Assassin’s Creed, Annual Releases and Loss of Interest

Annual releases never sat well with me. With so many great games to choose from these days, I’ve learned to cherish franchises that have 2-3 year breaks between sequels. Some sequels however become really popular, and when games are popular, there is plenty of money to be made. When a developer starts to release a game every year, it feels as if my dedication is being exploited, as if my pockets were being emptied because they know I’ll grudgingly do so.

Assassin’s Creed, a franchise I’ve committed to, has eliminated any remaining desire to ever play another Assassin’s Creed game. Brotherhood was supposed to be the end of Ezio’s story; yet again we play as grandpa Ezio in Revelations, who is strangely as nimble as he was in his prime. Also making his return is Altair, which for some reason Ubisoft thought was a good idea. How is it that a character we have not seen for two games now has become instantly relevant again? Instead of Revelations bridging together the story that really doesn’t need mending, it immediately feels as if Ubisoft needed to release something at the end of the 2011 year to improve their fiscal numbers.

I played Revelations for about 3 hours before calling it quits. For a game packed with so much content, that hardly is a lot of a time invest. Those three hours were accumulated after having it for about a week, avoiding it by playing other, more interesting games. It was a chore play it, I didn’t care about what troubles Revelations was solving, all I wanted was to finish the story, to see what Desmond has been building up to for 3 games. If Brotherhood filled the gap between 2 and 3, Revelations sits awkwardly between Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed 3, and its importance doesn’t seem substantial enough to warrant a game by itself.

I don’t want to be that guy who talks down the franchise that millions, including myself at one point, loved playing. I want to enjoy the franchise like I did with 2 and Brotherhood, but much like a lot of things in life, moderation is key. With the dozens of hours that can be spent in the single player, and the dozens more that can be lost in the multiplayer, a yearly release hardly seems necessary. Are there even people who get genuinely excited to play Ubisoft’s throat stabbing epic each year? There is hardly a buzz around each title, which leads me to believe that much like myself, buyers just tend to pick it up when there is nothing to play, despite positive feedback you read from both the press and the hardcore fans.

The major difference this year was that Revelations feels old. I’m not talking about, wise, grey beard Ezio old, but just mechanically, old. You go from Batman: Arkham City, which is a similar experience to Assassin’s Creed and the overall quality of design, is not even comparable. Ubisoft never got a handle on the sword play in their long running franchise, and with each new story, the minor improvements feel just that, minor. The controls overall, which at one point provided the smoothest platforming and control for a third person action game, are frustrating. Instead of giving Ezio guns, bombs, grenades, poison blades, hook blades, parachutes, crossbows, throwing knives and almost every weapon that you can think of that doesn’t touch the era of automatic rifles, why hasn’t Ubisoft dedicated their time to just making the game play better? There will be numerous moments that the game does something you didn’t intend such as, jumping and landing on a spot you weren’t aiming for, or grasping the edge when you are trying to run off it.

When you play Assassin’s Creed, ironically enough, you don’t even feel like an assassin. The days of carefully watching the guard patrol and looking for hay bales to hide in for your sneak attack, no longer exist. Now what you do is, if you are spotted, drop a smoke bomb, pop off a few rounds, throw a grenade and call in your minions to rain down some arrows, or drop from a building ready to stab a guard in the back. The intensity of remaining hidden, the reward for successfully and silently taking out your target hardly remains. Will I finish the story and play Assassin’s Creed 3 next year? Probably not right away. Unless the combat and platforming is stripped down to the core, I don’t see myself finishing the story.