This week has seen the reveal of the latest title in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
The game announcement comes less than six months after the release of Assassin’s Creed III, and another release in the franchise has caused a fair amount of debate, so we decided that Assassin’s Creed IV was the perfect starting point for our first “Two Side’s” article. So here to present their For and Against arguments are Oli and Ray, have a read and decide which side you are on!
Swish, stab, run, climb, assassinate, cutscene, synchronisation complete. Repeat until the game is complete. Add in a few shootings with the most recent iterations of the franchise and voila! Your very own Assassins Creed game, fresh off the press.
This leaves us to frown, and ponder upon what is different between games. Luckily, whilst mindlessly running through the previous 2 Assassins Creed titles I have had multiple hours to ponder. The resulting answer is drastically simple: the setting and the storyline.
The place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place
The story told within a film, book, play or game
For the sake of simplicity, I shall absorb the characters into the storyline, as they rotate the cogs of fable within Assassins Creed. Ubisoft Montreal are very capable of creating dynamic and engaging characters in all of their games, Exhibit A, B and C being Altair, Ezio and Haytham but what they lack is the ability to bring that zest to all of the dramatis personae if you will, and end up skimming over parts to bring you a better experience as a player, unintentionally creating two-dimensional characters (we’re looking at you Connor).
Fortunately what they lose in character development they make up for in plot, and despite Revelations feeling weak as it was wrapping up 2 story lines simultaneously they came back with a vengeance for AC3. I believe the strongest part of that game was its ability to shock and surprise, coming up with some of the biggest twists in gaming. If anybody thought that *MAJOR AC3 SPOILERS* Haytham was a Templar and that Desmond was going to die *SPOILERS OVER* when they sat down to play the first 10 minutes of AC3 then I want whatever they’re smoking!
So if I’m saying that Ubisoft have made silly mistakes by focusing too much on one aspect of the game, why would I be fighting against them having another year to expand upon what they have done? I may be slightly venturesome in saying this after seeing only a trailer and some screenshots, but much to my dismay I believe Ubisoft have hit the hammer on the head.
I’m playing through their post-AC3 meeting in my head.
“So, what did people like about Assassins Creed 3?”
“Well they enjoyed the boat sequences”
“Excellent! Let’s put some more in”
“Not to mention that they adored Haytham”
“Dammit Johnson! We’ve already used that character.”
“Well we could do a story and make his father the protagonist”
“So you’re suggesting we go…… backwards in our past adventures? Audacious Johnson! I love it. The only problem is, how do get boats, yet make it seem cool and assassiny?”
“Where? I’ll cut those scurvy sea dogs!”
“No sir, we base the game around pirates.”
“Oh uhm yes, very good Johnson. Get some script writers to storyboard it at once!”
And thus, Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag was born. It’s a fantastic concept that should, in theory, work. I admit I was sceptical about roaming the eastern seaboard in Assassins Creed 3, but a good slug of gin and a thorough play through fixed that problem, as I’m sure it did with many others, therefore making Black Flag the pinnacle of everything that has made Assassins Creed one of the strongest IPs of all time. Fingers crossed that they work hard on the protagonist this time and do their best at the modern day sections, because everybody crossing their fingers and hoping that it will be yo ho ho and a bottle of fun.
Make no mistake; I love Assassin’s Creed 2. As one of 2009’s most innovative and engaging titles, it captured my imagination with both its well-told narrative and well executed mechanics.
Even the subsequent addition of two direct sequels was enough to keep me with the series. With Brotherhood capturing the essence of the renaissance period beautifully and further refining the art of telling Ezio Auditore’s story, I was still invested with the suave Italian’s endeavours.
Furthermore, the addition of AC: Revelations was still not quite enough to throw me off the scent of this repetitious series. From the depths of my assassin cloak, I was still willing to overlook the increasing level of grind possessed by this formula, thanks to its quality of gameplay and slick presentation.
However, come Assassin’s Creed 3 and more importantly, the absence of Ezio, my love of the series and ability to overlook a lack of creativity had finally been extinguished. For the most part, the third instalment of this series was mechanically excellent, this much is undeniable. But all the renaissance class of both the setting and protagonist of its’ predecessors had been replaced by a comparatively bland setting and an uninspired leading man.
All of the exuberant style and panache that was indicative of the series has seemingly drained away between games. The sun drenched vistas of Italy, replaced by the murky towns of the states. This transition marks a steep creative decline for the series.
Truth be told though, Assassin’s Creed is a series that lost that creative spark long before a few months ago. And who could blame Ubisoft? A series that has been running for 5 games is a rarity these days.
The last few games have all been of a remarkably high standard. What they lack is the element of surprise. The instant slap in the face of “I did not see that coming!” These are indeed the moments that often define the most memorable of games and quite honestly I cannot remember the last time an Assasssin’s Creed game induced this feeling.
With the announcement of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag having just hit the Internet, there is a sea of excitement along with it, and understandably so. I’m sure it will be a solid title.
It just pains me to think what such a talented team as the likes of Ubisoft Montreal could be creating, were they to really let their creative juices flow and start again with a new intellectual property.
As this repetitive series wades into yet another hooded outing, fans may eventually become exasperated with the lack of innovation. In any creative culture it’s always best to leave them wanting more.
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Tim Bowers is the ex-Editor of Zero1Gaming, he also occasionally writes when he's able to string sentences together. He can usually be found waiting for Nintendo to remember about Samus Aran.