We’ve been playing masses of Assassins Creed recently, from our short time with the underwhelming Liberation HD to our seemingly never-ending play through of the absolutely fantastic Assassin Creed IV: Black Flag. After the disappointing entry Assassins Creed III we were somewhat disillusioned with the franchise, when out of nowhere Black Flag made us fall in love all over again. Inevitably we started wondering where the series might go next, now that it’s pirating adventures are done, AC’s genetic memory story framing means that history is their playground – almost no place or time is off limits. After scouring the internet, reading Ubisoft employee interviews, and reminding ourselves of some histories most interesting stories we’ve put together a list of where we’d like to see the eternal Assassin vs Templar struggle play out next. How about the fall of an Empire? The Han Dynasty’s demise between the years 184 – 190.
When well-versed gamers think about the Han period of Chinese history they could be forgiven for criniging, this era has been largely done to death in the long running, incredibly divisive, Dynasty Warriors series. We however think this early period of documented history is home to plenty of stories that could house a hidden Assassins vs Templar war, and provide a much desired oriental setting without traipsing into feudal Japan – an era described by Ubisoft themselves as “boring”. Unlike the aforementioned hack ‘n’ slash series our plan would be not to set the story during the Three Kingdoms era, but rather directly before it – at the fall of the Han Dynasty. During the Han’s four hundred year rule China prospered both economically and scientifically as they achieved numerous breakthroughs including paper making, and the rudder which enabled them to build steerable ships. In its later years the imperial court became inundated with corruption and vying warlords held real power, not the Emperor. The beginning of the end for the long running dynasty started in 184 with the birth of the Yellow Turban Rebellions.
You may have guessed the name Yellow Turban was bestowed upon the rebellions in reference to the yellow scarves its members used to identify themselves. Peasants rushed to the cause lead by a Doctor named Zhang Jue, a prophet of the Taoist sect “The Way of Peace”, in an attempt to overthrow the corrupt government. Common folk were in awe of the so-called “Great Teacher” who translated heightened taxes, corruption, famine and flooding as signs that the Han had lost the “Mandate of Heaven”. Loyally following it’s prophet, whom it was claimed was a sorcerer, the movement began a campaign of war against their Han overlords, taking much land in the initial years of their uprising.
This then is when our twist arrives, perhaps the reality was not that Zhang Jue was a sorcerer, but rather he was in possession of a piece of Eden – Assassins Creed’s super advanced technological doo-hickeys. Built by the precursor race each piece of Eden is imbued with incredible power that can be used to control the population. Using the artefact Zhang Jue could manipulate people into following him, using the device he was able to build a huge army, and planned to use it in a misguided attempt to the innocent masses from the cruel governors in the capital of Luoyang. Ultimately the rebellion was a failure, and the piece of Eden retrieved by the victorious Han forces who take the mysterious object to the capital where it’s captured by a Chinese official whose a member of the Templar Order.
Unable to uncover the secrets of the device, therefore unable to use it for their own nefarious purposes the corrupt officials spearheaded by the tyrant Dong Zhuo usurp the Empire by subtle trickery rather than with the object’s power as initially planned. After installing a puppet Emperor on the throne history tells us the countries prominent warlords formed a pact to remove the corrupt officials from power, and restore the Emperor. In this reality maybe they were brought together by an Assassin who could not face the Templar alone. As the warlords valiantly battle at Hu Lao gate the Assassin using the engagement as a distraction slips through the walls into Luoyang recovering the device before escaping to hide it away – leaving the country to slip into the Three Kingdoms Era, believing the Templar threat neutralised by the coalition forces. Narratively the plot would cover roughly seven to eight years an ample about of time to tell an effective story.
China, and this setting in particular, opens up some interesting possibilities for the lore of Assassins Creed. Not only would it be the tale furthest removed from the action geographically, but also in time – some 800 years before Altíar’s life began. This means that Ubisoft would be free to explore even earlier origins of the Templar v Assassins war, showing that this battle spans millennia; because of it’s distance from the other entries they’d have more freedom in telling a story that need not link so tightly to the others. At this point we’ve no idea what the two sides were upto, how much of their beliefs are formed nor how much they know of each other. Perhaps these few years hold many lessons for the two, as they’re potentially siding with each other unknowingly to stop the Yellow Turbans, maybe the removal of a Tyrant from power too is a goal both share. Equally how do the sides beliefs filter into the Three Kingdoms era? Does the ultimately winning Kingdom of Wei seize control thanks to internal Templar influences? Does Shu fight for freedom thanks to lessons learnt from mysterious hooded figures? There’s so much potential here.
The Orient is a location that has been perpetually requested by fans since the first entry; more often than not it’s Japan that the ravenous fans thirst to explore. Ubisoft has a duty to keep us on our toes, to keep us guessing where next? An entry based in China during this era would subvert expectations simultaneously giving fans what they want without strolling into stereotypical Samurai territory. Instead players would be free to explore numerous cities across the long established Empire of China – from Chengdu in the mountains of the south, up to the prosperous capital LuoYang and across to the powerful walled city of Chang ‘An. Each is home to oriental architecture, an exciting prospect that would give players new types of building to traverse using the series free running mechanics. Imagine climbing to the peak of a Chinese palace to synchronize a look out; peering over the expanse – if it makes you think “wow” surely it’s a good place for Assassins Creed to visit.
Besides it’s ancient cities China was home to plenty of villages spread across it’s phenomenal size – not that the whole of China needs to be included, only the North/west regions are really essential. Who knows what those crafty templars would be planning across the expanse or hiding in mountains – they’re plenty of reasons our hooded hero would take up contracts to put down Templar leaders. China’s silk road would be a great way to reintroduce a “Kenway’s Fleet” system, as players could buy wagons that they could direct to trade goods. Even better they could steal said wagons from Templars shipping around supplies for war – inhibiting their plans to obtain the piece of Eden. Much like we’ve previously discussed in our Civil War England scenario this setting would be a grand way to re-introduce horses as the AC primary transport.
In our eyes the fall of the centuries old Han Dynasty is a great era for Ubisoft to breath life into. We’re sick of paper thin Dynasty warriors entries in the period, there’s a rich history here waiting to be told – the splitting of an empire, surely a setting the Assassins and Templars could inhabit. Here Ubi can take us away from Desmond’s family, they can take us somewhere truly new where the two orders ideals may not have fully formed, we can see them wrestle with each other whilst learning valuable lessons. Zhang Jue’s rebellion is a perfect place to hide a piece of Eden, perfectly hidden amongst the stories of his sorcery. The people demand an oriental Assassins Creed, I say give it to them – in a way they don’t expect.
Remember to check back when we’ll be discussing another possible setting for future Assassins Creed games; follow us here or on twitter @Gamerree.
Missed our English Civil War idea? Check it here.