5 Things I Want to See in Assassin’s Creed Empire
My Wishlist for Assassin’s Creed Empire
The next Assassin’s Creed game is rumoured to be released in 2017 and will reportedly be set in Egypt. Codenamed ‘Empire’, the game is rumoured to take place in Ancient Egypt, significantly taking the franchise backwards in time, further back than its ever been before. Many fans and sceptics will be pleased to hear Assassin’s Creed is taking 2016 off but there’s no official confirmation or details on what the game will feature. Here are five things I would like to see in Assassin’s Creed Empire:
If the reports are true about the Egyptian setting then Ubisoft will have to rethink how the character navigates the game world. Ancient Egypt was much more sparse compared to London, Paris or Boston and there’s likely to be far less scampering on rooftops. Horses seem a likely returning feature to navigate across vast areas and I can see boats on the River Nile also being another strong possibility. Fast travel via synch points will also likely return but the feature I think should really be reworked is the parkour. The fluidity of movement in Assassin’s Creed has changed over time as rooftops and crowds become more dense and complex. Small incremental changes such as a ‘parkour down’ function and the new grapnel gauntlet in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate have helped improve fluidity but a more drastic change is required.
If the series really wants to win back players then it needs to be appearing to be listening to its audience. Complaints about jumping the wrong direction or the character not controlling properly have existed for a long time now and I can sort of see why. While I think navigating the world is perfectly fine, it does feel stilted at this point. Jacob and Evie could manoeuvre across London with ease but they don’t feel as responsive to the controller as other games do. Playing the original Assassin’s Creed felt revolutionary in terms of movement and although that’s probably an unfair comparison, Assassin’s Creed Empire needs to make a similar leap of faith. Ubisoft did create that mechanic and have a pedigree with games like Prince of Persia of making it look really cool. If Ubisoft can really show it has changed parkour for the better, then a great number of people will start listening again.
Assassin’s Creed 2 iterated on the original in many ways but it was a new feature that really grabbed people’s attention. I’m of course referring to the assassin tombs of Renaissance Italy. These were fun sequences that showed off the improved parkour mechanic, required some puzzle-solving and gave you an important reward at the end. Each seal obtained put you one step closer to obtaining a unique armour set. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood made these sequences bigger and flashier with the Tombs of Romulus. Since then, tombs or similar sequences have been used to varying degrees of success. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations contained some fun sequences that ended in acquiring a Masyaf key and another memory of Altair while future games would use more linear and action-packed sequences.
Egypt is clearly a setting that is ripe for some tomb raiding and the pyramids of Egypt were home to all kinds of treasures, deceased kings and even traps. This would be a good opportunity to have a vast area to explore and could reintroduce some puzzles that the series has more often than not left out. Since the game will have been in development for an extra year, make these gameplay sections feel special and something to look forward to for players. If taken in tandem with my previous point, this would be a fantastic opportunity to show off a new parkour system. There’s no reason why these tombs can’t be like classic Tomb Raider or Prince of Persia and I think it would be great to have them return in a big way in Assassin’s Creed Empire.
A Story That Stands The Test of Time
Evie and Jacob Frye were the most fun, genuine and likeable protagonists we’ve had in Assassin’s Creed game for a long time. That said, they were more like sitcom characters, Jacob was the cocky, brash and arrogant sibling while Evie was the more level-headed, smarter sibling. It would be interesting to see a character with more depth and if the rumours of the next character carrying through multiple games are true then there could be ample time to do so. In the past, the games have struggled to establish a character and give them a more meaningful arc in the playtime of one game but if the next few games can hone in on one protagonist and his struggles then we could be in for a more meaningful and poignant story.
I’d also like to see the story become epic, profound and grand once more. The original Assassin’s Creed was set during the Crusades in places such as Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus and it didn’t shy away from the more religious and political issues of that time. In fact, it embraced them and incorporated them into its story. I’d like to see Assassin’s Creed Empire take note of this and do the same. Take the Egyptian setting as a backdrop for the story rather than the focus, which is where games such as Assassin’s Creed Unity went wrong. As fun as it was to see Jacob and Evie interact with the likes of Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Florence Nightingale, it’s also implausible and won’t work over and over again. Instead of making the likes of Cleopatra or Julius Caesar over-the-top caricatures of their historical personas, give them an identity and a purpose in the story. There’s also the possibility that Assassin’s Creed Empire could go quite biblical too, the relationship between the First Civilization and humans in the game has a god-like paradigm to it and it would be interesting to see Ubisoft explore this angle.
Make the Present Day Story Matter
I’ve written about this many times and there will be plenty of people out there who don’t agree with me but the present day story, in my opinion, should return in a larger way. Small non-interactive cut-scenes won’t do it and neither will first-person office simulators. Elements of the Desmond-era still exist, Rebecca and Shaun were featured in the last game and there is still a larger mystery at play but where is it all going? Desmond Miles had a clear goal: save the world. And now the goal is…who cares? Do something smart and original. What if our present day protagonist explored the same ruins as his ancestor but thousands of years later when everything has changed? What if we could explore even a section of a modern city and play as a modern assassin? There are lots of directions that the series could go but Ubisoft has often chosen the least inspired route.
Crucially, there needs to be a focus, a new protagonist that we play as in third-person. Someone that has a purpose, motivations and a direction rather than just being a vehicle for the story. At this point, there’s a lot of moving parts in the present day with Minerva, Abstergo, Assassins and other organizations but there’s no reason why this new gameplay and story can’t be woven into it. It’s a shame that many people would prefer Ubisoft to jettison the present day story entirely when its mystery used to be incredibly intriguing to people. However, there’s no reason why it can’t be reworked and retooled for a fresh start in the franchise.
It’s very interesting that Assassin’s Creed Empire will take us back further in time than ever before. Did Assassins exist as we know them today? Could we maybe see the origins of the Creed or the Assassin/Templar war?
It’s an intriguing choice of setting and it could be full of new content for players. It’s an exciting opportunity to refresh the gameplay and have the player doing something more than just stabbing lots of people. I’d like to see some more investigative gameplay, different tools, more varied mission types and just something new. I’d like to see something other than freeing slaves or taking out a target. If Ubisoft does go this direction, then do something new and fresh with it. I’m not entirely sure what I’d want to spend time doing in Ancient Egypt but exploring has got to be a part of it. If Ubisoft follows tradition, this will be a large map and it needs to be populated with interesting activities and areas to explore. I imagine the series will take a cue from Brotherhood and Syndicate and have you taking over territories. More than anything else, the gameplay loop must be fun.
Those are the five things I’d like to see in Assassin’ Creed Empire but what would you like to see? Let me know in the comments below.
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