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Assassin's Creed is veering too far away from its original formula

Last year's Assassin's Creed Origins was a leap of faith into risky territory for the franchise, but it ended up paying off. Most people loved the game, including our own Xbox editor Matt Brown, and the addition of systems from other role-playing games (RPGs) offered a new style of play for gamers.

However, while Origins was fun, I don't think the changes it brought were a good fit for the series. And with Assassin's Creed Odyssey adding more of these types of mechanics, the problem is only getting worse.

Here's why I think Assassin's Creed is losing its identity.

Fighting tyranny head on

Ultimately, the main issue I have with the new direction of Assassin's Creed is that you can take on hordes of foes and not be punished for it. In the classic games of the franchise, like the original Assassin's Creed and its sequel, Assassin's Creed II, you couldn't face more than a few enemies frontally without dying. This is because these titles emphasized what the series was built on: stealth gameplay, and taking your opponents down from the shadows.

Fast forward to today, where frontal combat is getting the primary focus, and this isn't the case anymore. In order to make direct fighting fully viable, enemies have to be programmed to not take advantage of their numbers, and instead only attacking one at a time. This design philosophy makes stealth pointless. If you can run in blades-blazing and kill all of your opponents, why bother sneaking around and eliminating them one at a time?

You could argue that the option of either stealth or head-on assault gives more freedom to the player, but realistically, I don't think anyone will play through the games stealthily with these mechanics present. Players will choose the easiest route to victory available, and while it's true that direct combat has its own set of skills to learn, it's undeniable that a lot less tactical and strategic thought goes into melee fights compared to carefully avoiding guards or perfectly executing an assassination plan.

Losing what made it special

As Assassin's Creed continues to make its stealth gameplay obsolete, I believe it is losing what made it unique. Engaging combat systems are great, but I can already get that type of experience from other titles. The Witcher 3, Shadow of War, and Dark Souls III all scratch my itch for hacking people apart. However, Assassin's Creed used to offer something unique to itself — an intense and thrilling blend of parkour and stealth.

At the end of the day, there's nothing out there that really feels just like classic Assassin's Creed did. As the franchise reforms itself, I can't help but be worried that it will end up becoming a generic and stale series.

Your thoughts

Do you think Assassin's Creed should continue on its current path, or does it need to go back to its roots? Let me know.

You can preorder Assassin's Creed Odyssey on Xbox One now for $59.99. If you're like me and you prefer the classic games, you should check out The Ezio Collection, as well.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

39 Comments
  • That is a very good point of view. That is one of the reason the franchise was performing so bad (until Origins) Why games like Mario, Halo and Zelda still sell and have a very good player fan base after all the years? They still fell like the the first game, they still have there "soul"
  • Zelda feels completely different. Halo isn't that popular anymore and changed the narrative and gameplay a lot. Every new 3D Mario game (except Galaxy 2) changed the way we play the game. That's why Nintendo has this popular franchises. They always add a new twist. They don't care what others are doing. They just create their own thing.
  • At last, someone has said it!
  • No MP... 😢
  • Funny I always sucked at stealth, but managed to scrape by in the Ezio series of games and AC3. I haven't been really interested in Origins and now Odyssey because the combat is more challenging. I admit I am not a great gamer, but while the graphics are impressive, I'm put off by the need for better combat skills.
  • Assassin's creed was always noob friendly. But I liked a little bit of challenge for the climbing. For me the climbing and exploration of huge cities was always the best part.
  • What are you talking about? IMO AC has actually gotten better at this in later years. I've played every AC game. The first AC game was kinda hard since the button timing was quite unforgiving, but it and the old Ezio trilogy, was basically: 1. Attack or Block
    2. Wait for yellow glow above enemy
    3. Parry
    4. Repeat. The guards never attacked you at the same time (which they do from Unity and onwards if I'm not mistaken), so as long as you didn't screw up your button timing, then there was no end to how many you could kill. You could easily stand there and take out hordes of enemies in Brotherhood, and especially in ACIII and IV. In Unity you had to be more careful again as guards would attack you at the same time, meaning you had to move around more if you went head on. Syndicate was more or less the same, but with a brawling Jacob and a more stealthy Eve. Origins gave you the option of playing it stealthy or straight on brawler, depending on what you put your points into (coming straight from Horizon: Zero Dawn, I preferred playing stealthy and maxing out my bows), and by the end of Origins, when (spoiler!) the "Assassin order" is "born" they realize the need to go into the shadows. So from a lore perspective Ubisoft can get away with games set in ancient history to be more "head on", while games set after the foundtation of the order should have a stronger focus on stealth tbh. /stupidly long rant over
  • Dude as soon as I read the first paragraph about how guards used to attack at the same time and you couldnt fight hordes i was so confused. Like has this writer EVER played the originals? I remember the final levels of AC1-3 being nothing but endless hordes! It literally forced you to parry like 20 enemies in a row. This dude has no idea was he's talking about because if not for this game's changes, Origins would've been a complete flop because just like COD, no one wants to buy the same recycled mechanics 10 years straight.
  • But CoD has been the best selling game for years..
  • I have played them, thank you. And apparently the AI in those games acts differently sometimes because I had the complete opposite experience. You could fight an entire army in AC3 but they would only attack once at a time.
  • That was THE major complaint about the combat - that enemies were literally coming ONE AT A TIME, making everything too damn easy and unrealistic. Now, it has been fixed, and we get complaints that it has become too combat focused. What the actual?
  • TOTALLY agree! For years people have been saying AC has becoming stale, now they mix things up a bit with Origins (with overwhelming positive results) people are now complaining that it's not AC anymore... Sigh... I guess people need to complain about SOMETHING these days.
  • AC was never really about Stealth. Sure you sneak here n there but it was in no way on the same level as Splinter Cell/Metal Gear/ . The only thing thats makes it a little stealthy was the fact that you can blend in with the crowd, go on the roof or hide behind the wall or on top of a rope. Some people want change in the games, some people wanna keep the old style of games. u cant satisfy anyone. im just happy the series still exists. im excited for this game. i never skipped an AC game. Everyone had their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Totally agree, I think it's been a while that AC has moved away from what it originally was.
    Yes, moving away from stealth but it also looks like most of these Ubisoft game feel the same. This is something similar with Far cry which is moving away from what it was and more to a common Ubisoft formula...
    Even though far cry, AC, watch dogs are all different games there are so many elements and mechanism that are common that it feels the same at times. PS: It's nice to see these type of articles too.
  • It's the lore, especially in the earlier games that felt so awesomely strong while playing. Direct combat has always felt stupid. Staredowns 4v1 where you wait for the AI to act so you can react. I'd be OK if they would make direct combat almost a idiotic effort besides some escapes (smoke, gun) to get back to cover first. Some insane but quite hard to pull off combo's would be allowed too. Standing openly in the middle of a fortress vs 10 guys should just get you killed. Always.
  • Yea. I thought the same thing. After, the E3 reveal I was very disappointed. I've played every AC game since AC3 but am going to pass on this one. Too much combat, not enough stealth assassin gameplay.
  • To me, the game was at its height with Altiar and Ezio. The world was ancient and interesting (they fixed that with Origins and now Odyssey) I didn't care for any that followed...pirates, Americas early days...France...London... They were boring.. boring familiar architecture everywhere from times that were too similar to our own. I loved Rogue tho, cuz I am a Templar at heart. :P But, not to make this longer than it is..I 1000% agree with you. Assassin's Creed is about assassinations, stealth gameplay and sneaking around. I really hope they snap out of it and fix it back up one day.
  • Assassin's Creed died with Revelations (I know a lot of people didn't like it, but I kinda did). AC3 should've been the last one and it should've been what the true fans of the series wanted. Desmond working as an assassin and ending the story once and for all. As soon as I see myself facing firing squads while in a fight, or playing pirate, I have no choice but declaring the franchise as dead.
  • I actually completely disagree with you. Origins was probably my favorite AC game of the series, even if I'm in the minority. People are traditionally resistant to change, because they don't want their beloved ideas and childhood to be washed away. I personally think it's exactly what AC needed and should continue to morph into something beautiful. AC was stale and boring because it was literally the same game over and over. Furthermore, combat in Origins was gorgeous. Enemies came at you ALL AT ONCE not one at a time, I'm not sure where you got that. You had to be careful to attack and block or you'd get murdered. I think they're trying to create a story of what led up to the Assassins as we originally knew them, and I'd be tickled pink if they made future games a touch more stealthy but with beautiful multiple-enemy combat encounters like we're seeing now.
  • I’m not hesitant to change, I’m hesitant of too much change. AC can creatively add new elements without turning into The Witcher. But that’s just what I think.
  • Agreed. I thought Origins was gorgeous, but was far enough from what Assassin's Creed should be (and has been) that it's probably my least favorite of the series. Plus, what dumbass thought it was a good idea to get rid of the minimap!? Im sure I'll eventually pick this one up, but after the disappointment in Origins I'll be waiting until it's on sale sometime for <$20.
  • Pretty much my stance. Origins was a good game, just not a good AC game.
  • Maybe it used to adhere too strictly to its formula. All the games were very similar
  • For me, Assassin's Creed died with Unity. The new Game Mechanics since then just ruined it for me.
  • Assassins creed should go back to its roots i think it should take place in Japan in the samurai error or continue assassins creed origans i feel as if people are not gonna like it as much they did in the other 7 assassins creed.
  • I thought Origins was too far a departure from the Assassins Creed formula. It could have been named something totally different and I would never have associated it with AC. Time to get back to the original formula. I'm actually not excited about the new AC coming out (and I have played every single AC in the first one).
  • So is BattleField.
  • just like Syndicate I'll wait until Odyssey is free
  • When was the Syndicate free ?
  • No idea, but i picked Black Flag up free a while back on U-Play
  • I get what you're saying, but I still played through Origins as stealthily as possible. I think for those that want to play stealth, it's still perfectly fine. I don't know that forcing players to stealth is the right path
  • You could face hordes of goons in AC2 all the way to AC3, what the heck are you talking about? The combat started to punish all out attacks from Unity onwards. Perhaps you could get away with it in Syndicate, but in Origins if you have more than 5 people on your ass you are in for a tough fight. I hate articles written by people who don't know what they are talking about. Just because the developer gave you a choice to go in guns blazing or ghost an entire base doesn't mean the franchise has lost its bearings. You can never please people nowadays - give them freedom and they complain the series has lost its spirit; restrict them to stealth and they go, "Oooh, it is too linear! Rehash, please!"
  • Totally agree with the last para!
  • "Ultimately, the main issue I have with the new direction of Assassin's Creed is that you can take on hordes of foes and not be punished for it. In the classic games of the franchise, like the original Assassin's Creed and its sequel, Assassin's Creed II, you couldn't face more than a few enemies frontally without dying." Dude, did we play the same games? Sure, AC1 was just slightly (very slightly) challenging. But other than, the whole series is a cakewalk overall.
  • And this: "If you can run in blades-blazing and kill all of your opponents, why bother sneaking around and eliminating them one at a time?" That's modern stealth design for you: See Splinter Cell Blacklist, MGSV, Rise of the Tomb Raider, ALL AC games and all Far Crys after 3, all Arkham games, all Metro games. If we go a bit more back, Prince of Persia The Two Thrones.
  • Also this: "As the franchise reforms itself, I can't help but be worried that it will end up becoming a generic and stale series." There are 11 main entries. The franchise HAD to evolve in time *NOT* to get stale. What are you talking about my author friend?
  • You can evolve gameplay without changing its core foundation. Look at how Battlefield has evolved. Every release has felt different than the last, yet it never has done anything radically crazy
  • I actually loved AC Origins and spent over 100 hrs with doing every single little thing. I had a great time. However.. The new game looks like they just re-skinned Origins. I can't pay full price for the same game.
  • I'm with you in that I do not like the direction the new Assassin's Creed games have gone. I loved the reliance on stealth and what not to succeed. But I also understand that the game is a business. And they stuck to the stealth for a long time and i believe only began changing it because the franchise was beginning to fail. With Unity and Syndicate, nobody wanted it anymore.
    The fault for the change, I believe, falls on gamers because gamers simply don't want stealth anymore in general.