Assassin’s Creed Empire: will the series go back to its origins in 2017?

It's a series with history

Update: It's official, there's going to be a new Assassin's Creed game this year. The game's official Twitter tweeted a picture of the Assassin's insignia with the words "A new era begins." 

We now also have a date for Ubisoft's E3 2017 press conference: June 10 at 1 p.m. PST. If we're going to hear about Assassin's Creed Empires anywhere this year, it's going to happen there. 

In the meantime, though, a few rumors have surfaced from a poster on 4Chan who claims to work on the game. We've summed up the rumors this developer has generated below but naturally we advise that you take them with a pinch of salt. 

Original article continues below...

Assassin’s Creed has become a familiar gaming franchise, with a new mainline installment appearing just about every year since Assassin’s Creed 2 was released all the way back in 2009. 

Just as Assassin’s Creed was becoming one of the old faithfuls of the gaming world, though, Ubisoft surprised us in 2016 by taking a year out. There was still a film and two Assassin’s Creed Chronicles titles in the meantime but no sprawling mainline game.

You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone and after just one year of being away people are clamoring to hear about what the next game will bring. After this break, though, expectations are raised. 

In 2015 Assassin’s Creed Syndicate barely managed to pull the series back from the precipice Assassin’s Creed Unity had pushed it towards. Ubisoft wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders. 

With an extra year to refocus and get things right, though, fans are expecting the series to return bigger and better than ever, particularly as Ubisoft itself stated in 2015 that it was taking this year “to evolve the game mechanics and to make sure we’re delivering on the promise of Assassin’s Creed offering unique and memorable gameplay experiences that make history everyone’s playground.”

We’re now a good bit into 2017 and E3 is just around the corner so naturally rumors around the next game are piling up. 

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next and highly-anticipated installment in the historical adventure franchise
  • What can I play it on? Most likely PS4, Xbox One and PC
  • When can I play it? Late 2017 is the most likely date, if not later

Release date

Ubisoft announced its year release break prior to the launch of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate in 2015. After there was indeed no mainline release in 2016, we’re now expecting to see the next Assassin’s Creed game sometime in 2017. 

Traditionally Assassin’s Creed games have been launched later in the year (every mainline game in the series to date has been released on console in November or very late October) so we're expecting a similar release window for this next title. 

E3 is rapidly approaching and it’s reasonable to expect that there’ll be some kind of official reveal there with a loose release window attached. 

Assassin's Creed Empire's first screenshot?

It looks like we may have our first look at the next Assassin's Creed game.

Though we recommended taking the image with a pinch of salt, it's looking increasingly likely that it's legitimate after Eurogamer has said that three separate sources can confirm it's the real deal.  

A Reddit user has posted a screenshot on the Assassin's Creed subreddit under a disposable account that's now been deleted and you can see it below:

The screenshot does look like it matches up with the other rumors floating around that the game will be set in ancient Egypt and will feature a massive open world that can be explored using boats.

One of the missions on the top right hand side of the screen tasks players with following "Shadya to Khenut's villa" and a quick google search reveals that Khenut was a queen of Egypt during the Fifth Dynasty.

Naturally, Ubisoft isn't commenting on the veracity of the image.

News and rumors

Developer leaks

A poster on 4Chan claiming to belong to the development team for the latest Assassin's Creed has posted some details about the game. Now, whether or not these details are accurate or not we can't confirm but let's take a look at them, shall we?

No more towers?

According to this developer the new game will take a fresh approach to more than a few things. Firstly, there apparently won't be any towers. Towers have pretty much defined the landscape of Assassin's Creed since the very first game; they were slightly less prominent in Black Flag but still necessary for unlocking the map. 

According to this developer, players will now use a pet eagle to scout ahead of them. This makes sense in terms of making the map more open and natural but it is a fairly big change, reminiscent of something from Far Cry: Primal. 

Hood freedom

It's not a big change but it's one many would love – there's a chance you'll now have a choice over whether or not you have your hood up or down at different points in the game. 

New protagonist and present day action

Obviously there's a new assassin to play but according to this developer, there's also going to be a new present day character for players to engage with. Unlike Desmond, this character will apparently already be a trained assassin so if this is true, it has the potential to make present day segments of play more exciting than they've been previously.

There's going to be more games

Interestingly, the developer reports that Assassin's Creed Origins will be the first game in a planned trilogy which will star the same character. In the reveal for the game, Ubisoft did say that a new era is beginning so it'd make sense for this to be accurate. 

Story and setting

For a while now the next Assassin’s Creed title has been referred to as Empire after a report from Kotaku suggested this was the code name being used for the game’s development. 

Kotaku’s report also suggested that the game would be set in ancient Egypt.

A more recent report from WWG, however, has suggested that though this setting is correct, its final title will be Origins not Empire. 

WWG claims to have spoken from sources at Ubisoft and reports that these sources not only confirmed that the game will be revealed at E3, but that the “vast open world adventure” has been called Origins because the game’s story will explore the original assassin’s guild in Egypt.

From a marketing point of view the name also establishes the game as a fresh start for the series. 

Exactly how the game will explore the original assassin’s guild is unclear. The most likely scenario is that it’ll delve into how and why the guild was started but this is just speculation.

According to WWG’s sources, the game will feature two protagonists – a man and a woman like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate - but it’ll be much less linear than previous games in the series and character progression is “less tied to the story.” 

One source apparently repeatedly compared the game’s approach to progression and story to Bethesda’s Skyrim.

The report also states that Origins is “huge”, the biggest Assassin’s Creed game to date, and that though it is set in ancient Egypt players will be able to explore beyond this, possibly as far as Greece.

This kind of exploration in this time frame naturally means boats, and the sources have suggested that naval exploration and combat will feature. As massive fans of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, we couldn't be happier with this news. 

Unrestrained progression and exploration is indeed a significant change for the Assassin’s Creed franchise and it’ll be interesting to see how a more open-ended playground approach would work, if that is the direction Ubisoft is planning to move in. 

Gameplay

By this point Assassin’s Creed’s gameplay has become extremely familiar but with Ubisoft stating that it intends to “evolve” the mechanics we’re excited to see what could change. 

According to a recent leak, combat has received a revamp with smarter enemies and more depth. That said, though the hidden blade will return, the rest of the weapons and accessories will naturally be pared back and more basic to slot in with the setting. So no more fancy rope launching. 

We imagine there’ll still be the usual free running and stealthy attacks with hidden blades combined with naval exploration and combat that will hopefully draw heavily on Black Flag. However, the suggestion that character progression will be less tied to the story is likely to mean an entirely new approach to gathering experience and unlocking new moves and equipment. 

It’s looking increasingly likely that the two protagonist approach taken by Syndicate is set to return in Origins, too. Whether players will choose a single protagonist they’d like to play as or whether they’ll move between the two (in the same setting or between past and future) as they play isn’t yet known. 

What we'd like to see

Fewer bugs and glitches

Bugs and glitches – it’s an obvious one but it’s what we’d like to see. Or rather, it’s something we’d like to see less of. Though Assassin’s Creed is known for its gorgeous historical visuals, it’s also renowned for being plagued with visual and gameplay problems.

Unity in particular was widely criticized for glitchy, borderline frightening character animations and this is an issue we’d really like to see ironed out. If rumors that this will be the biggest Assassin’s Creed game to date are true, it’s more important than ever that Ubisoft focuses uses the additional time it's taking to perfect the finer details and doesn’t let them slip through the cracks when creating the larger game world.

Better combat

Assassin’s Creed’s combat isn’t bad but it’s not particularly inspiring or exciting. Despite the fact that you’re an assassin, it has often been easier to simply barge into a combat situation and fight your way through rather than apply any kind of stealth. 

Once you are engaged in close combat you mostly find yourself button mashing or waiting for the right time to counter and get a cool slow-mo finishing move. Being an assassin should feel more urgent and tense than it does in the Assassin’s Creed games and we’d like to see some changes that bring this about.

Quality over quantity

It's being reported that this is the biggest Assassin’s Creed game to date and that there’ll be a much larger focus on exploration than we’ve ever seen before. In fact, comparisons are being drawn to Skyrim. This is making us both excited and nervous.

More freedom to explore a historical world sounds fantastic and we love the idea that we could become any kind of assassin we like with a new approach to character progression. 

What we don’t want to see, though, is a huge explorable game world with too few quests to keep us interested or a great number of quests that are repetitive and grinding. 

A larger map is all well and good as long as it feels necessary. If it really is going to be a much larger and less linear game, we’d love Assassin’s Creed Origins to have diverse characters, environments and quests to make it feel like this was a formula change worth making.