Assassin’s Creed 4: When & Where To Next?
The Future of Assassin’s Creed: Caution! Spoilers ahead
by David Hilton
© 2012 David Hilton
In case you didn’t read the header, please take note.
If you have not completed Assassin’s Creed III, please do not read any further as major plot points are discussed in order to form our predictions.
You have been warned.
That seemed to be the primary theme to the final chapter of Desmond’s story and Assassin’s Creed 3.
His ancestor Connor fought for his people and freedom to no avail; the independent United States nation he fought to create turned on his people and stole their land. The freedom he fought for was for some but not all; slavery continued to flourish in the new nation.
Desmond himself, after 5 games, is faced with the impossible Sophie’s Choice:
1) Support the cause of the Assassins and freedom, allow the Earth to burn and most people to die, only to see it rebuilt in his image, and then that image corrupted, and the cycle of chaos repeated.
2) Save the world with the power of the First Civilization, knowing that Juno has corrupted it so that she will dominate the world with her version of order, much like the Templars are seeking for themselves.
In the end, he makes the choice risking the very cause he has been fighting for, sacrificing everyone’s free will in order to save them. He dies hoping that someone will take up the fight for freedom against Juno’s rule.
Futility. He is forced to do exactly as the Templars would: sacrifice freedom for protection.
While many would have preferred a happy ending where good triumphs gloriously over bad, the third game made it clear that good and evil are not so clear-cut and that the only thing that often makes them different are the good intentions used as their excuses.
This leads into where Ubisoft will to go next. What can they do now that they have established that Assassins and Templars fight for the same thing, to benefit humanity, only with different causes to that goal?
Any prediction of future games has to take into consideration where the series has been, and what it uses as its essential building blocks.
Nevertheless, I will make a bold prediction and outline some of the other plausible options.
But first allow me to humbly submit our credentials in relation to previously predicting the series in our sometimes slightly cracked crystal ball.
The OXCGN Crystal Ball
- In April 2009 I was the first on the net to identify in an article that Assassin’s Creed 2 was going to Sam Gimignano, Italy, ironically known as the Medieval Manhattan considering the last game’s location took place in New York. Look here.
- In November 2009 I made a series of predictions on where the series might go for Assassin’s Creed 3. One of those was Constantinople, which was the location for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, though I got the time period wrong. Look here.
- I also suggested Rome, the setting of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, in 2009, but Ancient Rome. Look here.
- Not long after, I suggested the Spanish Reconquista in 2009, which was the location and time period used for the DS or iOS game Assassin’s Creed 2: Discovery. Look here.
- In 2009 I also suggested the Seven Year’s War, the setting for the beginning of Assassin’s Creed 3, but located at Quebec City (which was also under siege later during the American Revolution and in my opinion should have been a city in AC 3, as it is much more architecturally interesting to traverse and explore than New York was). Look here.
- My OXCGN associate, Nicholas Laborde, first published his solved clues in March 2011 (an entire year before the announcement, and before anyone else plausibly suggested it) from the Da Vinci Disappearance DLC (AC: Brotherhood) that Assassin’s Creed 3 would be set during the American Revolution and near New York. Look here.
So where do I think it should head next?
Here’s my most likely unexpected and boldest prediction.
First Civilization Earth
Ubisoft’s Alex Hutchinson said in April this year that “people on the internet suggest the most boring settings. The three most wanted are WWII, feudal Japan and Egypt. They’re kind of the three worst settings for an AC game“.
Perhaps with Ancient Egypt he is referring to the wide open expanses between temples and pyramids. These would make poor parkour-based locations.
But what if the spaces between these sorts of monuments we know today could be ‘filled in’ with other buildings and made into the perfect free-running playground?
What if you could have cities based on monuments in Ancient Egypt, the Angkor Civilization, Ancient Persia, Ancient Greece, or even the Mayans, without having to explain the travel between vast distances or the mix of architecture?
Our current ancient monuments could simply be shadows and imitations of the more distant early post-First Civilization past.
As long as the locations weren’t all like the temples we’ve already visited in the previous games, which are sparse, futuristic, light-lined-smooth-walled linear rectangular grey domains that are simply too sci-fi.
They are more akin to futuristic basements than beautiful monuments.
The freedom to re-invent the past
Ubisoft can re-invent the past the way they want to with buildings that resemble our huge wonders, but aren’t constrained to historical dating or spacing.
They have easy license to do all this within the Assassin’s Creed mythology. And maybe they will.
The big problem with a history-based series is that you have to match the known historical data with your own story. This spawns a great many creative boundaries for a game developer.
But the Assassin’s Creed universe has a ready-made invented historic period that they could cover in Assassin’s Creed 4 that could be based on our ancient societies and architecture, but hand complete freedom to the developer.
That period has been constantly referred to in previous Assassin’s Creed games: the era of the First Civilization and its fall.
In 75,000 B.C. humanity and Those Who Came Before were at war and they faced the Toba Catastrophe that would destroy most of humanity and virtually end the Precursor race.
This “prequel” game wouldn’t have to worry about current modern times or Animus pseudo-science. Let’s face it, the Desmond story was the least compelling part of the series, and ultimately didn’t pull through.
The elements of the game would be the same: it would be told in a historical framework without magic or overt fantasy, except in the form of the ancient technology of Those Who Came Before.
There would be a few remnants of the First Civilization’s future technology and weaponry that still survived the destruction, so they could still have sophisticated ways to assassinate and do tasks.
The First Revolution
The story would center on the humans’ resistance to their creators, and the earliest signs of a freedom Assassin movement, followed by a jump to a later post-Toba event period where some humans (and Templars) are guided by the remaining Precursors whom they see as gods, creating magnificent architecture to honor them (like our ancient monuments).
By following the latter period of the human rebellion, right before the destruction of much of the Earth by solar flare, with the futuristic Halo-like architecture of the cities crumbling, leaving a Pompeii-like post-apocalyptic version behind, they would be building to our current ancient origins.
This is where humanity was ‘guided’ by the few remaining Precursors and leading to a variety of pantheons familiar to us.
By jumping from the end of the Precursor world to a crossover world where there still are overgrown post-apocalyptic ruins of the former Precursor world’s cities and the new ancient society-styled ones built by the human survivors under remaining Precursor influence, the conflict for freedom from rule and slavery would give the gamer a familiar yet different environment to explore.
It would be one part post-apocalyptic futuristic, and another part ancient historic.
It would be stunning, rich with detail in story and environment, and with the freedom it gives developers, a game that could become a modern masterpiece of gaming.
And best yet: it would still be distinctly Assassin’s Creed.
The dispute between Juno and Minerva that is demonstrated in Assassin’s Creed 3 could be explained. It would therefore link perfectly with the previous series.
The themes of power, freedom, control, and slavery could also form the argument humanity faces in the deep past, forming the seeds of conflict between Assassins who support freedom and Templars who support the order provided by Those Who Came Before.
Alex Hutchinson has also stated that he wants the next Assassin’s Creed location and time period to be unexpected.
This would be a brave, unique and surprising choice. I think it would be a winner. The world wouldn’t be so primitive that it would be boring, or so modern that it was too familiar and didn’t feel historic.
Rumours are that the next Assassin’s Creed game will be late 2013 or early 2014.
If Ubisoft has been working on next-gen consoles with their next title, this one would be a system seller. What better way to explore new technology than with the ultimate freedom to create a historic world that still is very much familiar to us, but without the normal constraints history makes?
Since we’ve already been introduced to the Marquis de Lafayette in Assassin’s Creed 3, it could very well be that the next game, while they got a hold of the new console technologies, would be the well-documented French Revolution option.
Lafayette was not only involved in the American Revolution as we’ve seen, but also the leader of the Garde Nationale during the French Revolution.
This game would bridge the current generation of consoles to the next generation where they could do the First Civilization more justice.
Against this, though, is the fact that Alex Hutchinson has said they will not go where expected, coupled with the fact that Connor’s character has largely failed to resonate with gamers the way Ezio did.
Here’s a list of locations with quick arguments.
World War 2: Alex says no, it’s boring. It’s been done in Saboteur and Velvet Assassin and the era is done to death.
Cuba/ Pirate era: This is a great idea, especially with the success of the naval warfare element of Assassin’s Creed 3, but likely to be a new franchise, as Assassin’s Creed branched off of Prince of Persia.
Silk Road/ Marco Polo: Another favourite of mine, I’d love to see this one done, and it would be unexpected. The problem would be how to frame the Templar/ Assassin battle around it.
Signing of Magna Carta: This was indeed an important period in history for freedom and England hasn’t yet been explored. But will Ubisoft so soon return to the medieval era? I’d be fine with that.
Alexander the Great/ Middle East/ India: This is another one I’d be interested in and is actually fairly plausible. The big issue is the huge amount of travel involved, but exploring the huge variety of areas he conquered and explored, including India (once suggested as a favoured option for the AC series) would be fun, if massive, unless done in a series.
Ancient Rome: This is always a great choice, but Renaissance Rome was done in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and so it would have to be in some other part of the Empire. There was also a French Assassin’s Creed graphic novel series set in Ancient Rome already.
Feudal Japan: Alex doesn’t like this option, along with Egypt and WW2. I’m not fond of it either; it’s been done in many samurai/ninja type games, especially coming out of Japan.
Modern Times: Nah. Ubisoft now have their exciting new IP Watch Dogs to cover the near-future era.
The Russian Revolution: This was explored in Assassin’s Creed graphic novels and certainly was an important period of world history. But we still enjoy the blade fighting over the shooting.
The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Norman invasion of Britain and the conflict between the new Norman feudal way and the old Anglo-Saxon way after they won would be interesting. But will Ubisoft go medieval again so soon?
Industrial Revolution: Important period of history, but ugly and fairly uninteresting from a gameplay perspective.
Voyages of Discovery: This is also a good option for a spin-off series based on the naval combat in Assassin’s Creed 3, since Christopher Columbus was briefly in Assassin’s Creed: Discovery.
100 Years War: This could be interesting and there were lots of factions at work: English, French, English-supported regions of France, mercenaries on the loose, and general chaos in France. Again, I’m not sure the series will go medieval again for a while.
Colonisation of India/China/Africa: This one could be a bit touchy, but certainly would be left field. The period of Empire-building by the Western powers and the exploitation is certainly relevant to the shaping of our world. For the purposes of an Assassin’s Creed game, China and especially India would be better suited for free-running. [Ed.: It would be the version of Heart of Darkness that didn't suck!]
World War I: The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand to light the fuse that became the Great War certainly has the historic importance, but is it really a period suited to a free-running assassin with hidden daggers? While sabres and horse-riding are still around, much of the conflict involved being stuck in trenches. Mind you, the story of the futile landing of ANZAC forces at Gallipoli would be effective in communicating the futility of conflict. I won’t rule it out, but I won’t call it likely considering the development stigma that World War I is impossible to make fun.
Ancient Greece: Another favourite of mine, the period of Themistocles, who was involved in conflicts with Persia while an Athenian politician could really be rich with assassin and Templar machinations. He created a great Athenian navy which battled Persia, but got on the wrong side of the Spartans when he re-fortified Athens.
They ultimately got the better of him by getting him portrayed and exiled as a traitor and he ended up throwing his lot in with his former enemies, the Persians. I can see this story working in with the Assassin/Templar conflict quite well. But would modern gamers be happy with triremes after having cannoned warships in Assassin’s Creed 3, or less fancy gadgets? At least with my suggestion of the First Civilization, they were technologically advanced, so you could have anything, even if the environment was ‘ancient’.