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View Full Version : Freewill vs. Destiny - Are the Templars right, after all?



SixKeys
04-29-2015, 01:09 AM
I started thinking about something I said earlier in the thread about Shao Jun's box (regarding the interconnectedness of the AC universe). Here's the relevant bit:


It's ironic that these games rely so heavily on the theme of choice and freedom, yet the narrative implies nothing is ever truly up to chance. Every single bad thing that's ever happened in the history of the world is due to these two quarreling factions and every single person who has ever become an assassin was destined for it. Even Altaïr wasn't just a random guy who was recruited by Al Mualim for his skills, but someone whose father was an assassin and therefore grew up in that lifestyle.

The more I think about the narrative these games seem to be peddling nowadays, with the idea that everything is connected, that there are no coincidences, the more I'm drawn to the old question of free will vs. destiny.

Is there actually such a thing as choice in the AC universe? If everything, absolutely everything (including the creation of mankind as we've seen) is somehow connected to the Assassins vs. Templar conflict, what freedom are the assassins protecting, exactly? Doesn't it mean there is actually no such thing as free will and everything is already pre-determined? Desmond was destined to die because he could not have chosen any other way. We, the players, have never been able to choose in these games because we are simply viewing memories that are already locked in time. No matter what action we take - or the characters we play as - , our destiny has already been locked down.

In such a universe, no ordinary person ever simply decides to become an assassin (or Templar) because the philosophy simply made sense to them. It has to be written in the stars. That person's parents must have been killed by a member of either faction, even without them being aware of it. Or the person must have a high concentration of TWCB genes that makes them not-so-ordinary after all. Any major conflict that happens in the world, even so-called "natural" disasters like earthquakes, must be linked to assassins and Templars. Things do not simply happen in such a universe, they are destined to happen.

Which reminds me of the Haytham quote:

"Even when your kind appears to triumph, still we rise again. And do you know why? It is because the Order is born of a realization. We require no creed. No indoctrination by desperate old men. All we need is that the world be as it is."

Does this imply the Templars are actually predestinationists? Do the Templars belive in destiny while assassins believe in free will? We play these games as assassins who advocate free will, but everything about the current lore seems to suggest there is no such thing. The war will go on forever regardless of momentary triumphs, Juno was destined to rise again, Desmond was destined to die, Haytham was destined to be a Templar and his son an assassin.

Is it actually possible for assassins to change the course of history or is everything they do destined to happen centuries before they're aware of it? Are the Templars right to believe the world will always be the way it is and that Order and Purpose is truly the way the world was designed to be?

ACZanius
04-29-2015, 01:28 AM
Templars are wrong, they want a New World Order, a utopian society ruled by their iron hand. enslavement of humanity (FACT), remember "Even the Devil can quote scripture to suit his own purposes) and not cuz Shay said it just as an example. Assassins strive for far batter world, where man is free of bondage and not enslaved and ruled by some self-entitled "masters of the world", i think saying this conflict will go forever is kind of true but here's a good amazing story example: Let Assassins launch their own great purge and start eliminating key Templars across the globe drastically reducing their power (idea for real modern day story) but since both are ideas and ideas cannot be killed i guess it would go forever, but i say hunt every Templar down to the ground and literally reduce their numbers, shift the balance of power. This would have made a great modern day story with multiple games but then there's Juno which i a believe is the mysterious entity called "Father of understanding". Not this current pace with minor modern day stuff and have all the big stuff off-screen.

Xstantin
04-29-2015, 02:09 AM
Everything is connected cause it's a must for Assassins to have some father figure to avenge, and it's always due to some Templar conspiracy. Nobody ever dies in their sleep or falling from the rooftop.

I think the "destiny" thing made some sense at first for Desmond with all the TWCB calculations and predictions but now that plotline is gone so it feels a bit forced to have everything so close together like Arno and Shay for example imo. Not to mention that things like Edward's father from the novel make it even more bloated.

I guess Templars kinda got it right.

Namikaze_17
04-29-2015, 02:58 AM
Not to mention that things like Edward's father from the novel make it even more bloated.

http://www.teampwnicorn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Joffrey-gets-slapped-4.gif

Novel? What Novel? ^__^

RA503
04-29-2015, 03:40 AM
is beacause all is guided by the father of understanding :rolleyes:

Mr.Black24
04-29-2015, 04:26 AM
Is there actually such a thing as choice in the AC universe? If everything, absolutely everything (including the creation of mankind as we've seen) is somehow connected to the Assassins vs. Templar conflict, what freedom are the assassins protecting, exactly? Doesn't it mean there is actually no such thing as free will and everything is already pre-determined? Desmond was destined to die because he could not have chosen any other way. We, the players, have never been able to choose in these games because we are simply viewing memories that are already locked in time. No matter what action we take - or the characters we play as - , our destiny has already been locked down.
Well it was shown by the FC that they had a device that allowed them to view the multiple possibilities of one's future, like how that they chose Desmond, the Bartender, instead of Desmond who became a father, or Desmond the one who accepted his Assassin heritage early on, whom they believe that he would accomplish in saving the world. Perhaps if Desmond wasn't so special, all of those paths could have been plausible for him. But for this case, he was specifically chosen for an important role in life.


In such a universe, no ordinary person ever simply decides to become an assassin (or Templar) because the philosophy simply made sense to them. It has to be written in the stars. That person's parents must have been killed by a member of either faction, even without them being aware of it. Or the person must have a high concentration of TWCB genes that makes them not-so-ordinary after all. Any major conflict that happens in the world, even so-called "natural" disasters like earthquakes, must be linked to assassins and Templars. Things do not simply happen in such a universe, they are destined to happen. I just think that its just the writers unintentionally making it this way:rolleyes: I mean Edward could have been that ordinary outsider, like how he was presented, but surprise, surprise, that damm novel had to be something huh?

Plus the Assassin and Templar Order are the most powerful fractions within human history, besides the FC. They have much reach and influence that it is not surprising that many events in life were orchestrated by them. I mean they are about 1,000 years old, how can an Order for being active that long, not have some kind of huge impact ? Although I admit that the earthquakes are too much.




Does this imply the Templars are actually predestinationists? Do the Templars belive in destiny while assassins believe in free will? We play these games as assassins who advocate free will, but everything about the current lore seems to suggest there is no such thing. The war will go on forever regardless of momentary triumphs, Juno was destined to rise again, Desmond was destined to die, Haytham was destined to be a Templar and his son an assassin.

Is it actually possible for assassins to change the course of history or is everything they do destined to happen centuries before they're aware of it? Are the Templars right to believe the world will always be the way it is and that Order and Purpose is truly the way the world was designed to be? Other than Altair, Ezio, Connor, and Desmond, whom the FC had made their paths in life purposely suited for their needs, I feel that this is a matter of perspective. Some would say that it is written in stone, others say that it was just by mere coincidence, others say that the consequence was the effect of a choice. Like Arno for instance, instead of being adopted by the Grand Master, he could have been an orphan on the streets. Or maybe even a Templar, like Elise. Many possibilities, but to me it seems, he had made choices for himself, as well as others making choices out of their own free will, that can either save or hurt someone. Like Grand Master De la Serre could have easily inducted him into the Templar Order, but out of respect of his father, he declined and instead to live a sheltered and privileged life.

Its kind of like asking about our own lives, whenever our lives are destined for something great, or we choose the paths that lead us there? Was I destined to write back to you on my thoughts, or was it on my own free will, that I decided to do so? Minor actions, but same concept. Very meta stuff right here!:D

As for Juno "destined rise", she made it that way remember? She even said so herself.

VestigialLlama4
04-29-2015, 05:10 AM
Is there actually such a thing as choice in the AC universe? If everything, absolutely everything (including the creation of mankind as we've seen) is somehow connected to the Assassins vs. Templar conflict, what freedom are the assassins protecting, exactly? Doesn't it mean there is actually no such thing as free will and everything is already pre-determined? Desmond was destined to die because he could not have chosen any other way. We, the players, have never been able to choose in these games because we are simply viewing memories that are already locked in time. No matter what action we take - or the characters we play as - , our destiny has already been locked down.

You are bunching two different things together:
1) The AC Universe where everything is connected to the Assassin versus Templar conflict.
2) Protagonists being puppets of destiny and the Assassins not actually being free as their Creed states.

The AC Universe and background lore is taken from conspiracy mythology. And the whole point of conspiracy theory is the lack of "Free Will", human agency and being controlled by "them". Conspiracy theorists always state that all kinds of random minutiae are connected by some sinister force. They used conspiracy theory, at first, to simply bunch different games together, it was not meant to be taken very seriously. Assassins and Templars fighting each other across history is basic world-building 101, they can go to any period in any history and they have a readymade schema of Assassins killing Templars. That's the purpose the conspiracy stuff is intended to serve, nothing more. I will get to your second point in a bit.


In such a universe, no ordinary person ever simply decides to become an assassin (or Templar) because the philosophy simply made sense to them. It has to be written in the stars. That person's parents must have been killed by a member of either faction, even without them being aware of it. Or the person must have a high concentration of TWCB genes that makes them not-so-ordinary after all. Any major conflict that happens in the world, even so-called "natural" disasters like earthquakes, must be linked to assassins and Templars. Things do not simply happen in such a universe, they are destined to happen.

I would not call that "Destiny" so much as tired and bad writing, a desire to graft that awful "Hero's Journey" schema by that bad writer Joseph Campbell on every kind of story. They want the Assassins to be "good guys, heroes, sympathetic" and that adds up to making them like any other Franchise hero, what with the same Mentors, ArchEnemy, Best Friend, Love Interest and the like. But yeah, the fact is that Assassins tend to have kids who become Assassins and it kind of adds up to a weird aristocracy. I mean Desmond is essentially Assassin Royalty isn't he?


Is it actually possible for assassins to change the course of history or is everything they do destined to happen centuries before they're aware of it?

At its root, all Assassin games have the fairly conventional plot of "Villains Act, Heroes React". It's the Templars who come up with the plan, some crazy scheme while the Assassins conduct their investigation by killing suspects and interrogating the dying (:confused:). So I wouldn't say the Templars believe in predestined ideas since they seek to impose their ideas and agencies on society and believe in their powers and abilities to get things done. The Assassins likewise never really have any grand plans that aren't related to killing Templars. It's always "Spread the Renaissance to stop Borgia", "win the American Revolution to stop Charles Lee and your Jerk Dad". The one exception is BLACK FLAG where the Assassins and Templars are essentially on a race to "who gets to the Sage/Observatory first" and more or less they are on the same level, and REVELATIONS likewise have Ezio and the Templars sharing the same basic goal and racing to get there first.

As for whether the Assassins actually have free will or agency of if they are coerced by destiny. In the context of the games, the Assassins don't have large scale agency (since as player characters they have to follow the path laid down by developers and grapple the agency handed out to them) and are essentially destined to follow a pre-set role (for which all the other factors are bent to accomodate them). Like most game characters they are never given the freedom to truly change, and without that they can't make a choice. You can't have an Assassin who suddenly decides that he'll be a pacifist (that would work in that in the middle of gameplay, you can no longer kill people and have to go nonlethal for the rest of the games which I imagine would infuriate most gamers) or an Assassin who decides that at the end he'll quit the Order and become a monk and atone for his crimes (which would negate free-roam) or that he's imprisoned for his crimes and rots for several years. So the Assassins, since they are game characters, are essentially destined to serve a certain purpose whereas the Templars are freer and more flexible.

SixKeys
04-29-2015, 11:21 AM
You are bunching two different things together:
1) The AC Universe where everything is connected to the Assassin versus Templar conflict.
2) Protagonists being puppets of destiny and the Assassins not actually being free as their Creed states.

That was more or less intentional. The whole thing led me to think about a lot of things, like the fact that there is no choice involved in the gameplay, which by definition says something about agency and predestination. The Animus is supposed to be symbolic for players being locked in a game with a set narrative, just like Desmond is locked in the Animus reliving ancestral memories that cannot be changed. I just didn't want to get too far into that as the OP was long enough already.


I would not call that "Destiny" so much as tired and bad writing, a desire to graft that awful "Hero's Journey" schema by that bad writer Joseph Campbell on every kind of story.

Right, but this post isn't about what constitutes good or bad writing. It's about how we are supposed to be viewing the games' universe if we take it at face value, the way it currently is. The series may have started with something interesting to say about freedom vs. destiny, but somewhere along the way they decided to make absolutely everything connected, which takes away from, rather than adds to, that juxtaposition. The way the canon currently works, it seems the Templars are more correct in their assessment of the games' universe (as opposed to the real world) because everything we've seen in the canon so far points to that universe not having such a thing as chance and coincidence.

With that in mind, maybe AC should never have taken the route of trying to make it seem like the games are taking place in the real world. Maybe they should have gone with AC1's "alternate universe" approach instead where there were some notable differences from our reality, like Africa's population dying out etc.

They want the Assassins to be "good guys, heroes, sympathetic" and that adds up to making them like any other Franchise hero, what with the same Mentors, ArchEnemy, Best Friend, Love Interest and the like. But yeah, the fact is that Assassins tend to have kids who become Assassins and it kind of adds up to a weird aristocracy. I mean Desmond is essentially Assassin Royalty isn't he?


At its root, all Assassin games have the fairly conventional plot of "Villains Act, Heroes React". It's the Templars who come up with the plan, some crazy scheme while the Assassins conduct their investigation by killing suspects and interrogating the dying (:confused:). So I wouldn't say the Templars believe in predestined ideas since they seek to impose their ideas and agencies on society and believe in their powers and abilities to get things done.

One thing I don't quite understand is why the writers decided to add a third group into the mix, the Instruments of the First Will, when the Templars' ideals about order and purpose are already quite close to theirs. I get that the difference is that TIOTFW (what a mouthful) worship members of the First Civ while Templars don't, but otherwise their goals are very similar: to use order and control (led by Templars or Juno) to usher in peace for mankind. Both ideals boil down to the same basic tenet: mankind was made to be led. If you believe someone is made to be led, that it is their purpose in life to divide into leaders and followers, doesn't that mean you believe in destiny?


As for whether the Assassins actually have free will or agency of if they are coerced by destiny. In the context of the games, the Assassins don't have large scale agency (since as player characters they have to follow the path laid down by developers and grapple the agency handed out to them) and are essentially destined to follow a pre-set role (for which all the other factors are bent to accomodate them). Like most game characters they are never given the freedom to truly change, and without that they can't make a choice.

This is what I'm saying. The fact that no choice exists in these games means that by definition, the assassins don't truly have free will. Everything that happens, happens because it was written that way. All the Templars need to continue their war is "that the world be as it is" - in this case, the games' world. So in the context of the games' universe, it's the Templars who are closer to the truth. In the games' world, there can never be free will, people can never make a choice, the world is borne out of a specific order and purpose.

They had a chance to break the cycle had they given the player agency over Desmond's final decision in AC3. That would have signalled a new era where anything is possible. A game world where "nothing is true, everything is permitted", even breaking the established rules. It would have been like the Truman Show moment where the protagonist unexpectedly steps outside the mold that's been crafted for him and left the audience wondering what could possibly happen next.

Sorrosyss
04-29-2015, 01:15 PM
Fascinating and thought provoking thread Sixkeys.

On the face of it I have to agree with the Templar assessment of the world. I mean if you look at the modern day now, history is repeating again. First Civilisation (Order) versus Eve and humanity (freedom). We are repeating it all with the Templar / Assassin conflict, even more so if you believe that the Templars have been co-opted by Juno or Aita masquerading as the Father of Understanding. (Perhaps not directly but possibly within the Order's origins).

As you say, everything is circular. The natural progression now is that Juno returns and re-establishes the First Civilisation with the blood cells within the observatory, and humanity led by the Assassin's (and possibly Eve herself) fighting back to overthrow them. We know there was a great war last time, ended prematurely by the solar flare. This time we have the flare out of the way, so what may happen now is perhaps a little more diverse. Then of course, whom do the Templars serve then? Juno or humanity?

I do agree that the battle does seem neverending between the principles of order and freedom. Their ultimates are oppression and anarchy. Neither is considered acceptable in modern society, so I think humanity usually finds a way of balancing against these polar opposites through revolutions and the like where needed.

Where and when will the circle end? I am not sure. Perhaps it is a destiny for it to inevitably continue. Perhaps free will can only occur when some faction leaves the planet and escapes to space. Time for an AC game in the far flung future mayhaps. ;)

VestigialLlama4
04-29-2015, 01:57 PM
That was more or less intentional. The whole thing led me to think about a lot of things, like the fact that there is no choice involved in the gameplay, which by definition says something about agency and predestination. The Animus is supposed to be symbolic for players being locked in a game with a set narrative, just like Desmond is locked in the Animus reliving ancestral memories that cannot be changed. I just didn't want to get too far into that as the OP was long enough already.

Fair enough.


It's about how we are supposed to be viewing the games' universe if we take it at face value, the way it currently is.

Well I never thought AC lore could be taken or enjoyed at face value, or was ever supposed to be. It was always a post-modern narrative. It's a game about games, and about how games can create worlds to explore and the like. I mean the Apples of Eden look really silly and stupid if you take it as a straight face, but if you think "okay that's a shiny object that serves as a video game Macguffin and metaphor for power", then it works. The point is not to overdo it, like ROGUE did, with earthquake stuff. The way the Apples worked was simpler, it simply amplified the worst traits that were already there in someone and that manipulation could be resisted to some extent. The later PoEs overdid it too much.


With that in mind, maybe AC should never have taken the route of trying to make it seem like the games are taking place in the real world. Maybe they should have gone with AC1's "alternate universe" approach instead where there were some notable differences from our reality, like Africa's population dying out etc.

I think the historical fiction is still a more challenging and interesting concept to work. I mean for me, the point of the games was always that "Okay, let's say there were Templars and Assassins, and behind the scenes control of history and public figures, let's take the conspiracy mythology of AC as an Assumption in a Thought Experiment, what would they have to do to manipulate events, what events and historical figures were pivotal". I always thought the games were parodies of conspiracy theories in that it was about insanely hard and crazy it would be to actually manipulate history. Most of the Templars and Assassins we see aren't especially enlightened people, they are petty, angry, impetuous figures who only know a certain set of secrets but otherwise they aren't these all-powerful wise men by themselves. Is Warren Vidic a scary man, no he isn't, he just has access to certain information, but he doesn't know how any of the Pieces of Eden work nor can be replicate it.

Likewise The First Civilization have to manipulate to insanely minute details to actually make their schemes work. It's not just manipulate Altair, its manipulate Ezio, wait, must also manipulate this little Native Boy in the Crystall Ball...wait I need to manipulate this crazy Subject 16 guy...phew, this Desmond guy, this should be easy. It's all kind of crazy and absurd in its senselessness. That's why I say that the lore should not really be taken literally.

And you know I think what you say about the Assassins not being true to their creed, its also about the impossibility of it. "Nothing is true, everything is permitted" is that impossible anarchist ideal that everyone keeps chasing but never really practises it because it's kind of hard to live up by, people grow old, marry and the like. Its true of any ideals, I mean has America lived up to the "Declaration of Indpendence" across its history, has France ever lived up to "liberty, equaliy, fraternity" or any of the religions lived up to their ideals?. The AC games, with Altair, Ezio and Connor is not so much about them being free as learning limitations, failures and weaknesses. Ezio eventually decided that "ignorance is bliss" and that he'll quit looking for answers, in a way that's the Templar way, living in illusions and leaving the "truth" to the better men, Altair however takes the other way, always learning more and more hoping that he'd find the answer but dying unsatisfied and alone. Connor is told that he's an errand boy and always was an errand boy and he was too naive. He decides that he'll "compromise" by never giving up his impossible ideals, in a very Don Quixote fashion.


They had a chance to break the cycle had they given the player agency over Desmond's final decision in AC3. That would have signalled a new era where anything is possible. A game world where "nothing is true, everything is permitted", even breaking the established rules. It would have been like the Truman Show moment where the protagonist unexpectedly steps outside the mold that's been crafted for him and left the audience wondering what could possibly happen next.

I am not a fan of the choice mechanic and to me the superficial "choose your ending" is a cop-out. Desmond can kill himself and save the world or he can rebuild civilization in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The second choice is totally false and impossible. Agency I think doesn't merely have to do with choosing or changing the narrative. It's about the narrative being about choices and changes made by the character. Like when Edward becomes an Assassin at the end of Black Flag, that should be the end of the pirate freeroam, no more attacking random british ships and plunder, no more naval contracts and the like. Assassin contracts and the like should only be available then and not before. In UNITY, Arno being chucked out of the Assassins should be something that affects him (no hidden blade, no outfit and the like).

SixKeys
04-29-2015, 07:39 PM
Likewise The First Civilization have to manipulate to insanely minute details to actually make their schemes work. It's not just manipulate Altair, its manipulate Ezio, wait, must also manipulate this little Native Boy in the Crystall Ball...wait I need to manipulate this crazy Subject 16 guy...phew, this Desmond guy, this should be easy. It's all kind of crazy and absurd in its senselessness. That's why I say that the lore should not really be taken literally.

If we didn't take the lore seriously, there would be nothing to discuss. AC1 is the only one that really works on a symbolic level. The Apple as symbolism for power worked when it only had the ability to create strong illusions, the "end of the world" was the satellite launch and the First Civ was merely hinted at. As soon as they brought in Minerva as a hologram that directly spoke to Desmond to warn him about an impending natural disaster, through this insanely elaborate plan of contacting one of his ancestors centuries before Desmond's lifetime, the whole thing went strictly comic book logic and should be taken as such.


And you know I think what you say about the Assassins not being true to their creed, its also about the impossibility of it. "Nothing is true, everything is permitted" is that impossible anarchist ideal that everyone keeps chasing but never really practises it because it's kind of hard to live up by, people grow old, marry and the like. Its true of any ideals, I mean has America lived up to the "Declaration of Indpendence" across its history, has France ever lived up to "liberty, equaliy, fraternity" or any of the religions lived up to their ideals?. The AC games, with Altair, Ezio and Connor is not so much about them being free as learning limitations, failures and weaknesses. Ezio eventually decided that "ignorance is bliss" and that he'll quit looking for answers, in a way that's the Templar way, living in illusions and leaving the "truth" to the better men, Altair however takes the other way, always learning more and more hoping that he'd find the answer but dying unsatisfied and alone. Connor is told that he's an errand boy and always was an errand boy and he was too naive. He decides that he'll "compromise" by never giving up his impossible ideals, in a very Don Quixote fashion.

The only game that I think truly explored the meaning of the Creed was AC1. ACR basically just reiterated what Altaïr said centuries ago and AC4 tried to say something meaningful about it, but botched it up by making Edward the outsider join the assassins instead of remaining neutral.
AC1, being perhaps the most philosophical of the games, had the potential to explore the Creed on multiple levels. They had the rather basic narrative of Altaïr misunderstanding its meaning and learning his lesson by the end, but they also talked about big, metaphorical concepts of breaking free of societal norms and rules, of ascending onto a higher spiritual level of understanding, similar to nirvana. From a gameplay perspective, they could have done so much with that, like Stanley Parable level of breaking the fourth wall (albeit with a more serious tone). To say something meaningful about gaming in general, about anarchy vs. responsibility, about the conventions that keep us tied down. The second game embraced those conventions instead of trying to break them, and that's why we ended up with the historical GTA we have today.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I think AC1 had the potential to do all kinds of crazy things with its gameplay. Like how Hideo Kojima likes putting these absolutely crazy things in his games - being able to defeat the final boss by plugging in a second controller, by talking out loud into your microphone in order to progress, etc. or games that have "insanity" effects that make the player believe their console is acting up when it's actually the game. That would have fit in perfectly with the idea of the Creed. Having Altaïr literally pierce the veil between himself and Desmond and the player, to "ascend" to a higher spiritual plane where he understands more about the nature of reality and how the rules can be bent almost like in The Matrix.

This is all just "what if"ing on my part, but I really think they could have done something special with the meta-narrative. Like I said before, the last chance they had to pull something like that was in AC3, when everyone knew the world was coming to an end, and thus Desmond's saga, and thus the "old guard" of AC retiring (Corey May moving on). I don't know for sure if giving the player a choice would have made the subsequent games better, but it would have ended the original "trilogy" with a bang instead of a fizzle. Suddenly all bets are off: we've never been able to change the course of history until the moment when it comes time for Desmond to change his own. He's outside the Animus, so he has that power, and likewise the player has the power of choice for the first time. The player makes the choice, something crazy goes down like the Temple collapsing, screen fades to black - bam, credits. It would leave the player with a similar feeling as the one in AC1 when we find Clay's writing on the wall. A total mind**** that leaves the future entirely open for all kinds of possibilities.

Then the "new guard" of developers would step in and be allowed to do their own thing, to essentially reboot the franchise as Black Flag and onwards (a new cycle of games that prefer recycling each other's assets instead of innovating) or to take the series in a whole new direction by following Desmond in a post-apocalyptic world. Either way, it would have been an interesting way to signal that the old AC as we knew it was done, and now it was time for a new bunch of writers to take over. As things turned out, AC3 feels like it compromised itself on many accounts just to keep the franchise limping onwards with the same old format.

VestigialLlama4
04-29-2015, 09:49 PM
If we didn't take the lore seriously, there would be nothing to discuss. AC1 is the only one that really works on a symbolic level. The Apple as symbolism for power worked when it only had the ability to create strong illusions, the "end of the world" was the satellite launch and the First Civ was merely hinted at. As soon as they brought in Minerva as a hologram that directly spoke to Desmond to warn him about an impending natural disaster, through this insanely elaborate plan of contacting one of his ancestors centuries before Desmond's lifetime, the whole thing went strictly comic book logic and should be taken as such.

That is absolutely true. I mean, the thing is I am a history guy, and for me the historical section and era is a lot more important, so I don't mind the historical-GTA too much. But in terms of aesthetics about that an Assassin means and the whole creed, the first AC1 is, as Patrice Desilets said, the purest game. The Solar Flare plot and Desmond becoming this quasi-Messianic Hero's Journey story ruined it. Among the twists I hated was making Lucy "Evil", since the only dark moment of Desmond killing this girl and being possessed gets defused. Then Subject 16 (who is my favorite of the Modern day guys, even in Revelations) gets defused as well, even if his character had incredibly potential. There were all kinds of dark directions the story could have gone down and probably would have gone down if PD hadn't left. Right now, the MD has no real edge. You have these boring Templars, you have these really nice Assassins, I mean at this point Juno probably is the main MD character, what will she do next, will she take over the world, will she enslave all humans as Minerva said she would (after all, its not like Minerva has ever been wrong...except all the time!!). The only way MD can work is if they avoid making Juno this Dark Lord figure.


AC1, being perhaps the most philosophical of the games, had the potential to explore the Creed on multiple levels. They had the rather basic narrative of Altaïr misunderstanding its meaning and learning his lesson by the end, but they also talked about big, metaphorical concepts of breaking free of societal norms and rules, of ascending onto a higher spiritual level of understanding, similar to nirvana. From a gameplay perspective, they could have done so much with that, like Stanley Parable level of breaking the fourth wall (albeit with a more serious tone). To say something meaningful about gaming in general, about anarchy vs. responsibility, about the conventions that keep us tied down.

True for sure. I mean the games concept has amazing potential for really experimental stories. It still does.


Having Altaïr literally pierce the veil between himself and Desmond and the player, to "ascend" to a higher spiritual plane where he understands more about the nature of reality and how the rules can be bent almost like in The Matrix.

That line is there right, "Pierce the illusion". It was definitely part of the logic of the games. I think AC1 would have worked with a better MD. Ideally Desmond should wonder if the Animus sessions are real or not, like what if they are simply drugged-up hallucinations like what Vidic did to Daniel Cross in the comics. There's never a real ambiguity there. The silly conspiracy stuff ruins it. In the movie version they could make it work that way. Have the audiences wonder if these visions are real or simply insane power fantasies, because at its core it is an insane power fantasy, they are video games. Then you have this bleeding effect which never really paid off, and the whole point was that Desmond couldn't tell his present from his past.

There's this amazing novel called "The Invention of Morel", if you read that (its 100 pages) you can have some ideas for some really creepy and scary stuff they could have done. There are parts of AC that remind me of that. I guess its the fate of AC that its filled with stuff no other game has and has more ideas than any other franchise but its also filled with a lot of untapped potential and loose ends. There's that awesome line in Arkham City, "It's like your favorite TV show...you've seen it from the start, the ups, the downs, the crazy coincidences and then...wham, they tell you what it was, did it satisfy you, how come it ended up in a Church." That's true of AC at this point, its like the LOST of games.

LoyalACFan
04-30-2015, 03:32 AM
Is there actually such a thing as choice in the AC universe? If everything, absolutely everything (including the creation of mankind as we've seen) is somehow connected to the Assassins vs. Templar conflict, what freedom are the assassins protecting, exactly? Doesn't it mean there is actually no such thing as free will and everything is already pre-determined? Desmond was destined to die because he could not have chosen any other way.

Sure he could have. He could have just huddled in the Temple and lived out the rest of his days. In fact, free will MUST exist in the lore, hence Minerva's projection into the Temple during AC3's finale. If Desmond truly was destined to die there (i.e. sacrifice was the only choice he could make based on his previous experiences) then she would have been able to see with her ability to peer into the future, and thus wouldn't even bother showing up. Desmond made a choice that even a being who could see the future couldn't stop; that makes a pretty damn solid argument for free will. Plus, Juno spoke of "probabilities being calculated" in the Temple, meaning that there wasn't a singular future destined to happen, but rather many (possibly infinitely many) possible outcomes.


We, the players, have never been able to choose in these games because we are simply viewing memories that are already locked in time. No matter what action we take - or the characters we play as - , our destiny has already been locked down.

Because the ancestors already did it. You're basically just watching a recording of a person's life.


In such a universe, no ordinary person ever simply decides to become an assassin (or Templar) because the philosophy simply made sense to them. It has to be written in the stars. That person's parents must have been killed by a member of either faction, even without them being aware of it. Or the person must have a high concentration of TWCB genes that makes them not-so-ordinary after all. Any major conflict that happens in the world, even so-called "natural" disasters like earthquakes, must be linked to assassins and Templars. Things do not simply happen in such a universe, they are destined to happen.

This isn't exactly predetermination though; in a fictional world where these things exist, people with magical sixth-senses or long family lineages in secret societies are going to have an exponentially higher likelihood of getting swept up in the doings of organizations that deal with exactly those things. Look at it this way; a handsome, charismatic white boy from a well-to-do family has a FAR greater chance of being a Wall Street banker than does a poor black kid from the inner city, but that doesn't automatically mean that the first kid was DESTINED for that future. The circumstances of a person's birth make certain outcomes more likely than others, but there can still be a lot of wiggle room for the person's own choices to determine what specifically happens. It sort of goes back to the probability thing; yes, that aforementioned poor kid is very probably not going to be able to become millionaire banker, but it isn't actually impossible if he wants to do it, makes all the right choices, and has an insane amount of luck.

The way I see it is this; the Assassins have access to knowledge and experiences that would make it very difficult for them to be anything other than Assassins in their lives. Once they've been exposed to a certain lifestyle, they don't have TOO much of a choice but to keep going with it (kinda like the red pill in the Matrix). Hard to just step away and become a pig farmer when you learn that you have god DNA and your entire family tree has been comprised of secret Assassins. But they're fighting for the common people who don't have such strong influences in their life to be able to make their own decisions and live their own way.

SixKeys
04-30-2015, 04:15 AM
This isn't exactly predetermination though; in a fictional world where these things exist, people with magical sixth-senses or long family lineages in secret societies are going to have an exponentially higher likelihood of getting swept up in the doings of organizations that deal with exactly those things. Look at it this way; a handsome, charismatic white boy from a well-to-do family has a FAR greater chance of being a Wall Street banker than does a poor black kid from the inner city, but that doesn't automatically mean that the first kid was DESTINED for that future. The circumstances of a person's birth make certain outcomes more likely than others, but there can still be a lot of wiggle room for the person's own choices to determine what specifically happens. It sort of goes back to the probability thing; yes, that aforementioned poor kid is very probably not going to be able to become millionaire banker, but it isn't actually impossible if he wants to do it, makes all the right choices, and has an insane amount of luck.

Yeah, but we're not just talking about who gets picked to go on the Hero's Journey. We're talking about an insane amount of coincidences, like how everyone, absolutely everyone, in the AC universe is somehow connected to the assassins vs. Templar conflict. If a character has a visible injury, there's a 99% chance they got it from fighting their bitter enemy, instead of, y'know, falling down the steps like a normal person. Ezio's scar came from Vieri, Achilles' limp came from getting shot by Haytham, Uncle Mario lost his eye looking for the Shroud underneath Monteriggioni, etc. Amazing coincidences happen all the frickin' time, like Arno's father getting offed by Shay, the one character who just happens to tie the entire North American saga together. In France, even! Tens of thousands of miles away from the place where most of Shay's story takes place! But they needed Shay in France to tie Unity and Rogue together, so off to France he goes. Achilles' first student in decades just happens to be the son of Haytham, the Templar grandmaster, the same person who shot him in the leg years earlier. Achilles even knew Ziio because of course he did. There is not a single person in this universe who is not somehow connected to each other.

If we are to believe in such a universe, if we are to take it seriously, we must consider that such a universe must be controlled by destiny. After all, in the real world not everything is connected. If my neighbour's cat dies, it is far-fetched to think it must have been run over by a Templar. But it's not unreasonable to assume such a thing in the AC universe, because the devs have decided that everything must have a purpose.

If you lived in such a world, where it was easy to find solid proof that everything really is connected and nothing ever happens by chance, how could you still believe in such a thing as free will? Such a world must, by definition be directed by order and purpose - that is, the purpose of telling an epic story where everyone plays a part. The Templars believe the world must be guided by order and purpose, and I think the AC universe, as it currently stands, is proving them right.

Note that none of this applies to our reality, but the crazy, comic book-like monstrosity AC has become. It started out as a vague reflection of our world with some neat "what if" twists thrown in. A believable world where some shady stuff was going on behind the scenes, but there was still some room for chance and luck. Now there are no such things. The need to explain every tiniest little detail has removed those factors from the equation.

Hans684
05-03-2015, 02:26 PM
The more I think about the narrative these games seem to be peddling nowadays, with the idea that everything is connected, that there are no coincidences, the more I'm drawn to the old question of free will vs. destiny.

It's always been that way, we relive memories for something related to the First Civ. First Civ. -> memories/history(their influence) -> MD(searching) -> memories/history(reliving) -> First Civ.(price) -> progress -> MD(searching) -> memories/history(reliving) -> First Civ.(price).... It's a never ending circle made by the First Civ. and their influence on our history.


Is there actually such a thing as choice in the AC universe?

No, the First Civ. choose a calculation and influenced the world to get the results they want. Connor didn't choose to be an Assassin, Juno made him one. Ezio didn't choose to be an Assassin, he was the First Civ's prophet. Shay didn't choose to be a Templar, Achille's a Brotherhood had to be destroyed to Connor could become an Assassin(and the MD Templars start a second purge). Everything ends and start with the First Civ. It's them and their stuff that's given people a destiny.


If everything, absolutely everything (including the creation of mankind as we've seen) is somehow connected to the Assassins vs. Templar conflict, what freedom are the assassins protecting, exactly?

Actually the humans was created by the First Civ. The only choice humanity did on their own was breaking free from the First Civ and be at war against them. Despite them loosing it's not out of their control, they still manipulated trough history. Juno it be free, Minerva and the other guy so they could save Earth from another solar flare and the unknown First Civ. member that said the orders should unite.


Doesn't it mean there is actually no such thing as free will and everything is already pre-determined?

Yes, by the First Civ. They choose that reality, they choose that outcome. It's all them.


Desmond was destined to die because he could not have chosen any other way.

He was Destined to save the Earth and free Juno. Juno made sure of that and Minerva(not knowing of Juno) wanted the Earth saved but when Juno was revealed to be alive she changer her mind(but it was to late). She'd already got him there.


We, the players, have never been able to choose in these games because we are simply viewing memories that are already locked in time. No matter what action we take - or the characters we play as - , our destiny has already been locked down.

This is the circle I talked about. The First Civ. influenced history and their stuff is being searched for in MD so we relive memories during X time to find something First Civ. related.


In such a universe, no ordinary person ever simply decides to become an assassin (or Templar) because the philosophy simply made sense to them. It has to be written in the stars. That person's parents must have been killed by a member of either faction, even without them being aware of it. Or the person must have a high concentration of TWCB genes that makes them not-so-ordinary after all. Any major conflict that happens in the world, even so-called "natural" disasters like earthquakes, must be linked to assassins and Templars. Things do not simply happen in such a universe, they are destined to happen.

Correct.

Which reminds me of the Haytham quote:

"Even when your kind appears to triumph, still we rise again. And do you know why? It is because the Order is born of a realization. We require no creed. No indoctrination by desperate old men. All we need is that the world be as it is."


Does this imply the Templars are actually predestinationists?

Depends on who you ask, Rodrigo believed he was the prophet. He believed it was his destiny but it was always Ezio's.


Do the Templars belive in destiny while assassins believe in free will?

They want a world of peace, a united world with a purpose and direction. Where we live side by side as equals.


We play these games as assassins who advocate free will, but everything about the current lore seems to suggest there is no such thing.

It's because the First Civ. has been controlling everything.


The war will go on forever regardless of momentary triumphs,

Correct


Juno was destined to rise again

That's because she planned it. She had choice, each First Civ. member have a choice. Those are the most free people in the series.


Desmond was destined to die, Haytham was destined to be a Templar and his son an assassin.

Because of Juno and Minerva.


Is it actually possible for assassins/templars to change the course of history?

There exist a time travel POE locked away by the MD Templars, so they can but won't. Other than that it's all pre-determined by the First Civ. There also exist a thing in AC called Calculations(alternate realities), it's what the First Civ. saw to determine the best outcome. They choose a Calculation.


is everything they do destined to happen centuries before they're aware of it?

Yes.


Are the Templars right to believe the world will always be the way it is and that Order and Purpose is truly the way the world was designed to be?

That's currently how the First Civ. have been running things.

wvstolzing
05-03-2015, 02:53 PM
People tend to have some sort of 'horror vacui' with respect to myths and stories -- *some* explanation as to why & how something comes about is better than none; and it's most 'economical' to make up an explanation using actors one *already* knows about.

Hence the drive to 'interconnect' everything.

Frankly I don't think it's all that excessive in the AC universe. And family relationships (...whaddayaknow, so-and-so's father too was an Assassin, etc. ...) kind of do have to be shoehorned-in, given the whole 'hereditary eagle-sense/1st-civ hybrid DNA' conceit that the series tries to uphold.

As to the free will/determinism debate -- I don't think the Assassin's position would be compromised, even if it turns out that the AC-universe is thoroughly deterministic: Even if that were the case, each actor would *still* *have to* act as though their actions were theirs (in doing/saying *anything*, I *have to* take *myself* to be the author, as long as I *know* I'm not under someone else's control). And the whole struggle for the Assassins is to eliminate *hidden constraints, imposed by other human beings* on our exercise of that precise capacity.

SixKeys
05-03-2015, 05:22 PM
Frankly I don't think it's all that excessive in the AC universe. And family relationships (...whaddayaknow, so-and-so's father too was an Assassin, etc. ...) kind of do have to be shoehorned-in, given the whole 'hereditary eagle-sense/1st-civ hybrid DNA' conceit that the series tries to uphold.

The problem with that is that according to the lore, all humans are capable of cultivating a sixth sense/Eagle Vision, so the hereditary angle seems a bit pointless. I find it hard to believe that for sexample someone like Ezio would have wanted to raise his children in the assassin lifestyle, considering how sick of the whole war he was by the end. Why would so many assassins choose to force a heavy burden like that on their children, knowing it would put them in great danger?


As to the free will/determinism debate -- I don't think the Assassin's position would be compromised, even if it turns out that the AC-universe is thoroughly deterministic: Even if that were the case, each actor would *still* *have to* act as though their actions were theirs (in doing/saying *anything*, I *have to* take *myself* to be the author, as long as I *know* I'm not under someone else's control). And the whole struggle for the Assassins is to eliminate *hidden constraints, imposed by other human beings* on our exercise of that precise capacity.

Towards the end, Ezio seems to have become more and more aware that his life was out of his control, and ultimately that's what made him stop being an assassin. The more he learned about TWCB and how much of his life had already been decided, the less desire he seemed to have to continue being an assassin. The sudden change of TWCB not having ultimate knowledge of future events but rather calculating possibilities was a change that happened specifically in AC3, the first time the series needed an uncertain future to justify its continued existence. Ever since that game, the First Civ members have been conveyed as much more fallible and short-sighted than in the early games. It used to feel like TWCB were the ones pulling the strings, controlling our lives despite their race being mostly wiped from existence. The Templars seemed like a smaller threat in comparison. Perhaps it's a conscious effort on the devs' part to downplay the First Civ's superior knowledge in favor of earthly quarrels.

wvstolzing
05-03-2015, 07:10 PM
The problem with that is that according to the lore, all humans are capable of cultivating a sixth sense/Eagle Vision, so the hereditary angle seems a bit pointless.

Sure, but I believe that got introduced with AC4, for the post-Desmond era; and it helped explain how Edward, Adé, et al., could have 'the sense'. Before that, the hereditary angle was kind of a big deal -- no doubt because it's partly inspired by the real-life crackpot theories as to the Annunaki, etc.


Towards the end, Ezio seems to have become more and more aware that his life was out of his control, and ultimately that's what made him stop being an assassin. The more he learned about TWCB and how much of his life had already been decided, the less desire he seemed to have to continue being an assassin.

I interpreted Ezio's 'retirement' in terms of his coming to understand what his role as 'the Prophet' entailed -- he understood that he was just a messenger to Desmond; and that he fulfilled that role. I don't think the Assassins' struggle for the 'freedom of all' became meaningless to him, given the foreknowledge of TWCB, etc.

I do see your point, but I don't think one can infer *universal* fatalism/determinism from the fact that *one* guy came to fulfill some privileged role that was foretold to *some* degree of specificity.

I still think, by the way, that Minerva shouldn't have been able to pinpoint *one* individual, *and refer to him by name*; in fact the holograms shouldn't have been semi-sentient in the first place, they should've been mere recordings -- that would have averted the whole 'broken arc' of Juno's threat as well.

VestigialLlama4
05-03-2015, 07:33 PM
The sudden change of TWCB not having ultimate knowledge of future events but rather calculating possibilities was a change that happened specifically in AC3, the first time the series needed an uncertain future to justify its continued existence. Ever since that game, the First Civ members have been conveyed as much more fallible and short-sighted than in the early games. It used to feel like TWCB were the ones pulling the strings, controlling our lives despite their race being mostly wiped from existence. The Templars seemed like a smaller threat in comparison. Perhaps it's a conscious effort on the devs' part to downplay the First Civ's superior knowledge in favor of earthly quarrels.

It's not a sudden change. In AC2, Minerva tells Desmond-via-Ezio that he must be quick and work fast. There was no guarantee that Desmond would avert the flare or not. The First Civ were never omniscient, otherwise they would know how the ending would turn out that the world wouldn't burn. Likewise in Revelations, Jupiter says that a great deal isn't set in stone and even the First Civ don't have any clear idea how things will end.

In any case, the First Civ are clearly not omniscient since the humans who revolted against them (Adam and Eve) would never have succeeded as much as they did if they were all powerful, nor would a solar flare have killed them.