Of all the video game franchises that are expected to possess a little American pride, Assassin’s Creed isn’t one that immediately comes to mind. To date, the developers at Ubisoft have seemed more interested in telling stories focused on broad, ideological conflicts centuries in the past. But for Assassin’s Creed 3, they’re going with something a bit different.
Not just because the American Revolution is more recent than the Crusades or Renaissance, but the implied side that the ‘good guys’ will be taking. But according to Assassin Creed 3‘s lead writer Corey May, the conflict between Templars and Assassins, and the moral dilemmas on both sides of the Atlantic will be the real heart of the game.
The mere fact that the new protagonist Connor Kenway will be half-Mohawk, half-British means his allegiances will, by necessity, be more complex than could have been. And while Ubisoft has reiterated time and again that Assassin’s Creed 3 won’t just be an ‘American’ story, the marketing hasn’t depicted the British in the best light.
Obviously the need for Connor to hunt down British officers – oh, because they’re Templars, not British – will be sending a strong message regardless of the spin applied to it.
As May explained in an interview with Shacknews, the battle between monarchy and democracy carries more relevance when placed next to the Templar/Assassin war, not any sense of ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’
With that in mind, May felt that the solution for avoiding any sense of an ‘America vs. Britain’ motive throughout the game itself was to avoid the civil war dispute:
“For us, the primary focus was between the Templars and Assassins. I felt that by focusing on the Assassin/Templar conflict, it would help us avoid pushing an agenda or taking a side. The idea is that Connor is exposed to all the different arguments. It syncs in very nicely with the Assassin/Templar conflict because the Assassins have always been defenders of free will and self-determination. The Templars want to impose their version of order on society.”
“There are certain things that we take pretty clear stances on in the games[…]There are certain forms of behavior that both sides find abhorrent and don’t see a middle-ground with. They disagree on how to deal with it, but I think they’re pretty unified in opposition to discrimination, to the practice of slavery, to any form of oppression. The Templars look at the way people behave and they feel the reason they need to be in control is because people engage in these horrible bigoted acts, while the Assassins believe that education and understanding will help people evolve beyond this.”
It’s interesting to hear May describe the Templars as not inherently corrupt or evil, just less optimistic about humanity. The sentiment is reinforced by an apparent scene with AC3 that features a dying Templar defending his actions based on his vision of the future. A vision that isn’t far from the truth.
The American backdrop won’t be totally ignored, since the Revolutionary setting is going to be a major source of story and gameplay. But in May’s opinion, the presumed nature of the democracy-craving Colonists and freedom-crushing British is something that will be taken advantage of by the writers. But neither side is perfect, and the issues they struggle with should speak more to contemporary politics than any previously explored:
“Now it seems cut and dry at least initially, and that’s the intent, but as you progress through the story there will be more revelations and explanations and complications and nuances to it. By the time you’ve reached the end of the game, the initial concerns of jingoism will have faded. We were very cognizant of that during development and production. We’ve always strived to emphasize the grayness rather than depict events as black and white. So hopefully we’ve treated this with the respect and nuance it deserves.”
“I found that really interesting because I feel like that’s an argument that’s echoed throughout time when it comes to dealing with minority issues in society. You’ll often hear people say, ‘we know it’s wrong, but we’re doing all we can and we have other things we have to deal with now.’ Connor’s of the mind that no, this is something you have to deal with right now, you don’t wait to make things right when they’re politically expedient. Even the concept of politicking is very new and frustrating to Connor.”
Connor hasn’t struck us as the kind of person to engage in debate when tomahawks and knives will work, which may be what’s needed to cut through the hypocrisy and complacency on both sides of the war. If the developers can manage to make the politics and national ties fall away, and let Connor take action against the unjust beliefs of both sides, then concerns over an anti-British slant will disappear.
Hopefully that approach to tough issues with neither Templars or Assassins completely innocent is something future games will adopt as well. Assuming they can really pull it off.
Assassin’s Creed 3 will be released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on October 30, 2012. A PC release is scheduled for November 20, with a Wii U version also planned.
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