Assassin’s Creed: The Top Three

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate releases today and, for TGI, I have been ranking the main Assassin’s Creed series to date. Today is where we reveal the best in the series…

So far we have seen 7 & 6 on Wednesday, and Thursday revealed 5 & 4. I’m sure that fans of the franchise, who have been paying attention, will have already been able to work out which games are in the top three, but hopefully the order will keep you intrigued!

3. Assassin’s Creed Revelations

Revelations

 

What Worked: Connecting Ezio, Altair and Desmond gave their stories a greater sense of meaning in the overarching story of the Assassin’s Order and the importance of Desmond’s genetics, which had been played out through more separately throughout the course of the series to this point. It was good to see what happened to Altair after the end of Assassin’s Creed, to see his rise in the Order and well as his tragic betrayal. Seeing an aged Ezio, still full of his usual charm, but now also wisdom helped really drive home how much the character had grown and matured.

Adding the zipline fast travel around the city was a fun addition that aided both travel and combat when keeping the player mostly confined within one city. It was also added to what already existed, without having to really revamp any controls, meaning that the carry over from the previous game meant Assassin’s Creed Revelations was easy to pick up and start playing.

What Didn’t: I have to admit that there wasn’t a great deal, but the things that stuck out were the bomb making: 150 recipes was too much to learn, or care about, especially as I could play through the game without really using the bombs anyway. The other was the obligatory need to start from the bottom and work up. Yes, Ezio was in a new city and there is obviously the want to introduce new characters, but Ezio seemed stripped of the authority and ability of the Grand Master. The assassins you spent time recruiting (see more below) were no longer available. Instead you felt like you were starting from scratch, almost as if the Assassin Order did not exist in Constantinople.

The tower defence game that was introduced for this game, defending assassin hideouts from Templar counterattacks was somewhat hit and miss. While yes, it was interesting to try, the hideouts were only susceptible to attack until their appointed leader reached a certain level as an assassin. Too often I found that it was either the same hideouts which found themselves besieged, or that it was easier to surrender to the hideout and then just win it back with Ezio going in solo as the challenge to retake it never changed.

The ending to the story was also a little disappointing. Not because it was badly written, or that the story was bad. More it was because it just seemed to be done. The final mission did not seem like the final mission, that it was the build up to the grande finale, that there was still work for Ezio to do, but I suppose you could argue, looking back, that was the point. Ezio was not done, his story was not yet over, just our involvement as players.

Why Rank It Here:

The overall gameplay was great and I really enjoyed the intertwining stories of the three protagonists  was important to experience as a player. I do feel that the overall feeling of not being ready to be done was what really brought this game down. Just one more, ass-kicking level would have been enough but alas it was not to be. At least, unlike the protagonists in other Assassin’s Creed we were able to see that Ezio’s life would continue, rather than simply leaving him in the limbo of time once the console was switched off, which after three games with him, I appreciated.

 

2. Assassin’s Creed II

AC2

What Worked: The setting, smack bang in the middle of Renaissance Italy went down a treat. Not to knock what Assassin’s Creed brought us, but the Italian setting of Assassin’s Creed II came across as a more colourful and vibrant setting than the Holy Lands.

Assassin’s Creed II was also our first introduction to Ezio, a protagonist who we would have the pleasure of journeying with for three individual games. Ezio was really, by all accounts, your stereotypical Italian youth at the start of the game, charming, brash and always with an eye for the ladies. While that in itself was entertaining, it was the journey that Assassin’s Creed II took you and Ezio on that worked so well. Lost and confused at the start when his world started to crash down around him, it was a very different case by the close of the game. (Not including Ezio’s confusion over Desmond and the existence of the previous civilisations!)

Assassin’s Creed II also gave us the first chance to invest in real estate in the franchise. By upgrading merchants you received perks and an increased revenue stream. It might have been costly in the short term but, in the long run, being a property magnate would pay off. It did leave the odd struggle between deciding on whether it was better to buy an upgrade sword, or improve the weapon merchant’s place of business and get a discount on the same weapon later. The fact that proceeds settled into your money chest on a set period of time in game, meant if you were just short of what you needed, it often wasn’t too long a wait before those extra funds were available.

What Didn’t: The feathers! For those who dislike collectables, then Assassin’s Creed II is perhaps a game to avoid. Trying to find feathers to store for Ezio’s mother, to try and ease her out of her traumatised state was a pain, which for the most part did not pay off. I think if we’d been able to spend a bit more time with the other members of Ezio’s family before events unfolded, then perhaps the story would have been even better than it was. It was, after all, a revenge story but as a gamer, being able to feel the loss and following motivation would have been greater if we’d really managed to get to know Ezio’s family. Perhaps then, I might have pushed myself to go and find those feathers after all.

Like its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed II used a number of cites as locations, each with their own factions who were at war with one another. During this period, Italy was not yet a unified country, and as such each city was its own principality wrestling for control of territory. The problem was, I never really got a sense that it matter that much. In the original Assassin’s Creed, I understood the war between the Christian Armies and the followers of Islam. This time around, there never really felt that great of a difference between where I was. Enemies were armed the same and reacted the same. You were supposed to be able to change the colour of your clothes and cape to match the city you were in to reduce the guards attention, but I never noticed the difference. Yes we’re talking minor details here, but we’re towards the end of this list, it’s getting harder to think of things that were real problems.

Why Rank It Here:

It started Ezio on his journey and served as the foundation to two more games. Ezio as a character was so likeable and popular that he ended up causing Ubisoft a headache in the future when, by comparison, Conor felt like he had the emotions of a brick wall in Assassin’s Creed III.

 

1. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

Brotherhood

What Worked: Assassins Creed Brotherhood was the game that showed truly how far Ezio had come. He assumed the role of the Assassin’s Grand Master, building it up in strength. Ezio was able to recruit new assassins and send them out on missions of their own. This meant these recruits could gain experience and money. The recruited assassins could also be called to Ezio’s aid which, although might seem like a cop out for difficult fights to some, demonstrated for the first time in a while that you were not alone in your fight against the Templars. It was no longer a lone wolf story, you had friends and man, would they prove useful.

The introduction of the entire Borgia family as Ezio’s foes was a brilliant move that played off the real life individuals and their historic reputations and wove it together with the Templar story of Assassin’s Creed. For anyone who knows there history, or has  recently seen produced Borgia TV shows, will know that during this time the Borgia family essentially ruled Rome and Italy, with the Rodrigo Borgia, the Pope, the head of Christianity. Up until now, Assassin’s Creed villains were mostly powerful families or organisations that held small spheres of influence. The Borgias were the first time in Assassin’s Creed that you truly felt outnumbered.

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood also featured a revamped combat system, encouraging players to be aggressive rather than simply waiting to counter their opponents one by one. Being outnumbered in a fight was never really a problem previously as players just needed to time their counters and things would be fine. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood took that sense of invulnerability away, but also made it possible to engage more than one target at once, allowing for a more natural flow in combat.

What Didn’t: Baring the game’ opening and ending segments, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood was set entirely in the city of Rome. While Rome was a fantastic setting in its own right, mixing in the ancient ruins of Ancient Roman times with the Renaissance expansion, it did feel claustrophobic compared to Ezio’s previous journey. It worked for the purposes of the story, but being able to see those other cites again would have been a much appreciated bonus and would have reduced the number of times Ezio ran past the Colosseum during a mission.

While recruiting new assassins to aid you in your moment of need, it could be argued that having eight assassins to call upon made Ezio a tad overpowered. Situations that originally might have given players cause to pause and assess their surrounding for an easier way in, simply devolved into charging your opponents and calling all assassins from down high to clean things up. Once levelled up sufficiently, I never lost an assassin to these street fights, meaning my Ezio rode with one mean posse. When in situations where Ezio could not be detected, players could hide and use these assassins to kill targets without failing the mission.

Another potentially overpowered aspect of combat was the introduction of the crossbow. It allowed Ezio to kill silently from distance, without being caught, allowing players to clean out an area with some ease. I will admit this did somewhat help rebalance the fact that players were still very much in the ‘auto fail for detection’ era, but perhaps it was too much in the player’s favour.

These changes to the combat made you less of a meticulous assassin and play more along the lines of someone who would snipe all the perimeter guards and then finish everyone else off with your wrecking crew of fellow assassins.

Why Rank It Here: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is the example of what can be achieved when all the elements line up correctly. Story, characters, gameplay and setting. It is the standard that I have held all the following games to and perhaps because none have quite reached the mark, this is why Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood remains my favourite game so far.

Will Assassin’s Creed Syndicate take the crown? Experience has left me sceptical, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still hold out hope. As a fan of the series, I would more than welcome a game that topples Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood from my top spot but, as the series long ago converted to being annualised, I have my doubts that any can manage it.

So there we have it, that’s my rankings for the Assassin’s Creed franchise. I know that everyone’s gaming experiences are different, so I would be interested to know what other people think. Please feel free to leave your own rankings in the comments below!

Dan