Few franchises have managed to stay relevant for over a decade and Assassin’s Creed has surprisingly managed to be one of them. Releasing in 2007, Assassin’s Creed initially seemed to be little more than a historical action game. It was the historical answer to Metal Gear Solid at the time and while people were still very excited to play it because of Ubisoft’s penchant for stealth action, they certainly didn’t see it becoming the sprawling journey it has stretched into.
Instead of the basic historical stealth action game, we thought we were going to get, we ended up getting a combination of modern-day sci-fi mixed with historical fiction in a pair that ended up being one of the most brilliant story twists the video game world has seen. Once this ability was identified, it opened up almost endless possibilities for the series as the device that lets the main character Desmond go back to experience his ancestor’s memories could essentially access any period. Ubisoft used that fact to create a yearly series with several spin-off titles as well and to this day almost 15 years later, Assassin’s Creed is still one of the most relevant names in gaming.
My experience with the series is hot and cold. There have been titles that I’ve been utterly gripped by and then there are some that just didn’t do much to move the needle. A series that has this many releases isn’t always going to nail it every time, but I can confidently say more times than not I’ve gotten to experience an engrossing adventure that takes me to some fascinating times periods with some of the best graphics I’ve seen every time a new game would release. Let’s explore the daunting lexicon of Assassin’s Creed.
Assassin’s Creed (2007)
The one that started it all, Assassin’s Creed not only revolutionized stealth gaming at the time but also delivered one of the slickest combat systems we’ve ever seen. While it’s been copied time and time again since Assassin’s Creed combat had you timing counterattacks to every enemy’s attack. The result was a hypnotizing dance that involved some gorgeous execution animations and helped realize the brutal era the game took part in.
The graphics for the time were incredible as well and the voice acting was incredibly strong as well, making Assassin’s Creed one of the first cinematic gaming experiences out there.
You play Desmond Miles, a man in the present day who uses a device called the Animus to experience the memories of his ancestor, Altair. Altair’s journey was to retrieve the Golden Orb and when that mission failed, he gets stripped of all his titles and weapons and is completely disgraced. So begins his journey to assassinate nine members of the Templars and regain his glory.
The game was not overly long, but it was a satisfying tale that gave us total freedom in how we wanted to approach a mission. We could sprint in and try to quickly kill the target before anyone could stop us, or we could take a quieter approach and stalk the target while waiting for the best opening to swoop in and take them out. This freedom would go on to define every Assassin’s Creed from this point forth.
Assassin’s Creed II (2009)
For many, Assassin’s Creed II is considered the golden goose of the series. Not only does it expand upon the gameplay formula that was established in the mega-hit Assassin’s Creed, but it also introduced new weapons, side missions, amazing side characters, and most importantly, Ezio Auditore, possibly the best character in the Assassin’s Creed long line of the main character.
In this sequel, Desmond is training to be an assassin in the present day. This time, he takes to his ancestor Ezio who lived during the 15th-century renaissance. He sees his father and brother killed in front of him and escapes to his uncle’s villa to recoup and plot his path of revenge.
Along the way, he meets some fantastic characters such as the legendary Leonardo da Vinci, who kind of acts like the Q to Ezio’s James Bond here, making him gadgets here and there.
Ezio goes on to become an assassin and hunts down the people responsible for his father and brother’s deaths while also discovering some darker secrets as well. Things get a little more complicated in the present day too as Desmond discovers that parts of Ezio’s memories are being purposely hidden from him. This takes us down a winding road of a story filled with twists and turns and again, some fantastic voice work.
Ezio is a more varied assassin than Altair as he can now equip any weapon available to him which includes massive swords, axes, and spears. Exploring Italy with this arsenal on hand was and still is an incredible experience and Ubisoft’s attention to detail here helped bring this gorgeous land to life.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010)
Due to the excessive popularity of the character of Ezio, Ubisoft decided to double down with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood in 2010. Continuing the story from the moment Assassin’s Creed II ended, Ezio finds himself trying to escape the vault with his Uncle Mario, only to suffer a tragic loss and lose the piece of Eden that he worked the entirety of Assassin’s Creed II to find. Cesare is the main villain of this one and it marks the first time in the franchise where a clear villain was presented from the get-go, giving Ezio a more personal journey this time around.
Following the loss of his uncle Mario, Ezio takes his newfound assassin talents to Rome. He sets out to avenge his Uncles death, but this time, he’s got a lot of help. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood puts in command of the assassin’s and with this ability, you can create distractions via other assassins, have them fight for you and so much more.
The modern-day story gets a bit more shine this time as well. Desmond uses his experience in the Animus to recover artifacts from hundreds of years ago and gets to use some of his assassin’s training too.
While it wasn’t quite as strong as Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was still a great title that continued the story of Ezio and Desmond in a meaningful way.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (2011)
Because we just couldn’t get enough of Ezio, we got another title that finishes his storyline out in an incredible way. In this game, Ezio travels to 1511 A.D. Constantinople which gives us the biggest map in the series to date.
In this story, Ezio finds out about a secret sealed by his ancestor Altair that could end the Templars once and for all. In a clever bit of meta, Ezio ends up using artifacts from the Isu civilization to view Altair’s memories just as Desmond has been doing all along.
Speaking of the present day, Desmond is trapped in the Animus here in a coma and must find a way to link himself up with Altair and Ezio to escape.
The gameplay here was the best in the series at the time and the older and more mature Ezio proved to be an awesome character to control. With full command of the assassins, you could orchestrate takedowns from afar and pretty much impose your will on any who would stand in your way.
There are some thrilling moments in this one like Ezio and Altair meeting through the Animus and the conclusion to Ezio’s story is perfect
Assassin’s Creed III (2012)
Many thought that the series might’ve ended with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, but just a year later, the series would release Assassin’s Creed III and say goodbye to Ezio while welcoming in a brand new character. Instead of renaissance era Rome, Assassin’s Creed III takes to 18th century, American Revolution-era America.
The star of the show this time around is Connor Kenway, whose father is the master of the Templar Order in America. It was a very interesting story beat to connect the two warring factions this way and that relationship drives much of the story forward.
Desmond is back in this one in full assassin form in the modern-day, as he and his group try to find the Temple of The First Civilization in modern-day New York. It is here where he jumps back into the Animus and at the start of Assassin’s Creed III, you play as Connor’s father, Haytham Kenway, throwing everyone for a loop in the opening hours. This would be the last game to feature Desmond as the main character.
Once Conner is born, the perspective switches to Connor and you begin to learn how he survived and became an assassin. You then follow his mission to try and turn his father back to his side and in the process, you’ll even come to find that George Washington himself is a villain of this series.
The gameplay was the highlight here as Connor is a fearsome combatant armed with several new tools that made his attacks feel more brutal and powerful than any assassin prior. One thing that didn’t translate though was the stealth as the lack of tall buildings made it tough to approach assassinations in multiple ways and the game played much better as an action game because of it.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)
Without Desmond this time around, you play as a nameless Abstergo employee who uses Desmond’s DNA to continue searching his past for information. This time, you play as Edward Kenway, Connor’s grandfather from Assassin’s Creed III. Of course, you play as the young version of him when he was a swashbuckling pirate in the 18th century and the resulting experience is one of the best the series has to offer.
Connor wasn’t a big hit with the fans, so Ubisoft made sure its next hero was as likable as possible and Edward fits that bill. Edward accidentally falls into assassin duty, but that doesn’t stop Edward from being a pirate’s pirate and one of the best parts of the game is sailing the high seas.
Your ship is heavily emphasized in Black Flag and you not only have to deal with rival pirates but also cyclones, storms and you can even run into legendary pirates like Blackbeard as well. The ship combat is awesome and comes with its set of upgrades too.
The land combat in the game is also excellent and Edward has access to an array of weapons including his signature dual swords which make him as dangerous a combatant as the series has seen.
The scenery is also a huge change of pace from the dreary revolutionary war lands of the last game and instead, you’ll be exploring gorgeous islands and sunny beach villages for the most part. Black Flag is still looked at as one of the best games in the series to this day.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (2014)
Assassin’s Creed was ready to jump into the next generation of gaming in 2014, and they did with Assassin’s Creed: Unity, but they also released Assassin’s Creed: Rogue at the same time for the previous generation consoles and the result was a tale that showed that not all was black and white with the Assassins and Templars.
For the first time in the series, you play as a Templar. Shay Patrick Kormac is the lead character this time around and the modern-day aspect is completely removed from this game to experience this gripping tale.
In this story, we see Shay turn his back on the assassins as he witnesses them going a little bit too far to destroy the Templar Order. After witnessing this, he ends up joining the assassins via Haytham Kenway in New York.
The gameplay here is a mix between Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. It wasn’t as good as either, but the mixture was decent enough and the real highlight of the game was the interesting story that painted the assassins in not so flattering light for the first time in the series.
Commercially, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue did not do all that well and is generally regarded as the black sheep of the franchise.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014)
While Ubisoft made sure players would have an Assassin’s Creed to play on last-gen consoles with Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, they set their eyes on the future as well with Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Unity was and still is to this day a graphical masterpiece that was marred by some bugs at launch that quickly led it to meme status.
For those that got over the bugs though, they found themselves with a perfectly serviceable Assassin’s Creed game which had some fantastic assassination missions as well as a decent storyline.
Arno Dorian is the new main character here and he lives in 1307 France during the French Revolution. While there is vaguely some info on who is controlling him from the modern-day animus this time, it’s barely noticeable and the majority of the game is played as Arno.
Unlike previous games, a love story plays out here between Arno and Elise De La Serre, daughter of the Templar Grand Master. The Grand Master is killed off in the opening hours, with Arno being blamed for the assassination and he is quickly recruited into the assassins and given the mission to hunt down those responsible.
The gameplay here is incredible and the parkour that has been a series trademark still has not been as good as it was here. There are several ways to travel depending on the structure you’re on and the freedom of movement here is still unparalleled.
The combat is excellent as well and Arno has access to the biggest arsenal an assassin has had yet. The counter system is perfected here and the counters have never been more brutal. You also have a variety of guns at your disposal too, along with poison darts, fireworks, and smoke bombs. This turns Arno into a devastating force and you need to use all of these to your advantage as Assassin’s Creed: Unity has some of the toughest assassination missions yet.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity also had a fully multiplayer mode with specific missions that you could only compete with other players and while it was unspectacular, it was a very cool way to play Assassin’s Creed as you could finally invite your friends in on the action.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (2015)
While Unity didn’t pan out to be the dominant force that Ubisoft envisioned, they didn’t waver in their approach much and figured that a few fixes here and there could lead to a better outcome. It wasn’t the smash hit that Ubisoft envisioned, but with limited bugs and an intriguing story and combat system, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate restored faith in the franchise pretty quickly.
This time, the adventure takes place in London and you play as not one but two main characters in Jacob and Evie Frye. These two are on a task to find the piece of Eden that resides in London. Of course, the Templars are after the same thing and so becomes a race to the finish line.
Jacob and Evie start as assassins, but they quickly carve their route as they disobey orders and end up starting an organization of their own called the Rooks. This organization impacts the gameplay heavily as you have an army at your command now.
Jacob and Evie both get their segments to shine and each assassin plays completely differently. Evie uses a staff to take down enemies while Jacob uses his bare hands and knives to get the job done. Both have access to a zipline-type tool that lets them zip across the map faster than any game before it is allowed.
You can command your gang to start fights for you, completely take out enemy waves, and several other upgrades as well. To me, the game took a step back combat-wise as your options for fighting feel limited here and the complete lack of variety in enemies to fight ended up making the interesting missions feel pretty dull after a while.
The story is interesting, but the same old tropes that plagued the series for years like tailing missions and escort missions reared their ugly heads a bit too much here and for that reason, it didn’t hit huge with me or in the sales department.
The modern-day story is also completely thrown to the wayside here and the series seemed to be losing its way a bit. Something needed to change and after 2015, the series lay dormant for 2 years.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017)
As the series lay dormant, people wondered if that was it for the Assassin’s Creed series. Desmond was done for and the series just felt like one historical fiction story after another with nothing connecting them except the various pieces of Eden that characters were collecting. The series had lost its way and in the meantime, games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Dark Souls 3 had taken the world by storm, introducing a massive open world with tons of side content to take on at their own pace. The minds at Ubisoft observed this seismic gaming shift and went to work behind closed doors.
When they emerged in 2017, they released Assassin’s Creed: Origins. A trip far back in time to the lands of ancient Egypt with a brand new modern-day character, Layla Hassan, and a new Protagonist, Bayek as well.
Along with the new cast of characters was completely new gameplay. Instead of the small cities, you could explore, you got an entirely open-world map that could be explored at your leisure.
This map was filled with tons of side quests and exploration that felt completely new to the series and it was all supported by some breathtaking visuals that brought the majestic world of ancient Egypt to life.
The combat was much different this time around too, with timed counterattacks being replaced by sword and shield combat that emphasized blocking and special attacks to beat your foes.
It’s here that things started getting less and less realistic with some of the special attacks looking like something out of a hack and slash action game rather than a historical fiction game.
You also were given a massive option of weapons as well as a skill progression system, which finally marked the series move into a full RPG.
The story is great here as you travel to a time when the Assassins didn’t exist yet and instead, you witness what started everything. You’ll interact with Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Pharoah Ptolemy on a long journey that has a satisfying payoff.
Bayek is an awesome main character too and the relationship with him and his warrior wife Aya is a thrill to watch grow. The side characters are strong as well with Cleopatra being a standout.
Assassin’s Creed began a new leaf with this release and they would continue on this path going forward.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (2018)
Instead of witnessing the beginning of assassins, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey takes you even further back in time to witness the birth of the Templar order as well as an investigating into the Isu civilization, which is responsible for the various pieces of Eden we’ve seen sought after throughout the series.
The backdrop for this massive adventure in ancient Greece, which is to this day one of the most beautiful game worlds ever realized. Sun-soaked beaches and incredible architecture are abound in this decidedly brighter and more colorful title compared to the series past environments.
You’re able to choose between Alexios and Kassandra for your playthrough, both descendants of the legendary Spartan general, Leonidas. What starts as a quest as a mercenary quickly spirals into a journey of epic proportions and the game will take 100+ hours to see everything.
Sticking with the system introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Origins, you again will be in a combat system that emphasizes player level and weapon stats. Here, you also have a ton of abilities to customize your character with, and while some are great fun to use, they completely are out of the realm of reality here and we venture even further into complete fantasy here.
Side quests are also far more fleshed out here and taking a cue from the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, you can choose multiple paths in conversations that will completely change how not only side quests play out, but also the main story as well.
The resulting game was a massive success that garnered even more mainstream appeal than Assassin’s Creed: Origins and the added-on DLC gave some incredible stories to play through as well, leading to a stunning ending with massive implications for the series going forward.
Although Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey barely resembled the adventure that started with Desmond and Altair, it was still an incredible game with a massive amount of great content.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (2020)
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey was a massive hit, but that didn’t mean that fans were completely happy with the product as many wished for a return to the days of old where stealth was emphasized over fantasy craziness. Instead of its usual yearly release, Ubisoft took an extra year to craft a game that would satisfy both sides of the coin while also driving forward the growing new storyline.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla attempted to achieve the middle ground and the result was a game that felt like it was trying to do a bit too much. There are certainly many highs to be found in this Viking adventure, but it overall took too many steps backward to try and make everyone happy.
Instead of the lengthy and entertaining side quests that Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed: Origins had, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla introduced world events, which lasted about 30 seconds to 4 minutes depending on which one you got and all of them were completely pointless.
Part of the reason for this was the lack of loot that was available in this 80-hour game. You only were able to find a handful of weapons and armor throughout your playthrough and this made things very dull after a while.
Stealth was kind of back in this iteration, but it was ultimately pointless as there are no more assassination missions, and approaching things as an assassin made no sense considering you were a Viking.
The combat is at least fun and brutal in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and the abilities are scaled back in their fantasy element from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Ubisoft also brought back counterattacks here and by countering at the right moment, you can open enemies up to execution attacks that are suitably vicious and bloody.
The story is a mixed bag here too as the modern-day going on with Layla Hassan takes up way too much time while doing essentially nothing interesting until the final third of the game where things go completely nuts.
In the Animus, you’ll be controlling Eivor, a male or female Viking who journeys to England to establish a new life for their clan. You’ll be tasked with seeking allies through various provinces and clashing with King Aelfred in the process. There are some decent story beats here, but it’s way too long and the payoff is pretty weak considering everything it took to get there.
You won’t just be exploring England though as taking on a certain side mission will allow you to experience a whole other story in Asgard, where you take the mantle of Odin and it’s a whole other questline with a far more interesting path than the base game offered.
There are multiple DLCs too which add a considerable amount of content, but there’s just too much here with too little substance. The result was weaker than expected critical reception and since, Ubisoft has announced Assassin’s Creed is going to be an online game going forward, for better or worse.
Question: How long are these games?
Answer: The length of the games vary wildly, but generally, any game before 2017 usually lasted about 20 or so hours depending on how much side content you took on. Everything from Assassin’s Creed: Origins onward takes 50+ hours to complete everything.
Question: Are any of the Assassin’s Creed games multiplayer?
Answer: Only a couple of Assassin’s Creed games ended up offering multiplayer. Several of the games integrate multiplayer while others ignore it entirely.
Question: Will there be more Assassin’s Creed games?
Answer: The next title, called Assassin’s Creed: Infinity, is looking to go the route as an online, games as a service game. What this means for the future of the franchise is unclear, but it seems like Ubisoft is doing away with single player Assassin’s Creed games despite fan backlash.
Assassin’s Creed is one of the most iconic franchises in gaming history, and for the past 15 years, it’s produced some incredible games with a massive, interconnected storyline that still hasn’t seen a conclusion. What the series has in store for us is a mystery and we can only hope that Ubisoft steers the franchise on the right course in the future.
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