Over a decade of parallel storylines, a plethora or historical settings, and more protagonists than you can shake a stick at. The Assassin’s Creed franchise has it all. And yet, we can’t help but feel that Ubisoft’s massive franchise is fated to retread past ground.
Before the restructured framework of Origins took place, the franchise was in a bit of a rut. The player base was suffering from annual release fatigue, the storyline became more or less the exact same thing through every installation, with only the locales and characters changing.
By the time Syndicate released, players felt as if they’ve been playing the same game for years on end – albeit with different texture and model packs applied.
AC: Origins bucked many of the entrenched trends and offered a fresh take on the AC universe that saw a wilting player base revitalized. But now, with the release of Odyssey, Ubisoft looks like its setting itself up to repeat the mistakes of the past.
In order to understand how Assassin’s Creed got to where it is, we must look at where it’s been. And so, let’s take a trip down memory lane back to 2007. When the first Assassin’s Creed was released, it was a game that was unlike anything else on the market. It was an instant classic.
Billed as a historic excursion during the Crusades, Assassin’s Creed blew away audience expectations from the moment the title screen faded into the background. Soon, players were clued into the fact that this new and strange world wasn’t just going to be a standard romp through some select historical narratives.
The parallel story that ran alongside Altair’s narrative with Abstergo, Desmond, and the modern-day Assassins propelled the franchise to the forefront of the audience’s imaginations – and the engine’s ability to render realistic and dense crowds among the sun-bleached stones of the Middle-East ushered in a newly-perceived understanding of what fidelity of realism video games could accomplish.
Ubisoft got lucky with Altair and even luckier with his descendant, Ezio – so aware were they of this luck that they ran with Ezio for an entire trilogy that focused solely on following him. By the time the franchise was ready to move onto the “third” game in the series, the audience was already looking for something more.
Unfortunately for Ubisoft, there seemed to be a finite amount of new content that was circulated through far too many games – and whenever a new and exciting feature was added, it somehow managed to be run into the ground. *cough* naval battles *cough*
To their credit, Ubisoft did admit that the series was going to be taking a year off to figure out the best direction to take the franchise. While Origins certainly bucked the trend, the sheer amount of deviation from the established franchise has put off a considerable amount of the fanbase. That’s not the only problem that Ubi’s had to contend with, though.
True to their past form, the studio seems to have thrown itself back into the same problem that it had before – albeit coming from a different angle this time. While the current iteration of games owe a lot to their predecessors, they also eschew incredible amounts of narrative in the name of clearing a path for new stories.
Quite frankly, we can’t shake the feeling that removing any presence of the actual ASSASSINS CREED from the franchise isn’t the best way to build up the shared universe. But then again, we’ve had the same “both the Templars and the Assassins want the same thing but in different ways” narrative for over a decade now.
It’s anyone’s guess as to where the future of the AC franchise goes, but Ubisoft, if you’re listening: please bring back the modern-day narrative and do it justice.