Think Assassin’s Creed might not be as great as everyone thinks it is? You’re not alone. Nick D. takes you through his top 5 reasons why Assassin’s Creed is a terrible series.
I don’t like the Assassin’s Creed series, though I don’t begrudge those who do. Like many, I was excited at the build up for the first Assassin’s Creed. The idea of playing an assassin and getting to explore ancient cities in a quasi-open world environment was simply too irresistible. Then the game came out. Everything started off well – the game’s promise seemed delivered. But there was something festering underneath the slick package, something I couldn’t quite place my finger on until I was at least 5 hours in. It turns out that it was my old friends: bad writing and total lack of depth. When these jaunty fellows showed their faces, the game took a nose dive, and I never felt even remotely interested in continuing the game.
Cue Assassin’s Creed 2. Relying on the ‘fool me once shame on you’ paradigm, I avoided it. That is, until the game scored 90s all over the place and caught my attention. “All right,” I said. The concept of Assassin’s Creed is still good. Maybe this was one of those sequels that took the great ideas from the first and completely renovated the game to really make those ideas pop. ‘Fool me twice shame on me.’ I enjoyed playing the exact same game for about another 10 hours before complete and utter boredom and contempt washed away all incentive to play.
My experience with other Assassin’s Creed games since have been limited to what I’ve played at friends’ houses, but everything I’ve seen has not, in the slightest, impressed me. Call of Duty gets so much flak for presenting nearly identical game after nearly identical game every year. Assassin’s Creed deserves the same.
1. Yearly Release Schedule
I wanted to deal with this issue first because it taints many of the core problems of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed has multiple development teams that work in conjunction. This means, though there is an Assassin’s Creed every year, they actually have multiple year cycles. The problem with this method is that it rots development to the core. Normally, you develop a game, release it, and take the feedback you get from the last game to make something better. With development of new games in constant cycle, problems and new ideas that came up from the release of the last game either have to be ham-fistedly dealt with, or the game has to be redone on too significant a level. This latter solution is a major problem because…
2. Assassin’s Creed is a Money-maker for Ubisoft
When publishers put their hands in game development, we see the very worst of AAA development. For Assassin’s Creed III, it was noted by a developer that executives would come in with new ideas and mandate they get shoved into the game. This led to a lot of unfinished and poorly implemented ideas such as the hunting sidequests. The fact of the matter is that Assassin’s Creed is a cash cow for Ubisoft. They are not going to allow developers to slow down and take their time to churn out something amazing. Ubisoft has been pretty adamant about not starting games that couldn’t be a series. The reason for this is because series are more profitable than stand-alone games. But this also shows you Ubisoft’s priorities. If something doesn’t work in an Assassin’s Creed game, there is no chance that the developers are going to get the chance to fix that. Which is why…
3. The Gameplay is Terrible, and Hasn’t Gotten Better
Sometimes games are released, and they just haven’t gotten into the swing of things yet. There is a huge difference between the original Street Fighter and the genre-starting Street Fighter II, or Dynasty Warriors and Dynasty Warriors 2. Sometimes, it takes a little time to really iron out the gameplay balance and problems with your game. Truly, there is nothing worse than a game that refuses to update a system that simply doesn’t work.
This brings me to Assassin’s Creed. The controller face buttons being mapped to individual limbs was a decent concept, but damn did it not work fluidly. The basic combat is broken at a core level, and that’s even ignoring the shoehorned, linear assassinations, which provide as much freedom as Final Fantasy XIII provides side quests. Of course, to overhaul gameplay systems would require a substantial effort, testing and money. Adding new systems can be done as a new feature, which is why sailing was the best part of Assassin’s Creed III and Black Flag. However, the core systems only get tweaks as new features get stapled onto the game’s broken body. All of these new features are shiny at first, and they do thrill for a time, but there’s not substance behind them. Exploring cities is fun… for twenty minutes. When you realize that everything is identical, every bale of hay is the same, and every turn is just another reskin, things get a little boring.
A grand palace built on two inches of plywood is unlikely to stand for very long. Of course, some games aren’t all about gameplay. Since Assassin’s Creed is a single player game, there is a heavy focus on story. Unfortunately….
4. Assassin’s Creed Showcases the Worst Kind of Historical Fiction
I like all sorts of stories in video games. I like serious stories as found in games like Mass Effect 2. I like silly stories like in Resident Evil 4. Both of these games know exactly what they want, and they really make it shine. Assassin’s Creed seems to want to have a serious story, but then they throw in the most cringe-worthy scenes and writing that would make the writers of Diablo III blush (that’s not true, nobody is worse than the writers of Diablo III).
The idea is simple: you’re an assassin in a random time period, and you kill people because evil world order conspiracy! Anyway, this is just a setup so you can explore huge, interesting cities, and meet famous figures from history. So, you’d assume that if you’re going to have your poorly voice-acted assassin interacting with figures such as Leonardo Da Vinci, then the writers are going to treat that character with respect, or at least dignity. Ha, ha, nope. Da Vinci is a fool, and a generic video game inventor with all the answers and mountains of implausible gadgets. Real historical events are treated with the same respect an excited dog has with your personal space, and it shows.
Then there’s the fact that Assassin’s Creed is actually a sci-fi game. For reasons I’ll never understand, it wasn’t enough to have you play an assassin in a certain time period. No. You had to play an idiot in the future, who would relive his assassin ancestors’ memories through a magic sci-fi machine. I hear that these segments have been largely phased out after Assassin’s Creed III, but the fact that they were even thought to have been necessary is enough to tell you everything. The game’s writing is so spastic, the developers didn’t even think that being an assassin killing evil templars in the Middle East was enough to hold our attention. After all, what mad man could think of a full story from that setup? Obviously, there needs to be sci-fi elements tacked on too. It’s not like that would undermine whatever story you were trying to build in the past. How long did it take before you could play as Connor in Assassin’s Creed III? Anyway, spastic storytelling and one-shot gameplay could be good, if the game was designed to give you something fresh and new at every corner. Unfortunately….
5. Assassin’s Creed is nothing but Repetition
And dear lord is it boring! Climbing up a tall church and propelling yourself off and into a bale of hay was really neat… the first 10 times. Getting into a fight with a bunch of guards and button mashing them to death was kind of empowering… until the 42 identical encounter. Oh, collectibles! Wait, it’s the same damn thing over and over again. I can live with weak gameplay. I can live with a bad story. But I cannot stomach a game that bores me. I’m not in school; I don’t have infinite time for games. Why would I waste my time on a game, whose developers confused padding with content?
That’s the biggest problem with Assassin’s Creed. You will do something once, and it will be fun. Then the game will make you do it again, and again, and again, until there’s absolutely no enjoyment to have from the activity. In many ways it’s very meta of the developers. After all, what is Assassin’s Creed other than the same thing over and over again? Every game is only has the thinnest coat of new paint that you don’t notice that you’re playing the exact same game until it’s too late, and Ubisoft has your money. And this practice isn’t doing anyone any favours. Instead of learning from pros like Blizzard, Valve, or even Square- Enix (don’t shoot me) and only releasing games after long, well thought out development cycles, Ubisoft is completely content with rolling out the same game until it inevitably crashes into the ground.
Obviously, I’m in the minority, and I concede that. Assassin’s Creed is a very popular franchise, and I realize that my opinions are not fact. However, I simply can’t get behind Assassin’s Creed, and I won’t. High review scores won’t trick me again. There’s nothing but flash here, flash and bright sparkles, stapled to the side of a rotten hull.