Ever since its second outing in 2009, it hasn’t felt like bad Assassin’s Creed games have been blips in an otherwise great series — rather, it's felt like quite the opposite. With nine games proper under its belt, Assassin’s Creed feels like it is struggling just to hold onto its fans, much less impress them. Public perception is at an all time low and if the series ever hopes to climb its way back to the dizzying heights of its forebears, these five things need to requiescat in pace.
1. Overuse Of Icons
In every Assassin’s Creed game, you are told that to find viewpoints, you need to poke around the map in search of an eagle circling a tall building or a tower. What tends to be left out is that the exact location of every single viewpoint in the game is also pinpointed on your map. Similarly, when taking on Syndicate or Unity's key assassination missions, the game makes a point of showing you the easiest routes to your target. It’s like being presented with a puzzle that you’re never given the chance to solve — the solution is handed to you right off the bat.
Without being given the opportunity to experiment and to fail, there’s no catharsis when you eventually do kill your target. Because really, you didn’t complete that mission, the level designers did. Thinking otherwise would be like saying you killed Batman’s parents because you hit play on The Dark Knight DVD. In Assassin’s Creed, you never work anything out for yourself, are never given the chance to, and as a result, should-be important and enjoyable challenges become boring, mundane busywork.
2. The Sci-Fi Bits
It used to be that what happened outside the Animus was just as important, if not more so, as what happened inside. It was the frame that everything else was tucked behind. It was the reason you went to Renaissance Italy, to Revolution-era America, but now it has become this odd series of mini games and cutscenes that feel shoehorned in for no other reason than Ubisoft seemingly feeling obligated to include them.
Assassin’s Creed no longer needs these burdensome sections (if it ever did), and in fact would be better off without them. The characters therein aren’t remotely likable and the story isn’t interesting. It’s just extraneous waffle that doesn’t serve a purpose, and when a facet of a game isn’t contributing to its overall quality, it's dragging it down. Assassin’s Creed’s modern-day story arc burned out a long time ago and it’s time we moved on.
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As cosmetic items in free-to-play games, microtransactions are perfectly fine, but as a part of games that release at full retail, they feel a little too greedy. That being said, shelling out for a premium booster pack or a second currency is never necessary to complete Syndicate or Unity, but that doesn’t make their inclusion kosher. The more big-name developers that get away with having microtransactions in their games, the more they become the norm and the more liberally they’re likely to be used in the future.
4. The Fluff
Since Assassin’s Creed 2 fixed a lot of the first game’s problems, it feels like Ubisoft decided to, rather improve the series further, just pile more stuff on. To the point where Assassin’s Creed has become this bloated fusion of discordant ideas and mechanics borrowed from other genres that never quite mesh. That in itself is a problem, but it’s worsened when you consider how outdated its core gameplay feels in 2016.
You can understand why Ubisoft decided to include things like leveling up and crafting, but they feel like half ideas; like they’ve only been included to tick a box. The side missions all feel the same, managing your gang members/assassins is shallow, customization and stat management is uninspired and unfinished — the list goes on. It’s quantity over quality and when liberating districts and freeing the oppressed — and by extension, being an assassin — feels like a chore, everything else does, too.
5. Eagle Vision
Compared to what it used to be in the first game, eagle vision has come along way. Where before it was more of a simple crutch to help you evaluate your surroundings, it has become an integral part of Assassin's Creed's moment-to-moment gameplay. Now, eagle vision lets you mark every single target you're likely to come across without even needing to be near them or have them in your line of sight. Sure, this may make the games a lot easier to play, but that certainly doesn’t mean better.
This feeds back into what I alluded to before with the series' overuse of icons and the developer's unwillingness to let go of the player’s hand. It shows that Ubisoft doesn’t respect the player’s intelligence, doesn’t trust their competence to overcome a challenge or show a bit of independent thought. In catering to everyone by making their games as easy as possible, Ubisoft has made Assassin’s Creed a game that appeals to no one, and that is something that desperately needs to change if the series is ever to move forward.
Look out for the Assassin's Creed film starring Michael Fassbender, set to hit cinemas on December 21.
What do you think Ubisoft needs to change to make Assassin's Creed the great game it once was? Answer in the comments section.