The Big Ones: Assassin’s Creed and Final Fantasy are the first two franchises to come under scrutiny in this series on the multi-title properties VG247 has grown to love over the years.
Indie games are great, and we love innovation, but there’s something to be said for the big, triple-A franchise thing – and it’s usually said in chart-topping sales figures.
We all have a franchise or two that we hold near and dear. Maybe it’s just one very special series of games, or maybe like me you have a good half a dozen at least. In this series of features, we’re going to count off some of our favourite big names, starting with two that are very close to my own feeble but passionate heart.
Of today’s two franchises I’m starting with Assassin’s Creed because it comes first alphabetically, if not chronologically. My love for Assassin’s Creed is well-documented (I’m on my second Abstergo hoodie; I have an eagle-peak dressing gown; I lost my assassin’s symbol tablet gloves and literally cried) but I never actually get tired of talking about Ubisoft’s bizarre science-fiction slash historical fiction slash naval battle simulator slash stealth sandbox slash tech demo, so here we go.
“It’s easy to forget how revolutionary Assassin’s Creed was, with its groundbreaking crowd technologies and gloriously free movement.”
I’d love to tell you that I bought a first-printing copy of the original Assassin’s Creed because I knew, with powerful games journo instincts, that I would love it and it was going to be huge. Actually, I’d been sick in bed for a couple of years, during which time I missed a lot of games, and I decided to pick it up better to prepare for possibly reviewing the sequel now that I was well enough to go back to work. Also, my brother recommended it to me. “It’s got a lot of stabbing,” he said. He really knows me well.
The first Assassin’s Creed is often written off as a tech demo for the rest of the franchise but I love it. It’s far more tense than later sequels with its hyper-vigilant guards and limited stealth options. I understand it’s not fun for everyone, but I love the challenge of having to be anonymous. I love that you can’t just faff about and expect bystanders and guards to ignore you. Later games might have made the guards better and more tenacious hunters, but it also made them far more less likely to notice you in the first place, eventually watering down the already weakened notoriety system to that it may as well not exist at all.
It’s easy to forget just how revolutionary Assassin’s Creed was, with its groundbreaking crowd technologies and gloriously free movement. I even enjoyed the puppet control system, where each button represented a different part of Altair’s body, and actions varied depending on your “profile”, which many have described as unnecessarily clunky. The modern-day sections were a revelation to me; I’ve always been the sort to go off poking into corners when a game tells me to run in a straight line, and to be rewarded for faffing about instead of getting back in the Animus made me feel like the developers and I were playing together, rather than them herding me to their narrative goals.
“Now that Assassin’s Creed has been annualised it’s easy to be cynical about it. But the fact of the matter is Ubisoft keeps trying new things within the series.”
Assassin’s Creed as a series has had its ups and downs since then, but there have been plenty of ups, and despite my love for the purity of the original I found plenty to love in later games. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood in particular is a highlight; the unusual approach to multiplayer was a revelation, and the building up of an assassin’s guild was extremely satisfying. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations started to suffer from a bit of feature glut but provided some much needed extra colour to both Altair and Desmond’s stories, as well as letting us blow stuff up with bombs, which I rarely argue with. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag took the fun naval section from the much-criticised Assassin’s Creed 3 and turned them into a sheer joy and delight to play. And Assassin’s Creed 3 – well, uh, you could pat animals, and I really liked that. Moving on.
Now that Assassin’s Creed has been annualised it’s easy to be cynical about it. But the fact of the matter is Ubisoft keeps trying new things within the series, has been very careful about guarding its canon, and very actively monitors feedback in order to keep improving and refining, with multiple studios given a go at hitting a high note. We’re genuinely excited about Assassin’s Creed: Unity for a variety of spurious reasons rooted in wild speculation, and Assassin’s Creed: Comet, if it is a real thing, is likely to be pretty decent too, because Ubisoft is über-protective of its baby.
Click through to the second page for Final Fantasy.