Assassin’s Creed has always been a series that seems to roll with the punches. After 16 mainline entries for the series, it’s clear that the most recent game is a far cry from its original ancestor.
Of course, that’s the natural progression for any video game series. However, Assassin’s Creed has seemingly transcended genres. It’s morphed from a humble linear stealth game into a grandiose open-world RPG. Now, it seems that Assassin’s Creed is about to make its next big leap of faith by becoming a live service title.
To Infinity and beyond
Earlier this year, we reported on the news that Ubisoft Quebec and Montreal are reportedly working on a new version of Assassin’s Creed. Known only as ‘Infinity’, the project will supposedly unite the esteemed game series under one unifying umbrella. There’ll be one evolving platform that features multiple settings that are all connected but look and feel different. Inspiration for this idea has seemingly come from the likes of Fortnite and GTA Online, both of which are leading the industry with their monstrous revenue streams.
Obviously, the business perspective is exactly why this new approach is being indulged. The size and scope of the most recent Assassin games are almost obscene. Odyssey has enough content to put some MMOs to shame, while I’m pretty convinced Valhalla doesn’t actually have an ending it’s that long. Clearly, there are more sustainable ways of monetising such a product than releasing a standalone game and a few DLCs every couple of years.
Thinking further than the cynical approach, though, taking Assassin’s Creed in the direction of live service makes total sense. In fact, looking back on the last three AC games, it’s surprising that the announcement of Infinity is even news to our ears.
Reframing the content
You see, the idea of Assassin’s Creed as a sprawling RPG never quite sat right with me. It wasn’t because of the change in gameplay, it was more because of how overwhelming the ordeal is. You’re presented with this colossal landscape to explore and a lengthy campaign that can last upwards of 100 hours if you endeavour down every side route. For a title that’s released on a loose yearly schedule, that’s a lot of content to keep up with.
Moving to a live service isn’t likely to reduce the amount of content included in an Assassin’s Creed game. If anything, the objective is to pump that amount up. What it does do, though, is reframe that content into a format that’s much easier to digest. You’re no longer looking at it as a checklist to complete, you’re looking at it as an ongoing commitment.
The Animus Is Key
Turning our thoughts to the gameplay level of Assassin’s Creed, it feels that the series has been moving in this direction for a while. Players familiar with the Assassin’s games will surely know of the Animus technology. That’s the in-game tech that allows present day protagonists to explore our ancestors’ history. The Animus has served as a sort of meta-plot point that’s evolved just as the games have.
In Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, the in-game company known as Abstergo (that can be perceived as an allegory for Ubisoft) begins to use the Animus technology commercially to research and develop video games. It’s how we’re introduced to protagonist Edward Kenway after the departure of Desmond Miles in Assassin’s Creed 3.
The Animus acts as a narrative device that frames the way the game’s narrative is delivered to the player. It makes sense that Ubisoft will look to build the live service around the idea of Animus technology once again.
I’m imagining that the new game will begin to give us more control over what we do with the Animus. Until now, we’ve been able to select specific memory segments to replay, back when the games were more linear. In more recent titles, it’s simply been a matter of choosing to swap between the past and the present.
Early knowledge suggests that Infinity will aim to fuse multiple time periods together under one roof. The idea of a narrative that can seamlessly switch between different time periods sounds incredibly exciting to me.
This is all to say that, despite the eye rolls that a ‘live service’ announcement usually gets these days, I’m surprisingly optimistic about the project Ubisoft is embarking on. It seems ludicrous to scold a developer for at least trying something new with an annual series while Call of Duty games are criticised for following the same formula year in year out.
On the surface, Infinity sounds like a typical cash grab. But thinking logically about how this beloved series has evolved over the last decade, it feels like this was always its heading. In fact, I wouldn’t be so opposed to seeing the series morph into an MMO at some point down the road.
Imagine having your own personal bloodline of assassin’s spread across the last millenia. One minute you could be completing daily assassination contracts in Fuedal Japan before switching out to your longer lost ancestor stalking a leader of the third crusade. That’s a reality that wouldn’t likely be feasible without this uniting of studios under one live service platform.
Of course, we’re yet to see any gameplay or even hear any concrete details as to what this Assassin’s Creed Infinity project will look like. Until then, I remain quietly confident that Ubisoft might be on the verge of something that’s monumentally ambitious. I just hope that they can do the idea justice.
What are your initial thoughts on Assassin’s Creed Infinity? Let us know across our social channels.
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Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft