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Welcome to my Assassins Creed Retrospective! I have now played 10 entries in the main series. I have not played the most recent (Odyssey), but I'll probably come back here and comment at some point if I do. Like a lot of fans, my experiences with AC have been hard to predict, with a wide range of highs and lows. Feel free to share your own impression below, and even rank the games you've played. If you're curious about a specific game in the series, or have never tried one and are considering it, feel free to ask around here as well!

Disclaimer: Overall I'm a fan, but since I'm ranking the games and starting at the bottom, fair warning: I don't mince words at the start! Let's all agree not to take a ride on the internet tirade train.

laughkissninja

Also, for a long time I've believed that most AC games, in the context of the series, are the best at something. I will highlight that thing for every game on the list! If you want more in-depth impressions, I'll also link to my original comments on every game, as I completed them.

A Full-Series Retrospective, from Worst to Best:


10. Assassin's Creed III

Current rating: 4.5/10. Original Comments. Worthy of curiosity for non-ACers: absolutely not. Worth revisiting: yuk

It's not just that AC3 is bad in multiple interlocking ways, it's that it finally disabused fans of their hopes for cultivation, vision, and creative stewardship. The game serves up an awful, almost spiteful "conclusion" to the storyline running through AC1 and the Ezio trilogy. Whatever it touches, dies. It ruins Desmond. It ruins the pre-cursors. It ruins the series playful, tongue-in-cheek, highlander-esque romp through history. It has far and away the worst-written AC protagonist, which is further insulting because Connor is mixed-race and raised by his Native American mother, and his one-dimensionality seems, shall we say, not coincidental. Notoriously, AC3 ushers in Ubisoft's great "age of copying," stealing the combat mechanics of the Batman Arkham games, but hilariously f***ing them up. The one good thing in this game is Haytham Kenway - a character who deserved his own game, and possibly the only truly interesting Templar in AC canon. The need for further context around Haytham ends up being important later on in this list. Without him I'd lower my rating down to a 3.

AC3 is the best at: unintentional comedy. It is possible for angry guards to follow you "into" a cutscene, and then murder you in front of whoever you're talking to while you have no control.


"I expected naivete, but..."


9. Assassin's Creed

Current rating: 5/10. Original Comments. Worthy of curiosity for non-ACers: yes, barely. Worth revisiting for fans: yes, in small doses & with caveats.

The first Assassins Creed is certainly a significant game if you want to understand today's AAA industry. It is a hugely flawed, overambitious mess, but one that made up for glaring gameplay deficiencies with a a perfect storm of marketing, tech-frontiers, and mass-appeal. At very few points in videogame history has a company staked a claim with this level of confidence and charisma. The game itself is almost schizophrenic: one the one hand, clearly passionate about its setting & premise, and willing to risk an at-times unlikeable protagonist for greater good of the narrative. But on the other hand, Assassins Creed is almost a declaration of war on the concept of game design - filled with an ocean of tedious completionist clutter, stitched together out of copy-pasted assets, brutally repetitive in structure, and more concerned with swagger than depth - even as it pretends to be an open-ended thinking-man's playground. All these years later, I still willingly concede that the original Assassins Creed is cool. It is intriguing. It is portentous, hinting at greatness to come. But once you stop staring dreamily into the horizon, and reflect back on the game, it's riddled with timelessly bad decisions - bad then, bad now, bad forever. And it's painful to consider that this game planted seeds of cynicism at Ubisoft that grew in ways we simply would not have believed in 2007.

The original AC is the best at: mood. This game believes in its premise. It has tension beneath the surface, makes the unknown feel sinister, makes Altair feel hardened to the world.




8. Assassin's Creed Syndicate

Current rating: 6/10. Original Comments. Worthy of curiosity for non-ACers: possibly in one narrow sense. Worth revisiting for fans: e-gads, no.

Syndicate is a perfectly fine game. It's easy to play, easy to get into, pleasant, safe - gaming comfort food. Ubisoft was trying to calm the waters with this entry in the series, and they certainly did. Syndicate is also utterly unremarkable and at times stale. Almost every game in the series has a diamond in it somewhere, sparkling in the rough, but alas, not here. The setting feels poorly suited to Assassins Creed - but it doesn't feel like Ubisoft even noticed the creative risk (perhaps it would have yielded something if they did). The leveling and skill-unlocks will lull you to sleep. Unfortunately, the things that linger long after you play Syndicate are the three genuine negatives. First, the villains are comically terrible. Second, the game spectacularly falls apart toward the end. Third, rather than having a single protagonist, you play as brother-sister twins, Jacob and Evie Fry. Jacob is a blundering idiot; Evie feels like the "real" main character who periodically swoops in to clean up Jacob's mess. Over and over. Where's that eyeroll emoji when you need it? If you wanted to play a casual stealth game in Victorian London that probably won't frustrate you, and couch-surf your way through a weekend, Syndicate is a totally "OK" choice.

Syndicate has the best: female assassin. It's a low bar. But, Evie is pretty cool.



7. Assassin's Creed: Rogue

Current rating: 6/10. Original Comments. Worthy of curiosity for non AC-ers: yes and no... I recommend reading about it instead of playing. Worth revisiting for fans: nope.

Ubisoft brought us AC:Rogue and AC:Unity in a fit of ambition, one for last-gen consoles, one for current-gen, each with a conceptual twist that stood in contrast to the other. They were supposed to be a kind of yin and yang. Rogue sounds tremendously interesting on paper: it's about an Assassin who defects to the Templar order. This was a good thing, because the series could never decide if the Templars were purely bad, or if the competing visions of the two warring factions were more complicated. Sadly, Rogue provided a disastrous answer to the question, presenting a script that felt identical to earlier AC games, but with the labels switched. Assassin lines were given to Templars, and Templar lines were given to Assassins. Even Shay Cormac's betrayal is undersold, like he's not in on the game's conceptual ambition. On paper Rogue should have greatly enriched AC canon. In practice it damaged it, giving the impression that the forever-war between Templars and Assassins was arbitrary and meaningless. Rogue is also the shortest game in the series, obviously unfinished, and anything good in it is inherited from AC: Black Flag. Rogue has its moments - in particular I still remember some sublime exploration of ancient shipwrecks - but overall, a swing and a miss.

AC Rogue has the best: whole-game concept & idea. Building up to a plausible defection to the Knights Templar should have been fascinating. Also, icy shipwrecks?



6. Assassin's Creed: Unity

Current rating: 7/10. Comments: Pending. Worthy of curiosity for non-ACers: ...yes... but I wouldn't start here. Worth revisiting for fans: yes.

Sometimes cited as the worst in series, fans buried Unity under a mountain of blame for its disgracefully buggy launch and its failure to build on the enormous success of AC: Black Flag. I don't doubt that it was riddled with glitches on Day 1. Playing it years later, I can say that it seems as stable any other AC game (frankly, more stable than some), never crashed on me, never broke sidequests/missions, etc. Unity has many strengths. It finally ends the embarrassing era of lobotomized-Akrham combat, replacing it with a surprisingly thoughtful & surprisingly fair melee system with real teeth. You can't be careless. You can't mash buttons when surrounded. You can do cheesy things from the shadows, but not effortlessly abuse those things. The game expects and rewards real planning and execution. A smart approach will let you complete a "high-level" situation with "low-level" gear and relatively few skills. Using strong options carries more economic cost than using weak options. Showing off in more skillful ways is more rewarding than taking the safe-simple route. What I'm saying is: if you take a moment to notice, Unity takes itself seriously to such an extent that it's like the developers didn't get the memo from corporate, or they ignored it. That said, Unity still has the loose and sloppy movement/traversal of every other AC game, and that will always undermine precise tacticians. You can do cool stuff here, but longtime fans will probably recognize and accept certain limitations that are built-in to the series DNA. The script here also has some good ideas, both in terms of character motivation as well as leveraging the backdrop of the French Revolution, but as always, these are under-developed. The name, as it turns out, is a larger theme that, notably, includes the only substantial effort at co-operative play we've seen from Assassins Creed (there are a dozen or so meaty missions built specifically for co-op, but still playable solo).

Unity has the best: co-op, obviously, but also best balance between meaningful player progression (skills/equipment) and skillful play. "Balance" in general is an overused and over-broad word, but in several specific ways, Unity has the smartest 'balancing' of any AC. It also has the best "mystery" sidequests, where you investigate a murder and must choose who to accuse (bit of playfulness there, given the loadedness of accusation during the French Revolution).



5. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Current rating: 7/10. Original Comments. Worthy of curiosity for non-ACers: yes, after playing AC2. Worth revisiting for fans: definitely.

Brotherhood was originally planned to be part of AC2, and while it definitely feels like an immediate continuation, I don't think they would have worked as a single story-arc and gameplay progression. In fact I'd go further: Brotherhood feels like it is trying very hard to spend more time with Ezio Auditore, but without creative vision. The character remains compelling and continues to grow, but the plot leaves a lot to be desired. Unfortunatey Brotherhood is where some of the more disliked gameplay crutches in the whole series became all-too-common: tailing targets unseen (following/eavesdropping), and chasing targets who are running away (steering your way through set-pieces and hoping you don't get screwed by the parkour). For those two reasons, I rate this a hair lower than AC2, but it definitely refines the overall gameplay and deserves credit for raising the floor. Brotherhood introduces the concept of recruitment, allowing you to summon your apprentices to dispatch unsuspecting sentries. It also is the first game in the series to fully embrace mischief from a distance over melee hack-and-slash. Corollary: it is the first game in the series to understand that "notoriety" (being actively pursued as a wanted criminal) works better in small doses.

Crucially, Brotherhood hits multiple high notes: it has great unscripted assassinations (the Borgia towers), some great pure stealth (obtaining the war machine blueprints), and some great unlockable ultimate equipment (off the beaten path, rewarding to obtain, usable for significant portions of the game). The Christina Memories are the series peak as far as emotional resonance - actually poignant and well-written. I've seen it argued that Brotherhood is the peak of AC's modern-day framing device - I almost agree, enough that I'll mention that here as well.



4. Assassin's Creed II

Current rating: 7/10. Original Comments. Replay Comments. Worthy of curiosity for non-ACers: yes, with caveats. Worth replaying for fans: of course!

This was my first AC game, and to be honest, it kind of pissed me off. But that's because I had no way of knowing what a strange beast the series already was and would continue to become. I tend to like games with razor-sharp design and expert craftsmanship, things this series has almost never had. I love stealth games, the more open-ended the better, and at the level of marketing, that's what Assassins Creed pretends to be. So, I was disappointed and even flustered. But I came back to replay this later having grown into the series, and here's what I would say now. ACII tells a coherent story, with a beloved, charismatic character who grows in impressive ways over the course of his own trilogy. It's the last game in the series to believe in its overall premise, and does a great job weaving intrigue around the pre-cursors and expanding on the predicament of Desmond Miles. It treats the setting playfully but not with the preposterous level of ignorance and redux seen later. Most importantly, the game works if you understand how you can push it and how you can't. ACII is where the series discovered, maybe by accident, it's penchant for shenanigans over precise tactics. Sure, there is some really dumb side-content here, but who cares? As you become a fan of AC, finding the fun is second nature - it's usually there, but it's usually not everywhere and never in easily predictable places. A major highlight here was the six Assassin Tombs, each well hidden, each a genuine discovery, and each a superbly constructed platformer-puzzle as a callback to the PS2 Prince of Persia trilogy (same developer). Unfortunately, AC2 introduced the series to a bad habit of circular economy - make money for the sake of making money, but this is easy to ignore. Also unfortunately, AC2 was one of the last times that the developers wanted climbing to be a challenge in its own right, and not pure hold-forward autopilot. My final word: AC2 is not the perfect reinvention of AC1 that it was sometimes purported to be, but it was a real and passionate revision. If the third game had built on this one in the same fashion, AC would probably be a revered and important series in the vein of, say, The Legend of Zelda, and not just a mass-market cash-machine.

AC2 has the best: soundtrack, main character, WTF-ending (pre-cursors), tone, & sense of humor. Best platformer-puzzles. Maybe fair to say: the strongest sense of a bright future.



3. Assassin's Creed: Revelations

Current rating: 7/10. Original Comments. Worthy of curiosity for non-ACers: absolutely, but it's the last game in a trilogy. Worth revisiting for fans: without question.

This game's standing among fans has only grown with time. Initially, it caught some flak for being the game where everyone went "oh shit, they're going to release an AC every year forever, with only minor iterative change." In retrospect, pinning distaste for that on one game seems both unfair, and moot. Revelations is close to being the game we deserved as a true AC3, had Brotherhood never existed. It sincerely and ambitiously connects the narratives of Altair Ibn-La'Ahad, who lived during the 12th century, with Ezio Auditore, who lived during the 16th. It follows a mature, wise, almost mournful and graying Ezio, now in his 50s, and does this in a heartfelt and intelligent way. Just think about that for a moment: a developer following a beloved youthful badass into his 50s, and doing it well. Following Brotherhood's lead, this game is now a pure from-the-shadows power fantasy, where you could (and I did) complete it without ever drawing your sword. Ezio almost becomes a super-hero in Revelations, a one-man army crafting bombs, throwing poison daggers, sniping with a cross-bow etc. Revelations wants you to creatively steamroll your foes - the incentive to sneak around isn't avoiding danger, it's retaining full control over your hapless enemies. Also, Revelations provides a taste of things to come with its Templar death-speeches, which are deliriously irreverent. It's the developers way of saying: "we know this series can't be what we all hoped for in 2007, but we don't have to like it." Honestly, the only thing in Revelations that doesn't come off very well is a weird tower-defense sidegame where you can have your assassin apprentices defend their bases... but... this is optional and should be ignored.

Assassins Creed: Revelations has the best: Ezio. I mean, Ezio is already the best protagonist, but this is prime Ezio in more ways than one. It has by far the best prologue, allowing you to get straight into things. The bomb-crafting and ranged mischief here is great. Revelations is also the only AC title with some cool speedrunning challenges. And, the only one that carefully explores the intersection between protagonists from other games. The mechanics of AC2 are all at their most polished, here.

Some people will think I'm crazy for putting this ahead of AC2. It's hard to put the Ezio trilogy in a definitive order. Each is better than the others in some way.


"When I was a young man, I had liberty, but I did not see it. I had time, but I did not know it. And I had love, but I did not feel it."


2. Assassin's Creed: Origins

Current rating: 8/10. Original Comments. Worthy of curiosity for non-ACers: definitely. Worth revisiting for fans: rarely/minimally.

Here's the thing: Origins is the best all-around game in the series. It has the fewest weaknesses, a consistently high level of quality, the most breathtaking world, and some genuinely fantastic, high-craftsmanship stuff. But... its connection to Assassins Creed is terrible. One of the only things spoiling the vibe IS the need to pretend that this is an AC storyline. That's reeeeaaaally stupid. Had this simply been a stand-alone new IP entitled "The Last Magi" (or Medjay, as it is spelled in the game), it would be considered one of the better games of this generation. But.. there's another turn of the screw. Everything Origins accomplishes is done by faithfully paying tribute to something else that does that thing even better. That makes it easy to enjoy, easy to appreciate, hard to love. After the lets-forget-it-ever happened stretch of games that copied Arkham combat, Origins cleverly copies the combat of Demons Souls / Dark Souls. I say "cleverly," because Ubisoft correctly assumes that From Software will never make a Souls games that is loose and forgiving. Playing Origins is like playing Dark Souls but with some Game Shark codes changing the underlying math so that you're engaged, but never worried and never at much risk - unless it's temporary and self-imposed. For a Souls fan, that's a weird trip to go on. I don't mind it, but it's not filling a need. If you've never played an AC game, by all means, play this. It's fun, and vast, and rich, and polished. Every now and then, during a cutscene, you'll think "WTF is all this?" The answer is: that's the zombi-fied corpse of Assassins Creed, shambling along.

Assassins Creed: Origins is the best at: equipment, world-craft, side-quest design, exploration, melee combat, and optional bosses.



1. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Current rating 8/10. Original Comments. Worthy of curiosity for non-ACers: absolutely. Worth revisiting for fans: always.

arrrh Black Flag in one word: Defiance. Black Flag in two words: Punk Rock. arrrh

This will probably always be my favorite AC game, regardless of what happens with the series going forward. To understand why this matters to me, you have to understand the "go f*** yourself" attitude it brings to the table. Black Flag tells the story of Edward Kenway, grandfather of Haytham Kenway, who we know from AC3 to be a not-quite-bad-guy descended from Assassins but high-ranking among the Knights Templar. Edward Kenway, it turns out, was a hard-drinking pirate who never gave a shit about the forever-war between the Assassins and Templars, thumbed his nose at it for years, and only reluctantly and belatedly became an Assassin due to circumstance, not conviction. And that is the best possible statement that the development team could have made about Assassins Creed. From there, the game takes flight because: 1.) It has deep, superbly designed pirate-ship combat that is totally original & situated within a deep, superbly designed system of economic choices, and 2.) it embarks on a brilliantly written satire, where the nefarious Abstergo Industries that is ruining everything in the present day is basically implied to be Ubisoft. A cardinal rule of AC games is that, with a few early exceptions, the sequences set during the modern day, where Templars run an all-powerful dystopian megacorporation, are terribly written. Black Flag turns that upside down: the Abstergo Industries content in this game includes some of my favorite writing in games, period. Unfortunately, Black Flag is stuck being one of the lobotomized-Arkham games, but it brings back several ranged options, including some of the most hilarious ones in the series, like silent hallucinogen darts that make a target go berserk (you can "assassinate" someone by having them attack their own bodyguards). You can also walk around with four different flintlock pistols strapped to your upper body (/evil grin). The gameworld is probably second to the one in Origins, but lush and breathtaking nonetheless, with some fun "X marks the spot" buried treasure. The weakest part of Black Flag is that it overuses tailing/eavesdropping missions (and somehow even degrades how they work, mechanically).

Black Flag has the best: in-game progression & economy. Becoming a pirate king in this game puts any other progression in the series to shame, and is a high note in videogaming as a whole. It has the best combat of any kind in the series: the ship battles are intense, engaging, and varied - both against huge galleons, small fleets, gigantic fortresses, and Black Flag's optional super-bosses, the four legendary Ghost Ships. Black Flag has the highest average-quality of stuff to do: when I played this game, I hit 94%. Sometimes in an AC game I don't clear 50%. It has the best modern-day, obviously, although Brotherhood is a close second. Also, Pirate Shanties!



So that's my retrospective on Assassins Creed.

It's a weird, lumbering juggernaut of a series. Every game is a mixed bag, and if there's an iron rule of the series, it's that if a game does something really well, we'll probably never see that thing again. I haven't played Odyssey, because it's supposed to be even more "in name only" than Origins. But I probably will at some point. What's your experience with Assassins Creed?
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Josh Malbon
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Wow, out of the AC games I've played, your thoughts and mine are right in line. ACIII pure garbage. Never finished it. Such a broken state, not quite in buggy just such horrible choices for everything. I gave up on that one, after I realized it was wasting my time. Combat was just memorizing button patterns. Awful! Connor constantly getting stuck on fence posts was a terrible experience.

ACI pissed me off to no end. Started out promising, but talking to people after they're dead, then suddenly attacked by a mob. Worthless collectables and one of the worst ending boss fights. I stayed far enough away, that I skipped ACII because ACI angered me so much.

Never finished AC: Syndicate. Evie had some fun moments, but the combat was dull as hell. Limited controls on carriages with enemies that could shoot you from 100 yards..... Bleah! I installed this game three times got quite a bit through, but realized everytime that this game is a waste of time.

AC: Rogue for free had no value. It had some problems right off the bat. After two hours, I was sick of it.

I picked up Unity on a huge sale, after a year of patches. It was enjoyable but a little stale.

Tried AC: Brotherhood after ACII had such raves. It was pretty good fun. This game returned the love of AC games. The open levels kept the character from getting stuck on stuff and it had a good story and characters.

AC: Origins had a nice change to the fighting. I hated the old Batman system. It just seemed to get worse and worse. It got to the point where the character wouldn't even attack the person you were aiming at, he'd suddenly lunge at the wrong combatant 20 feet in the opposite direction. Origins fixed that. I enjoy this one a lot. Still I skipped Oddysey, because it looked like a copy paste of Origins, and I got all the joy I had out of that. Extra plusses for Cat Mummies!!

Black Flag is the best game in the series.
To quote from my comments:
"Great deal of fun, where is my rum! arrrh
Seriously, a great joy to behold. I was worried, because I hated the first AC and AC: III was also awful. AC IV is more like AC: Brotherhood, where the designers knew what tools they had at there disposal and created something awesome."

I wish more AC games got out of the whole AC hierarchy and instead just build a fun game! Black Flag ventures far away from the stale part of the past and ended being a wonderful pirate game.

Final Word: All modern parts in AC are garbage. In the first AC, Desmond should have gained control of his powers and swan dived out of the building. Instead, it was wasted over a bunch of games with no real forward movement in the story ever.

The modern stuff just tears me out of the game and tells me I'm playing a game. I don't need that fourth wall boring stuff.
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
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Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. Chief Seattle
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I looked it up. I own

Assassin's Creed III Bad

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Highly Regarded

Assassin's Creed: Unity Moderate

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China (Unrated)

Assassin's Creed Syndicate Bad

Too bad I don't have that Origins one. Looks like a good place to dip my toes.

Is Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China not considered an Assassin Creed game?

Is the Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag one a good place to start?

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I've mostly only played Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. For some reason I got it on WiiU then PS3 then PS4. The PS4 version looks and runs a lot better. I got as far as Nassau. I don't know, it didn't really grab me. I never really understood the combat, and I didn't like any of the characters. Free climbing felt lazy and boring compared with Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia games. Tracking targets was crappy.
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Kenneth Stuart
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I have Unity and Origins unplayed on my computer now. I'll get to them eventually.
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The one bit of design I really liked from Syndicate is a single skill:
Loot Takedown.
It lets you instantly loot anyone who you stealth kill/KO, kidnap, or take out with a multi-kill. That simple expedient is a boon to play, both as a timesaver to eliminate tediously standing over bodies and saving vital time if you're in mid-action, but the fact that it's not as simple as instantly looting anyone you take out continues to incentivise taking people out with the core cool tools of the game, not just brute force fighting people.

The fact that you can play as both siblings always suggested to me that the bloodline must have passed through them incestuously, which is a little weird, but okay.
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frumpish wrote:


Is Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China not considered an Assassin Creed game?


It's a 2D sidescrolling spinoff that, I suspect, was inspired by the success of games like Mark of the Ninja.

I thought it was pretty solid. I honestly don't remember a thing about the characters or narrative or connection to the main series, but I thought the level design etc was pretty decent. I own the other two Chronicles games but haven't played them yet.

Quote:
Is the Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag one a good place to start?


Not a bad place to start, but maybe not the best either. Building up your pirate ship, roaming the high seas, searching for buried treasure - all that stuff will probably be fun regardless. But, I think inherently Black Flag assumes you have some grounding in the AC universe. The portions back at Abstergo would be super weird without any previous experience/context. Probably just a, "huh, what? Can I get back to the game?"

And, FWIW, I think anyone who plays Assassins Creed has to learn somewhere - whichever game happens to be first for them - how to sort of pull away from little things that are busted/stupid, and push toward things that are entertaining. I mentioned that Black Flag has quite a few super-annoying segments where you have to follow enemies and listen to their conversation. If it's your first AC, you'll be like "what on earth is this??" If it's not, you'll be like "oh, this, not sure why we're doing this a bunch... *puts foot on accelerator*..."
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Benj Davis
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My biggest gripe about the original AC is how much it just feels like a proof of concept more than a complete experience. It's packed full of cool ideas, but it ultimately devolves into such repetitive content that it feels flat and empty.

I feel a similar way about the whole business with the homestead in AC3. I really liked it notionally, but there wasn't enough connection with the people you were bringing in, the rewards for helping them were pathetic compared to other stuff I already had by that part of the game, and similarly, the stuff with trading just wasn't worth it when I'd already got more money than I needed by the time they became accessible.
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Andrew Schoonmaker
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I've only played AC, AC II, and about half of Brotherhood, but:

AC is totally the pilot episode that sold the series but fits awkwardly, at best, in retrospect. It feels like it was rushed out the door--I assume that the concept was originally "okay, gather intel on these people and figure out the best way to take them down once you know their habits and security arrangments" and they just never figured out how to make that work well, so the "gather intel" becomes "do something thematic to progress to the set-piece boss fight we have set up". I don't hate the collectibles as much as they probably deserve, but they definitely needed a little more polish than they got. I thought Altaïr was pretty well-done. Pity about the combat, which I mostly remember as tedious and somewhat awful.

AC II, then, is the beloved first/second season of the series, though I can't tell whether, in this telling, it's suffering from much executive meddling with the original concept. Certainly (or at least as far as I can recall) they dispensed with a few things that didn't really work, in favor of a more GTA-like experience, which was mostly an improvement. Also, allowing the player to have fun more of the time was a good choice.

Brotherhood (which I should finish at some point) I've played more recently, and it's even more progression in this direction -- you pretty quickly get to summon ninjas to solve problems for you.

From my perspective, the problem that Desmond has is that I can't see Ubisoft bringing themselves to actually make any of the games about him in the way that they'd need to. I could speculate as to why not, but even "the present-day stuff had few champions" seems reasonable (do the post-Black Flag games bother with it? I'm torn between wondering how they could and wondering how they could avoid it).
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NeonElephant wrote:

From my perspective, the problem that Desmond has is that I can't see Ubisoft bringing themselves to actually make any of the games about him in the way that they'd need to. I could speculate as to why not, but even "the present-day stuff had few champions" seems reasonable (do the post-Black Flag games bother with it? I'm torn between wondering how they could and wondering how they could avoid it).


They do, but in a perfunctory way. After AC3, it's not Desmond anymore. It's usually just an unnamed Abstergo employee that gets contacted by... is it Rebecca and Sean? I think those are their names.

I don't think you're ever actually IN the present day in Unity, but maybe four times in the game, reality-collapsing stuff happens and Rebecca talks to you as "the initiate," and not Arno Dorian. You then have to "escape" back to a more stable simulation... uhh... or something.
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Some cool notes here, John. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, thanks for setting this thread up. Your comments on Unity are especially surprising, and make me a little bit more interested in checking out the free copy of the game I grabbed from Uplay.

Now for some voice of dissent devil

So, even in the games you consider the best in this series, you mention a few problems which basically lie at the heart of why I only ever actually liked Assassin's Creed and kind of liked but was vehemently frustrated by Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. These games have an ever-present problem with their identity and often seem to be in constant conflict with oneselves... and when they aren't, when they're doing the thing that they should be doing according to what they're about, they are even worse off.

The combat in these games was kind of bad until they made it more like Batman: Arkham, at which point it was passable but still just a worse version of that system. The stealth in these games never quite worked for me because of how easy it was to switch to combat with no repercussions whatsoever (especially after the combat got dumbed down), and because of how each stealth scenario was very flat - no rising stakes here, unlike, again Batman: Arkham. And the story... you said it yourself. If it took them just three or four games to realize that their plot doesn't make sense and nobody cares about it, and the series has been running for more than a decade now, that's very telling. The Assassin/Templar backstory is what most people agreed pulled the otherwise reasonably fun Black Flag down, and you mention the same could be said about Origins. To me, it all sounds like the best games you listed are good DESPITE being an Assassin's Creed game, not because they're part of the franchise (seems especially true of Black Flag and Origins). And if that's not a condemnation of the series as a whole - that the baggage of what an Assassin's Creed game is *supposed* to be weighs down an otherwise good game - I don't know what is

Anyway, my list

Assassin's Creed 1 - I remember it being pretty badly paced and too eager to reuse content, but I think I liked it well enough when I played it. It was mostly down to the setting, which to me remains the most interesting out of all the games.

Assassin's Creed 2 - personally felt it's one of the most overrated games in recent history. Yes, it's a good deal better than the first one in the sense that it's a polished version of what's essentially a pretty good idea, but I didn't enjoy what it was doing. I found the whole economic aspect of the game pointless and counter to what I wanted the game to be - it's called Assassin's Creed, so let me feel like an Assassin, not a god damn accountant! I rage quit at a mission in which you glide over a burning city and the controls are shit. Most people remember this one for the "Ezio's Family" motif from the soundtrack, and yeah, it's probably the best thing about this game

Assassin's Creed 3 - sounded really promising, is about as laughable as John mentions. It takes you to a "American Revolution Greatest Hits" tour which just feels comical in the moment. Includes a big focus on hunting and crafting, if memory serves, and I cared for neither.

Assassin's Creed: Liberation - 3rd's spin-off title originally released for handheld consoles and then HD'd for console and PC. I liked it more than AssCreed3 if only because it tried something different - a female protagonist with three different "roles" which translated into slightly different gameplay styles and actually made me feel like I'm an Assassin hiding in plain sight. It was pretty by the numbers all told, but at least it attempted something which made sense for the franchise.

Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag - would've been better as a pure pirate game independent of the franchise, but even then... wouldn't be all that great. I thought the well-regarded naval combat got old way quicker than seemed possible, and besides, there's no point in doing it, mechanically speaking (sure, you get stuff to upgrade your ship, but if you're not enjoying the combat to an extent where you want to keep doing it over and over, that's just kind of pointless). Yeah, the Abstergo stuff is pretty different and interesting, but again, it's an exception to the main content, which is just the same-old same-old... but with pirates and naval combat. For me, that just wasn't enough, and the Assassin's Creed kept weighing down the Black Flag.

Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag: Freedom Cry - this standalone game focuses on the exploits of Adewale, who's a supporting character in AssCreed 4. It's fine. Heck, it's more focused and understands its core premise more than any of the other ones. Finally there are consequences if you screw up stealth during a side activity. The story is, as always, fragmented and confusing, and the main missions, as always, kind of suck.

Assassin's Creed Chronicles - played all three. China was a less good but still enjoyable Mark of the Ninja. India was a less good but still (mostly) enjoyable spin on a 2D Prince of Persia game with much of the Mark of the Ninja template still in place. Russia was frustrating and seemed very rushed in its level design, rage quitted that one with little remorse.

At this point, I've sworn off AssCreed games. They're clearly not for me. The ones that I'm kind of sort of interested in are either supposed to not be good (Rogue, Syndicate) or I'm interested in everything but the gameplay, which I saw go the way of the hack&slash/looter shooter which I already have other games for (Origins, Odyssey). Unless they do something REALLY interesting with their setting at some point, I don't think I'll be coming back.
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Well thanks guys. I got AC3 through a giveaway a few years ago and just now got around to putting it on deck. Now I will just skip it and move to black flag or something else. I predicted that they wouldn't be able to make the present timeline pay off but from what you guys say its much worse beyond that.

I got to play AC fairly close to when it came out and loved it.
AC2 was nearly the same.
Then I stopped because the roommate I was leashing off of thought the others were just expansions and didn't think they were worth the money.
I got hooked on other games as AC 3 and black flag came to my attention and went, I think batman arkham asylum is to blame.

I now have black flag (got it last christmas sale) and will probably play it as my next game or two.
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Lord_Kristof wrote:
To me, it all sounds like the best games you listed are good DESPITE being an Assassin's Creed game, not because they're part of the franchise (seems especially true of Black Flag and Origins). And if that's not a condemnation of the series as a whole - that the baggage of what an Assassin's Creed game is *supposed* to be weighs down an otherwise good game - I don't know what is


With Origins I'd completely agree. Part of what makes Black Flag so good, though, is that it is saying what you are saying. It is a condemnation of the series, but a complicated one, one that asks "how did we end up here?" In many ways its a system purge.

It didn't work, obviously, but it struck the hardest blow it could.
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Funny thing is, I like the Assassin's Creed series for the historical running around and doing stuff side of things, but it loses me when it goes back to "present day" and all that nonsense.

I think I own all of the games except for the 2D spin-offs, but I've only played the following:

AC1: Played this one quite a bit, but the counter-tastic battle system left a stale taste in my mouth. Didn't play the next 3 games because of it.

ACIII: This one looked like a fresh start for the series back when it came out, and I think I bought it on release. I actually remember enjoying it and Liberation on the Vita quite a bit. I think I really enjoyed the setting and characters.

ACIV: I enjoyed this one, but didn't get super far into it. I think the open seas thing is kind of lost on me. It's cool for maybe 15 minutes, but epic pirate battles just don't seem very Assassin-ish to me.

AC Syndicate: I got this one for free when I bought some computer part years ago, and the game ran at maybe 10 fps at the lowest setting, so I didn't play it at that time. However, I tried it again maybe 3 or 4 months ago and it's working quite well on my upgraded system. I didn't get super far in it, but I did enjoy the setting and characters decently well.

AC Origins: This game I absolutely loved. The setting, the characters, the bird, the combat. Everything felt so fresh and new for the series. It also had a lot less of the convoluted present day story nonsense that other games seemed to have.

AC Odyssey: I'm liking this game quite a bit as well, but not as much as Origins. The setting is gorgeous, and I love that it kept the pet eagle. The characters are a bit bland though. I'm playing as Kassandra, and her acting seems really rough. I think Alexios is possibly worse though.
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Well, according to JohnRayJr, I've only played the best one laugh
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Haven't played any of them. Most of JRJ's post makes me keen to ensure that continues to be the case.
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Cynical wrote:
Haven't played any of them. Most of JRJ's post makes me keen to ensure that continues to be the case.


It would be hilarious to read you rip into an AC game... but... that's probably not a great reason for you to dive in!
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The modern day or future aspect has helped keep me out of the series, really immersion breaking. The free climbing I didnt care much for either, which was what I thought looked the most fun initially. Black Flag has often tempted me to give it another try... probably because I find exploration and ship to ship combat from that period so fascinating.
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I'll just chime in on the modern-day stuff. I actually thought it was cool and interesting in the first and second games - it helped to give context to the in-game character deaths and the limiting of maps and mission areas. It was actually pretty smart in that way! By the time I played AssCreed 3, I needed an online wiki to even understand what was going on, and even more so with Black Flag... though like John mentioned, the hilarious thing about that one is that the devs took a creative dump on the company, and they were apparently OK with it, or just didn't bother to pay attention to the story of the game
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JohnRayJr wrote:
Cynical wrote:
Haven't played any of them. Most of JRJ's post makes me keen to ensure that continues to be the case.


It would be hilarious to read you rip into an AC game... but... that's probably not a great reason for you to dive in!

Oddly, the one you do the best job selling is in the bottom half of your list (Unity), but even the lure of well-designed combat can't quite overcome the AssCreed smell of "bland Ubisoft AAA".

There are few phrases you could use to describe a videogame that repel me harder than "Arkham combat".
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Cynical wrote:
JohnRayJr wrote:
Cynical wrote:
Haven't played any of them. Most of JRJ's post makes me keen to ensure that continues to be the case.


It would be hilarious to read you rip into an AC game... but... that's probably not a great reason for you to dive in!

Oddly, the one you do the best job selling is in the bottom half of your list (Unity), but even the lure of well-designed combat can't quite overcome the AssCreed smell of "bland Ubisoft AAA".

There are few phrases you could use to describe a videogame that repel me harder than "Arkham combat".


There is no way you would like AC: Unity. laugh
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I kind of missed the modern-day stuff with an actual character (although I didn't much care for Desmond) and was forever waiting for them to do a reveal of who you are in the modern parts of Black Flag, which never eventuated (I would have liked for it to turn out that you're Lucy - Kristen Bell's character - and that the modern day of Black Flag is actually set BEFORE the first game, but ... oh well).
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Another thought I had:

JohnRayJr wrote:
But.. there's another turn of the screw. Everything Origins accomplishes is done by faithfully paying tribute to something else that does that thing even better. That makes it easy to enjoy, easy to appreciate, hard to love. After the lets-forget-it-ever happened stretch of games that copied Arkham combat, Origins cleverly copies the combat of Demons Souls / Dark Souls. I say "cleverly," because Ubisoft correctly assumes that From Software will never make a Souls games that is loose and forgiving. Playing Origins is like playing Dark Souls but with some Game Shark codes changing the underlying math so that you're engaged, but never worried and never at much risk - unless it's temporary and self-imposed.

So but now imagine this exact same argument, but applied to AC II, where the game they were cleverly copying from was the original AC. Obviously, they can be more shameless about it, because it's their IP. But everything about AC II is more loose and forgiving than the original. It does require some imagination to contemplate the "better in most every way" version of AC that they're using as their template, but it's not too much of a leap, I think, to believe that that was the game the devs were originally hoping to make.
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I have a bunch of them through Uplay giveaways or something, and I've played two of them: The original Assassin's Creed and AC4 Black Flag.

I thought they were pretty boring and repetitive, full of time-wasting filler, set in large and samey-feeling worlds that didn't take good advantage of their interesting settings.

I have AssCreed Origins installed right now, and I plan on trying it out, at least for Discovery mode to see what it's like.
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Great write up!

I have a pretty limited experience with these games, though I've played a few. It seems Assassin's Creed III is pretty universally maligned here, but I remember enjoying it for the most part. Granted, I never finished it, but I did like the setting and managed to have some fun with it. Having less of a connection to the characters might have played a role.

I tried the original game and thought the concept was fantastic, but it got really boring and repetitive really quick. I had planned to go back to it because I wanted to see how the story played out, but I just never got around to it. I thought Assassin's Creed II was fantastic. I loved the setting and the characters you met along the way. Some of the story was lost on me having never finished the previous game, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. If I recall, I think I got the platinum trophy for this game on PS3.

After playing a bit of the AC3 and never finishing it, I lost interest in the series for awhile. But then Origins came out, and once again, the setting sucked me in, and it wound up being a pretty good game as well. I loved roaming around Egypt and spent a lot more time exploring and doing side stuff than I normally do these days, which is a testament to the game's fun factor.

I got Odyssey for Christmas, but I've yet to crack the seal on it. It takes place in another setting and time period that I'm a sucker for, so I'm just trying to find the right time to start it.

From the outside, it felt like these games got really over saturated being released on a yearly basis for so long. I imagine it might have felt that way for fans of the series as well. On the one hand, I regret not having played each game in the series because the story seems right up my alley, and I wish I had a full appreciation for it. The whole concept of the Animus, reliving memories through DNA, the Brotherhood, the Templars, and not to mention all of the historical references and characters are all ingredients for a story I'd love. But on the other hand, I know I would have probably gotten tired of the games had I tried to play them all.

Maybe I'll start Odyssey soon.
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