Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed: connected, or just Easter eggs?

Watch Dogs is out today, providing Ubisoft with a second open-world franchise about a fashionable anti-hero with access to deadly arsenal of special tools. Its similarities to Assassin's Creed may seem skin-deep, but the team has been dropping clues all along that the two may share more in common than superficial design elements. We got our first hints at a connection from Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag director Ashraf Ismail. "I don’t want to ruin the surprise for people. I don’t want to give anything away," Ismali said. "I will say, for the people who love both games, for the people who will play both games, there are some Easter eggs that will be a bit hard to find, but when you find them, it will blow your mind." Sure enough, the first concrete piece of a connection came from Black Flag. The modern-day game development segments gave us a glimpse at the complex corporate structure running Abstergo's entertainment division, with more than a few cheeky references to Ubisoft's own game development culture. One particular e-mail from the Blume Corporation to Abstergo's CCO advertised the CtOS, the complex interconnected operating system that runs Chicago in Watch Dogs. The similarities between the two worlds shouldn't be understated. Both games revolve around our heroes using their enemies' technology against them to change the world for the better. The chief antagonists in the Assassin's Creed series, the Templars, advocate total control and order. To this end, they have infiltrated deep into corporations and world governments throughout the series. Chicago's CtOS system is incredibly invasive of privacy, but certainly assures a structured social order as the Templars would like to create worldwide. That connection may seem highly speculative, but Ubisoft has had some fun prodding at it within the games themselves. Oliver Garneau, Abstergo Entertainment's Chief Creative Officer in Black Flag, left the main office in Montreal to attend the annual shareholders meeting. Where was that? In Chicago, naturally. If we're meant to infer that Chicago serves as Abstergo's modern base of operations, it would only make sense to serve as a test-bed for a strictly controlled operating system that could be implemented elsewhere. All of this brings us to today, with the release of Watch Dogs. As reported by CinemaBlend, it has its own Easter Egg tying back to Assassin's Creed. One of the conversations protagonist Aiden Pearce can listen in on is between a father and son who are playing an Assassin's Creed game themselves. It lightly mocks the AC trope of speaking to a victim after killing them. Keep in mind, Black Flag established that in the world of Assassin's Creed, the AC games themselves are products put out by Abstergo to impact public opinion. Plus, if Chicago is Abstergo HQ, it shows when Pearce looks into the personal data of passers-by and sees them as employees of the shadowy company.

Abstergo is watching?

Then again, the two series do have somewhat different tones. Beyond its techno-wizardry, Watch Dogs is essentially a grounded story about one man and his quest for vengeance. Assassin's Creed has been more sci-fi from the start, and so it naturally evolved into a much larger story about the fate of humanity with ties to the ancient Greek pantheon. It's hard to see how the more down-to-earth world of Watch Dogs would comfortably fit a revived Juno running amok, or an ancient mind-control device. So what are we to make of all this? Is Ubisoft giving us real hints at continuity, or are they just jokingly peppering in references for fans to enjoy? At the moment, the connections are too tenuous to read the two franchises as existing within the same universe, but the groundwork has definitely been laid. If Watch Dogs becomes a franchise of its own--as Ubisoft obviously plans it to--the studios could continue to build more obvious connections to link their respective stories. Or, we could continue seeing sly clues that are good for a laugh, but never amount to a substantial crossover. Do you think Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed exist in the same world? Let us know in Chatty! For more on Watch Dogs, check out our review along with a special Shack Reels on how Ubisoft recreated Chicago.