With Dawn of Ragnarök out and the next AC rumoured to be a persistent online world, Previous Weapon does a countdown to the best of AC, via the worst of our reviewers.
FBT – An AC MMO? NNO. MMO is not what AC was about, it was about us reliving a personal memory not living in a shared world. It’s a purely financial decision; it’s more cost-efficient to create a persistent world you update than risk a new sequel or title; we’re still waiting for Elder Scrolls 6, GTA 6, Fallout 5… didn’t Ubisoft learn from Watch Dogs: Legion?
TheMorty – Yeah but… GTAV shows the power of an MMO when you get it right. When it gets a Series X/S release I’ll have bought it three times. While that’s as annoying as it is expensive, MMO can work. GTA V has shifted more copies (est 160m+) than the entire Assassin's Creed catalogue (est 155m). It’s a smart move if Ubisoft can get it right. Although, based on their ratio of hits to misses with AC games… I’d say they only have a 50/50 chance.
FBT – 50/50? That’s better odds than TheMorty finishing a game. No wonder he loves MMOs, they never end so he’s blameless. AC puts you in a focused singular experience, I’ve learnt more about history from AC than school. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. It’s going to be tough listing AC worst to best.
TM – It’s going to be tough to read too. This is a guy who thinks Mass Effect 1 is better than 2. You played the entire series recently, I’m ready to listen to your top ten and prove you wrong. Let’s jump back into the Previous Weapon Animus.
FBT – 10th place. Actually, it was easy to pick out the worst. Rogue. Had this been a spin off like Freedom Cry or Liberation, I’d forgive it. But it’s a reskin of ACIII and Black Flag set in a period no one cares about, with a nothing ending, and it lies to you. This was the game that promised we’d be an Assassin Assassin and instead we got a crybaby who hates killing assassins and sported an accent worse that Sean in The Untouchables. Do not touch this.
TM – Ubisoft only have themselves to blame for this. Black Flag was released on the Xbox One, yet, when Rogue followed, it was an old-gen only release? Having sailed the Caribbean in Full HD, to then have to physically dust off the 360 to play was incredibly annoying. Ubisoft ruined this before Shay’s blade had even been drawn.
FBT – TheMorty there, using a technical technicality to avoid admitting he likes Rogue. My second worst is Valhalla. Ubisoft made Vikings boring?! Eivor is the most helpful, peaceful, and easily-led Berserker in history. The plot is compelling, as is dark ages Britain, but it’s an empty, laden, boring trudge through a reskinned Origins that ultimately means nothing. And the updates and seasonal events irritate almost as much as that terrible skill tree and dated gameplay; Valhalla is a disappointment.
TM – All Valhalla had to do was follow what Odyssey did, yet the introduction of Basim and Hytham took me away from the Viking narrative and thrust me straight back into the Assassin’s games of old; AC is about history but that doesn’t mean it has to be dated. To make the most of this game, I played as a pathfinder. While it made the game more palatable, I just felt let down. It wasn’t what I wanted after epic Greece. Could’ve been the best in the series but such a missed opportunity.
FBT – 8th is Origins – Bayek is brilliant but it is a bloated emptiness and we didn’t get the origin story we signed up for. This is the perfect example of a long-running series losing its way and treading water. Or quicksand. It doesn’t know what it is or where it’s going.
TM – We’ve done very well to get three games in before our first disagreement - 8th?! What are you thinking? That’s far too generous - Origins wouldn’t even make my list! I’d rather have any of the Chronicles games or even a DLC in its place. Odyssey’s ‘Legend of the First Blade’ is the Origin story – that does a better job of building on Ezio’s ‘Revelation’, where he visits Darius’ tomb. And I genuinely don’t think there has ever been a plainer world for an RPG. It was as desolate as Fallout but without the fear of encountering a pack of Deathclaws. It’s just miles of sand, endless beige. I’m not even acknowledging Origins.
FBT – Wow. Number 7 for me is the original AC, the one that started it all. Clean, concise, full of intrigue and the Third Crusade. But… it’s just not very good, a ‘precursor’ of what was to come. It’s a proof of concept, a Wolfenstein to ACII’s Doom-like parkour-quantum leap. It's only worth playing now if you want to see where the AC world took shape.
TM – I’d probably have had this a little higher simply for how ground-breaking the climbing mechanics were at the time. It was ‘leaps and bounds’ ahead of Tomb Raider, Uncharted or Mirrors Edge. Although, it did have a few quirks - praying on the spot to “hide in plain sight”? By far the best sneaking spot since Solid Snake’s “It’s just a Box”.
FBT – Just missing the top five is III. Connor is one of the worst AC leads; consistently naïve despite being continuously screwed over, and it’s a stretch that he’s present for every single event in America’s birth. It’s great running about in new America, but there’s not enough in there and it runs out of steam midway through. Desmond’s modern issues grate and his sacrifice is immediately forgotten by the series, making it pointless. III is an RPG dry run/reboot for what was to come.
TM – See, ACIII is a lot higher for me because it has a bit of everything. Playing as three protagonists across time, cities, jungles and snowscapes and even sailing across the Atlantic as you command the series’ first naval ship. It’s also the first time you wield a bow and can climb trees, which adds a whole new dimension to the stealth element of the series.
FBT – Making the top 5 is… Unity!? I know, I know, but I liked this game and most of the criticism was aimed at the botched launch. It’s worth a rediscovery; it's bright, fast, and while Arno is a poor man’s Ezio, he forges his own path, calls out Assassin double-standards and beds a Templar; he did all right. It was a fun French farce filled with great set-pieces and it’s the first time being an Assassin was actually an adventure not a world-weary chore.
TM – He rags on me for liking Rogue then puts Unity, the punchline to any joke about botched games in the top five? This was the first AC with the revamped combat engine, where human shields were a thing of the past and perfectly timed parries were no-longer a battle decider. In exchange for this new combat system though, Ubisoft become Animal hating scumbags and removed our ability to ride a horse or even pet a dog. What a horrendous trade off.
FBT - coming in 4th, The Ezio ACII/Brotherhood/Revelations trilogy; they form a single, perfect story of Ezio’s trip from horny Italian lad to uber-Assassin. His battles with the Borgias is so good you can overlook the messy parkour; plus, Desmond actually gets some good stuff to do. The scene where Des realises he’s swimming through Ezio’s sewage while upstairs in the past Ezio’s bedding a hot noble woman is awesome.
TM – This trilogy could fill the podium on its own. It saved the franchise from Prince of Persia obscurity with its engaging story arc and colourful renaissance setting. Scaling the Vatican and Colosseum made the map relatable and the introduction of household names like Da Vinci ensured you didn’t have to swallow a library to get the gags. The fight against the Spanish Pope did an amazing job of weaving history together and ending the trilogy with some much-needed closure for Altair really helped to lay the foundations for the next evolution of AC games.
FBT – 3rd is Syndicate – Ok, a guilty pleasure. So its plot is a bit nothingy, the leads are whiney and the modern era plan about cloning an Isu goes nowhere, but Victoria’s London is beautifully realised and we’re a Dickensian scallywag disrupting a Templar’s plan for jokes. The attention to detail is spot on, it's one of the most immersive ACs out there, and there’s a Black Flag reference; what’s not to love and like Unity, it’s here for a good time. Top stuff.
TM – Of course this was going to be FBTs guilty pleasure – it was the first time we’ve had a female lead. I’m amazed he even made it this far through with just testosterone as a playable character. Terrible facial hair and cockney accents aside, Syndicate was such a relief from the glitchy mess of Unity. London felt specifically designed to scale landmarks and having your base on a train that circled the city was such a cool feature. Even if the horse and cart racing was a bit lame, it was incredibly fun to play.
FBT – 2nd fave is Black Flag?! It’s the game that got me into AC and the perfect example of AC. Historically accurate, incredibly involving, a brilliant lead, a solid story, connections between the past and future, lots of fights and exploring, tons of Pirating and the AvT war at its most compelling… Ignoring the modern era elements, it remains the definitive AC experience, and it’s spin off, Freedom Cry is amazing too. So why isn’t it Number One?
TM – If this were a Top 10 of AC protagonists, Kenway is unchallenged. A selfish pirate with a dicky moral compass who makes robbing and pillaging in the name of gold feel guilt-free. You can easily rack up 70-odd hours sailing through sea and storm, singing shanties and blowing holes in the side of ships. It’s not quite Odyssey in its abandonment of the traditional Assassin traits and you still have to annoyingly blend into the crowd as you eavesdrop but, the dual pistols and cutlasses you wield more than make up for it, as killing your way through the Caribbean becomes a wild ride. It’s my favourite AC game but… the best? Nah.
FBT – My number one AC game… Odyssey. Okay, it’s barely an AC game, and I wasn't a fan on my first playthrough, but on NG+ I realised it is the actual Origins of AC. We have Ancient Greece to plunder, creatures from Mythology to battle, the Peloponnesian War to win; who has time to be an assassin? Okay, so historical accuracy sometimes takes a beating; I can ride a Unicorn while fighting a Cyclops, but it’s a brilliant RPG with a world-class lead in Alex/Kass. Its compelling, exciting, touching and I’ve played it 4 times now and amassed over 25k kills. Cyclops? I’m the Greek monster. And I love this game. It being the best AC is arguable, but it’s one of the best games of all time.
TM – For once, it’s impossible to disagree with FBT. Usually he makes it so easy. What makes Odyssey so incredible is it's reckless abandonment of all things Assassin yet still feels like we were laying the foundations, unlike Origins’ awkward explanations. No hidden blade, no blending into the crowd - just god-like powers and weapons so powerful it made beheading Medusa feel like a warm knife through butter. The history was rich, the plotline emotional and the landscape the most ambitious of any RPG game I’ve ever played. By fast travelling, you really felt like you were missing out on the journey and what you may find along the way. The DLC were vaster than most standalone games and I spent over 150hrs on a single playthrough. Epic just doesn’t do it justice.
TM – Well, that was… classic FBT. For clarity, here’s my countdown, thanks for asking:
10. (Legacy of the First Blade), 9. Rogue, 8. Unity, 7. Valhalla, 6. Syndicate,
5. AC I, 4. AC III, 3. Ezio Collection, 2. Black Flag, 1. Odyssey
FBT – So there we have it, I win again.
TM – This isn’t in any way a contest.
FBT – Losers always say that. The important thing about the AC games is that, while they’re all a variation on a theme, if you fancy being a French swashbuckler, explore the Italian Renaissance, be a Cockney or live through the Crusades, there’s an AC for you. And that’s why Infinite will fail, it’ll ruin the moment to be playing as a Pirate and meet a Misthios.
TM – That’s true. And throughout this countdown, FBT has been a Malaka.