** Spoilers below for Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag**
After playing through both Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed III: Remastered recently, I felt myself wanting to jump back into what I considered for many years to be the very best entry in the entire franchise. I’m talking about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag of course, and while it may no longer be the best game in the series for me, it still has something that none of its sequels do: the very best protagonist this series has ever had, period.
Now a lot of fans are very opinionated when it comes to this issue, and are willing to go above and beyond in the defense of their favorite assassin, which let’s be honest here, is Ezio Auditore for the vast majority. The Medjay Bayek has definitely carved himself out a spot in the hearts of a lot of these very same fans, but Ezio still reigns supreme.
And I’m not here to tell them that the characters they like are bad, or undeserving of the pedestal they’ve been put on. People relate to different characters for different reasons, and expecting everyone to see something through your perspective is no easy matter, but I’ll try anyway. Because what I want to talk about today is that Ezio, is nowhere as good a character as Edward Kenway. Let me explain.
Ezio Auditore da Firenze is a character that holds a very special place in my heart, as he does for most fans. This is a character who we have followed from the very moment he was born, and have seen him grow from being an impulsive young adult in Assassin’s Creed II, a grizzled middle-aged man in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood to a wise old sage in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.
And although it’s disappointing that Revelations isn’t where it happens, the Assassin’s Creed: Embers animated short gives us closure by depicting the very last years of Ezio’s life. We see a character who we’ve learned to care for over many years die, and I dare anyone who followed his entire journey to admit that they didn’t at least get teary-eyed, or just openly cried, when this happened.
This journey is not something players get to experience a whole lot in the world of video games, and it’s understandable why fans feel so strongly about this character. And my goal with this article is not to make you dislike him, that’s impossible, it’s to highlight what makes Edward Kenway even more likeable.
Born into royalty, the son of an influential banker, Ezio Auditore was a charismatic and charming character who was very easy to like. While not exactly relatable to most people, he was instantly a hit with most players due to his sharp wit and playful demeanor. And when his father and brothers were murdered, he fell into the assassin life unquestioningly. While we can’t exactly say that he chose this path willingly, it’s very safe to assume that he was always destined for it, considering that the House of Auditore was of an assassin lineage.
From here he would successfully avenge his family and move up the ranks of the Assassin Order, eventually attaining the title of Mentor. I’m obviously skipping over a lot of plot points, but what really needs to be understood is that Ezio was singularly devoted to the Assassin Order, and spent his entire life in service to the Creed, saving both his country Italy and even the world as a whole eventually from the Templars due to his selfless actions.
This life bought him a lot of grief and sorrow, and he lost a number of people that he cared for because of it. But still he persisted, and this tenacity in the face of adversity is something that I really like about his character.
Edward on the other hand was the exact opposite of Ezio. He wasn’t born into an aristocratic family and he wasn’t destined for greatness, but he dreamt of riches and glory. It was this dream that led to him becoming a privateer in the British Navy, and eventually a pirate.
Now, swashbuckling pirates who roam the open seas murdering people and taking what they want aren’t exactly relatable, but the struggle to better your life and take control over your own destiny sure are. And that aspect of Edward’s personality, combined with his own unique brand of charisma, also made him an instantly likable protagonist.
Another aspect of this character that was lauded by both fans and critics alike, was his lack of an association with the Assassins Order initially. He was a free soul who did what he wanted, whenever he wanted do it, and there were no forces behind the curtain guiding him towards the greater good. He was only interested in helping one person, himself. And that was really refreshing to see in a protagonist after 5 games.
Within the first hour or two of the game, Edward is willing to hand over a powerful weapon to the Templar Order, while in the guise of a Assassin deserter, if it means that he can get paid for it. The only reason he then proceeds to back-stabs the Templar Order a while later, is because he isn’t getting paid as much as he thought he would.
From here a lot of stuff happens, and he eventually encounters the Assassins Brotherhood and even helps them out a few times. He learns of their struggle and their goals, but chooses still to follow his own path in life, even adopting a twisted version of the Creed to suit his own selfish needs.
But as we play through the game and time progresses, we start to see a change in Edward. Upon losing his closest friends as a result of the same death-defying, glory seeking behaviors that he himself embodies, he falls deep into despair. And only when confronted with the loss of everything he holds dear to him, does he truly start to change.
You see this is why I love Edward as a character over Ezio. Because in the Assassins Order Ezio saw the very same values he himself subscribed to, and a way to avenge his family and eventually a way to bring peace to the world.
Edward on the other hand outright denied the Order and it’s grandiose mission initially, but then later came to it willingly when he saw in the Creed a way to both grow and better himself as a person. One can argue that even at this point, even as he was risking his life in service to the Assassins Brotherhood, he was doing it for himself and not for some greater goal. I actually think that’s very on point for the character.
Ezio Auditore had the Assassin life chosen for him when he fell into it, but Edward Kenway chose this life for himself willingly. That is why he is my favorite protagonist of any Assassins Creed game, and I hope that Ubisoft can recreate this magic with another character going forward. So far though, we haven’t gotten even close to anything like him.
Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag is still a fantastic game, and I urge newer fans of the series in particular to try it out. It doesn’t have the distinctly RPG mechanics of the most recent two entries in the franchise, but it still holds out really well. It also has the most beautiful ending sequence of any game in the series, and everyone should check it out for themselves.