Assassin’s Creed’s rumored stealth spin-off is a chance to get back to mob-mixing fundamentals

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Among the slew of upcoming games, jostling for space in an increasingly crowded release schedule, there’s one that doesn’t want to be seen. Every time it catches your eye it seems to melt away, receding into the crowd like a wave at low tide, but you’re sure it’s there: a stealth spinoff for Assassin’s Creed, codenamed Rift.

First reported by Bloomberg (opens in a new tab) and yet to be confirmed by Ubisoft, Rift apparently started life as another expansion for Valhalla, but became a standalone game late last year. It is said to feature Basim, the assassin who first taught Eivor how to wield a hidden blade, and is said to be less sprawling than recent entries in the series. For Creedheads of a certain age, it’s an exciting concept. With a generation’s distance from the franchise fatigue that led Ubisoft to turn to Witcher-esque exploration, the idea of ​​returning to the bustling streets of a cramped city feels like bliss.

daylight flight

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Assassin’s Creed is often referred to as a stealth game that over time became an RPG – but that’s an oversimplification. At first, going completely unnoticed was impossible. While Altaïr’s peers preached subtlety in approach, they never gave him the tools to go all the way, leaving him devoid of smoke bombs, poison darts, coin bags or any other gadgets that would have could afford to distract his enemies. Investigating a target often involved openly fighting in the streets, and mixing mobs was only feasible when a scholar’s morning walk converged with your own.

Haystacks and benches? They were means of escape, not of going in and out unseen. Even if you were to somehow reach a target quietly, a cutscene could be deployed to uncover you, triggering a messy chase sequence afterwards. Anything to get you back to the rooftops – the only place the game really made sense. Of course, 2007’s Assassin’s Creed was a commercial success despite its flaws. And in its immediate aftermath, Patrice Désilets and his team have developed new stealth concepts that better respond to the fantasy of killing without being noticed. Assassin’s Creed 2 introduced aerial assassinations, as a way to grant a secret advantage to players who have found a path along the gutters. And he declared that three was a crowd – allowing Ezio a kind of conditional invisibility as long as he could find a few fellow Italians to hang around with.

Ezio

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Most brilliantly, he traded the scholars for prostitutes who, with a small monetary incentive, would surround and cover Ezio as he roamed the streets. A clever reimagining of Halo’s shield, this barrier was slowly removed as the women broke away to occupy nearby guards, leaving Ezio nearly naked if no alternative shelter was found. This, finally, was social stealth as Ubisoft first pitched it.

Over time, more traditional forms of stealth have found their way into Assassin’s Creed as well – ideas that cut through the membrane of other nearby Ubisoft games, as they so often do. By the time Unity released, the stealth cover system that had defined Splinter Cell: Conviction was present and correct – as was the indicator that made your last location known as a translucent ghost. The influence of Far Cry’s Outposts was also evident in Black Flag’s Plantations – stealthy puzzles that required you to study your opponents’ patrol paths, before taking them out in the correct order to evade detection.

Yet Black Flag’s swashbuckling premise ultimately became the show’s turning point – proving Assassin’s Creed’s potential as a large-scale action-adventure. With Unity launching in a buggy and finicky state, and audiences clearly tired of familiar stealth mission formats, Ubisoft recognized an opportunity – allowing the Black Flag team to double down on the action RPG with Origins, and lead its other Assassin’s Creed studios to follow suit.

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Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

“Have you forgotten the meaning of subtlety? Malik, the head of the Jerusalem office, asked Altaïr. Rift is Ubisoft’s opportunity to prove that’s not the case. »

The publisher has since distanced itself from the social stealth fantasy it once sold to the public. It must have been a relief to leave behind the unresolved issues of a premise that was, necessarily, hazy. Just as all social interaction is opaque and subjective, so is the resulting stealth. When is a person hidden in plain sight? What does it look like, exactly? These are not questions that naturally lend themselves to game design binaries aimed at gamers. Yet, in Ubisoft’s absence, others moved the form. IO Interactive has integrated Assassin’s Creed 2-style mob mixing into Hitman’s Agent 47 toolset – alongside poisons, overheard conversations, and disguises that act as keycards, allowing access to areas prohibited. The resulting World of Assassination trilogy showed that social stealth can be both a business prospect and critical catnip. Certainly, Ubisoft took notice.

With Rift, he has a chance to capitalize on that appetite – as well as the nostalgia of fans who, at this point, miss the distinct style of 2000s Assassin’s Creed games. themselves to play a full stealth game with a 20 hour runtime just like they did before. Unity was already leaning towards Hitman, with main missions that offered various scripted angles of approach, and IO could use a real competitor to keep it going.

If Rift turns out well, then Ubisoft might have a sub-series on their hands – which would be fine with them. As a huge global company that handles development in-house, one of its biggest issues is making sure every team has something to work on. Rather than continuing to supersaturate the tastes of Valhalla with identical expansions, it could dedicate part of its workforce to a parallel vision of the Credo. If the mysterious online service Assassin’s Creed Infinity will indeed tackle more than one historical setting simultaneously, as Bloomberg has reported, then surely it can encompass more than one genre as well. This way, Ubisoft can more easily avoid the repetition that forced the developers of Assassin’s Creed to abandon social stealth in the first place.

“Have you forgotten the meaning of subtlety? Malik, head of the Jerusalem bureau, once asked Altaïr. Rift is Ubisoft’s opportunity to prove that’s not the case.


The best stealth games will keep you hidden in the shadows.

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