Ranking the Assassin’s Creed Games

Considering the recent release of the Assassin’s Creed movie, I thought it would be a good idea to update how I rank the entries of my favorite franchise. I’ll only be counting main entries in the series, and disregarding anything exclusively made for Nintendo DS or the PS Vita. I’ll also mark with an asterisk any screenshots that aren’t mine.

10. Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation

Originally designed as an exclusive for the PS Vita and later released for PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, Liberation follows the story of Aveline de Grandpre, a half-French half-African Assassin in the Louisiana Bayou. Despite a unique setting and character, the game crippled itself with a boring story and a pointless “disguise” mechanic that ensured Aveline never had a full skillset, and could only use certain skills such as free-running or assassinating for that matter depending on what outfit she was wearing. The game ends up shooting itself in the foot in a failed attempt to be “creative” and it’s the only game on this list aside from the next entry where a “pass” is justified.

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9. Assassin’s Creed

The first title in the series is the one I’ve always struggled with the most, largely because  the game turns into a monotonous nightmare near the end. The story is fine, but Altair is a flat protagonist who ensures getting to the actual plot elements themselves is nothing short of a chore. The game would have you spend an unearthly amount of time gathering intel on your targets, and when you finally assassinated one, it was back to square one to plan and kill another target. The actual ending is fantastic, rife with plot twists and deception,but it shouldn’t have taken repeating the exact same ten hours or so of missions to get to that point. Let’s not forget the 600 flags scattered throughout the world that you had to find yourself without the help of any map. It’s not a bad game, and the setting of Jerusalem during the Twelve Crusades is a unique idea, but the execution is too uneven to ever warrant a second playthrough.

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8. Assassin’s Creed Unity

Most people regard this as the worst game in the franchise considering its disastrous launch, but the development team behind Unity deserves credit for creating a game that’s actually not that bad if you’re able to look past what admittedly was a horrid launch. When it was first released, the game was a barely developed travesty. Ubisoft forced the developers to release the game unfinished, but I don’t think anyone expected anything that unpolished. Arno (the protagonist) would fall through the floor, characters were sometimes nothing more than disembodied floating eyes and teeth, the framerate would run at an abysmal 15 fps, and that’s not even mentioning the game’s “staple” co-op feature ended up being a broken, boring mess. This is more of a personal thing, but I was really disappointed that the events of the French Revolution only happen in the background and have almost no effect on the story whatsoever. Ubisoft ended up releasing a whopping 40 GB update to fix the plethora of bugs riddled throughout the game. Despite all of this though, Unity itself isn’t a bad game. When the bugs are gone, what’s left is surprisingly solid. The combat has been completely redesigned from the ground up, so your assassin is no longer capable of taking on 20 men at once, and has to prioritize defense above offense. There’s a character customization system that lets you choose from dozens of weapons and outfits, each one offering unique bonuses and skills another outfit won’t offer. The story itself is mediocre at best, but the action setpieces are some of the best the franchise has ever seen, forcing you to escape from an exploding building or hanging on to a hot air balloon as it races through the streets of Paris. Helix Rifts change the time period to WWII or Medieval France, and force you to escape the unstable time period before it collapses in on itself.  There’s a ton of murder mystery sidequests that encourage the player to gather clues, interrogate suspects, and use their deductive reasoning to nab a culprit. The assassination missions are designed for exploration and encourage the use of secret entrances, exits, and whatever tools you can use to quietly dispatch your targets. Oh, and it’s one of only two games in the series to let you use a katana, which is a big plus. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but Unity is a solid game beneath it’s hostile reputation; it just might take awhile to dig past the bugs.

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7. Assassin’s Creed 3

Considered a letdown largely because it could never deliver on every big thing it promised (but let’s be honest, in 2012 it was probably nigh impossible to make a game where depending on the season you could reach certain areas you couldn’t have otherwise). Assassin’s Creed 3 is still a fine game beneath a disappointingly lifeless open world. It’s a perfect example of what happens when historical accuracy is prioritized above all else. Since it’s set in the American Revolution (one of the more recent historical periods in the franchise’s history), the developers copied old maps of Boston and New York and implemented those into the game. The problem was that the world design suffered in the process. One third of New York is nothing but ash because of the Great Fire, and Boston is nothing more than a small town with a fight club and a couple farms around the edges. There’s almost no sidequests, and only one worthwhile chain of collectibles in the entire game that has the player hunting for Captain Kidd’s lost pirate treasure. But the game boasts a good story, fast-paced combat on and off of a ship, and a unique Homestead for you to trade on, build, and recruit settlers to join. That’s not even mentioning the game’s excellent alternate history content, The Tyranny of King Washington, where Connor (the protagonist) is forced to assassinate a now power-mad George Washington who’s built a massive pyramid in the middle of New York and corrupted the Founding Fathers.

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6. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

After the disaster that was Unity, Ubisoft wisely decided to take a step back and reevaluate how to make a good Assassin’s Creed game. With Syndicate, there were no game-breaking bugs, disappearing faces, or rushed story. Syndicate wisely took the mechanics of Unity and left everything else behind to create a game that at least put the series back on track. Set amidst the Industrial Revolution, twins Jacob and Evie travel to London to stop the Templar Crawford Starrick from discovering a lost artifact that can heal any injury, including ones of a lethal nature. There’s a vast amount of activities to uncover from hunting ghosts with Charles Dickens to blowing up factories with Charles Darwin, and for the most part it’s entertaining. A lot of the customization from Unity is unfortunately missing, but the three weapons available are satisfying enough to keep the combat dynamic and brutal. Syndicate also contains the best in-game secret I’ve ever seen: travel to the end of the map, and discover a secret portal to London in WWI where you must hunt down a mysterious figure connected to the chaos surrounding the city. Syndicate’s not perfect, but it was good to see Ubisoft still knew how to make an entertaining Assassin’s Creed game.

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5. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

This one slid completely under the radar, which is frustrating since it’s such a surprisingly great game. Released the same day as Unity, Rogue was designed to close the gap between the old Assassin’s Creed and introduce the new chapter of the franchise with Unity. Where Unity floundered however, Rogue brought back everything fans loved about the old Assassin’s Creed games for one last hurrah, but does so with a very good twist: you start out playing a conflicted Assassin named Shay Patrick Cormac.  However, once Shay realizes the Assassins are hunting artifacts that are tearing the world apart and they refuse to heed his warnings, he abandons the Creed to join the Templars and destroy the colonial brotherhood of assassins. The game brings back familiar locations from the America saga such as New York and the Frontier Homestead, and still manages a small trip to Europe. There’s tons of secrets and lost artifacts such as ancient viking armor and lost Templar relics to search for, naval combat is back, and the Arctic/Appalachian River Valley manages to be a surprisingly great setting filled to the brim with activities. Rogue can lose steam if collectibles aren’t your thing, and the story ends far too quickly, but despite all that, there’s a fantastic narrative about the woes of loyalty and loss. It also breaks Assassins Creeds curse of weak finales. I mean a showdown in Antarctica? How cool is that? To conclude, Rogue is an incredible sendoff to the Assassin’s Creed games of old, and cleverly opens the door for many more games to come. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of Shay.

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4. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

While the first half of Ezio and Altair’s final adventure overstays it’s welcome, the second half is an incredible send-off to the Assassins that effectively created the franchise and set the standard for every assassin that followed in their footsteps. Ezio trades sunny Italy for Istanbul, on the search for Altair’s lost library and the treasure hidden within. The game is split between two types of missions: one has Ezio attempting to stop a Templar plot to return Istanbul to the Byzantine Empire, and the other will have him scouring the city’s landmarks for artifacts hidden by Marco Polo. The latter missions are easily the best, as Ezio explores forgotten lighthouses and towering monoliths for the lost secrets hidden within. Each time Ezio finds one of these artifacts, he then relives a brief portion of Altair’s life that provides some clue to the location of his library. Both protagonists get a satisfying conclusion, and Ubisoft even managed to give Altair an emotional story that wasn’t possible the first time around. The action is great, the soundtrack is beautiful, the story improves as it progresses, and the most beloved assassin manages to end his career on a high note. Revelations is a must-have for any fan of Ezio or Altair, and thankfully it doesn’t disappoint.

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3. Assassin’s Creed 2

Yeah I’m aware that most people rank this as “NUMBER 1 G.O.A.T.!!” but it’s my opinion that while the first sequel to this franchise is very good, it hasn’t aged nearly as well as most people claim it has. The story and setting are great, but the gameplay and graphics do feel a little dated. I’m not sure what changed with Brotherhood, but the textures in 2 lack detail, and the game still relies less on side quests and more on a superfluous amount of meaningless collectibles. That being said, the parts of this game that were great are still great to this day. Ezio is a fantastic protagonist who’s just starting to learn how to grow up and avenge the wrongful death of his family. Jesper Kyd’s hauntingly beautiful soundtrack still sounds great, and searching famous Italian landmarks for the tombs of legendary Assassins feels like something that could put Indiana Jones to shame. There’s also a really clever mechanic at play with your headquarters in Monteriggioni; as you purchase upgrades to improve the town, the weather goes from gloomy and dour to warm and inviting and encourages the player to spend more time exploring the Italian countryside. It’s one of the few Assassin’s Creed games that uses multiple locations for a setting as well; everything from the waterways of Venice to the plains of Tuscany make an appearance here, and the game is stronger because of that variety. It’s still a must-have for any Assassin’s Creed or Ezio fan, and it’s notable because while the series was just “interesting” at first, Assassin’s Creed 2 turned it into a genuine pop culture icon that made history cool. If only because you’re stabbing your way through it.

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2. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

How Ubisoft managed to create a better follow-up to Assassin’s Creed 2 I have no idea but I’m not complaining. It’s no easy task to make a game that can top a final battle with the Pope, but Brotherhood takes a now tempered Ezio and manages to make an engaging game out of it. After Cesare Borgia lays waste to Monteriggioni, Ezio heads to Rome to rebuild the Assassin Brotherhood and bring down the Borgias once and for all. The story doesn’t try and reach the emotional heights of it’s predecessor, and that ends up working in its favor. This is the Aliens of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and it focuses on blockbuster thrills rather than losing itself in padded political tension. The feeling of slowly recruiting Assassins before finally calling them into battle for a massive confrontation with an Italian legion never ceases to amaze, and Rome manages to be a stunning playground to explore that prioritizes more content and less collectibles. You can hunt for the lost armor of Brutus through a cult that worships Romulus, assassinate Templar agents attempting to cause chaos throughout Rome, and destroy War Machines designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The game manages to pack itself with good content and that’s not a bad thing. It’s also the only other game in the series besides Rogue with a genuinely cinematic final confrontation. Now that Ubisoft’s re-released all three Ezio games, there’s never been a better time to experience the entire trilogy.

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1. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

I’ve gone over why this is such a great game before, but the highlights are: there’s a massive open world stretching from the coast of Mexico to Principe, Africa. The naval combat is at its peak, and what better place to experience it than in the Golden Age of Piracy? You can customize and upgrade your ship with cannons, rams and a harpoon boat to make it a truly terrifying scourge of the sea. There’s tons of treasure to find across a gorgeous tropical setting that lets you visit simple fishing villages and lost Mayan ruins. Edward Kenway is a protagonist that genuinely learns to overcome his greed and understand what true wisdom looks like, all while robing the British and stabbing Templars. When everyone had lost faith in the franchise, along came Assassin’s Creed 4 to prove the fans wrong. There’s likable characters, a social commentary about invasion of privacy, a whole fleet of pirate ships to send out on trade missions, forts to capture, contracts to complete and so much more. If the game was any longer, it would be pretty close to perfect. There’s never been a more emotional or genuinely fun Assassin’s creed game since, and the fact that it manages to be so great in a setting abused by Hollywood and video games is a testament to the stellar game design. It’s not one to miss, but to be honest I don’t think any of the games on this list are. If you love history, action, and sci-fi, nothing else blends the three together so well. Be sure to give one of the games on this list a try and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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