Video game developer Ubisoft has stated that, in spite of its freewheeling approach to the series timeline, its historical action franchise "Assassin's Creed" has a definite endpoint. But in light of the way the series has progressed so far, there's every reason to be skeptical of that claim.
"Assassin's Creed," the series, began in 2007, but the historical narrative began in 1191 in the Holy Land. Players took control of Assassin Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, — a member of an ancient secret society dedicated to freeing mankind from the oppressive influence of the Templars.
As the series progressed, first to the Renaissance and then to the 18th century, it attracted fans through a bravura mixture of real-world history, religious symbolism, magic objects and a modern-day political thriller. "Assassin's Creed II" (as well as two direct sequels, "Brotherhood" and "Revelations") followed the adventures of Italian nobleman Ezio Auditore da Firenze as he pursued the Templars across 16th-century Europe. "Assassin's Creed III" told the story of Ratonhnhaké:ton (Connor), a half-Iroquois tasked with unraveling a Templar conspiracy during the American Revolution.
"Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag" is slated for this October, and for the first time in series history, winds the clock backward instead of forward. Connor's grandfather, Edward Kenway, takes center stage this time around. "Black Flag" takes place in 1715 and tells a story about the final days of the golden age of piracy on the high seas.
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The series is one of Ubisoft's most profitable, and as a result, isn't going anywhere for a while. That said, Ashraf Ismail, the director of "Black Flag," explained that the series won't last forever.
"There is an overall arc, and each iteration has its place inside this," he explained to Eurogamer. "We have an idea of where the end is, what the end is … Depending on what fans want, we've given ourselves room to fit more in this arc. But there is an end."
If there is a defined endpoint, the current trajectory of the series does not exactly support Ismail's assertion. "Assassin's Creed" sold well; "Assassin's Creed II" was a sure bet. But when "Assassin's Creed II" established the series as a fixture in modern gaming and Ezio as one of the most likeable characters of the current console generation, Ubisoft decided to annualize the series.
Fans and critics generally enjoyed "Brotherhood and "Revelations," and they added a considerable amount to the franchise's lore, but the series would not have lost much if Ubisoft had continued directly onto "Assassin's Creed III." The games were too good to be dismissed as cash-ins, but the logic behind continuing Ezio's story was clear.