Which Assassin’s Creed Game Should I Start With? – A Beginner’s Guide all the way to Mirage

Even if you’re not neck deep in the world of video games every day, it’s pretty likely you know about Assassin’s Creed. In addition to being one of the biggest game franchises in history with over 200 million sales, Ubisoft’s action-adventure blockbuster has spawned dozens of spin-off mobile games, a feature length movie, a ton of crossovers, uncountable merch, and an upcoming live-action Netflix series. Now we’ve got the thirteenth mainline instalment, Assassin’s Creed Mirage , which takes us to 9th century Baghdad. If you’re not familiar with the games, they’re historical fiction pieces that insert a two thousand-year-old brotherhood, the Assassin’s Creed, into major world history events. The assassins have been fighting for the common people against the empires of the world since 49 BC. Likewise, most of history’s major wars have been manufactured by an opposing brotherhood called the Templars.

All of history for the past 2000 years has just been a back and forth battle between the Templars and Assassins. It’s not as simple as good and evil, though – in effect, the Assassins fight for the good of the individual while the Templars fight for the good of the whole. In one sense, the Assassins have caused their fair share of strife as well, because their whole thing is disrupting imperial systems, but overall are presented as arbiters of justice. They move in the shadows, kill those who would oppress the common people, and never seek fame or fortune. Each game sees a person in the modern age using a machine called the Animus to relive their ancestors’ memories, unlock secrets about the past, and use that knowledge to fight the Templar threat in the present. Each story is relatively standalone outside of The Ezio Collection, which must be played in order. My love for the series mainly stems from my love for world history, as Ubisoft pays pinpoint attention to the most minute details about culture, architecture, language and historical figures. If you want to dive in and actually live out history, there’s no better place to do it. Thing is, a lot of these titles are extremely similar to each other in gameplay. Like virtually indistinguishable. So I advise breaking up release order so as not to get burnt out! Here’s my recommendation on the order in which to play the main series titles.

1. Assassin’s Creed II (2009)

Ezio being a cool, rude dude.

What? Not the first one? Nope. Assassin’s Creed II is actually when the series exploded, and is still very much one of the best games in the long-running series to date. Assassin’s Creed II is a direct sequel to the first game, but the present-day protagonist Desmond Miles gives a quick recap to new players that more than suffices. In the present, the Templars have formed a worldwide megacorporation known as Abstergo Industries. Desmond reaches to the past to his ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Renaissance Italy. Ezio is one of the few examples in modern media of the Han Solo-type done right. He’s rude, quick to temper, adventurous, promiscuous, and will stab you as quick as ask for your name, but underneath there’s a genuine heart of gold. His ferocity and emotion comes from his drive to protect his sister and mother in this beautifully structured recreation of Florence, aided by historical figures such as Leonardo Da Vinci.

Assassin’s Creed II has a perfectly sized open world that mixes quests with open ended adventure to let you play your way but still with direction. The stealth feels good, the combat is still passable in 2023, and the story is riveting. Ezio has proven to be such a beloved character that he still is the mascot of the franchise, appearing in crossovers like Fall Guys, Fortnite, Final Fantasy… and that’s just the F section. Assassin’s Creed II is available on Steam, while the remastered version is listed as The Ezio Collection on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

2. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (2010)

Brotherhood
Never forget your hidden blade!

I went back and forth on this, but I think for story’s sake it’s best to continue and finish Ezio’s trilogy before proceeding. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is a direct sequel to Assassin’s Creed II , following Ezio and Desmond’s next joint adventure to defeat the Templars. Ezio, now a master assassin, travels to Rome to restart the brotherhood known as the Assassin’s Creed. Brotherhood continues the story exactly where Assassin’s Creed II left off, so you do have to play that game first. I should note that outside of the Ezio trilogy, the games can mostly be played in any order. There is of course an overarching story concerning the Templars seeking the pieces of Eden to achieve ultimate power, but that story is frankly thrown to the wayside more and more with each subsequent entry. By the time we get to the Ancient Trilogy, it actually just doesn’t matter at all.

Still, Brotherhood continues Assassin’s Creed II‘s gameplay style with a few small quality-of-life updates and a new world to explore. If you’re, for some reason, not feeling like hanging out with Ezio anymore, jump on over to Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is available on Steam, while the remastered version is listed as The Ezio Collection on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

3. Assassin’s Creed Revelations (2011)

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Hookshot!

If you’ve played Brotherhood, then it is surely now time for Revelations, the finale of the Ezio Trilogy. As Desmond continues his fight in the present time to destroy Abstergo in what I think is the only interesting present-day story in the franchise, Ezio continues on to Constantinople during the rise of the Ottoman Empire. The story concludes with a big bang, and after some devastating losses of beloved characters over the course of the series, Ezio takes the fight to the Templars one final time by depending on memories of the protagonist of the first game, Altair. I don’t think knowledge of the first game is necessary to enjoy this, but you’d also be fine just reading a plot summary or video to that effect.

Gameplay sees a little more of an upgrade this time, adding a hookshot to aid in both combat and traversal, as well as upgraded Eagle Sight. Revelations is interesting because it has an air of melancholy to it as the trilogy reaches its conclusion, so I recommend sticking with it. There’s less happy-go-lucky running about on rooftops and a lot more contemplative loss, which I think the series loses as it goes on. Once again, hit up Steam for the PC version of the original or find the remaster as part of The Ezio Collection on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

4. Assassin’s Creed Black Flag (2013)

Black Flag
That’s not Captain Barbossa. Stop asking questions.

Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me! After Assassin’s Creed II, I think it’s fair to say Assassin’s Creed Black Flag is the next highest fan favorite. Storywise, I think it certainly is my favorite. The bait-and-switch opening is one of my favorites in gaming history, setting privateer-turned-pirate Edward Kenway on a journey in coastal South Carolina in the Golden Age of Piracy. I actually like Edward a lot, even if he is maybe the most blatant Jack Sparrow rip-off ever. It’s hard to blame Ubisoft – when this game was pitched a few years prior, Pirates of the Caribbean was still sailing high on the zeitgeist, and Ubisoft managed to throw a few Easter Egg references to the Disney movies for vigilant players to find. Regardless, Edward is a great protagonist because no matter what work he does for the Assassins, he’s not really one of them. He’s just a guy who was in the right place at the right time, stealing the secrets of the Brotherhood under the pretenses of a massive lie, and raking in the gold as he does it. Blag Flag is technically part of a trilogy as well, with Rogue and Assassin’s Creed III, but it’s a lot less connected than the Ezio trilogy and in my opinion can be played in any order you’d like.

Black Flag’s tone is very devil-may-care, and the gameplay is improved with better parkour and the famous ship combat that you’ve definitely heard about. My unpopular opinion is that I didn’t much enjoy the many bouts of ship combat in Black Flag, but I also don’t generally enjoy vehicle combat even at its best in games. Most gamers fell in love with it immediately, customizing your ship and taking to the seas in surprisingly authentic pirate warfare. Also, as a South Carolina native, it was cool to see my home featured in a video game for the first (and last) time ever. The game also features a WANTED system similar to Grand Theft Auto that makes you feel like a real pirate and makes the world feel a bit more alive. The music absolutely slaps and the bright color schemes and attention to detail in architecture make this one of my favorite video game open worlds to explore. Assassin’s Creed Black Flag is available on Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.

5. Assassin’s Creed Origins (2017)

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The photo mode in this game is fantastic.

Here’s where things get funky. Many of the Assassin’s Creed games have exceedingly similar gameplay and features, so I recommend breaking up the ones that are a little too similar by alternating. As I said, there is certainly an overarching story, but it doesn’t make a huge difference if you’ve  played the games in order because they’re good about filling you in. Therefore, I propose to you a twist – jump over to Assassin’s Creed Origins. This is probably my second favorite game in the franchise, although for me they’re hard to rank. Origins is the first game of the Ancient Trilogy, followed by Odyssey and then Valhalla. Origins is so vastly and unbelievably different than the last 10 years of the series that it’s hard to even believe it’s the same series. In fact, a lot of fans still say it’s not really an Assassin’s Creed game. That’s not how I would put it, but the fact that you can’t actually assassinate some people anymore was kind of a strange decision.

Origins is a full-blown hardcore open world Action RPG, complete with hundreds of weapons and armor modifications, gear upgrades, giant skill trees, XP, leveled enemies and encounters, long quest progression, and more equipment than you will ever, ever collect. Origins also totally overhauls combat, leaning into the gameplay style of The Witcher 3 more than anything else. Origins is pretty heavy on the use of shields, depending on skilled perfect parries combined with elemental damage types and a wide variety of weapons. Bayek, the protagonist, is probably my favorite Assassin mostly due to the amazing performance by Abubakar Salim. The Ancient Trilogy also veers a little away from authentic history, adding in mythical gods for the player to fight such as the crocodile god Sobek. Assassin’s Creed Origins is available on Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

6. Assassin’s Creed Unity (2014)

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Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

Assassin’s Creed Unity is famous for being perhaps the buggiest Ubisoft game in history – and that’s saying something. Unity was Fallout 76 levels of unplayable at launch, and has since garnered a reputation for being one of the worst in the series. While it’s of course unacceptable to launch a game in that state, it has since been patched and patched over and runs smoothly on all modern hardware. Unity is not one of my favorites because the protagonist, Arno Dorian, feels kind of like a less interesting rehash of Ezio. Arno takes to the rooftops in Paris during the French Revolution to find his adoptive father’s killer. I didn’t find the story too interesting, although the cinematic trailer for Unity remains to this day my favorite cinematic game trailer of all time.

All that said, Unity innovates on the gameplay a little more than previous intervals with way more weapon and armor customization, actually usable social stealth, heist missions, and the series first co-op campaign. This is, for me, when the modern day story became a bit too goofy and underwhelming to continue to be worth it. Some folks will swear by Unity, and outside of the pretty rough AI stealth detection it’s an improvement over the predecessors as far as gameplay and map design goes. You can find it on Steam, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

7. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (2017)

Odyssey 1
The vistas in ancient Greece are unforgettable.

If you’re aware of one Assassin’s Creed game, I’d hazard a guess that it’s Odyssey. It exploded in popularity due to a number of technical and gameplay achievements, but probably none so much as that the internet is absurdly horny for Kassandra, the protagonist. I like Kassandra quite a bit – she’s got a brazen personality that matches her tough bodybuilder exterior and complements her friendly attitude well. She’s playful and lovely right up until she’s beating your butt right into the pavement. Okay, fine, I see what happened with the internet. Odyssey is not one of my favorite stories, but it does feature a ton of historical figures from 431 BC Greece such as Hippocrates, Leonidus, Plato, Sophocles, Pythagoras, and even Socrates himself. All these figures were actually present in the Greek city-states during this time, and it’s fun to see how they fit into the story while still retaining historical fact. Also, you can do the Spartan kick from 300, so that’s pretty cool.

Odyssey is probably best known for the Cult of the Kosmos – your assassination targets are a smattering of secret cult members around the world, disguised as regular civilians. You’ll collect clues and information about the whereabouts, profession, appearance, etc of each of the cult members and track them down purely by eyesight and deduction. It’s a great feature because it also leans into your own intuition rather than relying on the classic Ubisoft waypoints. I think the combat is a step down from Origins as well, ditching the shields and going for weapon parries coupled with a bigger focus on dodges. While, like Origins and Valhalla, this open world action RPG is about 20 hours too long, it’s one of the most beautiful open world maps I’ve ever explored and once again the dedication and attention to detail in architecture, food, dress and culture is beyond impressive. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is available on Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. A Nintendo Switch cloud version is available only on the Japanese eShop, but it’s easy to buy with a Japanese account no matter what country you live in if that’s the only way for you to play.

8. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015)

Syndicate
The train is your player housing, which is a little less than convenient since it’s always moving.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was actually the first game in the series that I played. Gasp! I know, I know. I didn’t actually own a non-Nintendo console until I bought a PlayStation 4 in 2016, and one of the first things I wanted was the shiny new game from a franchise I’d been hearing about for years. I had basically no knowledge of the world beyond the fact that this was the first game with a female protagonist in the 10 year old franchise, so everything was brand new to my eyes as I made my way across Victorian England in the Industrial Revolution. I still maintain to this day that Syndicate is wildly underrated. It performed poorly due to bugs and people giving up the franchise entirely after Unity, but it’s very much the weird in-between game of the series. Not quite sure if it wants to be an old school Assassin’s Creed game or the RPG that we’d get in Origins , it simply splits the difference and decides to do both. The result is a lack of a singular vision for what Syndicate is, and it’s hard to deny that no matter how much I love it. It reminds me a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which was also the weird in-between styles game (and coincidentally also my first Zelda game).

Syndicate sets assassin twins Jacob and Evie Frye in London at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Factories tower over the cobblestone squares, children work grueling hours at the mills, and the Pound is the only authority the rich, monocled titans of industry answer to. You play as both twins, sticking with a specific one for story missions but being able to choose freely who you play as to roam around the world. Jacob and Evie have their own individual arsenal of powers and abilities, which I really enjoyed, because they cater to different playstyles. Jacob is the muscle, preferring to bare-knuckle box goons into submission and yell obscenities when he stomps their teeth out. Evie is better for the stealth and tactical approach, more than compensating for her lack of brawn with clever leverage manipulation techniques to take out huge dudes. You’ll tear down the 1%, assassinate (and eat) the rich, and raise the lower classes together into a gang you form called The Rooks. And you’ll meet some great historical figures here such as Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Alexander Graham Bell and even Charles Darwin along the way! Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Steam.

9. Assassin’s Creed Mirage (2023)

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Baghdad is probably the most beautiful world in franchise history.

The newest installment in the Assassin’s Creed series, Mirage, is in this spot for one reason and one reason only: I absolutely implore you to play it before Valhalla. The protagonist, Basim, is featured as a side character in Valhalla and plays a crucial part in the story in a way I will not spoil. However, the truth of his identity that is revealed in that game kind of kills his character’s motivations. While playing Mirage, I knew Basim’s true identity and motivation, which made it a lot more difficult to empathize with him and feel like I was part of his story. Mirage is special, in a way, because it takes the franchise back to the old ways, before the days of open world and RPG mechanics. Mirage is essentially an evolution on the basic formula from Assassin’s Creed II, but with lots of quality of life updates found in the Ancient Trilogy as well as the all powerful pet eagle. While the story is underwhelming, Mirage delivered to me exactly what I wanted as far as gameplay and surprised me in a few ways as well.

You’ll step into a beautifully recreated version of Bahgdad in the 9th century, during the height of the Golden Age of Islamic Science at its very center. For those unfamiliar with history, during medieval times, known historically as the Christian Dark Ages, the Catholic Church traveled the lands of Europe and attempted to destroy all art, science, literature, and culture created by any pagan society. That means the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Phoenicians, and more. The only reason we, in present times, know a single thing about those civilizations and the scientific advances they made is because the Islamic world took on the heavy task of not only preserving, but building upon those sciences. While Europe was set back thousands of years in technological advancement, Arabia flourished, and Assassin’s Creed Mirage knows and celebrates that. It also features excellent full Arabic voice acting – please, please play the game this way. It’s also full of notes and books detailing the real, fascinating history of The Fertile Crescent and some stellar personal stories in The Tales of Baghdad story missions. Mirage immersed me in real history in a way that the Ancient Trilogy didn’t, despite being great games, and I recommend it for anyone who wants to feel like they stepped into the pages of a finely detailed book. Assassin’s Creed Mirage is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via the Epic Games Store or Ubisoft Connect.

10. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (2020)

Valhalla
Eivor has a cool design but is lacking in personality.

I love Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The vistas are breathtaking; the overhaul of how quests work is very organic and removes a lot of UI nonsense; there are instances of genuine emergent gameplay wandering the open world; the voice actors for the main cast are some of the best in the series; the RPG mechanics are meaningful and manageable; you get to build your own village at a pleasant pace and watch it grow; the mini-games are all fun; the weapons and shields feel perfected from their conception in Origins; and the locations are both well designed and visually intriguing to encourage exploration by wanderlust rather than waypoints. It’s a purposefully designed game that collects the best of Origins and Odyssey and thoughtfully blends their strengths. However, there is a big ole asterisk holding it back from being one of the all-time greats. It is too. Damn. Big.The first 15 hours and the last 15 hours of Valhalla are a legitimate masterpiece. But Nirav, what of the middle 25 hours? Well, they suck.

The first half of Valhalla’s story really, really intrigued me. It’s a very personal story between the protagonist, Eivor, and her brother Sigurd the Viking King. It’s that relationship between siblings that drives the first part of the story, as the two of the grow farther apart the more they accomplish and eventually turn against one another. Then, at about the halfway point, it does what most of the Assassin’s Creed games do and becomes a bunch of mumbo jumbo exposition about stuff that isn’t important to the story at hand. Eivor is also only an interesting character in terms of her relationship with her brother, so once you’re separated it become apparent she’s a very blank slate. I loved my time with Valhalla, and it’s hard to describe this, but the middle third of the game is basically all the worst parts. The story is the weakest, the environments are the weakest, the quest writing is the weakest, and largely every kingdom’s quest is just “go here and kill that,” only it’s 19 kingdoms in a row. Valhalla also features my favorite location in all of video games, Glowecestrescire, right near the end. Valhalla is a strange beast that contains both some of the best video game I’ve ever played and some of the most tedious and boring. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is available on Steam, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.

11. Assassin’s Creed Rogue (2014)

AC Rogue
Dual wielding is cool, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I don’t have a lot of opinions on Assassin’s Creed Rogue, and I feel like I never hear it mentioned as either anyone’s favorite or least favorite game in the series. It just kind of floats unimpressively in the middle, and is largely forgettable. Rogue stars a new protagonist Shay Cormac, a first generation orphan from Irish parents in the US. Set during the French and Indian War (or Seven Years War), Shay finds himself deep in Assassins vs Templar lore dumps more often than not. Shay is an alright character – he’s brash, bold, and doesn’t take thing seriously – but he’s not really enough to carry the story for me. It feels a bit impersonal compared to Black Flag before it.

Gameplay is advanced with new map features and environmental hazards, as well as bit more of a living world with Shay now being able to kill civilians and animals at will without desynchronizing. Naval combat plays a big part and is integrated into this game’s campaign more seamlessly then it was with Black Flag, although I’m still not a big fan of it. Don’t listen to me about naval combat though, it is wildly popular among the fandom and I’m the odd one out. Rogue is a fine game that feels heavy with exposition and light on personality, and unless you’re determined to do the whole series it’s probably better to stop with Valhalla. Assassin’s Creed Rogue is available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Steam.

12. Assassin’s Creed (2007)

AC 1
Assassin’s Creed 1 is really showing its age.

I don’t have too much to say about the original Assassin’s Creed. While it introduced the Animus, the lore, and the detailed open worlds that the series has become famous for, I don’t feel that it left a huge impression on me. Desmond (who you may remember continues as our present-day protagonist in Assassin’s Creed II) is forced into the Animus and into the memories of his ancestor Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad during the Third Crusade in Jerusalem. While it has a great world design, the parkour mechanics aren’t quite there yet and the camera control hasn’t aged well. The combat is also pretty secondary to stealth, almost an afterthought, so it almost necessitates playing it stealthy and safe to beat the game. While the story is interesting, the original Assassin’s Creed feels like a relic of its time in a way that the sequel doesn’t. It’s possible this is due to the fact that this game was originally developed as a Prince of Persia title for the PlayStation 2, and was remade into a new game for a new console halfway through development. Regardless, I’d love to see Assassin’s Creed get a full ground-up remake sometime, to make it a little more accessible to modern players. Assassin’s Creed is available only on Steam, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

13. Assassin’s Creed III (2012)

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I’ll be honest, there is no game within this franchise where the archery feels good.

The reason I insist you save this one for last is because it’s probably the worst of the main series games. The camera, combat, parkour, story, writing, and protagonist are somehow all worse than the Ezio trilogy, even though Assassin’s Creed III was made directly following those games. While the setting is promising and it introduces a wealth of new weapons and mechanics, none of it meshes together quite right and the level design seems antagonistic to exploration. The coolest thing about this entry in the franchise is that it is the first major video game to feature a protagonist from the Mohawk tribe. As it’s set during the American Revolution in the 1770s, the Native American tribes play a crucial part in the story and in fighting back the British from their lands. Ubisoft went all in on making sure the Mohawk culture was represented authentically, from food to clothes to language, by working with long-term consultants from the tribe.

The story of Assassin’s Creed III unfortunately grows boring quickly, and I don’t feel it finds its feet again. If you’re a fan and have enjoyed all the games in the franchise thus far, and want to finish it out, go for it. If you’re looking at playing them in release order, I’d skip III. It does conclude the Desmond Miles storyline in the present, and frankly his is the only present-day storyline worth even talking about, so if you need some closure on that character you may want to play this entry earlier. Unfortunately, it’s paced badly and doesn’t seem to know exactly what its trying to do with the new gameplay mechanics. You can play Assassin’s Creed III on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Steam, and Nintendo Switch.

Spin-Offs? Spin-Offs!

Counting the mobile and handheld exclusive games, Assassin’s Creed has dozens of spin-off games that are almost all terrible and not worth your time. The only console/PC spin-offs are the Chronicles trilogy, which are 2D action platformers set in India, China, and Russia respectively. I’m mostly mad at these games because they took three of the most interesting settings in the world and wasted them on these very barebones games. I don’t recommend spending your time or money on them. Assassin’s Creed Liberation is the only spin-off I’d pay attention to, which originally launched on PS Vita but is now available on modern consoles. I’d avoid the Nintendo Switch version as it’s a pretty pathetic port, but the HD remaster of Liberation is worth looking into on Steam, PlayStation, and Xbox. It’s the first game to feature a female protagonist and also acts as a companion to Assassin’s Creed III, but better.

So What Now?

You can feel free to remix my recommended order of games here, or play them in release order as Ubisoft intended. I recommend you play the Ezio trilogy in order, but outside of that the world is your oyster! What’s your favorite Assassin’s Creed game? Got a different ranking? Let us know in the comments below!

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Claire
Claire
9 months ago

Hey, I really enjoyed this article! The synopses were useful and interesting. I watched a friend of mine play some of the Ezio games years ago. He’s since passed, but I don’t feel ready to play those games myself, but I’ve been wondering where to start besides them! (I did also play black flag, which I REALLY liked, but I’m with you on the whole ship combat stuff— cool the first time, quickly tedious). I’ll probably go with Origins now because I love ancient history, but the background/context you gave here was really helpful! Thanks for this!

Jonatan
Jonatan
9 months ago

wtf!!! Ac3 had best combat and best story ever.AC 1 and AC2 are boring like hell