The Assassination of Assassin's Creed
"Maybe a week, a year later...when you're out on a walk in Prague or wherever and you're talking about your stock prices, not a worry in the world...and then suddenly, you hear the scraping of a footstep behind you and before you can turn around -POP-....darkness."
That was Walter White describing an assassination in a delightfully tantalizing manner.
What? You expected me to write more about the Xbox One's failings? No, my friends, today we're doing something different. Let Microsoft and the Xbox One trip all over themselves, they certainly don't need my help. Besides, the blogs are filling up with articles about Resolutiongate and I like to think some of you are sick of the same old topic. Just remember who called it first (hint: it's not me.)
No, today I'm here to issue a statement: My friends, Assassin's Creed died. It has died horribly and not all too cleanly. To put it as tactfully as possible, Assassin's Creed has been aborted.
The manner of Assassin's Creed demise wasn't like that of Resident Evil, where it was butchered beyond recognition nor was it a victim of suicide by self-mutilation ala Final Fantasy. Assassin's Creed died in the womb before it had the chance to supplant its own identity. Let me explain: -
Ask anyone what their favorite game int he AC franchise would be and you'd get the answer 'ACII', of course. I'm probably the only person in existence who preferred the first Assassin's Creed as opposed to the sequels.
By this point, you're probably formulating the notion that I might lamenting the modern storyline starring Desmond. It is true, I grant you, that the original writer had left and he probably would have done a better job at wrapping the 2012 storyline but that's not it. My feelings towards Desmond are ambivalent, I can't even muster the energy to hate him. The true reason that I lament the death of Assassin's Creed lies in one single sentence that you might come across every now and then on message-boards:
"Remember when this game used to be about assassinating people?"
And there we have it. I'd like to make the claim that ONLY the first game had truly been about assassinating people and that its subsequent successors are, as Kotaku puts it, historical tourism.
That's not to say that the Assassin's Creed games are boring, oh no. Please understand, I'm not trying to tell you that the games have become crap. No, I'm arguing about what Assassin's Creed COULD have been and I weep for the road not taken.
Let's back up a bit and focus on the clearer picture. The first game focused on Altair ibn La-Ahad, a disgraced assassin tasked with killing specific names on a list given to him by his teacher. To accomplish this task, Altair visits one city at a time and begins formulating how and when to murder his target. Therein lies the true essence of being an assassin. Altair goes to a location, gather intel on his subject before choosing how and when to kill the unfortunate soul.
The manner in which all this breaks down is brilliant. Your target makes an introductory appearance in a cutscene whilst you're watching from behind a crowd. The aim behind this is two-fold. One, it serves to provide with context as to why this obviously terrible person needs to die and two, it gives you a gleefully perverted sensation of watching these people prance around, not knowing that they're staring death right in the face.
It's beautiful. It's perverse and it gives you a goal to strive toward. The game then sends you on a painfully repetitive series of fetch quests but even those serve a purpose. After completing them, Altair gives an apt summary of the target's background and history to his handler before setting off on his mission.
Finally, we come to the real stars of the game. The assassinations themselves. Each one is unique, granting you the choice of how stealthily or cleanly you want to complete this mission and then boom, it's over.
See what happened there? That game understood the concept of pacing. You are given three stages, beginning, middle and end. The assassinations are less boss stages and more like your hard earned reward for coming thus far.
Compare this to sequels where you basically run after Cesare whilst all hell is breaking loose or when Connor chases what's-his-name inside that ship. You trip, you jump, you scream at your target to stop running as you gasp for breath. Where is the elegance? Where is the planning? How am I supposed to strike fear into the general populace when they can see me chasing after my target all over town for half-a-freaking hour?
I'm not an assassin...I'm a thug with a pointy stick.
We are told that Sniper Wolf from Metal Gear Solid patiently studies her target for weeks, even months and that she sometimes falls in love with them in the process. I can only assume this is a direct result of studying their habits, watching them watch movies, feeling like part of their lives and forming an attachment. The point is, Sniper Wolf got to know her targets before she killed them. She has and thus gives her killing some semblance of context.
But no, Assassin's Creed discarded all of that and instead gave us instant gratification. You get flashier weapons, the kills themselves become a glorified parkour chase, merely a pesky obstacle so you can get back to searching for collectibles over our painstakingly detailed map.
I'm not blind so as to ignore how ACII perfected the series' mechanics, I'm lamenting the pacing. I understand how boring all the clue searching from the first game was but rather than abandoning completely, they should have improved upon it. Let me study my target, Ubisoft. Give them some depth, some layers. Make their death an event that is to be celebrated instead of a headache you wish you'd get over.
I'll be picking up ACIV when it becomes cheap, of course, how could I not? As I've stated, the games CAN be fun but they've long abandoned the premise it built itself upon. For now, I've resigned myself that if I want a meticulous game about assassination, I'm out of luck until Dishonored 2.
For now, I leave you with this quote from Abridged Corkus from my favorite abridged show, Abridged-Berserk:-
"Don't compare my love of murder for casual butchering. We're about to enter the royal court, a complex web of intrigue where murder comes from poison or a dagger in the night. That sort of murder is like fine wine...compared to that, butchering is like cheap piss."
Disclaimer: MightynoX has his suspicions about Machiavelli being part of the Assassin's Order.