The first Assassin’s Creed established a very good game: A nicely flowing assassination parkour game. There was a fun free-running, which was very well executed, a clever, if a bit amusing, social stealth system, and cool as hell assassinations. Apart from some user interface problems and some pacing issues the game was perfect.
But therein lies a problem: The game was difficult to improve. Assassin’s Creed II did so by tweaking the user interface and adding more personality into the main character, but veered off course by adding things that detracted from the main gameplay that I’ve known to love and expect: A simple economy system and more collectibles. But still the core gameplay was there: Identifying an assassination target, plotting a way to get to said target, stealthing along said way, performing the assassination itself, and then hastily extracting yourself from the situation.
Then, as the series progressed, the designers realised that the assassination was going to get stale. So they added more things. Chariots. Land purchasing. More collectibles. Side missions. Prince of Persia-styled parkour. Treasure hunting. These were very well executed, but soon started to dilute the whole package.
And this dilution culminated in Assassin’s Creed III. The game no longer had much assassinations, nor creeds. It did have lots of exploring, collecting, crafting, buying (which both had an atrocious user interface), hunting, and very surprisingly, naval combat (which was excellent; I would gladly play an actual game with those controls). Most of the time I was running from an irrelevant side quest to another and collecting stuff. I probably assassinated more animals than people.
And the worst of the worst was that it no longer venerated the Assassin’s Creed’s assassination arc. In one assassination mission, you do not get to manually extract. Connor stealths across an active battlefield to the enemy commander’s camp and assassinates him on his horse as he is making a speech to the troops. Then, just as I was wondering on how I would get out of the situation, the game cuts to black when the british troops arrive, and continues when Connor has gotten back to camp! That was one of the activities I liked most in the series; Outrunning the entire enemy army and then stealthing your way out of the occupied area where everyone is looking for you!
Assassin’s Creed has come to its end as a series, I feel. Plotwise, the main story is over, though seeds for a new one have been sown. I feel that continuing to keep the series’ main premise would be folly: Freerunning and assassinating things with the hidden blade are starting to feel stale, and I can’t think of an interesting way to keep it fresh. What I would do now would be to try something different. Perhaps a game where you play as a Templar and try to forge order into the new world. Shift focus into the world, and try to make it a living, changing thing and not just a backdrop for the player. Yes, a Templar agent, forming a network of allies and confidantes, identifying key figures and corrupting them. Avoiding Assassins on the rooftops. Would be an interesting shift of perspective, and it would definitely shake up the good freedom versus evil order-morality of the series.