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The Next Assassin’s Creed May Explore The Vikings, But I Am Not Excited

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The Assassin’s Creed franchise has long been beset by leaks and spoiled plans. Recent rumours suggest that the next entry will be no different, though the first hint may have emerged from an unexpected source: official release material.

The Division 2 players have discovered in-game posters that appears to depict both Assassin’s Creed and Viking iconography, leading to the widespread supposition that the next entry in the long-running series will take the adventure far from the Mediterranean climes of Ancient Greece. Supporting the rumour is Kotaku’s claim to have verified the new setting with two independent sources.

Aside from the tired, expected complaints that the series steadfastly refuses to visit Japan or (in a mainline entry, at least) China, the response to the rumour has been positive. Fans have a reason to be intrigued too. A Viking setting suggests another entry where the sailor’s life takes centre stage, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag remains a perpetual favourite for many.

Despite the justification for positivity, something niggles about the revelation. That ‘something’ is a sigh—not of disinterest or disappointment, but of a smothered wish for something more exciting.

Exciting? How is the prospect of pillaging across ancient Scandinavia not exciting? How is getting to learn the history of runestones, burial mounds, and those intricately designed warships not exciting? In all honesty, of course those things—and many others about the setting—are exciting. What is dull is how rote the Viking age feels in 2019.

Media does not exist in a vacuum, and the cultural cachet around the Viking era cements it a logical choice for Ubisoft to make. Beyond the television show Vikings, Norse mythology appears in the dominant cinema product of the last decade: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In games, the setting is even more prevalent. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, 2018’s God of War, Rune, and even Eternity: The Last Unicorn draw on the Norse myths and legends to a greater or lesser extent.

Despite the saturation, those whose interests have been piqued by those aforementioned titles will be glad to dive in and immerse themselves in the mythology and history of a time that the media industries are painting as sexy. Furthermore, what better game series to do it than Assassin’s Creed, which, in some ways, is as much a document as an experience.

The problem with Vikings is that it continues a trend in the series towards the expected.

When Assassin’s Creed burst onto the scene in 2007, it brought with a fresh perspective. The game may have been a successor to Prince of Persia, but it was bolder than that earlier franchise ever was in its attempt at depicting the Holy Land, a world largely ignored by gaming. The move to Renaissance Italy began also a move towards the familiar. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations’s detour to Turkey shook things up, but then came Colonial America, the French Revolution, and Victorian London.

Each setting was interesting, but they became ever more familiar thanks to their saturation in gaming, the wider media, and the social consciousness. Meanwhile, Ancient Egypt and Greece are eras revered. Who, as a child, doesn’t dream of the golden sands and towering pyramids or later dream of the democratic ideal in Plato’s Athens?

Ubisoft excels in allowing players to live out their fantasies of life in an idealised past.

However, the series began—and deserves to continue—as a challenge. Instead of retreading locations and histories that can be found elsewhere, Ubisoft could blaze a trail through wars, conflicts, and eras that most people overlook.

An intriguing prospect, if Ubisoft wanted to look at the Viking Age, would be to do so from an Irish perspective, showing the uneasy alliance between the multitudinous kingdoms under a single High King of Ireland in the seventh century.

Elsewhere in the world, while still remaining in the ancient past, might be the Silla-Tang Wars or the later Imjin War in Korea.

Jumping forward in time—matching only Assassin’s Creed Syndicate in its proximity to the present day—might take the Assassins and Templars to New Zealand during the Musket Wars and New Zealand Wars between the native Māori populations and the colonial Europeans.

Each of these settings is broadly unknown, with the potential to take players to exciting new locales and introduce them to foreign cultures. They are also only a handful of the intriguing historical moments that could transform Assassin’s Creed back from a follower to a thought leader.

But Vikings? Ubisoft, you can be more creative than that.

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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Opinion

Borderlands 3 Proves That Practice Makes Perfect

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With Borderlands 3 only a few months away, the anticipation surrounding the return of the franchise that modernized the looter shooter is the topic of many conversations. For over five years, the industry has been without a mainline entry to the series, leaving many to wonder how the franchise would continue after the grand success of Borderlands 2. Although Gearbox and 2K maintained relevance with the release of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, fans of the franchise are eager to see where the vault hunters will go next.

Not long ago now, Gearbox officially announced Borderlands 3 with a release date of September 13, 2019. Shortly afterwards, the industry was shown pre-release footage of the game where audiences witnessed footage of a game similar to that of its predecessors, yet better in every way imaginable. All of the positive reception surrounding the gameplay of Borderlands 3 can be attributed to the length of development time. Similarly to titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and God of War (2018), Borderlands 3 will be another game that proves that taking whatever time is necessary will yield a better product.

Within the footage, Gearbox detailed a host of quality of life changes that gamers have always needed, yet never knew they wanted. An argument can be made that the last Borderlands released during a time when these features were an afterthought, but the same one can be made towards the belief that Gearbox was not required to implement them at all. For instance, sliding and mantling were not seen as missed opportunities during Borderlands 2, though the features are now a welcome change that will greatly alter a player’s experience. Similar to mantling in Destiny 2, players did not realize how naturally the mechanic enhanced their experience until returning to the first Destiny where it was absent.  

Borderlands 3 will alter the player’s experience from previous entries in more ways than one. Along with easier mobility, Gearbox has created numerous weapon and ammunition variants to emphasise the over-the-top appeal. In Borderlands 2, most weapons advertised the user experience upon collection and inspection, whereas players will only truly understand a weapon’s strength through experimentation in the sequel. For example, guns will now feature alternative firing modes that can vary from elemental bullets to firing homing rockets when reloading. Additionally, one weapon archetype will transform into a mobile turret when reloading/disposed of—need I say more?

Most of the enhancements presented in the reveal are accompanied by the realization of the developer’s love and admiration towards the series. Listening to the developers talk about what Borderlands means to them, along with the genuine excitement shown when describing new features reinforces that with enough time and care a project can exceed all expectations. Nevertheless, the game’s greatest features are yet to be shown, leaving some amount of speculation and excitement for the months coming.

From what Borderlands 3 has teased so far, audiences can see how expansive the world will be, including planetary space travel and deep character customization. Of the four confirmed playable characters, Zane and Amara were featured during the reveal. For fans of the previous titles, these characters’ abilities will seem a little familiar. The almost déjà vu sense of familiarity comes from the fact that their abilities are a hybrid of previous character designs. Along with ability design, Borderlands 3 will feature more methods of utilizing a character’s strength through more customizable skill trees.

Zane encompasses features that are reminiscent of numerous characters in the Borderlands series. His Barrier skill tree will feel useful to those who preferred the playstyle of Roland or Axton, as it can both heal and provide buffs for players who stand within its radius. Additionally, his Digi-Clone action skill serves as a mutation from the Doppelganger’s ability in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel with the ability to cast out a fully automatized clone and teleport to its location whenever necessary. Finally, Zane’s SNTNL skill tree shoots out a motorized drone that will mark targets, damaging them in the process. Interestingly enough, however, is that Zane has the potential to be the only character that will allow for the selection of two action skills simultaneously, creating the persona of a one-man army.

Amara, on the other hand, continues a series staple of the presence of a playable Siren. Her Phasegrasp ability is sure to remind players of Borderlands 2’s Maya and her ability to suspend enemies mid-air and deal damage. One ability that is new to the game is Amara’s Phasecast, which projects a spectral form that can damage enemies from distance. Finally, Amara’s Phaseslam ability is akin to Destiny’s Titan Smash, where the player will leap into the air and crash down, creating an area-of-effect blast that can damage enemies while knocking them back.

As previously stated, Borderlands 3 shows evidence of a quality game even months before its scheduled release. Quality, though, should come as no surprise since Gearbox has consistently shown dedication towards the series with how well it supported each title after release. The ideology surrounding the concept of slow roasting a game to perfection can be found in past titles as well. Red Dead Redemption 2 and God of War both experienced extensive development periods, which proved to be for the better given their critical acclaim. The developers of these titles poured their heart and soul into their projects with the desire to create a title that they could be proud of.

For many individuals who worked on Red Dead Redemption 2 and God of War, the fact that their creations are forever cemented as some of the finest experiences in all of gaming is a reward in itself. These titles are truly a testament to how effective a development cycle can be when supported by a team that is just as excited for the final product as any fan would be, and I firmly believe that Borderlands 3 will follow suit. As is evident in every showing so far, Borderlands 3 is a game made for fans by fans.

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