Ubisoft clearly has big plans for Assassin's Creed. The historically-focused franchise has arguably become the publisher's most important product, so it was no surprise to see the series headline Ubisoft's latest showcase. In fact, it felt like the entire presentation existed because of Assassin's Creed. The property had its own 20-minute event within the show, as if to emphasise its standing.
And that's where we heard all about the future of the franchise. Three (PlayStation relevant) games were unveiled: Assassin's Creed Mirage, Assassin's Creed Red, and Assassin's Creed Hexe. That's a lot of Assassin's Creed, even if Red and Hexe are at least a couple of years away.
The showing has made us wonder whether the series is moving in the right direction; longtime fans will know that the franchise has had its up and downs over the last 15 years. Assassin's Creed has always been a blockbuster property — truly cementing itself with Assassin's Creed II in 2009 — but is now the time to go all-in, or is Ubisoft in danger of oversaturating its own market?
Doubling Down on Assassin's Creed
There's no two ways about it: Ubisoft is doubling down on all things Assassin's Creed. And from a business perspective, this move has been coming. The series got a hugely successful second wind with Assassin's Creed Origins in 2017 — a game that reinvented the property's structural blueprint, adding RPG elements alongside a massive open world. 2018's Odyssey built on these aspects and it was an even bigger hit for the French publisher, quickly raking in more money than any of its predecessors.
But it's Assassin's Creed Valhalla that has no doubt played a key role in pushing Ubisoft towards investing in such expansive plans. Despite its messy 2020 release and the relative controversy that has surrounded its microtransaction store, Valhalla is the series' most commercially successful instalment, boasting close to two whole years of post-launch support and claiming the throne as the property's most profitable game.
As far as Ubisoft is concerned, the numbers don't lie: Valhalla is ongoing proof that Assassin's Creed is in the ascendency, and people want more. Codename Red, is, by the publisher's own words, going to follow in Valhalla's footsteps, offering up an "open world RPG" that's set in feudal Japan. But this is just one side of Ubisoft's two-pronged approach...
Assassin's Creed Is Being Split in Two
Maybe Ubisoft's plans for Assassin's Creed are overzealous, but at least it seems to be aware of the fact that not everyone has the time (or the patience) to play through a 120-hour RPG. This is where Assassin's Creed Mirage enters the equation — a smaller-scale project that harkens back to the series' more 'traditional' titles, both in terms of length and gameplay design. Not to mention a lower price tag.
Throughout the era of the open world RPG trilogy, some fans have found themselves pining for old-school Assassin's Creed. In terms of individual instalments, Odyssey and Valhalla are easily the most removed from what Assassin's Creed once was, heavily favouring action combat over stealth. To be fair, this change in direction has served Ubisoft especially well — again, the property is more profitable than it has ever been — but at the same time, why not try to please everyone if you have the resources and brand power to do so?
Assassin's Creed is essentially being split down two different paths. On one side, you've got the RPGs — the time-sink games that are going to try and emulate Valhalla's success. And on the other, you'll have the 'traditional' Creed titles — smaller in scope and offering a more focused experience.
On paper, it should work. In not having every new game be a colossal RPG, players are less likely to get burned out, and, at least in theory, the development cycle is given more room to breathe. However...
How Much Is Too Much?
Before Origins basically hit the reset button on the franchise in 2017, Assassin's Creed was in dire need of an overhaul. Its gameplay structure had become incredibly stale, and Assassin's Creed Unity in particular had left an unmistakable stain on the series' record thanks to a dreadfully buggy, borderline broken release. Its successor, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, wasn't a bad game, but it can be identified as the point where Ubisoft was left with little choice but to rethink its flagship IP. Sales numbers weren't what they used to be, and review scores were slipping.
You see a lot of chatter online with regards to the open world RPG trilogy, and how those games "aren't Assassin's Creed". But it's easy to forget that yearly releases had all but buried the series before Origins came along. People were sick of the old formula — and that's why it was reinvented in the first place. There's an argument to be made that Mirage is just repackaging those old ideas, now that everyone seems to have forgotten that the 'traditional' games had grown far too familiar for their own good.
But we're willing to give Ubisoft the benefit of the doubt with Mirage. It's been seven years since Syndicate, and you would hope that the mistakes of the past will have little bearing on Basim's coming-of-age adventure.
The worry, then, is that Ubisoft is about to oversaturate its own franchise. Mirage is 2023, Red is — supposedly — either 2024 or 2025. Hexe is...well, with the way it's being described, it almost sounds like Hexe could share the spotlight with Red, especially since it's meant to be another smaller-scale project. We could be looking at three new console Assassin's Creed games releasing in the space of two years or so.
Needless to say, all eyes will be on Ubisoft's schedule.
Assassin's Creed Infinity Sounds Strange, But It Makes Sense
Assassin's Creed Infinity is perhaps the key to all of Ubisoft's upcoming plans. Although Mirage isn't part of it, it's clear that the publisher wants Infinity to be the glue that holds everything Assassin's Creed together for the foreseeable future.
For those who don't know, Infinity will essentially act as a hub for the series, starting with Red. It's where the property's ongoing modern day storyline will be housed, and it allows Ubisoft to frame Assassin's Creed as a kind of live service product.
At first glance, it all sounds a bit weird, but take a step back and it starts to make sense. Live service elements have been present in Assassin's Creed games for years now. In-game purchases on rotation, daily quests, seasonal events — the things that transform the likes of Valhalla into something more than just a single-player campaign.
Not everyone wants to see live service elements in their games, but Assassin's Creed — in line with the rest of Ubisoft's portfolio — has been leaning into them more and more with each new instalment. It seems as though Infinity will be an effective way to gather all of this stuff under one big Assassin's Creed umbrella.
Whether this turns out to be a good thing, we'll obviously have to wait and see.
So, how do you feel about the future of Assassin's Creed? You've read our thoughts, but be sure to have your own say by voting in our poll, and then explaining yourself in the comments section below.