Brand fatigue is undoubtedly one of the most unpleasant side effects in today’s videogames market, with annualized sequels to triple-A franchises and incremental updates bringing in big bucks at the cost of risk and innovation. Call of Duty notwithstanding, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise is one of the most obvious offenders of recent memory. After a patchy start in 2007, the French publisher churned out a whopper in 2009 with Assassin’s Creed II, adding a wealth of new gameplay mechanics, missions and a full economy system. For all intents and purposes, it was the game the original desperately wanted to be. It became a critical darling and set tills alight upon launch.
Beginning with Brotherhood however, Ubisoft began to pump out yearly sequels to the seminal Renaissance-era adventure, tweaking things here and there but never really truly evolving the brand beyond its ACII-era trappings. Aside from the admittedly brilliant multiplayer component, Ezio Auditore’s stabby shenanigans changed little over the years, before culminating in 2011’s Revelations. Personally I loved the games to death and was quite content to plonk down the cash for more Italian stallion action, but reading around the web it’s abundantly clear not everyone shared the same sentiment – needless to say, the subject remains a highly contentious topic at PSU Towers to this day.
But let’s get back on track. With Assassin’s Creed III confirmed for an October 2012 launch, it’s little wonder that some gamers are a little apprehensive – or outright not arsed at all, for that matter – over the prospect of strapping on that iconic hidden blade once more.
Here’s why you should sit up and take notice.
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Ezio Auditore was a superb lead, and personally one of my all-time favourite videogame characters to date. His story resonated deeply, and watching him evolve from a rambunctious, womanizing 15th century cheeky chappie into a hardened, vengeful Assassin ranks as perhaps one of the most compelling game stories out there. However, after three games, it was time for Ezio to hang up his hidden blade and make way for an all-new protagonist. Reading around the web, it’s obvious some folk had a bone to pick with Ubisoft’s desire to milk Ezio for all he was worth, and the promise of new blood for ACIII is sure to stimulate interest again. Sure, we know Desmond’s back – after all, there’s a story to finish there – but the new historical lead is open to interpretation. Rumors have pointed to a Chinese protagonist based on AC: Embers, or possibly even Altair’s surviving son. Quite who it’ll be is anyone’s guess, but the chance to slip into the stealthy shoes of a fresh Assassin from a new era is a tantalizing prospect.
It’s the end of the world as we know it
For the past five years, Assassin’s Creed has slowly but inexorably been building towards a gripping climax – at least for the current story arc – with the whole 2012 apocalypse plotline. We know the series is going to continue after ACIII, but for now, there’s a story to wrap up. Players have been battling against the dastardly Templars as Altair and Ezio, both of whom are now out of the picture; the story is near its end, and it’d be a crime not to see it through after all that blood, sweat and tears. But mostly blood. Revelations really set things up for an epic conclusion (forgive the overused superlative), and Desmond is now in possession of the knowledge that will – hopefully – subvert a global catastrophe that wiped out The First Civilization a millennia ago. A climax like this warrants attention, and more importantly, is likely to pull out all the stops in the process.
A new protagonist means a new era of history is for the taking, and this is perhaps one of the most significant additions ACIII has going for it. Right now it remains unknown what location will make up the game’s historical backdrop, but a ton of locales have been thrown around, including the American Revolution, Victorian London and Ancient China. Any one of those offers a rich and diverse playground in which to set ACIII’s sandbox stab-‘em-up, and I’ve already salivated over the prospect of scaling Big Ben and taking in the majestic view atop the clock tower before performing a Leap of Faith into a hay cart on the cobbled streets below. Ubisoft has always had an impeccable eye for detail, and you only have to look at the series’ meticulous recreations of iconic landmarks like the Coliseum and the Santa Maria del Fiore to know that we’re sure to get the same level of eye-candy in ACIII’s environments, wherever they might be set. Get excited.
‘The biggest game to date'
The fact we’re getting ACIII just a year after Revelations makes you wonder just how much Ubisoft can cram into the game before October. However, one key aspect that has personally turned my own expectations of the game on their head is the fact this latest game has been in development for three years. In other words, when Ubisoft was pushing ACII out the door, they were already working on this. That’s a lot of time in the oven, offering ample opportunity for the team to implement some truly substantial changes to the formula -- core gameplay mechanics, aesthetics, structure, the works. In other words, those of you expecting Revelations 2.0 are likely going to be in for a pleasant surprise here. In addition to that, Ubisoft overlord Yves Guillemot has teased that ACIII will be the ‘biggest game to date’ in the series, and apparently is already shaping up rather impressively. Add all this up, and it certainly sounds like the game is going take the franchise to the next level.
October 30 can't come soon enough.