As part of its 15th-anniversary showcase, Ubisoft revealed what lies ahead for Assassin’s Creed. Even though we had confirmation for the next three games, and the Assassin’s Creed hub titled Infinity, I still left the showcase confused about the franchise trajectory. Observing such showcases is like playing a game of Clue where you look for key phrases and read between the lines to figure out the speaker’s intent. The showcase was designed to light the franchise trajectory, but I’m still in the shadows. Shadows I’m happy to explore.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage was praised by fans when it was announced as a return to basics, and the cinematic trailer nailed that theme with scenes even mimicking those of the original game from 2007. When I say return to basics, I’m referring to the narrative approach to Mirage compared to the overindulged RPG formula of Odyssey and Valhalla. Mirage tells the story of Basim and his journey from street-level thief to master Assassin. The map is a dense city, and the gameplay focuses on parkour, stealth, and Assassinations. I find it nice, almost therapeutic, to see an Assassin’s Creed game live up to its name.
It’s striking then that the end of the trailer showed a zombie-like creature emerging from the ground while Basim is in the suspended Animus state. Assassin’s Creed has become less historic and more supernatural as the series progressed. Sure, there was always the presence of the Isu, but that was mostly relegated to the present-day storyline and a few minor gameplay segments, a far cry from using Thor’s hammer in Valhalla and riding a flaming horse in Odyssey. The shocking end of the Mirage trailer implies a greater focus on the supernatural, which is contrary to the marketing.
Additionally, the deluxe pack comes with some Prince of Persia-inspired cosmetics, including a black horse with gold eyes, and gold runic markings. Not to mention the presence of Loki and how he will invade the gameplay loop in mystical ways. The game might be rooted in traditional Assassin’s Creed gameplay, but I’m confused about how the wackier mechanics and cosmetics from recent games will play into it. To be honest, that is a minor confusion that will clear up as we see more of the game, however, I’m more confused about the franchise’s wider trajectory.
After Mirage, we saw what was branded as the next mainline entry in the franchise, Codename Red, set in Feudal Japan, and it’s an RPG, presumably like Odyssey and Valhalla. When I heard this, the red exclamation mark flashed above my head. It was a strange combination of excitement over the setting and disappointment over the genre. My first question was why is Codename Red labeled as the next mainline entry when Mirage is not? Suddenly Mirage was downplayed as a smaller title to appease the older, nostalgic fans. I also couldn’t help but wonder what genre Assassin’s Creed games will embrace going forward. We have a narrative-driven game followed by a massive open-world RPG, followed by Codename Hexe, a game set during the Witch Hunt trials of an unknown genre. Will Assassin’s Creed embrace the massive RPG formula with Mirage being a standalone experiment, or will each game explore different game genres? Who knows, maybe Hexe will be a survival horror game.
I don’t want to deny my excitement for these upcoming games. The concept of fulfilling your Shinobi fantasy in a historically accurate feudal Japan is like a dream come true, however, I wish the showcase was more specific about Assassin’s Creed’s identity as it moves forward. My best guess is that Mirage is a one-and-done homage while the overarching series will continue trudging along the RPG route. Besides, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was the franchise’s highest-earning game to date. I don’t see Ubisoft reverting when its new approach has proven widely successful. Unfortunately, that’s my best guess, and all we can do. The showcase was unclear, and we’re left to fill in the blanks.
I’m already confused, and we haven’t even talked about Infinity, another wrinkle to the shadowy future of Assassin’s Creed. The explanation of Infinity wasn’t anything new, and it didn’t clear anything up. It will be a hub for Assassin’s Creed content, working as the player’s very own animus. I would be lying if I told you I knew exactly what Infinity is based on that explanation. Luckily, Marc-Alexis Cote, head of Assassin’s Creed, cleared things up with a Eurogamer interview.
Infinity will launch along Codename Red, however, you can still buy the physical edition of the game. When it installs, it will be added to the DNA memory in Infinity. It looks like all of your Assassin’s Creed games will be located in Infinity, much like a folder you’ve labeled Assassin’s Creed games in a console’s UI. Reading between the lines, it looks like Infinity will not be a paid subscription, but simply a hub that holds all your Assassin’s Creed games. As I’m typing this, I’m unsure if it’s 100 percent accurate, but that’s because we are inferring from one interview without any visual representation. Information like this shouldn’t be revealed off-handedly through a third-party interview. Instead, it should be front and center at the showcase to avoid confusion and false reporting.
The interview also stated that the modern-day storyline will be revealed through Infinity. It’s Ubisoft’s attempt at finding a happy medium between two camps of Assassin’s Creed fans: those who love the modern-day storyline and those who want nothing to do with it. The Infinity hub will tell the modern-day story independently of the games, essentially keeping it out of the historical, Assassin storyline. You, the player, will be the protagonist as you play through the story of different Assassins like you’re stepping into the Animus yourself via Infinity. That meta explanation is confusing in and of itself and raises more confusion about storylines previously set up.
What will happen to Layla and Basim, the latter who traveled through time and is now alive in the present? (Yes, Assassin’s Creed is crazy.) How exactly will the storyline progress through what is essentially a user interface that holds Assassin’s Creed games? I appreciate the clarification provided by Eurogamer’s interview. Despite still being confused, I am more excited than before. I’m looking forward to seeing how Ubisoft uses Infinity in creative, potentially, mind-bending ways to tell a story.
The future of Assassin’s Creed is confusing in two major ways: the genre of its games and the meta-narrative of Infinity. While the showcase didn’t clear everything up, and I’d rather get a clear explanation through the showcase itself, I’m more excited to trudge through the muddy waters of Assasin’s Creed’s future and see what the franchise has in store for us.