Assassin’s Creed is one of the great success stories of this generation of consoles, and sits right at the top of many gamers’ most wanted lists each year. Yes, it started out with a bit of a whimper when disappointingly compared to expectations but to Ubisoft’s immense credit they took on board the feedback and reinvigorated the franchise with the birth of Ezio Auditore, a fabulously entertaining character and one who has sustained the series through three episodes (along with the help of many colourful historical figures like Leonardo himself), each of which has been on the whole excellent and has innovated in its own way. Sometimes the innovation has worked (training and managing your Assassins); sometimes it’s failed (tower defence is not what we want from the Assassini), but it has always showed an eagerness to enhance and improve upon what’s gone before. This bodes well for Assassin’s Creed III, the first true upgrade in the series since Assassin’s Creed II in 2009. The world waits, and the recent announcement of the setting has been met with both intrigue and confusion for various reasons, some of which we detail in our preview. However, having just played through the most recent title Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, we’ve had a number of thoughts on what we do and don’t want from the forthcoming sequel. Let us know if you agree, or if have a completely different idea.
Historical Figures and History:
One of the best things about the series is the use of history to colour and stabilise what’s going on in the fight between Assassins and Templars, who the first people are and what Desmond’s purpose is. Leonardo Da Vinci was a particular favourite of ours, but Prince Suleiman was an interesting character and provides possible foreshadowing of what’s to come given his place in society and the aid he provided to Ezio. Connor Kenway, the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed III may be part Mohawk; part British by heritage but given the setting of the game is 1753 to 1783 in America he’ll encounter significant figures of the time such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. We know this already. Hopefully though they will play a large part in the narrative, rather than be an aesthetic addition. For sure, given various rumours and theories surrounding the birth of America, and these figures in particular (for example they are Freemasons and therefore Templars - the Assassini’s opposition) it would be remiss of Ubisoft not to have them involved intimately in whatever transpires. The intriguing question is whether they’ll be with Connor or against him, and whether the initial allegiance in whichever direction will change over the course of the game.
Quality, not Quantity:
Assassin’s Creed is a magnificent sprawling beast of a franchise which has evolved and re-evolved a lot since 2007’s first release. As mentioned in the preamble a lot of things have been tried and some have stuck but lots has just not worked. Tower defence in particular is just not fun in any way in Assassin's Creed: Revelations; Assassin’s Creed is not the right place for it. Of course, the three Ezio episodes have been made by different lead teams and formed by many of Ubisoft’s various developers across the globe. Each will have brought their own ideas to the table and added it to the rich tableaux already present. That’s fine - it brought us the Assassin’s mini-game which many enjoyed. What we need though is for the devs of Connor’s story to take a ‘big picture’ look at what did and didn’t work and why that’s the case. Look to include in the new game only what is a no-brainer. Keep it lean. Focus on what the Assassini do best. Build the story. Make Desmond’s role clear. Don’t have us playing some abstract platform game to learn how he worked in a New York bar once upon a time. Show us how he fits into the end of the world and how Connor helps him get to that point (as the latest conduit for the first people’s message). The games are big already. There will be new ideas. Just play it straight though. Focus on delivering a great game, not a wide and varied game for the sake of it. I don’t really want to go and play an animal skinning mini-game when Red Dead Redemption has already done it unless this take on it is special.
More Tomb Raiding:
For sure the best parts of Ezio’s games. The pure tomb raiding gaming which is fundamental platforming at its purest. It’s fantastic fun. Fluid, smooth and enjoyable and deployed as finite chunks of gaming which fit into the story and ambience perfectly. The variety of ideas within each of these moments has been superb across the board too. In Assassin’s Creed: Revelations we had puzzles, chases and just a pure vertical platformer from ground to up high. Make sure these types of levels are in Connor’s game, and by all means add more. Make them the focus. Make the end level in each memory one of these. They deserve to be the key to the game and the peak of the game too. For boss levels in other games, read the tomb raiding in Assassin’s Creed III
First Person Parkour?
Why not? Assassin’s Creed has always been about the extreme parkour the Assassini are capable of. Mirror’s Edge was a fine game in its own right, at least in terms of its main concept. Some of the execution was imperfect - combat was awkward; sometimes it was hard to see where to go - but the feeling of fluidity and immersion when free-running across the world was sensational. Can you imagine assassinations like this? Total immersion gaming. This series is the obvious home for such an experience, certainly given the absence to date of a sequel to the aforementioned Mirror’s Edge. We wouldn’t propose the whole game be like this, but some levels would be greatly appreciated. Maybe that could be the one fine innovation come October 2012?
The engine is old and from what we’ve seen of Assassin’s Creed III to date there’s a new engine (Anvil Next) and many of the gripes we have with the games today will go away. We hope so anyway as a lot of it would appear straightforward. For example, can we reduce loading times, even if that means installing to hard disk? Every memory and often each part of that memory needs loading. It gets tedious quickly, especially if replaying to get one hundred percent synchronisation. In fact, why do we even need to choose a mission and get that to load? Can’t we have multiples on the go at any one time, a la Batman: Arkham City? Anything that can cut out the fat from the game will enhance the overall experience. Also why to skip a cinematic do we need to go into the pause menu? Give us a quick button press and let us skip EVERY cinematic. It may be important first time through but not the second or third. Let’s get rid of the beggars on the street who run up to you and often into you causing you to stumble. It may be realistic but it’s not fun at all. There’s bound to be more but these are from the top of the head very simple to fix (said as a non-programmer) but very common frustrations.
A New Character Feel:
Ezio controls fine. His animation is excellent. But over three games some frustrations have crept in. Why does he always take so long to jump from wall to extruding ledge? Why is his combat limited when compared to Batman’s in Batman: Arkham City? In fact, there’s your template for Connor. Batman moved more swiftly and with greater fluidity. The player felt more in control of his actions than they do Ezio’s, given the rather long wait time for certain actions, or ability only to attack or counter with that one weapon at that one time. Give us the chance to combo through a group of soldiers using the hidden blade followed by a knife and then finishing with the opponent’s rifle. Do it.
No Tower Defence:
It didn’t work. It was clumsy and painful. No-one wanted to play this. Those who did went and bought Dungeon Defenders instead.
More Leaps of Faith:
Forever this is what the series has been about. Climbing tall structures and jumping; performing the wonderfully glorious leap of faith. We always look for the viewpoints as a priority when starting an Assassin’s Creed game. The climb is fun, but that lovely animated swan dive is a brilliant moment. You truly feel like an Assassin at that point in time. Please have more of these viewpoints. A lot has been said about America in this time and how there may not be many tall buildings, and that trees may be your main viewpoints. Fine. Just make sure there are lots. This is something we would happily spend an entire game doing. In fact, just give us a spin-off game: Assassin’s Creed: The World’s Tallest Buildings, where the modern day Assassin goes all around the world jumping off of the CN Tower, The Empire State Building and so on.
So, in summary, we at The Digital Fix cannot wait for Assassin’s Creed III to arrive in stores on October 31st 2012. Whilst we don’t know how much of the above will happen, we’re pretty confident whatever we do get will be a rip-roaring yarn that is distinctly different from its predecessors, whilst still retaining the flavour of the Assassini we know and love...