It’s almost impressive when a video game series somehow pumps out more sequels than Call of Duty, and Assassin’s Creed is one of the few franchises to bear that “honor.”
Ubisoft’s historical fiction series about a guy in a white hood killing control freaks has propelled the company to admirable heights. Following 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II, Ubisoft put out a new open-world AC game every year. The games were generally well-received, but the slow ache of repetition inevitably crept into the series’ bones.
Then, in 2014, Assassin’s Creed Unity happened (if one could call a dumpster fire a simple happening). What Ubisoft hoped would be a landmark Assassin’s Creed title was perhaps the buggiest and most poorly produced title the studio had ever put out.
AC Unity made the top of many worst-games-of-2014 lists, not least because it was buggy across all three platforms and had lots of microtransactions. Ironically, the game generated a situation not unlike its French Revolution setting: a collective of out-of-touch French fatcats offered something to the common folk, and those common folk responded by forming angry mobs.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is the reason there was no Assassin’s Creed game last year. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate came out in 2015, and while it wasn’t a bad game, it certainly wasn’t enough to right Ubisoft’s ship. In a rare moment of clarity, the company realized that pushing endless sequels had made the AC series stale, and took some extra time to develop the now-unveiled Assassin’s Creed Origins. Origins has its work cut out cleaning Unity’s taste out of gamer’s mouths, and needs to clear a few hurdles if it hopes to succeed.
The first thing AC Origins needs to do is simply run well. Even that simple facet of game design has eluded the last few Assassin’s Creed games, and Origins needs to run like a dream if gamers are going to take the series seriously again. Sure, the game can have a few bugs at launch (such is the inevitability of a large-scale title) but hopefully they get patched quickly. Or, because this is a Ubisoft game, hopefully they get patched at all.
Secondly, AC Origins badly needs to shakeup the gameplay. By some counts, Origins will be the eleventh major Assassin’s Creed title, so series veterans have undoubtedly seen things like tailing missions and eavesdropping 10 times. Hopefully, Origins has some new mission formats in mind; preventing assassinations instead of performing them worked well in Assassin’s Creed Rogue and could here again.
Lastly, Origins needs a strong modern-day story just as badly as it does a good historical narrative. The Desmond Miles story arc was a great way to frame so many disparate time periods, and post-Desmond Assassin’s Creed games have felt more scattered without it. Some new modern-day characters and a compelling reason to race through these time periods (please, no more “genetic data gathering”) are well within reach.
Assassin’s Creed Origins launches on October 27th, and will hopefully demonstrate a more reserved, more mature Ubisoft. Ideally, it’ll also mean a new era for the series, because for all the mediocre things about it, it’s a neat series. The only way to find out if Origins can pull all of this off will be to check it out when it lands.