Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
The Assassins and Templars are Idiots

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 20 Nov 2012 12:00
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I think the problem with "Sasso Creedo" at this point - one of several, I mean - is that it's getting a little bit too keen to show off its research. It's the same problem Michael Crichton books have. You can tell he researches the bollocks off the science part of his science fiction but he always feels the need to show his work. There's always that one bit where Character A says "Someone just mentioned string theory. What is string theory?" And then Character B says "I'm glad you asked me that!", pulls a fucking projector screen down, and the lecture goes on for six pages. He had diagrams in some of them.

As far as I remember the most historically significant thing Altair did in Assassin's Creed was bump fists with Richard the Lionheart at one point. By comparison, Connor seems to have been an active participant in every slightly well-known event in the war of independence. He joins in the Boston Tea Party, rides along with Paul Revere, happens to be in the room when the Declaration of Independence was signed (I guess in case anyone wanted him to run down to the shops for some nibbles), and this is what draws the Magic School Bus comparison in my mind.

But then I asked myself, "Wait, didn't Assassin's Creed 2 have a similar approach, with Ezio rubbing shoulders with Leonardo da Vinci, the Medicis, the Borgias and the rest of the Renaissance crew?" And maybe I didn't complain then because the individual events of the Italian Renaissance aren't so well known as those of colonial America now that American culture dominates the world? Perhaps. But I think mainly I didn't complain because Assassin's Creed 2 had a much more interesting setting with a lot more interesting history behind it.

I feel as an international company, Ubisoft should have realized that no-one besides Americans cares about American history (pre-WW1, maybe), because it's boring. Alright, perhaps that's unfair. People were killed and I'm sure it was all jolly exciting for the people directly involved in it, but was it really the most interesting thing going on at this point in time? I remember saying in this very column that the French Revolution was the next obvious pivot point in world history. Because that was where it was at, man. The peasants vs. the aristos. Heads getting chopped off. The tearing down of conventions that have existed for centuries. Lots of lovely classical architecture to jump around on.

The problem with the American War for Independence is that it's one of those things that is only interesting or significant in retrospect. There was indeed a scrap or two, but at the time it was mainly politics, complaining about taxes and big pieces of paper being signed, all going on in some relatively recently-built colonies with very few massive elaborate cathedrals. They ended when one side went "Sod it, there's way too much going on back home for us to care about this anymore. Do what you fucking like. Peace out." And meanwhile, in France, Robespierre's organising his severed heads into neat piles and the Bastille is on fire and why aren't we fucking looking at that? That place where the heads are coming off?

You know what, I'll throw American history a bone here. The Civil War would have made for a much more interesting setting than the War of Independence. Enough time has passed that some cooler buildings have been built, war's getting industrialized as technology marches on, and there's a much clearer asshole / less of an asshole dividing line. You know, since one side is fighting for the right to keep human beings as slaves and might as well all be wearing Darth Vader helmets. Don't you think that's a much more natural background for the ongoing peace through control / peace through freedom dispute that the Assassins and the Templars are all about? By contrast, Connor brutally stabbing hundreds of people to death for being on the wrong side of the slightly blurry British colonists versus British crown taxation dispute just makes him look like the biggest monster around.

Actually, let's shift subject slightly to the bigger Assassin's Creed plot, the millennia-spanning invisible war between two secret societies, the Assassins and the Templars. I think the ideological difference between them deserves closer examination. I think there's a good reason why this conflict has been drawn out for pretty much all of recorded history with neither side gaining a permanent upper hand. I think it's because they're both fucking stupid.

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