I remember the beginning of the series. I remember being absolutely shocked when it turned out all the crusader era stuff I'd been seeing in the previews wasn't the main setting of the game. I remember loving the game far more than any of my friends, simply because I could put up with effort to 100% preparations for assassination targets.
Then implementing those plans based on the information I'd uncovered... and watching things fall apart on my first attempts...
I hadn't gotten the chance to play Hitman, or many other stealth games, so AC was my first introduction to the actual genre of stealth (rather than just the forced stealth sections in other games). I was enraptured by how each assassination unfolded, and overjoyed when I managed to take down a target without being spotted.
I loved hopping back into the penultimate chapter where you have all the upgrades and all the freedom you could ask for, playing around in cities to see what I could get away with.
When the sequel came, I was blown away. It wasn't quite the same experience, but everything still felt so free, and much quicker this time around. I remember this was the game that started destroying my sleep cycle in college, as I'd look up at the clock only to discover that it was 3 in the morning and I had my alarm set for 7.
Assassinations weren't as common, but the game made up for it with its sheer variety. In addition, the protagonist was interesting, the future side of things started to pick up with glimpses of a magnificent payoff to all of this time with Ezio.
The cliffhanger in the first game had been annoying, but this time it was painful, with a gnawing need to know more about what happens to both Ezio and Desmond.
Brotherhood finally scratched that itch, though something felt off. Assassinations felt a little less important, even if so much of the gameplay had begun to pick up. Multiplayer held my attention for a short time, but it wasn't as much a draw as playing around in the Animus had been.
Revelations wasn't bad, but I wouldn't pay $60 for it again. The game opened up after a long first chapter (with a tutorial that felt much more constricting than Ezio's civilian life had been) telling me to do whatever I wanted, only to remind me that it wouldn't give me anything more unless I went back to the dock and started the mission. These missions became less and less free, and it was only on my second time through that I realized how much they wanted me to use bombs rather than my various other gadgets.
There was a push for style over freedom, where large set pieces would unfold in ways that created linear paths, especially on the "bonus levels." The ones starring Altair, whom I was expecting to see more of, were especially jarring, telling a half finished story and demanding me to go where it wanted every step of the way.
And the Desmond stages, while not really bad, felt out of place and didn't really add anything to the character.
However, 3 was perhaps the first time I could really say "disappointed" and mean it. Missions failed for detection. Half the game with a protagonist I raced through for the promise of the one advertised to me. The setting I'd been looking forward to was treated as the background rather than the main attraction. Despite the massive amounts of items and new climbable locations, things were even more linear (item selection was a pain and missions created borders to fence you in). Trading sidequests were intrusive to the action, and the main reward was money to upgrade the ship that you'd already expended the use for by opening up those trade routes in the first place. Exploring seems like fun until an army of wolves that takes 5 whole minutes of countering to defeat jumps you (at least with Red Dead Redemption, hunting ended with you tracking down mythical creatures).
Then, to meet a deadline, Desmond gets forced into a quick ending and his ancestor gets told by the gods of plot that they don't care that the adventure they forced him on screwed up his life and that they don't care about him anymore (given that we're moving onto pirates, our favorite Native is probably getting the same treatment by Ubisoft as well).
This isn't even mentioning the fact that I was treated as QA for paying for the game at launch. Considering the fact that one glitch decided to treat me picking up a barrel as a nuke going off (if I had been wearing headphones...), I should be the one getting paid. I remember being excited when I heard AC2 used user feedback from the original to improve things. Now I feel like this approach is being used at my expense.
This was a game series about freedom to choose your own path that fell into a rut.
I was happy to support the game series back when it understood this, but Ubisoft, I've had enough. I have Hitman, Dishonored, and Mark of the Ninja which all let me sneak and take my own approach to things, all while keeping their narratives held together.
I'm tired of your yearly approach that adds so much and yet somehow feels lesser than those that came before it.
I've spent countless hours in the Animus, and enjoyed these strange, hooded, stab-happy fellows with a penchant for hiding blades up their sleeves, but I'm tired, and the series isn't what I remember.
I'm no longer an Assassin, no longer free, no longer satisfied when it's all said and done, and so I must say I'm no longer going to pay.
Don't worry, I won't become one of those pirates you hate by not paying for your pirate's adventures, but in your hope to keep me subscribed you've lost me.
Thanks for all that time I wasted with the hidden blade, and I sincerely hope you find your way back on track with the series.