by Joel Fernandez
Once upon a time, there lived a boy named Ezio. He saved the day and won us all over, and then he died. By now you're probably thinking that's the worst story ever. Actually, Ezio's journey through renaissance Italy was probably the greatest story ever told. The abridged version from the opening sentence was presented that way in order to give people who have not played through the Ezio trilogy an insight as to how fans of the Assassin's Creed franchise have been feeling for a long time. It's as if we have had to hold on to nostalgic memories of a golden age that has long since passed in order to distract ourselves from the travesty that the Assassin's franchise has become in recent years. But there are some that still hold on to the hope that our once beloved franchise can be great again. Or perhaps it died with Ezio.
As it would be sacrilegious to spoil the story of Assassin's Creed II etc, this summary will be as captivating as possible without giving away too many details. We begin the story as a teenage Ezio Auditore da (of) Firenze (Florence). We quickly notice that young Ezio lived the charmed life of an Italian noble in renaissance Florence. At least he did until his family was horribly betrayed, forcing Ezio and his family to escape the city that they once called home. Upon discovering that his family was in fact part of a long line of Assassins, Ezio is reluctant to join the cause. Eventually he comes around and joins the Assassin ranks in the fight against their archenemies, the templars. The result of Ezio's decision is a magical journey that made ruthless murders look like an artful and romanticized endeavor.
If there is no such thing as the perfect game, Assassin's Creed II would be the closes thing. If bundled together with the sequel, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, it would definitely earn a perfect 10 out of 10 from respected circles from all over gamerdom. The setting was nothing short of enchanting. Turning several world class cities from renaissance Italy into our playground is enough to compel longtime fans to take a stroll down memory lane every now and then. The soundtrack was some of Jesper Kyd's best work, and that is truly saying something. The characters were developed in such a way that they will remain in our hearts long after we switch off our respective consoles, and will be greeted as such when we decide to fire up the old hardware once again.
Just when we were getting used to following our renaissance era hero, Ubisoft decides to force us to watch his death. While it has become commonplace to expect Ubisoft to replace the main character with every new installment of the Assassin's Creed franchise, watching the most beloved protagonist in Assassin's Creed history die of old age was unusual, to say the least. It's as if they wanted to rip our hearts out before asking us to come along for the next adventure of their choosing in spite of the arbitrary way in which our friend Ezio was publicly written out of the Assassin's continuity. All for the sake of the quixotic goal of trying to make a video game historically accurate. The question is, why?
Why should we care whether or not a game we love stays true to history? The educational value of that approach is noteworthy. All the way up until we switch games and find ourselves fighting monsters and super-villains in the next game on our schedule. Which brings us to the point. There is no reason to adhere to history when creating a video game. Ezio and company should be allowed to live for as long as his games stay popular. The enemies don't have to be historical figures at all. The only things that needs to be historically accurate are the buildings. And even that isn't a requirement when you really think about it. What's more, Leonardo da Vinci can make clever inventions that will aid us on our missions forever and ever. Why would anybody kill off the main character of a successful franchise? That would be like killing Mario. It just doesn't make sense.
And then Ubisoft wonders why their Assassin games have become hit and miss in recent years. For every Black Flag and Syndicate success, there's a Unity and AC3 failure just waiting to happen. The fact is that Assassin fans are routinely deprived of what other video game franchises offer to their respective fan bases, continuity. Zelda fans can always expect to find Link somewhere in Hyrule, waiting start the next adventure. Mario fans can expect to go rescue princess peach for the umpteenth time because it never gets old. Star Fox fans can safely presume that their favorite fox and his anthropomorphic crew will lead them on another quest through space for one reason or another. God of war fans can expect Kratos to tear more mythological creatures limb from limb and Master Chief fans can expect to kill more legions of religious aliens with reckless abandon. You get the point. As it stands, we might not always have an Assassin's Creed franchise to follow. But we will always have Florence.
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