When Kotaku reported on supposedly leaked screenshots for a new Assassin’s Creed game, my heart sank. For a franchise with almost endless possibilities, why does it feel like it’s already running out of steam?
Assassin’s Creed can pretty much do whatever it wants. The fact a game has managed to get away with the premise that it can take place in any period of time is an amazing feat of cheekiness, but it’s constantly squandered with boring fare. Who can honestly say they were looking forward to free-running up and down trees in 3?!?!
We were given a glimpse of the scope of the franchise in 4. Such a drastic change in time and place led many to believe that we were in for similar, fresh new experiences with this year’s sequel. But from what we’ve seen of the new screens and setting, it looks boring.
They’ve chosen Paris. A safe, mundane choice which will no doubt rehash the exact same plot from the past 4 games, told through the eyes of a ‘loveable rogue’ protagonist that the main player base can identify with. Yes it’s supposedly set during the French Revolution, but we’ve had revolution in 3. We’ve had Europe in 2. It just feels like we’ve been here before. And in a series that has written itself a blank cheque in terms of scope, why are we treading familiar, boring territory?!?
The gameplay of the franchise is intuitive, but only serves to make you appreciate and interact with the environment. The location is the star of the show here, and always has been. When the third instalment was released it was met with a lukewarm reception, and a large part of that was the setting. The cities all felt similar, and the woodland sections were sparse and uninteresting to traverse. In order to make a game that makes you want to get lost in it, they have to choose inspiring locales, worthy of exploration. Although it’s ridiculously early to say, I just don’t think Paris will be good enough.
But why does it have to be like this? Ubisoft earlier this year squashed rumours of a game based in the Far East, which to me seems like a perfect refresh, something this franchise badly needs.
Imagine if the game was set in Feudal Japan, and had you playing as a Ninja fighting the Samurai. The parkour elements are made for this kind of setting, and the stealth mechanics needed are already a big part of gameplay. Imagine the history and story they could tell with this kind of game, and how good the art direction would look. They could even forget the Abstergo aspect altogether, focus on a new Animus company based somewhere in Asia, introducing a new story arc and characters. Doesn’t all this already sound exciting to you?!?!
As always, no matter where the franchise is set, it will sell incredibly well. It always does, because it’s a solid, fun game at heart. But in not taking risks, has Ubisoft set up the franchise for stagnation as time goes on? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Today the trailer was released, confirming the games release.