Assassins Creed: The Ezio Trilogy – The Great, Good and the Bad
Warning: Spoilers for the Assassins Creed franchise from 2 onwards
Put very simply – I’ve been a huge fan and defender of the Assassins Creed franchise from the very beginning but that doesn’t mean Ubisoft haven’t made mistakes in the past. Some of them forgivable, minor glitches or missteps that are easily brushed under the carpet and some not so much.
Ezio is one of my favourite characters of recent memory; his Italian heritage, vibrant world and family history made him a far better, more human character than his predecessor. He also played more fluidly which certainly aided the positive memories but it’s the story of Ezio that will stay with me as we move forward with the franchise into the new era.
No matter how good a character Ezio was, Ubisoft didn’t need to throw him through the trilogy machine. By the end of the games I felt like I needed a pallet cleanser; Ezio’s story was so contrived and so stretched out that he felt abused.
We had followed him through his life and now he needed to go in a drawer and be forgotten about. Ubisoft, in a way, had beaten this once great character into a piece of meat and that was a definite shame for a character that entered as strong as I’ve ever seen from any character.
Assassins Creed II was a wonderful game, it introduced the world to early-Italy, a country still finding its place in the world but strong and proud all the same. The game came with all the trimmings and showed a difficult life with a seedy underbelly, something boiled below the surface at the beginning of the game and you spend the majority of your play through revealing the plot that was at the hand of the Templars all along.
The most memorable part of the game was something so easy to miss, something that felt like a side-project worked on by a couple of people over a weekend that was shoehorned in at the last minute which, once revealed, becomes an integral part of the larger puzzle of the franchise.
The thing that Assassins Creed II really taught us was that Ubisoft had a larger plan that each game was going to feed into. This was hinted at in the first game, certainly, but the second really leaned into its mythology hard and showed it was here to stay.
Assassins Creed II’s collectibles really shone above all other open-world games. In the form of glitches from the animus, Ubisoft created something you actually wanted to put your time into. They were difficult to find, yes, but you didn’t mind the hours of climbing and searching because the reward was absolutely immense; something rich and fulfilling that actually aided your understanding of the history only really hinted at through the main game.
Not only did it send you a message tying into some of the greater; most discussed events of human history, but also teased where the franchise would be going. I played through the story upon release and spent nearly double that bashing my head against a desk while I scavenged for the last pieces of the puzzle.
Tying the collectibles into the games overarching story rather than simply something that would be rewarded in the game. “The Truth” worked on so many levels. It teased of how the war was started and hinted at something far deeper that ties excellently in with the end of the game. Including Adam and Eve and the rumoured site of the Garden of Eden was a stroke of genius.
Ubisoft had created the best teaser for their next game and the majority of people probably never even saw it. It showed a lot of heart and devotion for me, tackling something quite large and often not spoken of in video games in a unique and original way.
While this tradition returned in the next two games, it came with diminishing returns. The same concept, laying around the world felt kind of lazy, overused and unoriginal because, truthfully, I think it was. They hadn’t improved on the formula but rather relied upon the same thing working over and again.
The rewards were as good, but the drive to fetch them just wasn’t the same. Subject 16 became a hushed word, something you were fed up of hearing about and simply unprepared to drive towards the answers. Why? Because it felt like you had been there before and were striving for the same things again and again. In truth, perhaps this was all because Assassins Creed II did it so well and the reward was so huge that anything else paled in comparison but it simply didn’t work as well.
Now don’t get me wrong, Brotherhood added some excellent features, and is probably the best of the franchise to date. The addition of a team of assassins willing to bow to your every whim was excellent and really added a layer of complexity to the gameplay that I thought was welcome.
It didn’t stretch things too far but again, the story felt old, I wanted something new and exciting and although Brotherhood played excellently it just couldn’t live up to the story of the second game. It was stronger in gameplay, and probably so in story, but the impact of the new character and the fresh feeling from a new setting was gone.
Revelations stepped a little too far from where I liked my Assassins Creed; with the addition of a strategy portion I simply wasn’t interested in and false promises through poor marketing I felt burnt. Ezio and Altair weren’t main characters.
Ezio featured in the game, while Altair offered a few linear side missions that added a little flavour too his life. I wanted more. The game did some “OK” things with the gameplay but didn’t break out of the mold set by Brotherhood and so felt pretty stale in comparison. Some of the new features were interesting but not capitalised upon in any way.
What Revelations did well, was end on a high. The following video (which is the end of the game) affected me in ways I’ve yet to understand. This was the culmination of four games and about 100 hours of gameplay to get to this point and here we weren’t just saying good bye to a single character but to an era of a franchise.
When I first saw the ending I didn’t know what was going to become of Assassins Creed but one thing as certain, we had seen the end to the first two chapters of the journey.
Assassins Creed games have always been about the story for me. The gameplay has improved game on game, but that simply makes it easier for me to experience the roller coaster built up within such a vast and rich history.
Yes, mistakes have been made and while I feel every one of the games have their merits, I do wish they had condensed some of it down into fewer games, but overall I hope Ubisoft have learnt from their mistakes and their successes and continue to trade this franchise on what most people want – a story that continues to baffle and confound as well as excite every time.
Annualising the franchise was a risky move but I still couldn’t be more excited about the next game. The introduction of a new character (and the continuation of Desmond’s story) is something I thought about plenty in the last year and I can’t wait to see what Ubisoft have waiting for us in the 1800s.
Are you a fan? Have you stuck with the franchise until now? What are your thoughts on where Assassins Creed has been and where it’s going?