Assassin’s Creed is a franchise that has greatly evolved over its 14-year life span. Elements once vital have come and gone and even the genre itself has shifted. The earlier games are a crucial part of my personal history as a gamer and hold such powerful, nostalgic memories, and I’ve grown increasingly conflicted over the new direction of the series, and even Ubisoft itself. It may not be for me anymore and that’s okay. I’m coming to accept that. The elements I enjoy are slowly being squeezed out and the idea that the franchise will continue as a live service game doesn’t excite me whatsoever. But if Valhalla is to be my final Assassin’s Creed, the last DLC, The Siege of Paris, proved to be quite the bittersweet nostalgia trip.
If Yusuf Tazim from Assassin’s Creed: Revelations were to describe the gaming series I imagine he’d do it like this: “Assassin’s Creed has two parts: the Assassins and the Creed”. Now, this was once true but both of these elements have taken a back seat in the last couple of games. Ubisoft seem to want to create historical/mythological open-world RPGs and the lore of the series is being left behind. It has certainly become a Gordian Knot of canon but eliminating the Creed and its hooded followers is throwing the baby out with the bath water. The Siege of Paris however at least hints at the existence of such things more than I was expecting.
As far as the Assassin Brotherhood is concerned, there’s a side mission which has you travel to old outposts, collect keys, and then enter the now empty Paris headquarters of the Hidden Ones. Inside you find a note or something but to be honest I’ve already forgotten because it’s so useless. The thing that got my OG AC blood pumping was that there are secret doors marked with the Assassin symbol that you open with your hidden blade. Exciting, right? I’m embarrassed by how much of an impact something so minor had on me. It’s a throwaway action but one filled with nostalgia. The games used to do it all the time: crypt doors or sarcophagus lids that could only be opened by the iconic blade. Now such a thing is a rare occurrence; the original DNA of the series still in there somewhere, occasionally breaking to the surface.
While Eivor isn’t an Assassin, an increasing trait of the franchise’s protagonists, they do get their blade dirty in The Siege of Paris and the DLC features assassination missions like the ones of yesteryear. In a Hitman-lite fashion, you are given a target and are free to explore multiple paths and ways of eliminating them, from the loud to the stealthy. Why were these only included in the DLC and not the core game?! They may be fairly shallow and replayability is an issue (unless you create new saves at the right time) but this is the type of mission variety the series needs, as well as being a fun throwback. Sure, there are targets in the main game but not sandbox missions like these.
They reminded me of the classic Notre Dame assassination from Unity, a game once reviled and undergoing a reappreciation renaissance. One mission allowed me, totally optionally, to eavesdrop a conversation in a tavern and learn vital information about my target and it took me back to those repetitive missions in the original game from 2007. I usually hate cosmetic DLC items but I relented and had Eivor wear both Ezio’s robes and Altair’s for a couple of missions each in a desperate and misguided attempt to heighten the nostalgia but it just felt wrong.
Even the Parisian landscape has a sentimentality about it. Despite, or maybe even because of, Ubisoft’s penchant for reusing assets, France reminded me of Italy from Assassin’s Creed 2 and Brotherhood more than the England of the core game. The architecture was similar and the grass is literally greener on the other side. The colour palette was evocative of the Ezio games. The only thing missing was the wonderful music of those earlier games. Jesper Kyd’s scores for the first four games are burned into my brain, as well as my YouTube playlist, and are truly transportive. Kyd returned to co-write the music for Valhalla but you wouldn’t know it by playing the game. The music is profoundly broken. Any ambient tracks are hardly noticeable. I’ve listened to the soundtrack on YouTube and it’s great, but I don’t recall ever hearing most of the tracks in the game.
The Siege of Paris is still a Valhalla DLC through and through. A huge open world full of the same old stuff. A mediocre storyline. A few interesting characters. Repetitive crunchy combat. Terrible rebel missions. But there are a few aspects that bring to mind the franchise as it used to be, and maybe what it could be again. I doubt it though. I think this was more of a farewell nod than a reintroduction. I’ll look out for whatever is next for the series but The Siege of Paris was a bittersweet nostalgia trip that is possibly the last one I’m taking.
Have you played Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s latest DLC? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.