Assassin's Creed is growing again. Last year, prior to the launch and subsequent public drubbing of Assassin's Creed Unity, Ubisoft announced Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China. The game was originally intended as an add-on for Unity, meaning you couldn't even buy it separately, but plans change. Chronicles: China was billed as a 2.5D side-scroller expanding on the exploits of assassin Shao Jun from the Assassin's Creed Embers short film. Until now, it lacked a concrete release date, but we've finally made some progress.
Assassin's Creed Chronicles is now a trilogy that kicks off with the release of the China episode on April 21, 2015. Everything remains the same for this first episode: it still stars Shao Jun, it's still a 2D game inspired by Chinese art. The difference is the next two episodes tell the tale of other assassins: Arbaaz Mir and Nikolai Orelov. Savvy fans will recognize both names from the expanded content. Arbaaz Mir was the protagonist of the Assassin's Creed Brahman graphic novel by Cameron Stewart, Karl Kerschl, Brenden Fletcher, taking place in India in 1814. Nikolai Orelov was the lead of the twin graphic novels Assassin's Creed: The Fall and Assassin's Creed: the Chain, also by Stewart and Kerschl. Orelov was active in Russia from the late 1800s until 1917.
The new Chronicles trilogy allows Ubisoft the chance to focus on the stories of these characters, who have largely been missed by those who don't pick up the expanded Assassin's Creed content. Each chapter stands alone, but there are narrative hooks tying all three games together if you choose to play them in that manner.
The Chronicles games look to be heavily-inspired by Klei Entertainment's Mark of the Ninja, working with vision cones, extensive cover, and stealth kills to proceed through each level. (I was not able to play the hands-on demo, but you can check out Eurogamer's preview for more information.) Basic side-scrolling stealth is probably a good place to start, but I'm more excited about the story possibilities if the Chronicles series is allowed to continue on.
I've always said, the real strength of the Assassin's Creed franchise is the ability to explore different themes and eras through its unique framing. I'm happy to see more of Shao Jun, Arbaaz, and Nikolai, but where else could Chronicles take us? Here's a few ideas of interesting historical eras for the series.
Japan, 1573-1603: Sengoku Era, Unification Period
This is the unification of Japan, which stood as the last part of the Warring States (Sengoku, in Japanese terminology) era. The primary driver for the early part of this era is the rise of Oda Nobunaga, a samurai warlord who succeeded in conquering a third of Japan before dying in a coup in 1582 at the height of his power. He was succeeded by one of his loyal generals, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who avenged his lord and eventually pulled Oda's clan until his control. Finally, the unification was completed by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the most powerful member of Hideyoshi's Council of Five Elders, who established the Tokugawa Shogunate after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.
Not only is this a period of great growth for Japan, with the establishment of Edo (later Tokyo), other urban cities, and the rise of the merchant class, it also marked a ton of infighting among some big historical figures. This is a prime era for Assassin's Creed to thrive, with either the Brotherhood or the Templar Order having a clear hand in the seeing who ultimately rules over Japan. (Is Tokugawa Ieyasu an Assassin or Templar?) Conflict and drama are two things AC thrives on and they're in major supply during the entire Warring States period.
Turkey, 1908-1918: The Arab Revolt of 1916
The Arab Revolt of 1916 saw the Arab nationalists within the Ottoman Empire seeking seeking reform and greater autonomy. Following the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, which saw Sultan Abdul Hamid II deposed, a failed countercoup in 1909 attempted to dismantle the Ottoman Empire's Second Constitutional Era and place Hamid back in power. These shift in power led to a general sense of unrest in the populace.
Within this time of unrest and war (the Ottoman Empire was in an alliance with the German forces during World War I), British intelligence officer T.E. Lawrence sought an independent Arabian state and his desire dovetailed with Britain's overall goals in the War. Lawrence fought with Arab insurgents within the region, ultimately convincing Arab leaders Emir Faisal and Abdullah I of Jordan to work in tandem with British forces. Many of these attacks focused on the Hejaz Railway, which connected the capital of Constantinople to the holy city of Mecca, or occupying ports and coastal cities to help with British resupply. These conflicts culminated in the Battle of Megiddo, the Battle of Aleppo, the capture of Damacus, and finally, the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.
This is actually a huge chunk of history that we're still feeling the effects of today. The Arab Revolt fits well with the Assassin ideals of freedom and autonomy, but I doubt Ubisoft wants to touch such a title with the current events in the Middle East. Shame.
Mexico, 1810-1821: Mexican War of Independence
This period saw the end of Spanish rule in the territory of New Spain. The war of insurgency began in 1810 with the Hidalgo Revolt, when Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rallied the city of Dolores to the cause of independence from Spain. His band of rebels marched to other towns and killed any Spaniards they found on their way to Mexico City. The rebellion nearly took Mexico City, holding the advantage against Spanish forces, but Hidalgo decided to retreat to a defensive position. Hidalgo and his forces lost at the Bridge of Calderon and eventually they were captured and executed in 1811. The remaining rebels occupied the cities of Oaxaca and Acapulco and the conflict dragged on for years.
In 1820, most of the rebel hunting was done by Royalist officer Colonel Agustín de Iturbide, a loyal soldier of the local government. When Spain pushed Mexico to reinstate the Spanish Constitution of 1812, Iturbide turned against the government, unifying his troops and the rebels. The local viceroy resigned in face of the amassed force and the Mexican Empire was established with the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba. Iturbide was later installed as Emperor.
Again, this is another example of great upheaval and change, with a desire for freedom in the citizens. Assassin's Creed has always staked a claim as a series about populism and the desires of the average citizen, despite the actions mostly being contained to an elite few (Odd, no?), and the Mexican War of Independence is one way for that repeated conflict to play out. Plus, it gives us a chance to have a Zorro-like Assassin, which would be awesome.
United States, 1920-1930: The Roaring 20's
This is one of those eras that was hinted all in Unity's opening minutes. Entitled "Jazz Age Junkies", I assume this fake Helix experience would center around the Roaring 20's. This is another great time of growth in history. As jazz begins to take hold in American culture, the country sees a youth rebellion with new ideas and fashion statements. African-Americans, who pioneered jazz music, saw their voices growing in prominence during this time. The women's suffrage movement succeeded in getting the 19th Amendment ratified and the flapper was born, moving the idea of womanhood forward. And in the midst of all this cultural and economic growth, we have Prohibition, preventing the sale of alcohol in the United States, which led to the rise of organized crime and figures like Al Capone.
The 20's is pivotal point in American culture, with an entire nation evolving and finding its way out of the Great Depression. With all these progressive changes, who's to say that the Assassins weren't involved?