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Ubisoft Shouldn't Forget Traditional Assassin's Creed Fans

Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Origins are the way forward, but the old creed doesn't need to be forgotten.

Analysis by Mike Williams, .

Assassin's Creed Odyssey continues the new path for the franchise that was established in last year's Assassin's Creed Origins. It's likely that the next Assassin's Creed will be a similar game, firmly establishing the series as an open-world role-playing game rooted in different historical eras. This is what Assassin's Creed is now.

This isn't the first time such a change has technically happened to this franchise. If you're wondering what happened to Prince of Persia, that series was ultimately supplanted by Assassin's Creed.

"I received a mandate: 'So it's like Prince of Persia: Next Generation, but try to redefine the action adventure genre into the next generation of platforms.' .... This is how it all started," said Patrice Désilets, creative director of the original Assassin's Creed, in a retrospective from Polygon. "So for our first two years, it was called Prince of Persia: Assassins. And I think I had also another vision, and it was less action-y than some people wanted it to be. There was a lot more - which is funny, because now they're doing it - but there was a lot more RPG elements."

Prince of Persia died so that Assassin's Creed might live. And now Assassin's Creed has died, so that... Assassin's Creed might live. The fiction continues in the soft reboot, even if the composition has changed in terms of mechanics. Odyssey is the furthest back the franchise has gone, and features the least to do with the Assassin Brotherhood. The connection is in the extensive First Civilization plot, which is a long-running thread that has featured in nearly every primary Assassin's Creed to date.

The First Civilization remains.

If you loved what Assassin's Creed was, like all those Prince of Persia fans, you're left out in the cold. (I can still find recent comments from people who want Assassin's Creed to die so Prince of Persia can live again.) Assassin's Creed Origins and Odyssey are a different genre, and trying to backstop expectations and experiences from previous releases will only leave you dissatisfied. For fans of that older style of Assassin's Creed, I find their umbrage at Origins and Odyssey to be rooted in the fact that there's no longer a game catering to what they want anymore.

That's an understandable problem: having a thing you like replaced with another thing you may or may not like. Classic Final Fantasy fans went through a similar pain, though Square Enix occasionally caters to their needs with games like Octopath Traveler. Some early Resident Evil fans found themselves unhappy with the more action-oriented shift in Resident Evil 4, a feeling that was likewise repeated with the first-person Resident Evil 7. If you prefer the original Tomb Raider's precise, tank-like platforming, the Uncharted-style reboot trilogy doesn't help you. And I'm still missing the trap-room parkour of Prince of Persia, which was sidelined in Assassin's Creed II, Brotherhood, and Revelations, only to be dropped completely in Assassin's Creed III onward.

Remasters like the Ezio Collection don't heal the wound.

Ubisoft somewhat feeds this need with remaster releases. On PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we had releases of Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection in 2016, Assassin's Creed Rogue Remastered earlier this year, and the upcoming remaster of Assassin's Creed III. Those are old games though, and they don't fulfill the desire for new games.

Some fans have asked for the Origins and Odyssey line of games to be shuffled off to a spin-off series with a different name, while the Assassin's Creed brand continues on with the classic mechanics. I doubt that will end up happening, as Assassin's Creed Origins had sales nearly double the last pure Assassin's Creed game, Syndicate. Physical sales of Assassin's Creed Odyssey in the United Kingdom were down 26 percent, but that's not low enough to hit another genre shift yet, and we don't know how digital sales have performed yet. Absence may have made the heart grow fonder, but Ubisoft is likely attributing the sales rise to the game being an RPG now. The RPG structure also allows for more recurrent play than the previous games, which generally done-in-one entries.

Syndicate was the last entry in the old Assassin's Creed.

What about alternating styles of Assassin's Creed? It's possible that Assassin's Creed 2020 is more like the older games, as Odyssey looks to have begun development some time in 2015. That puts the next game as starting development in 2016; perhaps Ubisoft hadn't fully committed to this new role-playing game path yet. I find this one unlikely if only because of the original rumors preceding Assassin's Creed Origins back in January 2016. Those rumors pointed towards a trilogy of games, taking place in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Origins was Egypt, Odyssey is Greece, so it's possible that the next entry will be in Rome with largely the same mechanics. That's puts a potentially old school Assassin's Creed in 2021 or later..

My option is to utilize a model that Ubisoft has largely left behind. For a few of the mainline entries, Ubisoft would allow another of its development teams to repurpose concepts, mechanics, and assets from the primary entry to make a spin-off that was smaller in scope. Assassin's Creed III was joined by Assassin's Creed III: Liberation for PlayStation Vita, while Assassin's Creed Unity launched alongside Assassin's Creed Rogue for previous gen consoles. Both games were led by Ubisoft Sofia.

Let one of the smaller studios create an Assassin's Creed with a much smaller scope. Assassin's Creed Odyssey is a game of sprawling scope, but what about an entry utilizing existing assets from it to create a more focused game? Same time period, different character. Cut the leveling and equipment, and shrink the skill tree down. And craft a story that can be completed in 10-15 hours. Attika, where Athens resides, is probably big enough to tell a solid adventure. Or Lakonia and its surrounding area could utilized. Ubisoft fit 5-7 hours of story into the starting island of Kephallonia, so picking one of the larger regions could work.

The older model allowed for games like Assassin's Creed Rogue.

I don't think fans of the older style of Assassin's Creed are ever going to get something with same resources and budget as Origins and Odyssey. That ship has sailed. But the alternating option can work with a smaller, budget-conscious title in-between the major entries. Assassin's Creed Rogue Remastered was handled by Ubisoft Sofia with help from other studios, much like the original entry. I love the remasters, but why not let Sofia have a more creative outlet? You couldn't remaster Rogue or Liberation if you never made them in the first place, Ubisoft. Both games provide unique Assassin's Creed experiences and the series is better having them around.

Creating these titles will give diehard fans of the previous Assassin's Creed something to feast on. And if you work in some of those hidden trap tombs from Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood, you might mollify the Prince of Persia fans too. I don't think Assassin's Creed as a franchise is going back, but it still could diversify. And more options is always good.

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Comments 16

  • Quite similar to what has happened with Fallout. With the shift from Interplay to Bethesda, it went from an isometric RPG to 3D, and now Fallout 76 is multiplayer, completely eliminating certain ways of interacting with NPCs. The isometric RPG fans had to wait for games like Shadowrun Returns or Pillars of Eternity.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #2 Roto13 6 days ago
    I would love to see the old style of Assassin's Creed come back, but it's never going to happen. Too bad, because I was a big fan of the series until Origins and now I'm not interested in the direction it's going.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #3 MHWilliams 6 days ago
    Surprised to find a mixed range of responses on Twitter.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #4 NiceGuyNeon 6 days ago
    I didn't really like the old style, and this new style does seem more appealing, but I feel like it's not going to come back, much like I don't think the previous style of 3D Zelda is going to come back after Breath of the Wild.

    I guess they could try the alternating studio thing, but I think that does potentially send mixed signals to the wider fanbase. Assassin's Creed is a very popular game. It may not do it for me, but it works for a lot of folks and I think unless they go REALLY small with that style of alternating game it's going to confuse a lot of folks.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #5 SargeSmash 6 days ago
    Great writeup, Mike. Glad to know there's still fans of Prince of Persia out there, and I'd love to see a spinoff in this series take that sort of turn. That would likely bring me back into the fold. There's also potential that this one will, as well, if those RPG elements are done well enough. I must confess I've skipped most of the AC series to begin with.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #6 Ohoni 6 days ago
    I really hope they don't attribute the sales rise to people liking the new format better. The sales rose because the previous sales dropped so low, and that was entirely their fault. Unity launched as a bug-tastic cluster-fork, and also had to suffer through the "boobs are too hard to animate" protesters, so of course its sales were down. Syndicate was more polished, but still had lowered interest because people were burned by the Unity bugs. The thing that made Origins sell wasn't that people liked the final product better than they would have liked a continuation of the AC franchise, it's that they took a year off and they spent that time reducing the launch bugs, both of which drove up interest in the project.

    The later proper AC games were getting a bit stale, but that was entirely due to laziness on their part, not the core design. It came from having too much copy-paste collectathons littered around the map, rather than meaningful content. In some ways, Syndicate was the best game in the franchise, but it could have benefited from a lot more focus, tightening it down to just the parts that actually worked, and cutting off all the fat. Spending time on improving enemy variety and story content, and a proper modern day section.

    I definitely want more classic AC, but I don't know how I would feel about it as just a side story. I feel like they need to jetison both Origins and Odyssey from the timeline, like Castlevania: Lords of Shadows, and retcon them into a separate franchise, one devoted to historical fantasy, and continue that branch off from there. Then return the AC franchise to its roots, a more grounded historical sci-fi angle, large modern day component, and a storyline that better reflects that.
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  • Avatar for Number1Laing #7 Number1Laing 6 days ago
    I really hope that Origins and Odyssey are not the way forward. The last thing they should be doing is churning out game after game in this format; even Odyssey is arguably too much too soon and too much like the last game. They need to approach the next AC in the same spirit they approached Origins.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #8 MHWilliams 6 days ago
    @Ohoni Well, you'll likely be waiting for a while, man.

    Best to move on until they do what you like again, like I did with the Transformers films. No sense burning energy on the hope that Ubisoft doesn't see this as the franchise's future. They will, until sales drop enough that they need to find a new direction again.
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  • Avatar for moochan #9 moochan 6 days ago
    I'm guessing people who are asking for Prince of Persia are people who want a more smaller focus game. But with how much games are to make and the need to get people to feel like they are getting theirs money worth they need to be bigger and "better" than the past ones. Which is leaving a lot of people sadly in the dust. Maybe Ubisoft should have held off another year and talk about what they would want out of a Assassin's Creed game but sadly it feels the train is moving with no stopping until another Unity happens.
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  • Avatar for heaterhands #10 heaterhands 6 days ago
    I'm playing Origins at the moment, actually. I hadn't played an Assassin's Creed game since I and II, and I'm constantly finding myself dismayed by how mechanically spare this new version of the series is. It has nothing to do with the RPG elements (which are, admittedly, extremely perfunctory—both crafting, gear/loot and skill tree has no depth at all—but that there is absolutely no resistance to be found elsewhere in the game.

    You can climb everywhere, but unlike Breath of the Wild, no strategy or skill is needed to get anywhere. You just press a button, jog the analogue stick for a few seconds, and presto, you're at the top. Every time. There's not a trace of platforming challenge to be found, nor any kind of platforming puzzles.
    Speaking of puzzles, I can't help but be disappointed by the lack in difficulty, variation and complexity there as well.
    The fighting system is frightfully light as well, barely paying lip service to the variation and depth of a soulsborne game. The variation on offer is to be found in the spread of different weapons, but given how much it costs to keep a Legendary weapon upgraded, and how (relatively) time-consuming it is to get your hands on cash, playing with more than a couple of melee weapons and bows is hugely disincentivised in the balancing.

    And that's it; there's nothing else to the game. It's not that it's an RPG-lite open world game, I don't mind those kinds of games at all, it's just that it's so incredibly anaemic when it comes to mechanics and challenge. Every little thing can be brute forced. I'm not saying that Horizon: Zero Dawn and the new Tomb Raider(s) (or even Assassin's Creed I and II) were shining examples of old school challenge, but they at least demanded something of you. Origins just demands you put in time, and lots of it. I love the way the story digs into the grief of losing a child in so many different and interesting ways (not so much how it handles vengeance, though), but that storytelling is so divorced from the way the game actually plays for the bulk of its time that it often feels like an afterthought.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #11 Ohoni 6 days ago
    @MHWilliams

    Yeah, but Bumblebee is coming out, and it looks awesome. I'm not twiddling my thumbs while I wait for them to make more AC games, I'm still playing Spider-Man, I still have some stuff to do in the latest GW2 update, there are about a half-dozen or more upcoming games that look like they'll be fun, I'll have plenty of things to keep me occupied, just none of them will be AC games, and as someone who bought every game between the first and Syndicate, that bums me out. I can wait for them to reach the "rebirth" phase in their process. It's their money.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #12 MHWilliams 6 days ago
    @Ohoni I'm sure things will swing back around again. Or Assassin's Creed will get Prince of Persia-d. Either or.
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  • Avatar for Ralz-Al-Ghul #13 Ralz-Al-Ghul 6 days ago
    I really don't have a problem with the change in the franchise. I've played AC games from day one and have a huge merchandise collection. To me the change is fresh and welcoming, not to mention the historical periods featured in the last two game's are my favorite. I still find that the core of the original games are still there but now you can play the game in different ways
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  • Avatar for Brotoles #14 Brotoles 5 days ago
    Nowadays they tend to do a lot of procedurally generated or otherwise generic stuff to pad the game... making meticulously designed dungeons and puzzles in such a gigantic game would probably be economically unfeasible!

    But I prefer 15 hours of a lovingly crafted game like PoP: Sands of Time than 100 hours of procedurally gereated fetch quests and the like.

    That doesn't mean I didn't like Origins, it's one of the few games that I completed 100% (before the expansions). :-)

    It does have that Witcher 3 vibe, althought it lacks precisely the crafted quests that the Witcher has (a lot of side quests are as interesting or even better than the main quest, which is also very nice)

    have a great day everyone!

    EDIT: I used the new emoticon shortcut from WIndows 10 to add an emoticon instead of using the message editor and my message got cut precisely at the smiley face. The edit was to add the remaining text that got cut.Edited 5 days ago by Brotoles
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #15 benjaminlu86 5 days ago
    They should make an adaptation of the Greek play, Lysistrata.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #16 Ohoni 5 days ago
    @Brotoles

    Really nothing is stopping them from having meticulously designed dungeon/puzzles in the game. They maybe couldn't have hundreds of them, but they could make a few. It would even be an ideal candidate for outsourcing to branch studios, since it would be a self-contained area of the game. "just make a half dozen or so puzzle rooms, and we'll slot them into the game when you're done."
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