Review: Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection (Switch)

Those who were initiated into the Assassin’s Brotherhood with Bayek in ancient Egypt might not be aware of this, but once upon a time Assassin’s Creedgames were primarily stealth based with a heavy emphasis on assassins from the shadows. For better or worse, the franchise has shifted gears to an action RPG format that plays drastically differently than the earlier entries in the series. It can be debated which format results in the better gameplay experience, but many would argue that Assassin’s Creed II is the pinnacle of the series. Assassin’s Creed II had two direct sequels that comprise the Ezio trilogy, which for the first time is now available on Nintendo Switch.

Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection contains Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, allowing players to experience Ezio’s life from the years 1476 through 1524. All previously released DLC content is also included, making it the complete collection of all things Ezio. Additionally, the short films Assassin’s Creed Lineage and Assassin’s Creed: Embers are included. The games in this collection have also received some HD polished over their original release roughly a decade or so ago. This is actually the same collection we reviewed in 2016 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and as is the case with many six year old games on those platforms it was due to get ported over to Switch. The main difference with this version is that only Assassin’s Creed II is initially available, and the two other games and short films must be downloaded as free DLC. This is likely due to Switch storage space. Assassin’s Creed II by itself is 7.4 GB but the whole collection (3 games, 2 films and language pack) is about 35.2 GB, so an SD card is necessary as the Switch’s hard drive is 32 GB.

Nintendo has always opted for innovative hardware over more powerful hardware, so concessions are necessary when porting games from more powerful systems to their platform and this is no exception. Had they ported The Ezio Trilogy from PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 that could have been done with minimal if any concession, but that version would look even more outdated and lacked the DLC content. Some of the visual concessions here are tolerable, such as running at 30 FPS or some NPCs appearing in less-detailed, low-res formats. Some other issues are far more vexing and weren’t present in the Xbox One version. The Switch controls suffer an input lag and are much looser than the other versions, which can make the parkour and traversal much more difficult than it needs to be. In other versions it’s no problem for Ezio to run straight into a wall and seamlessly leap up to the ledge to pull himself up. In the Switch version the timing is unforgiving, and Ezio will sometimes kick off a wall instead of climbing it which can make otherwise easy tutorial missions frustratingly difficult. NPCs sometimes get strange placement. In an early race against Ezio’s brother to the church rooftop he won due to the kicking off the wall issue. When the race restarted instead of spawning next to Ezio on the starting point his brother was already on the roof.

All single player DLC content is included for all games, but a trade off for that is the multiplayer feature for Brotherhood and Revelations has been removed. This is probably not a dealbreaker for anyone considering this collection, but its absence may be noticed by some. The included short films are nice additions to expand on the story and lore. For whatever reason they behave more like cutscenes in old games than actual movies since there isn’t a pause or rewind feature. Like the lack of multiplayer, this isn’t a dealbreaker but also seems like poor optimization.

As this is a Switch port they added features to handheld mode, and also because it’s a Nintendo handheld these extra features don’t seem necessary. HD Rumble is a haptic feature that is supposed to make cutscenes and action sequences come to life, but this feature is standard in so many games nothing seems special or noteworthy about it in this title. In handheld mode touchscreen functionality has been added to the menu screens, but it’s so unnecessary you can get through the games just fine without it. It works just fine, but it would have been preferable to have this feature omitted and more optimization done toward game mechanics.

Getting into the actual game quality, Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection contains some of the best games in the franchise, and many would argue the best. Ezio’s story across these games is one that should be experienced by any fan of the series. Each game is divided in a period of several years, Assassin’s Creed II takes place 1476-1499, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood takes place 1500-1507 and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is 1510-1524. Interspliced with the modern day events with Desmond in the Animus, we witness Ezio’s life across several historical events in Rome.

Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection looks and performs well for a Switch port. There are limitations on this platform, and while it does look great in docked and handheld mode, the 2016 collection does look and play better. The biggest complaint about this version is the controls make it more difficult than it needs to be. Doing high-speed chases with parkour and building climbing were effortless on Xbox One, but Ezio but getting Ezio to do what is necessary isn’t always as easy as it should be on Switch. The game mechanics remain unchanged, and things seem the same as they always were despite and updated HUD. The menu text and subtitles are easy to read even in handheld mode. If someone can forgive less-than-stellar controls and goofy NPC behavior, this collection can be worthwhile.

Closing Comments:

Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection contains of a trilogy of great Assassin’s Creed games that remind players why Ezio and his games are the most celebrated within the fandom. The gameplay mechanics function just as they did in the original releases which is a double-edged sword of authenticity and nostalgia going against modernized quality-of-life improvements. While these are great games and should be played by all Assassin’s Creed fans, there are unfortunately concessions mentioned above that hold this back from being the definitive collection. The only real reason to recommend this version over the PlayStation 4/Xbox One version is the portability factor.