One of the worst traps for an annual game franchise to fall into is to simply have the same game mechanics in each new title without adding anything particularly new, taking an attitude of, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ With games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which can take 80 hours to fully complete, the idea of doing the same thing again in the next installment sounds a bit dull.
Since the sailing and naval combat (not to mention those wonderful sea shanties) in Assassin’s Creed IV were the subject of so much praise, there’s an understanding temptation for Ubisoft to simply do it all over again in Assassin’s Creed V and base the new protagonist and setting around the sailing mechanic.
Speaking to IGN at the BAFTA Game Awards last night however, Assassin’s Creed IV game director Ashraf Ismail said that it actually works the other way around, with the team picking a historical period first and then basing the game mechanics around it.
“With Assassin’s Creed we always say that history is our playground. When we chose the pirate setting, obviously it meant naval battles had to be a core element of the game. The questions are always about what time periods we go into, but that’s a decision based on whether these time periods are interesting for fans, interesting for us as developers, and what it’d mean for the game mechanics.
“We don’t bind ourselves to game mechanics, but we really look at what is interesting historically speaking, and what game mechanics that naturally brings up. Hopefully then, the fans love and enjoy it. We’re here to enjoy the BAFTAs so I can’t really talk about the future of the brand or where it’s going, I won’t even acknowledge that a game is in the works!
“So I don’t want to talk about what’s the future for naval and all this, but I love that people loved it in Black Flag. It was a risk for us to make it part of the core of an Assassin’s game, but people really took to it and loved it, which is really gratifying for us. As I said though, whatever period in time we choose? That’s what dictates the kind of mechanics we put in the game, not the other way around.”
Ismail wouldn’t say whether or not Assassin’s Creed V will feature naval game mechanics, but it would be gratifying to see the focus return to actual assassinations. That’s not to say that the naval gameplay should go away completely, just that it would be better suited to a standalone game franchise all about pirates. That way the pirate adventures wouldn’t get bogged down in Assassin/Templar mythos, and the assassins of Assassin’s Creed wouldn’t end up getting sidelined by pirate adventures.
One way that Ubisoft could really evolve the series in Assassin’s Creed V would be to bolster the actual stealth mechanics a little more. Currently the series’ version of stealth mainly consists of hiding – whether on rooftops, on benches, in crowds or just in a big pile of hay. Many players have lamented the lack of a crouch button or cover system, and often it’s easier to just slaughter all the guards rather than wrestle with the stealth gameplay (especially considering the unstoppable power of counter-kills).
Tell us in the comments whether you’re hoping for more action on the high seas in Assassin’s Creed V, or whether you want Ubisoft to surprise us with something totally new.