Assassin’s Creed Chronicles
Yep, all three of them. The problem with the narratives of the three Chronicles episodes is that they didn’t have one. Their storylines were intended to bridge gaps that didn’t need to be bridged. Chronicles: China doesn’t have an introduction, because that intro is an animated film called Assassin’s Creed: Embers. Chronicles: India doesn’t have a conclusion, because that conclusion is a graphic novel called Assassin’s Creed: Brahman. Chronicles: Russia has neither, because both are covered by graphic novels. In fact, the narratives of all three Chronicles episodes are identical. Templars bad, Assassins good, Piece of Eden important. Thank you, game, we knew all this since the first entry in the franchise.
Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles
Altair’s Chronicles acts as a prequel to the original Assassin’s Creed. It accomplishes this by setting up a storyline that it does not even mention, let alone continue, in the main game. Not only this, but the story of Altair’s Chronicles does absolutely nothing to move the greater story of the franchise forward, and completely ignores the whole present-day aspect. Granted, some fans think the present-day aspect should be forgotten about altogether, but nonetheless, it’s pretty important in the wider scheme of things. Assassin’s Creed introduces us to Altair as a former master assassin who has fallen from grace, meaning that as a prequel, Altair’s Chronicles should cement Altair as a true bonafide badass.
Well, it didn’t.
Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines
Bloodlines is a follow-up to the original Assassin’s Creed game, and manages to add absolutely nothing to the plot of the series. While its alleged reason to exist is to bridge the gap between the first game and Assassin’s Creed 2, a section in the latter does this in a better way. Bloodlines sees Altair pursue the remaining Templars to Cyprus, where they also have some kind of mythical archive. It turns out that the archive has been evacuated, and boom, the game ends. Oh, we’re also introduced to Maria Thorpe, to whom we’ll be introduced once more in Assassin’s Creed 2. Redundant much?
Assassin’s Creed: Liberation
While Liberation’s story wasn’t particularly bad – in fact, the tale of Aveline, the first playable female assassin, got pretty interesting near the end – it didn’t exactly move the grand narrative ahead and was plagued by lengthy sections in the Bayou and several annoying characters. While they did fit in, all things considered, the sections of the story that took place in the swamp felt like they dragged on for too long just so Ubisoft could force that tree-climbing system they were so proud of on players – to the detriment of the narrative.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
It’s odd to see Black Flag this low on a ranking list of Assassin’s Creed games, seeing as it’s one of the most loved entries of the franchise (which I understand, as it is a personal favorite). That said, the storyline isn’t where this game shines through. While Assassin’s Creed Rogue gives us the interesting perspective of being a templar instead of an assassin, Black Flag gives us the entirely uninteresting aspect of being neither. Edward, the protagonist, kills an assassin and steals his clothes – not because he wants to impersonate an assassin, but because he was wearing torn rags and assassin robes are dapper. He also ends up doing assassin things in spite of not being an assassin, and there was something about an observatory, and he ends up hating the templars anyway. In any case, Black Flag will be remembered for its vibrant open world and ship battles, not its story.
Assassin’s Creed III
Pretty much everyone hates Assassin’s Creed III for various reasons. The unlikable protagonist and drastically reducing the number of assassinations greatly contributed to this, however, the storyline of III was one of its few redeeming qualities. While Connor was dull at his best and infuriating at his worst, the overall storyline that wove the American Revolutionary War together with the conflict between the assassins and the templars was unique and well written. III also first introduced the concept of the templars not being the manic cackling comic-book villains that they were made out to be. We shouldn’t ignore the present-day component, either, with this installment concluding Demond’s story. Plus, Haytham more than makes up for Connor.
Looking back, it shows through in many ways that Ubisoft didn’t want to go overboard with ambition in the first title of the franchise. Introducing the new concept to an AAA audience was risky enough for them, so they didn’t place as much emphasis on fleshing out those aspects of the game that are considered secondary in the grand recipe for commercial success. Let’s face it, Assassin’s Creed’s storyline is formulaic to a fault, ticking boxes on a checklist. The protagonist is burdened with regret, the mentor figure says lots of wise things and there is a grand betrayal that surprised nobody. However, the game did introduce the main themes of the entire franchise. We learned about Abstergo, the Animus, the Pieces of Eden and the secret war between the freedom loving assassins and the control-freak templars. The first game had the task of setting up all this backstory, and in the end, it succeeded in doing so.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
While as a game overall Syndicate was a great improvement over Unity, it didn’t eclipse its predecessor in terms of narrative. Syndicate’s story is still more than solid and the writing is on point, so we’re not saying that Syndicate’s story is “worse,” but rather just “not as good” as the narratives of the others. Retaking London from the templars while dallying with fine folks like Marx, Dickens, and Darwin is all kinds of awesome, but it ended up being more spectacle with less substance. That said, the game did excel in terms of characters, featuring protagonists who are second only to the unbeatable Ezio.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity
Say what you will about Unity, but the story was pretty solid. The French Revolution was a pretty damn interesting time in history, and Unity managed to capitalize on the upheaval those years were known for by upheaving the status quo of Assassin’s Creed’s themes. While the plot itself ended up being a bit predictable, it did signal a major change for the franchise, both in terms of the present-day storyline and the dynamic between the two factions we’ve come to know so well. Unity also made good use of historical figures such as Napoleon, though it wasn’t as on-point about this aspect as Syndicate. That said, Assassin’s Creed is usually at its strongest from a story point of view when the Templars are presented as morally gray, and we have bucketloads of gray in Unity.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue
Rogue is to Black Flag what Brotherhood is to II. At first glance, it seems like it isn’t more than a small upgrade to the same gameplay and premise in a new location – a glorified, overpriced expansion. Rogue ended up surprising players by being the superior Assassin’s Creed game the year it launched, being a better game overall than Unity. In terms of story, Rogue manages to outperform most other titles in the franchise, and it achieves this by granting us a new perspective – that of a templar. While the protagonist isn’t exactly likable, he’s infinitely better than Connor, Arno, Altair, or Desmond, and he grants us insight into what it’s like to be on the other side of the conflict. Rogue does much to add to Assassin’s Creed’s morally-gray dilemma about the method used to achieve peace.
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
In many ways Assassin’s Creed 2.5, Brotherhood served to tie up the loose ends that its predecessor didn’t address. While II concluded in a logical way, there was still unfinished business before Ezio. The templars were still active and strong, Rodrigo de Borgia was still at large (having become the Pope and all) and something had to be done with the Apple of Eden. Instead of being a half-assed add-on with a $60 price tag slapped on it, Ubisoft took Brotherhood and crafted one of the best games in the franchise in more ways than one. While not eclipsing the fantastic II, Brotherhood’s storyline introduced a whole host of new, interesting and fleshed out characters and a complete plot that didn’t feel ham-fisted. It gave us a villain we loved to hate, we ended up feeling sorry for poor Rodrigo and Ezio was given a chance to step into the role of mentor.
Assassin’s Creed Revelations
While trying to convince us that a 70-something dude who has suffered from countless injuries and has probably destroyed all of his joints with years of constant parkour can still climb the freaking Ayasofya, jump off, land in a haystack, jump right out and sprint across half of Istanbul is stretching things just a bit, the storyline of Revelations is pretty solid. The plot of Revelations wasn’t a clichéd one to any extent and had a few unpredictable turns. The element driving the plot, Ezio hunting for artifacts that allowed him to relive Altair’s memories, was well-integrated into the wider storyline, and the build-up to the scene where Ezio and Altair “meet” was worth it for that conclusion. In terms of present-day, the story more focused on a “fill the blanks” world-building shtick which actually turned out to be more interesting that the misadventures of Desmond and co, which is another bonus.
Assassin’s Creed II
Let’s face it, we all knew this would be up here. Generally considered to be the best title in the series, II nails pretty much every aspect including the storyline. The vast tale spans several years and takes Ezio across renaissance Italy. The story was full of interesting characters, some unpredictable turns and the protagonist went through genuine character development. Though it started out as a by-the-book revenge story, the plot quickly evolved beyond this once Ezio was introduced to the more subtle machinations of the conflict he plopped into. The death of his family still drove him forward, but he accepted that there were larger issues at play. This title also expanded upon the mysterious first civilization and gave us more backstory on the state of affairs in the present-day. Ubisoft has put out a lot of Assassin’s Creed games since 2009, but they still didn’t eclipse Assassin’s Creed 2 in terms of story.
This post was originally written by Aron Gerencser.