Actually, I’m excited for an Assassin’s Creed service game

Two weeks ago, the world was introduced to Assassin’s Creed Infinity, a service game that will be set in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed universe. The internet erupted with the same collective groan around service games: they’re exhausting and there are too many of them. And while that’s certainly true, I’m excited for the potential of Assassin’s Creed Infinity, or at least the version of it rattling around in my brain. The recent Assassin’s Creed games have trended close to service games already, and I want to see what it looks like when Ubisoft officially takes the dive.

What do we know about Assassin’s Creed Infinity?

Hanging out on the ship in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Ubisoft Quebec/Ubisoft via Polygon

We know very little about Assassin’s Creed Infinity outside of its existence. Bloomberg — which originally broke the news on Infinity — reported that the game will offer multiple historical settings and get updates over time. We also know that the game won’t come out any time soon and will be co-developed by Ubisoft Quebec and Ubisoft Montreal, the studios responsible for Odyssey and Valhalla respectively.

Beyond that, we can make some assumptions. Will Abstergo, the Templar-operated company that created the Animus, play a part in the game? One can imagine how they’d fit into a service game. Will there be Assassins? I feel comfortable saying yes. How about Assassin’s Creed’s extremely up-its-own-ass lore about gods, ancient relics, and other bizarre shit? I certainly hope so.

But past the usual suspects, we can only view the template for the series’ most recent games to see what might appear. That template lends itself nicely to a service game like Grand Theft Auto Online, Fortnite, or even Destiny 2.

Assassin’s Creed is already a live-service franchise

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s cosmetic and boost shop
Ubisoft Quebec/Ubisoft via Polygon

The modern Assassin’s Creed titles — Assassin’s Creed Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla — all fall into service game traps without actually being service games. Each offers interesting DLC to bring you back into the game months after you’ve finished. Each has an in-game shop to lull you into purchasing cosmetic items that only you will ever see.

But the series’ game systems lend themselves nicely to a persistent world. Players collect loot, unlock and upgrade skills, and invest time, energy, and emotion in their characters’ stories and gameplay styles. The games’ length and DLC means you spend a lot of time with your character, tweaking and perfecting them, only to have to start all over when a new Assassin’s Creed comes out. My Kassandra ended Odyssey and its DLC uber-powerful, but then I had to swap to Eivor in Valhalla, with no payoff for how badass I’d made my Kassandra. It felt bad.

Of course, Assassin’s Creed isn’t alone in this. But unlike jumping from one Metroid game to the next, as Nintendo finds some bizarre way to shed Samus of her previous skills, the AC games are similar enough that it feels like they should share progress. Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla all have similar combat, a host of side activities, and a union of baddies to hunt down — each themed after their own historical setting.

The entries are so frequent — unlike the Metroid series, which can take literal decades between mainline titles — that it feels like I’m always playing the same game. Eivor, Kassandra, and Bayek all have different personalities, but the similarity in their gameplay combined with the time I spend investing in each hero makes leaving it all behind that much harder. For the past three Assassin’s Creed games, I could’ve been the same hero jumping between timelines, collecting new loot, experiencing new stories, and maintaining some of my investment. Imagining that world — where I can continue improving my character — gets me excited.

Imagine transporting some of Odyssey’s skills into Valhalla or back into Origins
Ubisoft Quebec/Ubisoft

It’s cool to imagine, say, starting my journey in Assassin’s Creed Infinity in feudal Japan, and then diving into a Mayan civilization in a new expansion, without having to start a character from scratch. Games like Valhalla and Odyssey are huge — so big that it’s exhausting — and I like the idea of a world where Infinity’s locations are smaller and more manageable in exchange for being plentiful. A new set of missions and a new location every year, where my progress carries over, sounds a lot less tedious than starting over every two years for another 100+ hour campaign. I can stay with a character I care about instead of having to get to know someone new, and I can feel like that investment will pay off not only for the next DLC pack, but years from now. That sword I pillaged from that special event in 2025 may help me through a tough boss fight in 2029. As a connoisseur of loot-based service games, that kind of long-haul gameplay is enticing.

With Ubisoft’s Clint Hocking — director of some of the studio’s most experimental games, Far Cry 2 and Watch Dogs: Legion — on board for Infinity, we can expect some interesting twists to shake the series’ foundation. I have no doubt that whatever I think Assassin’s Creed Infinity might look like, the result will likely be quite different. But no matter how similar or different Infinity is compared to past Assassin’s Creed games, service titles are hard to pull off, and nobody has done it perfectly yet. Assassin’s Creed Infinity could easily underserve on content and overserve on microtransactions, giving players less game while offering more cosmetics.

The game is still too far out to really speculate, but it feels like Ubisoft has been trying to make one big game with each iteration of Assassin’s Creed. Now that it’s officially taking the plunge, I’m excited to see whatever we get next, whether it’s a burning disaster or screaming success.

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