Since its inception in 2007, the Assassin’s Creed franchise has transitioned from a risky venture by Ubisoft into a global juggernaut, standing shoulder to shoulder with other colossal franchises such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Initially conceived as a Prince of Persia spin-off title, the franchise has went from strength to strength and now boasts a whopping twelve mainline titles and an astonishing seventeen (!) spin-offs. With such an intimidating history, where is it best for new players to gain a foothold in the two thousand year war between the Assassins and the Templars?
Start As You Mean To Go On
For many, the simplest answer is to begin at the start, with 2007’s Assassin’s Creed. It’s easy to take its then groundbreaking technical innovations for granted fifteen years post release, such as the ability to render complex crowds of up to 120 people (in contrast, the previous generation was only capable of rendering eight individuals at a time) and the then revolutionary parkour mechanics. Unassuming bartender Desmond Miles is kidnapped by the sinister Abstergo industries and forced to live the life of his historically important Assassin ancestor Altair through a device named the Animus, where he is transported to Jerusalem during the Third Crusade.
Although its now aging graphics could be seen as a problem to many modern gamers, we recommend playing the title through either an Xbox One X or Series X console. Microsoft’s fantastic backwards compatibility programme transforms the title into a shockingly modern looking game, complete with eye-watering 4K visuals and smooth 60 fps gameplay to the point it seems like a dedicated remaster at times.
Simply The Best
Where not better to start instead than with an absolute fan favourite? The sequel to the 2007 original, 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II is bound to be at the top of the list when asking any die-hard for their favourite entry in the series. Swapping the Middle-East of 1191 AD for Italy during the Renaissance, as well as casting Altair’s descendant Ezio Auditore as the new protagonist, whose journey from snarky and spoiled royal-to-be to unlikely Assassin won over many fans, the sequel did a fantastic job of being bigger and better. More expansive locations, less repetition, a greater emphasis on humour and humanity and a greater degree of mission variety from the original title put this game at the top of the pile, where it remains for many fans to this very day. Let’s not forget the introduction of the now legendary hidden double blade either.
Although there is a recap at the beginning which brings the player up to speed, it may be confusing for some to jump into the middle of a tale which relies so heavily on lore and the past, why not settle for a fan favourite which serves as a largely standalone story? Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is held in high regard to this day for relying less on the ancient order of Assassins and focusing on a swashbuckling adventure upon the high seas, with delightful sea shanties aplenty. Following the much maligned Assassin’s Creed III (a personal favourite of mine, yet that’s neither here nor there) Black Flag attempted to inject more action and adventure into the veins of a franchise becoming bloated with exposition dumps and constant cutscenes, taking the ship combat trialed in the previous title and expanding it into a fundamental cornerstone of the experience. Edward Kenway’s charmingly roguish mannerisms more reminiscent of fan favourite Ezio Auditore did little to hurt its chances also.
What if you want to start at the true beginning however? In terms of chronology the original Assassin’s Creed takes place after thousands of years of conflict, and so Ubisoft set to correct the course by taking us all the way back to ancient Egypt with the soft-reboot that was Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Complete with new Assassin Bayek and his modern day counterpart Layla, Origins began the new breed of Creed continued in both Odyssey and Valhalla, implementing more RPG levelling elements into the fray as well as reworking the combat system to something more reminiscent of the Dark Souls series complete with lock-on and enemy health bars. The vast deserts of Egypt are rendered in beautiful detail, and the game plays better than ever almost five years on due to a next-gen update which allows for silky smooth 60 fps gameplay, as well as being added to the already fantastic library of games contained within Xbox Game Pass. Play it if you can.