How the Assassin’s Creed Franchise Can Improve

Photo from: Ubisoft

Let me start this by saying that I love Assassin’s Creed.  I have played every release, from the very first to the latest (including the handheld versions, with the exception of mobile games) and despite the criticisms leveled here I still enjoy playing AC: Unity on occasion.  Assassin’s Creed is unique among action adventure games as it uses history as platform for creating complex fictional narratives. As a student of history, I appreciate the ability to interact with historical periods in ways that are not possible in other mediums and while the narratives of Assassin’s Creed certainly take creative license with historical characters, it is obvious that many hours of research go into developing worlds that reflect an historical realism.  So, first: Thank you to the teams of people that put in hard work to create these games.

Now, the crux of the issue; this franchise is losing me.  I have defended it as an annual release for a long time, citing the new settings and changes in game mechanics as a counter argument to those who would claim that the game simply gets a new topical gloss and is released again for full retail.  While I can marginally understand the argument that there is very little separating the installations, the game will never suddenly change from assassin simulator to shooter or driver; the player will always be stabbing people with hidden blades.  As a yearly franchise, it’s simple to tell from game to game what changes and I believe that the current issues I have with Unity began in Assassin’s Creed III.  Let’s explore some of the shortcomings the latest installment and how they relate to older iterations in the franchise.   Continue reading

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Hellblade

Photo from: Hellblade.com

 

While developer Ninja Theory insists that this is not a sequel to the cultish Playstation 3 classic Heavenly Sword, they fool no one; everyone knows what this is.  It’s hard to watch the developers stream a Q & A session on Twitch with a giant Heavenly Sword banner in the background, talk about a new IP that shares so many fundamental characteristics with that game and not consider it a spiritual successor. I mean: Heavenly (Hell), Sword (Blade).  I wonder if this has anything to do with IP legality…? Ok, there is the topical change of swapping out an unspecified Asian setting for an unspecified Celtic/Nordic/Viking setting; but, this Single player game, featuring a strong female-warrior lead, will put the player in the position to fight in a stylized vision of Hell/Helheim.  Furthermore, runes feature heavily in Hellblade and although the markings of the Heavenly Sword could not be specifically labeled as runes, this aesthetic is remarkably similar. Continue reading