Whenever a video game is set among as politically-charged or patriotic a backdrop as the formation of the United States of America, several assumptions can usually be made. The founding fathers will likely be revered, treated with utmost respect, and the basic liberties that defined the new country are placed alongside the opposites embodied in their enemies. That’s all set to change with Assassin’s Creed 3, as the game’s lead writer explains that the development team isn’t interested in telling a ‘red, white and blue’ narrative. In fact, the new protagonist and his returning enemies will exist apart from, and on both sides of, the conflict known as the War of Independence.
At this point Ubisoft has earned the right to flex their narrative muscles, carrying fans through four games steeped with science fiction and historical intrigue. So when Ubisoft revealed that Assassin’s Creed 3 would be emphasizing not Benjamin Franklin’s inventions, but his love of women, it was clear they were going to be bringing something new to the founding fathers.
Apparently the innovations don’t end there, as both the new hero Connor and even the shadowy Templars themselves won’t be confined to just one side of the conflict. AC3‘s lead writer Matt Turner spoke to OPM about the nationality – or lack of one – that’s been assigned to Connor (a.k.a. Ratohnhaké:ton). As far as the creators of the game see it, the personal journey experienced by the player is one that will be free from simply American politics or tradition:
“It was important he was outside of the conflict…He’s not British or Colonial and has his own reasons for being involved, his own path that happens to intersect with the Revolution…Our story is of both the Assassins and the Templars, that’s the focus of our story…The Templars get their dirty little hands in everything, so Connor’s trajectory through the Revolution isn’t one sided at all, he’ll be going where the Templars are and they’re everywhere.”
Knowing the Templars won’t simply be characterized as synonymous with the Freemasons certainly opens the door for far more intriguing conspiracies and espionage. But if the player is charged with assassinating targets on both the American and British sides of the war, developing any larger loyalties will be much harder than in the past. Ezio Auditore stood against a group of sexually depraved, bloodthirsty, power-hungry Borgias that oppressed an innocent people.
But painting the American Revolution with such broad strokes wouldn’t just be more of the same, Turner says, but fundamentally false given the reality of the historical background:
“The truth of the matter is that America didn’t exist until 1783 and that’s when our game ends…it’s not about American or English; it’s about English and English and that’s something we want to be very clear on. It’s not about America Ra Ra it’s about freedom and community and about how people are treated in that kind of a situation. And how they want to find their own identity. I think that’s something that’s universal to anybody.”
Telling a story with a universal message and not one tied to a specific conflict or country makes sense, given the far loftier foals the team has for AC3. Despite the stars-and-stripes focused artwork that first revealed the new setting, it’s seeming more and more likely that any American themes or characters will be subverted, or at the very least, shown in a new light. We’re all in favor of innovation, especially if it hints at a new direction for the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
The developers have emphasized just how much AC3 will stand apart from the series, and combined with the more universal themes and issues to be explored, it’s hard to guess what lies in store for the franchise. After four games, that in itself is an accomplishment.
[Update: Check out the world premiere Assassin's Creed 3 gameplay trailer!]
What are your thoughts on the all-British conflict Ubisoft will be portraying? Think avoiding patriotic tropes or themes is a smart move, or one that might hurt American sales?
Assassin’s Creed 3 will be released on October 30, 2012 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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