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I have a confession to make: I came to Assassin's Creed seriously late.
While I was always aware of Ubisoft's beloved stealth-action franchise, I didn't actually dive in myself until Assassin's Creed Origins. Loving that, I stuck with the series for Odyssey and Valhalla. For me, then, Assassin's Creed has always been this fantastical open-world RPG series, and I'm very much into it.
But I totally get that's not what the series was about when it started, and I understand there are plenty of fans of the series out there that would love for Assassin's Creed to return to its stealth-action roots and ditch the RPG-heavy elements that have crept in over the years. The majority of these old-school fans also seem to feel that the series has gotten a little too fantastical for its own good.
To be clear, there's always been a sci-fi element to Assassin's Creed ever since the original game. You're literally playing as a character using a machine that lets them explore memories to track down a powerful alien artefact, after all. But for the most part, those early games did aim to things fairly authentic and grounded when you were in the past.
"Replaying Black Flag and Unity makes me realize that AC had an immersive realism to it," writes Reddit user Sacristo1 in a widely agreed with post on the Assassin's Creed subreddit.
"Sure there was the sci-fi aspect, but it had no fire swords, wolves appearing out of thin air, ghost arrows, etc. It seems like new AC tries to pepper their content with MMO fantasy moves. It tonally makes things feel awkward. AC used to sort of be like Uncharted - a grounded experience that would sacrifice moments of realism for the sake of a good adventure, and would ultimately have some farfetched aspect at the end."
beach_boy91 agreed, and made an interesting point about the synchronisation bar of the original game. While not the most widely loved feature, the user argued that having this instead of a standard health bar "meant so much from a lore point of view".
"If you get hurt you lose sync," they explained. "So Altair didn't get hit, neither did he fall from rooftops and got hurt. If he loses sync it's because of the person in the animus doing something he didn't do."
"This is what I loved about the series" added another user. "The first one, while imperfect, was a revelation. The Ezio trilogy was the high point of the series for me. Since then, they've been slowly stripping out what I liked about the series."
It's certainly a shame that we didn't see much more of this feature expanded upon, with other users adding that the way the early games incorporated little touches that reminded you you were in an in-game simulation with strict rules only added to the immersion. It felt like the player was modern day protagonist Desmond Miles using an advanced scientific instrument to explore the past, rather than a player running around in a video game.
That's not to say the newer Assassin's Creed games are bad, obviously. As I said, I absolutely love the new entries - but I can also accept that I wasn't there in the beginning. Unfortunately for the older fans of the series, however, Ubisoft is unlikely to move away from the fantasy RPG approach anytime soon.