Out of Control: So much Assassin’s Creed, So Little Gameplay

December 4, 2014

I haven’t played Assassin’s Creed V  yet… and I’m incredibly nervous for when I finally do.

My relationship with the series has evolved over the five years I’ve spent with the franchise to the point where, as of right now, I don’t have much faith in Ubisoft’s ability to give the fans the game they deserve.

The first AC game I ever played was a less than satisfying experience. I was drawn to the game because of its historicity and sprawling, detailed urban environments. I quickly became immersed in the vast freedom the game affords.

The monotony of the mission types, however, soon gnawed at the edges of my belief. You can only eavesdrop, intimidate, and then assassinate your opponents—exactly in that order—so many times before you start to want for something more.

Variety was key to Assassin’s Creed II’s triumph. That and the introduction of a loveable playboy protagonist named Ezio Auditore (what can I say, Italians do it best). Missions were diverse and entertaining. Ezio was everything everyone ever wanted to be: sophisticated, rich, handsome, and a stone-cold hit with the ladyfolk.

Combine those two factors with the allure of exploring popular Italian cities such as Florence and Venice, and Ubisoft had themselves the defining installment of their ill-fated trilogy. The company must have recognized this success, releasing a number of spinoff games chronicling the later years of Ezio’s life. Things were good for AC fans.

That is, until the release of what was supposed to be the final installment in the AC trilogy. The game-that-will-not-be-named is a disgusting mess. The developers overstepped their bounds as far as variety went. They tried to incorporate far too many gameplay mechanics that didn’t gel with the formula they created. The result is a jumbled mess that didn’t feel like a fitting end to a series that had captivated the hearts of many. I honestly do consider it one of the greatest betrayals in gaming history.

Assassin’s Creed IV was just as bad, but in its own special way. Ubisoft had obviously been clued in on the discontent concerning its last game, and had taken the one well-received aspect (naval combat), and exploited it to the max. They created a game with excellent sailing mechanics based around pirates in the caribbean. The result felt like an excellent pirate game. But not a great AC game.

Where were the sprawling cityscapes? Where was the clandestine involvement in some of the most recognizable historical events, with some of the most recognizable historical figures? It just didn’t stack up.

In their latest release, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, it seems that Ubisoft has returned to its tried and true formula: an incredibly famous city, a charming male protagonist, and one of the most recognizable revolutions in early modern history. Initial reviews claim the game plays and looks as beautiful as any fan of the series would expect, and if that’s true, I have to take my hat off to the the developer… with a few reservations of course.

Innovation is something Ubisoft has struggled to control. They did a great job innovating with AC II, but went too far with AC III. With AC: Unity however, the developers have introduced a cooperative multiplayer mode, which is really exciting.

The idea of sneaking your way through Versailles with three close compadres, dodging and disposing of guards as you go is pretty darn badass. In a market flooded with cookie-cutter games focused on competitive multiplayer, cooperation is a fresh prospect.

Initial reviews, however, are claiming that the game is far too buggy for a player to truly enjoy, which is equally disappointing. Instead of taking another big gamble, Ubisoft played it safe but lost their way on the fundamentals.

They essentially killed the game before it even hit shelves earlier last month. The developers better come up with a hit in the series soon, or their inability to create a smooth game, not a lack of interest or oversaturation, may be what ends up killing undoubtedly their largest franchise.

But, if Ubisoft ever did go under, I’m sure someone would pick up the rights to the series. I hear Abstergo Industries is always looking for new capital…

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