The most appealing live service game, in my opinion, has always been Destiny 2. A world that started small, but with every new expansion has added a new location, a new destination, complete with its own self-contained story. Of course, each of the expansions adds something new to the Destiny 2 universe as a whole, but it doesn't necessarily have to for it to be a valid addition. With the recent free Assassin's Creed crossover content, it feels like a real glimpse into how a live service Assassin's Creed could work, and it's not dissimilar to Destiny 2 - just with more Isu artifacts.
Back in July, Ubisoft announced that the future of the Assassin's Creed franchise will be a collaborative affair. Currently codenamed Assassin's Creed Infinity, Ubisoft hasn't officially stated the game will be live service, but according to a report from Bloomberg just days before the developer revealed the project, it will be a "massive online platform that evolves over time", and will "contain multiple settings with room to expands to others in the months and years following its debut". AKA live service in all but name, although Ubisoft has confirmed Assassin's Creed Infinity is not a free-to-play title.
There is a fear when the phrase 'live service game' is mentioned that it’s going to be a free-to-play title with something akin to a Battle Pass and a plethora of microtransactions involved. That’s a successful model for some games - just look at Fortnite and its ginormous player base - but it doesn’t feel like the one that’s going to work for Ubisoft with Assassin’s Creed.
Instead, it feels like Ubisoft is already dabbling in a live service model with the Assassin's Creed games that are already available. Assassin's Creed Valhalla has had two major DLC expansions that took us to self-contained new locales in the form of Ireland and France, with plenty of new abilities and weaponry that you could take back into the main areas of England and Norway.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s seasonal events are a hint too. With limited-time events popping up offering exclusive gear, mini-games, and even a delicate sprinkling of new narrative, each one feels like a little test to see how far the interest in a single Assassin’s Creed release can stretch.
A future of crossed paths
But it's these new crossover drops that feel like the biggest tease of what to come in the world of Assassin's Creed. Earlier this month, Ubisoft dropped a duo of crossover missions - one for Assassin's Creed Valhalla, and the other for the 2018 release, Assassin's Creed Odyssey. The Odyssey tale - A Kind of Treasure Hunt - saw Kassandra (or Alexios) taking a well-earned vacation in Korfu, only for it to be ruined by the appearance of two old friends, and an out-of-place Isu artifact. The mission arc ends with Kassandra getting a mission to recover Isu artifacts scattered around the world, with the game offering up a hint of what's to come by showing the locations of some of these pieces of Eden.
With plenty of locations seemingly alluded to by a lingering look at a world map adorned with markers, Kassandra does make a pitstop to drop off a scroll given to her by Herodotus in Egypt, which makes me wonder whether there's a crossover inbound for 2017's Assassin's Creed Origins - a game that's, interestingly, also in-line for a 60fps update in the near future.
As it's laid out in the Assassin's Creed canon, Kassandra is the anchor. As the Assassin's Creed Odyssey ending decreed by making our Mistios a "traveler of many times" and making them the keeper of the staff, Kassandra is immortal and capable of traveling through time to destroy or otherwise contain those Isu artifacts. Anyone who did finish Odyssey will know that eventually, she passes the staff to Layla in the modern-day, but there's a hell of a lot of history between Layla in 2018 and Kassandra's original Ancient Greek time period of circa 431–422 BC.
Thus, it makes sense then that we have Kassandra popping up in Dark Ages Britain to team up with Eivor as they explore the far-flung reaches of Skye in the crossover mission dropped for Assassin's Creed Valhalla. It's another brand-new location that's added to your Valhalla map, with its own narrative, secrets to discover, and very photo mode-worthy vistas. It's a wonderful, self-contained story, with plenty of personality and just a hint of romance, but more importantly, it's a glimpse of the future in more ways than one.
I can see crossover events like this happening across the Assassin's Creed timeline in Infinity. With Kassandra's position in the canon, there's not only the potential for meet-ups with old friends like Ezio Auditore da Firenze or Edward Kenway, but also the introduction of entirely new maps to explore in bite-size chunks like Valhalla's DLC and these crossover arcs. I really do hope that Assassin's Creed Infinity does what its codename suggests and does span time and space in the best way possible.