Upholding the time-honoured tradition of Ubisoft – and more specifically, Assassin’s Creed – titles getting leaked long before their official reveals, there’s a lot that we know about this year’s Assassin’s Creed game already. Though there have been some reports that have disputed the accuracy of the most recent round of leaks, there’s still plenty that we can be pretty sure we’ll be seeing in the game when it launches this year. More than that though, there’s plenty of things we want to see, things that we’re hoping the game will include to continue the upward trajectory that Assassin’s Creed has been on for the last few years. In this feature, we’ll be talking about a few such things.
THE VIKINGS ATMOSPHERE
The star of the show in any new Assassin’s Creed game is always the setting, because the place and the time period where the game is set is what ends up defining so much of the experience, from the tone and the atmosphere to the story and oftentimes even major mechanics. With the upcoming Assassin’s Creed game, something we know for sure is that it will take place in Scandinavia during Viking times- and that’s an incredibly exciting prospect. From the pirate-infested seas of the Caribbean in Black Flag and the revolution-torn streets of Paris in Unity, from the industrial London in Syndicate to the vast and vibrant Greece in Odyssey, Assassin’s Creed has always put authenticity and atmosphere front and centre with its settings, and similar treatment for a Nordic Vikings setting would immediately make a game infinitely cooler. And so that’s out first wish for this game- that it does as much justice to its new setting as previous games in the series did to theirs.
Environmental diversity is something else that Assassin’s Creed games usually excel at, and nowhere was that more apparent than it was in 2018’s Odyssey- especially its expansions. With the next Assassin’s Creed game though, Ubisoft have the chance to completely outdo their previous efforts, and that’s because of the central conceit of players taking on the role of a Viking. The Vikings were historically notorious for their tendency to sail to various parts of Europe to claim territory, and if that is what we’ll be doing in this year’s game as well, that would give Ubisoft the chance to take players to a lot of diverse and unique places, in terms of both visuals and their atmosphere.
Bloat is an issue that has become increasingly common in Ubisoft games, with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey pretty much being the poster boy for open world bloat- and that’s an issue that the next game in the series needs to address. A smaller, densely packed world with meaningful variation in its locations is what we’re hoping to see, instead of a massive world that refuses to end and is packed with more side activities than you could get to in three lifetimes. After the disaster that was Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Ubisoft have been making major internal changes to make sure that their future games are more unique and don’t keep making the same mistakes, and while there’s a pretty good chance that Assassin’s Creed 2020 may have been too far along in development before that came into effect, we’re still hoping that that will have had at least some impact on the game’s design.
LESS STRICT LEVEL GATING
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (and Origins, to a lesser extent) suffered from an issue that essentially forced players to play through its side quests and indulge in its side content, because of how it gated its critical story missions behind high level recommendations. It was something that contributed significantly to the game’s issues with bloat, which we’ve discussed already, and also led to issues with how Ubisoft monetized it, which we will discuss shortly. So here’s our plain and simple wish #4 for the game- balance the level gating. Ether significantly reduce how high level requirements could often be in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, or just… not have level gating at all.
NO LEVEL SCALING
The progression in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was flawed in other ways beyond just level gating, with its biggest issue being something that has been an issue in so many games throughout the ages- level scaling. This isn’t something that’s exclusive to Odyssey, it’s just a bad concept in general, and very rarely has it been executed properly. The point of progression in RPGs – or any game, for that matter – is to make sure that players get more powerful constantly, and feel more powerful constantly. But if enemies are always levelling up right alongside you, what’s even the point of levelling up? Just as an example, in the fiftieth hour of our playthrough, if we go back to an area from the beginning hours of the game, we don’t want the enemies to be just as strong as we are- we want to be able to bulldoze right over them like they were made of paper.
All of which is to say, please don’t have level scaling in the next Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft.
We’ve spoken plenty about how the next Assassin’s Creed game can improve upon its predecessors in terms of progression- but let’s give credit where it’s due. Odyssey was a marked improvement over Origins in many ways, especially the combat, which was faster, much more varied, and a lot more engaging than it’s ever been in this series. Odyssey’s blend of dodging, attacking, parrying, and using a plethora of abilities kept every encounter interesting, and we’re hoping that the next game in the series will continue in that vein and introduce even more movements. Given its Vikings-centric setting and conceit, combat is undoubtedly going to be a major part of the game, and hopefully, it’ll be just as visceral and entertaining as you’d expect from a game about assassins and Vikings.
While stealth was definitely better in Odyssey than it was in Origins, it still had a lot of room for improvement. For starters, nobody would say no to seeing the iconic hidden blades make a return again, while there are many who would argue that stealth-focused buffs and unlocks in the skill tree need to be much more powerful and effective. The AI also definitely needs to be improved upon a great deal- more than anything else though, Ubisoft need to give players more ways to interact with the game in a stealthy way. For years, Assassin’s Creed has been making use of the same stealth mechanics – hiding in bushes or haystacks, blending into crowds, and the like – and while we are hoping for improvements to these cursory stealth mechanics, we’re hoping that more complex mechanics will be added as well, to give players even more options during stealth. The most recent leak of the game made mention of things such as using the snow or mud to camouflage yourself, or using various outfits to blend into crowds, and while there’ve been some question marks over how accurate that leak is, let’s hope that part in particular at least in true.
MORE IMPACTFUL CHOICES
One of the biggest changes Odyssey made to the Assassin’s Creed formula was turning it into a full blown RPG, where choices made by the player would affect the story. And for the series’ first crack at that sort of an experience, it was an excellent effort. So what do we want from the sequel? Well, quite simply, we want more- more, and better. Assassin’s Creed needs to continue building on Odyssey’s excellent foundations, and it needs to make sure that the choice and consequence mechanics are even more fleshed out and even more impressive.
LESS FOCUS ON ABSTERGO STORYLINE
Though the present-day Abstergo storyline was one a big part of the franchise (at least in its earlier years), as time has gone on, it’s become increasingly disappointing and needless. Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey’s present-day stuff was somewhat more focused than what the series had been focusing on ever since the end of the Desmond arc, but let’s face it- it was still pretty underwhelming. Very few people care (or care enough) about what’s going on in the present day, and even fewer care about Layla Hassan as a protagonist. Ubisoft either needs to focus on that stuff much less, or make major improvements (like introducing a protagonist we don’t want to strangle, for starters).
This is a wish we can apply wholesale to any upcoming AAA game, but it’s doubly pertinent in a Ubisoft game. Let’s be fair though- after Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Ubisoft have been pretty open about admitting their mistakes, while they’ve also made it clear that they’re going to make sure those mistakes aren’t repeated. Our only hope, then, is that as a result, Ubisoft will find a better way to monetize the next Assassin’s Creed than what we saw in the aforementioned Breakpoint, or even Odyssey, which, as we’ve discussed, was accused very commonly of using its combination of level-gating, bloat, and grinding to push players into spending money on booster packs.
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