Alex expresses his mixed emotions of love and frustration towards Ubisoft’s biggest franchise.
I have bought Assassin’s Creed every year since 2007; from the original Assassin’s Creed on the PlayStation 3 to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag on PlayStation 4 just a few weeks ago. I’ve therefore witnessed first-hand the evolution that the franchise has undertaken over the past 7 years, an evolutionary trajectory that I think needs to be fundamentally changed in order for the series to truly flourish.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Assassin’s Creed games. The in-depth historical realism of each game always impresses (as well as teaches me about eras I knew nothing about), the game completion system gives each instalment a level of replayability that’s well worth the asking price and the core gameplay of free running has always been an addicting pastime.
Even now I’m ridiculously enjoying Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, just as I have ridiculously enjoyed every past instalment and will no doubt continue to do so with future games of the franchise.
However, the Assassin’s Creed games have been experiences that are as consistently flawed as they are enjoyable. The controls are never as sharp or intuitive as they could be, the combat system is still lacking depth or challenge, the stealth mechanics are poorly designed, and there are always glitches. However instead of attempting to fix these core issues, the developers have instead focussed on adding new features to each instalment in order to present the product as an entirely new Assassin’s Creed game.
Not only are these features often pretty mediocre and boring (the “tower defence” mechanic in Revelations to name just one, and I’m already feeling apathetic towards Black Flag’s strategy mini-game in controlling Edward Kenway’s fleet), but the result is that Assassin’s Creed games are increasingly becoming this mixing-pot of a variety of hit-and-miss features and gameplay types.
Sometimes this approach has worked. The addition of the naval combat gameplay in Assassin’s Creed III was highly loved and praised by many, and is now the defining feature of the latest instalment. However this was partly because none of the negative features of the on-land gameplay which I listed above can be found when controlling a ship, thus making the experience a noticeably less frustrating one but still with all the entertainment that Assassin’s Creed usually provides. Thus if Ubisoft spent less time adding new ideas to each game and more time on perfecting the classic gameplay of Assassin’s Creed, the same could be said of the experience as a whole.
To help accomplish this, Ubisoft could also abandon their yearly release of the franchise, extending the release period to two years. Not only would this quell the sense of apathy and illness of “sequel-itis” among gamers by reducing the frequency of the franchise’s next release, but it would give the developers more time to make sure that the new instalment would be complete in every sense of the word.
This would allow Assassin’s Creed to rise above the flaws of its predecessors and truly become the game that is as grand as it has always aspired to be.