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Why Assassin’s Creed’s latest change is one for the better

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Say what you want about “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it," but sometimes you need to shake a series up in order to keep things interesting.  Take a look at Call of Duty — for the longest time, the series was known for recreating wars of the past and making you feel like a soldier on the battlefield back then.  But along came Modern Warfare and boom, everything changed.  Standards were upped, multiplayer became a feverish addiction, and Activision started raking in the cash.  Sure, we’ve seen sequel after sequel since then, but there’s no question that by shaking things up, the brand has become a favorite amongst the gaming elite, as well as some casual players.

Now, it looks like the same thing is happening to Assassin’s Creed.  For years, fans of the long-running Ubisoft series have been running around in the past, waging their own little war against the Templars, and utilizing their tricks of the trade with both Altair and Ezio.  However, some folks were worried that, by the end of last year’s released Assassin’s Creed Revelations, things were getting a little stale.  With the announcement of Assassin’s Creed 3 coming this fall, some folks were hoping for a little bit of change.

And boy, are they getting it.  In the middle of this past week, the first image for Assassin’s Creed 3 hit the web with the promise of more official details to come just in time for the 2012 Game Developers Conference.  With that one image, Ubisoft has managed to whip the public into a frenzy, as it shows a more modernized assassin fighting through what appears to be the American Revolution — quite the change from the previous cities we’ve been making our kills in.

Assassin's Creed III box art

A close look at the Assassin in this latest game reveals not only a new location, but also several great new ways to take out targets.  These include a first-generation handgun, a tomahawk (not a bad replacement for a hand blade, even if it is less savvy), and an Indian-style bow and arrows — perfect for long-range kills when you can’t get close to your target.

Some folks have criticized the move, thinking it’s too drastic for the Assassin’s Creed series and that things should have stayed familiar.  Honestly, considering how the story was playing out (and the subtle hints that came up in 2010’s Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood), this is a move for the better.  Though the general idea of the game is bound to stay the same — kill targets and unlock more secrets to the war against the Templars — the way you can execute said kills is bound to be very different, thanks to the new location setting and weapons on hand.  With that, a new story is likely to be put into the framework that will keep players glued to the screen, wondering just what’s going to happen next.

Ubisoft has “shaken things up” before with its franchises.  After spending years in the slow and steady stealth game, it went with a more action-based approach with its Splinter Cell franchise with the release of Conviction.  And after dwelling way too much in the casual Rabbids market, Rayman returned to prime form last year with the release of Origins, a gorgeous game with multiplayer potential and classic 2D gameplay.

Sure, sometimes it's a gamble when you take a known formula and introduce something new, but it’s also natural evolution; it is something that can help a franchise grow and gain longevity, rather than burying itself in the ground, so to speak.  With Assassin’s Creed 3, we have a feeling that the series will pick right back up in momentum, with innovative new ideas and a story that will either bring Desmond’s tale to a close, or perhaps open a new door for worthwhile sequels to come.  Who knows?  Maybe one day we’ll be controlling an assassin from the future.  Maybe…

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Robert Workman
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