Welcome to The Backlog! Because Time makes fools of us all, my goal for 2018 is to spend the year playing the games I’ve purchased but never played. Thank you very much Steam/PSN/Xbox Live holiday sales.
One of the side effects of playing Assassin’s Creed Origins was a strong urge to replay earlier entries in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series. While I liked Origins well enough, the game was a departure from the formula as established and improved over the series’ lifespan. I can appreciate the departure but having stuck around with the series for so long, I couldn’t ignore the pangs of nostalgia. Coincidentally, I had purchased The Ezio Collection for the PlayStation 4 earlier in the year and felt it was high time to revisit the remaster. Thankfully, it is as good as I remember it. After the abysmal experience that was the original Assassin’s Creed, The Ezio Collection was a stark reminder of how well the studio addressed the complaints of the first adventure by giving the player more to see and do outside of tracking down targets. Assassin’s Creed II and it’s companion games Brotherhood and Revelation established a more story-driven experience surrounding of Ezio Auditore de Firenze, a brash but charismatic young man who joins the Assassin Brotherhood after witnessing the betrayal and death of his family at the machinations of Italy’s Templar Grand Master, Rodrigo Borgia.
The Ezio Collection contains the full versions of Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood, and Revelations along with their respective story driven DLC. Unfortunately, it’s not the complete package because the multiplayer component from Brotherhood and Revelations didn’t make the cut. This is a true shame because I thought the hide and seek nature of the multiplayer design was really awesome and truly unique. Its absence is lamentable but it doesn’t negatively affect the entire product because there’s a whole lot of content to keep you busy.
I’m not going to go into detail about the individual games in the collection–you can easily find reviews for them online–though I will provide a few hot takes on each. Assassin’s Creed II still holds up nine years since its release. Ezio’s story is one of the best in the entire franchise, a powerful journey in which a quest for revenge opens his eyes to a global conspiracy connected to a long fought battle between the Assassin’s and Knights Templar. Brotherhood is a strong sequel, especially when the initial marketing emphasized multiplayer, which made the robust campaign a total surprise. Featuring tweaks, new mechanics, such as Borgia towers guarded by captains that needed to be killed before taking over territory, and summoning recruited Assassins to kill targets on your behalf were awesome and made you feel like you were part of a larger, growing organization. Of the three, Revelations was the game I remembered the least–I could only recall that it had to do with Ezio seeking out memories relating to Altair after the events of Assassin’s Creed. Playing the game again, I can understand why I largely forgot about it: it’s kind of a lazy, half-baked experience. For one, Ezio could freely travel across Constantinople and synchronize every tower at the beginning of the game and, once unlocked, capture every Assassin’s den without invisible walls or chapter barriers preventing access to certain areas until the story called for it–like the Borgia towers in Brotherhood. Why call this out? Because it directly affects a tower defense minigame the studio developed as a means to introduce additional management mechanics by way of Templar attacks on captured dens. The thing of it is though, if you capture all the dens early enough you’ll never have to play the minigame beyond the tutorial. Outside the Animus, Desmond’s story in Revelations is a wheel spinning story that doesn’t accomplish anything outside of getting the player ready for Assassin’s Creed III.
As far as the actual remaster is concerned, The Ezio Collection is pretty good! Now, my memories of playing these games on the PlayStation 3 is a bit fuzzy but I noticed that some of the textures were sharper and, most of all, the framerate seemed smoother (at least, compared to my current replay of Assassin’s Creed III). Assassin’s Creed II and its sequels were already pretty games to look at but bumps that I noticed were a decent bonus. The downloadable campaigns for all three games have been added and integrated without having to download anything from the PlayStation Store, which is a great bonus. You’ll get “The Battle of Forli” and “Bonfire of the Vanities” for Assassin’s Creed II, “The Copernicus Conspiracy” and “The Da Vinci Disappearance” in Brotherhood, and a single piece of content for Revelations called “The Lost Archive,” which offers more first-person platforming (ick) that tells of the life and times of Subject 16, the tragic Assassin who infiltrated Abstergo. Outside of the games and their expansions, The Ezio Collection offers a short film called “Assassin’s Creed Embers” which connects the games to the downloadable Assassin’s Creed Chronicles games by introducing Shao Jun, the protagonist from China, who seeks out an elderly Ezio for training in the fight against the Templars in her homeland. The film delivers an emotional and poignant conclusion to the life of Ezio Auditore de Firenze.
Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection is not only a fine collection of games, it’s a great jumping off point for those looking to explore the series after playing completing Origins given the game’s explicit presentation regarding the creation of the Assassin Brotherhood. As for me, it was a grand opportunity to replay one of my favorite games without having to pull out my PlayStation 3 from the closet. Now if only Assassin’s Creed III and Liberation could make their way over to the PlayStation 4 like Rogue, I’d be very happy.
Title: Assassin’s Creed The Ezio Collection
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Price: $39.99 (Physical). $49.99 (Digital)
Console: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One
Purchased or Received for Review? Purchased
Where to Buy: Amazon, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Store