Why Assassin’s Creed Needs a Modern Day Protagonist
Why Assassin’s Creed Needs a Modern Day Protagonist
Spoilers for the series to follow….
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is due out in less than a month and it remains to be seen where the first game developed by Ubisoft Quebec fits into the legacy of the franchise. The title has the tough task of trying to win over fans after last year’s disastrous launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity. The series has a tumultuous history and many players point to its annual release cycle and lack of real change over the years as a sticking point.
Nevertheless, one element of the game that has changed over the years is the present day storyline and its protagonist.
Here’s why that change has been detrimental to the series:
The nature of Assassin’s Creed is repetitive and there is no getting away from that. The time, setting and main protagonist may change but ultimately we know we will be fighting our way to a target and assassinating them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that (although Ubisoft could be more innovative in its approach) but it makes it more important than in other games that the series has a sense of progression. Since the bulk of the story occurs in the past it needs to have a relevance and significance to the present day story too otherwise why include the present day story at all?
Some fans welcomed the demise of Desmond in Assassin’s Creed III, finding him to be a dull and bland hero for us to control. True, the character had little depth but he was an important vehicle for the story to progress. Since 2012, the game has introduced a new protagonist. You. Or rather us as the player. This has meant that story comes by way of hacking mini-games, e-mails and clues dotted around the offices of Abstergo. This speculative storytelling leaves much of the work up to the player to piece together what is going on. For example it was teased at the end of Assassin’s Creed III that Juno, a First Civilization being, had now been released into the real world. However, fast forward three years and we are no closer to learning anything about what she’s doing or why she’s doing it. Mysteries about a cult of followers and that she has embedded herself in the Internet or computers doesn’t really cut it.
In Assassin’s Creed Unity, the present day story was at its smallest yet and was simply a way to launch the player into different time periods. From the original Assassin’s Creed to III, the present day story had a purpose and a destination, the supposed end of the world and Desmond as a pivotal figure in the conflict. The developers at Ubisoft need to rekindle that purpose in its present day story so that each iteration of the game feels as if it’s progressing the plot.
Many people reading this may think, ‘I didn’t like Desmond or the present-day story, why would I want it to come back?’ Its true that the present-day story has always been a sideshow to jumping into the past which will always be at the core of Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft hasn’t always given this aspect of the game its due either. Nevertheless, there is certainly potential there. Many fans have asked that we be given a modern-day assassin to run around as in a full open world environment. For all Assassin’s Creed III’s flaws, its present day story had the right idea offering us infiltration/assassination missions to take on when we were out of the Animus. Unfortunately these levels weren’t well designed or fun enough to be warranted. With the right treatment though, they could have been. Introducing the black-box missions from Unity and Syndicate and offering us choice of how to take down a target may be a good direction to take.
Ubisoft took most players’ dislike of Desmond to heart and haven’t introduced another modern character to play as since his heroic demise. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a fun and likable protagonist either. The franchise hasn’t got the best track record here but its a problem it needs to overcome to add meaning to its modern-day gameplay.
Assassin vs Templar War
Unfortunately, it seems Ubisoft has lost faith in its own story from the plots of recent games to the carbon copy characters, all have been fairly dismal. Many gamers were pleasantly surprised with the fun gameplay of Black Flag, but as fun as it was, it was a pirate game and not an Assassin’s Creed game. If the developer wants to continue to sustain the series into the future it needs to renew its efforts when it comes to the Assassin vs Templar war, in both the present and past.
Again, it will return a sense of progression to the series, but it will also make more sense for those jumping back into the franchise. The clues offered in the present day story have been threadbare and offer little value to the series. It seemed when I played the first few games, there was a road map of where this was all headed and I loved the weird sci-fi nature of the story and its left-field plot twists. Those moments have all but disappeared and the series lost its way forward long ago.
Hope for the Future?
Despite myself, I do have some hope that Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be a return to form for the series. The characters look fun, London looks great and the idea of gang warfare is enticing. In addition, creative director of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Marc-Alexis Cote has teased the present day story will return and start a new arc. However, there are only so many times players can take this approach with a series that has disappointed more often than not. Bringing the present day story back in a more prominent way is one way the series can improve in the future.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be released on October 23, 2015.
Would you like to see the present day story return? What do you think about the state of the series?
Let me know by commenting below.