4. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
At the moment of writing this, I have not completed Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. I imagine I am about 25% through completing it. I also feel like we are still in the honeymoon stage with this game. There are still a few bugs here and there that need to be fixed, the DLC has not yet come out; it’s still kind of new and it has not been tested by time like other titles in the series have. I have been playing it on my Xbox Series X, so at least I am getting the “best quality” experience from it.
Playing as a Viking is certainly a choice. They aren’t the first or even twelfth culture you would think to make a good Assassin, but whatever. It is kind of the same feeling as in Odyssey; you don’t feel like the traditional Assassin, but the game is quite enjoyable. Raiding small villages, monasteries, and military settlements is really fun. The combat is very satisfying. The executions are visceral and brutal. It is a great Viking game. Even the activities surrounding Viking culture are great. Flyting, drinking games, and Orlog are really fun. Orlog might be the first board game side activity in the series that I look forward to doing.
Valhalla has done away with the “Locations” that Origins and Odyssey had filled their maps with. Instead, there are collectibles, side missions, and other activities scattered around the kingdoms of England. Again, being a gamer that likes to collect and complete everything, it is less stressful and intimidating at a glance than the Locations of the previous games.
Like I said, I am not that far in the game, but the way mythology has been approached in the past few titles is really cool. I have not ventured into Asgard, but if it is anything like Atlantis in AC Odyssey, I will be happy. The amount of customization in the game is certainly welcomed. Being able to change genders on the fly is neat, as well as other cosmetics like tattoos, hair style/color, and the newly added transmog feature, which can change the appearance of your armor and weapons, like in Odyssey.
5. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate fell in an unfortunate spot in the series. It came right after Assassin’s Creed Unity, which was a particularly low point in the franchise, then before Assassin’s Creed Origins, which was a grand comeback. It’s a shame, because Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is really good. There were vast improvements made on Assassin’s Creed Unity (which we will get to in excruciating detail). After some controversy surrounding Unity’s lack of playable female characters, Ubisoft gave us the Frye twins. Players were required to play as both to complete the game, but it was refreshing to finally play a main-series game as a badass Assassin lady.
The setting was certainly interesting and lively. Industrial Revolution London was really captured by Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. The city felt alive and the game was packed full of historical people, like Karl Marx, Jack the Ripper, Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens; there are really just too many to name. As the settings have become more modern, Syndicate also had the Assassins modernize and evolve. Instead of being a shadowy organization, Evie and Jacob Frye were very high-profile as far as Assassins go. Instead of recruiting apprentices, they ruled the streets with a gang. They also had a mobile base of operations on a train. On one hand, that’s really cool, but then again, it is very unlike the Assassins we are used to.
Here’s the best part of the game: the rope launcher. Oh, the rope launcher! After playing so many of these games where I would have to run across rooftops, but then carefully climb down, cross the street, and then climb back up the next building, we get the greatest traversal tool in the series. It also made picking up collectibles much easier. Is there no clothing line between me and my destination? Rope launcher. Do I want to assassinate my target from above? Rope launcher. Would a zipline be really convenient right about now? Rope launcher, baby.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate had pretty unique weapons for the series. Players could choose between cane-swords, brass knuckles, kurki knives, and some fear-spike things in the Jack the Ripper DLC. The game also toyed around with some Arkham-style combat, using a series of dodges and strikes to maintain a combo in hand-to-hand combat, which never really came back in other games.
The game is not without faults, though I think they are few. The Frye twins fall into the trap of being the generic unlikely-pair. He’s the over-confident, suave, look-before-you-leap guy, and she’s the studious, calculated, all-business girl. From the beginning, they are at odds over how they will operate in London, but that conflict never really goes anywhere. It doesn’t evolve, drive them apart, or ultimately make them a better team. Jacob’s demeanor is a carbon copy of Arno, Edward, and Ezio when we first meet them, but all of them grow out of being immature young men, whereas Jacob doesn’t. Evie doesn’t really have much of a character arc either. Every male ally of hers falls for her, but the guy she ends up marrying is just like her, only worse at everything. The flaws of the game are mostly contained within the narrative arc, but other than that, it is a really solid game.
6. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD
This game was perhaps the most overlooked and underappreciated game in the series. At launch Assassin’s Creed: Liberation was only released on PS Vita, but was later remastered and bundled with Assassin’s Creed III Remastered. I loved this game so much. Maybe because it was a perfect rebound after playing Assassin’s Creed III, but there were other things about it that are wonderful.
My girl, Aveline de Grandpré was ahead of her time, both in the game and in the series. She was the first female main character and first (still only) woman of color to have the spotlight in the series. She is also basically a superhero. She is the daughter of a wealthy French man and a former slave. Aveline runs her father’s business by day, while hunting Templars and freeing slaves by night. Her friend also helps the business by covering for her Assassin persona and equipping her with discrete gear.
I praise this game not just for its representation, but it has a gameplay mechanic unique to the series that should be a no-brainer for Assassins. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation makes use of a disguise/persona mechanic. Aveline can change into her Assassin, slave, or lady disguise in changing booths around New Orleans. These personas have different abilities and access to different tools. The lady persona can charm guards or men to cause a distraction or use her parasol-dart shooter, but she cannot free-run or sprint like the other disguises. The slave persona can parkour, blend in with workers, and draw less attention, but she does not have all the tools of the Assassin. The Assassin is fully equipped and more resistant to incoming damage, but guards are more suspicious of this disguise.
Being originally on PS Vita, you can tell that it was not built with the power of a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One in mind. You can see the tricks Ubisoft did to make it run on the Vita, like lower resolution NPCs at greater distances suddenly popping in when you get close. It is also a much smaller game compared to Assassin’s Creed III or IV. There are only three main outdoor areas, which include New Orleans, the Louisiana Bayou, and an Aztec settlement. It is also much shorter than other Assassin’s Creed games, so if a fresh game chalk full of collectibles and side quests is too intimidating, you may enjoy taking a crack at Assassin’s Creed Liberation.
Tune in next week to discover the second half of the list, beginning from mid-range and ending with the very worst in the Assassin’s Creed series. What do you think so far? Do you think your ol’ pal Zane is way off the mark here or do you agree? Let us know in the comments below.