Why the next Assassin’s Creed HAS to change.
When it comes to Assassin’s Creed, I’ll do just about anything to get my hands on a copy of the newest release. I’m a fiend for history and Ubisoft do a great job of representing the entertainment of history in their flagship franchise. Having played the original game, the Ezio Trilogy and Assassins Creed III to 100%, I recently dived in to the Caribbean world of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The game is without doubt, a masterpiece of excellence and the best Assassin game since the second. But as much as I revel in it’s brilliance, I can’t help but feel that pre-emptively, this series may have peaked. If Ubisoft want to keep hitting us year after year with a new Assassin’s Creed, then I think it’s time for a re-haul.
Why do I say this? Take Assassin’s Creed II. On general consensus it was the greatest of Ezio’s trilogy and possibly the greatest title in the series. Coming off the back of the first game, it presented a far wider array of activities, opportunities, skills and customisation. Comparing this to the first game, many people were bewildered at the scope of AC II and as a result, lumped great amounts of praise and satisfaction onto it. Since this great change, the Assassins Creed series has struggled to move away from it’s winning formula, and while it continued to be successful, enthusiasm for the franchise ran dry. Throwing in Multiplayer modes and mixing up the combat in Brotherhood felt like worthy additions, but the game itself felt more like an enlarged DLC than a stand alone title. Revelations provided almost no innovation, aside a fairly mediocre tower defence mini-game and a new ‘hook blade’, both of which were made fairly trivial amongst the standard Assassin’s Creed affair.
This led us to the strange title that was Assassins Creed III. The gameplay was much the same and while on land, most people saw the pace as too slow, repetitive and dull. While many parts of the game still provided me entertainment, I can certainly see how the lack of change led to despair for most gamers and led to Ubisoft switching a few things around. Of the changes that were made in the colonial setting, the Naval Gameplay was the most celebrated. Allowing Connor to get some time away from land was refreshing and mixed things up completely for the series. Listening to feedback from users of Assassin’s Creed III, Ubisoft decided to set the follow up title entirely at sea, and so we were given Black Flag.
Having played the fourth numerical installment for around 20 hours now I can honestly say that the switch up really refreshed the series. Naval combat is great, the Jackdaw is a beauty and there really is so much to do in the vibrant Caribbean landscape. There is however, one problem that Black Flag presents. It took Ubisoft four titles to change the gameplay in a substantial way, if they follow this pattern off the successes of Black Flag, they may find themselves in trouble. The sea faring can stay; it’s a great change of pace, the side activities and the story, (both modern and past) are entertaining and it’s clear to see where they’re going and what they intend. The real change needs to come to the combat, which has remained relatively the same, (new weapons aside) since Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.
At this point in the franchise the entire system needs a reboot. With the introduction of the even easier countering system in III the games have become laughably easy, with entire decks of Spanish frigates falling to the sword in a matter of seconds. The several enemies who can intercept counters are easily tackled with a quick shot to the face. The games are so big but are completed in time thanks to a distinct lack of difficulty setting and mixed up combat. Not only are they easy, but enemies are also very predictable. Enter a bar fight to open a tavern? Just mash counter after the cut scene to get in an easy kill. Climb up the mast on a boarded ship, again mash counter as you reach the top to kill the gunner.
Whether or not Ubisoft spin a stand-alone pirate game off of ACIV’s success, if they intend to continue the Assassin’s series going, they need to address issues of change. Continuing the naval gameplay would restrict them to only a few time periods but even after a few games with this similar formula, it would eventually run dry. However, the series may not get to that point if they don’t immediately address combat difficulty and weapon abilities. Ubisoft, watch the systems of Ryse and the Batman: Arkham Trilogy. Study their failures and triumphs and emulate a similar system. I could run the streets of history forever, but if I continuously exhaust it in a matter of hours… I may stay away from the prospect of doing it again.