I saw a thread recently that outlined all the reasons why a modern Assassin’s Creed game wouldn’t be feasible. It made some points that weren’t unreasonable, but it got me thinking. If Ubisoft were to take up the challenge of developing a game set in the 20th century, where could they go and how would they make it work. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be challenges, but I contend that not only would a game like that be possible, it could also have the potential to be a very cool shakeup for the entire series.
I want to eliminate a few settings right off the bat. Ubisoft, if you’re listening, don’t do a game set during World War II in Europe. Hitler and the Nazis would be an obvious candidate for a game, but in my opinion, it would be a lazy one. The amount of media created that covers the events in Europe during World War II could fill an entire ocean. I would maybe consider the Pacific theater with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but don’t do Europe.
One of the main reasons I like the Assassin’s series is that it takes me to historical settings and environments that I know almost nothing about. When I drop into the animus, I want to go somewhere that’s beautiful, exotic, and interesting. If we’re trying to make a game set within the last hundred or so years, I think the absolute cutoff would be the 90s. Those decades are too recent, and if you want a story set then, you might as well do one solely focused on the current storyline with Layla Hassan in 2017. Why even bother going back in history?
Guns and modern tech aren’t a problem for Assassin’s Creed.
The most “modern” AC game to date is Syndicate, with the game’s events set in London in 1868. One of the main sticking points to an even more modern setting has been the advancement of firearms. Guns have been featured before in AC games, most notably AC III, Black Flag, Unity, and Syndicate. The idea behind their inclusion was that during those time periods, guns weren’t particularly accurate. You could still have the multi-person combat and epic finishers that people love in the combat systems for those games.
These finishers, while unquestionably are cool, they aren’t very assassin-like. The inclusion of accurate firearms could change this. You could still have cool finishers, but surprising your targets would be the most important factor, not how good your Assassin is with a weapon. You give the enemy an accurate gun, then you as the player are forced to be stealthy, almost like…an assassin. I joke to myself that almost every mission in an Assassin’s Creed game starts with the character being super stealthy, creeping through bushes and quietly removing surprised enemies, then halfway through, I mess up by making a loud noise or doing something stupid, and it ends with me fighting off a half-dozen enemies simultaneously.
The rare times when I can successfully sneak past guards, assassinate the target, and escape are what I enjoy the most about the series. Nailing your target, then escaping before you’re dead is beyond satisfying. Give enemies modern-day guns, and you now force me to do that every time. One of the biggest complaints of the more recent games is that they’ve strayed a bit from actually being able to play as a true Assassin. Your character is so strong that whether you are sneaky or whether you’re good at climbing doesn’t matter all that much.
You want a game that’s all about parkour, infiltration, and epic assassinations, making a modern game could provide that. Does your assassin get shot? If they do, they’re dead. It would reclaim what so many people love about the series and why they choose to play it over Call of Duty or other modern FPS.
The setting can still feel different enough from a present-day storyline.
There are many options to choose from here. Candidates could include the Korean War, Apartheid in South Africa, or the Cold War set in Siberia. The sky is the limit. Interesting stories to tell abound in the 20th century that could still deliver that stark contrast needed between a current story and a given assassin’s history.
My personal suggestion would be a game based around the events of the Vietnam War, particularly during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Vietnam itself could deliver just a beautiful setting for the story of an assassin. Additionally, the intrigue and the two stark sides of the war would provide an intriguing storyline that could fit right in with the AC series. Playing with various conceptions. One thought could be making the templars be the United States, led by Richard Nixon, or even in a broader sense, questioning the value and cost of bringing democracy to a place by force. Are your ideals good if the means of getting there require such bloodshed? Fits right in with the Templar and Assassin ethos.
The Vietnam war could provide many threads to play with without it feeling too close to the current day storyline. Alternatively, a modern Assassin’s Creed game would give the series the chance to tackle nuclear weapons. Considering the broader thrust of the series, nuclear weapons begin to rival the Isu artifacts that the protagonists discover in other games. What does that mean for the Isu and humanity? A game set during this era could lodge serious questions concerning humanity’s progress through history, where the weapons are rivaling the “gods.”
The Templar Order and Assassins Brotherhood both existed during this time period.
We deserve to know what they were up to during this century. On a more serious note, telling a major story during the 1900s could begin to make needed connections between these two factions and what’s happening in the current storyline. If players could see some of the connections between the assassins and templars of old and Desmond or even Layla, it would help make the characters and ideas they are playing with feel more robust.
All of this is to say, Ubisoft should not shy away from a modern Assassin’s Creed game. It’s possible and likely to be amazing if they put in some serious effort. There’s always the challenge of making any AC game feel uniquely of the Assassin’s Creed genre and not just a copy of Call of Duty or Dishonored or any other vanilla shooting game, but that problem always has less to do with the setting of the game and more with the story and mechanics of the game. Ultimately, Ubisoft has proven over and over its ability to tell great stories about badass assassins doing cool things. A modern-day game would be the ultimate test.
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