Where next for Assassin’s Creed?

 

Assassin’s Creed has been entertaining us since 2007 with its unique take on history. Chronicling an age-old struggle between a brotherhood of Assassins and the powerful Templars, it tells of mortal enemies who fight and die for control of mysterious and powerful artefacts, known as Pieces of Eden. We have been transported from the Middle East of the Third Crusades to Renaissance Italy by a potent mix of historical fact and nonsense, featuring real life figures such as Richard the Lionheart, Leonardo Da Vinci and Rodriguo Borgia co-existing comfortably with fictional assassins, jumping back and forth between the past and (almost) present day.

Three entries deep on home consoles, and bolstered by a number of portable tie-ins, Assassins Creed Brotherhood, one of my favourite games of 2010, left the series at an interesting juncture, hinting at a shift in focus from the escapades of long deceased assassins to our contemporary, Desmond. I must admit that I don’t particularly care for Desmond and his part in the saga, feeling the series always shines brightest when it’s carefully chosen historical settings take centre stage, following Altair and then Ezio through the most important moments of their lives. Desmond’s sections never seem quite up to the task, too simplistic and linear in comparison with his infinitely more interesting ancestors. But like it or not, he figures to feature heavily in future instalments, being that he is a "chosen one" of sorts, though I fear that the mysterious entity that did the choosing may have mistaken him for Nathan Drake, also voiced by video game staple Nolan North, a proven commodity in killing and treasure hunting.

The story of Ezio, the protagonist from Assassin’s Creed 2 and Brotherhood, appears to have run its course. For a man who spends most of his life hooded and lurking in the shadows, I feel I have gotten to know him pretty well. It is time for a new character and setting to emerge to complement Desmond’s reality, something that Ubisoft have already alluded to. Various figures involved with the series have dropped hints, some contradictory, as to where it will and won't travel next. We have been told that it won’t be set during World War Two, but the USSR and ancient Rome are possibilities, and it has been suggested that each numbered Assassin's Creed will feature a new location and ancestor. The setting for Assassin’s Creed 3 will most likely have been decided long ago, and Ubisoft will not have been short of options.


Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood opened our eyes to Assassin activity all across Europe by way of a new assignment system. This amounted to a rather repetitive task of shipping your apprentices, recruited from the civilian population of Rome, across the continent to ply their trade, accruing experience points and ultimately become fully fledged assassins. Clearly the Brotherhood has spread its wings, bothering Templar interests wherever they are found, so I’m assuming that any location in the "civilized world" is fair game for AC3.

I will be surprised and somewhat disappointed if Ubisoft settle for anything post World War One, after which warfare in the modern sense took shape. From that point onwards a man walking around with concealed knives, AC's defining and most appealing tool of the trade, would just be shot in the face or simply slapped with an ASBO. Either way, it would make for a rather short and painful adventure.

Our robed hatchet men rile against established Templar power, attempting to overthrow despotic rulers and perceived threats to the balance of things. In achieving their goals, they look to the support of the people and encourage them to rise against their corrupt rulers, a revolutionary catalyst of sorts. Therefore I can think of no better setting than Paris circa 1789 and the ensuing years of organized terror. The French Revolution was rich with larger than life characters such as Maximilien Robespierre and Jean-Paul Marat, ready to step into the shoes of the Borgia of Brotherhood. At a time when blood ran freely - during the Reign of Terror (1793-4) it is estimated that as many as 40,000 men, women and children were executed, many without trial - no one would notice an assassin stabbing their way through Paris or taking a header off the Bastille into a carefully placed hay cart.


Perhaps the Assassin's were front and centre in the disposition of Louis XVI , only to be duped and double crossed by the men who assumed power, spending the ensuing years undoing their mistakes with some secret stabbery. We could jump ahead to the Russian Revolution (1917) instead, as the Brotherhood light the fuse that sets off the whole of Russia, though that would be a lot of blood on the hands of our protagonist. If Ubisoft wanted to take the unusual step of casting a known figure as our lead, why not plump for Grigori Rasputin, the mad monk whose alleged resistance to bullets, knives and poison are worthy of a video game character. Secretly attempting to unravel the Romanov dynasty from within and get his hands on a piece of Eden, he could hide bodies in his beard, all the while accompanied by the sounds of Boney M, who I’m sure would be happy to contribute a disco soundtrack.

Why not venture even further back into the depths of time to explore the birth of the Brotherhood and discover the motivations of its founding fathers. Was Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) the first Western ruler to stumble upon a Piece of Eden, drawn to it by his unquenchable thirst for power? The Brotherhood may have been born out of necessity, formed from the rank and file of Alexander's huge army. Overwhelmed by the power and influence of his otherworldly artefact, and deluded by divine aspirations, Alexander finally succumbs to an assassin's poison, a probable cause of the fever-like symptoms which killed him, perishing in his Babylonian palace before he discovers the true power of the weapon in his possession.

Staying with Babylon, we could witness the assassins' role in the fall of a once proud city, ushering the downfall of a decadent seat of power that once oversaw an empire. The purveyors of organized chaos, our nimble scallywags could sew the seeds of doubt and decay in some of histories most opulent cities. The final Imperial days of Rome and Constantinople would provide stunning backdrops, our assassins rooting out the causes of ruin and ultimately sacrificing the city for the greater good/more exciting game.

If Ubisoft are in the mood for a bit of blasphemy, why not return to the Holy Land, only this time in the first century AD, and explore the connection between the artefacts, their past owners and Christianity. This is something that has been touched upon in the revelations of Subject 16's videos in Assassin’s Creed 2 and Brotherhood. Perhaps Jesus and his crew were part of the Peoples’ Front of Judea, under the astute leadership of Assassin Reg, looking to overthrow the tyranny of Roman rule. Culminating in Jesus' crucifixion, his disciples use their Piece of Eden to bring about his resurrection. That story line would certainly generate publicity, if nothing else.


A trip further afield would keep the series fresh, venturing further outside its comfort zone of European history. China or Japan in the Nineteenth or early Twentieth centuries would offer an irresistible change of scenery, as they both struggled, often violently, with retaining traditional culture and values in the face of Westernization. The bloodshed and chaos of the Boxer Rebellion or the Opium Wars would offer an exciting subplot. I can envision our protagonist racing through the flames of Beijing's Old Summer Palace attempting to complete his charge as the walls crumble around him, submitting to the overwhelming bombardment of the French and British forces.

Assassin's Creed has mastered the gameplay fundamentals, established a narrative that resonates and made the assassin's cowl an internationally recognised gaming icon. The setting is the icing on the cake. The last 2000+ years of world history is wrought with epic struggles and sinister characters who would lend themselves perfectly to the AC yarn, making the developers job that much easier. The series could go on and on, tapping into the lives of the countless assassins who came before Desmond, and as long as there is demand, I’m sure it will. After all, rewriting and reliving history is always appealing, especially when it involves smoke bombs, prostitutes and spring loaded blades.  

Assassin's Creed 3 is an inevitability, yet as my above ramblings would suggest, we know very little about it. However, even with so much up in the air, there is one thing we can be reasonably sure of - a nonsensical ending, something of a series speciality. So in keeping with tradition, 1873 was an excellent year for philatelists.

Desmond, are you listening?

Comments

  1. It's going to be a tricky choice. If they go backwards it seems we may lose some of the new tools we've gained. But there are some very intriguing settings further back. It will be interesting to see what they do. It feels like going forward from the Ezio time is the way to go. But like you said the wristblade still needs make sense, so they can't go too far forward I feel like.

    I am so done with Ezio at this point though. Definitely time for a new ancestor/time period.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Trip, thanks for stopping by.

    It is definitely time to move on, though i did really enjoy playing as Ezio. Definitely the most appealling of the characters thus far.

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