This past week, Kotaku posted a story claiming they heard rumors that the next main entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise will not only be set in Egypt, but will also be released in 2017 instead of 2016. In other words, Ubisoft has decided to give the series a much needed rest. I for one cannot help but feel thankful that they have chosen to let the franchise catch it’s breath.
Should this rumor be true, this will be the first year since 2009 that fans will not receive a main entry in the Assassin vs. Templar franchise. Of course fans can still look forward to Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India and Russia, which are due out January 12 and February 9 respectively, but those games serve more as spinoffs than entries in the main franchise.
Don’t get the wrong idea, I enjoy Assassin’s Creed quite a bit. Unfortunately, I also feel that since the decision to annualize the series, its quality has taken a dive year after year. This culminated in the debacle that was the Assassin’s Creed Unity release: littered with bugs, a lackluster ending to say the least, and a love story that at times felt shoehorned in.
Fast forward to Syndicate’s release in 2015 and you’ll find the game feels much the same as its predecessor – minus the bugs – and arrived with a resounding thud. Much of the gameplay is similar, combat is tedious, and the recycled combat animations are disappointing. This iteration could be considered the very definition of playing it safe. Designers eliminated the bugs, nixed the multiplayer and focused on a single player experience in Victorian London, one of the most popular time periods in fiction. As they continue to pump out new sequels every year, Ubisoft can’t make the drastic changes the series so desperately needs.
If Ubisoft does take 2016 off, what changes should we expect in 2017’s Assassin’s Creed? First and foremost, the developers face a hard decision: do they continue to incorporate the present day storyline? If so, they need to expand upon it and move the story forward – as it is now the plot has plateaued. It almost seems as if they had no plan for after Assassin’s Creed III and have been winging it since then. Taking a break will allow them to flesh out the plot for future games.
Ubisoft also needs to completely overhaul the combat system. The foundation is there for Batman Arkham style combat, but the clunkiness and poor enemy AI prevent the current system from coming into its own. Combat akin to Shadow of Mordor would be ideal for the Assassin’s Creed franchise as it allows for the free flowing combat style the developers could be looking for.
Fixing the minor problems that have been plaguing the series for years resolves some of the fans’ remaining complaints. Issues such as sticky jumping and inconsistent character movement, NPC characters lacking personality, and creating a realistic environment are just a few of the possible improvements Ubisoft should focus on.
Assassin’s Creed is not a bad series and I would go out of my way to recommend it to others, but it continues to test my patience. Ubisoft would be well served taking a year and getting their head on straight. Here’s hoping 2017’s Assassin’s Creed is the redemption the series needs. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get a game set in Feudal Japan.