By adam1808 0 Comments
There are few subjects that I love more than history. Ever since I was eight I tore through kid's history books, historical movies, novels and everything else under the sun that could be described as vaguely historical in nature. It thus follows that Assassin's Creed should be my favourite videogame series of all time. That assumption however is wrong because I was one of the few people who were bummed beyond comprehension of the state of bummed-ness when I realised that the original AC was a history game made viable by a sci-fi conceit, because apparently gamers can't be interested in something that doesn't have pretty lights going off and a dull everyman as the protagonist. However, a historical stealth game set exclusively in the distant past was never going to happen so I've bitten my tongue for 5 years and taken what I could get.
Although I'm certain history buffs with a penchant for the renaissance got all giddy when they announced that AC2 was being set in 15th century Italy, that setting piqued my interested in that setting and period rather than satisfied my desire for a renaissance stabbing simulator.
The American Revolution and the period of warring colonialism leading up to it though? That's an area that I've spent far too much of my time reading into. Any of you who do the International Baccalaureate (an international curriculum for rich children for expatriots) will know about the Extended Essay i.e a 4000 word essay on a particular subject done over the period of a year. Well the title for mine ran along the lines of: "To what extent did the Canadian and Native American Resistance to the British invasion of Quebec in 1759 change the course of the campaign?" Personally I don't think it was a great essay, but maybe it illustrates why I'm so psyched for AC3. I wouldn’t have written an essay on the warfare of North America and Canada if I didn’t love that period to bits.
The setting of North America is literally a perfect one for Assassin's Creed's style of gameplay. We think of the series as an open-world game for city movement but after 11 months of studying Native American tactics you realise how easily the AC school of advanced stabbery could be applied to the environments and the weapons of the time.
Part of the reason why it took so long for the British to take Quebec was due to the fact that nimble, skilled fighters like, say, our new assassin Connor could navigate the terrain to make the musket just a long piece of wood and metal. Every step of a British patrol through the wilderness could be interrupted by an ambush by men who knew the environment and could use it to their advantage. By the end of the 7 Years War the British and the French were sawing off their musket barrels and taking up the tomahawk because the Western model of "stand in a line and shoot until the enemy stops shooting" was about as applicable to North America forests as a water balloon is to a Mexican stand-off.
Whole paradigms of warfare within the French and British military were being rethought precisely because men like Connor could pick off entire patrols with judicious use of the environment. The possibilities for a game to communicate what kind of predators the Native Americans, many of whom were in the pay of the French, were to the British. The difference between choosing whether to take a Florentine guard armed with a sword and a musketeer with only one meaningful shot to fire could actually lend tactics to a combat system which has always been about waiting for the A.I to take a swing at you. Perhaps the ability to set traps? Maybe the freedom to customise muskets to suit different environments? The Native Americans did all this and more when facing the British and French interlopers, so if any of it makes its way into AC3 then I'll be ecstatic.
But even the potential for the gameplay to evolve beyond the AC2 template pales in comparison to what Ubisoft could do with the time period and setting. Assassin's Creed has always been a game that, for me at least, lives and dies on how well the developers manage to evoke the time period through the characters and the historical side of the plot. There's always been a sense with the characters and narrative of being "real enough". The past AC games have generally taken plenty of artistic license with historical figures, the contrivances necessary to get Suleiman into AC Revelations took some suspension of disbelief to be sure, but the major historical characters of the events leading up to and during the War for Independence don't need that much embellishment.
We don't even need to begin talking about the possibilities surrounding George Washington when talking about how incredible the idea of including the founding fathers in the kind of twisting, intrigue-riddled plots that the Assassin's Creed series is known for. Actually we don't really need to consider Benjamin Franklin either, not when the diametrically opposed of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton could make an appearance.
Jefferson i.e. the embodiment of the desire for peace and independence and critique of Hamilton, the staunch opponent to Jefferson's belief that America had no need for a standing army once the war was over and one of Washington's own private staff. If AC3 has the scope enough to cover the aftermath of the revolution then there is dramatic gold to be mined here. To be able to observe the conflict between one of America's most influential idealists: Jefferson and Hamilton, a man who thought there was nothing wrong with taking a leaf or three out of the British Empire's book, would be the best gift the gaming industry could ever give to the history fanatic in me.
If you thought watching America carve itself a place in the world with gunpowder was going to be incredible, add to that the possibility of watching an aftermath where some of the most idealistic men of the time fight a war of words over the contents of the Declaration of Independence. There’s a reason the Republican and Democrat parties exist and that’s due in part to the political battles between Hamilton and Jefferson that say “Assassin’s Creed plot point” like guns say violence.
Everything about the conceit of this game is so damn brilliant anyone who appreciates its full potential. Notwithstanding the strides the AC gameplay engine could make simply by having to deal with new geometry and terrain, the late 18th century U.S has enough juicy historical drama to fill about three games. But damn it, I want it all in one. I don't even care about the Templar stuff cluttering things up if it means we get a sightseeing and handshaking tour of the revolutionary Northern America and the names that are synonymous with the America's independence.
I don't know how many of you will care about this stuff, but if you've got even a passing interest I recommend you check out Simon Schama's The American Future which was the first of many books to contribute to the resounding "FUCK YES" that I gave when the Gameinformer cover got out, or Dan Snow's Death or Victory if you want to know how I spent the last year immersed in the psychological effects of Native Americans and tomahawks.
Notice that I haven't mentioned Desmond at all. That's because he's a tumour bogging down what could have been actual innovation back in 2007; a game set in the distant past that wasn't another RTS. The inclusion of Mr Nolan North and his award-winningly generic character and plot is certainly something that I'm not going to forgive Ubisoft for anytime soon. And It's likely that by 8-10 hours in they'll yank us out of the Animus and make us assassin it up in 2012. For all we know, the fantastic stuff that has been shown so far is another marketing ploy to distract us from the weird conspiracy plotline that has to be tied up. For real this time.
But oh well, If Ubisoft can deliver even a fraction of the ideas that I've skimmed from my memory at 2am, then AC3 could make a history buff freak out about a game the same way most of you guys would freak out about a release date for Half Life 3. Seriously.