Tony’s Time: Assassin’s Creed Is My Favorite Franchise
I mentioned on the podcast this week that I’ve started letting my daughter play the Assassin’s Creed franchise. She watched me play through Assassin’s Creed: Revelations recently and she was really interested in actually playing the game herself, which surprised me. I thought the length and pacing of the games might have turned her off to the series, but I was wrong. In the two weeks since I bought her a copy of the first game for Christmas she’s flown, sometimes literally, through them. All of this because I told her she couldn’t play Revelations until she’d played the other games. That’s not actually the point of this article, this is. I really think that Assassin’s Creed could be my favorite game franchise of all time.
As I mentioned I’ve been playing through the games alongside her. One because they’re really fun games and two to make sure that the content of the games was what I was remembering. In that time I’ve seen the mechanics, storytelling, and visual style of the game change. When you first play these games you might not realize just how much things change as memories can adjust over time.
It’s Not About the Fighting
I know that sounds weird for a game all about someone who kills people, but I really think that is actually secondary to anything else in the game. I really think the controls are designed to keep you out of combat if at all possible. You have to actively want to get into a fight and there is a series of buttons that you have to push in order to do so. You can’t just go around swinging your sword. You have to pick the timing of fights. If you rush into a crowded area with reckless abandon then there’s a good chance that you could accidentally run your sword through an innocent person. The game even penalizes you should you do so.
When I play the games it’s all about the story. When I’m playing as Ezio (I’m not a fan of Altair, the jerk) I really want to step into his shoes. He didn’t choose this life. It chose him, as he says. I walk around the cities trying to avoid running into people. I don’t take to the rooftops unless it’s better to do so, like when I’m running from guards or I just really need to get to someplace fast. I don’t think Ezio would have done that. Towards the end of his trilogy he’s getting older. I think he would have walked everywhere. I don’t randomly pick pocket people, unless the story calls for it. I really think of Ezio as a moral character who only killed or committed crimes if it was absolutely the only thing to do.
I don’t mean Desmond’s story. Yes, that’s the central point to the whole game is using these older characters to get clues and solve a problem that’s happening in modern times. The sheer lack of events happening with Desmond pushes that story into the back of my head. I only think about those things when those events are happening at the beginning or the end of the game. In Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood I never left the Animus once I was put in there. It wasn’t until the end of the game when Desmond had to explore the Colosseum that I actually saw him at all. In Revelations he spends the entire game in a coma so there’s little that he needs to do. The mark of a good story is that you feel the same emotions the character does. Aside from Ezio’s womanizing ways I got pulled into his story unlike any other game or franchise I’ve ever played. I cared about the people he was interacting with. I felt relief when he discovered that Machiavelli wasn’t a traitor. I felt the sadness of Yusuf’s death and his anger at Sofia being kidnapped.
Sure the game has its cheesy moments. I’ll never forget his uncle proclaiming, “It’s-a me, Mario,” or the “Principessa in Another Castello” achievement popping up on screen. Those moments only serve to lighten the tension, work in context of the story and are few and far between. I can’t say that I’ve ever been on a bigger emotional ride than the Assassin’s Creed series. I will forever remember the moments when Cesare was screaming that no man could kill him and Ezio flung him from the top of a castle or parachuting onto a fleeing Ahmet on horseback.
I remember the moment when the announcement that Brotherhood would have multi-player was made. I remember saying there’s no way that would work in a franchise like Assassin’s Creed. I remember saying why can’t Ubisoft leave well enough alone and stop trying to cram a feature into a game that just didn’t need it. Then I remember actually playing the multi-player for the first time.
I remember the moment of stalking someone, flopping into a haystack and then waiting for them to walk by before springing out and getting the kill. The cat and mouse game of having to tail one person, while remaining hidden so that they didn’t see you while at the same time also having to hide from someone else who was stalking you.
The way that Ubisoft put the multi-player part of that franchise together was brilliant. They didn’t just do the same old death match; kill everything you see on the screen. They built something around the franchise rather than trying to stuff the franchise into the traditional multi-player trappings. It’s something that shouldn’t have worked, but turned out to be one of the best ways to play a game with other people. I don’t like playing Call of Duty online with other people. There are too many players out there that make that their living and spawning into an arena only to die six second later and then repeating the process isn’t fun. Assassin’s Creed turns that on its head and is a ton of fun to play. There are people out there that are really good at it, but even the newest assassin can get in good kills if they are patient and don’t rush into a room full of storm troopers like Han Solo on a sugar rush.
I haven’t played Assassin’s Creed III yet. I’ll be getting a Wii U later this month and I’ve got a copy sitting on my shelf waiting for a system. I’m very excited to see where the story goes, how it wraps up and how I feel about a new protagonist. Maybe it’s Ezio that makes this franchise so endearing to me. I never liked Altair. I thought he was an arrogant jerk at the beginning and throughout all of the first game I thought he was an arrogant jerk. I never connected with him until he was in his 90’s walking around Masyaf watching other people kill in his name. I don’t know how I’ll feel about Connor. I know I’ll be interested in seeing how they weave him into the story of the birth of a nation. I know neither side is painted with a saintly brush. I know a lot about that time period. I want to be as impressed with that game as I was with the Ezio trilogy.
I also really want to play AC: Liberation on Vita, but don’t own that system either.
Luigi’s Mansion may be my favorite game of all time. That’s based on the fun I have playing that game. The Assassin’s Creed franchise tops the list as a whole franchise based on the combination of story, gameplay, visuals and emotion. If I had to choose a favorite among them it would easily be Brotherhood, but even then it’s only a small piece of the whole puzzle.