Assassin’s Creed is a series I have been falling in and out of love with as it has gone on, and I had decided to wash my hands of it after a steady decline ending in what I felt was the final straw in Assassin’s Creed III. However, due to the circumstances around a less than stellar release library for the Xbox One, I ended up getting Black Flag, and ended up loving it.
Black Flag really rejuvenated the series for me, it continued to include the things I really liked from the first couple of games but then created gameplay with a much stronger focus on existing within the game’s setting, a setting that pretty much anyone could get behind. Being from the U.K. I had little interest in the American Revolution as a time period, which has nothing to do with the fact that we lost that war. Seriously. You need to stop saying that.
While the time period was a stronger influence in gameplay in this title than previously, the gameplay it provided wasn’t interesting enough to support the game. It focused too heavily on historical re-enactment and became a revolutionary General simulator rather than an Assassin’s Creed game. My only memories of that game involved endlessly sprinting through the woods and marching back and forth on a horse telling people to shoot other people. My point is: I thought it was a bad game.
Getting back to Black Flag, it did do something similar in making its setting a primary focus over the Assassins vs. Templar story, which became secondary to the story of the main character. Only this time, rather than riding a horse and watching over battles in a field, you were sailing on the open ocean, plundering and doing battle with the British and the Spanish ship to ship.
In my opinion ACIV is probably one of the best games in the series, next to the second one, and it has done this by taking the basic framework of the stealth and assassination style gameplay and combining it with something completely different which has its own long list of ins and out, almost making these two aspects seem like they’re from completely different games.
I have seen a lot of people criticise the Black Flag for this very reason though, for being too much of one thing or the other, some saying there is too much pirate in their Assassin’s Creed or visa versa. Personally I really enjoyed the duel aspects of gameplay, the open world exploration and sailing of the pirate portion of the game brought something different to the series and was a welcome change, while many of the main missions that used returning gameplay elements from previous games were some of the better examples of assassination in the series.
The ability to mix up your experience at the drop of a hat has kept me playing the single player campaign well after I‘ve seen the credits roll. The question I ponder over now is what it Ubisoft’s next step?
Well it seems like there is proof of them making these steps already. Ubisoft have been sending out a customer survey, asking the players of Black Flag how they rated their experience overall. You’re probably thinking so what, what’s the big deal? What makes this survey interesting is that it contains a number of questions that have been giving us some idea of what Ubisoft have in mind for their future development, giving their fans an input into their direction. An input that executives at Ubisoft have made a point that they will be taking very seriously.
A lot of these questions seem to imply new ideas such as playing as a Templar and the possibility for a customisable main character and there are some good questions regarding the level of world density, the implication I take from this is that Ubisoft seem to want to make their games much more open world than they have been in the past.
Where I worry though, are several questions implying further focus on sailing and the pirate-centric aspects of Black Flag, seeming to imply that we may be getting more of the same in the future. Now while it is true that Ubisoft have been toying with the idea of creating a new series off the back of this game outside of the AC universe, a much more focused pirate game (there are even a couple of questions in the survey directly probing this idea further), I am already worried that we might find ourselves with another Revelations not too far down the road.
While I loved Ezio as a character, Brotherhood and Revelations were probably unnecessary games, they didn’t add a whole lot besides story and even that dragged at times. And while I also like Edward Kenway, I really hope Ubisoft steer completely clear of pirates altogether as an Assassin’s Creed setting. I may be jumping the gun somewhat here, the seed of a new pirate franchise already being planted and all, but I really think the next Assassin’s Creed game should be an Assassin’s Creed V and have a totally new setting once again and the same unique spin to gameplay based around its location.
It might be because it’s been so long since we’ve had a great Assassin’s Creed game and I don’t want it to be another four or five mediocre titles in the series before the next great one. Ubisoft have turned Assassin’s Creed into an annual franchise and with that comes a time constraint for development and with that comes the willingness to settle for something sub par to buy time while a better idea can be formulated.
Obviously, this is me expecting the worst here, but I just can’t help myself. While I do love Assassin’s Creed IV, any more of the same would be too much for me, and as the series has drawn on and given me some major disappointments, if it can’t sell me a game on some unique aspect, they’re really going to struggle to capture my imagination and thus get my sale. I’ve seen them do ‘more of the same’ before, and it doesn’t interest me.
While the potential for a pirate game is now in the pipeline, it will be a few years before such a project will see the light of day. In the meantime, I really hope Ubisoft don’t feel the need to mollify us with another AC pirate game. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind a year off if it meant they could give us an experience as surprising, as immersive and as different as both ACII and ACIV were compared to what came before them.
I’ve managed to spend the last couple of years both simultaneously hating and loving Ubisoft for the decisions they make and the games they release, and as a result I really can’t predict the next step from them, I could honestly see this series going either way. I can one thing for sure though, they’ve got my attention back, damn them.