Assassin's Creed is one of those franchises to which "where" and "when" are considerably more important than "who". Thrilling as it is to acquire the acrobatic prowess and smoky charisma of an Assassin, Ubisoft's hooded killers would be nothing without authentic architecture to scale, nifty period gizmos and a few hundred genuine antiquities to gut, manipulate or do business with. "Who" is still important, of course, or we'd still be playing the first game's thinly characterised Altair, but mainly because in Assassin's Creed who enables when and where, thanks to the Animus and its plucking of bygone eras from DNA strands.
We've already had a think about Assassin's Creed 3's possible settings - but that was before the rumour mill blew up, and before we took receipt of the dangerously sexy Assassin's Creed Encyclopedia. Its pages are packed with tantalising art and cryptic hints. Here's a better-informed postscript, covering a few of our suggested Assassin's Creed 3 backdrops in detail. Beware massive series-wide spoilers.
Assassin's Creed 3 is set in... Egypt
In some ways, Egypt is the games industry's Eden - a grow tank in which such classic tricks and tropes as hidden traps, nail-biting platforming sequences and ancient evils took shape. That's where Lara Croft cut her teeth, you know. A trip back to the Kingdom of Nile would be a pleasant nostalgia exercise, then. It would also chime perfectly with series lore, but only if it takes place after 1257 AD.
What's so special about 1257 AD? Why, that's when Desmond's ancestors Sef and Darim moved to Alexandria, leaving their ageing father Altair to seal himself away with an Apple of Eden at Masyaf (his bones were eventually discovered by Assassin's Creed 2's Ezio Auditore). Another of Desmond's ancestors, Iskender, became big boss of the Egyptian Assassins hundreds of years later - you may remember reading the name during Revelations' Mediterranean recruit missions. Scope here for a second coming-of-age tale, perhaps?
The chronological imposition is a bit of a bummer, given the lure of Ancient Egypt and in particular the snake-wielding assassin Amunet, responsible for the death of noted spoilt brat Queen Cleopatra (the ever-investigative Ezio also uncovered Amunet's tomb - or at least he did if you bothered to complete the Altair's Armor missions in Assassin's Creed 2). Curiously, Desmond's fellow Animus traveller Subject 16 appears to think Pharoah-era Egypt significant: the blood-messages smeared across the walls and floor of your cell in the first game make reference to the god Horus, born of possible First Civilization descendents Isis and Osiris, and the Pyramids of Giza.
Assassin's Creed 3 is set in... America
Assassin's Creed has to visit North America at some point, unless Desmond's clean Caucasian lines and Connecticut twang are actually the product of severe plastic surgery. The evidence for Assassin's Creed 3 crossing the Atlantic turns on two points. One: Desmond, his father William and the surviving Assassins have relocated there following the events of Revelations. So what, you may say. The Animus can take us anywhere, any-when. Ah, but you're discounting Ubisoft's favourite party trick - alternating ancient and present-day versions of the same setting, as with Monteriggioni and Masyaf.