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Welcome to the Animus: A Stealthy Stroll Through the World of Assassin’s Creed

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Introduction

 

As I mentioned in the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey thread, I’ve been contemplating getting into the Assassin’s Creed franchise for a while now. Despite the fact that it has many elements I like — stealth, melee combat, exploration, open worlds, parkour, a cool sci-fi framework, etc. — I’ve never played any of them. Well, not until this past week when I finally started the original.

 

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Thanks to Games with Gold, I already have several of the games in the series, including the original (obviously), Black Flag, and Syndicate. And with the recent franchise sale at the Xbox Store, I was able to complete the rest of the collection for just over $60 (before tax).

 

That’s 11 games total, and likely hundreds of hours of gameplay, even before I get to Origins or Odyssey.

 

So, like my romp through the world of Resident Evil a couple years back, I will be cataloging my experience with Assassin’s Creed, one game at a time. Unlike Resident Evil though, these games are all new to me. I know a little bit about some of them — like the second one is an excellent iteration of the first, Black Flag is the one with naval warfare, Unity is the janky one, and Origins and Odyssey are both absolutely massive — but not much beyond that. I also know that the franchise has some ups and downs. It will be interesting to see what those are and why.

 

For the record, here are all the games I will be playing and the order I plan on completing them:

 

[EDIT: The hyperlinks below will take you directly to my review of each game.]

 

  1. Assassin’s Creed  ()
  2. Assassin’s Creed II*
  3. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood*
  4. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations*
  5. Assassin’s Creed III*
  6. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
  7. Assassin’s Creed Rogue*
  8. Assassin’s Creed Unity
  9. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
  10. Assassin’s Creed Origins
  11. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

 

* = Remastered version for Xbox One.

 

My goal is to play the games in the order they were released, so that I can get the best sense of how the series evolved over time. To keep this endeavor somewhat manageable, I’ll be excluding mobile and handheld games. I’m also excluding the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles trilogy (which, ironically, I also already have thanks to Games with Gold). I haven’t decided what to do with all the single-player DLC yet. If I like a game well enough, I may play through its DLC, but my real objective here is to finish all the main games before I die of old age.

 

If I’m not completely burned out by the time I reach the end of Odyssey, I may play through Assassin’s Creed Valhalla as well. However, I don’t plan on finishing all the older entries before the new one arrives. Given the length of these games and the likely launch of Valhalla later this year, I doubt that I will have enough time to complete them by then. Also, given the fact that this summer will bring us The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima within a mere month of each other, and given the fact that both of those games will likely be huge games unto themselves, I doubt I will have time to play all of the Assassin’s Creed games by the end of the year. I’m not in a hurry though. I want to take my time with this and try to enjoy each game as much as possible.

 

So, stay tuned. I’m either about to enjoy discovering one of gaming’s biggest franchises, or I’m about to be miserable for the next couple years.

 

More to come.

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I’ve played all of those games save Unity and the only one that I pity you for having to play is 3. It is a brutal misstep.

 

The rest range from mediocre to very good to quite excellent.

 

That’s a hell of a commitment, though :).

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3 hours ago, JFo said:

If I’m not completely burned out by the time I reach the end of Odyssey


I get burned out just hearing about these games, and looking at the list. I can’t imagine doing this with Assassins Creed. 

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If you make it past IV without burning out and quitting, I’ll be shocked.

 

Hell, I had my fill by Revelations but IV arriving with a new generation pushed me to play it. I haven’t touched an Assassin’s Creed since and boy I don’t miss the series at all.

 

I’ve heard good things about the two most recent games but I just can’t find any interest in playing them alongside 90% of the Ubisoft overly long copy/paste open world library.

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Very intriguing.  Some thoughts, and a word of caution.  Random thoughts first.  
 

I got the first game back in 2007, but couldn’t really get into it.  So I shelved it, enjoyed the Blur CG trailers for the next few games, and thought little more of it, beyond some general pleasure in historical games having AAA titles.  That changed with the GI cover for ACIII.  As a amateur aficionado of U.S. history, I was drawn to the idea of a half-Native American participating in Assassin-Templar hijinks in the U.S. Revolution.  I was absolutely enamored, and ACIII immediately became my most anticipated game.  
 

I put AC back into my 360, and played it through, finally enjoying it.  I dove into ACII straight after, and that was revelatory.  II is such an upgrade, gameplay-wise, that it feels like a new game.  That game consumed me, in a positive way, and I went right to Brotherhood.  Brotherhood is essentially a true sequel to II, polished and perfected.  Plowed through that, and dove into Revelations.  About 3 hours in, though, I hit the wall.  Not because of the game, but the formula.  Having played AC, then II, then Brotherhood, in quick succession...I needed a break.  I didn’t want to burn out before III.  So I quit Revelations, and haven’t touched it since.  

 

When III came out, I was incredibly excited.  First mission, interesting.  Then more and more and more Haytham, and when I was finally Connor (hours of game time later), I was just a little kid trying to figure out how to find animal traps.  After all my excitement for the game and all the joy that II and Brotherhood brought me, said no thanks and bailed.  Just like that.  Picked it up a time or two again, even made it as far as getting my regalia, axe, and ship...but then just couldn’t be bothered to push farther.  I did start and quit Black Flag on my first PS4.  Dug it a bit, but other games called.  I was impressed by Unity’s trailer, but didn’t play it.  Same with Syndicate.  Eventually, thankfully, I decided to watch Black Sails on my STARZ app (highly recommended, btw), which made me want to try Black Flag again.  Which I loved.  Loved the Naval combat, loved the exploration, loved that game.

 

That made me try Unity, because I loved the Paris location and timeline, but I hated the combat, and couldn’t get into it.  A regret, because I loved this concept.  Never tried Syndicate.  Heard wonderful things about Origins, and even tried the first two hours, but no more (see a pattern here?).  Now I’ve bought every AC game, for me or my son, to date.  I’ve completed less than half of them.  I’ve bought the art books back through the entire series, and I always anticipate and enjoy the trailers for new games  I continue to love the idea of AAA games set in meaningful history...I love Venice, Rome, Paris, London, and ancient Egypt recreated in digital form to explore and experience.  I don’t love the gameplay as much, though I continue to try.  I really would like to play through Origins, and I hear wonderful things about Odyssey as well.  And I’ve always been drawn to Viking iconography, so Valhalla is of great interest.  
 

So, weirdly, I’m a bigger fan of the series than I am the games at this point.  But still a fan.  I do want to caution against burnout.  Because of the mission/side-quest repetitiveness, especially within the Ezio trilogy portion, you may want to consider some palate cleansers in between some of the games.  I’ll be reading your updates, and you may have inspired me to pick up Origins again and make a real go.  
 

I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.

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3 minutes ago, Romier S said:

If you make it past IV without burning out and quitting, I’ll be shocked.

 

Hell, I had my fill by Revelations but IV arriving with a new generation pushed me to play it. I haven’t touched an Assassin’s Creed since and boy I don’t miss the series at all.

I think you might actually enjoy Origins or Odyssey.  Very Witcher-esque. 

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Just now, Eldorado said:

I think you might actually enjoy Origins or Odyssey.  Very Witcher-esque. 


I’ll try them someday...when I’m not replaying Witcher 3.;)

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Thanks for the warnings and well wishes, gents.

 

Let me be clear about something: I do not plan on playing all of these games back-to-back. Like I said, other games beckon, and I don’t intend on putting them off just to get through all of Assassin’s Creed. I may only finish one a month — at most — to minimize the risk of burnout. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

Fortunately, I have plenty of palate cleansers to prevent me from losing my mind while doing this. Even when replaying all the Resident Evil titles, I tried to play other games in-between that were as different from RE as I could find — games like Yooka-Laylee, Forza Horizon 4, Turok, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Current palate cleansers for this run include some old Doom games, Life Is Strange 2Unravel 2, The Evil Within 1 and 2. And like I said in the first post, there’s The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima this summer, which may mean I don’t even get to ACII until August or September.

 

That said, I looked up the completion times of all these games at How Long to Beat. Assuming the times listed at the website are accurate and I stick to mostly completing the main story, it will take me a minimum of  201.5 hours to play all these games with an average completion time of 19.68 hours. I didn’t bother calculating what it would take to do Main + Extra or Completionist (which is something I would never do anyway).

 

In other words, don’t expect weekly updates in this thread. 🙂

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...and I thought I was being ambitious just purchasing Odyssey the other day. 

FWIW, I've not played the series since the third game & Odyssey seems terrific so far.

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Well, that's a commitment...good luck!  I really wonder how those older ones will hold up.  From what I remember:

 

-AC1-Really good idea in search of a good game.  I'm still a little pissed that I never found that 50th templar...

-AC2-Took everything that was good about AC1 and made it way better

-AC Brotherhood-Took everything that was good about AC2 and made it way better

-AC Revelations-Took everything that was good about brotherhood, and did it again, but with tower defense.

-AC3-At least it was an interesting setting?  Haven't touched it since it was new

-Black Flag-A significant upgrade.  Fun characters, and a pirate ship!  Really should have had a Henry Rollins cameo though.

-Rogue/Unity-I didn't play either of these.  I was ready to take a break after 3, 4 pulled me back in, but enough was enough.  Didn't hurt that Unity seemed really broken, and that Rogue was a last-gen exclusive for a long time...

-Syndicate-I started this one, but never finished it.  I keep meaning to go back to it...

-Origins-Assassin's creed in name only?  It's basically the Witcher, but in Egypt.  Story was cool, and it tries to set up the Assassin's lore well.

-Odyssey-Just kidding-there were assassins before Origins!  Despite contradicting the overall narrative from the previous game a little, Odyssey is the better game.  Even more Witcher than Origins, and a whole lot of fun.  Connections to the Assassin's guild and overall story are basically gone by now. 

 

It'll be interesting to see how the connective tissue comes across playing these in reasonably close proximity.  The shared continuity/future stuff was really strong at the beginning, but then by AC3 they basically ended all that and decided "nope-it's historical sandboxes".  Lately they've been really fun sandboxes though, just with very tenuous connections to each other and the whole "assassins vs templars" thing. 

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Assassin’s Creed

 

I knew going into Assassin’s Creed that it would be a slog. Everything I had read about it said it was a grind-y, repetitive mess that didn’t offer much variation in gameplay. After finishing the game — my first ever in the series — I think this is true.

 

Yet, I admit that I enjoyed the experience —at least for the most part. Yes, by the time you’ve reached the third memory block, you’ve seen all the game has to offer in terms of structure and mission types. From that point on, it’s just more of the same. Get your target from your master, Al Mualim. Travel to one of three cities (Damascus, Jerusalem, or Acre) and visit the Assassin’s Bureau. Complete three reconnaissance missions scattered about the city, then go kill your target and escape. Along the way, you can also rescue citizens being harassed by the invading crusader army. If you do, they will help you evade your pursuers. Oh, and also, there are towers to climb to get map information for each location. Lots of towers. So. Many. Towers.

 

Despite the repetitiveness, I found myself enjoying the game the same way I enjoy playing something like Tetris. Yes, it may be the same experience each time you play, but I find something about that comforting. I can settle into a routine and enjoy it for what it is. When I booted up Assassin’s Creed, I knew what I was in for.

 

That’s not to say I don’t have any major gripes — far from it, in fact. Among them is the combat. These days, I expect more in this regard. Compared to more recent games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order or Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice — both of which offer polished systems with counters, parries, dodges, and a variety of attack strategies — the combat system in the original Assassin’s Creed feels clunky and unresponsive and yes, repetitive. The best strategy seemed to be to wait for an enemy to attack and counter it. Even then, Altaïr doesn’t always kill his opponents. He may just knock them to the ground. If I was lucky, I could kill them before they got up. Unfortunately, instead of attacking the foe on the ground, he would often lock on to another foe, giving his opponent a chance to get up and resume the fight. It was frustrating to say the least. Fights never felt meaningfully different in any way. Enemies may have gotten more aggressive and stronger further into the game, but the strategy for beating them never changed.

 

I also have a love/hate relationship with the game’s parkour mechanics. I love games with climbing and platforming. I especially loved the old Prince of Persia games from Ubisoft, which this game draws from heavily. My biggest complaint here is twofold: First, I wish the missions took more advantage of these abilities. It would have added some more variety to the mission types and made the game less repetitive. Second, I think the controls could have been a lot more responsive and fluid. It was frustrating to try and evade a pursuer, only to find Altaïr running up a wall by accident or to see him run right past a ladder I clearly wanted him to grab.

 

Visually, the game looks pretty good for an early generation Xbox 360 title. I played it on the Xbox One X, which enhances the game to 4K resolution. Even though I played it on a 1080p display, the visuals still looked much sharper than they would have on original hardware.

 

Unfortunately, like many games of this time (2007), the color palette is — how shall we say? — muted. I’m used to seeing visuals in games these days pop with color, so it’s startling to go back to a game from this era and see the color almost completely sucked out of the visuals. I think I would have liked it more if the developers had chosen to contrast the visuals in the modern day sequences with the ones from the past. Give the modern day parts more vivid colors while the memories of the past look hazier less colorful.

 

Ultimately, the question is how well does Assassin’s Creed hold up? For me, the answer is... okay, I guess? Game design has come a long way in the 13 years since its release. We expect a lot more from this type of game now. If Ubisoft had released it today, I don’t think it would have launched the juggernaut franchise we know today. Still, I enjoyed it despite its flaws.It’s not great, but I’m glad that I finally got around to playing it after all these years.

 

 (out of five)

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I can’t wait to read your review of AC 2 :) I fell out with the first game quickly but AC 2 is a masterpiece. 

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2 and Black Flag are still the only ones I have played and that was enough for me. Enjoyed both but didn't yearn for more. It does sound like Odyssey threw enough new into the mix to have been of interest though, so I may try that someday whenever I have a Playstation or Xbox again. Similarly the new one looks intriguing. 

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1 hour ago, Mark E said:

Best get used to those towers, boy ;)

 

As Han Solo would say, “I know.”

 

49 minutes ago, Magness said:

I can’t wait to read your review of AC 2 :) I fell out with the first game quickly but AC 2 is a masterpiece. 

 

I admit, I’m excited to play it. I may throw a quick palate cleanser game in first, but I would really like to try to finish it before The Last of Us Part II comes out on June 19 (exactly one month from today). Based on the info from How Long to Beat, I think it’s possible. The main story takes roughly 20 hours to complete with main + extras at around 29 hours. I didn’t keep track of how much time I spent on the first game, but I suspect it’s between 20-25 hours. If I play at a similar pace, I think I can sneak it in before The Summer of PlayStation begins.

 

Also, I forgot to mention this in the review, but during all the modern day sequences, I kept thinking that Lucy Stillman reminded me a lot of Kristen Bell. Imagine my surprise then when the credits rolled and I saw that the voice actress who played her was... Kristen Bell!

 

Also, I cannot play un-hear Nathan Drake whenever Desmond speaks. Nolan North’s regular speaking voice will always be associated with Uncharted for me.

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Enjoy ACII and Brotherhood. Enzo is one of my fav game characters. I played as much of those two as I possibly could. 

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3 hours ago, JFo said:

Also, I forgot to mention this in the review, but during all the modern day sequences, I kept thinking that Lucy Stillman reminded me a lot of Kristen Bell. Imagine my surprise then when the credits rolled and I saw that the voice actress who played her was... Kristen Bell!


I like her voice work in this series but, she was “vilified“ for quite a while for spoiling the whole animus storyline when the 1st game came out :)

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57 minutes ago, Magness said:


I like her voice work in this series but, she was “vilified“ for quite a while for spoiling the whole animus storyline when the 1st game came out :)


It’s funny that Ubisoft and gamers felt that to be a spoiler considering the game literally starts in the modern day and introduces the Animus in the first 5 minutes. I certainly knew about it. Or at least I knew the series had some sort of connection with the modern day. I just didn’t know the context surrounding it.

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AC2 in many ways created the modern open world game. Many of the tropes we associate with the genre were either created, expanded upon or evolved in AC2. Years on, it’s rather quaint by today’s standard but its a more fully realized version of AC and it has a much better story. Ezio is fantastic and he will drive you to complete Brotherhood (which is equally good) and Revelations (the formula had grown stale by this point) to see how his story resolves itself.

 

Special mention to Jesper Kyd and his fantastic work on the Assasin’s Creed II soundtrack which is my absolute favorite of the series. This piece has always been incredibly emotional for me in setting the tone for the story...

 

 

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I enjoyed the Assassination missions. I liked finding new ways to sneak up to attack .

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I’m not sure what happened to that tweet and Rock Paper Shotgun shotgun story Daniel posted above (it looks like both were deleted), but it looks like Kotaku posted an article on it today:

 

Assassin's Creed Developer Shares Funny Story About Last Minute Changes To Original Game [Correction]

 

Zack Zwiezen writes:


Quote

 

This story comes from a Tweet thread posted by Charles Randall. He worked on the first Assassin’s Creed game as a programmer. He initially explained that he and his team were ready to ship the game when they got some news: The CEO of Ubisoft let his kid play the game and they found it boring.

 

[...]

 

This immediately forced the team to have conversations about what to do and after thinking about it, Randall and the others decided to add some more side activities. But they would only have five days to design extra material and they would have to be completely bug-free, because the moment Randall and his team were finished the game was being burned to discs and shipped.

 

While this wasn’t easy he says they created no new art or assets. Instead, they were able to make new activities out of existing assets, things like flag races and challenges to hunt down some unnamed Templar enemies. Randall admits that ultimately the advice they got was right. “...there was nothing in [Assassin’s Creed]’s first submission except the critical path story and like... high points.” So it sounds like the game needed more stuff to do.

 

I did a couple of the flag races (which I really enjoyed, actually) and I did run into a few the Templar enemies mentioned above. There were 60 of them total, and like finding all the flags scattered around all the areas, there was no way in hell I was going to try to find them all. I have no desire to complete what is obviously open-world busy work bullshit.

 

So, I guess I could be upset about this, but it sounds like the content that was added didn’t affect my play through all that much, seeing as I skipped over the vast majority of it.

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