– Nicholas Payne
SINCE Ubisoft Montreal launched Assassin’s Creed in 2007, the series has grown into one of the most dominant gaming franchises in history. Over almost a decade, we’ve seen nine main entries in the series, as well as 12 supplementary titles on PC, handheld and iOS devices. The small-scale Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India just dropped to mediocre reviews, and it currently has a 62/100 score on metacritic.com.
Early rumblings suggest the next iteration of the eternal struggle between Assassin and Templar could be set in Ancient Egypt, titled Empire, and released in 2017. While the year off will give fans a much-needed break, this rumoured setting would be a bizarre detour for the series.
Since the first Assassin’s Creed, the main titles have progressed chronologically – with each new title, we’ve gotten closer and closer to present day. The current system of time progression has worked well for developers, as every entry comes ready-made with updated technology for the protagonist to equip – from Altair’s dagger to Evie Frye’s rope launcher, from crossbows to revolvers.
Check out the timeline –
Assassin’s Creed – 1100s the Holy Land.
Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – 1400s and 1500s Renaissance Italy.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations – 1500s Constantinople.
Assassin’s Creed III – 1700s America during the American Revolution.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – 1700s Caribbean during the “Golden Age of Piracy”.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue – 1700s Montreal, France, Lisbon, New York, and the North Atlantic.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity – late-1700s France during the French Revolution.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate – 1800s Victoria Era London.
Consider this for a moment – the period defined as “Ancient Egypt” is anywhere from 3100BC to 332BC. Ancient Egypt shouldn’t come next in the logical progression of AC – it’s an impossibly obscure time, devoid of hard fact and details, at odds with a series that prides itself on accurately recreating historical environments.
Without enough hard evidence to base the title upon, Ubisoft Montreal would risk going even further into the realm of fantasy, and losing one of the key elements of AC’s appeal.
You know what actually comes next? The Wild goddamn West. But there’s a problem. AC was always going to have to tackle the American Frontier period eventually, but the reigning champ – Red Dead Redemption – has held the belt since 2010 and isn’t giving up without a bar-fight to the death.
As of mid-2015, Rockstar San Diego’s Western action-adventure had sold more than 14 million copies. Red Dead Redemption was created by a studio that’s arguably the best in existence at the open world format, a studio that pioneered third-person gameplay and exploration, and many critics regard it as one of the greatest and most complete games of its generation.
The AC guys are great at what they do, but they can’t compete with that. They don’t need to compete directly with Red Dead though, because I’ve got a better idea.
Assassin’s Creed: Australia.
It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds, so just hear me out before you cultural cringe yourself into a coma. Imagine an Assassin’s Creed-style Western, set against a backdrop of escaped convicts, bushrangers and gold rush fever in colonial Australia. It would be an ideal opportunity to embrace the tropes which make the Western so appealing, while still being original enough to avoid unnecessary comparisons to Red Dead Redemption.
The international acclaim of John Hillcoat’s 2005 film The Proposition, written by legendary rock god Nick Cave, proved that the Australian outback can provide an ideal tapestry for exploring and deconstructing the Western genre.
And the time period fits perfectly with the logical progression of the series – convict bushrangers were first recorded in the Australian colonies from 1790, and the infamous Ned Kelly was executed in 1880. Hell, Ned Kelly could even be one of the main characters.
A title set around the mid-to-late 1800s would provide interesting new weapons never seen in the series before, such as breach loaded rifles, clubs, and even boomerangs.
Ubisoft Montreal would also be able to continue the hunting and crafting mechanics seen in Assassin’s Creed III and Black Flag, thanks to the masses of unique wildlife on offer. Imagine using a woomera to take down a kangaroo with a hunting spear, and then crafting a new rifle holster with the spoils.
When I first mentioned this concept to our glorious leader Charlie Braithwaite, one of his first responses was “no doubt they would fuck up any depiction of indigenous Australians”.
That’s a fair point – colonialism was a shameful period in Australian history, and there’s no way a AAA video game title is going to be able to explore all of the issues involved.
The recent furore over NIL Entertainment’s Survival Island 3: Australia Story 3D showed the exact wrong way to approach such painful subject matter, but I genuinely believe Ubisoft Montreal have the chops to, at the very least, tackle the time period respectfully.
They demonstrated this sensitivity with the Freedom Cry expansion for Black Flag, which followed liberated slave Adéwalé as he fought to emancipate the Maroons of the West Indies, and with their approach to Ratonhnhaké:ton’s Native American story in Assassin’s Creed III.
An Australian Assassin’s Creed could even follow that tradition of empowering marginalised groups by putting an indigenous protagonist at the forefront of the series. Regardless of which way Ubisoft Montreal chooses to go with AC’s 2017 entry, it’s inevitable that the AC juggernaut is eventually going to have to take a shot at the Western genre.
When that time comes, instead of looking to the west, they need to look much further south. They need to look down under.