Soapbox: Assassin's Creed's Modern Day Component Is Holding the Series Back
Posted by Robert Ramsey
Robert Ramsey's sick of stepping out of the Animus
After testing my sailing skills in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag at the Eurogamer Expo all the way back in September, I knew that Ubisoft had a great game in production. From the rolling waves of the sea to the swashbuckling adrenaline rush of combat, it all immediately felt like a solid step forward for the French publisher's incredibly popular franchise. And as our reviews last year indicated, it was. I was fortunate to finally fully sink my teeth into the title over the Christmas break, and it's already safe to say that it's my favourite entry in the series thus far.
However, like the telling signs of a foul sailor's disease, something has been niggling at my enjoyment – and every time that it occurs, I become more and more convinced that it's an unnecessary inclusion. I talk, of course, about the franchise's long-running modern day storyline.
Back when we were first introduced to Desmond Miles and the Animus in the first Assassin's Creed, it didn't seem too out of place. After all, this was an entirely new property – we didn't quite know what to expect to begin with. As time went on, however, the tale of captain generic and his band of annoyingly cheery companions would slowly but surely grind down my tolerance for the non-historic component.
Arguably, this all just sounds like one jaded editor's pointless rant, and I'll admit that it is to some extent – but I find myself writing this after suffering something that no game should covet: a complete loss of immersion. Our favourite hobby is capable of introducing us to engrossing, often amazing worlds that we're happy to spend our time in, but being pulled out of that enjoyment is never a good thing, regardless of whether it's because of an eye-catching graphical glitch or, in this case, a particularly jarring change of pace and setting.
Hyperbole aside, there's no doubt that I felt a mix of negative emotions when the release first decided to yank me from my pirate adventure and force me to play through a few minutes of a first-person walkabout simulator. I'm not even entirety sure what this unappealing mix of wandering, daft dialogue, and minigames can be described as, but nevertheless, it feels like it doesn't need to be there.
Or at least, it doesn't need to be mandatory. After returning to the sea-soaked shoes of Edward Kenway following the initial cutaway, I remember thinking, “I'm pretty sure that the modern day bits are optional – I won't have to ever leave the Jackdaw again.” Sadly, I thought wrong. A few main missions down the line, I watched in annoyance as Kenway's face slowly disintegrated, signalling another return to Abstergo Industries' sickeningly arty offices. “Not again,” I thought.
And then came the minigames – the pointless, fiddly hacking parts. There may only be a few mandatory ones, and they may only take a minute, but they still serve to pull you from the experience even more. Eventually getting back to the sunny shores of the Caribbean, away from the pretentious ramblings of supposed freedom fighters masquerading as office workers, feels like coming up for air after being close to drowning.
Once back into the activities that I had so desperately wanted to get back to, I couldn't tear myself away. The real meat of the adventure lies out on the vast waters and in the densely populated towns and cities that make up the release's open world, and eager to get back to being left to my own devices, I blitzed through the linear objectives of a main mission only to be unapologetically torn from proceedings and thrown back into the life of the mute, tablet-loving, memory invader. Forced to once again sit through lines of hilariously boring dialogue and stare at the faces of characters I couldn't possibly care less about, it dawned on me that I just couldn't go back to Edward's tale after this ordeal was over – I had been wrenched from the glorious act of piracy just so that Ubisoft could try and convince itself that this modern day malarkey is actually progressing somewhere.
And that's really the issue at the heart of this opinion piece: it's hard to believe that the franchise's modern plot is still even necessary. It's a problem that's furthered when it actively serves to sever the tie between you and an engrossing open world. If you happen to actually like the component in question, then by all means continue to enjoy it – but it's still worth questioning just what purpose it serves, especially seeing as Desmond and his Scooby Doo squad's story came to a natural conclusion in the series' last iteration.
Do you agree that Ubisoft should ditch Assassin's Creed's modern day component, or are you a fan of the futuristic mumbo-jumbo? What did you think of the latest instalment's first-person segments, and do you think that they fared better or worse than Desmond's escapades? Tap into the comments section below.
Are you tired of Assassin's Creed's modern day sequences? (64 votes)
Yes, I wish the series would allow me to fully invest in its historical sandboxes
Honestly, I neither like nor dislike them
No, I really enjoy the fusion of futuristic and old-fashioned content
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