If there’s one series in my history of playing video games that has always been able to get me hyped for its next release, it is Assassin’s Creed.
The problem is, it also always stabs me in the back.
Each year around this time, Ubisoft does the former. They release an epic trailer for the next game in the stealthy, stabby series set to come out in the fall, and subsequently, each year around this time, I open an Amazon window and pre-order said game (and both of these occurred today).
How do they get me? Each year, I swear off Assassin’s Creed by telling myself there’s plenty of other things to play and that there’s nothing in the next one that will convince me to spend another 30 or so hours creeping, killing, and collecting.
But Ubisoft knows exactly how to announce a game and they do it impeccably well.
First, they reveal an epic location that sounds appealing to explore. Tell me it’s 30% bigger than the previous game? Heck, I have GOT to explore that, collect 200 meaningless items scattered throughout it, and perch on top of 36 different landmarks in it! The colors, the objects, and the names of people from history they drop that I will have the opportunity to meet shows that I will literally get to explore history, and I buckle up and get ready for the ride.
Next, they hit me with some hook that wasn’t available in a previous iteration of the series: co-op, a female protagonist, or a club of assassins (yes to all!) Assassin’s Creed does this especially well, on the count that something has to keep the now annualized franchise feeling fresh. “Okay, I’ll try this one more time…” I tell myself.
Finally, they include epic music to back an even better looking trailer that displays this brand new world. I know these are just cinematic trailers, but they never fail to make me feel immersed in the game and sell the gameplay as being deeper than ever before. Add in some narration from a protagonist and show me all the places I’m going to climb all over, and I literally cannot open Amazon fast enough.
This is all fine and great in theory, but by the time the disc is in my hands five months from the reveal, the above mentioned things rarely pan out the way I always hope they would. The setting in Assassin’s Creed III was unique and interesting (some would even call it revolutionary), but ended up being muddled with poor pacing and gameplay that at points felt like a chore. Assassin’s Creed Unity was going to open the AC world like never before with online co-op missions, but ended up only being overshadowed by a number of bugs and frame rate issues. While the worlds presented are often pretty, the gameplay and missions never seem to be as epic and life-changing as these announcements and trailers paint them out to be.
Now Assassin’s Creed Syndicate has the challenge of living up to the hype that the announcement has again filled me with. The Victorian London setting screams to be explored and conquered. Deciding to focus on a single player campaign is one of the smartest decisions the company has made in years. Two playable protagonists that I can alternate between in the main game world isn’t the most innovative idea in gaming today, but it could be an interesting addition to the Assassin’s Creed formula.
Maybe one day I’ll face the fact that Assassin’s Creed will never reach the epic proportions it sets itself up for. I’ve enjoyed many moments in the franchise’s history and that may be what keeps me coming back to each game released: the hope that I will be the only one doing the stabbing this time around.