Hello and welcome to a staff collaboration series from those of us here at The Nerd Stash called “Clash at the Stash”. This series pits two writers against each other over hotly debated nerd culture topics that have been going on from days-decades.
My name is Taylor Cole. I’m an editor and writer here at The Nerd Stash. You can think of me as your host, smoothly guiding you through all the rules and who our competitors are in a soothing voice like Ezio Auditore da Firenze.
Assassin’s Creed has been around for a LONG time. The first installment of this series released back in November of 2007 (Sidenote: God, I’m getting old and it sucks). We’ve seen many highs and many lows in this series.
Eventually, Ubisoft had to make a change and now we have games like Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, which diverted from the classic AC formula we’ve grown accustomed to. Simply put, this is going to be a clash of two very different genres.
Here are the rules. Two writers have 500-1,000 words to state their case in the clash. After they’ve done this, you’ll be directed to our three judges (other members in our staff), who will give out their final verdicts based on what the writers said and how entertaining they were.
In the corner of the first-ever Assassin’s Creed–Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, we have Devin Rardin. Devin’s coming in at 0-0 with 6 consoles played and hundreds of hours in the Assassin’s Creed franchise game. Next up, in the corner of AC: Origins and Odyssey, we have… Taylor Cole. Yes, I am indeed pulling double duty in this installment, coming in at 0-0 with 12 consoles played and hundreds of hours in the Assassin’s Creed franchise as well.
I’ll start us off with why the newer Assassin’s Creed games are simply better:
New School Assassin’s Creed (Origins – Odyssey)
I think I know where Devin will go with his case. He’ll tug at your heartstrings with nostalgia over the “Golden Age” of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. I’m here to tell you that he’s not wrong to do so.
The original Assassin’s Creed is absolutely stellar in every possible way and its direct sequel was even better. Ezio and Altair were badass protagonists but they couldn’t carry this franchise forever.
With each passing game, Assassin’s Creed began to die. It was limping across each installment with less and less innovative ideas. In its place, we had horrendous glitches and crashes. There’s no way we all forgot about the debacle that was Assassin’s Creed: Unity.
In terms of protagonists, gameplay, and the overall story, I can’t say that much changed since Assassin’s Creed 3, which released back in 2012! To really put this in perspective, this was around the time when the Harlem Shake and Gangnam Style dominated our pop-culture.
Until Origins, which we’ll get to in a second, we pretty much had five years of mediocrity with three mainline installments (Black Flag, Unity, and Syndicate).
This franchise needed something new. Scratch that. We were well beyond that point. This series needed to evolve. And that’s exactly what it did. This franchise changed into something entirely fresh. Outside of 2018’s God of War and maybe Fallout (I’m talking about the change from Fallout 2 to Fallout 3), I can’t recall a franchise to successfully shift its genre like Assassin’s Creed.
Taking cues from Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed matured into an RPG game. You obtain loot, unique skills, and gear throughout your travels that you’ll use to take down more powerful enemies. Your Eagle Eye isn’t some weird superpower anymore. Now, it’s… well, an actual eagle that spots enemies for you. Origins introduced most of these new mechanics with a new narrative that introduced a likable protagonist for the first time since Ezio.
Origins is a great game that brought new life to a dying franchise but, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey took everything that made Origins great and multiplied it by 10.
With Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, you now had dialog options that had an impact on the game’s story. You had the freedom to do what you want to do. Take this quote from PlayStation Blog’s Kristen Zitani in an awesome article titled “Why Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is One of the Best Games of 2018” for example on what I mean by that, as she puts it better than I would have:
“Rather than simply chasing vengeance or upholding tradition, Odyssey is a journey of action and choice. There’s not yet a brotherhood or creed to follow. Instead, you are bound to your own ambitions, whatever that may mean. You’re a mercenary with big dreams, exiled from Sparta with a whole world ahead of you waiting to be explored.”
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is something this franchise has never seen before. That “freedom” to make our own decisions and to make our own journeys (although it is still somewhat limited) cannot be understated.
Odyssey was a clear-cut Game of the Year contender in 2018. The only reason why it isn’t talked about as much as it probably should is unfortunate. You see, Odyssey shared the same release year as Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War, and Red Dead Redemption 2. Talk about bad timing. Those are three games that are so high in quality that they could define this generation of consoles. It’s hard to beat that, no matter how good your game is.
All of that doesn’t mean the Old School AC games didn’t pave the way. I’m just saying that Origins and Odyssey are just as good as the classics and without this change of genre, Assassin’s Creed would have died more painful than its attempt at a movie franchise.
Old School Assassin’s Creed (AC 1 – Syndicate)
Long gone are the days of feeling like a skillful Assassin who blends with the crowd, performs cleverly done Assassinations with a hidden blade and escapes in the nick of time. This is what made Assassin’s Creed its own, but sadly the newest games are scraping the very identity of the series. The Assassin part of Assassin’s Creed is irrelevant now.
Don’t get me wrong, a series, especially one as old as Assassin’s Creed, needs to develop and stay relevant. That doesn’t mean losing what made it unique. There is a reason Assassin’s Creed is so popular and it goes all the way back to 2007.
The first AC was everything a new IP should be. It was a new concept, accessing genetic memories to relive the stories of your ancestors. Above everything else, it created new, unique gameplay. The process of researching your target, gathering information, and planning out assassinations was inventive for its time, especially when put in the context of synchronization – trying to execute actions the same way your ancestors did. The lore, controls, and gameplay were new to the gaming industry, which included puzzle-like parkour and well-timed combat. Assassin’s Creed 1 set the foundation for the series’ identity.
Any Assassin’s Creed should make you feel like an Assassin above anything else. It’s right there in the title. It should not add ridiculous powers (actual supernatural powers) that take away from feeling like a well-trained swordsman. It should not take away the strategic parkour system for one that takes no effort at all. Assassin’s Creed was once unique but now it’s copied industry trends, making it entirely different, lore and gameplay-wise than it once was. New Assassin’s Creed is not true to the unique foundation set up by AC 1, which was improved upon in subsequent releases. Now it has fallen victim to the gaming culture surrounding it.
These days, most games follow the trend of quantity over quality. Origins and Odyssey forgot they were Assassin’s Creed games when Ubisoft tried unsuccessfully to make an RPG. A good RPG is not based on how much stuff there is to do but how fun it is to do it. The huge world presented in new Assassin’s Creed quickly becomes more taxing than fun.
Every outpost is the same over and over again with nothing to change up their repetitive nature. The missions, even though the reasoning is different, always revolve around fetch quests or unimaginative assassinations that rarely play out any differently. New Assassin’s Creed is simply boring to play. The combat is also marred with senseless overpowered abilities because the best approach usually involves running straight into an enemy camp and cutting everyone down. There is no strategy because stealth takedowns have become largely ineffective (there is not even a hidden blade). That doesn’t sound like an Assassin to me.
The missions that I miss include blending with a crowd to get the best angle on an enemy, causing a distraction by throwing money on the ground, and finding the best way to scale a building in order to sneak past a line of guards on the ground. The gameplay’s identity has changed and so has the story’s identity.
The assassination targets are no longer developed into fully-fledged characters that are entangled in the intriguingly involving story of the Assassins and Templars. There is no longer a passionate speech after killing a target that makes you ponder the target’s role in a templar scheme or the moral complications of the protagonist. The deep storyline of the Assassin and Templar orders are no more and the storylines from Origins and Odyssey, which are far less compelling, are overshadowed by an overload of unnecessary, repetitive side content.
The most recent Call of Duty release, titled Modern Warfare, went back to the series roots and it’s been a huge success for Activision. Maybe Ubisoft should try something similar. Make an Assassin’s Creed game that follows the tenants of old Assassin’s Creed with an upgraded control scheme. Or if Ubisoft wants to continue the RPG route, then at least take out all the repetitive busywork and bring back the franchise’s core mechanics.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend like all the old school Assassin’s Creed games are good. There was definitely lackluster entries among the masterpieces. I’m arguing against the direction Assassin’s Creed is going. Black Flag is the perfect example of an innovative Assassin’s Creed game. It added a great new way to play with ship navigation and combat while keeping true to traditional Assassin’s Creed gameplay and story. Please make changes to the formula so we don’t get the same game every year, but don’t leave out the aspects that made Assassin’s Creed great, to begin with.
To summarize all that for everyone who didn’t want to read anything above, Devin talked about the good ole’ days of Assassin’s Creed while I focused on why this franchise needed to change to a more RPG-oriented genre. Let’s see what our judges thought:
Johnny Reynolds – I’ll admit this isn’t a series I’m very familiar with. I’ve played AC 1 and I’ve put in over 100 hours into Odyssey. So even with my limited experience with the overall series, I’m biased towards the new. Ancient Greece fascinates me and Kassandra (who I chose to play as) is a sympathetic and layered protagonist.
But there’s something in Devin’s argument I just can’t get past. The originality factor. I loved Odyssey, but it does feel like Ubisoft picked and chose the most successful aspects of a variety of games and implemented them, just not quite as well. Devin’s argument about how Old School AC tried completely new things, which were then enhanced in sequels, shouldn’t be ignored. I’m excited to see how New School evolves, but as a whole, I have to give my vote to the Old School.
Brandon Stephenson – Assassin’s Creed has always been a strange series for me. I was obsessed with it when Ubisoft originally announced it. Then the first one came out and once I looked past the hype glasses, I found a boring game. Then Assassin’s Creed II came and reinvigorated the franchise for me, only to have a string a mediocre to terrible games.
I’m with Taylor on this one. Origins NEEDED to happen for this franchise to continue. It gives you everything you want out of an Assassin’s Creed game. Stealth, action, story, and a beautiful world to explore. Plus, the gameplay felt fresh and exciting. Do I agree with my fellow judges that the “assassin” part has become a loose usage of the word? Of course, but that’d be like saying God of War should be called Kratos’ Adventure because you aren’t really a god anymore.
New school gets my vote because of the incredible transformation without forgetting what made the franchise great.
Bailey MeCey – While I understand Taylor’s argument in how the newer Assassin’s Creed games have taken time to develop into a more fleshed out RPG, Devin does an effective job looking back on what made the original games so fresh and exciting. The mix of rhythmic combat and parkour kept the gameplay fast-paced. Taylor felt that Black Flag was one of the mediocre titles, but I agree with Devin that it was the best example of reinventing a franchise while still keeping the core intact. For me, the Assassin’s Creed games were not only fun to play but they also were a great introduction to learning the histories of the Crusades and the Italian Renaissance. Even though the newer Assassin’s Creed games have adapted to better fit today’s gaming audiences, they lack the heart of what made the originals so special.
WINNER: Devin Rardin and Old School Assassin’s Creed Games
Unfortunately, I did not come out of this debate with a win. But, you know what? I’m humble enough to carry on and maintain my professionalism. I was able to have a short chat with Devin about his victory (if you want to call it that) and the upcoming holiday season.
Taylor Cole: Devin, congrats on the hard-fought win. We have Thanksgiving coming up here in a few short weeks, so the whole world wants to know one thing. Other than obviously paying off the judges, what are you most thankful for this holiday season?
Devin Rardin: “I’m shocked but extremely grateful to be surrounded by caring friends who will support me no matter what. It’s truly amazing that I, once a shy kid with no friends, have numerous people that I can count on and talk to. I can share moments of joy with them and moments of sadness. Oh yeah. I’m also thankful for Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed series. I’ll probably continue to play every entry. I must be crazy or something.”
Which set of Assassin’s Creed games do you prefer? Old School, story-oriented titles or the RPG-heavy recent installments? What do you want to see us debate next? Let us know in the comments below!