Over the course of five installments, Assassin’s Creed has been defined by the single-player experience. Competitive multiplayer has grown more popular every year since germinating in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, true, but the series’s main gameplay motif (and marketing angle) has always been the singular, independent endeavors of its campaign protagonists — Altair, Ezio, Connor, and throughout it all, Desmond.
So imagine where Assassin’s Creed would be today if it revolved around campaign co-op. Specifically, drop-in/drop-out co-op, the kind that would allow players to join each other’s open worlds as accessory assassins, coming and going as they please. As it turns out, that was — ever so briefly — part of Ubisoft’s plan.
Philippe Bergeron is the mission director for Assassin’s Creed 3 who has been working with the franchise since its inception. In a recent interview with OXM, Bergeron revealed that his team had designed a “huge” co-op mode for the original Assassin’s Creed; however, on top of the game’s massive size, the story of Desmond Miles and the premise of the Animus, it quickly became too much to handle:
“Before we knew about the Desmond story and Animus link, we had a huge co-op component in there.
“But it just became too hard to do: the engine couldn’t support it, and then the metaphor we had above it didn’t support it. Co-op was one of those big things at the beginning that just didn’t make sense in the end.”
According to Bergeron, co-op never factored into the equation because it was tied inexorably to the main storyline. It wasn’t a side mode, it wasn’t an alternate campaign like Halo 4’s Spartan Ops — it involved two assassins, using the Animus, directly having an impact on the Assassin’s Creed narrative.
“For us it was really part of the single player experience, to have in-and-out co-op, and in the end we never thought it made sense in the storyline that we had for the Animus.
“There was no way to reconcile having multiplayer or co-op in an ancestor’s memories. Your ancestor lived his life in a certain way, so assuming you had branching storylines, it creates a paradox. It didn’t fit.”
Considering the complexity of Assassin’s Creed’s mythos as it is — with one assassin digging through his ancestors’ memories, racing against time to stop a modern-day apocalypse, mending broken family wounds and uncovering the secrets behind an ancient, omnipotent creator civilization — we’d say eschewing co-op on the grounds of clarity was a smart choice.
But that said, it’s never too late. Assassin’s Creed is a franchise which, for all we know, may still be in its infancy. And whether Ubisoft advances it next to Assassin’s Creed 4, whether they spin off the current numerical focal point of Assassin’s Creed 3, whether they stay in the American Revolution or travel, say, to France and the French Revolution, the void created by the conclusion of Desmond’s storyline in AC3 has granted the developer an enormous amount of flexibility regarding narrative and gameplay.
Save perhaps Altair, our assassins have never been completely alone — consider the Brotherhood and missions with AI allies (and in AC 3’s case, AI-allied armies). It’s not inconceivable that co-op, one day, might take teamwork a step further.
Ranters, do you think Assassin’s Creed — any of its installments — would have benefited from a co-op mode? Would you like to see Ubisoft incorporate one at some point in the future?
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.