It is clear that the Assassin’s Creed franchise is at a crossroads. And, despite Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s laudable quality and overall complimentary reviews, it is clear that Ubisoft is planning for Assassin’s Creed V and beyond.
In July of 2013, an article by Stephen Totilo was released on Kotaku stating “Ubisoft has three Assassin’s Creed games in development.”
However, one must only look to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag in order to realize that Ubisoft wants fan feedback so it can make huge leaps in the series. After every major memory, fans can rate the memories—an effort to hopefully reduce the tedious eavesdropping and stalking missions.
The pirate setting was arguably the most ambitious setting that Ubisoft has attempted for its flagship series. But it’s clear that Ubisoft is trying to tell the Assassin’s Creed fan base a secret as to the setting of the series’ fifth numerical installment.
In addition, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag recently released a DLC—entitled Freedom Cry. In the downloadable content, creative director Wesley Pincombe told Eurogamer that, “there are some hints” about the setting of Assassin’s Creed V.
After a playthrough of the game, there were a few settings that were continuously hinted at. In particular, the following settings were constantly alluded to: Feudal Japan—during the 14th century, the French Revolution—during the 18th century, and China— any century during its mammoth history.
It doesn’t take any sort of steadfast Internet scourer to deduce that Feudal Japan is a widely requested setting for the topical series. And, while Alex Hutchinson—the creative director for Assassin’s Creed III—dispelled the setting as “boring” it is clear that Ubisoft still entertains the possibility.
Debates of the setting’s entertainment value aside, a spoiler warning must be issued for everyone yet to play Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag—read at the risk of getting this tale slightly revealed.
In digression, the first hint of a setting in Feudal Japan can be seen in the game’s present day story– upon entrance to the office building of Abstergo Entertainment. Essentially, the Animus has been turned into a novelty item in between the events of Assassins Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag—allowing for any civilian to enter into its virtual reality world and explore places that have since been lost to time.
During your first view of Abstergo Entertainment’s lobby, a female voice can be heard chatting in a crowd of what is assumed to be enthusiastic consumers. Very clearly, the voice can be heard saying, “I want to explore Feudal Japan or Ancient Egypt.”
Alone, this is coincidental. But, soon after the strategically placed eavesdrop, the player is asked to report to the CCO (Chief Creative Officer) of Abstergo Entertainment—a man named Olivier Garneau.
Looking around Garneau’s office, there is a graphic that pops up on a sign that clearly states “ninjas” in the same sentence as “pirates, cowboys, and zombies.”
And, while these are all frequently covered figures in gaming, it is clear that—save for the lattermost “zombie” mention– Ubisoft is willing to cover them. This is due to the obvious fact that the main focus of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is, well, pirates!
The next hint can be seen in the “Pirates of Nightmares” trailer—a clip advertising a movie that will be released based on the footage that you gather while in the Animus. Opening the trailer is running black ink behind a sepia-toned backdrop, which are both dynamics that are often associated with eastern Asian culture.
Moreover, at the beginning portion of the clip, the narrator of the trailer states that the pirates to be featured in the fictional movie “live life by the sword”—a saying widely associated with the Japanese warrior class known as the Samurai. To add to this, what originally looked like a cutlass is quickly mutated into what resembles an abstract portrayal of a katana—a Japanese sword.
Soon after, Abstergo’s mysterious IT security officer tasks the player to perform some surreptitious hacking on Garneau’s computer. The message on the computer has been debated by many Assassin’s Creed fans; in an e-mail chain titled “Future Settings?” the fictional team at Abstergo Entertainment discusses where they could possibly take their product in the future. The e-mail chain opens up with a listing of all notable time periods that can be found in “Subject 17” (a.k.a Desmond Miles’) genealogy. Among the settings listed is 14th century Feudal Japan—the Ashikaga Shogunate, to be specific.
This is clear that—at the very least- Ubisoft is entertaining the possibility of setting a future Assassin’s Creed game in Feudal Japan. In addition, farther down the e-mail chain, an interesting lead by Garneau can be found. Much of the e-mail chain is banter between several people—joking about pirates and their satirically fictional war between ninjas and zombies.
Garneau states in the e-mail, “Pirates, ninjas, and zombies… the first two we can accommodate.”
With Ubisoft already “accommodating” pirates, then it is entirely possible that they could be hinting at a Feudal Japan setting, which would undoubtedly see the inclusion of ninjas.
To speculate over the identity of the mysterious “easter egg hint” that Pincombe alluded to in his interview with Eurogamer; the beginning of Freedom Cry had Adewale with a mysterious parcel that required delivering. When it was wrapped, it was enveloped in a white cloth that was centered with a curious-looking red circle.
While most likely circumstantial and entirely coincidental, the fact that the package resembled the design of a Japanese flag is just another piece of potential evidence that could discreetly point toward a setting in Feudal Japan.
Finally, a Ubisoft employee hinted for fans to “look at the stars” to find the next setting for Assassin’s Creed V. Given that Japan has a rising sun on its flag—an abstract representation of the star closest to Earth—this could be yet another hint toward a Japanese Setting.
Fans of the series have requested a Japanese setting ever since its infancy in 2007—making it one of the most highly requested settings that has not received an official game. With Ubisoft clearly attempting to be more attentive to fans— the surveys and data collecting that was done during Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag—it is entirely possible that Japan could be the next setting.
With the series beginning to feel somewhat Eurocentric, an Asian setting may be a breath of fresh air; leading to the next possibility…
While never appearing in an Assassin’s Creed game, there have been Chinese Assassins mentioned in the lore of the franchise; Shao Jun, who was mentored by Ezio Auditore, made an appearance in the CGI movie called Assassin’s Creed: Embers.
The aforementioned movie is where Pincombe’s alleged hint for Freedom Cry can be applied. At the end of Assassin’s Creed: Embers, Ezio gives Shao Jun a small chest—discouraging her from opening it. Likewise, at the end of Freedom Cry, Adewale gives Bastienne a small chest—one that looks exactly like the one that Ezio gave to Shao Jun.
Another hint in Freedom Cry was the inclusion of firecrackers as a tool for distraction. For those less historically inclined, firecrackers were invented in China.
But, many of the clues that hint to a Japanese setting could also be indicative of Assassin’s Creed V taking place in China. But, before getting to the overlapping evidence, Jing Lang– one of the targets of the “Templar Hunt” side quests– is of Chinese descent. In addition, an “Orchid” class is included in the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer, which is taken from Jing Lang’s character design.
Furthermore, the “look at the stars” hint given by Ubisoft could also be applicable to China, as the Chinese flag has a total of five stars on it.
Given China’s rather expansive history, it would be difficult to pinpoint a specific time period. But, Chinese architecture would be highly conducive to the series’ signature parkour mechanics.
In addition, the vastness of Chinese martial arts could allow the designers a large amount of creative leeway for combat innovation. In summation, a Chinese setting would break the series’ previously stated Eurocentricity while allowing the creators to innovate in ways that only such a setting would allow.
Among the bloodiest times in European History coupled with such figures as Maximillien Robespierre, King Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette—what more could a gamer ask for?
The hints for this setting are somewhat circumstantial—Ubisoft is a French-headquartered company, so one would think that it’s only a matter of time until the French Revolution gets touched upon.
In terms of Freedom Cry hints, this would make the mysterious Easter Egg the entire setting of the DLC, which is Port Au Prince. Currently, Port Au Prince is the capital of Haiti– a French colony during the time of story’s telling.
While this may seem too sweeping for a minor Easter Egg, the French Revolution location is mentioned in the “Future Settings?” e-mail. Included in the e-mail chain is an image of “Liberty Leading the People”—a painting by Eugene Delacroix. Holding the flag of the French Revolution, it was meant to largely symbolize the previously stated time period. In addition, that same e-mail chain does mention Maximillien Robespierre by name—a key figure in the catalyzing of the French Revolution.
Regarded as the birth of Modern Democracy, the French Revolution’s setting would be blend seamlessly with the Assassin’s Creed lore. Plus, it would potentially give Ubisoft the ability to give Connor’s story a fitting close.
There are other hinted settings: the American Wild West, which would be a risky undertaking due to the dominance that Red Dead Redemption owns over the genre. However, concept art of a “Cowboy Assassin” is in the “Future Settings?” e-mail chain—which could be a possible hint. There is also mention of Billy the Kid and Wyatt Erp in the same set of messages.
Egypt is another possibility, as the girl at the Abstergo Entertainment office mentioned it in conjunction with Feudal Japan. Moreover, the e-mail entitled “Future Settings” does list Ancient Egypt as a possible setting. However, there wasn’t anything in Freedom Cry that blatantly hinted at an Egyptian setting, which is why it didn’t quite make the cut of the three biggest possibilities.
And, while there has been much speculation about a Bolshevik Revolution or World War II setting, the e-mail chain “Future Settings?” stated to “avoid a 20th century setting”—making an Assassin’s Creed game set in more recent times slightly unlikely.
Hopefully, an answer as to the setting of Assassin’s Creed V is located amongst all of the aforementioned speculation. It is clear that Ubisoft has an ambition to spread the lore of their flagship series across many different times and lands—making it one of the most epic games franchises to date.
However, until an official announcement airs and a trailer launches on digital media sites, the speculation will remain as it is.