Last year, my wife got me Assassin’s Creed: Revelations with a set of other games she found on Black Friday clearance. Until then, I hadn’t played any Assassin’s Creed games since the first, so I jumped into a weird place, considering this was right after Unity was released. Revelations included the first game, so I played through that first and I remembered why I found it lacking several years ago.
The AI was dodgy, the fighting was too easy and often frustrating, the story assassinations, while very memorable, had repetitive intelligence gathering missions, and Altair’s voice made him sound like an indifferent robot. All of this was framed around a present day conspiracy I had no reason to care about featuring characters I cared about even less. Yet here I was, playing the fourth game in the series because I had it.
The thing was… I didn’t hate it.
I actually really liked it. Revelations, while rather short, was a solid game. I absolutely despise the den defense, but I like how Ubisoft realize no one liked it, so they immediately got rid of it; though a variation of it appeared in Assassin’s Creed III, it’s used sparingly. So now I had to go back and play all of them in a relatively short amount of time. I’m just wrapping up Unity, and safe to say, it is not making any top three list.
With Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is just around the corner, let’s take a look back and see which titles of this maddeningly inconsistent series are the best thus far.
3. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
While the first of the Ezio trilogy is critically considered to the be the best of not only the trilogy, but of the entire series, I have to disagree. While Assassin’s Creed II certainly remedied much of the issues that plagued its predecessor, Brotherhood took those improvements and built on top of them in every way.
AC2 had a fairly straightforward revenge plot, where the hero ultimately decides to spare the man who killed his family. Brotherhood begins in a manner where he immediately regrets that decision when that man returns with an army at his doorstep. The ultimate moral is that evil people just need to fucking die.
The first in the trilogy is about the kind of man Ezio wishes to become, while the second is about what kind of “assassin” he wishes to become, and how those often conflict. The assault on the villa leaves the Italian Brotherhood splintered and broken, leaving Ezio and Machiavelli the only competent leaders standing. Much of the political work needed to be done is by Machiavelli, leaving the leg work and the duty of actually rebuilding the order into something formidable solely to Ezio.
New additions to gameplay included the Brotherhood Assist Mode, where you can watch your little minions execute targets, steal their horses and ride off. I’ve played the game for hours and never got bored of watching this. While a rather meaningless distraction, you can send your novices out into the world to spread the influence of the Brotherhood across the land. It’s not the best and it probably isn’t in your top three, but damn if I didn’t love it.
2. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
I completely understand and relatively agree that the sailing is repetitive, and boarding a ship stops being fun about the tenth time you do it, but fuck me if I didn’t have fun doing it. Overall, Edward Kenway is probably my favorite player character in the entire series, due the fact he’s really the only character who has any relevant arc. Virtually all of the the other player characters, with the exception of Shay, were either blindly loyal to the order or nauseously virtuous. Edward reminds me of Han Solo: a rogue who finds purpose in a greater cause, where a woman makes him want to be a better man.
One of my favorite characters in the game was Mary Read. Contrary to what detractors of GamerGate and even this website declare, we are not against—nor were we ever against—women in games. If you’re going to have a female character in a video game, she must justify her existence in the story beyond having her there for the sake of diversity.
I have no issue with Mary Read being a bonafide badass in the game, because she was a bonafide badass in real life. Mary is cunning, intelligent, strong, and most importantly, when she literally lets her hair down, she’s feminine. Let me remind you that Mary Read and Anne Bonny fought off a boarding party until they were overwhelmed because they were the only members of the crew not drunk, and they both did so pregnant.
I loved the sailing, I loved the repetitive fighting, I actually loved the story. Even if you disagree, you have to admit the game is gorgeous.
1. Assassin’s Creed III
The combat in Assassin’s Creed III was revamped and is actually a little jarring when you first start if you jump straight in from Revelations. Once you get used to it, it’s the most responsive of the entire series, if slightly easy as a result. However, combat in the other titles was not difficult because it were challenging, but because it were temperamental as all hell.
I loved hunting while it was fun, I loved the seasonal changes, and I even loved the sailing, though perhaps not enough to build an entire game off of the mechanic. While he isn’t my favorite character, I loved Connor merely because he’s possibly the only Assassin who was ever truly incorruptible, and the only one I’d consider inherently good.
Building the homestead was immensely satisfying because the series finally figured out how to make me care about building a community; filling it with actual characters. The residents of Davenport were fleshed out and interesting, which made me actually want to help them with their problems, whether it be fighting off the British from executing a deserter, joining the entire town in a beatdown of a drunken husband, or chasing after a huntress who free runs across trees in a wedding dress.
I’ve heard arguments that the game is anti-American for pointing out the flaws of the Founding Fathers, but never once do they outright lie. Of the many things that annoy me about my own political tent, the near-worship of the Founders is near the top. Most of the Founding Fathers were hypocritical slave owners, so get the fuck over it and stop trying to justify it. I love Connor because he’s honest enough to realize who the good guys are, even if he feels he’s merely assisting the lesser of two evils.
I’m in the minority here, but I really liked the bait and switch opening, and how it truly does illustrate the Templars and the Assassins are nearly indistinguishable.
Got a different list of favorite Assassin’s Creed games? Share below.