Ubisoft’s American Revolution adventure Assassin’s Creed III has been out for six months now, which means that there’s only another six months to go until the release of its pirate adventure game Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The trailers that have been unveiled so far demonstrate some exciting new gameplay elements and a brand new setting that’s sure to excite people who love pirates (and who doesn’t?). With that in mind, however, there are a number of reasons to be sceptical about the direction in which the Assassin’s Creed franchise could be heading – particularly the issue of whether or not the series’ momentum is going to burnout.
In an interview with Xbox Magazine, creative director Jean Guesdon has responded to a question regarding whether or not players have grown weary of a new Assassin’s Creed game being trotted out every year.
“I think we have proven that this franchise is relevant, and that it has a long way to go. Our job as developers of this new opus is to surprise players and bringing fresh, different ideas, while at the same time ensuring that what makes AC such a standout franchise remains intact.
“With the scale and scope of the world we are building, the completely new setting, the new gameplay mechanics, and our new characters (both our hero and his supporting cast), we are definitely on track to get the job done and avoid fatigue altogether.”
Guesdon’s response isn’t all that revealing, laden as it is with standard PR rhetoric, and it doesn’t even really answer the question of whether the studio is concerned about franchise fatigue. The series has, arguably, yet to repeat the dramatic improvements in gameplay and overall quality that were seen between Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II, and a counterpart of fan fatigue is developer fatigue brought on by tight production schedules.
Of course, having a new game out every year doesn’t necessarily mean only a year of development time; Assassin’s Creed III was developed by a separate team for three years, alongside the releases of Assassin’s Creed II sequels Brotherhood and Revelations. Even so, Assassin’s Creed III still felt unfinished to a certain degree upon its release, with numerous glitches and gameplay elements that didn’t feel like they’d been fully realised.
Another issue that may have Assassin’s Creed fans feeling a little less enthusiastic about the next installment in the franchise, is the fact that the games seem to be getting further and further away from the central story of the Assassin brotherhood. In the first game, Altaïr was deeply entrenched in the Creed, to an almost religious degree. Even Ezio – who was shown discovering the existence of the Assassins in his late teens – spend his three games deeply involved with the Assassins, becoming a Master and finding new recruits to build up the brotherhood. But in Assassin’s Creed III, Connor Kenway was almost entirely cut off from the other contemporary Assassins, and the weapons and skills he gained felt more like a means to an end than an integral part of the story.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag‘s protagonist, Edward Kenway, has been described in the marketing as “a pirate trained by assassins” rather than a straight-up Assassin, and Guesdon confirms that the character won’t really have much to do with the Creed beyond his training and abilities:
“Previous assassins have always been driven by a sense of duty or revenge, or sometimes even both. Edward’s motivations are purely selfish: he fights for glory. He has the skills of an Assassin, but he doesn’t use them for the Creed. He is, at heart, a pirate. And he’s not a “good” pirate like you see in children’s tales – he is a criminal with a taste for infamy.”
Guesdon does also mention that Kenway will find himself being forced to reconcile the two jarring philosophies of the Assassin’s Creed and his pirate lifestyle, but it’s unclear at this point how large a part the Assassins will play in the game, or even if Kenway will get around to much assassinating amidst all the looting, plundering and treasure-hunting.
Are you delighted to be getting a brand new Assassin’s Creed adventure every year, or are the annual releases making you wish for a break from the series?
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is set to sail onto Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Wii U, and PC on October 29, 2013.
Source: Xbox Magazine