Whenever Assassin's Creed is mentioned, I can only think of one name that embodies the nature of series over the near-dozen characters that have featured: Ezio Auditore da Firenze. His charm, tale of revenge, and the parallel storyline of Desmond in present day stand head and shoulders above the rest.
With Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection, the Italian Assassin’s story is remastered for the current generation of consoles. The three fully-fledged games in one release, all updated with new visuals, is a must-play for those who haven't experienced Ezio’s journeys throughout Europe. If you are well versed in these games on the previous console generation however, the update makes the character models glaringly dated (albeit an improved landscape) and doesn't add anything to the original trilogy.
Ezio’s journey starts in Florence, Italy, in Assassin's Creed II. His involvement in the Assassins vs. Templars conflict begins when his family is betrayed by sympathisers of the latter group. Hunting down the conspirators one by one, Ezio learns of the all-powerful artifact known as the Apple of Eden, which his descendant Desmond is also trying to find in present day.
The storyline in Assassin's Creed II is, to me, the apex of the franchise: Both Ezio and Desmond’s journey are compelling; the Renaissance Assassins oozes charm as the protagonist, and the game ends on a cliffhanger, urging players to check out the sequels.
Sadly, the graphics upgrade is a mixed bag. While the draw distance has increased – adding a deeper level of grandeur to each city – and the buildings look more detailed, the remaster of Assassin's Creed II’s biggest blunder is the character models, which today look dated. I can't help but focus on their weird eyes during every cut-scene.
Thankfully, this was remedied in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and Assassin's Creed: Revelations. Both games look reasonably better, but not to a point where the difference is night and day.
For Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, the setting remains solely in Rome, Italy. Although a deviation from the various cities in the previous entry, the city is large enough to get lost in. Additional mechanics such as liberating templar-controlled districts and tower defense aspects changes things up.
With the recent Assassin's Creed games improving movement to allow characters to be more fluid, it felt weird going back to the old control scheme. Actions like jumping across rooftops require more input from the player, and combat is tedious. That being said, The Ezio Collection still plays well; the controls are easy enough to master, and the mechanics intuitive enough to comprehend.
The tombs remain a highlight of each game. A series of puzzles to traverse across in order to reach the treasure room, with 100% completion awarded by racing through each one within a set period of time, or without losing health. Puzzles have always been my favourite parts of games, and in The Ezio Collection Ubisoft delivers. Although I would have liked more challenging puzzles as the game progressed, there were enough of them in varied abundance that they never wore out their welcome.
Additionally, Ubisoft have included the two animated features that round out the story of Ezio’s life: Assassin's Creed Lineage and Embers. They also removed the multiplayer features from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Revelations, which isn't a major loss as the recent releases have also veered away from the online component.
Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection is a worthy placeholder for the lack of a new entry in the franchise this year. While the graphical upgrade benefited the landscape and building detail, the shoddy looking character models makes you wonder if there was a remaster in the first place. The removal of multiplayer is inconsequential, yet the addition of the two animated features is a nice touch to round out Ezio’s story.
If you haven't experienced Ezio’s story before, Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection is a must-buy, as Ezio’s story is the most compelling in the franchise. Three games, ranging from good to great, for the price of one is also worth consideration. If you’ve already played the trilogy however, and are looking for an upgrade of your collection from the previous generation, The Ezio Collection’s lackluster, sometimes laughable graphics may put you off.
Tony received a digital copy of Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection from Ubisoft for review.