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We’re a few months into 2017 now, and one of gaming’s most popular series is missing in action: Assassin’s Creed.
The brand as a whole is far from dead, with its first feature film released in theaters last December and a new series of comics launched earlier this month, but the once-annual gaming side of the franchise hasn’t seen a major installment in well over a year.
With that said, we know a big Assassin’s Creed game is coming eventually, but that begs a similarly big question: what will it be, and when will we get it?
To answer the first question, I’d like to start by going back several years to August 2012. At this point in time, Assassin’s Creed was a few months away from its fourth consecutive annual entry and fifth overall entry, Assassin’s Creed III, while its “parent” series Prince of Persia hadn’t seen a release since Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands two years prior.
On August 5, a user on the Ubisoft forums by the name of blueobelix responded to a comment about the seemingly abandoned Prince of Persia franchise with a screenshot supposedly from an in-development project set in its universe. The project was assumed to titled Prince of Persia Zero due to watermarked text at the bottom of the image, but the game itself looked very different from past installments in the series: the game appeared to be set in Egypt, and featured a black playable character. This sparked speculation that the game was either yet another complete reboot of the long-running series, or, because of the setting, would wind up being an entirely new IP.
Whatever the case, Ubisoft Montreal’s CEO Yannis Mallat spoke with IGN months later on January 29, 2013, and said, “Prince of Persia is being paused.” This led people to believe that Zero‘s development had either been canceled, or that it had indeed become its own separate game.
One day after the IGN interview, NeoGAF user GitarooMan discovered a rough early cut of a trailer for a Ubisoft project titled Osiris, which was described in the trailer as being “from the studio that brought you Assassin’s Creed.” While much of the trailer featured footage of mocap actors, drawn assets were also shown, depicting Egypt-like locales with pyramids, sarcophagi, and a man wearing an Anubis mask.
The trailer, originally uploaded to the Vimeo account of composer Mark Kilian, has since been removed, though others have uploaded it to YouTube– one mirror of it can be viewed above. After the trailer was discovered, a Ubisoft spokesperson told Polygon, “The content in question was from a Ubisoft project that is no longer moving forward,” indicating that Prince of Persia Zero – now known as Osiris – had indeed been canceled.
Fast forward to later that year. 2013’s Assassin’s Creed title, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, included references to other Ubisoft franchises in various ways, namely a tie-in with Watch_Dogs, but one interesting inclusion was related directly to the supposedly cancelled Osiris.
In Black Flag, players can read an in-universe email explaining possible candidates for future time periods to be explored by the fictional video game developer Abstergo Entertainment. The email goes on to list settings already depicted in the Assassin’s Creed series, such as the Crusades and the Italian Renaissance, but then mentions settings not yet seen in the series, including the French Revolution (which wound up being visited a year later in Assassin’s Creed: Unity) and thirteenth-century Egypt and northern Africa. Ending the email is art showing the various time periods listed, with a new image of the protagonist from the original leaked Osiris screenshot representing the thirteenth-century Egypt setting.
With Ubisoft having already said that development of Osiris had been discontinued, its reference in Black Flag potentially meant that its development had been shifted to make the game fit into the Assassin’s Creed series – not unlike what happened to Prince of Persia: Assassins, a project which eventually transformed into the original Assassin’s Creed.