10 Years Later: Assassin’s Creed
2007, much like 2017, was a massive year for video games. With the rise of the 7th generation of consoles came an onslaught of new and exciting games, every one boasting cleaner graphics, new gameplay mechanics, and a stronger sense of realism. Among these titles are the coveted “Big Three” a trio of games that, while sharing little in common, all became foundations of modern gaming culture, and left a lasting legacy that is still discussed today. These games were Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Assassin’s Creed. While each influenced the industry in monumental ways, none was more surprising, and more inventive, than Ubisoft’s new IP. Both Bioshock and Mass Effect came from developers that not only had long-standing positive histories in gaming but also relied heavily on previous titles that held similar concepts. Bioshock had the System Shock series to fall back upon, and Mass Effect is essentially a smarter, more engaging version of Knights of the Old Republic. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Assassin’s Creed, a brand new, never before seen experience that explored gameplay styles and storytelling mechanics that few games had broached before. Assassin’s Creed was an anomaly and worked in all the right ways.
It goes without saying that Assassin’s Creed is not a perfect game. Its combat mechanics and character movements are jerky and unresponsive at times, its story is abstract and sometimes hard to follow, and the world, while sprawling and beautiful, is devoid of almost any additional activities save for the story. However, the game’s positives far outweigh its negative aspects. The freedom of traversal that came with Assassin’s Creed was almost unheard of. Players could climb walls, vault over horses, and dive from atop the tallest towers to reach their objectives, making getting from one point of the game’s three major cities to another a breeze. Furthermore, new gameplay mechanics like using crowds of people to sneak up on your target or hiding from perusing enemies in haystacks were first implemented in this flagship title.
Assassin’s Creed also boasted a creative concept. The player is placed in the shoes of a master Assassin in the Holy Land. For thousands of years his order has been at war with the Templars, and shadowy political and religious group that seeks to control the world. The story revolves around the player taking out key Templar officers in cities such as Jerusalem and Damascus. This is not all though, as the player learns early on in the game that the world they’re exploring is actually a sequence of memories pulled from a descendant of the Assassins named Desmond. At this point gameplay shifts from the present day to the crusades, as the shady corporation, Abstergo uses a device called Animus to find Desmond’s memories and use them to further their mysterious goals. While the present-day sequences were intriguing, they took players out of the more exciting experience of being an Assassin and became more of an annoyance by the end of the game.
Assassin’s Creed is a cornerstone of modern video game culture.
What makes a game stand the test of time is its ability to not only influence other games but live on as a series. Since its release a decade ago, Assassin’s Creed has spawned nineteen games in the series across multiple platforms. These games have taken players to the Italian Renaissance, colonial America, Egypt, Russia, China, India, Paris, London, and the Caribbean. The series also told a complex plot about modern corporations, mystical aliens, and the price of power and order in the world. While the main plotline revolving around Desmond wrapped up in the third numbered entry in the series, the soul of the franchise lived on, and grew, with subsequent entries. Countless Assassin’s have run rampant across history, taking out legions of Templar forces. What’s more, Assassin’s Creed spawned a revolution of sorts in modern gaming. After it showed the world how easy it was to make a third-person action RPG that used a simplistic traversal system, hundreds of other games followed suit. Games like the Batman Arkham series and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor would not be what they are today without the foundation that Assassin’s Creed laid.
While not being a technical marvel by today’s standards, Assassin’s Creed is a cornerstone of modern video game culture and spawned a series of games that not only defined Ubisoft’s success for the subsequent decade but also inspired countless other games in its wake. The fact of the matter is that the action RPG genre wouldn’t be what it is today without Assassin’s Creed, and a great many games are in its debt for the standards it set.