While I’d argue that Assassin’s Creed remains one of the best big-budget franchises on the market (2015’s Syndicate was excellent), the series has nevertheless enjoyed diminishing returns since it started churning out annual releases. That’s what makes the latest rumors so fascinating. Kotaku is reporting that the next major Assassin’s Creed game is codenamed Empire and will be set in ancient Egypt, and also that the franchise will be skipping this year’s E3 and moving away from the annual schedule. Empire apparently won’t hit shelves until 2017, making 2016 the first fall without a new Assassin’s Creed game since 2008.
Of course, the news is not yet official, and therefore comes with the usual asterisks. The rumor first surfaced on a 4chan message board before later getting compiled at NeoGAF, from an unverified source who claims to be an anonymous developer at Ubisoft. However, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier indicates that the news jives with much of what he’s heard independently over the past few months, and in that regard it’s worth noting that Kotaku has a pretty decent track record when it comes to Assassin’s Creed predictions (much to Ubisoft’s chagrin).
The decision would make a certain amount of sense. Though not without its merits, 2014’s Unity was enough of a disaster to hurt the sales of Syndicate despite the strong reviews for the latter, so it would be understandable if Ubisoft wanted to take a bit more time to polish the games before shipping them. Increasing the amount of time between releases would also help build anticipation while fighting audience fatigue. Michael Fassbender’s live-action Assassin’s Creed film is slated to debut in December so the franchise will still be in the public eye at the end of 2016.
If the reports prove true, it would once again shift the geographical frame of reference. Though Assassin’s Creed started out in the Middle East, the last few generations have maintained a decidedly Western focus while touring European cities and North American wilderness. It would be exciting to see Assassin’s Creed visit a different continent in a new (old) historical era, and ancient Egypt offers plenty of famous structures for players to climb. As a longtime Assassin’s Creed fan, I’d love to see the franchise adopt a more global perspective, and I always enjoy seeing how Ubisoft interprets different historical settings.
Then again, Ubisoft is apparently talking about building a trilogy around the new character, with later games possibly headed to Greece and Rome, so North Africa might not be too much of a leap. Egypt, after all, is still on the Mediterranean. But considering that Empire itself is just a rumor, I wouldn’t put too much stock in vague reports about hypothetical games that are still years away from fruition, especially when so much can change during development.
I doubt the latest rumors will do anything to repair Kotaku’s relationship with Ubisoft, but it would still be a pretty exciting to survey Assassin’s Creed from atop the pyramids. Ancient Egypt would provide a welcome change of pace for a franchise that occasionally feels like it’s going through familiar motions, and I look forward to learning more about the next installment moving forward.