When I got an Xbox 360, alongside Halo 3, the other game I first played was Assassin’s Creed 2. What would spawn from that was over a decade of admiration for the Assassin’s Creed franchise. I don’t consider myself a die hard fan, having missed out on some of the side titles like Rogue, but I have played and completed almost every mainline entry.
Alas, going back to Assassin’s Creed 2, the story and emotional impact delivered through it is still a series-high for me. The story of Ezio, the tragedy that befalls his family and his journey in joining the Creed. Moreover, the symbiosis between stealthy assassination and action is something the newer games have failed to achieve.
The emphasis on stealth is highlighted in one of the Creed’s most iconic lines: “We work in the Dark to serve the Light.”
Further, one of the Creed’s tenets is that an assassin should hide in plain sight; Odyssey is a far departure from this, regularly having you in plain sight taking out forts and the like. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey explains its detraction from the usual Assassin modus operandi with the fact that the historical setting is actually before the formation of the Creed as seen in Assassin’s Creed Origins.
In Odyssey, you explore Ancient Greece at the time of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. You play as either Alexios or Kassandra, the fictional descendants of Leonidas ( yep, that spartan-kicking badass from 300).
Further, the large-scale conquest battles again shows a complete departure from the Assassin M.O. No longer are you doing your work in the shadows, you’re out in a massive field in broad daylight doing battle between two armies. Bigger is better, at least so we’re told, but in the case of Assassin’s Creed, it’s starting to feel very disingenuous.
However, the decision to go to a timeline where there is no Assassin’s Creed, nor carrying over their M.O. begs the question why slap the Assassin’s Creed name on it in the first place?
Naturally, there’s far less risk in slapping the established Assassin’s Creed name on something than there is launching a game as new IP. In essence, it comes down to $… as these things usually do.
From a business sense, where you have investors to answer to, if launching say Valhalla as just that, dropping the Assassin’s Creed from the name, it’s going to be hard to explain to investors. New IP brings a higher risk, which is even more off-putting for the suits because of how large AAA video game budgets have become.
Why take the risk of new IP when you can slap the established Assassin’s Creed name on it and guarantee somewhat a steady amount of sales?
Well, doing that is a dis-service to the previous entries in the series. The games like AC: 2, Brotherhood etc. That propelled the Assassin’s Creed IP into huge success. The aura of the Creed that took years and years to build up is slowly fading away.
The new Assassin’s Creed have evolved so much into action-RPGs that the whole M.O. of the original Creed has seemingly been forgotten. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla has only just been revealed, and whilst it must be given the benefit of the doubt, there are some troubling signs.
First of all, the trailer clearly depicts that the large-scale conquest battles are returning. Apart from the use of the hidden blade at the end of the trailer, albeit in plain sight, there was no signs of stealthy assassination in the 4 minute trailer.
Valhalla looks like a cross between The Witcher 3 and God of War. Both, amazing once-in-a-generation games, and it’s fine if the teams want to take inspiration from them and a new IP as a merge between these two whilst also delivering something new would have been awesome.
Valhalla as a new IP could have ditched the crammed in animus stuff and focused solely on delivering a great story that could stand on it’s own two feet, as the predecessors did before it.
Instead, what I fear, is Valhalla will keep the press triangle to assassinate but little else from what made its predecessors so great. Evolution is necessary, but abandoning the entire philosophy and M.O. behind the titular organisation seems a step too far.
My thought-process is multi-faceted. Abandoning the Assassin’s Creed name not only protects the older games, but also unlocks the shackles on the new ones. It’s clear the foray into action RPG is not a fluke and I just wonder how much better, how much originality these games could achieve by not being anchored down by the Assassin’s Creed name.
The extent to which Valhalla will depart from the M.O. and philosophy of the Creed, as Odyssey did before it, is yet to be revealed. According to Gamespot, the assassin’s are at least making an appearance in Valhalla:
Eivor meets with the Assassins at some point, but doesn’t necessarily know what they’re all about–what’s important is that the Vikings and Assassins have common ground and end up working with each other.
Preliminary, this sounds like Eivor won’t be signing up to join the Creed, so it follows from that and what we’ve seen in the trailer so far that the M.O. and philosophy of the creed, of acting from the shadows, prioritising stealth, has once again been abandoned.
All in all, my wishes for Ubisoft to drop the Assassin’s Creed name, at least until a new entry returns to the original M.O. and philosophy of the Creed, comes from a place of duality. My wish is to see the original Assassin’s Creed games I admire so deeply to be preserved, whilst also ridding the new entries of those shackles so they can shine on their own two feet.