It’s been ten years, almost as many main games, and even a super confusing movie for this video game franchise. For those who don’t get it, here are my reasons why I’m still such a huge fan.
That Feeling of Awe When I Explore the Historical Settings
For less money than airport parking, Assassins Creed games let you be a virtual tourist wandering around great cities like Renaissance Venice, Victorian London, and Paris during the Revolution.
One of the tropes that I love most in the game are the viewpoints and I discovered this in the first game I played, Assassins Creed II. Instead of simply revealing the new locations on the map as the reward for reaching the top of the famous monument, an eagle soared by in the distance, the music swelled up, and the camera swept around my character in a stunning panorama of Florence.
I like that the creators took the time to give players a moment to appreciate their surroundings. Of course, your task is never complete until you take a “leap of faith” into a conveniently-placed hay cart or a pile of leaves below.
It Rewards Strategy and Stealth Over Open Combat
Before Assassins Creed, I only played turn-based strategy and city-builder games, so I really sucked at combat. I enjoyed being able to avoid a clumsy, button-mashing death by carefully sneaking up behind my enemies and then surprising them with my hidden blade.
In every game, there are puzzles and mysteries to solve, items to collect, and entertaining side missions and mini-games to earn more money, so there’s always something to do if you get tired of battling Templars.
Diverse Characters and Stories
Despite a notable blunder, Ubisoft’s diversity game is above reproach. I had some of my favorite moments in gaming playing two companion games centered around two assassins with African heritage: Aveline de Grandpré and Adéwalé.
Liberation: Gameplay from a Woman of Color’s Point of View
In Liberation, the setting is New Orleans in the 1760s. Aveline is the free daughter of a wealthy French merchant and an African slave who chooses to join the fight against the usual evil Templar plot. I appreciated that her enemies and allies were from different races and had their own motivations, so it’s not a one-sided view of history.
Half the challenge of this game is choosing when to change into one of her three different personas to accomplish the missions: the slave with the required head scarf who can infiltrate plantations, the well-dressed lady who can pass into Creole society, and her true role as a skilled assassin.
I loved how the creators understood the historical nuances and game possibilities of each role. As a black girl gamer, there was a definite feeling of satisfaction experiencing a black woman’s story as the main campaign for the first time. I still remember standing up from my chair and keyboard and just clapping for a full minute the moment when Aveline caught an overseer’s whip. (Yes!!!)
Freedom Cry: A Pirate Game that Doesn’t Ignore Slavery
Seriously, we’ve come a long way from the classic Sid Meier’s Pirates! and the bloodless battles to capture ships and the dances to win the hearts of governors’ daughters (just the hot ones, of course!) There’s just one detail that never gets mentioned during those adventures in the Caribbean: the slave trade.
In Freedom Cry, you experience an entertaining game from the point of view of Adéwalé, a former slave, and former quartermaster to Edward Kenway, who is now a pirate captain. As an assassin with a cause, you free slaves, recruit maroons to fight with you, and, of course, plunder ships along the way. One thing I enjoyed was his complex relationship with Bastienne Josèphe, a free woman of color who helps his cause, but is also the madame of a brothel catering to his enemies.
One scene that impressed me and still haunts me is when Adéwalé boards a captured, sinking slave ship and tries to save the lives of the people trapped and chained below decks. As the fires burn and water pours in, you hear their cries and break some free until you realize that you can’t save all of them. As you escape the ship, you swim past the suspended, drowned bodies of the ones that didn’t make it. Not many games would go there. I’m glad they did.
Ezio Auditore da Firenze!
Ah Ezio! My favorite assassin is a handsome character who has all the charm, humor, and bravado you would expect of a leading man of three separate games and many players’ hearts.
One of my favorite scenes is between him and his mother, Maria Auditore:
Maria: Self expression is vital to understanding and enjoying life. you should find an outlet.
Ezio: I have plenty of outlets.
Maria: I meant besides vaginas.
The Creed: Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted.
The Assassins Creed can be interpreted in many ways depending on your own views, but this is how Ezio explained it:
“Nothing is true is to realize that the foundations of the reality is fragile and we must be the shepherds of our own civilizations. Everything is permitted is to understand that we are the architects of our actions and we must live with our consequences”.
So this is just my overly-detailed, TL;DR explanation. Correct me if I’ve missed anything.