Assassin’s Creed has been Ubisoft’s biggest flagship franchise for pretty much as long as been around, and given how valuable it is to the company, it goes without saying that they’re always thinking of ways to ensure its consistent growth, especially from a commercial perspective. And say what you will about Ubisoft, but so far, those decisions have worked out very well for them. Back in 2009, Assassin’s Creed 2 elevated the formula of its predecessor and established an open world structure that would be aped by others in the industry for a decade, until Breath of the Wild came along and provided another new open world structure for others to ape.
When that formula started floundering for the series, Ubisoft went back to the drawing board and came back with Assassin’s Creed Origins, expanding the series to new horizons and turning it into an action RPG franchise, once again establishing a new formula that the series has been following since then, and which has, in turn, led to the most impressive commercial growth and performances Assassin’s Creed has ever seen. And now, it seems like the time is coming for the series to redefine and reinvent itself once again. Following the quick one-two punch of a report by Jason Schreier talking about this reinvention and the subsequent Ubisoft update officially confirming many of those details, we now have a vague and general idea of what to expect- but the general feeling is that this, perhaps, might not be the best possible direction for the series to take.
Before we get into that, let’s cover the basics- what do we know for sure, and what’s been rumoured but not officially confirmed? What we do know is that Ubisoft is bringing together its Montreal and Quebec studios to collaboratively work on the next era of the franchise, which is taking the shape of a live service model. This online live service project is going to encapsulate a growing, evolving, and changing experience that will regularly add new stories set across multiple settings, each with their own unique tones and methods, all of which will be connected via a single hub, a unified platform, which, in its current early development process, is being referred to as Assassin’s Creed Infinity. It’s essentially the Fortnite version of Assassin’s Creed, if we’re being rather reductive about it (curiously enough, reports suggest that Grand Theft Auto 6 is going to do similar things with a growing and changing map- but that’s another discussion entirely).
On top of this, there are some other things that are a little bit up in the air right now. For instance, is Assassin’s Creed Infinity going to be a premium release, or will it follow a free-to-play model? Neither Ubisoft’s confirmation nor Schreier’s report have talked about that, but Ubisoft does seem to be determined to emphasize F2P going forward, and a live service platform would, of course, be rather well-suited to something like that. Not that long ago, insider Shpeshal_Nick suggested that the game would indeed be free-to-play, and would even have Destiny-style raids- but again, that’s not yet been confirmed. Meanwhile, it’s also unclear whether Assassin’s Creed Infinity is going to have multiplayer elements. It being a live service would suggest that it will have multiplayer, but according to Schreier, given the fact that the game’s so early in development, a lot of the details are in flux right now. The one thing that’s certain is that Infinity is going to be a connected hub, a platform that will contain many games and settings being added to it, but how multiplayer will figure in, or if it will even figure in, is not yet known.
Now, out of all of those details, some things are actually rather encouraging. The fact that Ubisoft has confirmed that Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Quebec are going to be working together on a collaborative and much more cohesive vision for the series is one of those things, for instance- a large-scale live service isn’t easy to main (Ubisoft’s own The Division is evidence of that), but with the combined forces of the Montreal and Quebec studios behind it, Infinity would have a much better shot at getting things right. And Montreal and Quebec are, of course, the two biggest Assassin’s Creed authorities. While Montreal was exclusively in charge of the series from its inception all the way up until Unity, since then, the two studios have been taking the lead on alternate entries, with Syndicate and Odyssey being developed by Quebec, and Origins and Valhalla by Montreal (while Rogue, of course, was made by Ubisoft Sofia). The prospect of these two studios co-leading the next big step forward for the series, then, sounds smart, at least on paper.
Meanwhile, the talent confirmed to be in leadership positions for this project is also top-notch. On the production side of things, the likes of Marc-Alexis Côté, Étienne Allonier, and Julien Laferrière have been named in leadership positions, and they’ve been involved with the series for a long time now. Meanwhile, Jonathan Dumont and Clint Hocking of Quebec and Montreal respectively have been named as the project’s creative leads, and both have impressive track records. Dumont was world director on Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and and then creative director on Odyssey, while Hocking has been creative director on games such as Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Watch Dogs: Legion.
Beyond that, however, things start getting either a little murky, or a little misguided- or, in some cases, both. For instance, it’s true that fans have been asking for a more cohesive vision for the series for some time now, and Ubisoft has mentioned that as one of the reasons for this radical change. But most series fans would tell you that they’re going about implementing a more cohesive vision in the wrong way. When series fans say they want more cohesion, they’re talking about the larger, series-wide story, which, frankly, has been a mess and mostly directionless ever since Assassin’s Creed 3 (even though it has started getting back on track starting with Origins). Almost no one wants a live service Assassin’s Creed that’s possibly an MMO-lite, for all practical purposes. Ubisoft are definitely doing the right thing by trying to give the series a more coherent long-term future, but they’re not doing it the way they perhaps should.
The biggest problem with Assassin’s Creed Infinity, however, is that it has the potential to exacerbate and double down on all of the worst, most exhausting tendencies of this series in recent years. Complaints about bloat, excessive open world grinding, and a deluge of cookie cutter content that almost feels procedural in nature have been growing louder and louder with each new entry in the series, but rather than cutting down on those aspects, Ubisoft’s going with a model that is pretty much built on bloat, grinding, and repeatable content. It’s virtually impossible to have a live service platform without stuff like that, at least if you want to retain players and increase engagement. Who knows, maybe Ubisoft will find a way to strike that balance- but somehow, I doubt it.
Meanwhile, as mentioned earlier, there’s been no word yet on whether the game is going to be multiplayer, or whether it will be free-top-play- but if it is, what does that mean for Assassin’s Creed? Because of its free-to-play, does that mean that it’s going to grow more reliant on microtransactions, as any free-to-play game has to be? If it’s multiplayer, does that mean the core sensibilities of the series are going to change? Assassin’s Creed has always been an extremely narrative-driven series, so how would that even work in an ongoing live service, potentially multiplayer game? There is, of course, the possibility that multiplayer is just going to be an aspect of the experience, with multiplayer-centric quests like raids, or PvP like from the older Assassin’s Creed games, or even co-op missions similar to what we saw in Unity. And all three of those, frankly, actually do sound exciting- but not if they become the primary focus of the experience. Multiplayer content like that will be great to have, but most importantly, Assassin’s Creed needs to retain its single player narrative-driven identity… and a live service model seems to be at odds with that.
That said, it’s still worth noting that for the last few years, the series has, for all practical purposes, followed a live service model. Odyssey and Valhalla especially are both live service games, with continued and prolonged post-launch support in the form of updates, seasonal content, new features and ways to play, free quests, and of course, the big paid expansions. And if that’s the model that Ubisoft intends to keep on following for the series, only this time for a single platform that grows and evolves overtime- well, then that’s great! That’s honestly a sensible evolution for the series (assuming it doesn’t shift focus away from single player content). But then again, we don’t know if that’s what Infinity is supposed to be.
I’m not writing Assassin’s Creed Infinity off, because honestly, we don’t know enough about it yet for it to be written off. What we do know so far doesn’t sound very encouraging, and seems to be at odds with what the series should ideally be doing- but with the project so early in development and so far away, maybe Ubisoft does have a plan in place that will simultaneously protect the series’ identity and move it forward into its next major era. It will definitely be interesting to see how The Division Heartland is structured and handled when it releases next year, because that might give us a pretty good idea of what to expect from Infinity. If Infinity is a hub that keeps on delivering the kind of narrative-driven single player Assassin’s Creed experiences that one would expect to see from the series, and if on top of that it adds the sort of surprisingly good multiplayer content the series has been known to deliver in the past, then it might actually be worth keeping an eye on. But that’s the ideal scenario, and several harsh lessons have taught us over the years that when it comes to the very idea of a “live service”, the ideal scenario is also often the least likely scenario.
With Assassin’s Creed Valhalla having been confirmed to receive support in 2022 as well and with Ubisoft Quebec and Montreal being fully focused on Infinity, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be another new Assassin’s Creed game in the interim. There’s a lot riding on it, then, and for the series’ sake, and the sake of the millions of fans it has across the world, we really do hope that it turns out to be a good idea- even though right now it seems like it probably won’t be.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.