Assassin’s Creed – Great Game or Money Maker?

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So if you’re a fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, you may well have heard the recent news that developers of the game plan to turn the series into an annual release. That’s right, there will be a new game every year. That’s going to be a heck of a lot of games. But, this has of course sparked a lot of debate in the gaming community. Game development is a long and gruelling process, it takes time and effort and most of the time, longer than a year. So, surely if Ubisoft are only spending a year on making each game, the quality of the game will be effected? Sure, it will make them a lot of money, really, a lot of money, but will the games begin failing? So the question here is, is Assassin’s Creed Ubisoft’s great game, or its money maker?

The first Assassin’s Creed came out in 2007, over seven years ago now. At the time, it was a one off game Ubisoft didn’t predict much potential from. But, actually, it became a major success and has now invented an entirely new genre of stealth gaming. Now, dozens of games copy its free-roam parkour style, and rooftops have never been so explored in the gaming world. As a first game, I feel Assassin’s Creed I was one of the best games of the series. It didn’t make too much of itself in over-hype, it was fresh, it was new, and it allowed us to leap from incredibly tall towers and land in hay bales… And who doesn’t want that?

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But, from success comes a craving for more success, and more and more games spawned from this original game. It happens far too often, when one thing is successful, such as zombies or Flappy Bird; suddenly the world is full with poor copies and clones we never actually wanted. It’s as if success were a disease that spreads poor-quality games. This became clear in the two off-branch games of Assassin’s Creed I, Altair’s Chronicles and Bloodlines. I mean, seriously, did they even try with those games?

Assassin’s Creed II took a step in the right direction again, actually producing a decent, quality game with unique, interesting characters and an in-depth, engrossing narrative. But, note that Assassins Creed II took well over 2 years to develop. It would seem that early on in the series they put the time and the effort in before the immediate need of money. Now that’s my kind of game development. Clearly, their blood, sweat and tears paid off. This installment was even more popular than the last, raking in┬ásales of over 10 million, with people falling in love with Ezio’s humour and attitude, and the chance to scale even higher buildings!

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But, again, Ubisoft was stricken by the disease once more. And so, Discovery, Project Legacy, Brotherhood and Revelations were made within the year of Assassin’s Creed II’s popularity rush. Games that no one really asked for, but were rather a quick snatch at our bank accounts. By this point, the franchise had a loyal fan base, and the developers knew that these gamers would buy whatever they threw at them. It’s guaranteed cash, so why wouldn’t they sell these side games, regardless of quality? Its not that these games were bad (well, some of them certainly were) but they are not games made with the intention of producing a quality game. They were made as extra money makers, and I find it frustrating when the industry chooses money over quality.

Assassin’s Creed III took an even longer 3 years to make, but, by this point it was too late. Ubisoft has been absorbed by its hubris and drowned in its pile of money, and their golden gloves must have caused issues in the development process. They assumed that, much as what happened with their previous games, that fan loyalty would be enough, and (well it seems like it) put less into the third installment. But this time, their lacking was not well received. Assassin’s Creed III was a gaming flop, receiving dislike and criticism all throughout the industry, and Connor’s adventure has gone down in history as the worst of the franchise. Its a darned shame too.

At this point, it seemed the developers might have learned their lesson, and along came Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.

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And wow, what a game. Now this was the game we wanted all along, amidst the terrible side games and money making flops. Black Flag was a tremendous feat of gaming, receiving world wide critical acclaim, millions of sales and dozens of awards, along with the ability to see whales in-game. If that isn’t gaming gold I don’t know what is. Edward Kenway was unique and cleverly developed, the world was vast and stunningly beautiful, with countless things to do and explore, and so many side quests that a side quest addict would be sedated for years to come. Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was the perfect apology for past games, and was truly brilliant.

The game made Ubisoft a lot of money, but this time round I was not displeased, for they chose quality first, and as a reward got money as well. Black Flag took over a year’s development time, which is an amazing feat for such a short space of work. So, it takes us back to the debate on whether or not the developers can make quality games in such a short amount of time, or just throw together whatever they can in attempts to make more money. Clearly, they made one fantastic game in a year, so I do not see why they cannot keep doing so. The worry is if they can keep it up on such tight deadlines.

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Before Black Flag, I would have doubted Ubisoft’s ability to keep Assassin’s Creed on the straight and narrow as of an annual release of games. I would have worried that their games would lack quality and be nothing more than an attempt to make cash, as many believe will happen, which has happened in the past. But, I have faith in Black Flag, and the speed of which they produced it with the skill that made it. If Unity, the next installment due, is any near as good as Black Flag, then yes, I’m sold that they can do it. But if it’s a flop? Then I fear their ambition for money has overridden our want of a great game. I guess we’ll have to sit back and see!