Ten years into the Assassin’s Creed series, it’s safe to say the franchise has had some good times, as well as some definite low points. With the release of Assassin’s Creed Origins, we wanted to reflect on a decade of Ubisoft’s franchise where nothing is true, and everything is permitted. After much soul-searching, we’ve come up with this ranking of every core AC game, from best to worst — but if you think we’re dead wrong, let us know in the comments.
Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles
Back in 2008, when the Nintendo DS was selling like hotcakes, it was just a good business move to cash in on a series with a handheld spinoff. That led to a lot of DS games that were just pale imitations of their console counterparts, and Altair’s Chronicles was merely one example. This prequel to Assassin’s Creed had to be scaled down considerably. Instead of open-world gameplay, it utilized touch-screen mini-games, oversimplified combat and only a vague notion of stealth. So, basically, it wasn’t really an Assassin’s Creed game at all.
Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines
Bloodlines attempted to bridge the gap between the first two games in the Assassin’s Creed series — a rather ambitious goal for a PSP title. Ultimately, Sony’s first handheld wasn’t a good fit for the scope of an Assassin’s Creed game, due to the system’s technical limitations. Bloodlines ended up being a pretty-but-generic game with lackluster mechanics and a repetitive story. That said, it wasn’t the worst handheld Assassin’s Creed game released that year….
Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery
.… No, that dubious honor goes to Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery for the Nintendo DS (and later iOS). Attempting to display photorealistic graphics on a handheld with limited power resulted in the game looking ugly as heck: all muddy textures and low-res backgrounds. The gameplay itself was generic side-scrolling platforming, and Discovery put limitations on how players could approach missions. Each mission dictated whether stealth, combat or (ugh) a prolonged chase was necessary. It seemed OK at the time, but in retrospect, Discovery is best left undiscovered.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles
The three Assassin’s Creed Chronicles games were something of an experiment on Ubisoft’s part. Released in 2015 and 2016, the three games took place in China, India and Russia.
China takes place after the short film Assassin’s Creed: Embers.The game takes place in 1526 China and focuses on the female protagonist, Shao Jun. After being trained by legendary Italian assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze, Shao Jun returns to her homeland to exact vengeance against the Templar group Eight Tigers, who wiped out the Chinese brotherhood. Shao Jun’s quest takes her through Macau, Nan’an, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, as she kills the Tigers one by one and finally assassinates the final target, Zhang Yong. Years later, Shao Jun, who becomes an Assassin Mentor and has rebuilt the brotherhood, plots the assassination of Jiajing Emperor by sending him an elixir of life, which is actually lethal mercury. The episode has 12 levels.
India takes place in 1841 India and features the male protagonist, Arbaaz Mir from graphic novel Assassin’s Creed: Brahman.While the Sikh Empire was at war with the East India Company, a Master Templar arrives with a mysterious item that used to belong to the Assassin Order. Mir must discover why he has come, steal back the item, and protect his friends and his lover. Some of the weapons introduced are a typical Mughal and Sikh sword resembling an Aruval, Urumi, a concealed Katara with Bagh naka, and Chakram, smoke bombs for stealth and distraction. A Slingshot with rock pellets has also been added.
Russia takes place in 1918 Russia during the aftermath of the October Revolution and features male protagonist Nikolai Orelov from comic book Assassin’s Creed: Subject Four.Orelov wants to leave with his family, but is required to perform one last mission for the Assassin Order: infiltrate the house where the Tsar’s family is being held by the Bolsheviks, and steal an artifact that has been fought over by Assassins and Templars for centuries. Along the way, he witnesses the massacre of the Tsar Nicholas II’s children, but manages to save the grand duchess, Anastasia, who shares Shao Jun’s memory. He must escape the Templars while protecting the artifact and Anastasia. Nikolai uses a custom Berdan riflefitted with a bayonet which can be used for melee combat with sniping capabilities, and a grapnel gun that can also produce electricity in order to short out electricity boxes, spotlights, lamp posts or kill unsuspecting enemies standing on water puddles. Anastasia also becomes a playable character with unique set of skills, including the Helix Blade.
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
Liberation was Ubisoft’s attempt to make an Assassin’s Creed for the under-supported PlayStation Vita, and… it tried. It really did. The game introduced Aveline, the first female protagonist in the series (and a person of color, at that). New Orleans served as a beautiful locale to explore, but unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough interesting content to fill it, and the story felt aimless. Liberation had some high points, but in the grand scope of things, it’s one of the more forgettable games in the series.
Assassin’s Creed (2007)
Looking back, 2007 was one of the best years for video games in modern history. Assassin’s Creed game is set in an open world environment and played from a third-person perspective in which the player primarily assumes the role of Altaïr, as experienced by protagonist Desmond Miles. The primary goal of the game is to carry out a series of assassinations ordered by Al Mualim, the leader of the Assassins. To achieve this goal, the player must travel from the Brotherhood’s headquarters in Masyaf, across the terrain of the Holy Land known as the Kingdom to one of three cities—Jerusalem, Acre, or Damascus—to find the Brotherhood agent in that city. There, the agent, in addition to providing a safe house, gives the player minimal knowledge about the target and requires them to perform additional reconnaissance missions before attempting the assassination. These missions include eavesdropping, interrogation, pickpocketing, and completing tasks for informers and fellow Assassins. Additionally, the player may take part in any number of side objectives, including climbing tall towers to map out the city and saving citizens who are being threatened or harassed by the city guards. There are also various “additional memories” that do not advance the plot, such as hunting down and killing Templars and flag collecting. After completing each assassination, the player is returned to the Brotherhood and rewarded with a better weapon and/or upgrade before going after the next target or given another set of targets, with the player free to select the order of certain targets.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Right before going on hiatus, Ubisoft bounced back from the disastrous Assassin’s Creed Unity with the solid Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. While it didn’t exactly break new ground, Syndicate did introduce a neat dual-protagonist system and let us play as a female assassin for the first time in a core Assassin’s Creed title. Victorian London was a pleasant (if overused) locale to explore, and there were plenty of meaty objectives and side quests. Plus, you could steal horse-drawn carriages, kind of like an old-timey Grand Theft Auto.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity
It’s no surprise that Unity is at the bottom of this list; its glitches have become the stuff of legend.Assassin’s Creed Unity received mixed reviews upon its release. Praise was aimed towards its visual upgrades, improved free-running and combat, customization options, realization of the setting, multiplayer-oriented format, complex protagonists and the design of the main missions. The overarching narrative received a positive response overall. The characters’ development as well as the emotional heft and the moral intricacy of the story were praised. The largest part of criticism was drawn towards the game’s lack of gameplay-innovation, unrefined controls, and numerous graphics issues and other bugs upon release. Because of the high amount of initial bugs, Ubisoft issued an apology, and compensation was offered.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
The first two games in the Ezio trilogy were great. The last one took a very sharp turn. Revelations took our Italian Assassin out of the beautifully crafted city of Rome, and dropped him in Constantinople so he could learn more about original Assassin Altair. The Templars felt more like annoying pests than fearless enemies, as they stalked Ezio and reclaimed territory — the latter of which made a previously fun mechanic into a chore. Then there were the tower defense sequences, which were decidedly not fun. All in all, Revelations was a sad way for the Ezio trilogy to meet its end.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
Upon release, Rogue received a mixed reception; most critics praised the game’s twist on the traditional formula by playing as a Templar, the mature story-line, the complex protagonist, the sophisticated depiction of the fight between Templars and Assassins, as well as the additions to the franchise’s lore and the naval warfare gameplay. Other reviewers criticized it for failing to innovate the series’ formula and its similarities to Black Flag.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue is an action-adventure, stealth game set in an open world environment and played from a third-person perspective. Naval aspects from previous games return with the player controlling Shay’s ship, the Morrígan. The Morrígan has a shallower draft compared to Edward Kenway’s Jackdaw from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, allowing for river travel.New features include new ship-based weapons such as releasing an oil slick which can then be ignited, Puckle guns, and the ability for enemies to board the Morrígan during ship-to-ship combat. The arctic environment also features into naval gameplay and exploration, as certain icebergs can be rammed with an icebreaker.The underwater diving missions featured in Black Flag do not exist as swimming in the North Atlantic causes the player’s health to rapidly deplete due to the frigid water.
For combat, the game introduces an air rifle, similar to the blowpipe from the Black Flag which allows the player to silently take out enemies at a distance. The air rifle can be outfitted with a variety of different projectiles, such as firecrackers. The player can also use it as a grenade launcher, which fires off shrapnel grenades and other loads.Hand-to-hand combat has been slightly altered, and now enemy attacks can be countered with timing, similar to the Batman: Arkham series of games. Enemy Assassins feature archetypes similar to previous games, using skills that players have been using throughout the series; they can hide in bushes, blend in with crowds, and perform air assassinations against the player.Poison gas can now be used as an environmental weapon, and Shay has a mask that can mitigate its effects.
Side missions and activities return, with a number of them based on those of the previous games. Reflecting Shay’s role as a Templar, the game introduces a new side mission: Assassin Interception. These mirror the Assassination side missions in previous games, in that Shay, after intercepting a messenger pigeon carrying an assassination contract, must prevent an innocent being assassinated by finding and killing Assassins hidden nearby.
Legendary ship battles make a return as well.
Assassin’s Creed II
Part of the reason Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is so good is because it built on the very solid foundation of Assassin’s Creed II. This sequel was miles ahead of the first game. Before the series became an annual staple, Ubisoft took advantage of a two-year gap to make big improvements. The Assassins’ trademark Eagle Vision was thankfully released from its first-person confines, making it much more dynamic and useful. Combat and stealth were both dramatically better, too. Fans typically recommend this game as a starting point for new players, and it’s not hard to see why.
Assassin’s Creed III
Assassin’s Creed III looked really impressive when Ubisoft showed it off at E3 2012, but its actual release a few months later was somewhat lackluster. The story had so much promise, featuring a half-Native American son of a Templar, exploring the early American colonies during the Revolutionary War. The actual narrative had some seriously questionable moments, though. While not a top-tier game in the series, Assassin’s Creed III was still mostly fun, and it gets bonus points for introducing the naval combat that Ubisoft later perfected in Black Flag.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
Assassin’s Creed Origins returning after a two-year break, and it’s clear that the time off has been good for the decade-old series. The Ancient Egyptian setting is vast but dense, as well as unlike anything we have seen from the series before. (Previous entries have mostly kicked around in Europe, with only occasional jaunts outside those borders.) Hand-to-hand combat is more precise, while the often-annoying stealth objectives are more forgiving. There’s a lesson to be learned here about annual releases, and other publishers should take note: It’s better to take a year off than to watch a flagship series slowly sink into mediocrity.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
If Assassin’s Creed was the extended tech demo on which the franchise was founded, Assassin’s Creed II is where it found its calling — Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood honed in on what made II such a great game. This sequel continued Ezio Auditore da Firenze’s tale in gorgeous Renaissance-era Rome, while introducing tighter combat, gadgets made by Leonardo da Vinci himself, and an engaging system to recruit novice Assassins. As if having a top-notch single-player experience weren’t enough, Brotherhood also introduced multiplayer to the franchise, and the developers managed to implement it without sacrificing anything from Ezio’s main campaign.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag took the series from dry land to the Caribbean seas, and the game was much better for it. Combining the traditional land-based missions with naval battles and a genuinely interesting story, Black Flag is easily the best game in the series to date. Even though it launched during that awkward end-of-console-generation period, landing on both last-gen and current-gen systems, Black Flag delivered the goods in a way we haven’t quite seen since.