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A Review of Assassin’s Creed Rebellion -a charming but ok time waster

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Assassin's Creed Rebellion is a free to play mobile game developed by Behaviour Interactive and published by Ubisoft. Its wiki describes it as "Historic action-strategy RPG" which, while technically true, isn't as impressive as it sounds.

Rebellion is divided into 2 main modes, on mission and at the meta HQ stuff. Let's talk about the missions first.

Missions work by the player selecting 3 characters to bring with them from the pool of characters they've unlocked. This can include characters from the Spanish Inquisition Setting like Aquilar, or characters from completely different times and settings like Kassandara from 450 BCE before the Assassins were even officially established (and your chosen characters can chat during missions and with targets like nothing is out of the ordinary which is quite funny). Each character can be from one of 3 classes and further specialized into subclasses. The 3 classes are combat (characterized by a pink symbol), stealth (are blue) and support (are green). Subclasses for support include medics who can health other characters and mechanics who can disable traps. Subclasses for the stealth side include characters who can parkour better or those who can parkour well but also use the hidden blade to assassinate enemies. Each mission has a recommended list of which subclasses would be ideal but you can ignore it if you choose to play the mission yourself. You don't need one of every main class. You can totally do a mission with just combat guys or 2 medics and a trap guy regardless of what the mission recommends but it may be harder. On said missions, the level is divided into rooms that have their own specific hazards and obstacles like guards, traps, gaps etc. You have to choose which one of the 3 characters brought along gets sent into the next room to get to the end of the room. If a character runs out of health while moving through the room, you must send someone else to get through the room while that original character is benched for the rest of the level. Depending on the character chosen there can be different ways to get through the room. In a room with guards, a stealth focused character assassinate guards or parkour their way above them. However, characters only have a certain number of times they can use specific abilities. Like Aquilar can only attempt to Assassinate 4 people in an entire level. After the 4th guy, you can't stealth kill any more enemies. Same for other abilities like better parkour and disabling traps so some amount of resource management is required to get through levels well. You might consider sending in a combat guy to fight enemies to save your stealth guy's stealth kills for a later room for example. Also note that many of these out of combat abilities have a % chance to succeed so it's possible to fail an assassination attempt and then have to fight enemies while also taking a slight health penalty for failing that assassination. Combat works on a turn based system where you and your opponents trade blows and both can use special abilities and attacks after a certain amount of turns pass. Combat abilities don't seem to have a limited number of uses and rely on cooldowns. Levels can be quite sprawling with many different paths through and occasional bonus rooms with some extra loot. Note, you cannot backtrack through a level.

The main issue I have with the missions is that they are quite shallow. It rarely feels like a real strategic operation I'm doing with my squad and more like a simple gauntlet of basic obstacles designed to whittle my team down. It's so simple that it could be automated….. and it is. There is an auto-play button that plays the level for you and the system appears to be decent.

All this means is that this isn't a game to really dive deep into. This is more of a chill time-waster type game. I mostly played this game while my grandparents were sitting with me and watching cooking shows. It was simple enough to keep me occupied while allowing me to chat with them and pay some attention to other stuff.

The other side of the game is the meta stuff. You have to complete missions to find resources to let you craft gear for your squads, unlock more characters and upgrade your HQ. Your HQ is a collection of rooms that provide you benefits like levelling up your characters, crafting weapons and armour for them, healing them if they are wounded, generating some resources etc. Initially, I expected this to be like Fallout Shelter where I could build my own rooms and fine tune the experience I had in the field. Like, I could make lots of medical rooms so I could brute force through hard missions by always having someone recovering so I could play riskier. But you can only build a select number of each kind room. You don’t even have a choice in the order which you can build rooms since they are unlocked in a preset order based on when you level up as the rooms have a level requirement. Honestly, you could remove the HQ altogether and just have a series of menus that do the job probably faster. Have a menu for crafting and levelling up, you can have tabs telling you how much bonus healing and resources you are gathering. The HQ doesn't really have much more to it. There aren't any interactions or activities you can do with your characters. No Minigames or challenges at base. It really just is a glorified menu.

In addition to that, you have to gather resources to make your characters stronger for later missions. This is where the Free-to-play nature of the game comes in as you'll often have to go back and play older missions to play later ones, or pay to get more intel and resources faster. The game does have a feature where it lets you instantly complete past missions you've gotten a 3 star rank in to get their resources at the cost of some of your squad's health provided you send in members with the recommended subclasses otherwise you won't be allowed to rush the mission and either have to find a mission whose criteria you meet or play it manually.

The Presentation:

In comparison to most AC games which go for a photo realistic style, Rebellion opts for a cute chibi artstyle which I do like. It pops on phones. The soundtrack, sound effects, environments and models are all also well done.

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One aspect the game tries to go for is a "gotta catch em all" approach by letting you collect AC characters from across the franchise as part of your squad. While this is kinda cool and fan-service-y, I question its efficacy for more casual fans. With something like Marvel or DC, such an approach works better because there's a massive list of very popular characters people are quite fond off and are even somewhat known by even casual fans. And even less popular characters are still somewhat iconic with cool designs, deep backstories and lore that could make someone unfamiliar with them somewhat curious. With Assassin's Creed, aside from the main protagonists of the games, the side casts aren't as developed or iconic or have that star power to make it cool when you unlock them. I don't imagine many players who unlock Qasim al-Dani, Gershon Deloya or Lupo Gallego will even know who these characters are never mind be excited by them. While the current pool of characters certainly has some iconic faces, the future is somewhat limited by who the games can add and people be willing to pay or play for. It's a somewhat similar issue I have with some RWBY mobile games. Besides the main squad and some of the villains, everybody else has very little to excite me when I unlock them. Though, at least with RWBY, the visual designs of the plethora of side characters at least look more distinct which I cannot say the same for with Rebellion. That's not a knock against the AC games or the franchise. Some franchises don't focus on large ensemble casts that would translate to more iconic ensemble video games. I imagine a GTA or Saints Row style game in this format would also have a similar uphill challenge because the source games are more focused on individual characters who are a jack of all trades rather than an ensemble of heroes.

The Story:

I'm just gonna let the Wiki describe what's going on here:

"Rebellion is an Abstergo Entertainment product created using a mobile version of the Animus 4.3 connected to the Helix servers, which was dubbed the Mobile Animus 4.38. The product was released in November 2018 and primarily dealt with the prelude to and immediate aftermath of the Granada War during the Spanish Reconquista, following Aguilar de Nerha and the Spanish Brotherhood of Assassins as they fought the Spanish Rite of the Templars who operated under the guise of the Inquisition lead by Tomás de Torquemada.

Through Rifts in the simulation, players could experience Events which occurred in other time periods, ranging from the Peloponnesian War to the Roman Empire's rule over Egypt. During its 2018 anniversary Event "Echoes Through the Animus", the product's servers were hacked by an unknown individual using the handle 3P3EC74R, who revealed the next planned Event was to take place in the Golden Age of Piracy. Features included in the product beyond the Helix Rift Events are the Helix Store, Animus Challenges, Animus Bonus Hours, Animus Carousel, and Animus Bounties."

Basically, the story of this game is that this game is a mobile game made by Abstergo (probably in collaboration with Ubisoft) using a mobile version of the new Animus to let users experience the aftermath of the Granada War and have special timed events to see other stuff from the past mostly related to the Assassins side. Which is quite ridiculous. Ironically that explains why the Free-to-Play stuff is so irritating but I do wonder how much of the Assassins and Templars is known in the in-game universe? Since at least AC3 Liberation, Abstergo has been making "Assassin's Creed Games" in-universe thanks to their Animus programs but the benefit of which isn't well used. Like, shouldn't making these in-universe games and products be a bad thing? It's harder to remain a secret organization when you are making video games about your secret organization from your rival's point of view using a device that tell you what was going on in history, albeit with some edits. But those edits seem haphazardly designed. They don't seem to work in convincing people the Assassins are bad or the Templars good or they don't exist or whatever since the edits these games make in-universe don't really cover the truth or skew it well. Like anyone playing Liberation with no context of the Assassins or the Templars beforehand isn't going to come away thinking the Assassins are the bad guys or whatever. If anything, it might make people more sympathetic to the plight of the Assassins. I'm starting to think these are more inside jokes designed to be meta for the sake of it that are carried from game to game rather than some serious aspect of the AC lore that's going to have major impacts. Still I'm quite enjoying them so I certainly hope they continue as they are certainly a better idea than a modern day set of missions. But I do wonder if these could have been integrated better with the other games as a form of storytelling. Imagine if the next Assassin's Creed game is like 4 where you play as an Abstergo employee gathering footage of the American Civil War or something in the modern day and Rebellion gets updates and events showing the progress Abstergo is making in developing and advertising this new project. Or the other way, if the next AC is like Valhalla and you could have outside Assassin cells contacting you and using your mobile Animus to gather intel about the past and even some insight into Layla's team. I imagine that's a tall order and Ubisoft doesn't seem as hands on as something like Disney is with all supplementary projects tying into their current Star Wars EU. Plus, would most players even enjoy such events? Would the game even allow these events to shine or feel like more than just ads for the new game? The current events the game had, like the one with Elvior was a decent bit of fan service even if it made no sense how your characters from the 1600s could chat with Elvior which did end up making it more funny though.

In Conclusion, I'd recommend playing Rebellion as a simple but charming time waster, casually seeing numbers, stats and resources going up as its design is closer to that of an Idle game than a traditional strategy game. To that end, Rebellion accomplishes its goal. Though it is a little sad to see it aim so low. But I guess if I wanted a full on detailed stealth strategy game, I could play Invisible Inc, hopefully that comes out on consoles and iOS one day. But there is potential in Assassin's Creed taking a stab at that design using its own unique elements and I hope that comes to fruition.

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