Ranked: Assassin’s Creed (Part One)

Since bursting onto the scene in 2007, the Assassin’s Creed has become one of the most recognisable names in gaming. Now Ubisoft’s flagship franchise, the Assassin’s Creed series has traversed time and space through its many incarnations, from the ancient lands of Greece and Egypt all the way up the British industrial revolution. The series’ gameplay has gone through similarly drastic transformations, starting of as an experiment with ‘social stealth’ before transitioning into action-adventure, and, in its last few entries, massive RPGs. With 12 main games released so far, the franchise has certainly seen its ups and downs over its 15 year history – which is why we’re here today, with a comprehensive ranking of every main entry in the series to date.

12. Assassin’s Creed (2007)

Yes, it might not come as a surprise to many, but the game that started everything is also the worst the series has had to offer. While the game starts off exciting, allowing players to traverse an open world in ways that hadn’t really been seen before, the missions quickly become repetitive. There’s only so many times you can ask players to ‘go there, gather information, find the bad guy, kill him’ in that same order before things start to wear thin. Similarly, while they felt relatively free at the time, the controls just feel dated and janky when revisiting the original game now – something that massively impacts the experience of a game meant to highlight sleek parkour and assassination. I’d have to guess that the city guards and templars in this game must be getting paid a pretty wage too – they never, ever seem to give up the chase, no matter how far you’ve run or how many corners you whip around, they’re always just there.

That said, the original Assassin’s Creed‘s story does hold up relatively well, and clearly lays a strong foundation for what was yet to come. The tug of war between the two sides, assassin and templar, feels much more visceral in this title than it does in many others, and the final boss fight provides a twist that actually feels earned. Perhaps now more interesting historically than as a game in its own right, Assassin’s Creed clearly has good ideas behind it, but hadn’t quite learned how best to run with them yet.

11. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (2015)

I’ve got to say, my hopes were high for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, the second game in the franchise to debut on the eighth-generation consoles. After Unity‘s somewhat disastrous launch, the series’ name had been somewhat tarnished, and many were starting to think that the yearly release schedule was resulting in subpar quality control. However, when Syndicate appeared as 2015’s entry, the narrative began to change a little. People were excited to see how the franchise could evolve in the era of London’s industrial revolution. The twin protagonists also seemed like an interesting step away from series tradition, offering the chance to play as a female main character for the first time in the main series (spin off title Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation on the Playstation Vita had previously allowed gamers to step into the shoes of Aveline). I was pretty hyped too.

Unfortunately, when I finally got round to playing Syndicate, I found that the game actually suffered from many of the same issues as the series’ original entry. Like Assassin’s Creed, Syndicate felt repetitive in its structure – so much so that I actually quit the game and never found myself wanting to come back to it. The story itself isn’t really up to much either, and the promised ability to play as Evie never felt like it was fully followed through on, as she was often relegated to a backseat role in story missions that demanded you play as her comparatively boring brother, Jacob.

The general gameplay of Syndicate is decent enough, keeping the polish Unity brought to the franchise’s parkour aspects, which is what keeps it above the fully janky Assassin’s Creed in this ranking, but if there’s one title that doesn’t really seem to bring anything to the series, it’s this one.

10. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (2011)

If there’s one thing that is consistent among Assassin’s Creed fans, its the pretty universal love of one specific protagonist – Ezio. The snarky renaissance Italian has a charm about him that has never quite been replicated in the series, even though Ubisoft tried with characters such as Syndicate‘s Jacob. As one of the most beloved gaming protagonists of the seventh console generation, it’s no surprise that Ezio managed to get a whole trilogy to himself (well, almost). The final chapter in Ezio’s journey, Revelations sees the character venture to Constantinople, now an older, wiser assassin master, all with the goal of tracking down secrets left by the OG Assassin’s Creed protagonist, Altaïr.

Revelations‘ story is pretty interesting, and provides a relatively conclusive ending to both Altaïr and Ezio’s journeys. It’s certainly much more memorable than Syndicate, and it does help move things along in the modern-day part of the narrative. The gameplay is pretty slick, with a hookblade allowing Ezio to climb faster and jump further acting as the most substantial addition to gameplay here.

Perhaps the only downside to Revelations is that it all feels a little slight and unnecessary. If you’re going to provide a closing chapter for Ezio, sure, this is decent enough, but the question remains – did we really need a ‘goodbye’ to Ezio? We’d already had plenty of character development through Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood, so Revelations feels a bit like a victory lap if anything – nice enough, but not terribly necessary.

9. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (2020)

Okay, this one might be a little contentious. Let me be clear – Valhalla is great fun to play. The combat is perhaps the most visceral it’s ever been in an Assassin’s Creed game, and the Viking invasion of England is a fascinating time period to explore. Moreover, it’s a beautiful game – it’s so far the only title in the series to appear natively on the ninth generation of consoles (PS5 and Xbox Series), and is genuinely stunning at times. So, why is it so low on the list?

Honestly, Valhalla is exhausting. The world is massive, littered with things to do and places to go. The story is interesting, yes, but it just feels like it’s never going to end. I played about fifty hours of Valhalla, and when I looked up in a guide to see how much further I had to go, I realised that I wasn’t even halfway through yet. I felt my motivation to continue playing dwindle at that point. Maybe that’s my fault, maybe this is an example of games adding content for content’s sake. I can’t quite tell.

Valhalla is a much more episodic game than previous Assassin’s Creed titles, with each area of England that you explore having it’s own distinct set of story quests to play through, often seeming to bear little impact on the overall narrative. If television shows have filler episodes, Valhalla has filler areas, seemingly added just so that the story takes ‘100 hours to complete!!’. Really though, not many stories warrant a hundred-hour run time, Valhalla among them.

It’s clear now that Ubisoft won’t rest until it has turned Assassin’s Creed into the Ur-game franchise, scientifically designed to contain every genre and appeal to every possible gamer under the sun. Valhalla is the closest they’ve ever come to seeing that dream come to fruition, and has only gotten closer in the years since its release, with extra content including a rogue-like mode set in Niflheim. Every Valhalla headline I read seems weirder than the last, and the longer it continues down this path, the murkier the Assassin’s Creed brand seems to become.

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