Editorial: The Cursed Legacy of Assassin’s Creed

Assassin's hidden blade

These days, yet another, or to be precise, the 13th installment of the AC franchise has been released. In this article, I won’t focus on the newest title, Assassin’s Creed Mirage, or any particular previous one, but I’ll try to explain why I think the franchise has failed. This was one of my favorite franchises since I was a teenager, but it got destroyed over time. This game was assassinated just like Desmond was if anyone still remembers who he was. We’ll start our journey that went all the way from Assassins and Templars to the sci-fi-marvel-mythology-rpg-don’t-know-what-I’m-playing type of game. Let’s prepare our hidden blades and see what (or who) killed this franchise. 

Brief History of Assassin’s Creed

Assassin's Creed 2007 gameplay

Back when it was released in 2007, we all knew at the time what it was. It was like a sequel to the game called Prince of Persia, or PoP. For us, the “old folks,” this game was about parkour, killing monsters in Ancient Persia, and the Sands of Time. Assassin’s Creed was a more mature and realistic version of PoP with a much deeper story. Ever since the first game was released, you’ve got an open-world free-running GTA kind of game where you couldn’t slaughter innocent NPCs forever. You could ride a horse, buy gear, and find some mystery items, but most importantly, it was about assassinations. If you wanted a similar game like this, you’d have to play the Hitman, Thief, PoP games, Splinter Cell, or Metal Gear Solid games. These games are all famous for their stealth elements and cool assassinations, a.k.a. the shadow/ninja gameplay.

Assassin's Creed 2 gameplay

As the sands of time were running out, so did the gamers’ will to do repetitive tasks in the well-known environment. After the weak performance and sales of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, something had to change. Ubisoft decided to take the whole gameplay from the famous RPG, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. There is one thing about Witcher; it was always an RPG game based on a famous series of books that have a well-written story on which the games are based. Now, since Assassin’s Creed isn’t about gameplay, story, or anything else anymore, it’s about one thing: money. Just as Hollywood is trying to squeeze every penny with bad horror movie sequels like The Exorcist: Believer or the fact that almost ALL Disney’s Marvel movies flopped in 2023. It’s the same formula: brand recognition, soulless movies, passionless characters, huge budgets, and poor audience scores. AC 1 was all about telling a great story and being innovative, while AC Valhalla was more like God of War meets Sim City 3000.

Story(telling problems) of Assassin’s Creed

Desmond and his team in AC

Okay, Assassin’s Creed had a quite popular theme and a good story start. It was a conspiracy theory brought to life with sci-fi historical elements and parkour. The story of a young bartender, Desmond, who is a descendant of a legendary and hidden society of Assassins trying to save the world; does this give you goosebumps? You had one clear enemy, the Templar Knights, and the story was loosely based on true historical events. Even some characters were true, but eventually, this wasn’t enough for the studios. In my opinion, the worst part, besides gaming, and the first problem that occurred with the AC franchise, was bad writing. Writers simply didn’t know where to go with the story, how to fit it all in, and, most importantly, how to make it likable. The story of Assassin’s Creed should have ended somewhere with Assassin’s Creed 3 or 4.

Desmond Miles dead

Yet another problem with these AC games is that they’ve created a rather unnecessarily complex timeline. Okay, maybe I’m a bit too harsh here. The games do need to jump into different historical periods, but that was because of Desmond, that’s right. Now, where is Desmond exactly in the last X number of games? Oh, yeah, right, he’s dead since Assassin’s Creed III back in 2012. The main protagonist died almost 12 years ago, and you’re looking for what assassinated Assassin’s Creed? If that isn’t the case, I don’t know what it is. This was worse than modern comedy movies or even worse than modern Christmas movies. The stories are always linear, and most choices you get are unimportant, or they won’t change the outcome in any important way. In my opinion, they shouldn’t because you’re just playing or re-experiencing the genetic memories of your ancestors or someone else.

How did RPG elements and mythology affect the gameplay?

AC Odyssey

Since Assassin’s Creed Origins, the franchise has changed for the worse in my opinion. At first glance, it was something new and something fresh to start with, but every game after AC Origins was just a soulless copy. There are some major problems. First of all, once I saw a health bar above the head of enemies, I didn’t have the feeling I was playing AC anymore. It was okay as an experimental game for one game like Origins, but Odyssey, Valhalla, and now Mirage, you get the point; it’s becoming repetitive. The other huge problem, as some fans have addressed, is that it’s become a “Warrior’s Creed” rather than Assassin’s since the stealth elements are mostly unimportant. You’re upgrading your weapons and your gear, building your ships, improving your villages. It’s like a Sims-Witcher-SimCity simulator in a way, and it feels like playing WoW at some points when you enter other realms like Valhalla and its DLCs.

AC Valhalla Wolf

The mythology was a huge part of Assassin’s Creed and the Isu civilization. The Isu were a highly advanced prehuman race that looked like people, whose tech seemed alien or godlike to us. This was a great example in the first couple of games, and it was cool how the Pope and other leaders used their tech to rise to power. After AC Origins and especially in Valhalla, this seems a bit too much. In Valhalla, they’ve mixed poor storytelling with gameplay from Witcher and God of War. Entering other worlds through hallucinations and visiting gods was just too much for me. It was all about subtlety, Illuminati, Masonry, Templars, and secret societies plotting behind the scenes and revisiting cool historical figures from the past. Now it’s all about beating a Minotaur and “revisiting” true historical characters such as Odin and Thor. History became legend. Legend became myth, and not knowing the difference is what assassinated Assassin’s Creed (partially).

Is Assassin’s Creed Doomed to Fail?

The 13th installment of Assassin’s Creed, Mirage, tried to bring back the AC 1 feeling into the game, but for me, it flopped again. It did have some “nostalgic” elements, but once I see a health bar above an NPC’s head, it’s over for me. The newest thing about the game is Assassin’s Creed Infinity, which will act as a Base of Operations in Tom Clancy’s The Division. This will launch next year in 2024 along with the next AC game, Assassin’s Creed Red. There is also a new announcement for a multiplayer game titled Assassin’s Creed Invictus set to release in 2025. Another interesting thing is that in 2026, AC will have another game called Assassins’ Creed Hex, and it has a darker tone. The game will focus on witch hunts and it’ll be set in the medieval period in Europe. All of these titles and improvements sound “great,” but none of them will fix the main AC problem, and that’s when the game needs to end.

Assassin's Creed Infinity

What is common for all good movies that won 11 Oscars, such as The Godfather, Titanic, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King? They’ve all ended. Knowing when to end a good show, movie, or game is much more than making a quick buck. Just look at what happened with the Hobbit movies, and for the sake of this article, let’s just skip The Rings of Power. It’s the same with gaming; video game studios make a couple of good games or franchises and then just leave that game alone. Everything that has a beginning has an end, and so does Assassin’s Creed; oops, no it doesn’t because it’s now Infinite. In one word or more, the Assassin’s Creed franchise can’t be fixed; it can only be expanded to make more money for Ubisoft and its investors. What Assassinated Assassin’s Creed? The title of this article speaks louder than words.

What Assassinated Assassin’s Creed?

Vaas Far Cry 3

What Assassinated Assassin’s Creed was corporate greed in the end – and the resistance to try anything new. Blizzard, EA, and Ubisoft have become synonymous with corporate greed and profit-making machinery. Nowadays, all of the big companies are just soulless entities that want you to buy more, introduce pay-to-win systems, pay for cosmetics, money gambling simulators (in the form of mystery boxes), or any other type of microtransaction plus the $50+ for the game. I just hope that AC Infinity won’t be a bad copy of Tom Clancy’s The Division. I also hope that Assassin’s Creed Red, which is a game set in feudal Japan, won’t be a bad copy of Ghost of Tsushima, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, or Elden Ring.

Anyway, one word to Ubisoft: start making new games and leave Far Cry and AC to rest in peace. It was a wonderful experience to play the Far Cry trilogy, but everything that came after that was a soulless copy of Far Cry 3 and Vaas-like enemies. Enemies in Far Cry 5 and 6 aren’t even likable, and the games are just empty, vast open worlds full of nothingness. Ubisoft has done a great job with the Prince of Persia franchise, and, most importantly, they’ve left it alone (for now). I just hope that someone in the developing team will read or at least consider watching any of the many videos that are addressing these problems. This isn’t just the problem with Ubisoft or the AC franchise; it’s the whole entertainment industry. As the rabbit hole goes even deeper, it’s probably the problem with our society as a whole.

Image Credits: Ubisoft

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