Let me start of by saying I love the Assassin’s Creed franchise. I love it to death. I even discovered a new syndrome when I played the first two games in the franchise back to back in a four day period. I called this syndrome “I can climb anything and stuff”. Ok, I admit I am not good at naming things but basically what I was doing was walking around my house, my school and the rest of the place looking at various places I could climb and sync viewpoints. Of course I believe there is a law against climbing random buildings so I refrained. That’s how good I thought the first two games were, especially the second one.
*The post contains spoilers*Then Brotherhood gets released and it’s not really a third installment but more of an expansion of the second. I didn’t mind, I loved Assassin’s Creed 2 that much. I picked it up and played the heck out of it and then that ending, dear lord that ending. A cliffhanger like that meant that Ezio was probably coming back and this left a sour taste in my mouth. I was worried that Ubisoft was going to turn Assassin’s Creed into an annual franchise.
Very soon, I was proved right and Revelations was released. The only saving grace in that game was that it gave closure to Altair, who by the way was cool, because he was enigmatic as we only got to see him in one major game. Also it took place in Constantinople, my favorite old historical city (probably because I loved playing the Turks in Age of Empires 2). Very soon, a proper sequel Assassin’s Creed 3 was announced, starring a brand new protagonist in a brand new setting.
I learned that AC3 had been in development since 2010 and I hoped that in that time Ubisoft would make a game to best AC2. The press releases were very promising. Proper weather effects, the ability to free run through natural environments, a new engine, the ability to maintain not just a home or small city but an entire region and most intriguing to me, the fact the protagonist was not of the racial majority. All made for very exciting reading. However, was the finished product better than Ezio’s first outing?
No, it was not. AC3 was a buggy mess when it was released, even on the PC version which released later. Ubisoft had to release massive patches and even then bugs were very frequent. The protagonist, Connor, was one of the most unlikable protagonists I have seen in many a year. Robotic, expressionless and I would say borderline EMO. Gone was Ezio’s roguish humor or Altair’s arrogance made low. Connor was just emo. The storyline was pretty ok and when the game did come together, in those few moments, it was incredible. A lot of this had to do with the environments, which again were stupendous. Cities like Boston and New York were alive and pulsing and I stopped so much just to hear random conversations and explore random alleys. Plus the whole homestead thing was much more fun than I thought it would be. I really started to get attached to those guys. Overall though, after a three year incubation period the game was just not of the same polish that Assassin’s Creed 2 was and I suspect his has something to do with the fact that Brotherhood and Revelations were developed alongside Assassin’s Creed 3, splitting resources.
Now, the fourth entry in the series: Black Flag is coming out in a few months. You play as Connor’s grandfather, Edward Kenway or Jack Sparrow or Blackbeard or Luffy or something. The game takes place on the Caribbean during the golden age of piracy and promises a new lead character in present times as well seeing as how Desmond Miles, rest his emo soul, died at the end of AC3.Anyways, as a fan, I’m worried. This is after all, a numbered entry so it is a major addition to the franchise. As a man I love lists so I am just going to list some of things about Black Flag that make me nervous.
1) Will there be too much emphasis on Naval combat? Don’t get me wrong I liked the naval combat sequences in AC3 but I honestly didn’t think they were as good as a lot of reviewers did. Most naval missions followed the same formula: Navigate to designated spot, strafe, switch around ammo types, and wait for right moment, shoot, rinse and repeat. After a few missions, this becomes quite boring and I sure hope Ubisoft realizes that the naval combat missions were fun because it switched up the rhythm of the main game but that its mechanics are too basic for it to be anything but a side mission.
2) Will Edward Kenway be boring? Connor was emo and wooden and to a lesser extent so was Altair. Ezio in Assassin’s Creed 2 and Brotherhood was fun and cool but in Revelations he reminded me of Jackie Chan. He doesn’t want to fight or use his obviously epic skills but situations come forth that make him do just that. This got depressing because here I am as gamer going “Go Ezio, kill that guard until he dies from it” and I can imagine Revelations Ezio whining about it. Edward Kenway is a pirate and that normally entails jovial drinking, reckless abandon and that sort of fun stuff. If Ubisoft manage to make even that wooden and boring then they deserve an award.
3) Will the new modern day protagonist be awesome? Supposedly, the modern protagonist will be, in a M. Night Shyamalan twist, YOU. Yes, you the gamer are hired by Abstergo Entertainment, which I assume is the entertainment arm of Abstergo Industries to sift through Edward Kenway’s memories for what I assume is the plot for the next Pirates of The Caribbean movie. Anyways, this is a new direction for the series and I hope Ubisoft make it work well.
4) Will there be historically urban cities to explore? This particularly worries me because my favorite part of the earlier games was the exploration of some of the greatest cities in history: Rome, Jerusalem and Constantinople just to name a few. If all my on foot travel is going to be on mildly populated Caribbean islands than that sense of wonder that the first few games evoked: of stepping into the pages of history by immersing yourself in the places where history was made, will be gone. I want to explore Kyoto during the Tokugawa Shogunate or India during the British Raj, not dig through the sand on some small island.
These are just a few concerns I, as a gamer and an avid fan of the franchise have. Will I still buy the game? It’s already preordered.
The ball is now in Ubisoft’s court and I hope they stop and have a hard look at what makes Assassin’s Creed such a great franchise and improve on that instead of going off on unneeded tangents.