Is Ezio Still The Best Thing To Come Out Of Assassin's Creed?


We’re coming up on 10 years since Ubisoft first began unraveling what might be the most tangled yarn in gaming history with Assassin’s Creed — a fun little stealth based period piece that felt subversive enough without its prescriptive armaghedon subplot. Despite it, and a few missteps along the way, most would declare The Assassin’s Creed series to be a solid one.

But are the games progressing in any meaningful way? Perhaps intermittently so, but even impressive standouts like Black Flag and Syndicate seem to be beholden to the masterstroke that was Assassin’s Creed’s first sequel. Did Ezio’s arc signify the series’ peak? It’s hard to say. In a sober moment, when I can cast aside the lionized legacy that precedes it, I find myself wondering if ACII retains the moniker of best in the series due to its merits or because its influence is so irrefutable.

Video games are a unique art form because of their relative infancy. They’re constantly experiencing large periods of growth. Titles released as recently as five years ago already seem slackened by technical ineptitudes most hadn’t even considered at the time. Ignoring this fact, one might hail Black Flag as the clear apex of the series. It features a magnetic protagonist, impressively eclectic environments, gorgeous kill animations and the impactful refinement of the seafaring elements introduced in ACIII .

But alas, fair is fair and grading on a curve, taking in account ambition and execution, I think ACII has Black Flag beat. Ezio’s story is simply the superior one. It feels more personal, the stakes are clearly defined, leaving little room for filler (sorry Blackbeard).

In the field of plot, the only real contenders are found in the third and fifth installments of the franchise. Assassin’s Creed III offers an incredibly mature coming of age narrative, availed by its dour colonial setting. It feels appropriately grimmer than the other entries, its hero is a somber one and its villains feel refreshingly grounded. Unfortunately, a perfunctory attempt at a profound ending prevents it from surpassing the effectively heartfelt conclusion found in Brotherhood or even Revelations for that matter. It’s a great story that ultimately feels too tethered to Desmond and his banal plight to save the world. Nevertheless, ACIII is an underrated game that features the best multiplayer in the series.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue defies expectations and crafts a story that is genuinely captivating. It revels in subtlety, and spotlights a protagonist every bit as compelling as Connor in Shay Patrick Cormac. Regrettably, it also happens to be the least innovative addition to the series. Its buggy, unfinished and lazily familiar.

Ultimately, Assassin’s Creed II boasts the most compelling assassin (Jacob, Evie and Edward come real close), the most polished presentation of the core mechanics, and the central and framing plot are easily the most digestible versions of the now overwrought Templar vs Assassins arc we’ve seen in the series to date. I’m just as excited for Ubisoft to dish out details about their upcoming entry Assassin’s Creed origins as you probably are, though there is a large part of me that fears the series might be passed its prime.

Not in an irrevocable sort of way. If Syndicate , Black Flag and to a lesser degree Rogue proved anything, it’s that there is still an inspired pulse beneath the hoary skin of the decade old franchise. The problem seems to lie with the insistence on making the story more ambitious than it needs to be. If you’re like me, the novelty of playing out revenge/crime machinations within the frame of historical locals and figures never gets old. In fact, it appears to be the only consistent highlight of the series.

Assassin’s Creed II understood that. It’s a perfect amalgam of all your favorite elements from the subsequent games. It introduced the eclectic kill animations perfected in III , it leaned into the whimsical interpretations of its historical figures, not unlike Black Flag , and it boasted a lead both winsome and nuanced, a quality Ezio shares most notably with Shay Patrick Cormac. In the 8 years since his introduction, Ezio is still the best thing to come out of Assassin’s Creed . Here’s to hoping Ubisoft’s next venture in the franchise changes that.

Join the Discussion
Top Stories