There's a good chance that fans of Assassin's Creed are still trying to process the closing moments of Revelations, but it's important to remember that the story of Ezio Auditore doesn't end with the most recent Ubisoft release. That honor belongs to the animated short film Assassin's Creed: Embers, developed by Ubi Workshop to coincide with the launch of last month's title. But does the film do justice to the Master Assassin of both Rome and Constantinople, or should die-hard fans stick with the story crafted by the developers?
First off, it needs to be pointed out that the spoiler-filled ending to Revelations should be seen before any fan starts to think towards Assassin's Creed 3 or entertain purchasing Embers. The most important questions that have lingered in the series, and the epilogue for the legendary Altair are delivered with as much style and skill as any plot point in modern gaming. And while the game expertly ties up the role that Ezio Auditore plays in the fate of humanity, the franchise's mythology unfortunately forbids any player from one again walking in his shoes (in the video game series, that is).
For those who have developed as much affection for Ezio as the series in general then, Embers is a must-see. As was explained in the Embers launch trailer, the story revolves around Ezio years after the events of Revelations, enjoying his life with wife and children running a Tuscan vineyard. The tales of Ezio's unequaled leadership and wisdom have apparently spread as far as China, bringing the young assassin Shao Jun to learn the values that have steered the Assassin Order under both Altair and Ezio himself.
Considering the fact that Ezio has remained relatively tight-lipped about the justification for his various actions throughout the last two games, it's likely that players may have as many questions about the man as terms of endearment for him. Why did Ezio not assassinate Cesare or Rodrigo Borgia when he had the chance? Why did Ezio feel he could leave the Order to grow itself when he did? Is it ever possible to leave the enemies of the past behind? These are the questions explored with Embers, giving attention to the man that until now has played second fiddle to Desmond.
Another chance to hear Ezio's personal mission and understanding of right and wrong is worth the price of admission alone, but the new insights provided by the film - in typical Ubisoft writing and execution - make the film a necessary end to Ezio's saga. For all the recruiting and apprenticing that made Ezio's games in the series stand apart, the assassin's teachings have never been fully explained. The film may not include an extensive explanation or re-telling of Ezio's life in his own words - that just wouldn't be Ezio - but seeing how the passing of time has granted a clarity that the young and violent Auditore only longed for is a joy to watch:
"The life of an assassin is pain, Jun. You suffer it, you inflict it, you watch it happen in the hope that you can make it disappear in time. A terrible irony, but there you go."
The last days of Ezio Auditore may or may not be what the fans would like to see, but there is no arguing that the single-minded narrative the team at Ubi Workshop delivered does justice to the source material. With more than a few nods and winks for long-time fans, the short film may not be an absolute necessity for players to grasp the overall story, but it is no doubt a worthy addition.
The most striking feature of the film is the art style, blending computer animation with a painted aesthetic for a refreshing and underutilized look that we certainly hope to see more of in the future. While the fight choreography may not be as well-crafted as that seen in the Revelations E3 trailer, the connection that players have no doubt formed with Ezio more than makes up for it.
Running at just over twenty minutes, the film is surely going to be leaving fans longing for more, but not due to a lack of story or closure. The ending created is everything that the climax of Revelations was: poignant, touching, suspenseful, and bittersweet. The short may not be lauded as a masterpiece in the genre, or in terms of animation, but for fans of Ezio Auditore in particular seeing the love and happiness that he finally achieved is the best ending that one could ask for.
It's hard to accept that Ezio's story is truly over, and we would give anything for it not to be so, but it's hard to think of a better or more fitting ending than that of Embers.
Assassin's Creed: Embers is available now for $3.99 on PSN and 320 MS Points on Xbox Live, which is a relatively small price to pay to bring both Ezio's tale to a close and further support to the developers behind it.
What did you think of the film? Did it draw Ezio's tale to a close in the way you'd hope, or did you hope the developers would take a different direction? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.
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