Another massive Assassin’s Creed game – and the time investment that comes with it – is on the horizon.
In a recent article, I talked about people who get invested in games. There’s a wide variety of titles, from live service/games-as-a-service titles to rogue-lites, 4X titles and Souls games, that people simply pour hundreds of hours into. The point was to illustrate that just about any game can facilitate this kind of behavior. However, there is something to be said about fatigue in investment and it applies to live-service games, MMOs, loot games etc.
Let’s take the first Destiny. You spend years, grinding away and completing activities for the best gear. You complete dozens, if not hundreds of raids, for the chance at a Vex Mythoclast, Necrochasm etc. If not that, then maybe you’re spending all that time in Trials of Osiris, attempting to go flawless. But don’t worry – if you can’t really get into either, there’s plenty of Triumphs, shaders and emblems to unlock as well. At the time, a small amount of stuff was available in the Eververse Shop and required real money to purchase. Dismantling Eververse items for Silver Dust was a thing, for sure, but you weren’t getting Eververse cosmetics at a rapid clip or anything.
"It also doesn’t help when the new title fails to provide any compelling new things that fans could aspire to."
Anyway, after spending all that time and effort, taking down Atheon, Crota, Oryx and that other guy, seeing the return of classic raid weapons and armour in enhanced forms, Bungie announces Destiny 2. You’re excited, of course. Why wouldn’t you be? Unfortunately, nothing carries over. Absolutely nothing. If you play on Xbox One or PS4, you’ll get a nice intro cinematic detailing your past raid encounters and who you fought with. But that’s it.
Destiny launched in September 2014 with Destiny 2 arriving in September 2017. Three years sounds like a reasonable time frame to just abandon everything and move on, right? However, many of the ways that Destiny 2 bungled this progression was in not really acknowledging the player’s past exploits outside of that intro. Heck, for a while, the game seemed like a reboot – the Speaker was prematurely killed; very little acknowledgment was made of Oryx, Prince Uldren, Rasputin or any other characters; and even Saladin of the Iron Banner didn’t acknowledge the events of Rise of Iron. It’s one thing to pretend that the player’s past loot didn’t exist (and sell it back to them but that’s a different argument). It’s quite another to pretend that the previous three years could be retconned when players had their best moments in them.
Again, this is only for people who want to move on. I could see it applying to Borderlands 2 when Borderlands 3 releases or even for Diablo 2 when Diablo 3 arrives because of (a) the time gap between the games and (b) they’re not live-service titles. Even after all the updates and DLC, players would have stuck with relatively static games for years and years before wanting something new. That’s not the case with games like Destiny 2 when they first launched.
It also doesn’t help when the new title fails to provide any compelling new things that fans could aspire to. The abysmal loot system and reduced customization is what most afflicted Diablo 3 and made fans yearn for the good ol’ days. Even Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel wasn’t more loved than Borderlands 2 because laser weapons, jet-packs and stomps weren’t enough to replace the cool weapons, bosses and classes left behind.
"If Assassin’s Creed Ragnarok is such a natural follow-up to Odyssey in terms of content, there’s a chance that very same fatigue could emerge."
So how does all of this apply to Assassin’s Creed, especially with the rumored Assassin’s Creed Ragnarok apparently releasing in 2020? It’s also rumoured to be called Kingdom but we’ll stick with Ragnarok for the purpose of this article.
Though strictly rumours and unverified reports, there’s been enough indication that the next Assassin’s Creed will be a lot like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Conquest battles are apparently coming back. There will be multiple kingdoms split into separate regions with their own economies and customization, and there’s a much heavier focus on exploration. These are all rumoured to be included in the next Assassin’s Creed. And that’s all perfectly fine. It all sounds like a return or natural evolution to the mechanics seen in Odyssey.
It’s also very likely that the current action RPG focus with loot, build optimization and a Prestige system for increasing particular stats will return. These were all natural aspects of Assassin’s Creed Origins that were expanded upon in Odyssey (or newly introduced). Given how successful Odyssey was and how well it fits into the games-as-a-service model that Ubisoft has been pursuing for its games, it makes sense to build upon that.
However, if Assassin’s Creed Ragnarok is such a natural follow-up to Odyssey in terms of content, there’s a chance that very same fatigue could emerge. A good number of people felt fatigued with a new Assassin’s Creed releasing every year since it meant a whole new swathe of collectibles, missions, upgrades, Towers and whatnot to unlock. Though Ubisoft sort of fixed that problem with long-term support for its games – as seen in Ghost Recon: Wildlands and The Division – it’s in a rather strange spot with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
"Maybe the coming year between Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Ragnarok will afford enough time for the former to simmer with players."
There is so much content to go through with so many different missions, side-quests, end-game systems, loot, builds, customization, random contracts, premium shop items, DLC, free quests, open world events, Mercenaries and so on that it’s obscene. That’s without factoring in New Game Plus and other additions that the development team will make in the future. It also doesn’t include upcoming episodes for The Fate of Atlantis DLC.
This isn’t me telling people not to get excited for Assassin’s Creed Ragnarok. I mean, Vikings? Especially after seeing what Ubisoft Montreal could do with For Honor? It sounds incredibly hype. Improvements to the combat system, co-op, more nuanced exploration that will serve the impetus for better loot? Mjolnir? There’s a lot to unpack if any of this turns out to be true.
Hilariously, if Assassin’s Creed Odyssey had turned out smaller in scope, a gap of two years between it and Ragnarok would have been pretty good (assuming the latter is out in 2020). But again, I can’t help feel that the same complaints and fatigue will eventually emerge again especially if many of the same types of side-quests, random contracts, loot and outposts make a return. Even if Ubisoft acknowledges the investment that players have put into Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, from the decisions made to story twists experienced, if Ragnarok isn’t a significant step-up in terms and gameplay, it will still wear on them after a point.
Maybe the coming year between Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Ragnarok will afford enough time for the former to simmer with players. Perhaps a meaningful end will be provided to Odyssey‘s support and fans will be content to leave it all behind for a new experience. Plus, you probably get to wield Mjolnir. That’s a step up from flaming swords and axes, right?
"Ubisoft is also very good at accommodating the fatigue that Odyssey players may feel."
From a business perspective, understanding why Ubisoft could go with the same formula isn’t hard. This is a model that’s worked out for them. The company is undoubtedly a leader in the open world genre, cranking out quality experiences in a short period of time across a variety of genres and stories. Besides, Ubisoft is also very good at accommodating the fatigue that Odyssey players may feel. What’s that? You don’t want go join Ragnar Lodbrok and help create the Great Heathen Army? That’s perfectly fine. Look at all these other alternatives like Ghost Recon Wildlands which blends stealth and shooting in a fun co-op package.
Do you want a narrative-focused open world with first person shooting? A proper looter shooter with heaps of support and fast response times from the developer? Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is ready to serve. Or maybe you’d like to play some competitive multiplayer to cleanse yourself of all the AI enemies and grinding. Perhaps you’d like to hack someone apart in For Honor or tactically take down a squad in Rainbow Six: Siege (which both have their own respective progression grinds but still).
Something releasing in the next year or so perhaps? Well, maybe you’d like to go to London in Watch Dogs 3 (if the rumours on that have any credibility). Perhaps a new Splinter Cell will be announced that’s more story-focused. With Ghost Recon Breakpoint releasing in October and offering some new survival mechanics, classes and a new setting to distinguish it from its predecessor, why not spend some time with that to cleanse the palette?
"Some people get invested in a specific game until they decide to invest their time into another. This applies for both college students and adults with full-time jobs."
Players fatigued with the open world action RPG gameplay of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey could thus engage in some tactical shooting while the Wildlands players enjoy Assassin’s Creed Ragnarok. It sounds hilariously ironic but it’s only natural to corner so many different market shares across so many different genres.
Besides, for Ubisoft at the end of the day, its games-as-a-service model isn’t just about singular titles. It’s about long-term support and building enough good will to encourage additional in-game purchases. From a cynical perspective, it may look like the company isn’t innovating at all and that Assassin’s Creed Ragnarok will just be more of the same with a few gimmicks thrown in.
However, again, Ubisoft’s open world titles are successful. For those who like playing these games, having an open world title that’s another $60 and much more massive than Odyssey while featuring heaps of improvements, new features, a new story and so on is a crazy good deal. Because again, some people get invested in a specific game until they decide to invest their time into another. This applies for both college students and adults with full-time jobs. It’s the industry, after all.
Assassin’s Creed Ragnarok could be a massively unique experience that has no grinding, loot or objective checklists for players to mull over. It could be a highly cinematic game with a critical story path that involves ignoring all of the side content and just completing the main quest in 15 to 20 hours. All that side content could have interesting stories and narratives that veterans will be swept away in.
There’s a fine balance to be had where the resources to collect, min-maxing to be done and open world activities to finish co-exist well with a complete, coherent experience. But then we’d probably be back to square one with people complaining about how the new Assassin’s Creed sequel is just another story chapter without a conclusion with a massive world and tons of stuff to collect. It’s almost inevitable.
Personally, I’d still like to get lost in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and then see what Assassin’s Creed Ragnarok has to offer when I’m ready. I’d like to create a few broken builds in both games and engage with an intriguing cast of non-playable characters while taking in the sights. Hopefully, Ubisoft can create an interesting enough structure in 2020 that doesn’t just feel like a colder version of Ancient Greece.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.