The American Revolution produced plenty of heroes credited with military excellence, on both sides of the war. But no figure in the conflict has become more saddled with treachery and dishonor than Benedict Arnold. For the history buffs who still carry a grudge against the attempted traitor of West Point, Assassin’s Creed 3 is just what the doctor ordered.
The four-mission arc of Assassin’s Creed 3 will send Connor Kenway to the historic fort under direct orders from General George Washington. His mission: infiltrate Arnold’s forces, uncover the traitors, and protect the Continental Army from the hit to moral that such treason would inflict. Unfortunately, as of now, the missions are a PlayStation 3 exclusive.
We’ll skip right by the numerous jokes about Benedict Arnold and console-exclusivity and stick to the details, straight from the PlayStation Blog. With Connor being shown clearly on the side of the Patriots’ quest for freedom, some might be surprised to see an American traitor also included as a key figure.
The move backs up Ubisoft‘s prior claims that neither side was perfect, and Connor will be dispatching Bluecoats and Redcoats alike. But the story told through Arnold’s missions will apparently speak to larger themes. AC3 writer Matt Turner isn’t going to spoil anything just yet, but does hint at why a tale of treachery will be at home in the game’s campaign:
“Benedict Arnold is a name that transcended the Revolution and became a synonym for the word ‘traitor’. Given some of the themes in the main story thread, it flowed really well with some of the later beats…but I won’t be specific as they are spoilers! It was also a great opportunity for us to tell a story that people know but don’t really know, you know?
“It’s definitely not like King Washington. We have some scenes that have the actual words spoken by key players in the events at West Point, according to the records from the court proceedings following what happened. On the other side of things, we needed to inject it with some gameplay so there are some liberties in terms of the action. But who was there, what they did, and what happened to them is as precise as the history books would allow.”
The fictionalized history of the ‘Tyranny of King Washington‘ Turner refers to is something we wouldn’t mind seeing more of – especially if the promotional art is kept to the same standard. That being said, it’s good to hear that the developers are remaining committed to teaching real history.
Obviously some creativity will be mixing Connor Kenway into some of the most iconic events of the Revolution, but giving the player a sense of driving history themselves should make the learning experience more satisfying. Seeing famous faces and names in a new light is always welcome in a medium defined by space marines and Tolkien-esque fantasy, particularly if those behind the projects are intent on making a statement about racism and social justice.
For those who aren’t big on history, the plot outlined for the PS3-exclusive missions puts the fate of the Revolution’s success squarely on Connor’s shoulders. West Point, located next to the Hudson River (essentially the middle-point of the colonies) was the central hub of Patriot defenses entrusted with keeping supplies and communications flowing. It goes without saying that the commanding officers of West Point, then, held significant control over the ability of the Continental Army to function.
Major General Benedict Arnold was the man responsible for the task, who later plotted with the British before being uncovered and fleeing to fight in the British forces. The account of his treachery and branding as ‘traitor’ is a prime example of history’s tendency to reduce people and events to simple notions of right and wrong – the kind of morality that Ubisoft has claimed they aren’t satisfied with.
Arnold was guilty of plotting with the British, but his motives are generally not discussed. After all, his rank and assignment weren’t coincidences. Arnold distinguished himself through acts of bravery and intelligence, even spending much of his own fortunes to fuel the war effort. Debts went unpaid, and others rose through the ranks of the military by claiming Arnold’s actions as their own. Ultimately, Arnold’s grudges led him to work with the British and the rest, as they say, is history.
Those motives certainly don’t prove Arnold’s innocence, or question his status as ‘traitor,’ but they imply a far more complex and conflicted man than most know. In other words, the exact type of character that Ubisoft’s writers could bring to life in completely surprising and inspired ways. So it’s a little disappointing to see the character portrayed in the above trailer as scrambling and suspicious. But Turner maintains that the writing team isn’t just perpetuating the stereotype:
“Our interpretation of Arnold actually weaves into the overall fiction and to divulge that would be to spoil a portion of the story. That being said, we don’t like having “bad guys” in Assassin’s Creed and this is no different in terms to Arnold and these missions. He has his reasons, and from a certain perspective they make complete sense.”
How accurately Ubisoft will keep to the entire story remains to be seen, since screenshots imply that Connor will launch a fairly unavoidable attack on Arnold himself. Regardless, having a deeper insight into the infamous Major General’s reasons will be worth the play time. It’s most likely that those reasons will be cast as somewhat selfish or unjust, but hey, video games need enemies. And we always enjoy being proven wrong.
What do you think of the choice to cast Benedict Arnold in a new light? Is he the kind of historical figure you hope to see explored in the game and future DLC, or would you rather Ubisoft be granted more creative license?
Assassin’s Creed 3 is released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on October 30, 2012. A PC release is scheduled for November 20, with a Wii U version on November 18.
Oh, and in case you think we’re alone on our thinking that Arnold deserves a break, we’re not:
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
Source: PlayStation Blog EU