altair’s brashness. Because of this, Altair is stripped of his rank and has to start anew as a novice to prove himself worthy of the title of an assassin. The storyline was perhaps the best one out of all the AC games, but the missions easily take the award for worst. If you managed to get past the repetitive actions of visiting the bureau, obtaining your target, hunting for the same clues over and over, running back to the bureau to get your feather, finding the target, killing them, staining the feather with their blood, and running away from your pursuers and into the safety of the bureau – (imagine doing that about eight times and you got yourself Assassin’s Creed I) – then you did pretty well for yourself. The story, however, captivated the audience and left us wanting more. Enter: Assassin’s Creed II.
Ezio Auditore da Firenze, whose difficult birth we witness at the very beginning of ACII, is the son of a rather wealthy banker (who moonlights as an assassin) in Florence, Italy. Ezio is a pretty boy and typical womanizer with no care in the world. That is until his father and two brothers are accused of treason and hung before his very own eyes (tear jerker right there). Thus, we set upon the adventure of reliving Ezio’s memories as he ascends the ranks of the assassins and becomes the leader of the Brotherhood. We follow Ezio as he makes friends with important historical figures such as Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli (and here I thought I had cool friends). After discovering the conspiracy of why his family was executed, Ezio (for one reason or another that I have yet to understand) decides to spare the head bad guy, claiming that he was no longer a threat since the assassin’s possessed the Apple of Eden. Wrong!
Cesare Borgia from Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, son of the Pope (aka the head bad guy from ACII) storms the Monteriggioni villa without warning, not even allowing Ezio the decency to rest a bit. Templars take control of the Apple, our beloved uncle is killed off, Ezio is scolded by Machiavelli for sparing daddy Borgia in the first place, and, following these events, Ezio sets off to Rome to retrieve the Apple and put an end to Cesare – AC Brotherhood in a nutshell. For a title that promised us answers, AC Brotherhood left us scratching our heads even more. And as for AC Revelations, the scenery was beautiful and being in the heart of Constantinople (present day Istanbul) was a vacation in itself. But we had more questions than answers after Ezio’s trilogy. We do know that Minerva used Ezio to speak through him to Desmond, but you can’t tell me that we avoided near death umteen times, climbed a bazzilion buildings, ran from police until our legs felt like jelly – and all for a message (however important) to be delivered to Desmond hundreds of years from now. Talk about a let down. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any lower than that, your expectations are shattered with the release of ACIII.
Need we talk about this one? Can we just pretend it never happened? Please?!
Okay, fine. We will “cover” it. It sucks. Moving on.
Just kidding. About the “moving on” part, anyway. The protagonist of ACIII, Connor, is smack dab in the middle of the American Revolution. Although the setting sounded promising (one that was brought up many times by AC fans prior to ACIII’s release), our dear beloved assassin left much to be desired. Coming from the high of Ezio, the man whose birth we witness, heartaches we felt, and trials we endured, to Connor (one of the most monotone, personality lacking video game characters I have encountered – or perhaps it just seems that way when compared to his predecessor) was a major disappointment. Needless to say, I cringed as I forced myself to finish the game. After all, the epic ending where all questions would be answered was awaiting me… at least, that’s what I thought. In honor of not spoiling anything for those that were smart enough to forgo ACIII (hey, who knows, you might want to play it after this), I will end my opinion of this game here. Moving on – for real this time.
Ahoy, matey! Me thinks we have finally reached the bloody best game since ACII – AC: Black Flag! Edward Kenway, grandfather of Connor and the “protagonist” of Black Flag, was easy to connect with, much like Ezio. He stumbled into the assassin role due to his greed, switching identities with an assassin-gone-templar who was about to earn a pretty hefty sum from the templars for betraying the assassins. We saw Edward struggle with being the “hero,” always opting for what benefitted him the most (even to the point of compromising the assassin order). It was refreshing to play as a character who was a little more selfish than your everyday protagonist. The story was beautifully written and the slow character development on Kenway was flawless. Easily the second best AC game in the series (our beloved Italian will always remain first, sorry).
(Yes, this actually happened.)
Next we have Arno. Arno, Arno, Arno. Our occasionally faceless Arno. Perhaps AC Unity would not have been as bad if it weren’t so glitchy, but after forking over sixty bucks fans had a right to be angry. My assassin was falling through perfectly sound roofs (one too many croissants, I suspect) and dying mid mission, multiplayer was all sorts of messy, and the characters were not as interesting as they could have been. We first see Arno Dorian as a little boy who accompanies his father to a grand palace. While his father attends to his tasks, Arno is left to his own devices – which include chasing a cute redhead through the palace and stealing an apple or two. Upon return to the place where his father had told him to wait – a place that is now crowded with people who are in shock – Arno fights through the crowd to find the source of the commotion: his father’s lifeless body on the ground. Like Ezio, we see Arno’s dad die. Unlike Ezio, we were unable to connect with Arno. Maybe Ubisoft tried to mash Ezio and Edward into one character with the tragic family death and the alcohol addiction (let’s call it how it is – Edward ran to the liquor whenever there was an upset he couldn’t handle) and perhaps Ubisoft thought they could capture our hearts with Arno. Sure his love story with Elise was adorable, but after the fifth time of Elsie not listening to Arno and charging into a fight recklessly, I was ready to break up with her myself. Not to mention her getting angry about Arno choosing to stay behind and save her instead of chasing her father’s killer! The audacity! Maybe a ‘thank you” is in order, hmm?? The relationship was set up to fail from the start, with Arno’s protectiveness and Elise’s attack-first-ask-questions-later attitude. Shucks, I was really hoping for a happy ending there, but in true Ubisoft fashion, I was disappointed.
There you have it! The good, the bad, and the just plain weird glitches of Assassin’s Creed. Given the series’ ups and downs, I have a good feeling that the creators have learned from their successes and their mistakes. I couldn’t be more excited for our next hero Jacob Frye. Please don’t disappoint!