October 25, 2021

Assassin’s Creed 3 – Anti-European, or Origins Story?

There’s been a lot of debate over Assassin’s Creed 3. Not least because it’s the first game to be set in the United States in the series, and partly because the series has fared less than brilliantly on American soil. Mostly due to the implications of the Founding Fathers being evil Templar.

So here we have a game set during the course of the American Revolution, where the struggle for power and the ever-present greed and unpleasantness were rife. The character is called Ratohnhaké:ton, the child of a Native American mother and an English father – his given English name is… Connor. Hmm.

Plot details are scarce, but because of the setting many have presumed this game will paint out the Americans as heroes and the British as bad guys. Except, historically, UbiSoft have been quite good at getting the balance right with the political intrigue of the era. And the American Revolution is an era where no-one got out clean – least of all, the Americans.

This is an era where the Americans fought for their independence and did a whole lot of very cruel, nasty and evil things in the pursuit of that ideal – people were tortured for information, there was widespread murder and warfare. Guns began to proliferate more widely, as was necessary to defend themselves. Sounds okay so far?

How about what the history books dare not mention? The mammoth number of casualties suspected of being “double agents”, and who probably were not? How about the Native Americans, whose thanks for their services to the cause were to see their families murdered in the name of “mercy”? How about the young men bullied into drafting up for the cause, plied with a whole manner of substances to keep them on side and loyal?

This is not an era of pleasantries, or American heroics. It is, sadly, one of the darkest ages in American history, and those dark edges are often forgotten about as “necessary evils”. Details are rarely delved into in order to inspire loyalty these days, and yet they happened and are well documented. To paint the US as somehow the good guys in this game would be a crass and tasteless exercise, especially as for the Native Americans today, much of this is still raw.

And even when you take into consideration that the setting is somewhat complicated, the Assassin’s Creed series has been setting up the U.S. as a hotbed of Templar activity for the last four games. It has made conspiracy theories about the founding fathers, about many involved in the Revolution, all tied to the dark and twisted goals of the Templar. To go back on many games of foreshadowing would be to completely alienate those who have followed the game series from the start, and endeavoured to understand and piece together the deep and convoluted story. It would do UbiSoft a great disservice to go so far the other way, when they’ve been setting up something completely different.

And yet, there is no word on actually what the story is. I suspect, as others do, the American Revolution is nothing more than a backdrop to something larger at stake; that sides won’t be taken in that sort of context. When the games have been more concerned about the activities of Templar and their squads of well-funded militia, all they need really is a good place where they can have militia gangs and generally unpleasant individuals doing nasty things to the population. In all fairness, this is probably the only point in the US timeline where they could actually get around to doing this without taking too much artistic licence.

Also, Desmond was American – and descended from the Assassins of old. Which also alludes that Connor’s father was an Assassin, and that Connor himself will be more aware of this (even encouraged by it). And that his father descended from Ezio, and Altair. This is an attempt to get that bloodline – which has so far been exclusive based in Europe – across the pond so that Desmond himself makes sense in context.

A lot of words to sort of state that I think people are jumping the gun a little. Plot details are sketchy, but based on the previous games, a little American history AND some literary logic, I think most have totally misjudged this game. Possibly because so many games that focus on American history are airbrushed to make it seem like the Americans were good guys who did absolutely nothing wrong at any stage whatsoever, when this is clearly not true at all.

I also don’t want the British, French or Germans involved to be painted as good guys either. No-one got out of that war clean, and to suggest otherwise does us all a great disservice.

Instead, I want to enjoy a backdrop of war, where something much larger is afoot, where an Apple of Eden is hidden away and causing the whole shebang, where Connor is seeking vengeance for something, where the boundaries of right and wrong blur and meld into a congealed nothingness that allows for the game to operate its dark assassin tones in a way that makes sense.

My hope is AC3 isn’t about taking sides. But more about the setting, the backdrop by which we can slice, dice and impale our way through a million well-funded Templar with swords, guns and hatchets. Where the chaos allows us to mingle, travel and operate in such a way that we can hide if need be, and move as and when necessary.

UbiSoft have been pretty good about this in the past. Assuming they’ll throw away years of work for the sake of the American dollar does sound daft – but of course, time will tell when we get more concrete plot details.


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