Assassin’s Creed and I have a mixed relationship. From the first game released in 2007, to the pirate escapade released in 2013, they made up some of my favorite open world adventures ever. Flawed, yes, but fun, new, and fresh at the same time. Then came the dark days. Unity released in 2014 and still stands as one of the worst launch experiences I’ve ever had, it was simply unplayable 90% of the time. Scorned, I decided to never put my money toward an Assassin’s Creed game ever again.
This actually stood all the way up until I caught Odyssey on sale for a paltry amount. I’d heard good things, most of my friends liked it or even loved it, so I gave it a go. I hated it, and Odyssey stands as one of my least enjoyable experiences in recent years. Then Valhalla came out.
Valhalla, a game Kyle reviewed very highly, is a quintessentially good ass video game. It plays like a diet God of War, with great characters, gameplay, progression, and world design. For what it’s worth, I actually liked the 15-20 hours I played. Unfortunately that’s all I played, because it’s simply too long. Like many of Ubisoft’s other games – Assassin’s Creed especially – it has zero perception of pacing or keeping a narrative thread steady, forcing you to play through 60+ hours of padding and exploration while presumably stuffing the final third with exposition. So, while Valhalla is a good game, and certainly one of the best Assassin’s Creed games in years, I could not and probably will not ever see the credits.
It’s this that brings me to my point on this fine evening, in that Assassin’s Creed Infinity is potentially a very good idea. Originally reported by Jason Schreier over at Bloomberg, Infinity is apparently going to contain multiple settings under one banner, with room to expand in the months and years following initial release. Individual games will still release on this platform, according to Schreier, but will still all be connected in some way – hence the live service part.
More information from Schreier was thin on the ground, as his piece diverted to rightly bring attention to the sexual conduct scandals at Ubisoft in recent years. But the general social media populace – which I understand doesn’t represent the majority of course – were quick to jump on the article, acting understandably suspicious of a live-service type Assassin’s Creed game.
Ignoring the obvious financial proof behind why live-service games work – at least when done well – Infinity actually offers Ubisoft a chance to both shrink individual experiences while also offering a massive expanding world for people who want that. Which let’s face it, many people would probably adore.
It’s worth noting that, besides an official confirmation from Ubisoft, we don’t really know anything about Infinity so making any assumptions to the good or bad would be silly at this stage. But ‘Live Service’ is a dirty term in video games, one that indicates something either hilariously monolithic like Fortnite, or horribly mishandled like Anthem. People are quick to forget live service successes like Valorant, Apex, Destiny, Minecraft, and the dozens of others that thrive, instead pointing to failures like Hyperscape, Anthem, and more.
So why does Assassin’s Creed Infinity stand a chance of shirking the negative connotations? Well because the mythos of Assassin’s Creed is already perfectly positioned to offer multiple connected worlds of course. The Animus – the sci-fi chair employed by both the Templars and Assassins to explore the memories of their ancestors – is one that could open the door to the kind of hub world and branching experiences that live service games dream of.
Imagine loading into either an Assassin or Abstergo hub – perhaps you choose or get assigned a side at the start – and then being able to load a variety of worlds and time zones to explore? If Schreier’s article was accurate and I’m understanding it correctly, each of these areas would be separately purchasable for those who want to. But those subscribed to the Infinity platform could explore a hub world, perhaps engaging with other players in some way, while jumping into different stories as and when they want.
Valhalla’s post launch support, with a DLC allowing players to visit Ireland, indicates that perhaps even Ubisoft understands that their storytelling is simply too spread out. Multiple reviews – including the excellent example at TheGamer – explain that Wrath of The Druids takes what Assassin’s Creed does well – the narrative and mythos – and contains it within a far less bloated experience.
Everyone has, perhaps understandably, assumed that Infinity is just going to be another massive Assassin’s Creed except it’s an MMO. Hell even I was critical of it upon initial announcement. But given some time to mull over the idea, I’ve realised people may be looking at it the wrong way.
Assuming Infinity takes off, it opens the door to Ubisoft being able to craft smaller, more contained experiences that link across an optional live-service system. Imagine six or seven Wrath of The Druids, tied together via a modern day hub world and MMO systems, allowing players to hop across time and place to knit together a branching narrative. The idea sounds pretty cool, at least to me.
Of course all of this is pure speculation at this point. Beyond the news that this is the first joint venture between Ubisoft Montreal & Quebec – who previously developed separately – and the info contained in Jason’s article, we know literally nothing other than “it exists”. Ubisoft could completely biff it and release a microtransaction ridden experience that tarnishes the franchise forever. It’s a dark timeline, but certainly possible.
But I reckon that having an open mind is more fruitful. Thanks to the modern day narrative that’s been explored, the mythos that’s been set up, and Ubisoft’s recent approach to story DLC, Assassin’s Creed Infinity has a wonderful opportunity to make a case for narrative live-service experiences. The caveat is that it has to be done well, not be a complete rip-off, and not ruin the prior games for literally everyone. Is that a tough ask? Maybe, but I fancy Ubisoft are gonna give it a good go anyway so why not stick around to see how it pans out?
I’ve been playing video games in some form or another for nearly two decades. My favourite campaign of all time is Halo: Combat Evolved and my favourite multiplayer of all time is Overwatch, with a dash of Halo 3. Huge lover of everything gaming, no matter the platform or source, and I enjoy a story driven campaign like nothing else!