What to be when I grow up: Assassin's Creed alternatives
December 21, 2017 3:51 AM   Subscribe

My almost-14-year-old son has asked for Assassin's Creed Origins for our Xbox One. I'm very reluctant to buy it for him, after reading about the sexual content and the killing of bystanders. Does anyone have an alternative? I thought Zelda Breath of the Wild but it doesn't exist for Xbox One. Thanks!
posted by bwonder2 to Media & Arts (16 answers total)
You should tell your son that you feel AC:O is inappropriate for him and ask him what other games he might enjoy that are pegi-16 or pegi-12 depending on your feelings. We don't know him and can't tell you which ones he would enjoy.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:18 AM on December 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

Injustice 2 or Destiny 2, maybe Resident Evil 7.

Having been a highly opinionated 14 year old boy that benefited from awkward at the time but ultimately useful talks with my parents, getting the desired game but having some conversations about fan service and why casual violence against bystanders makes you uncomfortable might be worth considering. Because if he's like I was at 14, he's going to end up playing it at friends' houses anyway.
posted by Candleman at 4:28 AM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I didn't think it was necessary to say that I have told him it's inappropriate. I have. He said whatever I think is good, so that's why I asked for recommendations not how to talk to my child about violence. I am also aware he will play the games at other people's houses but I can't micromanage everything in his life.
posted by bwonder2 at 5:07 AM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Has he already played Overwatch? Was a big hit with my almost-14-year-old son & his buddies - worth a look if he doesn't have it. By no means a direct equivalent, but more age-appropriate.

You should absolutely stick to your guns re: age ratings. Of course they'll all play it elsewhere, but that's no reason to cave at home.
posted by rd45 at 5:20 AM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

We can’t possibly answer this without knowing why he wanted Assassins Creed: Origins. Is it the sneaking system? The loving attention to historical details? That it’s a cool game other people his age are playing? Each of these will have different recommendations.
posted by corb at 5:38 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There's a game out called BioMutant that seems to be about cartoon animals practicing kung-fu in an open world.
posted by edbles at 7:05 AM on December 21, 2017

Best answer: I buy games for a nearly 14-year old and an 11-year old, and they've started played Fortnite. They really like it and described it as a mix of Minecraft and Call of Duty.
posted by gladly at 7:15 AM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Overwatch was recently called out here for having a highly toxic/homophopic/misogynist online community. So if he listens to online players, he will be exposed to content you likely find objectionable, even if the game itself is fine.

This applies to many online gaming communities, but overwatch was the one people were talking about.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:45 AM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

To start with a disclaimer: I am an adult and don't have kids, so I likely don't notice some stuff, but hopefully some of this will help.

Resident Evil 7 is MUCH worse than AC:O - it's a horror game with graphic violence. I'm nearly 40 and I don't think it's appropriate for ME.

Overwatch and Fortnite are both colorful and cartoony and "younger" in their art style, but they are also online multiplayer titles, so while the content of the game itself would be fine, the actual experience would depend highly on who he's playing with each time.

Injustice 2 is a great game but it's nothing like AC:O. It's a fighting game (like Street Fighter) with DC comics characters, set in an alternate timeline where Superman is evil.

I am a big AC fan and I'm trying to think of games that would scratch the same itch, but be appropriate for a younger player. The problem is that violence is... pretty universal for AAA video games, and sexualization is also really common. Without knowing exactly where your lines are content-wise (I personally find AC:O fairly wholesome with the exceptions of some stuff about Cleopatra, but I'm also only a short way into it because I keep getting distracted by side missions), I'm going to try to give a few options and some notes around pros/cons that will hopefully give you a starting point for research.

Stealthy games:
The Deus Ex series - RPG where you choose stealth or combat or mixed approach, set in a cyberpunk dystopian future, you can choose to play non-lethally if you want to. I don't remember a ton of sexual stuff except I think in one level of the first game you may visit a red light district. The second one is better than the first one in my opinion.
Hitman: Okay, so obviously, you play a hitman, so it's violent. However the main goal is to be stealthy and not kill anyone but the one-two people it is your mission to kill (generally terrorists, people who are bioweapons traffickers, etc- it's a kind of secret agent thing.) It's *possible* to kill bystanders, but discouraged by score penalties. Generally I can't think of anything much sexually charged, you are mostly going to a crowded location, sneaking around, knocking people out to disguise yourself as them, and setting up elaborate traps for your target.
An Xbox Live Arcade game called Mark of the Ninja. This one is a little different as it's a 2-D side-scroller but it's really well done and worth a look.
Dishonored: action stealth RPG-ish games, very distinct art style but some of the options for killing enemies are pretty gruesome. You are able to choose whether to play lethally or non-lethally, and playing non-lethally yields the best ending. I think Dishonored 2 is better than the first game, and also features some great and non-sexualized female characters, including a playable female protagonist.
Possibly the previous Assassin's Creed game, Syndicate? It doesn't have the "courtesan" mechanic that the earlier ones did and there is a playable female protagonist who is pretty cool (I <3 you Evie).

Open World RPG Games:
Final Fantasy XV - it's a big huge open world Final Fantasy game. It looks good and is huge. The story didn't grab me but I know a lot of people really loved it and it's ENORMOUS so that's a lot of value for your entertainment dollar.
Skyrim HD or Fallout 4 - enormous open world RPGs. Skyrim is a historical fantasy setting, Fallout is a post-apocalypse setting. They both have lots of stuff to do, many sidequests, lots of player choice and character builds, a ton of replayability, and you can download mods for them. They're also older games and therefore cheaper to buy. You spend a lot of time killing enemies but I don't remember feeling like there was a lot of sexual content in either, though they are huge games I haven't played in a while so do your research.
Mass Effect Andromeda: Space RPG, no real stealth play but a large focus on exploration and story. It is possible to have a romantic relationship with a character that ends in a PG-13 sexy cutscene (you can watch these on youtube to see the kind of thing) but for the most part this is not gratuitous but presented as part of a relationship that develops over time, so for me it doesn't fall into the sort of "there are strippers in the background" kind of sex in games that I find most objectionable.)

All Ages games:
The Lego series - they are ADORABLE, fun, and great for couch co-op. The Lego Marvel ones are my favorites.
The Sims 4: Just came out for console and runs really well on my Xbox.
Minecraft: he probably already plays Minecraft, but if he doesn't: Minecraft. Alternately, possibly Lego Worlds?

For help for any onlookers with similar questions but different consoles: these games would probably fit your criteria but they aren't available for the Xbox:
Horizon: Zero Dawn - An open-world RPG with stealth mechanics. Many of the main enemies are robot dinosaurs. Very cool game: PlayStation exclusive.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey: amazing games, Zelda in particular has a lot of the sneaking/questing that might please an AC fan: Nintendo Switch exclusives.
Uncharted: Lost Legacy - has very similar parkour-and-treasure-hunt-and-stealth gameplay mechanics, two fantastic women lead characters who aren't sexualized: PlayStation exclusive.
posted by oblique red at 8:43 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

For people with Playstations, I'll follow up the above with: ANY of the Uncharted games. Definitely murdery, but only of "bad guys."
posted by dondiego87 at 9:02 AM on December 21, 2017

How about the Batman Arkham games? Arkham City was my favorite.
posted by banshee at 10:24 AM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Overwatch looks like a lot of fun. But here's the thing: If your son was interested in AC:O because of the type of game it is, then it's not a good fit. AC:O is a single-player, open-world game. Overwatch is a multiplayer, competitive game that takes place in set arenas.

I never bought Overwatch because it doesn't have what I want: a story to complete and a world to explore. I know I wouldn't play it that often because I'm not often in the mood for competitive matches.

So, talk to your son about what kind of game he wants. What was it about AC:O that appealed to him? If it was those types of things, you want to look for single-player, open-world games.

Onto actual recommendations... Look into the other single-player, open-world games that people have recommended. My only experience with them is with Destiny 2, which I like a lot and think would be appropriate for his age (no sex, no gore, you only shoot aliens who are clearly enemies, etc). But it's a ... flawed game, and its open-world content is limited compared to AC:O or Horizon: Zero Dawn (a favorite, but sadly a playstation exclusive).
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:29 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

The sexual content of AC:O is a husband and wife kissing while the rest of the scene fades to black. Occasionally NPCs are topless women but you have to spend a lot of time specifically looking for them in the huge number of other NPCs. Bystanders can be killed accidentally in the course of gameplay which for me was actually a pretty good lesson about being careful and paying attention.

He might like the Dishonored series, although there is also accidental bystander killing and nongraphic sexual content (there's a mission in a brothel in the first game), or the Uncharted series (lots of shooting violence), maybe Horizon Zero Dawn?
posted by poffin boffin at 12:54 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Horizon Zero dawn would be a great game for him. There is sneaking, robot dinosaurs a beautiful world to explore with similar climbing mechanic to AC and stealth is used & did I mention robot dinosaurs.

I love story driven games but adore Overwatch so it might be a good match. Avoid chat is key.
posted by wwax at 1:10 PM on December 21, 2017

Best answer: Just wanted to touch on a few things:

1. What you're looking for an open-world alternative. Unfortunately, a key component and appeal of most open world games is that the player can "do" anything...including kill innocents. That makes things tricky.

2. I can't comment 100% on Origins (cause I haven't gotten around to playing it yet) but I am a huge fan of the series and have played all the rest. "killing innocents" isn't part of "the Creed". In fact, in prior games, killing innocent people desyncs (read: kills) the player instead because that's not "something that Assassin would have done". There's a whole META narrative thing, where each game has you playing a modern person reliving the assassin's memories...blah blah. Long story short, you can only really kill "bad guys" (corrupt politicians, evil templars, criminals).

3. Unrelated to the violence aspect, there is a historical element to the 'Creed games that I love and I think is worth investigating. Its "stupid" history, in that its mostly accurate (the levels are almost entirely true to real life) that definitely tickles my curiosity. The games have sent me down the wiki-wormhole on more than one occasion because I wanted to learn more about the time and place the games were set in. You won't learn a ton of "real" history from the Creed games, but one definitely learns some and the historical tourism element of the games is absolutely unmatched.

While Origins doesn't have an in-game encyclopedia (yes, you can actually learn some real history from these games) like prior games, it IS getting a massive non-violent educational tour mode that I'm extremely excited about.

Its not appropriate for a 14 year old, but it might be worth a look again when they're a few years older. There is a trojan historical education element in the Creed series that absolutely cannot be denied.

Freedom of choice is a big part of open world games, and that choice also includes the option to do bad and/or violent things. Its the nature of the beast.

Horizon Zero Dawn (mostly killing robo-dinos but also a lot of "bad" people) and Zelda Breath of the Wild (killing goofy cartoony characters) are the closest I can think of in terms of "safe" open world games BUT neither are available on Xbox One.
posted by Snuffman at 1:55 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Batman: Arkham knight is the game you're looking for. Batman doesn’t kill people. (Beat them up a whole bunch, sure...) It's a huge game and there's tons to do and batman is always cool. Perfectly age appropriate.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:46 PM on December 21, 2017

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