The great charm of Assassin’s Creed has always been its environments. For all the criticisms people might make of the combat system, the convoluted story or modern day events, people will keep buying the games. The beautiful graphics, brilliant settings and willingness to portray events with surprising realism (unless you’re the promotional team and it involves America) and the ability to parkour around buildings just keeps bringing people back.
With the first major DLC for Assassin’s Creed 4 having just been released, it only seemed right to see what promising locales the series could visit next. There is a wealth of opportunity to be found within each location, and an endless stream of time periods to visit, here’s a top ten list of eras and locales Ubisoft Montreal might want to consider next.
1519 AD – The Fall of the Aztec Empire
Being set in history, the games have focused upon the themes of the expansion of European powers and colonial empires more than once. The Crusades, the American Revolution, there’s been a few. However, the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores in the Americas would prove to be a very different kind of experience than before. Unlike previous examples, it could feature the first contact between two such groups and provide an interesting contrast to the two sides involved. It would be interesting to see writing regarding the two meeting for the first time and how alien the sides truly were to one another. It would also serve for a great character arc, given the atrocities committed by both sides and the Imperialism.
Additionally it would provide a very different environment. The aesthetics of cities and the dense flora surrounding them would be a far cry from what we have seen before and provide an entirely new angle for the series to look into.
The obvious issue would be trying to include the Assassins into the mix. The Templars would be easy enough given their ambitions, but the closest the Assassins could likely get would be having a few representatives on the ships. Of course, that runs the risk of only fully presenting one side of the conflict and leaving the natives as an outside influence.
1800s AD – British India
India is another place of eventual rebellion and ruled by the British Empire. However, here it presents a few more opportunities to display certain aspects than the American Revolution does. Throughout the 1800s there were a number of major conflicts, rebellions and battles which took place. The British were attempting to expand their sphere of influence, populations were attempting to succeed from them, and the battles which surrounded them were often bloody. There are also potential political motivations behind certain events to consider, such as the First Anglo-Afghan War, depending upon which exact period the game was to be set of course.
This location would allow for more of an exploration of the deeds of the East India Trading Company in particular. Ever an easy bad guy, it would be none the less interesting to see a game explore how they operated, or perhaps even how the Templars might use such a group to their own ends. Perhaps the setting could even allow the game to explore how the fading of one Empire can only lead to another, given the decline of the Muslim Mongol Empire in the mid-1700s. Notably at one point the efforts to restore one aging Emperor during the Indian Munity.
The main problems are the fact that the overall conflicts and many minor wars took place over the period of several decades. While the series has used gaps to cover long stretches of time in the past, it would be quite a thing to jump far enough to cover from 1803-1857. The last time anything of the sort was done, it spanned multiple titles. Another consideration would be how well the setting would use the series’ strong points, with a fair number of famous events being set in wide open locations away from cities.
1920s AD – Chicago
Out of all those listed here, this would likely be the hardest to properly adapt from the main plotline. That said, it’s still the one with a great deal of potential behind it.
America of the 1920s was a hotbed for criminal activity, smuggling and strife with various groups operating against the police. The Prohibition alone would be an interesting theme to look into and involve a very different political angle than other eras, all the while exploring the difficulties of the time. Both the problems with the police, the questions of how well implemented sweeping changes were for this time and the glorification of mobsters among the public.
Assassination targets would be an easy thing, stemming from gangland hits and with the Assassins and Templars influencing many factions. The setting is perfect for all the usual missions of gathering information, hunting down figures and the like, all the while providing bigger buildings and new elements for the protagonist to use to traverse the environment.
What’s likely going to put off many is the modernity of the time. The furthest the series has gone along is still several hundred years ago, and that remains a major part of the series’ charm, seeing such old locations brought to life. Putting cars, machines and more recognisable elements into these titles over horses and blades might be a step too far. The next option might help with that somewhat though.
1916 AD – The Arab Revolt
If you were looking for a gateway to expand the games into an era of modern warfare then there are few places to explore that better than the Arab Revolt.
Taking place during the First World War, the revolt saw the effective utilisation of guerrilla tactics against a superior force with better armament and foreshadowed what would follow. Battles featured the British and Arabic forces immobilising the enemy while cutting lines of communication and utilising fast moving armour with mobile ground troops and aircraft. In many respects it was a prelude to the effective blitzkrieg tactics which would prove so effective for Germany in the Second World War.
What makes this so interesting is the theatre of this war saw one side having to rapidly adjust to using more advanced technology en mass. A good example of this was that Grand Sharif Hussein’s forces were noted to have less than one rifle per five men prior to the conflict beginning, and became better equipped as time went on. Their allies supplied both artillery and machine guns to assist in the conflict whereas previously many were still armed with swords.
This would be a return to the series’ origins while showing the changes advancing weapons technology had made. Familiar locations from the original such as Jerusalem and Damascus were sites of battles during the revolt, and it would be the one place where the Assassin’s robes might actually fit in again. Seeing these locations fought over by firearms, and with the protagonist having to adjust to more advanced weaponry as time went by, would open the way for more modern eras should the series wish to explore them. Serving as both a farewell to what had existed prior to the game and preparing the player for what would follow.
280 BC – The Pyrrhic Wars
While the series has previously visited Rome to a degree in its expanded material, many elements were barely touched upon. It only contained a glimpse into what was going on and did little with the concept beyond an Assassin assisting barbarian tribes in taking out certain corrupt Roman elements. It’s not as exciting as it sounds. The Pyrrhic Wars meanwhile would allow for a very different time and a very different representation of Rome than what the comic offered or other recent games such as Ryse. Covering a time of conquest and the conflicts between the Greek states and the fledgling Roman Republic, the entire event is a massive shifting network of alliances and battles.
A prelude to the Punic Wars and a signalling of a shift in major political power in the Mediterranean, the war saw the involvement of Carthage, Rome, Epirus, Magna Graecia and Samnium. By the time the conflict effectively ended in 278 AD, it had both caused and heralded major changes to the shape of the civilised world. It proved the Greek states were no longer in power and increased concerns of Rome’s growing military abilities. With so many varied locations and figures involved, there would no end to what developers could come up with for this. Plus there’s the added bonus of keeping ship-based combat.
While both a fascinating period with plenty of opportunities for assassinations, it does run the problem of being ahead of the original game. This would likely leave it only being connected by the Pieces of Eden and any Assassin/Templar conflict would come from the rulers and kings than some conspiracy. Then again, that might appeal to those who dislike this aspect of the games.
1337 to 1453 AD – The Hundred Years’ War
A collection of conflicts frequently divided into three eras, the Hundred Years’ War is a time which is truly unique among human conflicts. A century of conflict with bouts of peace, it saw the massed developments of many tactics and elements we recognise in feudal conflict and others we see today. The massed use of heavy cavalry, arguably the single most important battle proved the power of ranged combat, and even a crude form of war economy. With some figures living off of the war entirely, to the point where some fighting in France did not have homes back in Britain.
This could be a game which could follow multiple protagonists over many decades given the length of the conflict, and used to properly explore the rapid development of warfare by both sides. Especially due to the awakening of nationalism among the populations involved and seeing how the outlook of the war could change from one person to the next. Furthermore, given how many advisors spoke in favour of the war or against it, it might be a chance to truly show the influence of the Templars on others. If there was a single era to set the game in it would be the final years of the war, leading up to the French victory and the presence of Joan of Arc. The sudden turn of the war in favour of the French, especially following Joan’s death, and the ending to such a massive series of conflicts would be a great idea to explore.
The only major worry would be that this might be far too focused upon the events on the battlefield and could easily lead to one side being demonised if presented in the wrong way. None the less, previous games have handled such subjects fairly.
1848 AD – French Revolution
While we have seen in many cases points of the Templar doctrines going too far, the Assassins themselves have frequently been shown in nothing but a positive light. The closest they have been given to being made out as a flawed force was during 3, which cited how the organisation had become increasingly reactionary against the Templars. While it’s understandable that Ubisoft would want a clear hero and villain in the tale, this might be an opportunity to add a bit more grey to otherwise fairly black and white morality.
The Revolution could be presented in the overarching plot as a push by the Assassins to enforce more of their ideologies, but going too far in their efforts. Destroying all structure and leaving anarchy in their wake, allowing for the Templars to take power in some way. The build-up, the planning and the assassinations could all be building towards a conclusion which is ultimately futile, backfiring horribly upon the protagonist in their final moments.
There are more than enough records to cover the character involved, the themes and even detail of the cities while still including new mechanics to keep the title interesting. Perhaps organising protests and timing distractions so you can reach your target. The real problem would be trying to use these elements in a way which felt meaningful, nor simply repeating the deployment of minions from Brotherhood.
1888 AD – Victorian London
Major cities and towering buildings have always been a strength for the series. While both 3 and 4 might have succeeded in adapting lush forests and ruins to the running and climbing mechanics, neither quite compared with sidling up the massive Italian towers of 2. One city, beyond those already mentioned, which might have enough character and variation to build upon that to the next level would be Victorian London. Victorian London specifically towards the end of the 1880s.
Those familiar with the time can probably already guess why this one has been in part selected: Jack the Ripper. Infamous for never being caught and his multiple murders of certain women on certain streets, he’s a figure which has appeared in science fiction and speculation for years. So, imagine for a moment using him as a protagonist with his targets as Templar agents. We’ve already seen the series change certain historical facts and put it down to propaganda, so what’s one more alteration?
Along with having a setting unvisited by the series thus far, it would also be an opportunity to potentially have a character act more like an assassin (profession, not the group) rather than a mass murderer. A protagonist constantly pursued by the law, with them close at his heels and having to very carefully pick his targets and avoid combat if possible. These are additions in terms of story and mechanics which no game so far has been able to fully implement very well and would be steps towards making it feel like a series about assassins. Plus it would be a chance to show the corruption of major powers and the terrible state many lived in during this time.
1800s AD – Peninsular War
One major era of change and conflict which seems to have been repeatedly discussed within certain circles is the Napoleonic Wars. Arguably two of the most Earth-shattering conflicts fought with bullets beyond the World Wars, they shaped the future of a big part of the world for years to come.
One particular event which might be very good as a setting would be the war fought across the Iberian Peninsula. Having changed hands back and forth during the conflict, the five year conflict is regarded as being the first war of national liberation. Consisting of a conflict raging across Portugal and Spain, the war saw Napoleonic France conquering the former and then turning upon the other when it was its ally. Between Spain’s government in exile, the rebellion against a major power and the later combined force driving them out it reads like the plot of a fictional war film. Especially with the conclusion where a coalition force between Spain, Britain and Portugal finally drive back the French and free the country.
That said, it would also allow for the game to subvert a fair number of tropes surrounding fictional versions of such tales. It would be an opportunity to show the brutality behind such a war and the costs involved. For one thing the ending of this tale was not a happy conclusion to events. The war had ruined both Portugal and Spain’s economic strength and crippling them as a major power. Both lost their colonies in the surrounding world and the social upheaval would leave the countries in an extremely fragile state for years to come.
Combined with this, the new location and fragmentation of a number of previous powers (just think what the Templars would be doing to each one) would make it the perfect place for an Assassin’s Creed title.
220-280 AD – Three Kingdoms Era China
To address the point most people are already typing: Yes, this period has already been repeatedly covered by Dynasty Warriors and the like. However, as great as those titles are they have a very different approach to displaying the time than Assassin’s Creed does its periods. Rather than the battlefields, the games would be able to explore the cities and villages involved, the environments beyond those in which armies met.
Furthermore, the political landscape is perfect for a group of Assassins to operate within. Divided by desires for power, political strife and military conflict, the kingdoms mirror the individual states and cities of other games. Something which would permit players to face a wide variety of enemies and for the game’s plot to work off of the factions involved; turning them against one another, framing others and perhaps picking out certain targets as and when they need to or even perhaps picking sides. While it would still be too early to have direct Assassin or Templar influence, there are obvious elements present which could easily be worked to fit the ideologies of both factions.
It would also be a chance to show a very different kind of story given how China had yet to encounter significant influence from the western world. Given how each title has focused heavily upon the involvement of European nations in some way, it would be interesting to see how different a story might be told without their familiar involvement, especially given how fractured China was at this time, as much by culture as it was by power; far more so than the previous example.
Combine this with historical figures which can be worked with, the strife present to cause a multitude of problems for the protagonists, currency at one point being just one of them and there’s a solid story to be told here.
As with all top ten lists, people no doubt have their own favourites they would want to see the games visit next. As such please feel free to state any you would want to see, comment upon additional reasons to visit the locations above or even disagree with them.