There was a time when I lived for the Assassin’s Creed games. Each new release was something to set my entire calendar around. But the next one, the pirate-infused edition, I just can’t seem to get into.
I want to, I really do.
Maybe it was the bug-filled experience that was Assassin’s Creed III. Everyone knows by now that it was rushed to market to hit that annual release schedule — long before it was ready for primetime. Maybe it was the less-than-fulfilling conclusion to the present day Desmond Miles storyline. Maybe it’s the pirate theme, which doesn’t do anything for me, and makes this installment feel more like a side story than a true sequel. Or maybe it’s the tiresome prospect of more of those annoying naval battles. (They really need to streamline that and make it a lot more fun for IV.)
Or maybe the Assassin’s Creed formula has just grown formulaic. II was exciting because it moved the action forward to the Renaissance and introduced us to some exciting, vivid new locations, not to mention how it amped up the variety of gameplay. III, for all its flaws, at least brought the action over to the “New World” for the first time, jumping further forward in time, and gave us a massive wilderness expanse to explore. (It also had a killer plot twist near its beginning. If you’ve played it, you know what I’m talking about.)
Assassin’s Creed IV, on the other hand, feels like a step backwards instead of forward — and I don’t just mean the reverse leap through Desmond’s ancestry. (IV has you playing as the grandfather of III‘s Connor Kenway.) I guess the variations in play it offers look okay, like diving and exploring underwater. But for all intents and purposes, it seems like they’ve had Connor or his dad go pirate and throw him on a boat. Big whoop.
Instead of shaking up the formula by taking us to some exotic new locale or point in history, we’re jumping backwards a few decades and exploring the Caribbean. Why not take us to meet an Assassin working in Soviet Russia? Or feudal Japan? Or bring the story even further towards the present and show us an Assassin going after Nazi targets in Germany during World War II? Why not do the thing that some players have been begging for since the very first game: set it in the present day and introduce a modern assassin, complete with newer weaponry and cool gadgets?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure AC4 will be enjoyable. The addition of those lush tropical jungles looks interesting, and I dig Edward’s double-weaponed approach to fighting. But everything I’ve seen so far just screams “treading water,” at a time when the franchise desperately needs to be charting bold new territory.
Ubisoft released the first gameplay trailer today, and it’s embedded above. What do you think?