The Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed showcase on September 9 fulfilled lifelong dreams of having an Assassin’s Creed game set in Feudal Japan titled Codename Red. For a series based on covert assassinations and stealth, the oft romanticized Japan of yore seemed like an obvious choice, which lingered until now. Finally, a real manifested project is slated for 2024.
With so many games under the series’ belt and similar RPGs set in the backdrop of Japan, here are the top ten things Assassin’s Creed Codename Red needs to make a name for itself.
10. Assassin-Focused Gameplay in Codename Red
This one almost seems like a no-brainer. The word “assassin” is literally in the title of the series. However, Assassin’s Creed as a whole lately has been suffering from an identity crisis, venturing in atypical and unorthodox routes to tell its centuries-spanning conflict between the adamant Templars and shadowy Assassins.
It speaks for itself when many fans applauded Assassin’s Creed Mirage’s return to the franchise’s figurative and literal roots with a simpler, more assassin-focused mission statement.
Unlike Greece, Egypt, and the Nordic lands, Japan has an established history of shadowy hired blades who worked in the shadows, lending itself perfectly to the Assassin’s Creed setting, aesthetic, and themes. With the established lore already in place for Japan, the ninja and Assassin unity should be at the forefront, in tandem with the unorthodox guerilla warfare the ninja grew legendary for.
With this in mind, Codename Red should lean more heavily into the Ninja/Assassin route in terms of gameplay, while not gutting the more bombastic, no-holds-barred ways of fighting popularized by the later entries.
9. Utilization of Feudal Era History in Codename Red
It was explicitly stated that Codename Red would take place during the Feudal Period in Japan (1185-1603 AD). This period is rich with the actual exploits of the ninja and turbulent history that embroiled Japan in bloody civil wars, political upheavals, Mongol invasions, a failed invasion of Korea, and further conflict. It is a period ripe for the alternate history tellings Assassin’s Creed became beloved and legendary for.
Depending on the exact time period used in the wide berth of the Feudal Period, Codename Red could make use of legendary Japanese historical figures like Hattori Hanzo, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Oda Nobunaga, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, to craft a fantastical historical epic. Hell, it could be a game that spans generations like Revelations did, weaving distinct periods together to mold a true one-of-a-kind experience only Assassin’s Creed can deliver.
8. Weaving of Ninja History
The Feudal Era covers most of the time period when the ninja were actively operating in Japan the way most gamers are accustomed to, covering several unsavory tasks like reconnaissance, assassination, infiltration, deception, and psychological warfare. Codename Red should seek to portray the ninja in the most historically-inspired way possible.
This could manifest in the story and gameplay segments, making players focus on the covert aspect of the ninja on top of the hack-and-slash gameplay players are already accustomed to. Given that the Assassins and the ninja are two separate factions lorewise, this could open interesting avenues where players can learn special techniques native and unique to the ninja, coming in the forms of weaponry, stealth, assassination techniques, and tactics.
Though authentic guides and manuals of the ninja are few and lost to history, the few fantastical contemporary sources and stories that remain of them can serve the gameplay loop of Codename Red well.
7. Incorporation of Japanese Mythos and Folklore
Though the series has always rooted itself in history (historical fiction to be precise), Assassin’s Creed has never been afraid to dip its toes into more mystical and fantastical waters when regaling its tales. No, we’re not talking about the whole Isu story and whatever is taking place in the present. What we want to see is several plot points or missions centered around local folklore and tall tales, and a country like Japan has no shortage of either.
Capable of treading lines of peculiar and outright horrifying, Japanese mythos should give players an experience that is both grounded and out-of-this-world. In a land as superstitious as Feudal Japan, the opportunity and setting are asking for the supernatural. Also, wouldn’t it be crazy sick to incorporate some of those apocryphal accounts and stories into the gameplay? The long-sought Ninja Assassin power fantasy may no longer be out of reach or a mere pipe dream.
6. Trimming Down of Skill Tree
One of the more ridiculous aspects of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, outside of the decision to mesh two completely divergent gameplay avenues together, was the massive scope and scale of the player’s skill tree. Heck, it’s less of a tree and more like a sprawling forest.
It combined the ability tree from the RPG mechanics found in Origins and Odyssey with passive stat boosts, powering up the player and expanding ways to play the game. There’s nothing wrong with giving players options to play how they want when they want. However, the system in Valhalla simply was too big, too bloated. Many of the constellation skill points could have been tied to more tangible unlockable abilities rather than gameplay padding to make the player grind more levels for points.
Codename Red should seek to eliminate this level of bloat and design a skill/ability tree that is more ergonomic and meaningful instead of straight number calcs. Passives should be gained based on how many abilities have been unlocked rather than being unlocked themselves. It would clean up the display and be more intuitive to the player as they progress through the game and tree.
5. Unimpeded Exploration
Being an open-world RPG, the sky should be the limit as far as exploration boundaries are concerned. However, because Assassin’s Creed implemented more RPG-heavy mechanics over the last several titles, things like enemy-level numbers became a concern and even a hindrance.
Odyssey was the biggest offender of this, completely blocking off regions from a gameplay perspective by being too numerically hard for the player to endure, forcing them to come back way later. If that was going to be the case, why leave that part of the map open? The developers should have closed those regions off in a gameplay-cohesive manner, not this user-unfriendly, unintuitive, player-punishing numbers game.
Codename Red is a game that takes place in the distant past of Feudal Japan and players are going to be eager to explore every inch of Japanese soil they can set foot on. The experience should be as player-friendly as possible. If regions are going to be blocked off, hopefully, the developers ensure it makes sense and not be some arbitrary level differential that prevents it.
4. Singular Named Protagonist
RPGs pride themselves on providing players with unrivaled ways to play however they want and as whoever they want. It is the ultimate form of player expression to play and look how they please. The two previous Assassin’s Creed RPG games, Odyssey and Valhalla, gave players the option to choose their gender when approaching the story, Odyssey offering two “separate” characters in siblings, and Valhalla giving one customizable character.
Though the ability to choose is instrumental for player choice, it hampers the series’ ability to tell a cohesive story when what the player has differed from the canon Ubisoft arbitrarily decides. Not only does it create arguments over canonicity, it needlessly splits and divides the fanbase over something that can be solved by having a singular, named, unchangeable protagonist like many games before. It will also help the game tell a more consistent story if the character stays consistent throughout.
Also, who says the game can only have one protagonist? If Codename Red chooses to explore multiple periods in the Feudal Era, then players could access different characters, with the decisions of their previous character having rippling effects and consequences for their present. If Codename Red is successful, we could get multiple installments in the same storyline like the Ezio trilogy, which many tout as the franchise’s golden hour.
A story is only as compelling as the characters that drive it forward.
3. Less Focus on the Isu
A massive point of contention amongst fans of Assassin’s Creed is the continued trend of focusing on the Isu, the forerunners of the human race and the ones responsible for the entire conflict in Assassin’s Creed in the first place.
The most compelling part of Assassin’s Creed is seeing the history unfold and having a hand in writing its pages with our ink. Getting in the way of that breaks the magic, hindering the game from both a story and gameplay angle.
Arguably, the Isu were at their most tolerable when fed to players in small snippets and in the background, adding to the mystery and intrigue underlying the main story in the first games. Having them be the center of the conflict, which is what is undoubtedly going to happen in Mirage, is something that should NOT happen in Codename Red.
After clamoring for a Japan setting for so long, fans finally got what they wished for. All of our time spent playing in Codename Red should be in the setting we’ve been asking for all this time, not dwell on the future timeline or the Isu magic people.
This is going to be the last we see of Japan in a long while. We want to make the most of it.
2. Connection with Establish Series Continuity
Despite none of the games exploring the Japanese Assassin’s Brotherhood until now, alternate Assassin’s Creed media has in the form of books. In the books, it is established that the Assassins first arrived in Japan in the 16th century after an Assassin by the name of Kotetsu finished his training under Chinese Master Assassin Shao Jun.
To make his long story short, he establishes the Assassin’s Brotherhood’s Japanese chapter to combat the Templars’ ever-growing presence, which soon arrives on Japanese shores.
What we’re interested in is not Kotetsu; it’s the story that unfolds around and beyond him.
Legendary figures of the Sengoku Jidai, the Warring States period in Japanese history, make important appearances within the Japanese Brotherhood’s history, concretely solidifying their role in the Assassin’s Creed mythos.
Whether Codename Red is going off the storyline introduced in the books or not, we hope the game incorporates some of the established history recorded in the books in its tale. It would confirm the involvement of widely recognized historical figures and events, which is Assassin’s Creed’s pot of gold.
1. Self-Identity from Ghost of Tsushima
Assassin’s Creed’s identity crisis doesn’t end with itself. There’s a game that came before Codename Red that every player universally agrees did Assassin’s Creed: Japan better than Assassin’s Creed ever will. That game is Ghost of Tsushima.
The similarities should be obvious: an open-world RPG exploring a near-mystical bygone era of Japan as a warrior on a quest for justice against a bigger threat. Ghost of Tsushima delivered on its experience and then some with a game that was effectively the PS4’s swan song. It filled in the void so many Assassin’s Creed fans wanted.
Codename Red has big shoes to fill, coming in hot after the massive success of Ghost of Tsushima. Many critics’ eyes are going to be on the game and how it manages to differentiate itself in meaningful ways. Exploring around the same time period as Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t help Codename Red’s case. Though many of these things appear surface-level, the comparison will be made regardless.
Assassin’s Creed has a lot going for it that can help distinguish Codename Red’s identity from the cult following Ghost of Tsushima has, tackling real history through the lenses of alternative fiction and competent gameplay. If Codename Red manages to succeed on this front, delivering on the dream Japan setting, it would dash these concerns and ensure it will never be regarded as an inferior Ghost of Tsushima clone.
Codename Red is still a long way out, estimated to arrive sometime in 2024. Hopefully, good news will continue heading our way and assure our worries until then.