An initial thought when I saw the title ‘Assassin’s Creed star Michael Fassbender had ‘never played the game’‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/dec/28/assassins-creed-star-michael-fassbender-never-played-video-game), now, my curiosity was peaked as it should be known to my readers that me and Ubisoft are at odds. i think they demolished what could have remained a legendary brand. Will the movie change that? Not sure, more important, does it matter? A movie fan can enjoy a good game and a gamer can enjoy a good movie. Yet, we must admit that our passion also instils the dangers of our folly when we do not see the result we expected. That danger is a lot more intense when it crosses platforms (Hobbit anyone?)
The article is a little shallow and it alerts us to what comes (which might have been the intent). The quote that got to me was “Michael Fassbender, the star of the highly anticipated film adaptation has admitted never having played it prior to being offered the lead role“, I think that this might not be a bad thing, actors and their roles are about getting ready for them and we can all agree that Michael Fassbender has the stellar experience to excel so this should not be an issue. I did like his response on @Fassbender_Way (Twitter) stating “I don’t need anyone’s permission“, which is not quite right, he needs the permission of Ubisoft, but they asked him, so that is OK, is it not?
The issue with the movie is not the movie, it will be our perception on the transfer. If the movie becomes too much of a Prince of Persia steeplechase then it could falter, if it is too much on ‘massive’ fights (like the intro to Revelation) the same thing could happen, but if it is the dark, the deep and the shady cutthroat version of an assassin getting in and out, it could be a hit. Well, that is my take on it. Is it yours? A game that sold so many millions will spawn millions of views, which is the challenge not for the actor, but for the director to give vision to. In that the second quote comes to view “the actor said he first got to grips with the video game only after being approached by Ubisoft to join the production“, this is fair enough, he cannot remain unaware, but how to prepare best? Playing is one, watching a few play throughs is another (almost an essential secon), he will do what he thinks is best that’s why he gets the big bucks!
Yet this is not about Michael Fassbender, it is about Ubisoft. There is no denying in the wisdom of making a movie which in turn will give loads of cash to Yves Guillemot. A mere statement of fact, my worry is not what is now, but what comes next. As I see it Unity massively damaged the brand and certain sidesteps are equally dangerous. As we see the unfolding of AC Syndicate, we also see that repairing the brand will take more than one game and in this Yves Guillemot himself needs to stay focussed and involved in whatever follows Syndicate because in this many gamers feel that their bucket got prefilled by sources that lost their reliability (like Gamespot). The Verge had this headline ‘Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is everything that’s great and terrible about the series‘ (at http://www.theverge.com/2015/10/23/9602584/assassins-creed-syndicate-review), which gives us the issue. The quotes “there’s so much that grounds the experience; boring missions, overly complicated side activities, and stories that straddle the line between dull and nonsensical“, which was already in play for some time. Now we get “you can commandeer one anytime you need, GTA-style“, which is another side I hate. More of something else. These two quotes do not represent the full article, which is also why I added the link, but it gets to the core of the issue Yves has ignored for too long. When you add too many other sides, when your business model is all about not getting a failure, you in equal measure forget to focus on that what makes a game truly exceptional. Shades of grey will not allow for the blackness of failure and it will in equal measure not allow for the whiteness of utter victory. It is the price of compromise that issue has been around since AC3, involving little Connor with bow and arrow.
the final quote “Unfortunately, the button used to hop in the cart was the same used for picking up his dead body, so instead of getting away safely, a cop shot me while a corpse was draped around my shoulders” was the most fun for me to read, because this glitch (read: interface bug) has been around since AC Brotherhood, Yves has let the brand slide to this extent!
In this we also need to name the man that does highly matter, because the pressure is not on Michael Fassbender, it will be on Justin Kurzel, the director. I am actually curious how he pulls it off. He has loads of things to start with, as stated on several occasions, part of Ubisoft might have failed, but not the graphics department, they delivered above and beyond with every AC game. Black flag is just one of the amazing graphical achievements that even today can be held up as an equal against any game released in 2015 and it will hold up and in most cases surpass many 2015 releases. In equal measure, the soundtracks of all AC games from the AC2 has been above many big screen productions, so Justin has many supporting sides making it all slightly easier for him, yet it will be his vision that matters to the public at large. And I refuse to make any speculation at present, I will await and see the final result.
So where are we?
You see, as stated earlier, AC Syndicate did not undo the massive damage of Unity, and there are other issues within Ubisoft that matters, because as it linked the experience to Uplay, the failing of Uplay as I have experienced it in equal measure drags down the product, the inability of their support to settle issues, link issues between accounts when a player has multiple systems, I cannot get the points of accounts to link, which is frustrating as it does not enable me to unlock certain parts, other parts are not acknowledged which just accelerates issues into the negative. Which is the downside of social media, a part certain player within Ubisoft are eager to ignore 7 days after release date, which does not help gamers and fans of the franchise any either.
So as we renew the view to the title in Shakespeare view of what constitutes the hero, we can see both Michael Fassbender and Justin Kurzel for their willingness to undertake the loaded challenge of the Assassins creed, which might reap great rewards, not just financially if they pull it off, in this I also feel that any failure might not be on their side, it might and up in the lap of Yves Guillemot as the brand waned to the massive degree it did on his watch. It gets us to the question we need to ask ourselves (as gamers mind you), a question both Michael and Justin should ask themselves to within the scope of vision that they are exposed to.
What makes for an assassin?
Is it a person with a sniper scope in 1983, one shot in Kirbat Al-Adas? Is it a knife thrown from an alley, a stab from a bench, a poison dart? Is it slicing your target then taking on 8 guards and a Templar? The game allowed for many ‘solutions’, but in the movies it is about pleasing the mass with an image, it is not interactive, which makes for the challenge Justin and Michael face, in all this the weight of previous decisions allowed by Yves makes for something else. The question is, will it make things better for the movie? It is not a fair question for those making the movies, but it will influence it all. So far, we know that the movie will play in the 15th century in Spain, which means that either that game will follow, or the movie line will become separate. The latter one being a better option in my personal frame of mind. Let’s not forget that the game started with Subject 17, so there are plenty of option for the movies and the bloody mosaic of bodies that we refer to as history allows for plenty of options for a movie based franchise.
As stated, I will await the final version of the movie and I do intent to watch it (as one cannot ignore a Fassbender movie). In all this it is not just about the movie, it is about what will Yves do next that matters, because in my personal view, Ubisoft has been running on borrowed time for a little too long and whatever happens next will impact the gaming industry, not because of a movie, but if we believe Shakespeare that a coward dies a dozen times over, than in my view Yves Guillemot had relied on marketing for too much and at the expense of a brand that could (read: should) have remained at high for a lot longer, so what is the value of a brand that has regained the same flaws for 6 iterations, I wonder why that question had not been asked by a 90% granting Gamespot, they are supposed to be a critical reviewer. Too many around the brand have dropped the ball and left things unspoken and un-investigated. The many delays that Ubisoft has should give way to massive improvements to gameplay, yet overall this was not achieved. At present only For Honor still seems to hold up to the expected hype of scrutiny, which is interesting, one in a dozen? I need to hold off on the final verdict as I feel that fairness needs to take centre seat and a review needs to remain fair, absent from hype. It is harder to do, but essential to give fair verdict to a project dozens of people put their life and faith into, I will not attack them like that, but Yves needs to realise that his billion is slimming down as he has fell short again and again, now the upcoming movie will be part of it. Whether the choice was a good one, is something we will see at the end of 2016.
Let’s all see what happens.