(Assassin’s Creed Revelations spoilers comin’ up on yo grill)

I worry about the Assassin’s Creed series, like a concerned mother realizing that her last remaining sensible child has been coming home later and later with mysterious lipstick stains around his mouth. I’ve always thought it to be one of the better game series of the modern era, and I like the whole stealthy surgical strike gameplay, but it’s getting more and more overburdened with more and more features added for no better reason than to pad out new cash-ins.

The series is starting to feel like a kindergarten teacher counting to three. One … two … two and a half … two and seven tenths … and I just want to say, for fuck’s sake, Ubisoft, the entire class settled down at two and a half, and you’re only going to lose their respect if you draw this out to two and nine twelfths. And then they won’t have enough time to finish the coloring in.

What I would hazard most of us Assassin’s Creed enjoyers (I hesitate to include myself as a “fan” of anything) are waiting for is for this damned prolonged three-count to finally end, which gratifyingly seems to be the intention of Assassin’s Creed Revelations. We see Altair grow old and die, Ezio discovering his corpse still rocking the ZZ Top beard, then Ezio himself announces his retirement to spend the remainder of his twilight years getting his leg over his newfound MILF-y Florentine crumpet. Future Desmond wakes up and announces very dynamically that he knows exactly what they have to do next. Then he very dynamically flops back down into bed so we can play in the post-credits wrap-ups mode.

Ever since Assassin’s Creed 2 I’ve wondered if the next game will be the one in which Future Desmond takes center stage and we get to use all the fancy assassin skills he’s been learning in the shiny future world that has only thus far been hinted at. But in the wake of Revelations, I’m starting to wonder if that’s even going to be possible. Firstly, there’s the issue that Future Desmond still hasn’t figured out how to engage us as a protagonist. He’s a bland, generic-faced dope who dumbly goes along with the struggle against the Templars because a bunch of people he doesn’t really know have told him to. Giving him a backstory didn’t help. Oh, he was raised by a cult. Alright then. Yeah, maybe that explains why he’s such a dopey fuck, but I still don’t see him being played by anyone other than Keanu Reeves in the movie.

But that’s the secondary issue with a hypothetical Future Desmond-centric Assassin’s Creed sequel. The first, larger issue is that the series has dallied too long, and now its entire appeal and identity – in all three headings, context, challenge and gratification – depends on the fact that it’s set in the past. The combat is based around swords and knives and the sandbox cities are designed for narrow twisting passageways that admit foot traffic but not motor vehicles. And if I know anything about the currently accepted vision of how one designs future cities, Future Desmond’s stomping ground is probably going to consist entirely of featureless “modern” geometric shapes that are impossible to climb. The iconic hidden blade isn’t going to see a lot of use in a society where sniper rifles exist and you don’t even have to be in the same postcode as your intended victim. And the less said about haystacks the better.


So I’m thinking that the best approach for the series is for Future Desmond’s bits to continue merely connecting the story. He can be like most of David Duchovny’s acting roles, a person whose main role in life is to act as a framing device so we can spend time with other, more interesting characters. But that doesn’t mean Ubisoft can get away with any more buggering about in the same time periods, we need new historical settings that invite drastic changes to gameplay and context. The rule apparently is that it has to be a place and period of enormous historical importance that left far-reaching effects for all of human civilization, such as AC1‘s Third Crusade and the Italian Renaissance in AC2 onwards. So here are a few possibilities I’ve come up with.

Revolutionary France (late 1700s)

This is a bit of a personal preference because Alexandre Dumas is one of my favourite authors and Les Miserables is the only musical I can watch without trying to claw off my own ears. But the French Revolution was, like the Renaissance, a major focal point in the history of civilization. Firstly it led to the Napoleonic Wars and then the era of imperialism and the British Empire at the height of its power, and indirectly inspired other revolutions the world over. It also fits nicely with the invisible freedom fighting Assassins versus evil oppressive powerful Templars theme the series has going on, and the Reign of Terror would provide an interesting moment for introspection as we see what happens when the Assassin agenda gains the upper hand and goes a little too far. I picture the protagonist as a sort of Jean Valjean figure with a miniature guillotine that pops out of his sleeve.

1920’s Hollywood

It’s worth remembering that periods of enormous significance can also be created in times of cultural upheaval as well as periods when there are just lots of wars going on, and the rise of the American film industry provides that. It’s a setting with all sorts of big-money suspect dealings going on that any number of invisible wars could be manipulating in the background. Plus there’re the themes of the Great Depression to play around with and a pretty obvious candidate for central villain in Thomas Edison. Maybe the protagonist this time is a stagehand who discovers an alternative use for a collapsible prop dagger with a faulty mechanism. What mainly inspires me to suggest this setting, though, is Harold Lloyd’s short film Safety Last. Go and watch the building-climbing scenes on Youtube or something and tell me you’re not reminded of Ezio Auditore doing his thing up the side of Lord Fuckthedowntroddeningham’s castle.

The Second World War

Unfortunately an Assassin’s Creed in World War 2 has already been done, and it was called The Saboteur, but that’s definitely no reason not to give it another shot. It’s a period you can’t fault for historical significance. The one problem I can think of is that as we get closer to the present we run the risk of casting ancestors of Future Desmond that he actually remembers. It’d probably be more than a little awkward for him to relive the memories of his grandad first boning his grandma. ‘Cos he’d have to do it without his childhood memories of her popping into his head, like when she sicked up cranberry sauce all over the Scrabble board one Christmas.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is

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