“Is Assassin’s Creed good?” is a question with passionate opinions on both sides. So much so that we here at Culture of Gaming decided to pit two of our writers against one another. Nathan burns with the thought that Assassin’s Creed is a dead franchise that lost all of its charm and uniqueness a long time ago. Meanwhile, Will has a soft spot for the games. He’s still aware of the faults Ubisoft have inflicted on their biggest franchise though (don’t worry, the launch state of Unity will not be argued for).
They’ll be arguing for and against some of the biggest aspects of these games: the mission variety, uniqueness between games, micro-transactions, traversal, and the use of historical locations. The defining parts of the Assassin’s Creed are divisive, to say the least, so let’s debate them below!
We’d also love to hear what readers think in the comments, or on Twitter @thecognetwork!
Does Assassin’s Creed have good mission variety? Or do they simply pad with the same repeating ideas?
Nathan sees the franchise as the same old lackluster tricks
In my opinion, Assassin’s Creed has always been about over-padding with lazy and tedious missions. Yes, there are a few hidden gems you’ll find that are actually fun, but for the most part, they are filler.
The constant trailing missions, for example, are one of the biggest criticisms that the game gets. Trailing missions are the “water-levels” of these open-world games like Assassin’s Creed. Nobody enjoys them. Despite this, they are constantly included. If nobody is enjoying them, then surely the only reason for their existence is to pad out time within the game.
Yes, you could say that Assassin’s Creed offers up a trifecta of options in how you approach a mission. The trifecta is the stealth approach, full-on combat approach and varying environments. However, no matter how many changing environments you have, it doesn’t hide the meat of the missions. They always consist of trailing, down-time, knocking a few lads round the head, or cut-scenes. They never try to expand outside of this formula for their side-quests and main-story missions, despite the tools they have at their disposal.
Will thinks there’s enough there to keep players hooked
When asking “Is Assassin’s Creed good?” and pointing at the mission structure, there is a valid criticism. A lot of the mission progression is similar across each of their titles. But how is it fair to judge them negatively on that, every single game of decent length repeats itself in broad terms. I wouldn’t call it padding all the time, I’d call it value.
What Assassin’s Creed does offer is a sense of variety. The aforementioned stealth, combat, and varying environments make the missions. There’s a surprising amount of freedom in how the player can use the open world, tackling objectives of how they see fit. Most of the missions are similar, yes, but the player choice within those missions is what makes them fun.
Not to mention that as the series has gone on, the variety has kept on increasing. Ship combat, robust enemy encampments, different weapons, and abilities. It does fall into the Ubisoft formula. That isn’t always a bad thing though. To most of us, it offers a solid gameplay loop with good mechanical feedback.
I won’t deny it has taken Assassin’s Creed a long time to get there. But the core idea the first game presented of player freedom in how they achieve their goals is what makes the gameplay so special.
Did Ubisoft turn Assassin’s Creed into a yearly cash cow? Or is each game unique enough from the last?
Nathan sees each game as a minuscule extension of the last
Assassin’s Creed started out as a unique new IP from Ubisoft. The idea of the Animus opened up the potential for the series to utilize any moment from history. They had quite literally the entire universe at their fingertips with this idea. Yes, the first game was incredibly flawed, but it was the first of the series and came out at a time where it was pretty difficult to find any game without its flaws.
Despite that, it got resounding praise and hit it off, however, it became a consistent title release. Since Black Flag, the user scores have dropped to mediocre numbers. With Unity, Syndicate, Origins and Odyssey all struggling to break even a score of 7.0. This shows the clear discontent for the series and despite its positives in many areas. A clear refresh or complete long-term break for the franchise has been needed for quite a while now.
However, it is not as if Ubisoft is unaware that a break is in-order. They have taken two-year breaks in between both Syndicate and Origins, and now with Valhalla on the horizon, it will have been two years since Odyssey. So, clearly Ubisoft is aware of the tiring of the series and the flaws that have cropped up from them milking it year-in, year-out. However, sporadic two-year breaks are not enough to revitalize the series.
Will knows the problem, but can see enough mechanical difference
This is a difficult one, because the (almost) yearly Assassin’s Creed releases have been totally hit and miss. Whilst we’ve seen a lot of games, they all try something different. From Assassin’s Creed II onwards we’ve seen pirate-themed ship combat, co-op in Paris, two protagonists in London, rural environment scaling, and more.
Not all of this worked, of course, Unity launched in a sorry state, and Syndicate wasn’t seen too highly, but they’ve all offered completely different settings and gameplay. The core is still the same, but when you choose an Assassin’s Creed game, each historical period offers up a massive amount of different mechanics.
Now we’ve even seen Assassin’s Creed expand its core too, Origins and Odyssey showed that the games can work in more open worlds. Whilst presenting even more freedom and gameplay options. Hopefully, Valhalla can do the same.
Oversaturation of Assassin’s Creed became a massive problem, with all the spin-offs and constant releases. But if Ubisoft can reinvent and reinvigorate each game every two years or so, and leave it at that, I think people will come around.
Assassin’s Creed added Micro-transactions, but did these infringe heavily on the actual game experience?
Nathan thinks they infringe on the gameplay and don’t need to be there
No matter the game, I think micro-transactions in a single-player experience is ridiculous and highlights what path Assassin’s Creed has gone down. The fact that you can essentially pay to speed up the leveling process of the game in order to get through it easier and faster, takes away the whole point of a single-player, to begin with.
If Assassin’s Creed had not had such a slow and odd level-based system that doesn’t progress at a consistent pace without the grinding of dozens upon dozens of repeated, same side-quests, then there would be no need to monetize the in-game levels to begin with through micro-transactions.
No matter what way you look at it, whether they had made the game with these leveling-speed purchase options in place or not, they are still there. Them being there whatsoever is just a constant glaring of what is wrong with modern games, and more specifically, what is wrong with modern Assassin’s Creed’s.
Will can’t defend Ubisoft on this one, but says they aren’t that bad
To set Microtransactions issues solely at the foot of Assassin’s Creed is unfair. I won’t lie, they shouldn’t be there, it’s a single-player game, you’re right. However, after playing both Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey I can say this. Having to complete some side quests isn’t bad, you can pick and choose the ones you like, and honestly, you don’t need to do that many to get the levels you need.
On top of that the microtransactions are mostly cosmetic, and if you want to buy the ones to skip through the single-player then why are you even playing in the first place? The idea that you either need to or have to grind doesn’t actually hold up all that much. There isn’t that much extra leg work, and if you don’t like doing quests in an open-world game, then the game just isn’t for you.
Although, the idea of putting microtransactions in these single-player games in the first place, on top of actual substantial DLC, is terrible. It’s an issue outside of just Assassin’s Creed as a franchise, and whilst most avoid them, if we buy the games and like them as is, they’ll stick around.
Traversal in Assassin’s Creed is a core aspect of the games, is it enjoyable, or does it take up too much game time?
Nathan thinks so
In the beginning, I specifically remember the “parkour” element of Assassin’s Creed being a big-thing, not many games had done it at the time. I suppose in a way, Assassin’s Creed pioneered the free-running style traversal system. But, that does not mean it is good.
In an open world, it should never feel like a chore to get around. However, in Assassin’s Creed, through implementing constant backtracking and multiple trips back and forth to and from the same areas, it just once again feels like constant down-time. I’m not sure if this is to pad-out game time, but it sure does feel like it.
In Breath of the Wild, it never feels like a chore to traverse the world. Breath of the Wild feels alive, nothing feels scripted and everything you find or experience on your travels from one place to another feels unique to you. In Assassin’s Creed the world may look real, but it feels dead.
Everything feels scripted and set-in-stone to create the same experience for every player. There is no sense of excitement or uniqueness during the down-time of traversing from one place to another. It just becomes a monotonous thing to do when getting from one mission to the next, over and over, back and forth.
Will likes it
Okay, no-one likes backtracking, I get that, but that’s why fast travel was invented. Every single open-world game uses it, and Assassin’s Creed was one of the first.
With that said, the traversal itself is great in these games is great. The animation combined with exactly what you can climb offers a unique sense of scale, one that you can only get from climbing something.
It’s also unfair to say, getting around an open world in Assassin’s Creed is boring, as Assassin’s Creed is placed into open worlds on purpose. The player has the freedom to climb what they want how they want specifically because it’s open world. If Assassin’s Creed was linear we’d just have Uncharted.
Having these games in open worlds can lead to the problem of constantly running around sure, but every open-world game has that same problem, even Breath of the Wild.
Assassin’s Creed places its games in vibrant historical locations, but do the games use them to their full potential?
Nathan doesn’t think so
This relates back to my last point in some ways, and I will make the comparison to Breath of the Wild again, as beat as that horse has been. Ubisoft set themselves up with a brilliant idea. A machine that can take the player to any point in time. This idea had and still has such unlimited potential to play with, that it almost feels like a crime how they have gone about it. I will give credit where due and point out that they did utilize the animus’ potential in the original trilogy of Ezio games. However, since then, they have not.
Breath of the Wild creates a living, breathing world where the player has the potential to tackle anything how they wish. Every new discovery feels like an accomplishment or a sense of wonder. Ubisoft arguably has more potential in their grip to make a world more compelling than Hyrule, with the unlimited outcomes they have through their idea of the Animus. Nonetheless, Ubisoft doesn’t bother to create this world. Instead, they settle on a scripted, dead, emotionless void of a world. It may look pretty, but looks do not always match the personality. That is what Assassin’s Creed’s beautiful worlds lack, some personality to make them feel unique and alive.
Will see’s the beauty in the historical locations
Look, I love Breath of the Wild, but that world is anything but alive. It’s set 100 years after a calamity and has a few settlements in it. Meanwhile, Assassin’s Creed games are some of the most vibrant and interesting places in video games.
Ubisoft never spare any expense when creating a world lost to time, it always has plenty of characters going about their own lives, and you’re just along for the ride. Take Athens and Sparta in Odyssey, for example, two very different city-states. Athens has the Parthenon temple which offers great verticality, packed streets, orators talking to citizens, baths, the Agora. Meanwhile Sparta shows men training for war, agriculture, children being taught. And both have an amazing sense of architectural wonder.
There’s so much going on in the worlds of Assassin’s Creed games, Ubisoft design them to make it feel as real as possible. Just because it isn’t built around content discovery and a sense of adventure doesn’t mean it’s lifeless. Unlike Breath of the Wild, Assassin’s Creed games seem like they’d keep going on as they are even when you’ve left.
They aren’t about finding something completely new around every corner, they’re about entering a world and era long gone, that feels as real as possible.
So, who’s right?
Well, that’s incredibly difficult to answer. Everyone has opinions about Assassin’s Creed, and that’s okay. It’s one of gamings most recognizable franchises, so there is bound to be a difference of opinion. We want to hear from you, let us know what you think about the games. Do you enjoy playing them or are they oversaturated, unenjoyable messes?
With the upcoming release of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla it’ll be very interesting to see where the series heads next? Will it be more of Origins & Odyssey, or will there be some stark differences? If you’re excited for the game you can find our breakdown of everything we know so far here! We also have a fair few other versus articles you can check out.
We hope you enjoyed this debate about the Assassin’s Creed franchise. As always, thanks for reading COG!
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