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View Full Version : Is AC's story too reliant on history? (spoilers for all main games)



LoyalACFan
12-10-2013, 07:50 AM
Buckle up, it's going to be a long post.

Now, let me clarify, I love the historical content of AC and have basically no interest in the modern stuff anymore. But I can't help but feel like recent entries have been putting far too much emphasis on recreating individual events and characters rather than the overall "feel" of the period.

I'll elaborate. In AC1, the only "event" we witnessed was the Battle of Arsuf. That game actually broke with history to a large extent, most notably having us kill a few of the targets long before or after they died in real life, or even inventing fictional targets for us to kill. The same trend continued with AC2, sans the Medici assassination and the presence of Leonardo, who was heavily fictionalized anyway; he was there to complement Ezio's story, and we weren't shoehorned into any of his life events. I found both of those game worlds to be incredibly immersive, and that immersion wasn't hampered by the fact that they used history only as a backdrop for the stories of the protagonists. I didn't witness Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, for example, but I didn't need to in order to feel like I was a part of Renaissance Italy. Brotherhood and Revelations stayed away from overusing historical events too, but both were too short and so adherent to the AC2 formula that they aren't even relevant to this conversation.

But then came AC3, and with it, Connor, the Forrest Gump of the 18th century. Though we were told that the Revolution was only going to be a backdrop, just as the Renaissance and Crusades were before it, that couldn't be further from the truth of what actually happened. The script slavishly followed the historical record, ramrodding Connor and Haytham into practically every notable event between 1753 and 1783. One or two would have been alright; in fact, the Bunker Hill sequence, while not perfectly executed, fit well with the Assassin theme, slinking around the battlefield in pursuit of a single target. But it was a lone bright spot in a sea of otherwise awkward and unnecessary events. I mean... Connor commanded the troops at Lexington? He commanded them again at Monmouth? He singlehandedly foiled the attempt on Washington's life? Each time Connor's story overlapped with the story of American history, it became increasingly hard to believe. The most eye-rolling moment was Connor's presence at the signing of the Declaration of Independence; a collection of racist white plantation owners, and they let some random Indian guy and his black mentor in to spectate? Please. I don't care how much of an asset Connor was to them, that bit felt extremely forced. It seemed like they let the fictional story take a backseat to history, and spent much of their time and effort simply ticking off events they could shove Connor into. I can't think of a single sequence in that game (barring Haytham's journey into the colonies and Connor's childhood) that wasn't centered on one specific footnote in history.

AC4 actually committed many of the same sins, but it gets a bit of a free pass in some regards. In an era where all of the legendary pirates actually did hang out together in their little Nassau republic, it made sense that Edward would be in on their exploits; at least, more sense than a Mohawk dude rubbing shoulders with colonial politicians. AC4 didn't suffer from as many believability issues as a result, but I'm a bit concerned with the overall trend here. I'm not sure if it can be entirely attributed to AC moving further toward the present in eras with more surviving primary sources they can use for research, but I don't like that they're putting such an emphasis on fact over fiction. For example, look at AC2's cast versus AC4's. Both are full of colorful characters, and AC4's are actually better-developed in some regards, but they're all real people. Every single supporting character besides Adewale (and he doesn't even count, since he's going to be a playable protagonist) actually existed in history. While such people have always made appearances in AC, going all the way back to Richard the Lionhearted in AC1, having them play such an integral role in the story severely limits the creative freedom of the writers. Take Blackbeard as an example. They can hype him up as much as they want in the story, but they can't change the fact that he died before basically any other notable pirate, making his role seem somewhat unnecessary. Nevertheless, if they're going to use such people, you have to give them a proper story arc (they couldn't very well just skip over his death) but that adds in a bunch of material unrelated to the protagonist and leaves the story feeling bloated. And forcing them into the fray every time a famous name pops up in history makes our protagonists feel less like "hidden assassins" and more like "the most important people who ever existed who have mysteriously vanished from history."

Maybe I'm alone on this, but I wouldn't have cared if we had gotten an American Revolution game without George Washington or Israel Putnam, or a pirate game without Blackbeard or Anne Bonny, if it means a return to stories that aren't shackled by historical records. I play these games to have fun and witness the story unfold, not for a rote repetition of my history classes.

DarktheMagister
12-10-2013, 08:07 AM
Actually the Pazzi Conspiracy WAS a real event. And they DID attempt to assassinate Lorenzo de Medici.

DarktheMagister
12-10-2013, 08:09 AM
Not to mention that the Mohawk were part of the Iroquois Confederacy....and many of the founding fathers had dealings with the Iroquois Confederacy, including Franklin and Jefferson.

pirate1802
12-10-2013, 08:10 AM
And this is why they need to go back in time.

The thing is, we know the present-esque time period too well. Say you set a game during the American Revolution, then you automatically resign yourself to include those character in the game, You simply cannot feature a game on French Revolution and not feature Napoleon at some stage. It is inescapable, people would expect you to. There are good ways of doing it (AC4) or there are stupid ways of doing it (AC3, Mohawk dude standing in Continental Congress) But eventually you have to do it. Its a trapping of the setting. That is why, if you want to escape this trap altogather you need to go back to the time when not much was known about the people of the era: AC1 and before.

But yeah, if you see it, in AC2, maybe not the characters but the events of the story were as much history-shackled as is AC4. And also, most of the characters you assassinate in AC1 were real people. Jubair, Robert, Garnier and so on.. So there's that too.

LoyalACFan
12-10-2013, 08:10 AM
Actually the Pazzi Conspiracy WAS a real event. And they DID attempt to assassinate Lorenzo de Medici.

... I know. I said that. But the only part of it that was historically-based was the one mission were you literally watch Giuliano die. You kill the conspirators later, true, but not in any fashion that remotely resembles what actually happened.


Not to mention that the Mohawk were part of the Iroquois Confederacy....and many of the founding fathers had dealings with the Iroquois Confederacy, including Franklin and Jefferson.

And Connor knew neither of them. His only link the to Continental Congress was Washington, who advocated burning native villages to the ground... and did so in AC3.

DarktheMagister
12-10-2013, 08:13 AM
And just a bit on that last note of yours.... I get what you mean by just having the story take place in the era without really feeling like the character is related to history....but I've always felt that the whole point of AC was to show how the Templars and Assassins manipulated the events of the past into the History we know. Maybe it's just my inner history buff.....but I REALLY enjoy that stuff.

DarktheMagister
12-10-2013, 08:15 AM
... I know. I said that. But the only part of it that was historically-based was the one mission were you literally watch Giuliano die. You kill the conspirators later, true, but not in any fashion that remotely resembles what actually happened.



And Connor knew neither of them. His only link the to Continental Congress was Washington, who advocated burning native villages to the ground... and did so in AC3.

Oh... yeah.. you did. Somehow I missed the "sans"....nevermind, :P


Also the assumption that Connor didn't know either of them could be false... I mean... he WAS at the signing of the declaration....and they were both there.

And Washington's burning of Connor's village was during the French Indian War..... so I can see why.

LoyalACFan
12-10-2013, 08:15 AM
And just a bit on that last note of yours.... I get what you mean by just having the story take place in the era without really feeling like the character is related to history....but I've always felt that the whole point of AC was to show how the Templars and Assassins manipulated the events of the past into the History we know. Maybe it's just my inner history buff.....but I REALLY enjoy that stuff.

I understand that. But we don't have to be present for everything to have an impact on history, and to be frank, most of the factual history stuff I've been complaining about isn't directly linked to the Assassin/Templar war. Excessive Revolutionary War details had a tenuous link to Templar activity at best.

LoyalACFan
12-10-2013, 08:16 AM
Oh... yeah.. you did. Somehow I missed the "sans"....nevermind, :P

No worries, I realize it was a pretty dense wall o' text to sift through, lol :p

phoenix-force411
12-10-2013, 08:18 AM
I think Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, were the only games that made the assassin discreet when it involved real historical events. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed III made some things too obvious and it made the assassin really stand out.

LoyalACFan
12-10-2013, 08:23 AM
Also the assumption that Connor didn't know either of them could be false... I mean... he WAS at the signing of the declaration....and they were both there.

And Washington's burning of Connor's village was during the French Indian War..... so I can see why.

True about him knowing Franklin and Jefferson, though that seems like something important they would have mentioned if it were true.

As for Washington's village-burning habit, the first time was during the French/Indian war, but he was about to do it again while Connor's village was still neutral in the Revolution. Kanen:to'kon's little splinter faction was planning something, but Washington didn't know that, it was just going to be a brutal and unprovoked preemptive strike.

LoyalACFan
12-10-2013, 08:24 AM
I think Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, were the only games that made the assassin discreet when it involved real historical events. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed III made some things too obvious and it made the assassin really stand out.

I'm no fan of Brotherhood's story either, but for different reasons than those I've listed in this thread. It wasn't stuck following the historical record, but it was cheesy as hell and like you said, the Assassins stuck out way too much.

DarktheMagister
12-10-2013, 08:27 AM
True about him knowing Franklin and Jefferson, though that seems like something important they would have mentioned if it were true.

As for Washington's village-burning habit, the first time was during the French/Indian war, but he was about to do it again while Connor's village was still neutral in the Revolution. Kanen:to'kon's little splinter faction was planning something, but Washington didn't know that, it was just going to be a brutal and unprovoked preemptive strike.

This was true... he had been getting reports that the native tribes were starting to jump sides to the British...like they actually did, and so he struck out... like he actually did. But this too is just historical narrative... Washington was a relatively crap General. :p

Farlander1991
12-10-2013, 08:49 AM
I don't know, I kinda both agree and disagree... I think it mostly depends on the context of history and how it's implemented. Like, I honestly think that all the historical figures we meet in AC4 make sense, none of them seem out of place to me, same regarding events depicted, so it's not a bad thing from the get go. It just... well, it depends :p

Regarding AC1, I was really into Crusades at one point (Which is why I got interested in AC1 in the first place), and when I saw that Arsuf is there, I got incredibly excited that I'd be able to go through the Battle of Arsuf. But I was terribly disappointed with it. In retrospective, I would love a sequence similar to AC3's Bunker Hill or something along those lines (though I guess that was technically hard to do at the time with what they had).