Is Ubisoft's star franchise returning to an annual schedule?

Last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins was a surprise hit for Ubisoft. Not that Assassin’s games haven’t been hits before - it’s one of the studio’s biggest franchises - but common understanding was that an annual release strategy had run the series into the ground. That’s why Ubisoft took a year off to work on Origins, and it paid off, with the Egyptian-themed game meeting with some of the strongest reviews in the franchise.

Now, the next Assassin’s Creed is on its way, entitled Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey - as first leaked via a Wal-Mart listing and a promotional keychain, of all things, then confirmed by the studio itself.

Based on the small amount of material we’ve seen, Odyssey would seem to take place, paradoxically, centuries before Origins’ 1st-century BCE timeframe. The clip posted to Twitter appears to show a pair of Spartans (one with an officer’s helmet, its crest running side-to-side) engaging in a practice popularised in modern culture by 300; the Spartan state hit its peak around 650 BCE. And of course, the title Odyssey infers some connection to Ancient Greece, specifically the Trojan War - which took place in the 12th century BCE. There’s plenty of pop-history and mythology to explore in that timeframe, but how exactly it fits into the (fictional, and therefore pliable) Assassin’s timeline is anyone’s guess.

The curious thing here, of course, is that the timing of this announcement seems to hint at a return to annualisation for Assassin’s Creed. An announcement now, with a full reveal at E3, leads neatly into a holiday-2018 release window. Is Ubisoft happy to iterate on Origins’ reworked engine and systems, as earlier titles did? Will Odyssey be able to sustain the quality of Origins, or will it fall victim to the rushed production timelines that necessitated that year off in the first place? Hell, is this some kind of crossover with Super Mario Odyssey? I'd be into it.

We’ll get some idea of what, and how new, Odyssey is - and when it’ll be launching - at this year’s E3 expo this month.