Editorial

Assassin’s Creed Taking the Year Off was the Right Call by Ubisoft

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Back in October 2015, during my infancy months with OnlySP, I wrote about how Yearly Single Player Releases Were Becoming Their Own Downfall with Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate releasing that week. The bigwigs at Ubisoft must have clearly read my article, as this year there will be no new Assassin’s Creed adventure.

As mentioned in my editorial, I am a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series. I have played every flagship console release since the first iteration during the Third Crusade up until the somewhat underwhelming Assassin’s Creed: Unity during the French Revolution with a general feeling of content during each playthrough (besides the first and last entries). The let-down of Unity after the exceptional Black Flag was especially disappointing and prompted me to forego purchasing Syndicate due in large parts to the competition Ubisoft faced last year.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity wasn’t a particularly bad game. In fact, it looked fantastic as the first fully next-gen AC, but the feeling of repetition over years of similar gameplay along with an uninspiring story littered with a myriad of bugs and glitches was the final straw for me and seemingly many others. For years, I had clamoured for an entry based in my home country of England, but not even the London setting of Syndicate could draw me back in. According to ibtimes, the first-week sales of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate in the UK failed to match “any of the major entries in the famous series,” despite an assumed higher interest in the English setting.

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As series fatigue sets in, it’s essential that Ubisoft re-invigorate their stealth-based adventure series in future titles, which frankly just hasn’t happened in the last couple of years. Despite promises of multiple changes during E3 and other annual events, the gameplay is vastly similar to the previous years, give-or-take the odd new feature. Taking a year off is exactly what the developers need to do to re-establish their fanbase and win over all the critics (like me!).

It’s not like Ubisoft are twiddling their thumbs in 2016 anyway with the release of Far Cry Primal in the last couple of weeks as well as the imminent release of The Division (with OSP’s own Lance discussing its single player content here). Ubisoft is a huge corporation now with multiple offices all over the world dedicated to specific games, hence the ability to churn out such huge titles while taking a year out from what is arguably their most popular in Assassin’s Creed. In fact, Assassin’s Creed: Chronicles has seen the release of its final two entries in the first two months of this year, so those looking for their AC fix can still grab it. Chronicles is only published by Ubisoft, whereas it’s developed by Climax Studios and plays wildly different to the flagship titles so I’m not considering it a true addition to the main series of games for the purposes of this discussion.

Looking to the future, rumors are that Assassin’s Creed will potentially be heading back in time to Egypt, with a complete revamp of the series (words we are only too used to hearing). For some of the biggest rumors so far check out this piece on the mysterious Project Osiris, which includes ideas of a potential sequel to Black Flag (my personal favorite). Whatever comes next, some fresh ideas are certainly required, and there’s nothing wrong with ‘borrowing’ some features from other popular games of a similar ilk.

Ubisoft could look to epic adventures like Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or Mass Effect for ideas in storytelling and execution. The protagonist has often come under scrutiny in AC, especially since the popular Ezio Auditore bowed out in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, so a believeable hero with a rich story and strong personality would definitely help matters.

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Combat could certainly do with an overhaul as well, perhaps with a little inspiration from Rocksteady’s work on the Batman: Arkham series. A bug-bear of mine over the years with Assassin’s Creed has been that for a game based largely on covertness, the stealth elements have been left severely lacking. Luckily, the days of eavesdropping from a bench are behind us, but sneaking up on a target through the conveniently-arranged branches and walls has never been totally satisfying. Perhaps a better reward system would help, but taking notes from games such as Dishonored and the (completely unofficial) king of stealth games, Metal Gear Solid, could provide a slicker, more satisfying completion of your hit-list.

Taking the year off was certainly the right call in my opinion, but Assassin’s Creed needs to come back better than ever or it will face a continuous downward spiral from now on. Expectations will rise for the next installment, so Ubisoft will have to nail it in order to regain their spot on the top of players’ most wanted lists. I think they can pull it off, and this year off will help them no end to re-evaluate, regroup, and regain the fans’ trust.

That’s how I feel about Assassin’s Creed. How about you? Are you still committed to buying every entry each year or have you had enough too? Let us know in the comments below or via Social Media on Twitter (@Official_OnlySP) and Facebook.

The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.

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Rhys Cooper

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