While glitches and bugs might be the reason that Assassin’s Creed Unity is receiving a tepid reaction from fans of the series, that’s not the reason that some French politicians have spoken out against the game — they’re more concerned with the way that it presents French history.
According to a report by Independent.ie, the main complaint stems from the way that the game represents the excessively named Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre. Widely known for his part in the French Revolution, the question of whether the ends justified the means continues to be a thorny issue when it comes to Robespierre’s role in the Terror of 1793-94, and the many thousands of deaths that came from it.
However, it can’t be denied that the depiction of Robespierre in Assassin’s Creed Unity veers into maniacal supervillain territory. Independent.ie offers up this choice quote as an example of the game’s subtle and nuanced characterisation of the historical figure:
“I detest this filthy world which is nothing but a carcass on which mankind feeds like worms… I want to kill as many people as possible… My genocidal crusade begins here and now.”
It’s easy to see why French politicians on the left don’t feel that this is a measured representation of Robespierre. Euro MP Jean-Luc Melenchon for instance, labels it “propaganda against the people,” but it must be said that Assassin’s Creed is not, and has never claimed to be, a realistic document of historical events. Antoine Vimal du Monteil, the game’s producer, said that the game ‘is not a history lesson’ — and he’s quite right.
Beyond its well-realized settings, treating the historical content of the Assassin’s Creed games as anything other than set dressing would be like looking to Call of Duty for information about international politics or Mario Kart for driving lessons.
This is a series that has been built upon a foundation of future tech and alien conspiracies — there’s even a plot device in Unity that explains away some of the game’s temporal oddities, like the Eiffel Tower being visible in the 18th century. The response to the character of Robespierre is perhaps misplaced — but it might still be something that Ubisoft should take notice of.
Maybe Assassin’s Creed would be better off adhering to real life a little more closely? Few would claim to play the games for their near-future elements, so why not play up the most unique aspect of the series? Real historical events offer more than enough dirty deeds to fill the life of an assassin — and if Rogue and Unity are to start the trend of two franchise entries per year, Ubisoft will need as many centuries of prospective subject matter as they can get their hands on.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is out now for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.