The best thing about the Assassin’s Creed series isn’t its open worlds, novel multiplayer or compelling gameplay formula. The best thing about the Assassin’s Creed franchise is that it established, from the outset, a clever narrative mechanic that allows sequels to be set absolutely anywhere in history.
While I’ve never really been a big fan of following the nuances of the game-to-game plots, my interest has always been in the core game—the historical game—and not the future element. To me, the future element is a device that exists to create a central plot that can carry over title to title. Basically, regardless of whether ancient assassin protagonists are slitting throats during the Crusades or perforating chests during the Renaissance, it can make sense because of the ‘time travel’ device that is Desmond in the future.
But poor old Desmond hasn’t really had much in the gameplay department; and that’s exactly how it should be, as evidenced by his treatment in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, where he had very minimal presence and the focus was firmly on Ezio and Altaïr (in that order).
Assassin’s Creed III will be set during the American Revolution, which brings it much closer to the present day and, ultimately, a lot closer to contemporary times where guns and gadgets rule, and many other titles have already been set with assassins for protagonists.
According to OXM, Ubisoft producer Francois Pelland says it’s a distinct possibility that the inevitable 2013 Assassin’s Creed game may not continue to move the series forward in its chronology. “[I]t’s not a moving forward thing, it’s all based on lineage and on DNA and therefore it has nothing to do with time. The next game could easily go backwards as much as forward, no problem.”
And move back it should. There are webpages dedicated to the wistful thinking of fans yearning for their preferred digital assassin getaways: Ancient Egypt, Feudal Japan and Mayan South America, to name a few. The reason that fans talk about such settings is because we live and game in a world that has a rich history; particularly as it relates to military conflict, which is a key ingredient when it comes to an Assassin’s Creed title.
Ancient times tie into the very foundation of escapism: being able to walk through an unfamiliar world and time that we couldn’t otherwise access. The core historical settings of the Assassin’s Creed series are the parts of the game that Ubisoft showcase, and with good reason: they’re the best parts. The closer the franchise gets to the future—to Desmond’s time, or whoever may take his place in future titles—the more I yearn to be leaping off buildings as Ezio or battling with the antiquated weapons technology of Altaïr.
There are so many historical settings and cultures left unexplored by the Assassin’s Creed series that could easily add their own spin on the established formula that I don’t ever see myself craving quality time with Desmond or any other contemporary assassin for that matter.