Aveline de Grandpré from Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, courtesy of The Mary Sue

‘Assassin’s Creed’ Beyond the West? One Can Dream

‪“while we’re undoubtedly excited to kick some medieval booty, we couldn’t help but notice a running theme throughout the franchise’s history. Many of them take place in predominantly Western settings.”‬

Image 1 - The Mary Sue
Aveline de Grandpré from Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, courtesy of The Mary Sue

While the franchise is far from over, here is a list of 10 non-Western settings and histories we would love to see in future games.

Even if you don’t play video games yourself or know even the smallest detail about them, you’ve probably still heard of the game ‘Assassin’s Creed.’ It’s one of the most recognizable and popular titles in the action-adventure genre. Combining historical fiction, science fiction, real-world historical events and people with open world gameplay, it’s no wonder why it’s such a hit.

The games have taken place in multiple historical periods, ranging from the Third Crusade to the Victorian Era. And soon, players will be able to travel to the 9th century during the Viking Expansion. The recent news of Ubisoft’s upcoming release titled Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has gamers of all ages and backgrounds excited.

However, ‪while we’re undoubtedly excited to kick some medieval booty, we couldn’t help but notice a running theme throughout the franchise’s history. Many of them take place in predominantly Western settings.‬

As someone who is still trying to catch up on my gaming from years of all work and no play from school, jobs, and life, I was generally surprised to see that a game that is apparently sent on an international stage seemed very clustered in only certain areas of a map. (And you may actually see said map here.)

Now, this is not a negative critique of the game, not at all. In fact, it could be easily said that Ubisoft is not afraid to shy away from difficult truths and has made efforts for the various representations of many peoples and cultures. Though, they are not without fair observations and criticisms.

Nonetheless, I found myself asking this question: What future games could there be without the West?

One thing led to another, including a very long journey down the old Google rabbit hole, and then this piece was made.

Before someone starts or feels the need to mention it…no, I have not played every single game in the series. And yes, I do know about the first Assassin’s Creed, Revelations, and Origins. Still, that means that only three of the twelve games in the main series take place in primarily non-Western settings.

I’m also aware of Assassin’s Creed Chronicles. Though, since these are not a part of the core series and do not follow the same open world gameplay that is so unique about the franchise, it’s hard to add these to our numbers.

I made an effort to try and visit multiple continents and cultures, though I am far from being a historian by any means.

Regardless of technicalities, my main goal here was to do my best to put together a list of what I believe would make great additions to the Ubisoft franchise in the future. I hope you enjoy and that this might spark you to find out more about world history!

1. Mali Empire, c. 1240-1645

Image 2 - Mansa Munsa
Mansa Munsa, courtesy of Wikipedia

If you’ve heard the legendary story of one of the richest men to ever walk the Earth, Mansa Munsa, then it’s time to learn about the empire he’s from. The Mali Empire was the largest empire in West Africa and played a large role in shaping the language, laws, and customs of the region. Its wealth came from the control of multiple routes of trade that were woven throughout the empire. The history of its various rulers and their reigns, the architecture, and influence on culture are just a few of the many reasons that this would make an excellent installment in the Assassin’s Creed legacy.

2. Ethiopian Empire, c. 1270-1974

Image 3 - Ethiopia v. Italy
Ethiopians repel Italy’s colonial advantages, courtesy of History Files

Also known as Abyssinia, the Ethiopian Empire lasted for a little over 700 years until the monarchy collapsed in 1974 following a Marxist coup. In addition to being one of the oldest states in the world, Ethiopia was also one of the few native African nations to successfully resist colonial occupation during the Scramble for Africa. Except for a brief period of Italian occupation in 1936 that lasted until their liberation during World War II, the empire remained largely independent and is famous for inflicting a devastating defeat on an invading Italian army in 1896. If these aren’t enough reasons for this not-talked-about-enough empire to be included in a core Assassin’s Creed game, I don’t know what is.

3. Kingdom of Kongo, c. 1390 – 1914

Kingdom of Kongo
The Kingdom of Kongo, courtesy of Wikipedia

This very large kingdom in West-Central Africa that reached its peak in the mid 1600s has its fair share of complicated histories. Having been subject to various periods of internal conflict, civil wars, and Portuguese influence, the legacy of this kingdom is a complex and varied one that has still left its mark on the region today. Narrowing down a period from this history would be a challenge, but to include a game with this focus in this series would be an educational opportunity that is hard to pass up. 

4. The Joseon Dynasty, c. 1392-1910

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion
Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, courtesy of The Seoul Guide

Founded by its first king Yi Seong-gye in 1392 and replaced by the Empire of Korea in 1897, this dynastic kingdom lasted for roughly five centuries, making it one of the world’s longest running monarchies. It left a substantial legacy on modern Korean, influencing culture etiquette, the language and dialects and more. The Joseon Dynasty experienced various periods of prosperity, peace, and development, as well as internal strife, international struggles, and decline. The rich history alone should entice Ubisoft to have this as one of their future open world games in Assassin’s Creed, with the architecture, classical Korean culture, and it’s philosophies sealing the deal.

5. Feudal Japan, c. 1400-1600

Image 6 - Wikipedia
Edo period screen depicting the Battle of Sekigahara, courtesy of Wikipedia

Assassin’s Creed may have missed this window of opportunity with the upcoming release of Ghost of Tsushima this July by Sucker Punch Productions and Sony. It’s hard to not think of the specially trained covert agents that operated in 15th century Japan when the word “assassin” is said in general, and many have wondered why there has yet to be a game in the series from this time period. There were many provinces in feudal Japan, and with them come the feuds and legacies of shogun, samurai, warlords, and ninjas. Both men and women were renowned for their skill in battle, which, in addition to the previous roles, provides a deep well of history to pull from for an Assassin’s Creed game.

6. Rattanakosin Kingdom, c. 1782-1932

Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, courtesy of Wikipedia

If you’ve heard of The King & I, then you’ve already unknowingly been miseducated about this kingdom in what used to be known as Siam, now Thailand. I kindly ask that you do not take the musical or the memoirs that inspired it to be historically accurate. Many historians now agree that the author of said memoirs, Anna Leonowen fictionalized much of her work. The real Rattanakosin Kingdom in Thai history and culture is one of consolidation of power by the royal family and periodic conflicts with neighboring countries. The kingdom’s engagements with the colonial powers of Britain and France, all the while avoiding the colonization of Siam, are important to note as well. Assassin’s Creed creating a game in this time period would be an opportunity to better represent a truer account of this history while at the same time giving players an engaging story.

7. Maratha Empire, c. 1674-1818

Pratapgad Fort
Pratapgad Fortress, courtesy of Atlas Obscura

While there already exists an Assassin’s Creed game set in India, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with revisiting a region that is rich in history and culture for a second time. The Maratha Empire ruled nearly a third of South Asia, covering nearly 250 million acres at its peak. This empire had many features that made it unique, such as the fact that it did not adhere to the caste system and allowed for people of talent to advance their station regardless of their birth. Along with its practice of religious tolerance, it was one of the most socially mobile empires. These aspects of the empire and various major events that shaped its legacy would help lay the groundwork for an Assassin’s Creed game I would very quickly and easily spend all my money on.

8. Inca Empire, c. 1438-1533

Machu Picchu
Stonework remains of the ancient city of Machu Picchu, courtesy of Live Science

If Disney can create a film based off of the Inca Empire, than so can Ubisoft. This empire stretched from modern day Argentina to southern Columbia and was divided into four “suyu” that intersected at the capital of Cusco. Their architecture, particularly of stonework was unrivaled, their craftsmanship was equally impressive, and many of the traditions of the Inca are still done by those who live in the Andes. The mythology of the Inca Empire served multiple purposes from ceremony to everyday life, and everyone was expected to contribute to the empire in some form or fashion. While much is still yet to be known about the ancient civilization, it still would make for a worthy setting for any game, especially Assassin’s Creed.

9. Maya Civilization, c. 7000 BCE – 1524 CE

El Castillo
El Castillo pyramid, courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

Assassin’s Creed would be foolish to overlook the historical treasure trove of the Maya civilization, whatever the reason. Seeing that it’s nearly impossible to narrow it down to simply one period or timeline, this is a reflection of just how much the Maya influenced Mesoamerican development and early culture. In addition to their sprawling civilization, they are also well known for their highly complex calendar, architecture, and what remains of their recorded history that was not destroyed by the Spanish. With an already available wealth of knowledge and myth, I can easily predict that there will be an open world adventure game featuring Maya Civilization in the near future.

10. Aztec Empire, c. 1428 – 1521

Templo Mayor ruins
Ruins of the “Eagle” building in the Templo Mayor complex, courtesy of Wikipedia

Another important group from Mesoamerican history that cannot be overlooked is the Aztec Empire. Established in 1428, the empire was an alliance of the three city-states of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan who ruled until the Spanish conquered them in 1521. One of the civilization’s most well know achievements was the development of the capital city of Tenochtitlan, which acted as a religious, political, and trading center. Their societal structures and mythology would make for interesting plot devices for an Assassin’s Creed game in addition to the history of this civilization.

 


 

As games and game culture become more and more diversified every day, it’s important to consider the entire player base and those who could be reached through franchises when considering what direction future instalments should take.

It was very hard to narrow this down to only 10 histories and settings, so if you believe that we should add on to this list or find that we may have overlooked something please let us know in the comments! Thank you so much for reading!

 

Edited by Abeer Khan

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