Assassin's Creed: a leap of faith in the history of the franchise

Assassin's Creed: a leap of faith in the history of the franchise

Assassin's Creed

Telling about Assassin's Creed and its fifteen years is certainly not an easy task: it is a saga that has fascinated a very large group of players, sold over 200 million copies and overturned itself and the market several times . In short, the media and pop impact that the franchise has had is comparable to very few other cases.

As a great enthusiast that I am, on the occasion of this important anniversary, I thought of entering my personal animus and reliving with you some of the emotions and strong upheavals that have accompanied us throughout these years. Exactly, because Assassin's Creed, no matter what people say, has actually changed so many times, to the point that in its latest iterations it is almost hard to recognize it.

Having said that, let's go: unsheathed blade and hood on the head. Let's take a leap of faith in the history of the franchise. | ); }
Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad

The first leap of faith

It was 2007 and the gaming market was preparing to welcome PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Even the first giants were preparing to arrive, titles such as the immense and wonderful GTA IV, today among the best proposals of the Grand Theft Auto series. In such a crowded landscape, believe it or not, Assassin's Creed, the new intellectual property and creation of Patrice Désilets and Jade Raymond, found its place.| ); } The presentation of the gameplay, which took place at E3 2006, is still to be remembered as one of the most beautiful ever: the title was played in real time on stage while Raymond's narrator told the context and some of the main mechanics of the video game . The build was very dirty and would be considered unpresentable today; in addition, the demoist he was playing failed a couple of times and struggled to bring out some details that Ubisoft wanted to point out. An absurd situation and in stark contrast to the deceptive presentations of games like Watch Dogs, The Division and Assassin's Creed Unity, yet damn good, true; even less in shape and flashy than the title that we would then play shortly thereafter which, as I have often told in these shores and in a dedicated article, despite the defects remains the best of the series, the darkest and most fascinating.

You readers who are reading this article, before criticizing me stop for a moment: I too consider Assassin's Creed II a huge leap forward, but it is undeniable that the first chapter, with all the defects and repetitiveness of missions, remains the bravest work of the series, the one with the most unique concept, with the most intriguing narrative, with the most pungent dialogues.

The targets, the nine men we will have to assassinate, are all located in the Holy Land, divided between Acre, Jerusalem and Damascus. Three damn successful locations, highly differentiated in the color palette and perfect to support all gameplay dynamics. The concept behind the first Assassin's Creed, in fact, requires precisely this kind of environments, crowded, chaotic cities, full of holds and infiltration possibilities. However, as you surely know, if on the one hand the ideas, the cities and the narrative are still excellent today; on the other hand, there is a very bad and redundant mission design, since the player, for all nine targets, will have to do the exact same actions.

What if I told you that Assassin's Creed wasn't originally thought of that way? What if I told you that there was no shadow of secondary activities? Yes, Altaïr's adventure was initially supposed to be even more contained and include only the nine assassinations. However, it happens that the son of the CEO of Ubisoft, playing the game in advance, finds himself in front of an experience that drives away the open world and strongly embraces the dynamic sandbox, with scenarios that are the background to the events narrated and are useful for support gameplay and product philosophy: no side activities, no collectibles to collect; just the player, as Altaïr, and nine lives to snatch. Now, I can't know how it really went, but legend has it that just before closing the project and going gold, Ubisoft did everything to insert flags to collect, civilians to rescue and other missions of this caliber. Thus was born, in short, the repetitive Assassin's Creed that the public loved and hated.

Now you know who to accuse.

Ezio Auditore da Firenze

Bigger, more beautiful, more everything

Far be it from me to want to criticize Assassin's Creed II, a very important game for Ubisoft and the franchise, as well as the most loved by the public. Think about it for a moment, though: going from a completely new setting for the videogame panorama to the Italian Renaissance focused on figures such as I Pazzi, Leonardo Da Vinci and Lorenzo the Magnificent is, in my opinion, a fairly clear signal. About what? Of a rather decisive change of course, of the desire to embrace more pop historical contexts and, in general, a mood more digestible by the mass audience. In short, a more easy product.

It is in this way that the Altaïr trilogy - originally planned after the publication of the first chapter - was set aside and then declined to minor projects distributed on Sony and Nintendo laptops, in order to leave room for Ezio Auditore to Florence, which would soon receive the acclaim of the public and critics, and a trio of products still remembered with much affection today.

The success of Ezio's trilogy is mainly due to the protagonist, rather than to a gameplay that was limited to adding gadgets and some actions; in secundis to the characterization of the beautiful Italian cities represented in the game, from Florence to Venice.

Nevertheless, as per the title of the paragraph, my impression has always been this: after the first Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft moved away from the original concept to pursue the idea of ​​packaging games that were trivially more fun and digestible from the mass. The confirmation came precisely with the first and decisive upheaval that affected the series, namely with the arrival on the market of Assassin's Creed III and then, subsequently, of Black Flag. Two games that are very different from each other in terms of themes, moods and narration, but which share the same basic objective: to bring the AC experience closer to a title that was truly an open world full of secondary activities, abandoning the idea of ​​experience sandbox that did nothing but use the locations as a tool for gameplay and storytelling.

Edward Kenway He succeeded in full Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, exploiting the solid foundations of the third chapter which, given the enormous narrative importance it covered, limited itself to being a forerunner for the future of the series, focusing efforts on renewed parkour, the end of Desmond Miles' story and brutal and spectacular combat animations. AC IV Black Flag, therefore, collected the collectible and gave life to one of the most successful chapters of the series: gigantic, fun and well written, but far from the dear and old original concept. Yet it didn't bother me much, so much so that I remember it with indescribable affection, despite the regret of not having been able to witness a less bitter and more aware revival of the ideas that remained imprisoned in the Altaïr adventure.

In addition to the gameplay and the renewed naval battles that had already found a small space in the third episode, what struck me so much was the setting, which was able to convey the sense of discovery that a pirate trip needs. In the same way, after Desmond's departure, I was not a little surprised by the way in which Ubisoft structured the phases set in the present day: in the role of an Abstergo employee, in charge of reliving the memories of the pirate Edward Kenway, you were free to wander around the huge structure looking for secrets; moreover, everything was damn meta: Abstergo, in fact, was none other than Ubisoft itself. A real genius that we hope to see again, albeit declined to the online and the Infinity platform, in the future of the series.

Arno Victor Dorian

The return of the original concept

I'm not kidding, as the title suggests, it really happened. Although the series now seemed to have completely moved away from the original concept, in 2014, after the launch of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Ubisoft offered players a next-generation Assassin's Creed experience that tried to retrieve the ideas and insights they had in the distant 2007, now with the experience and the possibility to express them to the fullest.

French Revolution, 1789: the streets are a battlefield, the crowd is angry, the architecture of Paris is perfect for the typical Assassin's Creed gameplay. Even the stealth and parkour dynamics underwent a remarkable evolution, and the assassination missions, which have always been the heart of the series, became real stage sandboxes beyond Hitman, gigantic spaces to be explored in detail in search of infiltration opportunities.

Nice isn't it? Too much too.

It's time to tell you everything in a cynical way: what I just finished introducing really finds its place in the game; however, due to numerous bugs, a simple, banal script, and an enemy AI not adapted to the improvements that Ubisoft made to the stealth sector, Unity is today remembered as the worst chapter of the series, the most mistreated of all. And this despite being, probably, the closest to the first, wonderful Assassin's Creed.

Jacob Frye Anyone who does not know the series, I am sure will be thinking: okay, Ubisoft did great, but they certainly tried again with the next chapter; after all, despite the bugs and the well-known artificial intelligence problems, that was the right path. But no. Once again they opted for an almost radical change of course, exactly as in 2009 with the launch of Assassin's Creed II. An attitude that I just can't stand: if an idea doesn't work the first time, it is discarded by favoring another in total contrast to the previous one.

The next chapter, in fact, entitled Syndicate, moves to the nineteenth century, in the middle of the second Industrial Revolution, and among guns, carriages and grapples again chooses another path, moving away - again - from the origins of the series . It also paid the price of being released after a chapter, Unity, which had infuriated the players so much for its pitiful state in the launch phase. Syndicate, therefore, perhaps even a little unfairly, was by far one of the most subdued chapters in the entire history of the franchise. And I say unfairly because, although it differed not a little from the idea that most convinces me and I approach the series, it was a good game: a production full of charm, fun and with two well-characterized protagonists, the first duo ever in the history of the franchise. .

Bayek by Siwa

The Action RPG drift

But the latter is the most radical turning point of all, perhaps also the most confusing. There is nothing wrong with the decision to take an Action Adventure Story-Driven series up to that point and decline it to Action RPG mimicking giants of the market such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. If you really have to, though, at least do it for real. The last trilogy, avoiding going around it, is the most evident demonstration of Ubisoft's lack of courage, which first lays the foundations with a semi-role chapter (Origins); then he realizes one that gives himself completely to those dynamics (Odyssey); and finally it goes back developing a third which is nothing more than a middle way between the two (Valhalla). Total confusion. I understand very well the fears of a studio that has to deliver a similar upheaval to longtime fans, but in doing so it is the quality of the products itself that suffers the most, which moves away from the original identity of the series to embrace another in an unconvinced way. and shy.

The final result, as inevitable as it may be, are three experiences that complement each other: Origins is the most successful in the narrative; Odyssey the most refined and endowed with a more concrete and decisive personality; Valhalla a more visceral Origins and revised in the structure. That's why the new and latest Assassin's Creed trilogy has divided audiences so much, because it hasn't even given fans a way to get used to the idea. For this reason, as I told you in the preview of Assassin's Creed Mirage, I am happy that in the future of the saga there are more different experiences, so as to satisfy old and new fans, and avoid a similar development crisis.

Eivor In short, if you have come this far, you will know it well: Assassin's Creed has changed many times. With some chapters he has also succeeded or at least tried in a more concrete way; with others it was more confusion than anything else that reigned. Nevertheless, in one way or another, I remain very fond of Assassin's Creed: either because of the presence of some characters, or because I really like the artistic direction of Ubisoft ... I'm always waiting, eager to get my hands on a new project dedicated to the saga.

And you, instead, what is your relationship with Assassin's Creed? Please let us know in the comments section.

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