The Assassin’s Creed franchise has seen its ups and downs in the past couple years. Fans had complaints about Assassin’s Creed III, yet enjoyed Black Flag. Unity is loathed, while Syndicate has left the main series on a high note. The Chronicles series has received mixed reviews, but it holds little importance compared to the main series. Ubisoft has expanded the franchise for all its worth and created a few short films, graphic novels, books, mobile games, and a full-length feature film. This multimedia expansion began when the series was put on an annual release schedule with Assassin’s Creed II.
To this day, Assassin’s Creed II is still regarded as the best in the series. In fact, Ezio’s trilogy is considered to be the strongest of the entire franchise. Initially, Ubisoft said the annual release cycle would be broken in 2016. Contradictory to those claims, however, Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection was announced in September. This has left fans wondering if its release is merely a quick cash-in, riding the hype of the upcoming movie.
Generally speaking, every remastered video game seems to follow a similar formula: update graphics and every piece of DLC. Most remastered titles also typically try to include a little something beyond that. For example, the Bioshock Collection has director’s commentary, and Skyrim has mod support on consoles. The Ezio Collection is no different, receiving both updated graphics and all DLC from Assassin’s Creed II and its follow-ups.
The collection also includes two short films that expand Ezio’s tale. The first is Assassin’s Creed: Lineage, which serves as a prequel to Assassin’s Creed II and follows Ezio’s father. The second is a short, animated project called Assassin’s Creed: Embers that shares Ezio’s last days after Revelations.
The collection also continues the remaster trend of including a multiplayer element–in this case, the component introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I put quite a bit of time into Brotherhood’s multiplayer and found it to be an enjoyable addition.
Across each title, players will notice substantial improvements. The environments have been given considerable attention, including the architecture players spend so much time climbing and jumping across. Vibrant colors help every little detail pop, while clearer draw-distance and improved anti-aliasing play a big part in the visual upgrade.
Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed II is a mixed bag. Though only slightly older than its brothers, the visual upgrade does little to keep it from showing its age. Adding detail and vibrancy to the character models actually does more harm than good. The skin of many characters looks kind of patchy, and their eyes bulge from their heads too much. Though these character models are an issue, they do not take away from how great everything around them looks. The first few moments of Brotherhood and Revelations are particularly stunning.
There is one more occasion where Assassin’s Creed II shows its age. Traversal and combat both feel very clunky, though this may be due to contrasting the mechanics of an older game with those of the more recent Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate.
Of course, each entry has its own unique gameplay features that change up the formula in some way. Brotherhood introduces the ability to recruit a number of NPCs into your Brotherhood of Assassins. Your recruits can be trained, sent on missions, and called to aid you in battle. Revelations’ notable changes include the hook blade and some tower-defense segments. The hook blade offers improved climbing, new combat moves, and the use of ziplines. Unfortunately, the tower defense segments (where you defend an area with cannons and artillery) fail to stand out as anything special. Don’t let those moments discourage you, though. Overall, Revelations is a strong, and in my opinion, underrated title.
Much like Call of Duty, each new installment of Assassin’s Creed is met with complaints, yet gamers continue to buy them. It’s our money that enables Ubisoft to keep doing what they have done with the franchise. Syndicate was met with low sales due to the failure of Unity, though it actually turned out to be a pretty decent entry. The Assassin’s Creed line has fallen into a sort of franchise fatigue. Hopefully, the 2017 release, rumored to be located in Egypt, can reinvigorate the franchise.
Ubisoft wants to remind us of the glory days of Assassin’s Creed while we wait for next fall. Though I put a lot of time into Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, I am already looking forward to going back to it. I’m excited to experience Assassin’s Creed II, which I missed during its initial release. As is the case with most any remaster, there’s no better time (or way) to experience these games. Sadly, this is another full-priced remaster collection, but $20 per title isn’t so unreasonable. If you don’t have fun with the games, at least you can enjoy the ticket for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed movie that comes in the box.