For any franchise, ensuring that people will keep coming back can be a bit of a struggle. This is why companies will release new foods, toys, or designs. The gaming industry has had some luck in this department. As technology has advanced, their games naturally improved. This is how we can go from rough 32-bit graphics in games like the original TOMB RAIDER and SONIC THE HEDGEHOG to hyper-realistic characters and backgrounds in THE LAST OF US and ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS.
But for long-standing game series, new tech won’t automatically solve all the problems. This is why you can always ensure a new POKÉMON game comes out whenever a new Nintendo console does. The added improvements to the physical console itself allow for innovative changes to the game’s gameplay. But for games like those in the ASSASSIN’S CREED series, where the changes made to its main consoles are mostly internal, they can’t rely solely on the tech. So what’s a company like Ubisoft, the creators of ASSASSIN’S CREED, to do?
In 2017, two years after the release of their last game and ten years since it’s first game launched, Ubisoft announced that the series would be going back to the very start. It’s not unusual for franchises to restart. But for the ASSASSIN’S CREED games, whose gameplay relies on going back in time, the concept isn’t that unique. And yet, ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS is an incredible game and a fresh take on an established series.
With the recent announcement of ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY at E3, it’s important to look at the game that made it possible. This article will touch upon the issues with previous ASSASSIN’S CREED games, the improvements made in ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS, and what they mean for the future of the franchise.
The Assassin’s Creed
If you weren’t familiar with the games or didn’t know the series’ full history, here’s a quick rundown. The ASSASSIN’S CREED games revolve around a centuries-long fight between the Assassins, who fight for the free will of all people, and the Templars, who think peace comes from controlling everyone.
Using a device called the “Animus,” players travel back in time in search for “Pieces of Eden,” artifacts that would essentially allow the Templars to take over the world. Players have fought their way through the Third Crusade, Italian Renaissance, Colonial Times, revolution-era France, Imperial China, Victorian England, and most recently, ancient Egypt. Next, in ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY, players will travel to Ancient Greece, continuing the origin story started by ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS.
The first game launched in 2007. They launched yearly for eight years. Then, in 2015, Ubisoft announced they were skipping a year. During that waiting period, 20th Century Fox released a spin-off movie titled ASSASSIN’S CREED starring Michael Fassbender and Marrion Cotillard. In early 2017, rumors mentioned talks of a possible restart of the franchise. These rumors were confirmed later that year. And in October 2017, ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS officially released. Now, over 20 games released across multiple platforms make up the franchise.
Major Hiccups & Glitches
While no games are completely free of glitches, ASSASSIN’S CREED’s glitches are rather infamous. After the release of each game, players flood Ubisoft forums to complain about them. Issues like start-up errors, freezing, crashing, incomplete characters and elements make up a majority of the complaints.
While you can call Ubisoft’s eagerness to release games admirable, it’s a huge deterrent when a game releases and it’s almost unplayable. When ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS released, these glitches were even called “nightmare-inducing.” And if you look at the photos below, wouldn’t you agree?
AC: Origins has a bizarre animal spawn bug and I'm really hoping it doesn't get fixed pic.twitter.com/mcQbhASZe5
— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsEG) October 30, 2017
Probably one of the main issues of the entire series is its repetitiveness. Players fight off Templars and stop them from using the Piece of Eden present in that game. Over the years, Ubisoft made small changes to gameplay, such as whistling, crouching, and naval combat. In fact, Kotaku recently made a chart detailing the mechanics of all the main ASSASSIN’S CREED games. But these details can only take the game so far. ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS flips the formulaic plot on its head, but I’ll get into more detail on it later.
The Female Assassin Controversy
The series’ problems are more than just technical issues. If you’ve been following the series, you might be familiar with this scandal: In 2014, during a Polygon interview with Creative Director Alex Amancio, Amancio revealed plans for female Assassins in ASSASSIN’S CREED UNITY were scrapped due to “the reality of production.”
This reality included an additional “8,000 animations” would have to be created in order to put a female character into the game. But as this game programmer pointed out over Twitter, the work would add up to “one or two days.” This, for obvious reasons, sparked a lot of controversy among gamers, forcing Ubisoft to release a statement. Though, if you give it a peak, its not much of an explanation or an apology.
When Ubisoft announced ASSASSIN’S CREED SYNDICATE, they also revealed two main characters, twins Evie and Jacob Frye. Finally, a female assassin! Even better, her design is practical and conservative, aligning with how women dressed at the time. But if you are to look closely at her gameplay, most of her story revolves around the men in her life. As Anita Sarkeesian says in her review,
“Jacob is arrogant, pompous, and quick to [act] without understanding the consequences while Evie is charismatic, focused, intelligent and forced to clean up her brother’s messes.”
Even as Evie’s story unfolds, her missions begin revolving around the requests of Henry Green.
So while we get this awesome female character, we don’t really see her full potential as an assassin. This is a woman that has dedicated her life to the Creed. And yet, toward the end of the game, its revealed that Evie and Henry are in a relationship. The whole relationship felt rather sudden and underdeveloped. So while it was a win, it’s a conditional win at best.
Hitting Restart with ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS
For almost the entirety of ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS, it doesn’t feel like you’re playing an ASSASSIN’S CREED game. The controls have somewhat changed, the map has changed, and you technically aren’t fighting off Templars. Instead, Bayek of Siwa roams Ancient Egypt to avenge his son, murdered by the Templar’s predecessor, The Order of Ancients. As you move throughout Egypt, you hunt down members of The Order and it’s only when you reach the top of the totem that the Piece of Eden comes into play.
I think one of the most important parts about ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS is that it doesn’t feel like an origin story. You can’t help but wonder how all these pieces fit together because, for most of the game, it looks like they don’t. This can understandably be confusing for people who expected the familiarity of previous games. But to successfully reboot a franchise, I think its necessary to step away from how things were run.
This makes the payoff at the end of the game all the more satisfying. Seeing how the assassin’s symbol came about or how they all came to lose their ring fingers are minor details that don’t seem too significant. But these details make up the lore of the game and that’s why they’re so important.
It’s hard to tell what the future will hold. At the end of ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS, Aya travels to Rome and establishes the Brotherhood of Assassins. Unfortunately, the game ends before we can see how the Brotherhood grows. But that’s what later games are for. In ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY, we’re expected to go back even further in time, where the war between Assassins and Templars doesn’t even exist. So it’s hard to predict where the series is going.
The Future of the Franchise
So far, Ubisoft has made some significant changes ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY’s gameplay. It will be the first fully RPG game, allowing players to interact with the story and make their own decisions. Whereas other games required players to play both male and female character to complete missions, players will choose to play as either Alexios or Kassandra for the whole game.
The story will be exactly the same regardless of which character you choose. ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY also brings back the naval combat gameplay of ASSASSIN’S CREED BLACK FLAG. If you want to learn more about gameplay, click here. At this point, we can only hope that ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY will be spared from the major issues of past games. With all these new elements, we can probably expect the same old glitches to occur.
But if Ubisoft can successfully make all these changes and develop Assassin lore even further, it will be game-changing. ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY will most likely be the best ASSASSIN’S CREED game regardless. And it will all be thanks to ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS for paving the way.