Ever since the first installment of Ubisoft’s incredibly popular Assassin’s Creed franchise hit store shelves, fans have practically made a living attempting to predict just where and when the next game will be set. With news coming this past week that the next game in the series, still unannounced, will once again skip past what is easily the most often suggested era in Feudal Japan, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what other locales would be a fun playground for the Assassins and Templar to engage in their historic war.
The Viking Age – Scandanavia/Northern Europe 793 A.D. – 1066 A.D.
While popular opinion on who the Vikings really were has been warped by television, film and video games, there’s still no denying that this era would fit perfectly within the Assassin’s Creed timeline, and could work well with established series tropes. Most notably, this era could closely mirror the setting of the latest game in the series, Pirates of the Caribbean seas. While the culture were remarkably different, Vikings were a seafaring people as well, though more of an invading and trading force than the lawless rogues seen in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
Assassin’s Creed has undergone plenty of changes over the course of this past generation. The most recognizable element of the early games was the verticality of the setting. Altair and Ezio gave players the ability to nimbly scale the sides of monstrous buildings like never before. Few experiences compare to the first time you synced with a vantage point and were treated with a spanning view of the horizon and the impressive world that the development team was able to create.
But in recent years, that notion has changed within the series. Beginning with the move to revolutionary-era America with Assassin’s Creed III, the series no longer hinged on great, sprawling cities that had 30 story buildings to climb. Rather, Ubisoft has chosen to focus more on the stealth movement and combat, while still maintaining bits and pieces of the parkour-style climbing and free-running seen in earlier titles. By the time Assassin’s Creed IV came to be, the setting saw almost no need for these huge buildings, and the majority of the climbing done was on the masts of the Pirate ships you controlled or waged war with.
This is more similar to what a Viking Ear Assassin’s Creed would be. Most Viking settlements did not feature many large buildings, rather were surrounded by foliage and geological formations that would help lend verticality to Assassin’s Creed V, though again, much of the game would be spent on the seas, rather than land, meaning less climbing and more sailing.
Still, some examples exist of architecture that could present beautiful views both from the ground and the rooftops, such as the Borgund stave church pictured here, although it was built in the late 1100’s, the style could still be used to help create settlements and give the world of AC V a life all it’s own, and a unique feel when compared to previous games.
As far as the sea goes, the Vikings spent much of their time on water, though not in the same way Pirates did. Their longships were used mainly for raids and conquest parties, as well as trade, meaning that combat would either be non-existent on the water, or at least drastically understated compared to the swashbucking adventures of Black Flag. However, there are plenty of ways that traversing open water could be made both entertaining and historically accurate, specifically setting up raiding parties with fellow Vikings, and allowing for a successful trip at sea to give boosts to your team-mates in battle, factoring in travel time, route and handling of the weather. Options exist for interesting game play elements along the sea, and would continue to evolve the core mechanics of the series in much the same way we’ve seen recently.
The Ming Dynasty – China 1368 A.D. – 1644 A.D.
China is a beautiful land with a rich history, and most recognizable in that history is the near 300 year rule of the Ming Dynasty. Often seen as one of the most stable examples of government and society in human history, the Ming Dynasty is responsible for some of the most recognizable achievements ever. Formed after the fall of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty ruled China from 1368 – 1644 and saw, among other accomplishments, a stable economy and flourishing trading market. The advancements set forth by the Ming rule saw expansion in water and roadways to allow for strong trade relations and helped progress China’s growth exponentially.
Of course, beyond the trade routes and economy, Ming-era architecture is among the most beautiful ever seen, and would be a perfect playground for a would-be assassin to hone his climbing and sneaking skills. Sprawling courtyards and towering temples were erected in the 300 years that Ming controlled the region, as well as the most famous piece of architecture on earth, the only man-made object that can be seen from orbit, the Great Wall of China was erected in it’s current state during Ming rule.
Seeing an Assassin’s Creed game take advantage of beautiful structures like these would be a real joy. My head just bloats at the idea of searching in and around some of these most-recognizable structures, climbing to the top of well-known temples and looking out at the vast, sprawling lands of China during this era. Experiencing the Great Wall as it was being constructed and either aiding in it’s construction, or even more exciting, working with the invading Mongol forces to attempt to stop it’s erecting.
From those monumental achievements in architecture, China is also known for it’s lush and inspiring geography. Huge mountain ranges can be seen from miles away, and all could be explored to the hearts content. I can only imagine climbing a high peak, traversing dangerous mountainsides while maintaining a stealth status and avoiding opposing forces, or silently dispatching them, all to make it to the top of the mountain to a hidden Assassin temple. Sure, the temple atop a distant mountain may seem incredibly cliche, but I’m also not the one being paid to write this game!
With it’s war-torn history, a Ming-era Assassin’s Creed game could also provide a thrilling amount of large-scale action, hopefully changed up from the routine seen in previous titles where you lazily control mindless troops without much consequence. An assault on the Great Wall could see your assassin manning defenses personally, commanding a group of your fellow assassin’s to help you swiftly make your way to an important target deep in the enemies swarm and dispatch of him while using the battle as a cover for your covert tactics. I want the next Assassin’s Creed to really push all limits of this new hardware we’ve been given, and a large-scale combat mechanic like this would be a great way to start.
The Monuments of Giza – Ancient Egypt 2450 B.C. – 2500 B.C.
I love ancient mythology. I find the study religions past and the worship of multiple gods and powerful beings to be infinitely iteresting, and among my favorite periods in history is Ancient Egypt. Undeniably, the historical impact of Egypt is immense, informing both current culture and most certainly modern religion. The region is literally the cradle of civilization and the shape of our culture would be immeasurably different today without the advancements of the time.
Even more important to this particular article is just how perfectly the building of some of the greatest monuments in history, the Great Pyramids and Great Sphinx of Giza, would play into the mythos of Assassin’s Creed. The mystery surrounding the construction of these landmarks and subsequent wild theories would be perfectly explained by the First Civilization seen throughout the series. An alien-like species that was extremely advanced in technology before their inevitable fall. Their hands could easily be behind the creation of the pyramids and the great sphinx, and that alone makes the possibility of this setting incredibly desirable.
Even if Ubisoft decides not to invoke the First Civilization as the source of the creation of the Giza monuments, to be there first hand to see the craftsmanship behind their creation, as well as the many temples and cities of the time would be a fantastic element to add to the series. To see what this civilization, with the extremely limited technology of the era, was able to create, and how it has stood for the entirety of human history to follow is nothing short of inspirational. It informs all of humanity the greatness we should aspire to, and that it comes from the building blocks of our own lives today.
It’s probable that of all of the settings I bring up in this article, none fits Assassin’s Creed better than Ancient Egypt. From vast, endless desert land to explore to expansive cities built of limestone, discovering the landscape of Egypt could be the most rewarding experience of the series. Additionally, there is plenty of political intrigue available with the class system of the era, including potential plots to undermine, overthrow or even assassinate a Pharaoh.
The Frontier – American West 1850 A.D. – 1900 A.D.
Now we get to the meat of the article for me. My final two suggestions are easily my most wanted, and the most exciting possibilities for the next Assassin’s Creed game. Beginning with the American Frontier, the time in America’s history that has been sensationalized and romanticized as a lawless land, where bandits did battle daily with whatever local sheriff got in their way. A land of bank robberies, dirty saloons and train robberies, and it’s the exact land I want to see.
While I have been clear about how I felt about Rockstar Games’ seminal western action game, Red Dead Redemption. The mechanics of the game just didn’t work for me, personally. However, there are plenty of great ideas buried in Red Dead that would inform an Assassin’s Creed game in the same setting well. Assassin’s Creed already features a hunting mechanic, which would play perfectly with the West. scouring the land for coyotes to hunt and skin, potentially having to survive the cold desert nights as you lay out your bed roll and sleep under the stars, having to hunt and forage for game to kill and eat in order to live.
As an assassin in the west, you could play the role of a classic bandit, with a 10 Gallon Hat replacing the usual appearance of an assassin’s robe, perhaps robbing banks by trade prior to being sucked into the war between the two secret societies at the heart of the series. But really, the interest in the era for me revolves around one of the most significant advancements in American history, the transcontinental railroad.
The Transcontinental Railroad connected the new, western world of the US with the more established and civilized east. It’s almost impossible to think of the Old West, especially in a media format, without thinking of the railway system and the building of the first transcontinental railroad exemplifies that idea perfectly. Much like the Jackdaw in AC IV: Black Flag, the railway could allow for more expedient travel in the western setting, as well as set up for some brilliant action set-pieces. A train heist is one of the most classic visions of action in American cinema, and one that I feel could be put to great use in an Assassin’s Creed game.
Using stealth and the preexisting climbing mechanics seen in previous titles, riding your horse along side a speeding train, jumping onto the side of the locomotive and proceeding to make your way toward the conductor to take over or protect the cargo could be some of the most memorable sequences seen in Assassin’s Creed to date. Between robbing banks and trains, it sounds more like my vision of this game has you playing the antagonist in Assassin’s Creed V, however it is clearly a series capable of taking a flawed character like this and turning him into an unlikely hero, much like the progression of Edward Kenway seen in Black Flag.
Prohibition and The Great Depression – New York City, NY 1920 A.D. – 1940 A.D.
It’s one of the lowest points in this countries history. Beginning with the ban on alcohol in the early 1920’s and extending through the crash of the stock market on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1969 and into the early 1940’s, the two decade span of American history was a dark one, but also produced some beautiful if not harrowing stories. Popularized by the deep connections with Mafia life as we know it in the US, the ban on sale and production of Alcohol led many citizens to a life of crime, creating bootleggers and underground bars for them to peddle their illegal wares.
There were many cities at the center of this illicit activities, but it’s hard for me not to focus specifically on New York. Mainly because this time period also features the impressive construction of one of the most famous buildings in the world, and a crowning addition to the world-renowned New York City Skyline, the Empire State Building. It’s the vision of the Empire State Building being erected in 1929 and 1930 that led me to create this post in the first place. As I sat back, wondering where Assassin’s Creed could go, and where it had been, the previously mentioned lack of verticality in recent additions to the series struck me as odd.
I know that the series has progressed past the idea of simply climbing high buildings and looking at the horizon, but there’s also no denying how powerful those kinds of moments can be. And the vision of climbing the outer scaffolding of this massive building as it was being built, over one of the most iconic cities in the world, was too much for me to pass up. Seeing an Assassin, probably working as an officer in some infamous crime family in 1930’s New York, wearing a dapper white suit and fedora to conceal his face, climbing to the top of the 103 story tall skeleton of the skyscraper and looking out over the view, it’s immediately what I knew I wanted most in a this game.
As for the story, it pretty much writes itself. A young man falls in with the wrong crowd, being brought into the seedy life of organized crime during a tumultuous time economically, where this would be his only chance for survival, soon learns of a long-standing secret society within the ranks of this family. The business of bootlegging and organized criminal activity standing as a distracting face for their more secretive activity, keeping their eternal foe, the Templar, at bay. What would be most exciting about this proposition is the chance to see Assassin’s Creed take a step into a more modern setting. Ever since we first found out about the Desmond Miles character, and that the original Assassin’s Creed was something more than an alternative take on history, I’ve found it a compelling idea to see these mechanics and this story take place fully in a world with more modern amenities.
That could happen in the Great Depression era New York. Gone would be the sole reliance on swordplay or single shot pistols, hidden blades and daggers could be replaced with more appropriate close-quarters weapons, it would allow the entire series to attempt to step forward with the mechanics and see just how far this story can progress. While I think this is the least likely scenario we’ll see from this list, I can’t help but feel like it would be the most intriguing as well.
And that’s my list. These are just five time periods and locations I could come up with, there are literally countless others that could fit. If you have your own suggestions be sure to leave a comment on this article, or join the conversation on social media. Keep it tuned to Free4Geeks.com for the inevitable announcement of Assassin’s Creed V as it comes later this year.