In 2007 Ubisoft introduced the gaming world to Altaïr Ibn-Al’Lahad and his Brotherhood of Levantine Assassins in Assassin’s Creed. While this first title in the Assassin’s Creed franchise was flawed, it presented gamers with an opportunity they perhaps didn’t even know they had wanted. With absurdly repetitive missions (consisting of instructions “follow person, kill person with varying degrees of difficulty”), terrible voice acting, and a plot twist revealed at the start of the game, Assassin’s Creed left a lot to be desired. The locomotion system within the game focused on vertical exploration and introduced a way of getting around enormous and sprawling cities in quick and incredibly fun fashion, a locomotion system which has endured to this day with only minimal tweaks, and has helped shape numerous other games’ (inFamous, Arkham Asylum, Sunset Overdrive) methods of transporting players across the map. This traversal system was revolutionary and players have been in love with it ever since, even with its sometimes quirky and fidgety controls.
Assassin’s Creed II learned its lesson from its first mediocre endeavor and capitalized on what was good about the first game while revamping the story by introducing better characters and at least attempting to make the sci-fi element of the story relevant to the player in fifteenth century Italy. With their second attempt, Ubisoft turned Assassin’s Creed into the franchise that they knew it could be. Following two sequels (Brotherhood and Revelations) that were more or less par for the course, Assassin’s Creed 3 sauntered into the 18th century just in time for the American revolution. This was Ubisoft’s first attempt to do something different and unique with their franchise by placing it in a setting that doesn’t often get explored in gaming very often and by switching up tactics just a little to give the players a change of pace. Well change doesn’t always mean for the better and Assassin’s Creed III was arguably the worst in the series. Having Connor as the worst protagonist in the series didn’t help either. Once again, Ubisoft heard the cries from the gaming public and set out to right the ship. With Assassin’s Creed IV, Ubisoft capitalized on the most fun to be had in Assassin’s Creed III, which was the naval aspect of the game. By making ship combat a larger part of the experience, along with an intriguing protagonist, Assassin’s Creed IV reached a level of pure fun and enjoyment that players had been without for three games and four years. That was not by accident. Ubisoft set out to make this iteration more fun and accessible than any game had been so far in the series.
Which brings us now to the newest installment in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Assassin’s Creed Unity. With Unity comes 18th century France and Arno and not much else. A standard revenge tale of exposing true powers behind the French Revolution, Arno is a cardboard cutout of a vengeful character who brings approximately nothing new to the table with him. Aside from the new downward free-running capabilities Arno possesses, there’s really nothing new here. Sure the customization is better and co-op is more enjoyable, but nothing is new. Unity could easily be a continuation of the Ezio saga in terms of new abilities or tools. The whole game plays like a suped-up DLC.
This lackluster effort from Ubisoft presents a new problem for the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Let’s recap: the first Assassin’s Creed was an okay game with some hefty flaws. Assassin’s Creed II (and the two that continued its plotline) were good because they took what the first had presented and expanded upon and refined it (better missions, better story structure, better-free-running). Assassin’s Creed III was a not horrible game with some interesting elements that couldn’t save the game as a whole. Assassin’s Creed IV took what III had presented and expanded upon and refined it (better missions, better story structure, better characters, naval gameplay). There’s a pattern here. Ubisoft will make an Assassin’s Creed game that takes some chances with some of its elements and they’ll ultimately fall flat. Some of those elements, however, have potential. Then Ubisoft will capitalize on that potential and make a genuinely enjoyable game. Ubisoft is in a constant state of catching up with itself.
The problem with this perpetual state of catching up with their own good, but half-baked ideas is that Assassin’s Creed: Unity offered none of those good ideas, or, at least not any substantial ones. With Unity, Ubisoft offered no new elements or abilities or anything of real or actual value to gamers to catch up with. Now, there’s nothing for them to capitalize on. I think we’ve seen the best Assassin’s Creed has to offer. From now on, every new gameplay addition will be superficial, offering no significant payoff. Ubisoft, simply put, is out of good ideas for this franchise, and it’s time to wrap this franchise up. Assassin’s Creed has reached its peak with both its creativity and its gameplay. Every year from now on, we’ll be greeted by a new Assassin’s Creed and every year it will be met with diminishing returns. Parry heavy combat won’t cut it anymore and while gallivanting around Europe may be stunning with new hardware capabilities, it can’t and won’t continue to make up for repetitive gameplay and bland storytelling. What was once revolutionary is now standard, and what was once an at least somewhat interesting story is now tired and monotonous . It’s time for Ubisoft to give up the ghost on the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and move on to something new.