The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been bereft of originality for a long time. The first game in it’s franchise being the most preordered game without other games in it’s franchise to bolster it’s rep, this game packed in crowds. It wasn’t a flawless game, but it was very good for a first try. Future games made small strives in various directions, be it assassin reinforcements or the INSPIRED hookblade. Unfortunately, as of the second game, every year came with a new title and the same good but flawed formula used in the beginning had more and more games built on it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of this franchise, really, I own all the main games to date and even one of the spin off titles for some reason. I love Assassin’s Creed, even if Unity pulled on those ties. And Revelations. Gad-zooks I was disappointed in Revelations.
Right, back to the point. You see, Assassin’s Creed was always to easy, lingering problems with the combat always meant that with the repeated press of a moderately well timed counter button could defeat a small army for you. Moreover this was made worse by the introduction of the chained execution system in Brotherhood which took all the challenge left out of confrontation. Not only that, but I never felt stealth or even retreat to hidden locations was necessary in these games as every situation was easily solved by combat. This is after all Assassin’s Creed, a game about being a sneaky bloke who kills stuff in the name of liberty, not being a one man army.
Black Flag, the game that received critical acclaim and the most love from newcomers to the series and fans alike earned the popular sentiment of “It’s an awesome pirate game that unfortunately has Assassin’s Creed bits stuck to it”.
Assassins Creed’s success is a dolphin swimming near the surface, it jumps and dives above and below the water again and again, some jumps are big, some jumps are small but it always returns under the water. Unity was a massive jump that went very wrong and just led to a fin awkwardly surfacing and now everyone mistakes it for a shark and direct their anti-shark hate at it.
Because you know what? Unity had some really great things going for it. The combat was finally made legitimately challenging, a fight between you and a handful of guards could very easily result in a loss for you. This pushed stealth to the forefront as a valid way of approaching an Assassin’s Creed game. Not only that, but a progression system and armour upgrades that compliment your combat or stealth based abilities to hit the new way of play home. It’s great to have some actual meaningful changes come to Assassin’s Creed other than some of the token crap we’ve been fed before.
These are improvements this franchise has been begging for since its conception. Not to mention, the diversity of weapon choices sure was cool, as well as the aesthetic colouring choices and the fact that armour choices actually made a cosmetic difference as well as a difference to style of play. The co op was a neat addition as well and the reformed free running system takes a while to get used to and while I had no strong issues with the previous model, this new model works well for the landscape of 18th century Paris.
Sadly, these significant improvements to the formula of the franchise are completely overshadowed by the sheer incompetence of the state of the game on release. Ubisoft Montreal, for whatever reason, zealously pursued giant crowd sizes in certain areas at the expense of the stability of the actual game. Don’t get me wrong, these big crowds are great for some of the historical events that we play through, but for much of the time it hurts the frame rate significantly, which normally is something that has never bothered me but it can be pretty atrocious. Not to mention the bug where I found myself inexplicably falling through the map, which occurred far more times than it should of. And for the record, why were the accents not French? It’s not like they’ve been shy of native accents in the previous games.
I’m not even going to start with all the locked chests, gated by micro transactions or an IOS companion or something, that stuff was so low I won’t even bother giving it a paragraph of its flaws.
But this all brings me round to my point, Assassin’s Creed has been seeing diminishing returns on subsequent releases for years now, even Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (the one everyone liked) sold less than Assassin’s Creed 3. Unity was the re-branding this over saturated behemoth needed, a new direction with design choices that empowered players and presented returning fans with actual challenge while also turning the heads of those who lost interest years ago. That’s what Unity could have been. What it almost was. But, of course, those who had spent years developing this game thrust it out of the door early and we got the malformed mess that the gaming community laughed at and went on to their next thing. And now we, or rather I, find myself at a point lower than after the previous low point in the franchise for me, Revelations, which I didn’t even think was possible, so low that I can’t even get myself excited for the new one in jolly old London town. Good job, Ubisoft.