Did you know? The Assassin’s Creed series was actually born out of concepts for an abandoned Prince of Persia game.
Release Date: November 16, 2016
Genre: Historical Action-Adventure
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Virtuos
Reviewed on Xbox One; also available on Playstation 4 and PC.
Most gamers today can attest that the current console generation is plagued with remakes and remasters of games that made the era of 360/PS3 so great, and in many cases these remasters have very little to offer in the way of improvements save some new textures and perhaps performance enhancements.
With Xbox One and the Backwards Compatibility program, the conversation becomes a little more interesting, as games that reintroduce a series need to have something to truly justify a purchase. It should come as no surprise that Ubisoft decided to test the remaster market with an updated version of one of their most popular series, especially considering they’d taken a year off from releasing a game in the tentpole series (2016). Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection collects all single player content from Assassin’s Creed 2, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed Revelations and combines them in a single package.
Ezio’s journey is part of a story within a story following Desmond Miles, a mild mannered Templar prisoner in the modern day who has a relation to an ancient brotherhood of assassins. Using an advanced technology called the Animus, Desmond is able to tap into memories of his ancestors in a hope to find hidden artifacts that could tip the scale in a centuries old war between Assassins and Templars.
While the first game focused on the mysterious Altair during the crusades as a protagonist, the subsequent sequels included in this collection introduced a new hero, Ezio Auditore of Firenze and follow his rise to power within the Assassin’s ranks and subsequent hunt for ancient artifacts during the Renaissance era.
Players will be treated to recreated locales around Italy such as Venice, Florence and Rome, and Ottoman-held Constantinople. The game’s worlds are rich creations, with a lot of small historical tidbits thrown in for good measure.
Though Assassin’s Creed may be suffering from series fatigue, it was the adventures of Ezio Auditore that took from the first Assassin’s Creed’s disappointing critical response and improved on it tenfold. For those unfamiliar with the series, it’s a third person stealth, agility, action-adventure type of title that’s sure to please.
As some reviewers spend their time lamenting the lack of the advanced gameplay mechanics that have been the elements of newer, more polished Creed games, the truth is that the Assassin’s Creed series hasn’t strayed far from the aspects which made it a widely successful franchise. Clambering up rooftops, fighting guards and using an array of weaponry to help complete objectives may be slightly more clunky than in newer games, but the games were well designed and for the most part they work very well and are fun to play.
Of course, there are the odd few times where you’ll get stuck on a ledge, or perform an out of the ordinary move while fighting. These are elements of the game that should be scrutinized in newer Creed games – especially the one releasing this year.
While the game is advertised as free flowing, in game actions can sometimes feel repetitive and limited by the game’s age. Destructible environments, for example are more prevalent in newer games, but the only destruction here is wrought by throwing an unsuspecting foe into scaffolding.
Furthermore, being discovered by an enemy, and then quickly extinguishing their life still has an impact on your threat meter. To keep enemies from chasing you down, you can assassinate a third party witness (who appears randomly), or pull down posters, but there’s no option for eliminating witnesses in the here and now. These are minor things that we hope to see addressed in this year’s Origins release.
At their core, however, these games are meant to be fun, as they should be, and barring a few minor annoyances, this is 3rd person action at it’s finest.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
There was some controversy following the release of this collection. Facial animations can appear be somewhat muddied during certain cut scenes within the game. Ubisoft offered on a small patch which supposedly fixed the most egregious of these animations, but has not made any further updates. In fact, a popular video floating around the web highlights the improved detail in the third person view, but seemingly at the cost of certain facial animations during the story elements.
The attention to detail has always been very good in the Assassin’s Creed series, and the upgraded textures and current generation hardware has this game looking extremely good, in spite of some hiccups. The frame rate stays fairly consistent, even when there are a lot of things happening on screen.
There are of course some minor glitches where characters will pop in or out of the picture, and admittedly these occurrences happen very infrequently. That being said, it’s a strong mark against a purchase if you already have the ability to play the series through backwards compatibility. It’s disappointing, and certainly should be noted that there has been little offered in the way of additional patches – leaving easy speculation that this game will be forgotten about going forward.
On the sound side of the game, Assassin’s Creed has always boasted very nice instrumental music, great voice acting and a lot of very good sound effects. The sound appeared immersive, and didn’t appear to be any different from the original series.
It’s tough to recommend this series to anyone who has already played through, barring the desire to go achievement hunting. This collection removes the multiplayer elements from Brotherhood and Revelations – a cat and mouse style death match which was certainly an interesting element that is definitely missed. Of course, all the single player content (including DLC) is included, as well as two short films which flesh out Ezio’s story.
The differences between the three games included within this collection are quite noticeable, and by the time you get to Revelations you see a franchise which has hit it’s stride in both storytelling and playability.
While there have been a number of improvements in the mechanics, Ezio’s series was a compelling story that raised the bar for Assassin’s Creed and made it the series it is today.
What’s unfortunate is that there’s very little save some minor graphical improvements that could justify the purchase. If you’ve never played the series, this is a valuable collection – but for those who’ve donned Ezio’s robes before, you’d be better waiting for Origins to release this October.