Tracking Assassin’s Creed’s box art through the years
We’ve been through seven years of Assassin’s Creed. Seven years of stabbing men in the past, leaping from rooftops, and running in-place as everything loads in.
With the impending release of Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Rogue, that will bring the total count of major releases to 10. I thought it would be fun to track the evolution of the Assassin’s Creed box art to see how far we and our white-cloaked heroes have come.
Ubisoft’s first entry into what would become its most successful franchise had the great challenge of introducing itself to the gaming audience in 2007. I’m not sure this box art tells us enough about what Assassin’s Creed is, but it sure is fittingly menacing for a series about stealthy murder.
We have a man with a bespoke cloak (I’m taking that username) with a suggestive blade protruding out of his left hand. What is he going to do with it, we ask ourselves. He’s in a crowd of people and nobody is aware of it. That can only mean he’s about to perform ill deeds, like a hit or an … assassination. Okay, maybe Ubisoft nailed it with this one after all.
What are sequels anyway? To Ubisoft, a sequel must mean to do more of what the first one did. Not only does the Assassin’s Creed 2 box art choose to go with roman numerals–because with the part-sci-fi-part-historic story it would have been anyone’s call–it also shows a man with two (!) hidden blades and basically double the amount of cloak. This man, who is still among a crowd of unaware people, has his chest out and arms spread like he’s taunting anyone that would dare to mess with him. The blades are no longer a subtle hint, they are out and ready to stab. There’s definitely a sense of bravado here, and I don’t think it’s only coming from the character in the game.
Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines came out on the PlayStation Portable the same day as what is now one of the most beloved entries in the Assassin’s Creed series. You can immediately tell the scope and attitude of Bloodlines is way different than Assassin’s Creed 2. This box art more resembles that of the first game: a cloaked man with a hidden blade ready to assassinate with. It looks like he’s on a rooftop eyeing his target. Where Assassin’s Creed 2 chose to push the series’ identity to badass killing, Bloodlines remembers its roots and exercises some restraint. I like it, even if this would become the last time we see a box art that so closely looks like the original game.
Oh man. He’s got a posse now. The box art for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood has attitude. It says, “We’re here and you can’t do anything to stop us.” Again, I wonder if I should interpret that coming from the game or Ubisoft. This is also the first time our hero (or heroes) are set in a completely abstract location, which if you’ve played the game, you know probably takes place inside an Animus, but for what the box art needs to communicate, this is really about the team of characters.
This was almost my favorite box art of the bunch, just for how it matched the themes of the game.
For a box art that claims to make revelations, the Assassin’s Creed: Revelations box art does a pretty good job at hinting at them, at least if you’ve played the main games up until this point. Set, again, on an animus background we see both Altair from Assassin’s Creed and Ezio from Assassin’s Creed 2 and Brotherhood. If you know the characters, then you know that if they meet, there must be some serious story reveals coming. I also like how Altair seems to have his blade out to stab secretly, while Ezio, true to his character, has his out ready to take anyone on from the front. There’s a nice duality to it. Nice job, Ubisoft.
What I love most about the Assassin’s Creed 3 box art is the amount of motion it has. We see the flag waving in the background, dirt scattering as our hero topples a soldier and is about to tomahawk him in the face. It’s pretty visceral for a series of games that have become more and more visceral as they’ve went on. The art also tells us that the game takes place during the American Revolutionary War with two warring sides and our hero between them. It’s beautiful, if you can describe many imminent murders that way. This is my second favorite Assassin’s Creed box art.
The Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation box art is disappointing, especially when you consider that it came out the same day as Assassin’s Creed 3 proper. It’s so boring. I see that someone wanted to make sure people understood that this game was Different. It has a female, African-French protagonist that uses both guns and blades. She’s badass, but she’s just standing there. There’s no motion or drama in the art. It’s stale and I don’t like it.
Woah, what? Pirates? That’s what I asked myself when I first saw this box art for Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. I think that’s exactly what Ubisoft was going for. Here we see that there’s still some motion and drama in the scene. We see another flag, this time with the assassin logo and Jolly Roger-esque skull and another cloaked hero who has just slain a soldier with a blade and a gun. I’m not sure why, but Assassin’s Creed has slowly devalued the hidden blade for the gun and the sword combo. This is the first major release that really drives the gun and sword combo home. I also appreciate that, like Assassin’s Creed 3 and Liberation, the box art has an actual setting instead of an Animus grid. This one is pretty good, but I don’t like that it opts for the post-murder scene when it’s clear pre-murder is way more exciting.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity’s box art is underwhelming. It seems to try to blend the motion of Assassin’s Creed 3 with the attitude of Assassin’s Creed: Brothehood for a lazy result. Also, gone are the white cloaks. These men have more taste than Ezio or Altair, but that’s not to say that have good taste. Again, they are in a real location, which is good, but all we see are sparks that suggest something cool happened; we don’t actually see any action. This box art seems to want to say it’s co-op Assassin’s Creed and nothing more. Ubisoft, you’re better than this.
Step aside PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (which is only coming out on last-gen consoles) just made a fool of you with its surprisingly good box art. We have a black cloaked man with both blade and gun (keeping with the trend) and he’s about to throw down. But who is he up against? Oh snap, these men in the foreground have blades too! This box art puts you right into the conflict and withholds the resolution. You have to play the game to find out. There’s drama, there’s setting, there’s admittedly not a lot of movement but I think it still works, and there’s snow to contrast our hero. If that’s not stellar box art design that I don’t know what is. This is my favorite Assassin’s Creed box art.
Cloaked male heroes: 13
Cloaked female heroes: 1
Hidden blades: 13
Is there any other series that has interesting box art?