Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection Review
2016 marks the first year we have not had a brand new Assassin’s Creed title since 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II. Over the years the series has received various improvements, including upgraded parkour systems and better graphics engines. There have been several protagonists in this time, with the arguable favourite being Ezio Auditore da Firenze who has starred in three separate titles and had the most compelling story to tell. With an Assassin’s Creed film on the horizon and the frowned upon Assassin’s Creed: Unity far behind us, Ubisoft have released a tweaked version of the Ezio trilogy to remind us of the glory days the franchise enjoyed.
In terms of story, The Ezio Trilogy is by far the most comprehensive of any of the main Assassin’s Creed games. Players watch Ezio grow from a young playboy to a fully fledged Assassin seeking revenge after his father and brothers are murdered. Later we see Ezio establish the Assassin Brotherhood in Rome and then journey to Constantinople to learn more about Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, the series original protagonist and most famous of all Assassins. The writing does get weaker towards the end of the trilogy, but all loose ends are tied and we get a more satisfying and deserving send off for Ezio. Even after seven years the plot still captivates and really demonstrates some of the finest moments of the franchise.
Included in the pack are the short films Assassin’s Creed: Lineage and Assassin’s Creed: Ascendance. The former was originally a promotional video for Assassin’s Creed II and tells the story of Giovanni Auditore, Ezio’s father, in the lead up to the game. Ascendance was released alongside Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, and shows the final days of Ezio who is brought out of retirement by a member of the Chinese Assassin Brotherhood. While it’s a nice inclusion to the overall package and further develops the story, the videos are low quality and stutter a little during playback. You can find better versions on YouTube, which makes the poor quality even more disappointing.
The trilogy is more than a simple, direct port to current generation consoles. Ubisoft have made some graphical improvements and optimised the titles, including a bumped up 1080p resolution and a locked framerate of 30fps. The original games did feature some slowdown during more intense scenes, but these have been completely smoothed out, offering an overall better experience. The extra processing power also means there’s an increased draw distance, so pop-in NPCs and textures are almost a non-issue. There has been some texture improvements, particularly when observing a city while unlocking a viewpoint, and overall the games are more vibrant. Loading times also benefit from the more powerful systems, now taking mere seconds to load seamlessly between areas.
There are some downsides to this collection however. Firstly, some NPCs look a little washed out because of the postproduction colouration. It’s not as bad as earlier media reports suggested, but it is particularly noticeable in Assassin’s Creed II which, at the time, was running on an unrefined engine. Also the competitive multiplayer modes from Brotherhood and Revelations have not been included. We can speculate there were issues porting over the net code or perhaps there just wasn’t a market for it, but either way it is a shame as the multiplayer was comprehensive and an engaging experience all on its own. Unity’s take was a far cry from the glory days.
You will need to remember that you’re playing some of the first titles in the series. Because of this, the parkour systems aren’t as refined as they are in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. Scaling buildings can be a bit slow and there are times when you will get stuck on ledges and need to pause while navigating. This is more of an issue in Assassin’s Creed II and does get better with the later titles, though of course you’re not going to be launching zip lines to the tops of buildings. It’s better to look at The Ezio Collection as a celebration of the series’ roots and a reminder of how far it has come over the last eight years.
The Ezio Collection is a great purchase for anyone who hasn’t experienced one or more titles from the trilogy. The improved resolution and increased frame rate make these the better versions to play, and consider yourself lucky you get to experience the story without year-long breaks like the rest of us endured. Because there are no drastic changes returning players may be left feeling a little underwhelmed, but it’s also a good opportunity to reflect on the glory days and appreciate how far the series has come.