Why 'Assassin's Creed' Was on the Decline
Not a Hit Piece. From a Fan Who Cares.
The driving force of interest for any Assassin’s Creed game should be the modern day story arc, right? It’s all good reliving the past as various ancestors, but without a reason for doing so the plot quickly begins to fall apart. The best and most clear example proving this is the first five main game entries in the franchise, playing through the lives of Altair, Ezio, and Connor was spurred on by Desmond’s need to find secrets from the past. Many fans of the series enjoyed this balance of past and present with some arguably pushing for more present day sections much like Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Revelations, and Three. For many players, Black Flag was where the issues started, the game was overall well-received and was rather technically impressive. The issue was that Black Flag didn’t necessarily feel like an Assassin’s Creed game; for the first time in the series we were playing in first person view as a faceless and voiceless present day protagonist. Personally (and I don’t think I’m the only one) I felt quite disconnected from the present day for the first time in the series. As much as Black Flag is an incredibly fun game and did move the overall story along, it seemed like a step in a strange direction, almost giving the impression that the “higher ups” at Ubisoft had too much input towards the games creation. The reason I say a strange direction and not necessarily a bad direction is because Black Flag is just as much an Assassin’s Creed game as it isn’t. A somewhat ignorant but true statement about the fourth installment in the series is that large pirate boats… SHIPS (sorry, Edward) don’t exactly represent stealth. Regardless of what people thought of the ancestor story line of Black Flag, it was the present day story game play that pushed opinions towards disliking those sections of the games (I would dive into the present day issues with Assassin’s Creed Rogue, but the same applies).
Ubisoft heard the outcry from fans relating to the present day in Black Flag (after killing off Desmond in Assassin’s Creed Three). With the release of Assassin's Creed Unity, players found that for the first time in the history of the main releases there was no playable present day to be found. There are generally two groups of players/fans when it comes this series of games. One group who enjoys the overall story both past and present and one group who wants to run around in a world of the past engaging in parkour, combat and stealth game play. Essentially neither group is wrong, the problem arises when players who don’t enjoy the present day story get more attention that the ones who do. What I mean by this is that when present day is removed one group of players lose their reason to be interested in the overall story arc of the series and one group of players loses literally nothing. In my opinion the present day should and is the driving force for the past sections of the games. The trend of non playable present day continued with the next release, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate getting a pretty similar response to Unity in that many players didn’t think a few cut scenes were enough content.
A yearly release cycle really started to show its weakness when Assassin's Creed Unity launched, the initial version of the game was nothing short of broken for many players on release day. Issues with performance varied from the game simply not loading at all, to players falling through the map endlessly and some players even being shown or hearing random cut scenes playing in the back ground. By the time Assassin’s Creed Syndicate came around these issues were gone, but many people had already given up on the series due to feeling burnt by Unity.
The side media/extended universe problem. Originally the side media of the Assassin’s Creed series was a way for fans to further explore and get to know the characters and locations they had come to love in the video games. A series of novels and comics continue to add to the series along with the addition of a film, this sounds all well and good however issues with canon and putting major plot points in this side media have continued to be a problem. More prominent examples of this are the ever elusive Juno story line being moved almost entirely to comics and the other “big bad guy” of the series Alan Rikkin being killed off in the film. To add insult to injury the name “Rikkin” was pronounced wrong through the whole film displaying a clear lack of communication. I think the reason Ubisoft decided to move these story lines to side media is because they presume the “hardcore” fans are more likely to purchase side media to access these major plot points. Of course when referring to Ubisoft in these situations I mean the business side and not the creatives, as Ubisoft seem to have the same issues in this area as many companies do in the video game industry.
With the release of Assassin’s Creed Origins, many issues that had started to plague the series were very thoroughly removed. The technical issues due to the rushed release yearly cycle are nowhere to be seen; however, a few bugs did occur but quickly got patched and there has been a steady stream of free updates and new features along side season pass content. Origins is the first game in the series to take on a traditional deeper RPG style and personally I would say it turned out very well and is a great direction for the future of Assassin’s Creed. Bringing back a third person playable present day character was a very welcome addition to most players, but I do feel it could have been just a bit longer. Overall Origins has rejuvenated the series for many players who stayed around and brought back many players who left. For the first time in along time we have a new protagonist many people actually want to get a sequel. I could talk about Origins all day, however, this isn’t an Origins review, just an observation of a series myself and many others love.
The future of Assassin’s Creed seems to be getting brighter.