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Assassin’s Creed - The Yearly Release Cycle

Assassin’s Creed - The Yearly Release Cycle

Next up in this little series is a look at what came to pass for the Assassin’s Creed series after The Ezio Collection. Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed franchise were riding high, the world was their oyster. After Assassin’s Creed: Revelations was released, everybody was ready to play the next big release in the franchise, Assassin’s Creed III. Needless to say it was not the huge success that Ubisoft would have hoped. There were several reasons for this, the obvious one being Connor, the ancestor that we played as while in the Animus; after the charismatic icon that was Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the strong-and-silent Connor did not resonate with players on pretty much any level.

Another issue with the story is the (SPOILER WARNING) conclusion of Desmond’s story and the disservice that was done to him as a character. Controversial take incoming, I’m a big fan of the modern day stuff, I was really invested in Desmond’s story during the first games and was devastated when his story ended the way it did at the climax of Assassin’s Creed III, it felt like such a waste. With the way the modern day story was going throughout Assassin’s Creed II, and then through the handful of modern day sections in Assassin’s Creed III, I was expecting the story to lead to a modern day instalment, and I was so hyped for it. Ubisoft clearly had something else in mind, because they decided to kill him off, to have him sacrifice his own life to stop a world ending disaster (yet in later games it’s revealed he only delayed the event, giving his death even less meaning). They could have still given him this ending, but maybe after giving us an entirely modern day release where we played solely as Desmond, maybe then his sacrifice would have felt earned and not felt like a total waste.

They could have had the ending of Assassin’s Creed III involving the modern assassins finding out what they needed to do or what they needed to find in order to stop the cataclysm. With his training complete through the bleeding effect in Assassin’s Creed II, and the details they needed obtained in Assassin’s Creed III, the next title could have been a grand convergence of the story so far that allowed us to play as Desmond taking on the Templars and Warren Vidic. Then if they still desired to do so they could have killed Desmond off. Obviously that didn’t happen and Ubisoft went in a totally different direction, essentially scrapping the modern day as a crucial element of the games after Assassin’s Creed III and reducing it to either small playable sections or just cutscenes.

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Moving on from the story, the other issue which also plagued the following Assassin’s Creed releases until they took a year off and rebooted the franchise was the gameplay. Assassin’s Creed III was the fifth instalment in the series, and since the second game the gameplay mechanics had not advanced in any meaningful way. There were small variations, being able to call on fellow assassins in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, using bombs in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, and then the use of the tomahawk in Assassin’s Creed III, but that was about it. So by the time we got to run around Civil War America the design was already starting to get a bit repetitive to say the least; add that to a pretty bland protagonist and a disappointing modern day storyline, and the writing was on the wall for a pretty mediocre through line that had so far connected every Assassin’s Creed game to date.

Admittedly, Ubisoft pulled things back in the next release with the game that many still consider the best Assassin’s Creed game even today, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the Assassin’s Creed game that isn’t about Assassins. Ubisoft Montreal really knocked it out of the park for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. There has been nothing quite like the naval exploration and combat offered in that entry since, even the naval exploration and combat of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey could not lay a glove on that of its predecessor. I think a lot of the reason that Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag did so well was because it deviated from the norm, yes the old style parkour and counter kill chaining was still there, but because of the world design and setting there was much less of it than in other Assassin’s Creed games.

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The next yearly release was the first to do so on the new generation of consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One, and was a release that will forever be shrouded in infamy in our industry. It was the year of Assassin’s Creed Unity. The hype for this game was through the roof, coming in hot after the success of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and being a next-gen exclusive, boasting bustling streets of Paris during the French Revolution. Then came release day, and the hype turned to anger, it turned out the first next-gen entry in the Assassin’s Creed series was a piping hot mess. The game was littered with bugs, with the most famous one being the faces of NPCs disappearing during cutscenes, creating quite haunting images of floating eyeballs with hair.

Some would say that the release day of Assassin’s Creed Unity was the day that the old Assassin’s Creed died, it was the final nail in the coffin, at least for the old formula. Another controversial take incoming, I love Assassin’s Creed Unity, I must have been one of the lucky ones because I’ve never had to subject my eyes to a floating pair of eyeballs with hair and a hat in cutscenes. The extent of my experience with bugs comes with crowds popping in as I was traversing the dense streets of Paris. A great video from YouTuber Jayvee sums it up when he says that Assassin’s Creed Unity allows a player to live out the best iteration of the assassin fantasy. The general feeling of the world, the parkour, the combat, the assassinations, they were all at their best in Unity (in my own opinion). My perfect Assassin’s Creed game would be Assassin’s Creed II with the mechanics and world building of Assassin’s Creed Unity, but I get there are still a lot of the fanbase that thinks very little of Assassin’s Creed Unity and I understand that if another player caught the worst of the bugs, it could be enough to put me off the game too.

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However, it seems like my opinion certainly isn’t representative of how the majority of the fanbase felt about the next-gen adventure through revolutionary France. This led Ubisoft to move swiftly onto the last entry in the run of yearly releases, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. To be honest I don’t really think much of this entry, positive or negative, it was a very bland game; if Assassin’s Creed Unity was the last nail in the coffin, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was the coffin being lowered into the ground. By this point the franchise was suffering from a serious case of fatigue, with the continuous releases year upon year draining players of any passion and excitement for the Assassin’s Creed series.

The yearly release cycle consisted of the evolution (if very little) of the same old formula. What came next was nothing short of a revolution for the series (but more on that soon).

Carl Mcfadyen

Carl Mcfadyen

Staff Writer

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