Ubisoft seems keen on continuing the pirate theme in the next set of Assassin’s Creed games, as seen by a recent survey sent to fans. Within, they asked whether or not they wanted the naval aspects of the game expanded and if co-op or multiplayer across the current world they’ve created would be appealing. I would like to be amongst many who answered that survey and say that this would officially be badass. The naval mechanics have come a long way and work really well in Assassin’s Creed III and IV, and I would love to see more of that.
But I’m a bit worried that the series has become too Eurocentric. Eurocentrism is the tendency for people, especially historians and teachers, to see the world through a western lens, often lumping all of human advancement and the important events in human history in the western sphere. If you think back to history class, Asian and African historical events are often just footnotes while the book and coursework concentrated on the Renaissance, the American colonies, WWI and WWII. Sound vaguely familiar? Yeah that’s exactly what all of the Assassin’s Creed games have done since II, and it’s a sad state of affairs. One of the interesting things about the first game was that it told a story about the Crusades from a unique point of view that was wedged between the western Crusader and middle eastern Saracen forces. In a time filled with Islamiphobia, it was astonishing that a hot franchise was made from a game in which you played an Arabic character and you rubbed shoulders with Muslims preparing for war with crusading Christians and they weren’t universally painted as the bad guys.
At the end of Assassin’s Creed I when you started to have a mystical plot seeing powers in the real world there was a whole slew of hints that the artifacts’ everyone is after were thrown all over the world and tied to all sorts of legends, conspiracy theories, and myths. They come from around the world, and among them is an allusion to the Yonaguni Monuments, and an underwater set of seemingly man-made structures that we have no answer to. It’s considered by some to have been the site of a real life Japanese Atlantis, the ruins of a people who eventually moved on after their island became uninhabitable. It’s the perfect fodder for an Assassin’s Creed adventure, and it fits in with the Japanese creation myth that states that a goddess created the archipelago from the Sun, a mystic jewel, and a sacred sword.
Sound like the artifacts that everyone is looking for in Assassin’s Creed? It fits in so perfectly it’s no wonder why they included it, and it looks like the developers really did their homework. So ever since then we’ve been excited to finally see Assassin’s Creed handle Japan and the far east, to finally have ninjas meet assassins and learn a little bit of history and culture along the way. Unfortunately Ubisoft has shot down the idea wholesale. According to the writers and developers, they have no plans to make an Assassin’s Creed game set in ancient Japan because it’s a scene that has been played out and fully covered in video games and not a unique place in history that few people know about.
The problem with this assessment is that they are completely wrong. It’s true, there are a slew of games set in the Sengoku era of Japan, but most of them are built by a single developer, KOEI. KOEI’s Samurai Warriors, Kessen, and Nobunaga’s Ambition series have been great entries, but outside of Nobunaga’s Ambition and the first Kessen entry, very few of their games take a straight and hard look at history like the Assassin’s Creed games do. Furthermore, virtually none of the games focus on western relations with the Japanese outside of the Shogun Total War series, and even then it’s barely touched upon.
This opens the door for an amazing game that explores the complexity and depth of the end of the Sengoku era and the beginning of the Edo period. As there was an English sailor during this time named William Adams who worked his way to Japan and convinced Iyasu Tokugawa after he consolidated power in Edo to turn away the Jesuit missionaries and do business primarily with the protestant Dutch East India Company under the guise that the Portuguese and Jesuits were using their religion and emerging economic power for their own ends. He eventually became an official samurai under Tokugawa, and proceeded to live in Japan until he passed away in 1620. His story is perfect to explore this time in history, and establish an Assassin base to operate against the Templars attempting to obtain an artifact and gain power in southeast Asia.
It fits so perfectly that it would be criminal to pass up. William Adams even built western ships for Tokugawa for use in several naval battles, so those mechanics could even come back in a big way. There’s a real opportunity to explore the big players in Japanese history as more than mythological superheroes like in KOEI’s Samurai Warriors series and use the game as a platform to explore a unique culture in a unique and important time in history.
With a fresh set of protagonists for a new set of Assassin’s Creed games, I reckon it’s time for us to travel back to the land of the rising sun and dance across the rooftops of Edo and Kyoto.