“My story is one of many thousands, and the world will not suffer if it ends too soon”.–Ezio Auditore. Thankfully, it didn’t.
Ezio Auditore da Firenze is the greatest Assassin in Assassin’s Creed’s history. And to be honest, I can feel your nod of agreement.
Quite literally, players have followed Ezio since his birth to his death. We have seen him as an arrogant, young upstart; a charismatic leader of the Assassins and a grizzled master Assassin looking to pass on his worldly wisdom. All the time, gaining respect, admiration and love from players for the greatest master of the hidden blade.
But apart from him having three games dedicated to his life story–and a good lot of killing, to boot–why is Ezio so revered? What makes him the greatest Assassin in the series history?
Before we go any further, it would be too easy to suggest that the reason he is the best is that we saw his character develop over three games. Of course, Ezio had three games to develop his character, two more than any other Assassin, but there are plenty of reasons other than longevity that make Ezio so good.
“Non temete l’oscurita – accettate il suo abbraccio (Fear not the darkness – but welcome its embrace). Requiescant in pace (Rest in peace).”
When judging Ezio, the only thing–or should we say people–you can compare him with are his fellow Assassins. The Assassin who immediately precedes him and the Assassin that immediately succeeds him form the greatest point of reference.
Like the game itself, Altair was a proof of concept character. As a result, he was underdeveloped at best, and a poor protagonist at worst. Altair was arrogant and a liability, culminating in him essentially being demoted at the start of the game. He did see some character development as he became more aware of the importance of the Creed, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. He was monotonous, unrepresentative and unlikeable. Not exactly a great start! Now, to be fair, Revelations did try to make Altair more relatable, but that was four games in and a bit too late.
“We are what we choose to be.” — Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad
Whan Assassin’s Creed 2 came around, Ezio didn’t have a lot to live up to regarding character, then. Learning from their mistakes, the developers decided to go down a different route with Ezio. And it worked. They created a character that started as an arrogant, carefree womaniser then transformed him into a vengeance-driven killer, to finally, a controlled, trained Assassin. It was a well-paced transition helped by the myriad of characters that impacted on his life. Better though, was the fact that even though he faced incredible hardships–watching your family be hanged, for example–he always kept his more fun-loving character traits. His quick-witted, carefree personality stayed with him, even while trying to track down and kill the people who murdered his family.
In isolation, Brotherhood and Revelations also featured similar character arcs. Brotherhood saw him transition from young Assassin, still with the arrogant character traits of before, into a charismatic leader of men and the Assassins. In Revelations, as a grizzled veteran, Ezio looks to further even his knowledge of the Assassins via visiting the order in different countries. This trait in particular highlights that fact that video-game characters are not omniscient, they too must learn to further themselves. It is a simple but effective characterisation of an already beloved character. Over three games, Ezio never outstayed his welcome.
Most important of all, though, Ezio is incredibly charismatic. And the charisma of your leading character only improves the game. Look at Uncharted or Tomb Raider, for example. Throughout his trilogy, Ezio oozes charisma and charm regardless of the situation. It would be a trait that many future Assassins would struggle to replicate. The assassin that followed him highlighted this very fact.
Ezio’s charisma would be a trait that many future Assassins would struggle to replicate. The assassin that followed him highlighted this very fact.
“you can’t spell assassin without sin and twice the ass.”–Ezio Auditore
Connor went through some sh–, err, strife. He probably suffered the most emotional trauma of any Assassin. However, unlike Ezio, who kept his carefree humour, Connor’s dominant personality was that of anger and resentment. Those character traits only changed at the very end of the game, after he had completed his ultimate mission. And even then, it wasn’t exactly a big change– he maybe cracked a smile or two. He had bad character traits that he didn’t get rid of across the game. And the game made a bad job of getting players to sympathise with him. It felt like a return to Altair!
Connor is vehemently disliked by a sizeable portion of the fandom and Ubisoft were forced to go back to the drawing board.
Unfortunately, what they came up with were a lot of Ezio-lites. Edward, in fairness, was his own character, but Arno was very obviously an amalgamation of Ezio and Connor. And even though they are liked, Evie and Jacob felt like parts of Ezio’s character split into two. Ezio became the sketch for the creators to colour slightly differently to create the new Assassins.
Now, what is important to remember about the series’ protagonists is that the developers, seemingly, try to match their personalities to their eras or predicaments they inhabited. Edward perfectly fit the pirate era. He was a brash, arrogant and self-centred pirate who reformed himself. Arno resembled the hell he inhabited. He is introspective and sometimes downbeat but kept some of his charms, if charisma was slightly lacking. But he was living through a horrendous Revolution/Civil War.
Ezio, though, lives in a period of relative peace and artistic freedom. His care-free attitude does not feel out of place in Florence, Rome or Constantinople, but probably would in Revolutionary France or America.
“Well, in a just world, Victor, I would agree with you. But this is not a just world. This is France.”–Arno Dorian
Simply put, Ezio was the right guy at the right time. And this extends beyond the characters. Ezio was the right guy at the right time for the series as a whole. AC 1 was a proof of concept, and AC 2 was the game that took what worked and threw away what didn’t to create the best Assassin’s Creed game. It just so happened that Ezio was the guy to front that movement. If it had been Arno or Edward or even Connor, they might be just as revered as Ezio because they would have been associated with the game that turned the series into the behemoth it has become.
By extension, Ezio also benefitted from better, more refined gameplay. In fact, bar maybe the rope launcher for Evie and Jacob, Ezio saw the biggest shake-up for the series gameplay and weapon-wise. To start with, Ezio got dual hidden blades, which at the time, was a big deal. He also got a parachute, various bombs, throwing knives and an actual flying suit that looks like something Icarus would be proud of. Right place right time, indeed.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the reason Ezio is the best Assassin is that you could very easily envisage yourself going to the pub with him and not only having a very good time but also learn a thing or two about life.
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted”