Where Assassin's Creed Should Go Next: The First Civilization
Now that Assassin's Creed: Syndicate is out in the wild, we wanted to revisit this conversation to get your thoughts on the current state of the Assassin's Creed franchise. This article was originally published on May 9, 2015.
I'm growing disenchanted with the Assassin's Creed games, a series that once dazzled me with its melding of period piece storytelling and secrets tied to an ancient civilization possessing technology far beyond ours today. Ubisoft's focus is now mostly on exploring the past, something they do quite well, but I'm finding that, without the mystery, the experience is different and and not nearly as engaging. Part of its DNA missing.
As much as I enjoy suiting up as an assassin and exploring landmark events in human history, such as the French Revolution or Italy during the 15th century, the big hook for me, which took root in Assassin's Creed II, was searching for "The Truth," secrets, messages, and images that pointed to a much larger story unfolding. This hunt for clues tied to that ancient civilization was one of the best optional objectives I've ever come across in a game.
In Assassin's Creed II, I was absolutely floored by the secret video that showed Adam and Eve leaping across a futuristic cityscape (which you can view below). I watched it frame by frame, and overanalyzed every little clue within it, hoping that I would uncover more of that world. I was just as engaged with that story line, as minimal as it was, as Ezio's. Ubisoft had a great thing going. It reminded me of the TV show Lost. I thought the setup moving forward would be each game delivering two stories: the primary being the assassin in a historic setting, and the secondary being about the first civilization.
That never came to fruition, and yes, maybe it was more my wishful thinking than anything else. What followed was game after game of confusion and disappointing plot points tied to the first civilization. As it stands today, I couldn't tell you what happened. Juno is a computer virus? Maybe she's the Lawnmower Man? We can argue over what happened all day long, but I think we can all agree that Ubisoft dropped the ball with a story that could have been a pillar for the franchise.
And it still could. Rather than sticking with the dumb "game development" story line, why not send players into the distant past? What better way could there be to shake up the series than traveling to a world where anything is possible. We saw what the "apple" was capable of. We saw what Minerva could do. Think of what that world would be like. Think of the gameplay that could come from it.
Yes, I love the attention to detail that Ubisoft puts into each historic setting, but the gameplay isn't changing. We're still stabbing people in the back of head and climbing on walls. The first civilization could produce a wealth of new ideas that change up the assassination game. The idea is there. We've seen it. We want it. Well, at least I want it. Why not go there? Why not open up that plot thread again and make it count this time?
Should the first civilization be the primary location for a game? Maybe not, but it would make one hell of a place to visit. I enjoyed playing as Desmond in the sequences set in the near future. Just imagine what it would be like to play as Adam or Eve or a different character in a world that is brimming with science fiction possibilities. Go nuts with it, Ubisoft. At this point I'm more interested in your fiction than the stories that come from history books.