Written by Andrew Loeschner.
Ubisoft has been making the Assassin’s Creed franchise for a decade now, with the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Origins not too far off. But with any franchise that has a yearly release all throughout that time, the question becomes: How do you keep it fresh and exciting while improving and building on past mistakes?
I definitely don’t have all the answers, and you may disagree with me, but here’s a list of things I think Ubisoft can and should do to revitalize the franchise.
1. Step Back
We get that the franchise is popular and that people will buy into it no matter what, but Assassin’s Creed would benefit greatly if it had longer periods of time between releases. And I don’t mean a one year gap so you can replace it with a movie and another Watch Dogs game. Take a page from Rockstar’s book and take time with games. An Assassin’s Creed every three or four years will be better than one every single year, given that so much can be done in that time span.
2. Get Rid of the Modern Day Portion
Some people like having the modern aspect of the game to tie all the separate games together but, more often than not, the modern segments yank us out of the period ones in a way that’s jarring and frustrating. When I’m knee deep in Victorian London I don’t want to suddenly go to a modern mission or cutscene. If it’s so vital to the series then just make an entire game devoted to modern Assassins. I would much rather see the games intertwine through little nods and easter eggs.
3. Fix the Combat System
This is something Assassin’s Creed has struggled with from the start. The Assassins are supposed to operate largely using stealth, but there’s little incentive to in certain areas because the characters are so over-powered. I would constantly set up huge battles in Assassin’s Creed III so I could fill the streets with corpses. My recommendation would be to implement something similar to the Dark Souls games. Combat will be doable, but challenging and make stealth a preference. Taking on large groups will be much more difficult, while a one on one battle can range from moderately easy to near impossible.
4. Fix the Parkour System
I’ll actually concede that I was impressed with Syndicate‘s parkour system, as it was rare that I ran up a wall I didn’t want to. So you’re halfway there, Ubisoft! Now what really needs to be done is polishing. Parkour is one of the fundamental pillars of the franchise, so it should be as good as humanly possible. The more we get from point A to point B without any hiccups the better.
5. Make Side Quests Mean Something
Nobody cares about getting every single page from the book Ben Franklin lost. Give us side quests that reveal more about the character we’re playing as or more about the Brotherhood. There’s a lot of really cool lore opportunities and a lot of tiny moments that could make us care about characters more. Use side quests as an opportunity to build that. And the more intertwined the side quests are with one another the better.
6. Develop Character
Ezio is arguably the most beloved character in the franchise, but since his introduction every protagonist has seemed like either a stoic Batman-assassin or an Ezio knock off. There’s a wide variety of personalities beyond the smart-mouthed young guy, so go explore those. And at the same time, make us care about the characters. There’s a lot of potential here to really explain why people are so devoted to the Assassin Brotherhood beyond just “it’s the right thing.”
7. Get Rid of Follow and Escort Missions
Nobody likes these. They’re boring and frustrating.
8. Make the Games Fun
There have been numerous points where I’ve stopped myself partway through a mission in Assassin’s Creed and just wondered, “Is this actually fun?” And that’s something the developers at Ubisoft need to ask as well. Are the missions fun, stimulating, and entertaining? Or are they just partially scripted events that push forward a narrative? I’m really big on story-telling in games, but they’re called video games and if they’re not fun then they’ve lost their purpose and failed their mission.
9. Go to Feudal Japan
At some point the franchise needs to go to what is definitely the most requested locale and time period. With the opportunity to combine ninjas and assassins while fighting samurai and meeting the shogun, going to feudal Japan is simply a fulfillment of the fans’ requests for years. It’s an opportunity to show that Ubisoft does, in fact, listen to their fans. The setting alone will draw a lot of players that have lost interest, so if all the other improvements are implemented as well then it’s the perfect chance to bring the franchise to the forefront of AAA gaming once again.