November 6, 2015

Review: Assassin's Creed: Renaissance


Title: Assassin's Creed: Renaissance

Author: Oliver Bowden

Publisher: Ace

Date of Publication: 2009

Number of Pages: 516

Find it at: Book Depository


Summary

Betrayed by the ruling families of Italy, a young man embarks upon an epic quest for vengeance. To eradicate corruption and restore his family's honour, he will learn the art of the assassins. To his allies, Ezio will become a force for change, fighting for freedom and justice. To his enemies, he will become a threat.

Review

Even if you're not a gamer, the chances are that you've heard of Assassin's Creed before. Ubisoft is releasing a new installment of the game every year. I have played some of the games before and what impressed me the most was the story. So, when I heard that a series of novels was coming out I was excited and I anticipated books heavy on historical elements. I was also curious to see how all of the unique aspects of the gameplay would fit into the plot. Lastly, from which game would the novels begin? As it turns out, the starting point is Assassin's Creed II and the story of one of the most popular assassins of the series, Ezio Auditore.

Ezio is a man who has lost everything. His father and brothers are accused and executed falsely by the ruling families in Florence. In order to remain alive and save his mother and sister, he flees his hometown and ends up in his uncle Mario's palazzo. There he learns that he has a heavy heritage to live up to. Is he ready to accept it, though? He decided to cooperate with the Order of the Assassins because they are after the same men he seeks revenge from. As he dives deeper and one mission leads to another, he discovers the truth behind the ruling games and the fight between the Assassins and the Templars. Moreover, his list for the people he has to go after in order to restore his father's name is filled constantly with even more powerful names, with the peak being Rodrigo Borgia.

So, to sum things up, take a hero with a powerful motive, add a family heritage, a lot of historical figures and facts, sprinkle a lot of action and you're done! Seems like a recipe for success, right? Well, that's where all the problems begin. It's the first time that I've encountered a story with so much potential not being taken advantage of, at all.

First of all, I couldn't care for a single character in the whole novel! Yes, we follow Ezio in his journey and he is in danger at times, but I couldn't feel fear for him. Although we have his backstory and his motives explained, I never figured out the character traits that make Ezio who he is. His thoughts and feelings are somewhat generic and things that you'd expect to hear from a person with these experiences. As for the secondary characters, well, they weren't developed at all, so I can't really say anything about them.

The other big problem of this novel is that the story doesn't have continuity, at least one that feels natural. While reading Assassin's Creed, I was constantly under the impression that the author wrote it while he was playing the game and he was just writing it down at the same time. To make things clear, imagine Ezio on a mission. He goes where he has to go, accomplishes with some way or another the assassination and then he meets someone that tells him who he needs to kill next. The first time it didn't bother me, but it happened all the time. Shouldn't Ezio at least question his missions? We are in a totally different medium, so things have to be explained.

This brings us to the last problem. The elements of the game, such as the wall-climbing, the leap of faith and the looting feel unnatural. They are there just because they are essential elements in the game. They are recognizable and if they weren't there I would certainly feel their loss, but I expected them to be included in a way that it didn't shout "Hey, here goes the famous leap of faith! Don't miss it!". In some instances, I even expected a NEW SKILL UNLOCKED to pop up.  

Assassin's Creed was a major disappointment for me. I like historical novels and the action of this one promised to be an enjoyable read. But instead it fell flat, without a memorable hero and a world poorly constructed. At least it made me want to play Brotherhood, the next game in the series. And if you want to get acquainted with Ezio Auditore, then don't hesitate to pick up Assassin's Creed II. This is a clear victory for the video games format.




6 comments:

  1. Yet to play it, but I have most definitely heard of Assasin's Creed! It's so funny though when you were describing the story I was like wow, there's so much background to video games and I was thinking the book would be super interesting - but obviously not as good as the game :(

    P.S. I love the little graphic you've made for video games vs. books - such a smart and cute idea! :)

    Raashi
    http://raashiagarwal.blogspot.com.au

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    1. I was under the same impression. I mean, the story is one of the reasons why this game is so great! Such a big disappointment!

      Haha, thank you about the image! It was a last minute addition to the theme :D

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  2. I'm sorry this book didn't work out for you, glad you enjoy the game!

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    1. Yes, the game is great. I wish I could say the same about the book as well, though..

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  3. I've been playing Assassin's Creed II for a while (really need to get around to finishing the main story) so I know what you mean. A video game is very visual, yet at the same time very limited in terms of what they can accomplish. It takes a lot of work to make such a fluid movement system and seamless world.

    Books don't have that same limitation, you can do whatever you want. Trying to confine a book to the same rigid choices as a game will make the story stiff and odd. As for Ezio's personality, I have to wonder if Ubisoft had their hands in the story at all and made changes where they felt the personality differed too much? It wouldn't surprise me with an official book.

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    Replies
    1. This is exactly the reason why I was hoping that the story of Assassin's Creed would show its full potential in the format of a book. But, I was disappointed.

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