The 10 Biggest Changes in the Assassin's Creed Series
VOICE OVER: Aaron Brown
WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
Welcome to MojoPlays! Today, we're looking at the 10 biggest changes in the “Assassin's Creed” series. Few franchises have been having an identity crisis for so long. For this video, we're looking at all the times that Ubisoft has chopped and changed its biggest moneymaker over the years. Our list includes Fast Travel, Tailing Missions, Mythology, Social Stealth, Naval Combat and more!
10 Biggest Changes in the Assassin’s Creed Series
Welcome to MojoPlays! Today, we’re looking at the 10 biggest changes in the “Assassin’s Creed” series. Few franchises have been having an identity crisis for so long.
For this list, we’re looking at all the times that Ubisoft has chopped and changed its biggest moneymaker over the years.
Though the shop quests in “Brotherhood” were perhaps the first inkling of a crafting system we got, the first true crafting appeared in “Revelations”, in the surprisingly deep bomb system that only features in this game. By “III”, you’re hunting animals throughout the frontier, and in the newer games, you’ll be harvesting resources from all over the map in order to craft and upgrade your weapons and armor. It reached its most complex in “Odyssey”, largely due to the sheer volume of resources needed for certain upgrades, and was simplified again in “Valhalla”. But plenty of fans still long for the day when you could play “Assassin’s Creed” without having to craft anything.
Until some of the most recent games, the fast travel systems have often lagged behind other large, open world releases. It wasn’t until “Black Flag” that the viewpoints became part of the fast travel system, and in the most recent games, you’re free to fast travel to any synchronized viewpoints from anywhere else. But perhaps because Ubisoft was aiming for more realism in the older games, fast travel was a lot trickier. In the first game, you could only skip the long rides through the Kingdom once you’d already visited each city at least once, and you’d never be able to travel quickly around the cities OR out of Masyaf. In “II”, getting between cities was baked into the story. Ezio has to go from Florence through the mountains to sail from Forlí to get to Venice for the first time.
Ever since “Assassin’s Creed II”, romance has been a part of the series. Not only did that game introduce Ezio’s first love, Cristina Vespucci, but it also spent time on Altaïr’s relationship with ex-Templar Maria Thorpe. However, it wasn’t until “Odyssey” that romance became something the player could choose, rather than simply a part of the story Ubisoft wanted to tell. The first attempt at romance left much to be desired, however, as it boiled down to just choosing the options marked with “hearts” and then going off for a one-night tryst. Optional, committed relationships then emerged in “Valhalla”, further cementing the series’ RPG status.
This is one change we were so glad to see the back of when it eventually disappeared. For years, fans complained about the tailing missions, which reached their apex in “Black Flag”, which had dozens of the things including one notorious mission where you’re doing a tailing mission in a pirate ship through a swamp. Finally, Ubisoft listened and got rid of them, and we’ve never been happier. Though some of them worked well enough, others were appalling, with impossible enemy placements, no hiding places, and stringent requirements for 100% sync. Tailing missions go up there with eavesdropping as something we hope will never return.
“Origins” toyed with Egyptian mythology with the Trials of the Gods timed missions and later the DLCs, but they were always explained as being a glitch in the Animus. That changed in “Odyssey”, however, which brought the revelation that basically the entirety of Greek mythology was real and also abandoned Isu experiments. That was how the game justified sending you to fight enemies such as Medusa and the Minotaur. “Valhalla” pulled the same stunt, making Norse mythology also a genuine part of the Isu lore now. Though, this did arguably begin back when the first games started to look at Adam and Eve and the Bible.
Related to the mythology, “Black Flag” was the first game to introduce the concept of Sages. It was getting a little stale to have it only be the Templars and Assassins, so the Sage of the Isu Aita was added as a third force acting both alongside and against the interests of both organizations. Aita was also the only Sage we knew of for a while, though we’d long been introduced to the idea that some humans have more Isu DNA than others. By “Valhalla”, however, all the main characters were Sages, including Eivor, Sigurd, and Basim. This was the plot contrivance Ubisoft used to go back and play through the events of Ragnarök, as Eivor relived Odin’s memories.
In most of the games, combat generally involves just spamming that counter button and waiting for the kill streaks to role in. Sure, it’s not the most involved combat system, but the many excellent animations brought in starting with “Brotherhood” made it feel fun regardless. This system started to get old, however, and in “Origins” it was completely redesigned from the ground up. It was a welcome change, enabling Ubisoft to bring in far more complex and rewarding boss fights without everything having to be a long chase. Plus, the improvements to the ranged attacks were a relief; no more pressing triangle to shoot your gun or bow.
“Assassin’s Creed II” remains so wildly popular because it was such a massive improvement over its predecessor in every single way. One of the best things it added was the social stealth system, where Ezio can blend in with crowds of people and the various factions, adding an entirely new dimension to the stealth gameplay. It stuck around for a while, too, before slowly but surely falling by the wayside and disappearing. Its loss is something “AC” fans still lament today, and though they sort of brought it back in “Valhalla”, it was barebones and almost entirely useless since guards are so easily aggro’d anyway.
People were a little skeptical when “Assassin’s Creed III” added an entire naval combat system and a string of naval side missions, and it’s true that it never really fit there. But of course, it was followed up by “Black Flag”, which remains the gold standard for naval combat in a video game. It was as fast as it could be, offered lots of challenge, and totally changed the franchise. But then, after “Rogue”, the naval combat disappeared from the series for a full four years. It later returned in “Odyssey”, though it was simpler in Ancient Greece than during the Golden Age of Piracy. Now, we’re not sure the huge ship battles will ever return, not with “Skull and Bones” on the horizon.
“Assassin’s Creed” is notorious for having controls that let you accidentally leap from tall buildings to your death, and it took Ubisoft a lot of iterating to fix this. “The Ezio Trilogy” had platforming that was actually quite precise – just remember not to ALWAYS hold X because that increases the odds of Ezio jumping where you don’t want him to. But it was totally redesigned for “Origins”, enabling you to easily climb up everything, even things that don’t have any obvious handholds. “Odyssey” added a mandatory and divisive passive upgrade that eliminates fall damage completely, but then the platforming was made a little trickier again for “Valhalla”. They even added back the hated paper chasing missions.