Assassin's Creed Protagonists Ranked

I'm playing through all of these games right now, most of which for the first time, so I'm going to rank every playable character as I go. Spoilers within.

Games I've played/watched so far:

Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines

Assassin's Creed II

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Assassin's Creed: Revelations

Assassin's Creed: Embers

Assassin's Creed III

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin's Creed IV: Freedom Cry

Assassin's Creed: Rogue

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India

List items

  • The reason why Ezio is so beloved by fans is that in a series of blank slates he actually has some personality. Literally every fan of the franchise claims Ezio as the favorite, which, y'know, I get. He's a cool guy, charming, gets progressively more likable with age. But he's also kind of a pretentious dick in a way that sticks out playing these games in 2018. There's an entire cutscene dedicated to Leondardo Da Vinci's creation of a flying device - the painter literally bestows the gift of flight to mankind - and Ezio gets all pissy and calls it, quote, "a piece of shit" because it doesn't instantly work correctly. Also? If we're being real? Guy's condescending. Can I really give the top spot to Leonardo Da Vinci's adult bully? Time will tell.

    What Roles He Plays in the Series:

    ACII: Peppy yet emotionless world-class athlete out for revenge

    ACBrotherhood: Extreme mass murderer who is also charming

    ACRevelations: Aged mass murderer who likes tower defense and collecting materials to make bombs he'll never use

    ACChroniclesChina: Tutorial-giver who just smoked a million cigarettes and maybe owns a pizzeria in another life

    ACEmbers: the old guy from Pixar's Up except in reverse

  • Haytham is the sugar-coated colonizing hero personified. The game more or less codes him as "hyper confident English spy" until the script is flipped and we get to see the reality of his character form Connor's perspective.

    Haytham's whole 'judgy imperialist sociopath* act gets really tiresome by the end of the game - he is the fictional embodiment of the 'I won't kill you if you give me this information, gets information, kill person anyway' trope, but he's also quite literally the only recognizable antagonist in the series so far. Getting to fight a character with whom you share a complex relationship and who also is good at what he does is so, *so* rare in this extremely plot-heavy franchise. Haytham's relationship with Charles Lee, his racist protoge, is brainless and unexplored, but even still. As far as I'm concerned, he is one of only two playable characters in the entire series who has any kind of personality whatsoever, so he gets spot 2. So far.

    What Roles He Plays in the Series:

    ACIII: Scary classist conspirator guy who is sort of like James Bond except this time the writer also knows he's an asshole

    ACRogue: Coworker who lets you be the hero because he has better things to do

  • Like any protagonist in the franchise, Adewale is something of a non-character. I can imagine the workings of his inner life in only the broadest strokes. He's different from his contemporaries all the same, though, because what drives him isn't some highfalutin sense of justice or assumed moral compass, but an *emotion* - a sense of empathy for the inert freedom of those around him, a rage at the institutions of the day and a palpable sense of optimism that those institutions can be subverted. I have some *Serious Issues* with the way Black Flag handles the liberation of slaves by awarding the player with currency - therefore liberating dehumanized people by dehumanizing them further as weapon-generating XP grinds - but I have nothing but fondness for Adewale.

    What Roles He Plays in the Series:

    ACIVBlackFlag: the best friend you never give the time of day to

    ACIVFreedomCry: the real MVP

  • As far as I can tell every single bit of characterization Shao Jun gets in Chronicles: China is related to how bad she wants to murder people, which makes her actually the scariest protagonist I've seen so far. Despite her corny coopting of the "dig two graves" line at the end of the game, she seems like a total badass so I'm on board. The animated short makes her seem fairly human and her armor looks better than any other protagonist so far, too.

    What Roles She Plays in the Series:

    ACEmbers: An uncertain heroine who overcomes her inner trials by stabbing a man through the brain

    ACChroniclesChina: Ice cold killer who likes to watercolor

  • First Impression: Jury's out on this guy. On one hand, I'm super into Connor being the cool, calm and collected ethics check on the most image-conscious, backstab-y figures of the American Revolution. On the other hand, that makes Connor *super* dry. His entire character is 'morally good man who stabs.' There's truly nothing under the surface there. Worse yet, I'm not sure Ass 3 even gives Connor's narrow archetype room to breathe. In one level, he's trying to talk down a French butcher from inciting a riot by fighting British soldiers patrolling the streets, but in order for the level to be completed every soldier the butcher begins a conflict with must be defeated. In order to expedite things, I stabbed everyone the butcher was about to begin conflict with before they could fight back - for me, that scene (and the entire game so far, for that matter) was literally this:

    Connor: "We must not resort to violence!"

    Butcher, seeing two British soldiers: "Hey, redcoats! I won't stand for -"

    *Connor stabs both men in the throat*

    Connor, covered in throat blood: "There must be a better way."

    UPDATE: having completed ACIII, I've come around on Connor a touch. The idea that Connor is a completely morally sound blank slate of a character is actually a - well, I was going to say meaningful, which is too strong a word - a *choice* considering how he contrasts with the bleak hypocritical indignities of the world around him. By attacking every complex political and cultural problem with a very simple black-and-white code of honor, he actually ends up complicating every conflict in the game tremendously. His inability to be anything other than a flawless hero both earns him the status of being the game's sole force of unerring good, and also the destruction of everything he holds dear. Connor's situation at the end of the game is *depressing*. There are no heroes left in the world and he's the only one left who has the ability to process that.

    On the other hand, does anyone actually believe Connor as the captain of the Aquila? He has no sense of leadership about him and his crew are faceless nobodies the player never gets to meet. It all feels weirdly dissonant.

    Although, not for nothing, but his getup at the endgame is fucking *rad*.

    What Roles He Plays in the Series:

    ACIII: Guy who looks at bad things and says out loud "that thing is bad"

  • The first impression you get of Edward Kenway is that he seems like a truly awful human being? To be introduced to him as some asshole washed up on an island mercilessly hunting an injured combatant before stripping him naked to rob his associates blind is to know Ubisoft *heard* you about Connor - like, they REALLY course corrected on the boring protagonist thing here and cowtowed their ship straight into psycholand. I think the big thing he learns in the story is that he has a responsibility to the people he's hurt, but also, still gets to pillage for funsies.

    ACIVBlackFlag: greedy sociopath who is hyper capable and somehow heroic because *assassin's creed*.

  • Considering how he's a seafaring rogue that fights like a pirate and brags about the women he's slept with, it's a bit difficult to see Shay Patrick Cormac and not assume he's just Edward Kenway if Edward Kenway liked Hot Topic. He also has a catch phrase that must have been sputtered out from a predictive text bot. Any time anyone wishes Shay luck - which happens with suspicious frequency - he dead eyes the wish-giver and replies, stone-faced, "I make my own luck." This isn't an especially remarkable thing to say, but Shay *insists* everyone around him understands this, all the time. He is a human wish factory, and sister, you best believe he's workin' the 9 to 5 today.

    Because Assassin's Creed: Rogue is a direct copy/paste of Black Flag, Shay's mannerisms and combat style have the same loose swagger of Edward Kenway. They're also similarly portrayed as the prettiest ladies' men in the room. None of this would add up to a remarkable character save for the fact that Shay is working for the Templars. He's Jack Sparrow if Jack Sparrow spent all his time with stuffy British generals. And also didn't live in crab purgatory because of the wet tentacle man, or however that insane franchise works.

    What Roles He Plays in the Series:

    ACRogue: An Edward Kenway who makes his OWN luck

  • Let's be frank: if Bloodlines and Revelations didn't exist, Altair would be the worst playable character in the franchise. He's the equivalent of a B-Tier Anakin Skywalker, which is a thing no one should ever be. I mean, *Desmond* would be outclassing him. We're talking dire straits, here.

    That said, he gets a few more appearances in, and fair is fair: I like his love story with Maria in Bloodlines, in which the two more or less ideologically debate one another into a partnership. And for all my animosity towards him, the sequence in Revelations in which he returns to a besieged Masyaf as a 70+ year old - he's so old the game literally doesn't allow you to run - and then begins and concludes an Assassins civil war in the span of twenty minutes sold me completely. The antagonist is all "you're so old that taking a brisk walk is a task, how are you going to fight an army" and Altair reveals he *invented the gun* in the 1100s by shooting him point blank.

    What Roles He Plays in the Series:

    ACI: Literally a soulless emo sociopath

    ACBloodlines: Lovesick action hero philosopher who likes to journal

    ACII: Horny acrobat

    ACRevelations: Very old, slow revolutionary with a secret

  • Ziio is the definition of a technicality entry, considering you only get to play as her in a loading screen in which she offers up some boring exposition. That said, I do have one strong opinion about Ziio, which is that her death is total bullshit. I recognize the limitations of the 360/PS3 era kept Ubisoft from being able to fully bring some of its remixed history to life (apparently a total of like 14 people were present for the Boston massacre?), but there's really no excuse to have for the portrayal of Ziio's death. During a scene in which the village of Kanatahseton is set on fire, Connor finds Ziio trapped under four, maybe five somewhat large logs of wood as her home is burning down around her. He literally moves one of the logs off of her, and he was like 11 at that point. So this anonymous dude rushes in - which, first of all, how was this guy only just now around to grab Connor and not there to help out Ziio in the first place - and rather than lift the other three logs and save Ziio's life, he just grabs the kid and bolts. Like, what the hell, asshole guy?? What a choice! Anyway, Ziio seemed like kind of a badass, but Ass 3 completely overlooks her even though the brief glimpse we get into her life is more compelling than a full game with Connor.

    What Roles She Plays in the Series:

    ACIII: loading screen who catches you up on the big plot twist

  • First Impression: Played about an hour and a half of Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India over two weeks ago, and my only immediate memory of Arbaaz is more or less that of a mediocre first date. He seems nice?

    UPDATE: Now that I've finished it, honestly, my feelings are pretty much the same! He's a charming rogue just like everyone else in this series, except he's maybe a bit less of a terrifying psychopath, seeing as Assassin's Creed India incentives you not to murder everybody all the time. As far as characterization goes, however, there's really not much to dig into here.

    ACChroniclesIndia: Man who is capable of not stabbing guards to death

  • Desmond Miles almost isn't a character. He's more a series of expository questions cocooned in an unmistakably focus-tested human shell.

    Despite the fact that all of his games begin moments after the last one ended, his hoodie is always slightly different which is total bullshit.

    What Roles He Plays in the Series:

    ACI: Literally just the question "what do you mean" in human form

    ACII: YA Novel 'chosen one' protagonist who also is unemployed and lies down all day

    ACBrotherhood: Shut in weirdo who climbs people's roofs at night and screams in his sleep

    ACRevelations: Guy who plays tetris and brags about having lived in New York

    ACIII: Guy who is too old to blame his Dad for everything and have it not be embarrassing

    ACIV Black Flag: Guy who is quite honestly more interesting dead than alive.

  • So Arno Dorian is totally in Assassin's Creed: Rogue for like twenty seconds.

    What Roles He Plays in the Series:

    AC Rogue: Child who wants apples BADLY

  • I mean - this person is a character. Speaking literally, I mean. I don't actually think I've played a AAA game with a silent protagonist who has *this little* in the way of character development before, but - here we are. Towards the end of Black Flag, if you read the protagonist's diaries you start to realize this person is incapable of identifying the EXTREMELY obvious conspiracies at play. They're like locked in a secret corporate bunker working under duress, and their reaction is more or less 'well this sure is stressful - guess I gotta do my best at work today! In my bunker!' Not great.

    ACIV Black Flag: face that floats through private offices to show everyone its iPad