Should Assassin’s Creed Slow Down?

Images leaked to Kotaku by an anonymous source earlier in the week all but confirmed two new games in the Assassin’s Creed series releasing this Fall. Ubisoft officially confirmed Unity two days after the leak. The game takes place in 18th-century Paris and will release exclusively for Xbox One, PS4, and PC. The second allegedly titled/code-named Comet, will release on Xbox 360 and PS3.

Do we really need two new Assassin’s Creed games in one year?

Please understand this article comes from a place of absolute love and support for the series, but I’m afraid Ubisoft may be overplaying their hand with Assassin’s Creed.

Consider the following:

There’s been a new Assassin’s Creed every fall since 2009.

Since Ubisoft released Assassin’s Creed II they’ve released another new game like clockwork every Fall. In a lot of ways this has been fantastic for the series, especially during the days of the Ezio trilogy.

It allowed Ubisoft Montreal to really nail-down the formula for making the perfect Assassin’s Creed game. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go back and play Assassin’s Creed II for 20 minutes and then pop in Brotherhood and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

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It’s also given Ubisoft the freedom to experiment with new ideas freely and keep and expand on the ones that worked out (like the introduction of an upgradable base, or the addition of ship battles) and to respond to and rebound from criticisms quickly. Remember when all of the haters started complaining about Assassin’s Creed III’s flaws until Assassin’s Creed IV came out?

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The series is shackled to a sloppy over-arching plot.

Where the annual approach can be a great thing for gameplay systems, it can be an absolute mess where plot is concerned, and Assassin’s Creed’s plot is an absolute mess.

On one hand Assassin’s Creed is filled with (mostly) likable leading men, a memorable and colorful supporting cast peppered with some of history’s most interesting figures, and an incredible attention to detail when recreating historical periods.

So I have to wonder why every single game wastes time in the modern day. The over-arching storyline is filled almost exclusively with uninteresting stock characters and irritating side quests that force you out of the main storyline without reason; also aliens. All of these elements are unsatisfying and feel tacked on to an already engaging game world.

...also Aliens.

It absolutely blows my mind that gamers were willing to attempt legal action against Bioware over the ending to Mass Effect 3, but  there wasn’t an outcry over the fact that we spent five games training Desmond so he could die pushing a button.

Maybe it shouldn’t come as a shock, because when you really think about it what was there to connect us as players to Desmond to begin with?

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He’s just the vanilla vessel through which we experienced the truly engaging protagonists, his ancestors. In a world with Ezio Auditore or Edward Kenway, Desmond always felt like an afterthought more then a leading man. Even Ubisoft knew Desmond’s story had to “end.”

Fast Forward to Assassin’s Creed IV where the modern day elements are (thankfully) minimized. Though I’m still left wondering why include them at all? As players we’re more than familiar with the tropes of the series- do we really need the animus anymore? Did we ever? Any introduction beyond “here is your new Assassin” seems unecessary at this point.

Until Ubisoft either commits to the modern day storyline in a meaningful and engaging way or finally decides to abandon it entirely, it can really only bog an otherwise stellar series down. In its current state the only thing they’re accomplishing is pulling players out of the (many other) parts of the game they actually want to play.

The franchise is getting bloated.

The franchise has come to include side games, comics, animated shorts by UbiWorkshop, a book series, and the upcoming feature film. Not to mention that when it releases, Assassin’s Creed V will technically be the 7th game in the main series.

Assassin’s Creed has grown into a multimedia juggernaut with a clearly dedicated fan base and I can’t stress enough how much this article is in support of that fact. I am in no way against Ubisoft making money on the (beloved) franchise they created. 

Ubisoft has shown that they can continue to keep the series on a tight schedule without it getting stale (Assassin’s Creed IV was my favorite game in the series since Brotherhood), but Assassin’s Creed III proved that all of the good faith the series has earned won’t protect them from criticism. The more Assassin’s Creeds there are (especially when that includes mountains of licensed merchandise) the more likely it is there will be a miss and the harder the masses will pounce.

So back to my initial question:

Do we really need two new Assassin’s Creed games in one year?

The answer: probably not.

I can respect that Ubisoft wants to remain in support of the 7th console generation’s massive install base without limiting current-gen tech capabilities for Unity, but two complete AAA experiences seems like a tall order. If anyone can pull it off it’s probably Ubisoft, but I’m afraid it’s a senselessly ambitious move.

Any complaints, or possible similarities with either game will be put under a magnifying glass and will likely be met with a sea of uniformed complaints asking “why did Ubisoft have to be so greedy?” regardless of if that has anything to do with the issue. Though it’s all still speculation at this point, the idea of releasing both games in the Fall seems like an open invite for criticism that Ubisoft is flooding the market. My fear is that even if both games are a hit there will be a slew of haters complaining that the series is overdone.

Ubisoft’s vice president of creative, Lionel Raynaud recently told Edge to stop producing the series annually would be “very stupid.”

“We are able to offer people a new Assassin’s Creed every year because they want Assassin’s Creed every year,” Raynaud told Edge, “As long as this is true we would be very stupid to not satisfy this need, but it puts a lot of pressure on us to create something that will never disappoint.”

This is why the idea of producing two major entries at a time seems risky. If they succeed it’s possible they could have two of the most talked about games of the year on their hands simultaneously, but it’s also inviting twice as much pressure for Ubisoft. Until we get an official announcement on what’s happening we can only have faith that Ubisoft knows what’s best for their flagship series.

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