Note: The top of the Scripts page mentions that Hollywood still hasn't churned out a successful movie based on a videogame license, and it doesn't look like the recent Assassin's Creed adaptation has turned that tide. That's why Craig is here with a one-two punch: over at The Editing Room, he has gloriously abridged the Assassin's Creed movie, and here on this blog, he has written a new script that does the game a lot more justice.
With approximately ten thousand Assassin’s Creed games out there, it’s strange for me to remember that I was a bit surprised when Assassin’s Creed II was announced. Assassin’s Creed was a decided disappointment. Everybody (myself included) was dazzled by early footage which showed off the fluid and adaptable “free-running” element of the game, but then when it actually came out, everybody (myself included) was dismayed to find how tedious most of the other elements of the game were.
The fact is, Ubisoft had not yet figured out how to make a sandbox game. Their tried-and-tested sandbox formula wouldn’t actually debut until Assassin’s Creed II. As a result, Assassin’s Creed is one of the emptiest sandboxes in gaming history. You can climb tall places to fill in the game map, find random flags for no reason at all, rescue citizens in peril, and that’s it. Those three basic, unvarying things are all you can do except just get on with the main story.
The game might as well have been linear. Heck, it could even have kept the collectibles – the Uncharted series is as linear as games get, but even they have hidden collectibles. In fact, the game’s meta conceit about “synchronising memories”, a formalised explanation for the phenomenon of replaying parts of the game until you get it right, would be much more congruous and fitting if the game were linear.
So gameplay, other than the admittedly engaging fun of simply free-running through the environment, was a bit of a wash. What about story? Well, let’s put it this way: the choices Hollywood makes in terms of which games to adapt into films goes a long way towards explaining why they can’t seem to make a decent video game movie. Did you know there’s still talk of a Watch_Dogs movie? And a movie based on The Division? Clearly they’re not choosing games based on the presence of a meaty narrative which could translate to an engaging film.
Assassin’s Creed is another baffing choice for adaptation. I’m reminded of Yahtzee’s description of the plot for The Conduit: “It’s barely there, and at the same time virtually impenetrable.” Assassin’s Creed similarly has a weak clothesline of a plot which mostly amounts to “go kill this guy because we said so” nine times in a row. Yet on the mystical sci-fi front, it has a plot which raises more questions than it answers, and leaves you unmotivated to find out more, lest you sink into a Lost-style morass without a proper resolution.
So with these shortcomings it wouldn’t have surprised me at all had Assassin’s Creed remained a curious failed experiment, devoid of any sequels. But Ubisoft persevered! And persevered. And persevered. And persevered.