This article contains some spoilers for Assassin’s Creed Unity and other games in the series.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate has, thus far, left me with a fuckton of feelings and the inability to sleep before 2 AM. I’m going to come up with a more coherent spiel once I finish the game, but the general sentiment I have at this moment is that ACS is the game that Ubisoft needed in order to put this franchise back on everyone’s radars. In the spirit of my rekindled faith in the series, I’ve put together a wish list on things that I’d like to see in an Assassin’s Creed game, or as an Assassin’s Creed game. One can dream, right?
A MAIN Assassin’s Creed game for Aveline.
You can only imagine my disappointment when the first AC game to ever feature a female protagonist ended up being a side game on the Vita and some token “short story” DLCs for Assassin’s Creed 3 and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. I made it a point to read about Aveline de Grandpré online after playing the DLC she’s in for AC3, and she is badass.
Now, before anyone goes into how she could be nothing but a collection of tropes used to reach out to a “wider” or “more critical” audience (i.e. female, African-American, “strong”), let’s consider the location and historical position that they situated her in. Her game takes players through post-American Civil War New Orleans. Let’s do some simple arithmetic here:
- Aveline = Female, born of an affluent American and an African slave
- New Orleans = one of the booming trade centers of the South, which was the Confederate side of the equation during the Civil War.
- The Confederates = the people who wanted to keep their slaves in order to maintain the labor base for their plantations.
- The Civil War = kinda-sorta the thing that, I don’t know, made America the nation that it was throughout both World Wars and the conflicts that followed?
The narrative tension that all of this presents is one of the things that makes the best games within the Assassin’s Creed series what they are. And before any of you can hit on Aveline for possessing an overidealized back story, check yourself before you wreck yourself: there were a number of historical accounts of African-Americans with similar backgrounds. Before you hit on the style of play that you’re supposed to get used to while controlling Aveline, remember that many women throughout history have used similar tactics in order for espionage, saboteur work, and – yes – assassination.
TL;DR: Move over, Arno. Your #GirlfriendProblems and #DaddyIssues got nothing on Aveline.
A better take on the French Revolution than Assassin’s Creed Unity.
On the subject of Assassin’s Creed: Unity hate, I can actually see why the game completely flopped. I tried to be critical about things, and purchased the game last month in the hopes of finishing it before I got started on Syndicate. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as everyone said it was. Maybe I could ignore its flaws in favor of catching up on the universe.
I was wrong, and I am never going to get those bucks and the time I spent in traffic, much less the time that I actually spent playing the game, back.
The French Revolution and the historical context that led to it in the first place are INCREDIBLY significant to European history and the development of philosophical and political thought on that continent. Frankly, Ubisoft wasted the color and flavor of the time on a boring-as-shit main character and tired, uninspired features. Sure, there were improvements to the actual gameplay (something that needed some work, especially after Liberation), but there wasn’t a single plot hook or truly lovable character to latch unto. Besides, the tutorial phases of the game (where, by the way, they walk you through the controls using the most irritating types of AC missions ever) had me swinging between wanting to sleep and yelling at my console in frustration.
Another part of Unity that greatly detracted from the overall experience of the game was its heavy reliance of multiplayer options, online features, and interconnectivity across platforms. That said:
Assassin’s Creeds who don’t lock you into ridiculous online/connectivity schemes.
Unity is incredibly obnoxious about using Ubisoft’s downloadable apps and forcing you to go online in order to “enrich your experience” with the game. There are, for example, treasure chests that can only be opened by using the Android app for Unity. There are also missions that can only be accomplished through connecting with other Unity players.
Any gamer worth her salt would know that this is Not Cool, especially if you’re the typical, run-of-the-mill Assassin’s Creed player who is playing the series precisely BECAUSE it’s a beautiful solo experience (or “come over to my house and watch me play this pretty as fuck game, friends” experience). Prior to Unity, the multiplayer element was COMPLETELY OPTIONAL. It didn’t affect the main story, or have a direct bearing on the inherent rewards system built into the game itself. In an attempt to explore the meta-ludological aspect of the game, the developers ended up entirely compromising the experience of their players.
The production and utilization of downloadable content already has a precarious place in today’s video game models. Nobody wants to be forced to go beyond what they’ve paid for, or expend extra effort beyond what they’ve invested in the game itself. To have glaringly obvious elements in the game world that pushes a player to do that is kind of like saying “hey, look at all of this stuff you’re missing out of! Thanks for spending your money on an incomplete game!”
Ubisoft did not think this shit through. I don’t think I need to say it twice.
And an Assassin’s Creed game set in the Philippines.
I want this so badly, I wrote an April Fool’s article on it that was full of crystallized fangirl pain. However, on a more serious note (and I am trying very hard to be objective here), there are at least two points in our country’s history that could fit beautifully into the Assassin’s Creed universe: the Philippine Revolution.
Many of the people behind the Philippine Revolution were inspired by the socio-political advancements made by Europe during those tumultuous periods. The principles of the Katipunan, for example, were founded on liberté, égalité, fraternité – liberty, equality, fraternity – the battlecry of the French Revolution. Followers of the series are now aware that the Brotherhood managed to travel to Asia through the Silk Road. Given that China and the Philippines were trade partners before Spain was ever in the picture, it’s entirely possible that Assassins were already in the country when Templar-controlled Spain came around. Let’s not forget, as well, that we were under the British for a very short period, and later ended up becoming a colony of the United States of America, which has its own colorful history of Assassins. Throw in a Piece, Shroud, Sword, a Stave, or maybe even a Sage, and there you have it.
…I’m going to stop fanficcing now.
I’ve always believed that Assassin’s Creed has an amazing amount of potential. Their development team has proven time and again that they know their history, and know how to make some pretty compelling stories out of events that took place in the distant past. While I haven’t finished the game yet, I do feel that so far, they appear to have recovered with Syndicate. Let’s just hope that it keeps getting better from here.