When the first Assassin’s creed released for consoles in 2007 the game didn’t fail to disappoint. The inherent repetitiveness of the mission structure and gameplay left many gamers wanting more. A game that clearly had so much potential didn’t live up to the expectations that the hype had brought it. Enter Assassin’s Creed II: a game that arguably should have been what the first Assassin’s Creed wasn’t, it made so many radical changes to the series that everyone wanted. It ditched the bad, built on the good, and made a world that felt so real. Its unique mission structure, a better story, and upgraded gameplay mechanics was exactly what the series needed. These changes showed in the reception the game got, a 91 on PS3 and a 90 on Xbox 360 on Metacritic is no small feat as only a small percentage of games ever receive such an honor. For good reason the game sold well too, exceptionally well for that matter, the game sold 9 million copies as of 2010 which ranks it in the elite popularity.
A year after its release came Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, my personal favorite of the series. It took what made II special and ran with it. Ezio was as awesome as ever, the story got even better, and added was an addicting new gameplay system that let you recruit assassins to the Brotherhood, send them on missions to level them up, and use them in combat. Not to mention the game ended on one of the best cliff hangers that left you theorizing with your friends and scouring the internet for months about what the hell had happened and what was next for the series.
Sadly what was next for the series was its decline. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations released a year later and it was clear the series was starting to age. From the get go you could tell that Ubisoft was trying to implement new gameplay systems without tweaking the games core that people loved so much. When I was doing whatever the hell that cart thing was at the beginning I could tell this game would be different, and add that wacky tower defense system right after? The series I had started to love began to fail me. Sure, the game moved from Italy to the Ottoman Empire, but the core gameplay was never changed. Rather than improve it like they did from II to Brotherhood, they left it almost the same and it began to show.
My love for the series had dwindled after Revelations, but when the next installment was announced and it was to be set during the American Revolution I quickly jumped back on the bandwagon. I could finally fulfill my ambition of living during the most interesting point in American history, combine that with the fact that the team that made Brotherhood was making it and I couldn’t help but be excited. However when the game released and I picked it up on day one, I was once again disappointed. Sure, the setting was cool, homesteading was weird but fun, ship combat was awesome, and there was lots to do, but again Ubisoft had failed to tweak the core gameplay. Free running had now grown annoying, rather than press X to climb like in Infamous you just hold down a button and let Connor do the rest, this button was also the sprint button which resulted in plenty of annoying instances where I would run up a building rather than down the street during a mission. Combat suddenly felt stale where I found myself jamming on the counter button waiting for an attack rather than being more aggressive like the game had promised before release. Mix the even more aged system with a slow start and as unlikeable of a character as Connor was and I couldn’t help but feel like Assassin’s Creed III had crashed the series into the ground.
Its no question that the annualizing of the Assassin’s Creed series has been its downfall. The games sell so well that you can’t blame Ubisoft for choking the series to death. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag promises something new, but I’ve heard this too many times. I remember back in June watching the gameplay shown off at E3 and losing all hope. It didn’t look at all changed from III and I don’t expect it to be anywhere near as good as II and Brotherhood were. Sadly, for the first time in the series I don’t think I’ll be buying Black Flag. I can sit here and complain about the never changing gameplay and aging mechanics, but speaking with my money is a more effective strategy. Hopefully I’m wrong, hopefully I can love the series as much as I did with II and Brotherhood, but until then I’ll sit and wait for changes to come, unfortunately with the way the games sell every year, I think I may be sitting for a while.