The end of every Assassin’s Creed game has always left me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen in the next instalment of the series as Ubisoft have a tendency to use cliff-hangers in a way that EA uses money to buy out competition rather than produce better games. Altair’s story introduced us to the world of Templars and Assassins through the means of lengthy un-skippable cut-scenes that involved a man talking for hours on end in a way that kept us entertained.
The first game in Ezio’s story managed to couple together a rather interesting story involving the Templars in medieval Northern Italy whilst still keeping things running in the present day. By the time you reached the ending of Revelations even though Ezio’s story was over (at least the interactive gaming side was) we’d just begun on Desmond’s journey to not only stop Abstergo from launching their Apple of Eden carrying satellites but somehow stop the cataclysmic event that was about to hit the Earth. In fact, when I saw the trailer for AC3 and put it together with the ending to revelations I fully believed that it would be the last game in the series. At this point I had a fair amount of respect for Ubisoft, they produced rather good games with great story-lines and it didn’t seem like they would be willing to milk the AC series any further in order to make some cash. Ezio’s story was over, that was for sure so we’d need a new assassin to take us through the next game and I was eagerly waiting to play as Connor.
This however is where cracks in my faith in Ubisoft began to show. I had no issue whatsoever in them using a Native American as the new assassin and I even looked forward to the game being set in revolutionary America because Ubisoft had promised us that the game would focus more on the conflict between Assassin and Templars rather than the one between the American and Brits. Revelations had done two things right in its ending, it had not only paved the way for a completely new assassin and game-play style but it had also crated an alternate story line that we could follow, Desmond’s.
I won’t delve too deeply into AC3 as this article is more about what steps can Ubisoft possibly take in the next game, but I will say that even though it was an enjoyable game it never really felt like an assassin game from Connor’s side. Sure, he was trained by an assassin and he wore the assassin garb, but he wasn’t really too keen on rooting out the Templars and foiling their plot. In fact at one stage he was even working alongside a Templar to hunt down British officers to find out what they were planning to do. Now perhaps this is a bit of my British pride showing here, but when I buy an Assassin’s Creed game I want to be playing as an Assassin who’s hunting down Templars and causing all sorts of shenanigans.
I may have kept my temper a tad if this game had been released in the place of Brotherhood as there wasn’t a strong real world story-line happening at the time. Instead, I was allowed to play as a young Native American chap who wanted to avenge his mother’s death and save his village. Rather than hunting down Templars all the time and ensuring that the people of the world remained free I was a ranger for George Washington who captured British forts and helped the American army defeat the British.
All that being said, I can forgive Ubisoft for perverting the Assassin Creed name because they managed to make the real world story highly interesting. No longer was I moving Desmond from the animus to his bed, no longer was hoping around the Colosseum or an old Italian Villa. I was exploring a First Civilisation Grand Temple whilst hunting for components around the world, in fact it felt more that Desmond was the assassin and Connor was merely a sub-plot so that Ubisoft could claim that the game had 20 hours+ of game-play.
Throughout the game we were building up to this wonderful ending where hopefully we would discover what it was the First Civilisation had come up with to prevent massive solar flares. When we finally finish off Connor’s end of the story and reach Desmond is able to open up the gate leading to the inner sanctum Ubisoft decided to throw us a sucker punch and start milking the series. “Oh I’m sorry, you were expecting this to be the final game? You weren’t expecting an anti-climatic ending” they said whilst rolling around in a swimming pool filled with money.
Rather than tell us what Juno was going to do to save the world we were given an un-explained death and a black screen with a news reader telling us how “the worst seems to be over”. It was terrible way to end the real world part of the game and it was a middle finger to the fans, but it did set up a sequel perfectly. Would we get a new assassin, or would we even actually get an assassin this time? What was Juno going to get up to and how was she going to be stopped? What on earth were Abstergo up to these days?
A sane man would have tossed AC3 into the bin and washed his hands of Ubisoft after the above ending, but I’m the kind of man who pre-ordered Final Fantasy 13-2 (oh and put some money away for a special shiny Lightning Returns PS4) without enjoying FF13 so it should come as no surprise that I pre-ordered the special shiny “lordie lord take my money massah” edition of Black Flag when I first saw the trailer. In fact, I was so excited for the game to come out that when Amazon sent me an e-mail saying I’d get the game a day earlier I was ready to throw all my money at them.
When the fateful day came I made sure that there was a note for the postman telling him I had given him my consent to break the door down if I didn’t answer and took the extra initiative of setting a few dozen alarms to ensure I was awake at the crack of dawn. I ended up sleeping through all the alarms as well as the eardrum shattering knocks of my room-mates, but when I was wake Black Flag was sitting happily on the table, ready for me to rip through the plastic covering with my teeth. A few hours later I was bouncing happily on the sofa sailing the seven seas hunting down Templars.
Actually, that’s a lie. A few hours in I had so far managed to kill a few dozen assassins and not harmed any of the Templars I seemed to be walking around with. A cold sweat dripped down my neck as I started to realise my worst fear had come true, Ubisoft were turning into EA. They didn’t see their customers as loving fans who set out on a journey that started back in 2007 but rather they saw us as cows ready to be milked. Whilst AC3 didn’t feel like an Assassin’s Creed game at least I was trained by an assassin to be an assassin and received my assassin clothes from an assassin. I could get my head round Edward being nimble on his feet due to being a sailo—hang on a minute, he hadn’t even been a sailor for that long. In fact the majority of his life had been spent back in England working on a farm. Whilst I could possibly understand why he had a fixation with jumping into hay how on earth did he learn to jump from a tree and assassinate someone? How on earth did he become so nimble that he could climb to the top of a building or a ship’s mast without losing his grip on the first ledge?
I digress, whilst AC3 had an ending that made me very unhappy (to use language that can be published) it was one of the best endings compared to the fiasco that was AC4. Sure, it set up AC3 right? No it bloody didn’t! Mother of god, you’re telling me that Edward is Haytham’s father? That’s like, such an amazing plot twist! If only Ubisoft hadn’t told us that Edward’s surname was Kenway before releasing a game that was set 40 years or so before AC3. Or if only they hadn’t actually told us that we were going to be playing as Haytham’s father as soon as they released the first trailer. No, a good ending that would have set up AC3 would have explained to us who Haytham’s mother was, why Haytham became a Templar, whether Edward joined the Assassins, what happened to the Templar that got away and who on earth Achilles Davenport and why the Assassins in America had been reduced to such few numbers. Those are but a few questions that are left unanswered to a game that is as closely linked to AC3 as humans are bananas; and that’s me being generous.
Now I’m sure by now you’re wondering when I’m going to stop my bitching and actually start discussing what’s next in store for the Assassin’s Creed series; well you’re in luck – I’m spent. The “ending” of AC4 has shown us that Ubisoft aren’t down milking the series just yet and whilst we can definitely see another release possibly next year we may be in store for 2 more entries into the sequel. Juno made a small cameo appearance in Black Flag and whilst the assassins are still bumbling about in the real world we know that they’re definitely up to something however their interests seem to be fixed more on Abstergo than on Lady “Time to play my part”.
In the few minutes you are allowed to travel about in the real world we come across some e-mails between the Ubisof–whoops!–Abstergo Employees (Get it? Because Abstergo Entertainment is modelled after Ubisoft, oh those little jokes crack me up so) discussing which eras they could use in their next film. In said e-mails topics such as the Ashikaga Shogunate and Nineteenth Century London come up as suggestions however a reply is given that quite simple says “stick to s*** that sells” in a somewhat similar fashion to Ubisoft’s reaction to fan demands. Oh I get it now! Abstergo Entertainment IS Ubisoft!
Whilst the suggestions do sound wonderful and the idea of Jack the Ripper actually being an assassin fits perfectly, I highly doubt Ubisoft are ready to let the Kenway’s go just yet. Over the past two years they’ve shown us that they’ve given up on the series and appeasing the fans and are now ready to compete with the big dogs such as Call of Duty. Games like Assassin’s Creed may not have as much lore and may not be as in depth as RPGs such as Skyrim or have an open world as large as action-adventures such as GTA V, however they don’t deserve to be games which are released annually.
Annual releases are for FPSs and Sport games (and JRPGs apparently but we all know how terrible those have been as of late) who want to cash in on the youth of today. The current generation of gamers don’t want to sit for hours on end reading text on a screen, travelling across different landscapes and encountering different people and animals. They don’t want to climb up a tree and wait for a black jaguar to pass underneath so they can use it’s skin to upgrade their character. The gamers of today want to throw on a headset, camp in a corner and hurl obscenities at each other whilst spraying the entire map with a hail of bullets. The gamers of today see it as being nerdy if they spend hours on end sailing the seas with the Jackdaw but find it completely socially acceptable to play FIFA for 8 hours a day. Sadly, this is the market that Ubisoft have to cater to as gamers such as you and I who have enjoyed the story in both the animus and the real world are dying out. We’re getting married, getting jobs and moving on with our lives and although we may sit down for a few hours here and there to play a game we’re not the main market any more.
Ubisoft have already shown us how they want to cater to the new generation by releasing multi-player for a game that quite simply doesn’t need it. A multi-player that I may add is no fun whatsoever and is similar to Call of Duty in a sense, only there aren’t any guns. Whilst I pray Ubisoft aren’t leaning towards encouraging people to spend hours hunting each other down on a small map it does seem like they are trying to increase the notice that their multi-player gets. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a multi-player side to a game, but Call of Duty was rather unknown before Modern Warfare which is the first game in the series that made its money based on the multi-player aspect.
What can we expect from Assassin’s Creed 5 though? Well I’m fumbling around in the dark here seeing as Black Flag did just come out, but I don’t think Haytham’s Story is over. I fully expect to see him being the main feature of the next game which will hopefully explain how he became an assassin and why he ended up betraying the order to become the leader of the Templars in America. We still need to see what’s going to happen to Juno in the real world as well and although there are rumours floating about that Watch Dogs is linked to the series I personally don’t believe that’s the case. It’s set too far in the future to have any correlation with the Assassin’s Creed world and as Ubisoft are behind both titles I doubt Watch Dogs was pushed back due to them wanting Black Flag to come out first.
Shaun and Rebecca’s appearance is Black Flag as well as the Welsh/Scottish Sage in the modern world have shown us that Ubisoft are not ready to drop this story line just yet. Speculations can be made on which era will be playing in next and whether we’ll see the Kenway’s again but we can rest assured that the story’s not over just yet. Juno’s up to something and hopefully we’ll find out soon.
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This article was first posted on November 14, 2013