From the Holy Land, to Anglo-Saxon England
If the COVID-19 pandemic has given us anything, it is time. Sure, there was strife, grief, anxiety, and pain, but also time. Time enough for your ol’ pal Zane to play and complete nearly all the Assassin’s Creed games. In March of 2020, right after the pandemic was declared, I decided to go back to the first Assassin’s Creed game to pick up two endgame Achievements. After that, I decided to play the rest of them and bought all the games and their DLC. Today, I have completed 11 of the 13 games on this list, missing the multiplayer Achievements in Assassin’s Creed IV and still playing through Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
The series-long experience has been fun, but not without pain; it has had disappointments, but not without pleasant surprises. I will be listing the best and worst games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. This list includes all the main series games, as well as a couple of titles that fans may have skipped, but it will not include the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles or mobile games. I won’t go into review-level detail here, but I will highlight the elements of each game that made it stand out, for better or worse. The point of view I am coming from in this list is seeing “How restrictive is the gameplay?”, “Does this game control the way I want it to?” and above all, “Is this game fun to play?” Like I said, I also have all the Achievements in almost all the games, so by doing everything that Ubisoft intended me to do, I also ask myself “Is the ‘completion’ a fulfilling experience?” Without further ado, here’s the first part of the best to worst list for the Assassin’s Creed series.
1. Assassin’s Creed Origins
The first two entries are practically tied for the best Assassin’s Creed game. They are very different and have their own distinct feel, so it is hard putting one over the other. That being said, Assassin’s Creed Origins was my favorite of the series, by a hair. This was the first time in the franchise where Ubisoft really reinvented the Assassin’s Creed games. Origins really went full RPG this time, where previous titles had RPG elements, but did not lean into them enough to really change the game.
Playing Assassin’s Creed Origins gave me a freedom I had not felt since the very earliest games. It was the first game in a long time to not have “Optional Objectives” during missions. If you wanted to take out your target silently and stealthily, you could. If you wanted to rush in and take out everyone between you and your target, you could do that too, and you would not be penalized.
The combat was also reworked. The main character Bayek could wield all sorts of weapons like daggers, spears, swords, staffs, or bows; whatever you felt like. Your weapons could also be imbued with different effects like poison or fire. Bayek would also level up, so you could spend skill points unlocking or powering up different abilities for combat or exploration. You know, like a real RPG. The free running and climbing was also more freeing, compared to previous titles. Instead of each building being its own climbing puzzle, you could approach any structure from almost any side and still make it to the top your own way.
It wasn’t until a couple of years after the game’s that gamers found out about Ubisoft’s internal misconduct surrounding racism and sexism. It turns out that Assassin’s Creed Origin’s main character was supposed to be Bayek’s badass wife Aya, but she was sidelined. That is a shame, since being able to play as Aya, or at least having a choice, would have made the game even better.
2. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Again, this game could also be the best in the series, depending on your personal preference. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag marks perhaps the very best of the “classic” Assassin’s Creed games. One of the big draws to this title was the piracy; being able to take to the high seas on your very own ship, launch full-scale ocean-warfare, and swing onto an enemy ship and en garde! It also took the combat of the previous games, refined over several titles, and improved upon that.
The story was of Assassin’s Creed IV was a weird one, I felt. It was the first game to not occur chronologically, which is fine. It introduced elements that seemed important at the time, but are no longer used (I think?). The main villains of the series are the Templars, but AC IV also brought in Sages, who are beings whose consciousness carries over from lifetime to lifetime. One of the antagonists is found in Edward Kenway’s time, but also in the present, which was pretty interesting, but several games later, Sages don’t matter apparently. This was also the first game where your character is not really an Assassin, he’s just some guy who can climb trees that wears an Assassin’s clothes. It’s not until late in the game that Edward really embraces the Creed, before walking away from it soon after.
Other than the sailing and ocean-combat introduced in Assassin’s Creed III, the gameplay does not really evolve in any meaningful way. The good things are still good, but the bad things are still bad (i.e. the Optional Objectives and the collectibles are a pain in the ASSassin). Since the main character from the present died in Assassin’s Creed III, the time spent out of the Animus was pretty refreshing compared to previous games. There were hacking mini-games and the present day story gave players a fresh perspective on the Assassin/Templar conflict. You were also a silent and faceless protagonist, so that eliminated the element of being a whiney, selfish prick named Desmond, which is a big plus.
3. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey took the evolutions made in Origins and ran with them. I never thought I would say this in a negative way, but this game has too much game. The map is massive, has a ton of big islands, and they are all filled with locations, side quests, and targets. After that, there are also multi-chapter DLCs. Now, I like a big, meaty game, but Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was just too big. If it were a more digestible game, it would be even better than Origins.
A big improvement that was made over Assassin’s Creed Origins was the fact that you could choose your main character; Kassandra (the canon choice) or Alexios. Either way, your main character becomes the Eagle Bearer, whereas the other becomes the villainous Deimos. You also kind of don’t play as an Assassin. While Bayek and Aya created the Hidden Ones that would later evolve into the Assassins, Kassandra is kind of just a badass of great destiny. Also, being a Spartan, the player is very much a warrior and not an assassin.
I will say that all the games have connected to the overarching story with the First Civilization, the Isu, but Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, far and away, tells the most consequential story to involve them in the series. The Fate of Atlantis DLC takes the concept of traveling to the afterlife explored in the Assassin’s Creed Origins DLC and really raises the bar. It is just a shame that the base game has to be completed before accessing it, because it is so much more fun than the rest of the game.
The combat in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is like the improved combat of Origins, but given even more depth. The deeper use of Adrenaline and active combat skills really make you feel like an unstoppable Spartan warrior. Like previous entries in the series, Odyssey has a nautical aspect to the gameplay. It is not quite as in-depth as Assassin’s Creed IV, but player’s ship can be upgraded and customized in very similar ways.
There are really great aspects of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, such as the overall story, the combat, and the Cult of Kosmos, but the problem I had with it was that it was too diluted. As much as I enjoyed it, there was just too much other stuff I had to get through for it to be a tight gaming experience.
Find out which Assassin’s Creed games are ranked 4th to 6th on page 2…