Assassin’s Creed 1 and 2 felt ages apart in more ways than one. Most obviously, they took place in wildly different time periods – AC 1 during the Third Crusade and AC2 in Renaissance Italy. The gap between the two games’ releases, however – especially for an industry that has reduced the yearly sequel down to a science – was also quite wide.
Not so for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. The latest sequel, which crept up and pressed a blade against our throats long before we expected it, is slated for release in November 2010. It once again stars gaming’s suavest acrobat, Ezio. But this time around, top billing doesn’t go to Ezio alone. In Brotherhood, he’ll be fighting alongside a highly coordinated team of assassins like himself, which – after the largely solo outings of previous Assassin’s Creed titles – raises all kinds of questions.
So we decided to ask them. Click past the break for technical director Mathieu Gagnon’s thoughts on why Brotherhood isn’t just a spin-off, Assassin’s Creed III, multiplayer, Assassin’s Creed II’s slow start, and tons more.
[Interview by Nathan Grayson]
VG247: Do you plan on turning AC into a yearly franchise? Will spin-offs like Brotherhood be a regular occurrence?
Mathieu Gagnon: First of all, Brotherhood is not a spin-off. Brotherhood is really a complete game. We have pretty much the same length that Assassin’s Creed II had.
On Assassin’s Creed I, we got ripped on for variety. On Assassin’s Creed II, we fixed variety. What did we get wrong on Assassin’s Creed II?
I know a lot of reviewers weren’t too keen on the slow start.
Yeah, a slow start. One of the other things was the fights, and pretty much [that the game was] more of the same. For example, we had the horse in Assassin’s Creed I and II, but it’s never really been a part of the gameplay. So we’re really pushing forward on that aspect. We’re pushing combat on the horse, so it’s going to offer a new kind of fight.
We also got ripped on for the fights being a little too slow. In Assassin’s Creed I and II, people complained about the fact that you’re basically waiting for opponents to fight. This time, you are in charge. Basically, our fight is a combo system where you’re gonna start your combo, and then they’re going to attack during this time. If you counter directly during your combo, you’re pretty much going to get rid of everyone right off the bat. So if there’s ten guards, and you start that combo and you don’t fuck up, you’re going to be able to get rid of those ten guards instantly. You attack first and you attack fast.
That’s really going to bring a new dynamic toward the fight, and you’re going to see situations where we have hordes of guards coming after you.
Do you consider this to be Assassin’s Creed III, then?
The number was not very important to us. The thing is, we still had to talk about Ezio. Ezio’s story finished sort of… weird. And he’s such an interesting character that we wanted to develop him a lot more. So we’re continuing his story because we didn’t finish it. We didn’t see everything there was to see.
Also, the Renaissance is such a beautiful setting. Fans love it. So we went back to the Renaissance.
Are you actively working on Assassin’s Creed III as well? Or is all of your focus on Brotherhood at the moment?
For now, we’re shipping Brotherhood, but, I mean, it’s a big franchise. Your guess is as good as mine.
Do you plan on supporting Brotherhood – especially on the multiplayer side of things – with DLC? And are you hoping to turn Assassin’s Creed into a major multiplayer franchise on top of already being a major single-player franchise? Are you hoping to throw down with the Modern Warfares and Halos of the world?
There are absolutely no plans for DLC at this time. By “no plans,” I mean I have no clue of the plans. If we have plans, I’m really not aware.
Do you want the multiplayer to be The Next Big Thing, though? Or is it just “another mode” people can take a crack at in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood?
What I really love about the multiplayer is that we’re throwing the player inside the Assassin’s Creed universe along with his friends. So basically, it’s conquering a new experience as far as the franchise is concerned, and I think people are really going to enjoy it. There’s tons of stuff to offer. There’s many modes. We’re showing the Wanted mode today, but there are many more.
I think the multiplayer becomes an integral part of the game. We still have the complete single-player to back it up. “Back it up,” though, isn’t a term I like as well because the multiplayer is really an entity in and of itself, where it is also a complete game. So I don’t think it’s a tacked-on strategy to give more gameplay in order to justify the release of Brotherhood.
It’s really one experience: finishing up Ezio’s story. Another experience: training Abstergo recruits in the present to be able to fight the war between Desmond and Abstergo, because that war is also going on as well – at the same time we’re living Desmond’s life. So that’s exactly why we’re doing this. We’re offering a little insight inside that present day narrative, and I find it super interesting to push the multiplayer that way.
So are we going to see a lot of Desmond in Brotherhood as well? I know you said it was Ezio’s story earlier, but will we still jump back to the present day every once in a while?
Desmond is back. Desmond’s our hero. Because essentially the story of Assassin’s Creed is, in the present day, we have an [inaudible] between Abstergo and the Assassins. It’s an all-out war on their side as well, even though we haven’t delved into it much. But that’s our setting. That’s our narrative. So obviously Desmond is gonna be back. You’re gonna learn more stuff through the multiplayer and single-player about what’s going on with that war in the present.
The bit we saw during the Ubisoft press conference – where Ezio’s base of operations from ACII was reduced to rubble in spectacular fashion — looked like something of an opening. Will Brotherhood get going faster than ACII, which was criticized for its slow start?
We’re at our third game now. I think by now, we have an established set of fans. So we’ve kind of been reworking how we do the progression. Abilities are going to be – I wouldn’t say completely unlocked – but skilled players are going to be able to pick up and play, and get to their missions as soon as they start.
As far as the pacing is concerned, this is indeed very early in the game. So I think you’re going to see that it’s going to pick up and go pretty quick.
Ubisoft’s conference was all about “Games You Can Feel.” In that vein, would you ever consider incorporating Move or Kinect into an Assassin’s Creed game?
Honestly you’re curve-balling me. I have no clue. No idea. We’re all concentrated on our work. We have our specific place. I mean, we’re here to be corporate and offer [inaudible], but I really have no clue.