Assassin’s Creed is a videogame series by publisher Ubisoft. The player takes the role of various assassins all throughout history and explores historical settings, meets real people from those locations and kills most of them. It is a very enjoyable series.
This is the second part of a multi part series I’ll do on the technical and designphilosophical parts of the first five games. I will close it with a final part talking about the rest of the series in broad strokes, as it is not needed to retreat already explored topics. Click here to read Part 1.Assassin’s Creed II was released in 2009 and fixed most problems the predecessors had. The game was incredibly well written, with a great setting and charming characters. To this day, most people would agree that this title was one of the best, if not the best Assassin’s Creed games and it’s pretty clear why. Good writing, solid gameplay and a great mission structure – in short, the game just works.
One year later a sequel was released named Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. It improved greatly on the second game and added some nice features. But on the other hand it signaled the downfall of the entire franchise.
2011 saw the release of Assassin’s Creed Revelations, the last of the games starring Ezio, the hero from part 2 and also the last to actually make even something of a positive impact, despite being much less well recieved than its predecessors. And the reasons are quite clear.
Brotherhood was originally part of Assassin’s Creed II but had to be cut due to time constraints. So they planned to release it as DLC. But then ACII had to be rushed to release on time in 2009 and even more content was cut. Instead of bringing in Brotherhood as DLC it was moved to be a new game and instead parts of the main storyline of ACII were released as DLC. You can see where this is going…
ACII had a lot of things going for it, but being a complete game is not one of those things. The first release was missing two sequences and even after all DLC was released it was quite clear that the game was rushed. There is an entire district in Venice that is inaccessable and an entire map that is only used for one short sequence. It is very obvious that both Venice and the Mountains had additional locations but were cut due to time constraints. The developers didn’t even manage to include additional bonus stuff into those missing maps. Sure the mountains have chests but that’s it.
ACII introduced assassination contracts, where you could recieve a contract to kill a specific NPC under specific constraints for money. What stopped the develoeprs to put such contracts into the mountains or the missing Venice district? Again, time constraints, because the game had a launch date and delay was NOT an option, the biggest problem Ubisoft has, really.
The thing is, this rush really shows in the game. The first half is just amazingly brilliant. I would go as far as saying that the first half of ACII is one of the best pieces of gaming ever created – it is THAT good! But as soon as you hit venice the game starts dragging. Missions start to repeat and a lot of gameplay is doing the same thing over and over again. I assume the developers did this to lengthen the game when they found out that they wouldn’t get the time to put everything in they wanted – a thing a lot of devs do in those circumstances and I just can’t help but thinking the game would have been even better if the devs were given the opportunity to stick to their vision rather than rush the game out of the door.
Brotherhood felt a bit more complete, if only because it was a complete copy of ACII. It had the same tech, resused models and maps and it showed. It was supposed to be a DLC after all but it was pushed to be a full game instead. The result is a game that has some great moments and ideas but is SEVERLY lacking in the story department – Ezio’s quest to rid rome of Cesare Borgia is quite boring and short, because the devlopers had to strech out a 3 hour story to fill a full game. Even worse, after the game was released as full game instead of DLC it became quite clear that it, again, is incomplete. There is a section in the vatican district of Rome that can’t be accessed and even worse that section contains a gate landmark, making it impossible to visit all locations in your logbook.
Revelations is even worse. It broght only two new things to the table and both are mediocre at best. The new hookblade is nice for traversal but that’s bout it already and the den defense is generally despised. And then there is that fact that again, an entire district in Istanbul can not be accessed but clearly be seen, because once again Ubisoft decided to ship the game incomplete rather than delay, which resulted in the game needing numerous bugfix patches to even be enjoyable.
Also, the DS saw the last outing of a spinoff for quite some time in ACII Discovery, a story set during ACII where we get to meet Columbus and travel to spain. It was an okay game, gameplay wise but it was completely useless as a story.
On a positive note, these games are also where the Desmond parts, the parts set in the here and now are at their peak. Desmond is not liked by many but I found him and his missions quite enjoyable, especially in Brotherhood. They were well written and actually went somewhere interestig.
Last time I started a hypothetical remaster of the series and I want to continue that now. Once again we use the graphics engine from the newer games like Rogue for this and the newest incarnation of all models and assets that we can. As soon as we apply this to ACII we have an amazing game. But again we go a step further.
Let’s bring in Brotherhood as additional chapter to ACII like it was originally planned. All the features of Brotherhood are brought in as well, which means a crossbow and Assassin Recruits as well as Borgia towers. This changs the moment to moment gameplay in ACII quite a bit but we can make it work.
Now, ACII became a bit slow in the second half, since everything you did in Venice was just a retreat if things you did previously. So we’ll cut out some missions in Venice where you just free theives or mercenaries again and again. Also the entire mission to obtain a golden mask is fun but ultimately pointless so we could put that in as OPTIONAL objectives, something we’ll do more of, and minigames that are repeatable to give the player something to do in the post game.
The whole Savonarola thing may be historically accurate but completely pointless so I’d actually cut that and put those missions in as optional missions you can tackle at certain times, similar to the Christina missions in brotherhood and the Da Vinci Disappearance. I’d also put some of the nine targets into the Toscana region – it may not be historically accurate but much better gameplay.
The flying machine from ACII makes a return in Brotherhood and it is equally bothersome, so we cut that a bit shorter by speeding the machine up a bit. We don’t bring in Borgia towers or Assassin Recruits before we reach rome and after that they are unlocked throught Italy, giving the post game more oomph. Same goes for the crossbow. We make the cut parts from Venice and the mountains accessable and add in assassination contracts, treasures and assassin recruits.
Now in Brotherhood, everything in the middle of the game is more or less pointless filler so we cut that shorter as well. The ideal solution is that we have three equally long parts in Toscana, Venice and Rome with each area having some optional missions: Savonarola in Toscana, Carneval Sports in Venice and the cut parts from Brotherhood in Rome. We can also space out the Christina missions from Brotherhood throught the entire game and weave the Da Vinci disappearance DLC and Copernico DLC better into the game This would make ACII an enormously huge game, probably the biggest of the entire franchise but that’s okay since, well ACII and Brotherhood are the best games in the series anyway.
As for Revelations, I’d add that as DLC for our new ACII as it really is completely optional. We make the whole city accessable, giving the hookblade more use. We cut the Den defense and instead add in lost memories, similar to Christina, but these lost memories are split between Ezio in Spain from Discovery and Altair’s story from the first DS game. We cut the main story slightly shorter because the middle part is filler and add in the missing things from the first and second games, things we didn’t fit in those.
It would take a lot of work to achieve this, probably mroe than anything else I am proposing but if this were to happen you can be sure that everyone would agree that this was not only the best AC game, but also one of the best games ever.
Next up: Assassin’s Creed III