The first game left a poor impression on me overall; unmemorable and only noteworthy in its potential as far as I was concerned. A game has to be gripping for me to recall it vividly, like something I want to replay the instant I’m done, and that keeps me up thinking about what I played. Assassin’s Creed II came much closer to that ideal. The first project was ambitious, but what was released saw many things left out. So Ubisoft amped-up everything with the second installment, including its drive with the story and characters. Whether it was additional time, effort, a bigger development team, or having a game like it under their belt that helped this sequel I’m not sure, but sometimes things just fall into place.
I have such a love/hate relationship with the Assassin’s Creed series. All of the glitches, wonky mechanics, and horrible tailing missions aside, there is something satisfying about the historical side, big beautiful open cities, and exhilaration from complex stealth kills. I constantly lie to myself when a new one is announced, saying I’ll skip that installment, but the lies are how I stay sane after having to restart a mission for the tenth time because the game is unclear or buggy.
Before this gets too rant-y on the games, though, I want to talk about something else that I like: the characters themselves. I enjoy protagonists that come across as real, have motivations and personality, and don’t just appear as an archetype or patchwork of unconnected characteristics. In the Assassin’s Creed series though, these characters must also be grounded in their historical environment and the fact that they are mass murderers who fight for a cause that is not explored deeply. So, I received my copy of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate in the mail the other day, but before I dive into that I want to take a look back at the previous lead characters to see what worked, what didn’t, and to analyze why some of them are often so hard to remember.
After introducing us to de la Cruz in its first issue—showing the upending of her world as she is introduced to the multigenerational conflict between the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templars, as staged in aerial double backflips, hyper-exaggerated parkour, and VR trips into genetic memory because why not?—Assassin’s Creed #2 gives the reader quality time with de la Cruz’s ancestor Tom Stoddard, a man who looks a lot like Wolverine with a ponytail and who is apparently a good guy because he’s an Assassin rather than a Templar even if he doesn’t seem to care much about protecting innocents, or children, or fellow Assassins, or, well, anything.
In de la Cruz’s place, Assassin’s Creed #2 casts Jennifer Querry, an Assassin on her first mission for the Brotherhood—like de la Cruz, natch—and ancestor of Joseph, an Assassin who may or may not have betrayed the Brotherhood to the Templars and may or may not know the location of a McGuffin called The Piece of Eden.
Assassin’s Creed is a machine. There’s a new one every year, whether you need one or not. If you like pirates, there’s an Assassin’s Creed for that. If you’re a Revolutionary War buff, there’s an Assassin’s Creed for that. There are no fewer than 19 Assassin’s Creed games including mobile and browser entries in the series.
And I haven’t played any of them, which makes me either the absolute best or the absolute worst person to review the new Assassin’s Creed tie-in comic from Titan Comics. Written by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery with art by Neil Edwards and colors by Ivan Nunes, Assassin’s Creed centers on Charlotte de la Cruz, a low-level megabank employee with a Robin Hood streak and a penchant for VR videogames. After an unsuccessful interview with an international development NGO, de la Cruz finds herself drawn into the centuries long struggle between the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templars as the two organizations show up nearly simultaneously at her apartment to recruit/kill her.