A direction I might have preferred for Assassin's Creed III

Posted by thomasnash (586 posts) -

I want to talk about murdering redcoats in Assassin's Creed III. Specifically, how focused on it it seems to be, and why I think they've missed an opportunity to do something genuinely interesting and exciting.

Tea: The megalomaniacs' drink of choice

Maybe I should start by saying that I've never been particularly enamoured of the story in the Assassin's Creed franchise, it's not the worst in the world, but it is frequently nonsensical, poorly explained or just plain silly. It has enough in it that's worthwhile that I am interested in the third installment, but maybe I shouldn't be that surprised that Ubisoft is drawing it's good guy/bad distinctions in such an obvious way; the franchise's stock in trade has been taking complex social, political conflicts and simplifying them by superimposing the "Assassins versus Templars" story over it. It works, to a certain extent. Even so, it is somewhat disheartening to see just how predictably they seem to be deciding who is a templar in this historical period. During their press conference, they dealt with the question of whether killing would be restricted to killing the British by saying "you'll be killing templars." Still, did they need to make those Templars quite so obviously British?

I don't want to get too bogged down in the politics of it all; it was more amusing than anything, I'm not going to be offended. Taking offense would be a bit silly, really; given the terms of the universe they are working with, making all the Templars - a faction devoted to bringing peace through total domination - align themselves with an imperialist nation against one founded on a desire for autonomy is the most reasonable thing in the world. It's just so obvious, isn't it? An obvious setting with predefined roles that align neatly with those of contemporary, American society.

My thought, really, was what if you decided to set it at a slightly later, during the American civil war. Then as now, there is one side that seems to fit nicely with the goals of the Assassins, one that seems to fit nicely with the Templars. They just aren't necessarily the ones you would automatically cast as the good and bad guys. What if the assassin's had aligned with the confederacy because their desire to be autonomous mirrors the philosophy of the assassins? What if your character is a black slave, forced into fighting alongside people who hate him for a greater cause? I only ask this really because it seems like such an obvious thing to do; the thematic ground being covered seems so similar to the way they are positioning Connor in this game. I just wonder if there is space for them to confront us with something a little more morally complex than what they have been giving us, and seem to be giving us again.

But they could even go further with this premise, couldn't they? Obviously, the thorny issue of slavery complicated any flat out confederates=assassins kind of story. So why not have a story where the civil war has divided the assassins just as it has the rest of the nation. Well worn territory in civil war fiction, but one with real story possibilities in this case.

I realise this is all a bit moot. They've made what they've made, and I'm not going to change that. It was just a bit infuriating to me, because this game seems so much like its predecessors in terms of story "beats" (ugh), the way it's going to play out, and in doing so they open themselves up, a little bit, to accusations of jingoism (yes, I know they are not an American company). Yet right away it seems to me that if they wanted to move it to north america, there is a much better story available to them, that would shake things up just a little bit...

#1 Posted by thomasnash (586 posts) -

I want to talk about murdering redcoats in Assassin's Creed III. Specifically, how focused on it it seems to be, and why I think they've missed an opportunity to do something genuinely interesting and exciting.

Tea: The megalomaniacs' drink of choice

Maybe I should start by saying that I've never been particularly enamoured of the story in the Assassin's Creed franchise, it's not the worst in the world, but it is frequently nonsensical, poorly explained or just plain silly. It has enough in it that's worthwhile that I am interested in the third installment, but maybe I shouldn't be that surprised that Ubisoft is drawing it's good guy/bad distinctions in such an obvious way; the franchise's stock in trade has been taking complex social, political conflicts and simplifying them by superimposing the "Assassins versus Templars" story over it. It works, to a certain extent. Even so, it is somewhat disheartening to see just how predictably they seem to be deciding who is a templar in this historical period. During their press conference, they dealt with the question of whether killing would be restricted to killing the British by saying "you'll be killing templars." Still, did they need to make those Templars quite so obviously British?

I don't want to get too bogged down in the politics of it all; it was more amusing than anything, I'm not going to be offended. Taking offense would be a bit silly, really; given the terms of the universe they are working with, making all the Templars - a faction devoted to bringing peace through total domination - align themselves with an imperialist nation against one founded on a desire for autonomy is the most reasonable thing in the world. It's just so obvious, isn't it? An obvious setting with predefined roles that align neatly with those of contemporary, American society.

My thought, really, was what if you decided to set it at a slightly later, during the American civil war. Then as now, there is one side that seems to fit nicely with the goals of the Assassins, one that seems to fit nicely with the Templars. They just aren't necessarily the ones you would automatically cast as the good and bad guys. What if the assassin's had aligned with the confederacy because their desire to be autonomous mirrors the philosophy of the assassins? What if your character is a black slave, forced into fighting alongside people who hate him for a greater cause? I only ask this really because it seems like such an obvious thing to do; the thematic ground being covered seems so similar to the way they are positioning Connor in this game. I just wonder if there is space for them to confront us with something a little more morally complex than what they have been giving us, and seem to be giving us again.

But they could even go further with this premise, couldn't they? Obviously, the thorny issue of slavery complicated any flat out confederates=assassins kind of story. So why not have a story where the civil war has divided the assassins just as it has the rest of the nation. Well worn territory in civil war fiction, but one with real story possibilities in this case.

I realise this is all a bit moot. They've made what they've made, and I'm not going to change that. It was just a bit infuriating to me, because this game seems so much like its predecessors in terms of story "beats" (ugh), the way it's going to play out, and in doing so they open themselves up, a little bit, to accusations of jingoism (yes, I know they are not an American company). Yet right away it seems to me that if they wanted to move it to north america, there is a much better story available to them, that would shake things up just a little bit...

#2 Posted by upwarDBound (654 posts) -

I doubt the associations of the British being templars are there solely for the sake of Americans who might play the game. As you already said it is a more natural fit for the templars to have infiltrated the British Empire rather than the American colonists, them being the largest power in the world at the time. Besides I have a feeling Americans aren't the only ones that might get a kick out of sticking it to the redcoats.

#3 Posted by crusader8463 (14426 posts) -

One thing I find interesting is that they are always saying that you will be able to kill Yanks as well as Red Coats in the game, because there are people on both sides that need killing, yet they never once show you killing a Yank in any of the trailers. It's always red coats and nothing but them.Makes me think it's just going to be some end game story twist where you kill one guy or something.

#4 Posted by thomasnash (586 posts) -

@upwarDBound: Well if they aren't lying about there being people on both sides to kill, then obviously not? I was more suggesting (I hope) that they are marketing it for a certain America-centric sort of audience. I honestly don't know very much about the American war of independence, but even as a brit I have a vague sense that the USA was in the right.

But more than that, I wasn't so much saying there's anything wrong with what they've done with it, although it will cause a few raised eyebrows, so much as just...it seems like such an obvious place to stick their story-flag, to the point where you feel that most of the contrivances they can make fall into place pretty much automatically.

Thinking about this, it's made me realise why they wouldn't have gone for the French Revolution like so many people wanted them to; there isn't really anyone to pin the "good guy" badge on, just a bunch of assholes. But that's sort of what I'm saying. It's blindingly obvious to say "lets make redcoats templars" but I'd be more interested in a story where maybe there aren't any good options, or whatever. Even if you don't want to make the main character conflicted in that way, those historical moments offer up more interesting story scenarios - what if the assassins are being manipulated? I just feel like even with the chronological jump they're risking a bit of stagnancy.

In the end, I imagine that the gameplay tweaks, like quests, or a slightly more lateral focus to the traversal, might be enough to shake it up.

#5 Posted by LiquidPrince (16109 posts) -

They've mentioned that Conner doesn't take sides. He kills both sides. Wherever Templars have infiltrated.

#6 Posted by huser (1097 posts) -

@LiquidPrince said:

They've mentioned that Conner doesn't take sides. He kills both sides. Wherever Templars have infiltrated.

Could be better conveyed in the material released so far, but I think the OP's views on there possibly being a slant to things to sell to an audience probably factors there. Right bastards all around, and I'm not one to believe the colonists of the 1770's or so were SO different from the British.

#7 Posted by Irvandus (2885 posts) -

@huser said:

@LiquidPrince said:

They've mentioned that Conner doesn't take sides. He kills both sides. Wherever Templars have infiltrated.

Could be better conveyed in the material released so far, but I think the OP's views on there possibly being a slant to things to sell to an audience probably factors there. Right bastards all around, and I'm not one to believe the colonists of the 1770's or so were SO different from the British.

Your last sentence so makes no so sense.

#8 Posted by salad10203 (654 posts) -

Nobody complained when we were murdering Italians or any other country for that matter. Either the internet refuses to accept that America isn't the wholly evil force they like to believe or Brits are super-sensitive, maybe both?

#9 Posted by ChuckDeNomolos (73 posts) -

It could be that at the beginning, we're murdering redcoat Templars, but then surprise, surprise! American colonists may have a few of them as well that you must kill, so now you're labeled a traitor by the colonists when they assumed you were squarely helping their interests. Thus, the later levels are much more difficult in that you're the enemy of everyone, instead of having a sympathetic side.

I mean, they're gonna have to weave the whole chem trail-reptoid-Illuminati conspiracies nut-jobs hold in real life to the insane tapestry of AssCreed lore.

#10 Posted by Dallas_Raines (2193 posts) -

@ChuckDeNomolos:

Yeah, Washington was looking a bit shifty in the E3 trailer.

#11 Posted by project343 (2835 posts) -

@thomasnash: We don't know the context surrounding Connor's allegiances. The Assassin's Creed II trilogy was much less about Ezio vs. Templars, and much more about Ezio acting against these historic oppressive Italian families. While those families may have been aligned with the Templar, the ominous organization certainly took a back-seat in the narrative.

I think there may be a bit more to Connor's story than 'I MUST KILL TEMPLAR.' Just sayin.' I'm actually a pretty big fan of the series for having a pretty fucking unique story (and the crazy ARG/conspiracy shit is right up my alley), and twists are sort of core to the experience--expect one, methinks. Desmond is in a rather unique place where this game starts.

#12 Posted by Vinny_Says (5721 posts) -

There are templar colonists too, as confirmed by the devs. You take a dump on the story and then proceed to tell us all how you would make it a way better thing, you ubisoft director of design you...

@thomasnash said:

It's blindingly obvious to say "lets make redcoats templars" but I'd be more interested in a story where maybe there aren't any good options, or whatever. Even if you don't want to make the main character conflicted in that way, those historical moments offer up more interesting story scenarios - what if the assassins are being manipulated? I just feel like even with the chronological jump they're risking a bit of stagnancy.

Oh I guess you've already played the game and saw the ending...you do know everything about AC3.

#13 Posted by addictedtopinescent (3645 posts) -

I wish there were no Templars, no Aliens and no Desmond in the AC series. Games that would just paint the assassin's as a rogue group trying to influence political and social conflicts for personal gain would be way more interesting to me than this black and white, good versus evil Templar conspiracy nonsense.

But when you get down to it, fighting against the american revolution doesn't seem like something a big name game like Assassins's Creed would do.

#14 Posted by BraveToaster (12588 posts) -

I'm glad you built a time machine and traveled to the past to tell us all of this. Perhaps you can go further back, infiltrate Ubisoft and make the game you might have preferred.

#15 Posted by GoonerGod (38 posts) -

@LiquidPrince said:

They've mentioned that Conner doesn't take sides. He kills both sides. Wherever Templars have infiltrated.

This. They may have not shown it in the e3 demo but they have made it clear from the start that one mission you could find yourself against the redcoats and the next with them.

#16 Posted by huser (1097 posts) -

@Irvandus said:

@huser said:

@LiquidPrince said:

They've mentioned that Conner doesn't take sides. He kills both sides. Wherever Templars have infiltrated.

Could be better conveyed in the material released so far, but I think the OP's views on there possibly being a slant to things to sell to an audience probably factors there. Right bastards all around, and I'm not one to believe the colonists of the 1770's or so were SO different from the British.

Your last sentence so makes no so sense.

The American colonists of 1770 (or thereabouts) probably couldn't be that different from the British they were fighting. Better?

#17 Edited by mbdoeden (191 posts) -

I really don't understand why this is a "thing" now.

I mean, come on, remember when (a few) people were crying THAT'S RACIST YO when the Resident Evil 5 trailer came out? Yet, it wasn't a problem in RE4 when you were killing, presumably, Spaniards?

Don't make it controversial just to be controversial. Ubisoft isn't trying to MERICA FUCK YA and no one is out to demonize British folk.

EDIT: This is not directed at you OP. I'm just flabbergasted at the "situation."

#18 Posted by myketuna (1735 posts) -

@mbdoeden said:

I really don't understand why this is a "thing" now.

I mean, come on, remember when (a few) people were crying THAT'S RACIST YO when the Resident Evil 5 trailer came out? Yet, it wasn't a problem in RE4 when you were killing, presumably, Spaniards?

Don't make it controversial just to be controversial. Ubisoft isn't trying to MERICA FUCK YA and no one is out to demonize British folk.

EDIT: This is not directed at you OP. I'm just flabbergasted at the "situation."

This. I'd say if people ARE going to cry foul (which I still think is kind of dumb), it'd be once they have the game in their hands and are 20 hours in thinking, "Huh. Not a single colonist assassination yet. This is BULLSHIT!" and then go on their forum posting rage.

#19 Posted by Dallas_Raines (2193 posts) -

The big twist is that you have to kill George Washington.(I'm guessing.)

#20 Posted by TehFlan (1944 posts) -

I don't really see the issue here. The British were the bad guys in that conflict, what with the whole denial of representation and unfair taxation thing, of course you're killing red coats.

#21 Posted by Totori (559 posts) -
@Dallas_Raines said:

The big twist is that you have to kill George Washington.(I'm guessing.)

No George Washington stabs you and cuts to cliffhanger
#22 Posted by Totori (559 posts) -
@thomasnash: Since America didn't exist yet, everyone except the Indians are British.
#23 Posted by jillsandwich (762 posts) -

General Charles Lee(part of the rebellion) is being posed as an antagonistic figure to Connor specifically. Whether or not he's a Templar is up for speculation.

#24 Posted by Hunter5024 (5894 posts) -

I think the setting is pretty unique and interesting. Your ideas are cool too but honestly I don't think they have the balls to tackle slavery.

#25 Posted by deskp (450 posts) -

The game is said to be the longest ac yet, you'll be killing all kinds of people before it is over!

marketing reads much better focusing on the british as the enemy instead of confusing random people.

#26 Edited by will16 (6 posts) -

@Dallas_Raines: the dates dont line up... the games time period scope is supposedly up until 1783, and washington lived until 1797.

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