Set The Next Assassin’s Creed Game In The Roaring ’20s
Assassin’s Creed could find something new if it goes a bit more modern that it’s used to
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Assassin’s Creed’s whole gimmick involves hopping from one historical era to the next, transporting us to some of the most revered and fascinating times humanity has lived through, all while some science mumbo jumbo and weird gods tie it all together. The modern day elements have always been the weakest, and while the religious symbolism once felt like a solid framework that held the whole thing together – who can forget the underground boxing match against the Pope? – it now feels wedged into the games simply because it has to be there. As it searches for more eras to explore though, why not look to more modern history than it has ever explored before?
To date, the most recent era Assassin’s Creed has been set in came in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s Victorian London. Syndicate rests somewhere in the middle of most people’s Assassin’s Creed rankings, and is one of the more forgettable ones. It doesn’t do too much wrong, and didn’t suffer a botched launch like some of the famous duds, but nor is it held up as one of the series greats. It’s just there. This though is perhaps an unfair place in history for Syndicate to find itself in. It was the first game to offer dual protagonists, first main series game with a female protagonist, and first with a queer protagonist, as well as making good use of the relatively modern setting. It left a solid foundation, but nothing has come along since to build upon it.
Instead, through Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla, the series has ballooned into a hundred-hour plus experience, and while its enduring popularity suggests many are happy with this new direction, it doesn’t feel that sustainable. Development has already been bumped from yearly releases to every two years, and even that doesn’t feel like enough time to make a game of Assassin’s Creed’s ever increasing scope. The rumblings of an upcoming live-service model complicates things further, as do rumours of a smaller, stealth-based title coming soon, but perhaps it’s time to revisit Syndicate’s stylings and head to the Roaring ’20s.
Of the three most recently released AC games, Origins and Odyssey seem to have more fans than Valhalla, and while that might be diminishing returns, it probably has a lot to do with aesthetics. Origins and Odyssey capture their locations and era in an instant, while much of Valhalla is spent running around in the muddy grass of England. The sections in Norway and Midgard are a bit more like it, but they’re relatively short-lived compared to England, and that’s before you even get to America for yet another chunk of the story. The 1920s, set somewhere like New York City or Los Angeles, gives you the same sense of time and place in a single look that we previously got from Ancient Egypt.
It also offers a far more contained environment, more like Syndicate or the major locations in the three most recent games, without the largely boring filler of the empty lands between these cities. Taking either LA or NYC also gives us enough scope that the world feels vast, and we can move through major districts as we unlock and explore more of the game. Taking LA as the example for now, the city as we know it was practically built in the ’20s, so the game would let us see iconic locations like Grauman’s being built, as well as exploring the stories behind the decade that made LA what it is today.
You get the sense that Assassin’s Creed may be running out of eras to choose from. There are thousands of years of human history and Assassin’s Creed has only scratched the surface, of course, but then the series had previously prided itself on trying to avoid the most obvious option – yet the last three entries have taken us to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Vikings. These are three of the most beginner topics for children’s history, and represent a break from the method of trying to avoid obvious choices. It missed the boat with the samurai era after Ghost of Tsushima swept in and did it better. Ghost of Tsushima could even go the Assassin’s Creed route and hop through different historical eras itself, though it feels more likely to stick with Jin and the samurai.
In many ways, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is like Black Flag. Though it didn’t change the formula quite as much, it made a concerted effort to mix things up, but what came after didn’t take that momentum and run with it, so now it drifts along in isolation, disconnected from everything else in the series. If we ever get Skull & Bones, Black Flag will at least have a spiritual successor, but Syndicate is doomed to be the odd one out for all eternity – or at least until we get a relatively modern Assassin’s Creed again.