The Assassin’s Creed franchise has had its fair share of ups and downs over the last few years after dominating for so long during the last console generation. Yearly releases following Assassin’s Creed II went well for a while before Assassin’s Creed III split the fan base.
But it wasn’t all bad, as the Caribbean adventure of Assassin’s Creed IV brought a lot of fans back and it looked like the future was bright for Ubisoft’s biggest IP. Unfortunately for them, and for us, the following games were full of technical glitches and uninspiring stories. And that’s when the developer finally decided to take a year off.
And boy, has it been a busy year in the rumor department! Leaked documents, small details found in other Ubisoft games, and general industry chatter is starting to give us an idea about what the next game, code named Empire, will be all about.
With the Assassin’s Creed movie flopping in every possible way, Ubisoft will hope this next game will revitalize a wounded franchise that was at one point the biggest game in the world. Empire will be the first new entry in the series since 2015’s Syndicate that took place in England and fans will be clamoring to get their hands on it. Here’s what we know about Assassin’s Creed: Empire.
15 Another Trilogy
There are those that love Assassin’s Creed III and its main character Connor Kenway, and there’s also a contingent of Assassin’s Creed fans that adore Unity’s Arno Dorian and Syndicate’s Frye siblings. But no character is more beloved than Ezio Auditore da Firenze, and that’s even counting the first game’s lead Altair. Would fans have held a special place in their hearts for Ezio had they not seen him turn from an unruly teenager to a seasoned assassin? I don’t think so and it is that type of connection that Ubisoft are looking to replicate with Empire. Rumors aplenty have reported that Ubisoft seek to tell a single character’s story over a three-game arc in the same vein as ACII, Brotherhood, and Revelations. It’ll be the first time since the end of Italian assassin that the developers can tell a complete story, and hopefully Empire can nail the first act!
14 Location, Location, Location
Just like Ezio’s trio of games, the trilogy that begins with Empire will feature different locations specific to each title. The first title with begin in Ancient Egypt with the proceeding two to take place in Greece and Rome. This opens up a bunch of potential and it looks like each part of the character’s journey will also feature different weapons and enemies to fight to keep it from getting stale. Additionally, this hints at an incredibly ambitious story that will surely involve some huge moments as the forces of good and evil duke it out on a worldwide scale. While some fans will be disappointed that one of the locations isn’t the highly requested Japan, at least we’ll be able to discover three unique settings back to back instead of the very similar France and England locales from Unity and Syndicate.
13 Main Character
While we know little about the star of the show, it looks like they won’t be highly regarded members of society. The new protagonist this time around is said to be an ex-slave with a timid personality. From what I’ve studied of Ancient Egypt in school, our new Assassin might have some trouble gathering the resources to assassinate who I would assume to be an evil Pharaoh of some kind. This might hint at the return of some kind of Brotherhood-like mission system where players can send mercenaries off to complete smaller missions for the new protagonist. Whatever story they tell, it’ll be great to see a quiet protagonist turn into a formidable warrior over the course of the trilogy in complete contrast to Ezio, who started as a loudmouth only to grow into a quiet man.
12 Release Date
While the leaked information points to a holiday 2017 release, marking a two-year gap since Syndicate, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot is making sure fans don’t get ahead of themselves saying, “it will be back when it’s ready. That’s when we feel we have something there.” While Empire could theoretically launch next year, Ubisoft’s massive slate of games and absence of big titles this fall points to a 2017 release. With only the next South Park RPG planned in the next few months (and still not confirmed) and the possible release of a fifth Far Cry game in 2018, I can’t see any situation in which Empire doesn’t launch this fall. But like Guillemot said, the developers at Ubisoft should be wary about making another technically poor Assassin’s Creed title, especially during the big comeback.
11 Prequel Or Sequel?
The Assassin’s Creed franchise tends to jump in time rather erratically, almost destroying the very notion of prequels and sequels. Players are thrown into the Italian Renaissance before battling it out in the American Revolution, only to be popped back into Europe on the streets of France. This time around due to the game’s location, the story will predate almost everything we’ve seen in the Assassin’s Creed universe up until now with the lead protagonist being a distant relative of Altair. It’ll be interesting to see how the large time gap effects the state of the world at that point, as well as the modern day story-line if it returns in Empire. What exactly is Abstergo looking for all the way back in Ancient Egypt? Ubisoft seems to have chosen a time period ripe for storytelling!
If you pay attention to the credits at the end of Assassin’s Creed games, you’ll know Ubisoft has about a hundred studios spread across the world from Osaka to Barcelona. Now while most of its studios contribute to the larger ones, Ubisoft Montreal is certainly the marquee team when it comes to Assassin’s Creed and the good news for Empire, and quite possible the trilogy at large, is that the team will be leading the development of the game. Game director Ashraf Ismail has been working on an ‘unannounced project’ since January of 2014, which already makes it more than three years since Empire was first conceived. This information also plays a role in the next thing we know about Assassin’s Creed: Empire!
9 Return Of Ships
Horses and boats are said to be included in Empire, but this time around it seems like naval combat will be left alone and boats will only be used for exploratory purposes. This could hint at the variety of missions players will take on in the game if boats are used to explore and possibly make their way into a side activity of sorts. Anything is possible, but it’s exciting to see Ubisoft putting so much development time and resources to flesh out all of the mechanics and features that have been documented. The Nile River is quite lengthy and the inclusion of boats may play in to the large map point. If we can get from one end to the other in real-time, it certainly will take a map that’s three times the size of Assassin’s Creed IV’s.
8 Map Size
Can there be a video game that’s just too big? Assassin’s Creed IV certainly pushed the boundaries, literally, with an enormous map filled with seaside outposts and the infinite blue of the ocean. But apparently that wasn’t large enough for Ubisoft and it looks like Empire will feature a map three times the size of the Caribbean paradise that Edward Kenway sailed through. Because the game is set in Egypt, does it simply indicate that most of the map will be covered by large swaths of empty desert, or will Ubisoft utilize the power of the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio to deliver record-breaking scale that’s actually filled with meaningful content? If anybody can do it, it would be a big developer like Ubiosft working on such a massive franchise like Assassin’s Creed. Let’s just hope there aren’t any invisible walls.
7 Mechanics & Systems
While many agree the peak of Assassin’s Creed hand-to-hand combat came with the third game set during the American Revolution, things seems to have stagnated since then. The franchise’s parkour mechanics seem to get a huge upgrade each year, but everything else feels the same. The infamous leak purports that Empire will feature a new ‘free form combat system,’ as well as a player progression system. This is line with statements made by the developers themselves on the UbiBlog saying their next project would aim 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.” A completely new combat system truly underlines Ubisoft’s commitment to the franchise and their goal to bring it back to its former glory.
6 Story Details
One of the biggest revelations from the various leaks concerns the story details of the next game. It’s said to take place in a time before the Assassin’s and Templar's. It looks like Ubisoft are planning to flesh out the lore of the Assassin’s Creed universe and this could be an interesting time to interact with Minerva and the rest of deities that haven’t had much involvement in recent games. The lack of Assassin’s and Templar's might sound blasphemous, but it could also make for an incredibly unique story. Finding out how the two factions came to be has been a point of interest among fans for years, although that would contradict the name of the franchise itself – like a Mario game without the iconic plumber!
5 The Great Pyramids
While this should have been obvious, we’ve been given further confirmation on the inclusion of the pyramids in Empire. In one of the leaked screenshots of the game, fans have pointed out a bit of text near the bottom of the image that reads ‘Giza’, referring to the Great Pyramid of Giza which was built as a tomb to the Pharaoh Khufu. It remains to be seen whether we’ll get to enter it at some point during the campaign or even if players will be able to climb to the top and pull a leap of faith into a stack of hay. As the ancient nation isn’t quite known for its towering heights, the Great Pyramid of Giza might be one of the only high places in the game.
While there hasn’t been any word on the opposition the protagonist will face, the settings of Greece, Rome, and Egypt cannot surely tell the story of the same villain over the course of three games. While an evil Pharaoh is most likely the lead antagonist in Empire, the decision to make a trilogy opens up the door for a plethora of different characters opposing the protagonist. The lack of Templar's also opens the door for a different kind of villain and one who has a completely different set of motivations and goals than past bad guys. Assassin’s Creed: Empire has a great chance to show a different side of the series and that starts with the main villain just as much as with the lead protagonist.
3 Lack Of Multiplayer
Aymar Azaiza, head of concept for Assassin’s Creed, confirmed the lack of PvP multiplayer in Empire in a Reddit AMA as the developer focuses on delivering a world-class single player experience. While many might be sad to hear the news, there’s still the possibility of a co-op mode being introduced. Similar to Unity, we may not be able to fight our friends with throwing knives and hidden blades, but we might be able to take on missions with them across Ancient Egypt. The game is most likely going to be revealed at this year’s E3 in June, so fans won’t have to wait long to finally find out. But as Ubisoft seem to introduce similar elements across all their games, it may be a good sign that Watch Dogs 2 has taken a more serious approach to multiplayer, just as the Far Cry franchise did with its fourth game.
2 Legacy Outfits
In the same Reddit AMA, the return of legacy outfits was also confirmed with players being able to don Ezio’s multi-layered outfit under the blazing heat of the Egyptian sun. Specifically, the outfit of Assassin’s Creed movie protagonist Aguilar is said to be in Empire which opens up the door for outfits from characters outside of the games. This is sure to be good news for fans of the game’s lore and might also be a great chance to introduce more casual fans to the Assassin’s Creed comics and novels. Even the inclusion of the Assassin’s from the side-scrolling Chronicles games would get players more interested in the world and characters that make up the Assassin’s Creed universe, and maybe even encourage them to dive in to those secondary adventures.
1 Pet Eagle
If there already wasn’t enough new mechanics and gameplay systems that are set to be introduced in Empire, there’s one more that’s on the peculiar side; a pet eagle! That shouldn’t be surprising when taking into account the franchises obsession with eagles, with eagle vision being an important part of an Assassin's repertoire, but it does sound like an odd feature to include in an Assassin’s Creed title. I assume it will work in the same way a drone does in Watch Dogs 2 or the owl in Far Cry: Primal, scouting out locations and marking enemies before the player goes in to take them out. The most interesting question is whether this feature will utilize the same technology as Ubisoft’s Eagle Flight virtual reality title. Enough with the eagles!