One of the biggest success stories of the previous generation of video games was Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise. Although some thought that its initial success was due to there being few (then) next gen consoles, it has turned into a venerable cash cow for Ubisoft.
Now that Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has been released (and on the current gen systems) I wanted to speculate on what’s next for the series and what I hope to see in the next installment.
I’m going to go into SPOILER TERRITORY now so if you aren’t caught up with the main story of the series then I suggest you skip to the next section of this editorial.
While the main draw of AC games has been about taking players to historic settings, the real plot of the series is about the conflict between the Assassins and the Templars; a struggle that has ensued for tens of thousands of years. The plot of the first five main games was about both Templars and Assassins trying to prevent an upcoming catastrophe that would occur after a major solar flare. Despite their mutual goal, the two factions still fought because of their differing ideologies. The Templars believe that humanity needs to be controlled in order for it to evolve. The Assassins believe that humanity should be free to do what it wants.
With the disaster averted, where does the main story now go? Juno, a member of the precursor race, now lives inside of the internet. She is effectively the leader of the Templars and she is having them seek artifacts that will aid her in getting a new body. Once she does, she plans to fulfill her destiny of conquering the world. The Assassins trying to prevent this from happening will now be the core plot of the series going forward but how will this work? You played as… well… yourself in modern times but will this continue in the following games? It probably will but I personally would prefer to play as an actual character and not just a pair of floating hands.
One thing that I would personally love to see (but probably won’t) is the end of the modern era part of the story. If the series just focused on Assassins from the past and left out the modern storyline I think it would give the games a broader appeal. Players who come into each game without playing any of the previous ones are always confused when it comes to the modern struggle of the Assassins and Templars so why not just remove that part of the story? This would give the series a more episodic feel to it and will make it easier for not only new fans to hop in and play the games but also a chance for the series to go beyond the bounds of playing as Assassins that are Desmond’s ancestors. It could open the door for a wider range of stories from all over the world and all across history.
The main draw of the Assassin’s Creed games is that the central locations of each game take place in a different point in history. This is something that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
While playing through the games prior to ACIII, I believed that the series would eventually feature (then) main star, Desmond in his own game that took place in the present. The global catastrophe could have been used as a way to keep things relatively low tech. Why is this important? The mechanics of AC games are built around platforming and melee combat. Introducing modern weapons like assault rifles would ruin the balance. After playing the latest game, I have reason to believe that the series will not move to the modern era. There are documents contained within the hacking missions which state why these games will be kept in the past. For example, Abstergo Entertainment (the in-game video game company that you work for in ACIV) say that it would be hard to replicate things like driving since the brain isn’t active enough to bring those memories forward. Basically, Ubisoft doesn’t want to bring the games to the modern era so I don’t think we should hold our breath for that happening.
What settings could we expect? As much as people want a game set in feudal Japan, I don’t believe this will happen for two reasons. 1) The series has been mostly focused on the West. Assassin’s Creed and AC: Revelations were the only ones that took place in the East. 2) Ubisoft has said that they do not want to make AC games set in places or times that have been done by other video games. We have to assume that the series will remain set in the West. Where and what time is anyone’s guess but I think it’s a safe bet to assume it will be during a time that we haven’t seen many other video games set in. The possibilities are pretty open even if the series just sticks to the West.
This one is a given but we definitely should expect the following Assassin’s Creed games to have even more incredible graphics than they already have. The original games were among some of the best looking of the previous generation. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was released on the current gen consoles: the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, and they give us a taste of what to expect.
With the shackles of producing games for last gen consoles broken, the series could become even more expansive. ACIV had a giant open world but that world was mostly ocean and small islands. The major islands were separated from the main world. With the power of current gen consoles, we could have truly gigantic open areas with which to do our assassinating. This also means a greater diversity of locations can be possible. Africa in ACIV looked almost the same as the Caribbean because a lot of the same assets were reused. Future games could take us to various locales within a single title that all feel and look different from one another. These different locales can have all sorts of weather effects that we haven’t seen from the series. The rainstorms in ACIV were a sight to behold so I can just imagine seeing things like snowstorms, floods or avalanches in future installments.
Character animations will benefit as well. This series has had some of the best animations out there but they could be even more robust. Imagine navigating through crowds of people and never seeing the same animations twice? What about seeing a bustling marketplace full of people and each of them move in unique ways? A lot of the animations that could be used would be subtle but a lot of these minor animations could go a long way to making the world feel more alive.
There are a ton of things we could see with regards to graphics. Ubisoft has these new consoles to play with and can use that power to create even more historically accurate worlds. When this series goes completely current gen is when we’ll see some truly spectacular things in terms of graphics and immersion.
There will no doubt be a new Assassin’s Creed game this year. I don’t know if it will be ACV necessarily but we WILL get a new game. Hopefully, Ubisoft is currently developing a completely current gen AC game and 2014 will be the last year we see last gen versions. My biggest hope is that we get more episodic games and have the franchise begin to put the macro story into the background and focus more on a single game experience.