Better late than never. On Thursday, Ubisoft confirmed the rumors that the Assassin’s Creed series would be taking a year off for the first time since 2008. It didn’t come as much of a surprise, as rumors of the decision had been circulating for months, but it was a sigh of relief for fans of the flagging franchise.
If Assassin’s Creed is going to survive the generation, Ubisoft needs to take a step back and re-examine one of its biggest properties.
When Assassin’s Creed suddenly became an annual franchise with the release of Brotherhood in 2010, we didn’t think much of it. Surprise, surprise — a publisher wants to squeeze every drop it can out of a financially successful property! We’ve seen it time and again, and there’s never any telling how it will work out.
Call of Duty? Endless profits; critical acclaim. Battlefield? Angry fans; disappointing reviews.
With one or two notable exceptions (depending on who you ask), Assassin’s Creed has fallen on the Call of Duty side of the spectrum more often than not. Every game in the franchise, including the willfully forgotten first game in the series (and even the oft-maligned Unity), maintain scores of 70 or higher on Metacritic.
And yet, all we ever hear about Assassin’s Creed are the bugs that plague the latest entries in the series and the lack of originality in the stories and gameplay mechanics. These are enjoyable time wasters and little else.
That’s why Ubisoft needs to take a break.
In the blog post discussing the de-annualization of the series, the developer says that it has “updated [its] development processes and recommitted to making Assassin’s Creed a premier open-world franchise.”
“We’re taking this year to evolve the game mechanics and to make sure we’re delivering on the promise of Assassin’s Creed offering unique and memorable gameplay experiences that make history everyone’s playground.”
Unique and memorable are the key words here. Despite the fact that Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was a perfectly competent game, and a step in the right direction following the minor disaster that was Unity, it was neither unique nor memorable. It was a sequel to a game that everyone spent months complaining about.
Thankfully, a report from Kotaku last month seemed to indicate that the studio has taken all of the criticism in stride and is already hard at work on a new title codenamed Empire that could restore the franchise to its former glory.
In the meantime, Ubisoft won’t be staying out of the open world genre entirely. Far Cry Primal is set to launch on February 23rd and the publisher announced on Thursday that Watch Dogs 2 will hit store shelves before April 2017.