The Assassin’s Creed series is a popular Ubisoft franchise. It hit the shelves since its release in 2007 and I’m not surprised if you consider it a household name. Ubisoft manages to release a new instalment in the hugely popular series nearly every year since its inception. The company now even has the 2016 Assassin’s Creed movie under its belt starring Michael Fassbender, though we previously argued that not all video games inspired movies were a success.
Like any popular series, it is only a matter of time before it peaks and starts to fail. Ubisoft hit that milestone in 2014 with the release of Assassin’s Creed Unity. This wasn’t always the plan, though. It started as something completely different.
Sands And Assassin’s
If you play Assassin’s Creed the chances are you have at least heard of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The game received critical acclaim upon its 2003 release and it is the root of the Assassin’s Creed Series. Patrice Désilets the creative director came up with the idea for Assassin’s Creed while working on Prince of Persia. His studies into the history of the Middle East brought new ideas to the table. Instead of playing as a prince why not an assassin? An assassin who’s job was to protect the new prince.
Désilets marketed his game to the higher-ups at Ubisoft as a spin-off Prince of Persia title. Prince of Persia: Assassin. Ubisoft rejected his idea and opted instead to make a full game. Prince of Persia: Assassin became Assassin’s Creed.
Assassin Creed’s Series Take the Leap of Faith
After 3/4 years of development, Assassin’s Creed was finally released in 2007. Critics and fans agreed that this was a good game. They could smell potential and it was only the beginning of what was to come. Globally, Assassin’s Creed sold 11.27 million copies (combined Xbox 360, PS3 and PC sales).
It introduced fans to the Animus, Abstergo, Desmond Miles, Templars and the hidden blade. The story left off on a cliffhanger and fans could not wait for the next entry in the series. Every little piece of info contributed to the hype.
The Release Of Assassin’s Creed 2
Assassin’s Creed 2 was released in 2009 to greater critical acclaim than the first. It surpassed the originals sale numbers, selling 11.37 million copies. More likeable characters? You got it. A bigger and better story? Yep. It did everything a good sequel should do, take what the original did and improve it. When Assassin’s Creed 1 started we didn’t know much about the character we were playing as. Altair was already an assassin. Whereas in Assassin’s Creed 2, we see Ezio when he was literally being born and we see him grow as a character. By the end, we witness him becoming a master assassin.
So what about the modern day story with Desmond Miles? Honestly, I loved it. I know I’m in the minority when I say that the modern day story was one of my favourite parts but I loved the way they handled it compared to the first game. Instead of just walking around a room, you could fight and free-run as Desmond. This sequel was simply amazing and it started the yearly releases of future games. When I completed the game, I remember asking my dad, “how long does it take to make a game” and he replied, “dunno, maybe a year?”. How I now wish he was wrong.
Pride Before The Fall
This was when things started to get a little messy and out of control. A year after Assassin’s Creed 2 was released, its sequel, Brotherhood was released. Sadly, it wasn’t the jump in quality that Assassin’s Creed 2 was from 1. It felt overly familiar to Assassin’s Creed 2. There were new additions, such as: training a group of your own assassin’s and sending them out on missions. To me, it just wasn’t enough of a change. It just felt like a big expansion pack for Assassin’s Creed 2. It also showed in sales that I wasn’t the only one who thought this as Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood sold 6.93 million copies. That’s almost half the sales of the game before it. This didn’t stop Ubisoft, they still released another AC game the year later. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.
In Revelations‘ defence, it tried to be different. No longer were we in Italy but Constantinople. By this point, I was getting bored with the series. The story didn’t grab me, the modern day story was abysmal and Ezio didn’t have the same appeal he once did. It was Revelations when I realised that Ubisoft no longer wanted to tell an interesting story but just wanted money. I remember the story in 2, I remember the story in Brotherhood but if you held a gun to my head, I wouldn’t be able to recount the story in Revelations. It tried to do too many things: finish Ezio’s story, finish Altair’s story (which was unnecessary) and progress Desmond’s story. Its modern day story was forced and didn’t progress anything. Sadly, this was only the beginning and all Ubisoft cared about were numbers and Revelations sold 9.17 million copies.
Empire Starts to Crumble
With sale numbers rising, Ubisoft continued to release yearly games. The next release was Assassin’s Creed 3. I was insanely excited for this entry, not since Assassin’s Creed 2 had I been this excited for an Assassin’s Creed game. With the concept of America during the revolution period and the conclusion of Desmond’s story, I couldn’t wait. When I finished it, it made me angry. The ending to Desmond’s story really showed the greed of Ubisoft. It shows the player two options for an ending, then Desmond decides what he wants to do without player input. I know that it wasn’t necessary to give the player a choice but it would’ve been a really nice touch as I preferred the ending where the world gets destroyed and has to start again. Instead, Desmond chooses to sacrifice himself to save the world (typical hero nonsense).
Desmond’s ending would’ve been fine if it didn’t make Desmond as a character completely pointless. It would’ve been a fine ending to the series but the bad ghost alien lady lied to Desmond and escapes the cave anyway to destroy the world. Which is what Desmond thought he was going to stop. So why was this decision made? Because Ubisoft wanted an excuse to carry on milking the series. It should’ve ended here.
But The Story Limped One
Not only was Desmond’s story incredibly disappointing, but the past story-line was also disappointing. The story itself was fine and in parts, showed a lot of promise. However, I absolutely despised Connor. If there’s one thing that’s going to ruin a story for me, is to hate the protagonist. He was a bully and arrogant to everyone he met for no reason. It was hard to rally behind him. Fans seem to agree that this was a turning point in the series, as before this game, every user score on Metacritic had been over 7. Assassin’s Creed 3 was given a 6.8 by fans.
Even with fan backlash, AC3 sold 12.68 million copies, which was the highest grossing game in the series. So even if fans didn’t want it, the train didn’t stop.
Assassin’s Creed… Redemption?
The year later, we yet again saw another Assassin’s Creed game: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. This game managed to change the formula up, this time around you play as Edward Kenway, a pirate. It focused more on gameplay rather than story, which is fine if the game is fun to play. Luckily, it was. Whilst I got bored with the boat battles after a while, it seems that fans didn’t and have been clamouring for another Assassin’s Creed game similar to this. It was so popular that Ubisoft announced Skull & Bones at this years’ E3, which seems like one big game based on the mechanics that AC IV showed. Also, Edward was Welsh (represent).
Whilst the past story and gameplay won a few fans back, what about the present day story? It was practically none existent. Yes, there was a story there but you have no idea who you’re playing as, you don’t get given a name and these sections were in first person (which was a little strange). This was because Ubisoft just had no idea where to go with it. They had Desmond’s story planned up until AC 3 and after that, they had nothing. It really felt that it was there for the sake of being there, which isn’t going to win over any fans who felt iffy on the present day sections from previous games.
Assassin’s Creed IV had the advantage of being released on more consoles, as it was released on last and current gen systems. It sold 13.09 million copies between all systems, which beat the sales of AC 3. Which only encouraged Ubisoft, even more, to push out games in the series, no matter how unfinished.
Empire in Ruin
The confidence of Ubisoft after the release of Black Flag was almost as high as Sony’s when revealing the PlayStation 3. They thought they could do no wrong. Which was why the next year, Ubisoft thought it was a brilliant idea to release two Assassin’s Creed games on the same day. 2014 saw the release of Assassin’s Creed Unity and Assassin’s Creed Rogue. Not surprisingly, it was a complete mess.
Unity was a disaster and had a 6.7gb patch not long after it was released to try and fix the issues gamers were having. Unity became a joke and spawned countless memes online. We’ve all seen this monstrosity and I’m sure some still have nightmares about this.
Bugging The Fans
A number of bugs and glitches in Unity ruined Assassin’s Creed’s reputation (which became apparent with the next game). It holds a 4.9 user score on Metacritic which is the lowest scoring game in the series. Not only were fans disappointed with it but critics also agreed that this was a low point for the series. Edge Magazine said that it, “offers a staggeringly beautiful world filled with unfinished systems, ugly cash grabs, and a string of missed opportunities” and the Playstation Official Magazine UK said, “Bugs really throw Unity under the guillotine”.
The release of Unity completely over-shadowed Rogue. Rogue came with the disadvantage that it was on last gen systems only, where Unity was only available on current gen consoles. Maybe this was because Black Flag sold more on last gen? Ubisoft didn’t seem to realize that a year had passed since then and more people were moving on to PS4 and Xbox One and leaving the 36o and PS3.
With the backlash for Unity, the game sold 8.21 million copies. Which was lower than what Revelations sold. Rogue suffered greatly, because of the over-shadowing from Unity, Rogue had the lowest amount of copies sold in the entire series. Selling only 2.30 million copies.
Ubisoft still pushed with yearly releases and wasn’t aware of the damage done by Unity until they released Syndicate. Syndicate was better received by fans and critics but fans were done with the series, with the game selling 5.18 million copies. Which is low for the series.
Syndicate was the first game in the series that I didn’t run out to get day one. Unity broke me. I used to love the Assassin’s Creed series but the longer it went on, I realised that they no longer had a story to tell. They were just being made for profit. I get that games are made to make money but most aim to do something more than just exist. They want us to connect with characters, feel emotions and most of all, have fun. Since the release of Black Flag, they’ve been jumping around from idea to idea, leaving characters behind. Everybody loved Ezio Auditore because we spent so much time with him, we felt like we knew him. Then Ubisoft jumped from character to character and never gave us enough time to get connected to characters.
From what we’ve seen of Origins, it looks promising. They’re completely revamping the gameplay. It looks similar to Witcher 3 and that isn’t a bad thing. As soon as the gameplay trailer started at E3, I realised it was going to be a lot more open when on top of the screen it said, “region discovered”. You can pick up weapons from bodies and it looks more like an RPG. It reminded me of the first Assassin’s Creed, from the sound and environment. This is the first time since Black Flag that I’ve looked forward to an Assassin’s Creed game and I think that the year off definitely helped. Whilst Origins isn’t the most original name for a game, I really hope it breathes life back into the series.
Assassin’s Creed has been through a lot. From starting off strong, a mediocre middle and an abysmal ending, Origins is looking to right a lot of wrongs. Suffice to say, it will be completely different to any other Assassin’s Creed game that has come before. Fingers crossed.