Assassin’s Creed Unity: it’s time for a change

Assassin’s Creed Unity is heading back to the setting it’s most comfortable with – Europe. The series has visited Europe before with Assassin’s Creed II set in Italy, but the newest game takes place in Paris, France during the French Revolution. Rather than jump to an entirely new setting to explore new possibilities in free running or combat then, Ubisoft is heading back to familiar ground.

On top of that, the main protagonists of the series’ main games are all too familiar: all male, of mainly European descent. The only time minorities have been playable  was in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and DLC for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

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After Black Flag, Ubisoft had the chance to jump to a place that has been mentioned in the expanded universe, but never properly in a game: Asia.

Instead, the company is playing it safe by once again using Europe. This isn’t a complaint about the graphics or overall gameplay, this is more of an interrogation asking why Ubisoft isn’t willing to jump to a new locale.

My history with Assassin’s Creed

When Ubisoft originally showed off Assassin’s Creed back in 2007 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, I only gave it a passing glance. I did find the setting of the game during the Third Crusade, as well as Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad as the protagonist, interesting. My first experience with the series was Assassin’s Creed II and Ezio Auditore da Firenze.

Assassin's Creed II

Even though Desmond Miles plays a connected protagonist throughout the series, I found the characterization of Ezio to be interesting and nuanced throughout his personal trilogy during the Renaissance. I skipped Assassin’s Creed III as I felt that Ubisoft wasn’t doing much different with the gameplay. Even though the setting of Colonial America sounded interesting, the core of the game remained the same. Moving away from big cities into the wilderness required free-roaming to be polished for forests.

Assassin's Creed III

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag wasn’t even on my list of games when I got the PlayStation 4, but Amazon offered it as a free purchase. I found gameplay to be a combination of  acceptable and annoying on land, but enjoyable when sailing. The problem again was that it didn’t feel different from Assassin’s Creed II other than the setting, along with my decision to forgo being a pirate and turning into an amazing spear fisherman.

Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag

Now we have Assassin’s Creed Unity.

Rinse, Recycle, Repeat

I can’t fault Ubisoft from a business sense for rehashing familiar environments. Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag had a different feel with a greater emphasis on wilderness and the open sea. These games had a huge chance to surprise fans of the series by jumping into an entirely new arena and historical setting.

There’s probably a huge storyline that Ubisoft is working with, as well as a precise story to tell, but essentially, what I can see throughout the game is that the Assassins have all been European, at least from the player perspective. Liberation changed this trend through Aveline de Grandpré, who is of African and French descent. Another huge plus is that she’s also the first female protagonist.

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation

I think it would have been amazing for Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag to focus on the freed slave Adéwalé rather than Edward Kenway. Only through the Freedom Cry DLC could you play Adéwalé as an assassin.

A big question: why is Ubisoft afraid of putting minorities as the main character?

Assassin’s Creed: Liberation released on PlayStation Vita in October 2012, but only saw its remaster release in January 2014. Aveline de Grandpré is a perfect example of how the writing creates a convincing character. With Unity, I’m tired of Europe, tired of looking at a primarily Caucasian cast, and tired of running among familiar architecture.

Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag Freedom Cry

Lack of minorities

Jade Raymond dismissed earlier rumors of Assassin’s Creed Unity taking place in Japan. She also stated that Unity would take place in “her favorite historical age”.

But haven’t we seen enough of the European and American landscapes with previous games? Why couldn’t Ubisoft even attempt to surprise fans and reveal a different location?

Minority characters have never taken a prominent role in the game, especially as a leading character. Sleeping Dogs is a perfect example of a non-European character starring in a game. Johnny Gat is another character, who while not playable, has made a presence in the Saints Row series.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is the seventh console release, not including remasters, mobile, or DLC. Removing  the first Assassin’s Creed that took place in the Holy Land, the other games have featured rather similar histories.

Of course, Ubisoft knows it has a strong franchise. It can spend the money creating the same game with the same general structure in relatively similar environments. I have all the respect for the developers of the franchise, but it’s time to move on from this European-focused history and give another culture a chance.

Nothing interesting in Assassin’s Creed Unity

Ubisoft can show tons of new features in its newest series, but it’s not the game features that are lacking. The reason I’m skipping Assassin’s Creed Unity is that it no longer feels like Ubisoft is improving the series. Until Assassin’s Creed chooses a setting and story that actually evolves the overall universe, there’s no reason for me to visit the series anymore.

Assassin's Creed Unity

The expanded universe that’s been previewed through other media shows that there’s a lot of possible storylines. All I expect with Assassin’s Creed Unity is another standard Assassins versus Templars story within the established boundaries that the game’s already set. The only thing left to see is the unnecessary pre-order bonuses that Ubisoft reveals before release.

Follow me on Twitter: @chrislikesrobot

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