View Full Version : Unity minor spoilers - handling history/falling in love with metaphors

11-10-2014, 03:36 AM
I understand that videogames are about gameplay and that its not out to educate or teach people. I accept that most people who play games aren't nor are they required to be, history buffs. I fully concede this and regard this as fair. That said, I feel with a great deal of conviction that the main value for the series' success is its evocation of history. I know many people who weren't into history who fell in love with Renaissance Italy and looked up its architecture, history and actual figures just to see how much it matches it. Likewise, BLACK FLAG's gameplay would have been a lot of fun had it been entirely fictional but I think it would loose out most of its charm had it not gone into detail about who and what Pirates are and how they really lived.

Then there's UNITY and it's pretty much a game about the French Revolution without the French Revolution. The devs stated its a backdrop and the Assassin-Templar conflict serves as a metaphor just like AC1. But the game relegates it into the background in the way that even the Crusades weren't done in AC1(the least historical of the AC games until now). The love for history and passion for detail with which AC2 and Black Flag wove in the historical elements and charactes with the gameplay is pretty much absent here. I am talking in the main story and not the co-op side content which portrays historical events, but obviously the single story is what the game intends to say about the French Revolution, that essentially it repeats a very famous right wing myth (and a highly anti-semtic theory) that the Revolution was imposed on people who didn't want changes and that it was astro-turfed by rich people. To me this depiction is incredibly offensive and disgusting, not to mention highly false. It states that the politics of the event don't matter, that the people don't matter, since for all its much hyped Crowd, Arno as French Bruce Wayne might as well come from the Dark Knight Rises. The game uses the real life Royalist Conspiracy Theory put forth by Barruel and by Edmund Burke(who stated that it was orchestrated by Jew brokers)

Its always been my feeling that the Assassin's Creed games are not really about conspiracy theories, or Templars and Assassins. I always felt that it was a parody of conspiracy theories in that the events we see in the Crusades in the first game, the Renaissance in the second and the American Revolution in the third shows that it's really hard to control things. I always feel that the series works best in treating its main design element as metaphor and storytelling device and for using it to provide a decent fictional entry point to history - its what makes the silliness of the First Civ stuff endearing.

Now the Franchise has fallen in love with its metaphors and confused that with actual storytelling depth. It will have us believe that the Mastermind behind an event as wide-ranging and epochal as the French Revolution was a totally boring silversmith and completely neglect the great plethora of voices, the many factions which might be confusing to viewers but are no less worthy of being heard. In other words, I think the people who made Unity actually do believe that Templars exist and control the world and that they use the Templars as a crutch to simplify conflicts so that its easier to make the players fight against.

I understand that people in the Anglophone consider the French Revolution a "failure" in comparison to the success of the "American" one. I am not getting into that argument here. I accept that this game is made with that audience in mind. I will state objectively that democracy and freedom as we know it and understand it today was first envisioned in the French Revolution - It was the French Revolution and not the American one that first ushered in no-fault divorce, universal male suffrage without property qualifications, transparency of government and rigid documentation, secular society, allowed women to inherit property (although like America, not giving them the vote), introduced anti-racism - provided rights to Jews and protestants, provided mulatto and African-Frenchmen equal rights and at the very height of the Reign of Terror, became the first nation in history to abolish slavery in an act of law (an action which Napoleon abrogated when he came to power). In other nations, such freedoms would take years and in America unleash a bloody Civil War that was as divisive to America as the Terror was to France. The French was also the world's first mass movement. In 1789, one of five Europeans was a Frenchman, its population greatly exceeded that of America. To deny and abrogate its complexities is to dishonor it abominably.

I am profoundly disappointed with this game. The wealth of research and development is fantastic although the Black Box missions are terribly repetititve but in terms of the potential offered by the setting and their choice of approach, this is a failure of breathtaking proportions. As flawed and buggy as AC3 was, at least it didn't cheat you about the importance of the American Revolution and make it a marginal event and while III made you sympathise with both Assassins and Templars and see them both lose out in trying to get something achieved in the Revolution, while in Unity Aside from one Hot Templar, all the guys you fight down are moustache twirling *******es despite their fancy speeches. Aside from one crazy Assassin, most of the Assassins are useless but not harmful. In other words it takes one of the most morally complex events where no one, moderate or extremist can claim to be good or blameless, and it makes it the simplest good/evil story the franchise has seen so far.

11-10-2014, 03:41 AM
I want this person writing all my posts in the future.

It's worth pointing out that ACIII was fairly respectful to both sides of the American Revolution, (assuming your name wasn't Charles Lee.) I'm not really sure why they chose to take this tact with Unity, or why they would choose THAT person as their antagonist.

11-12-2014, 06:10 PM
I imagined something like this would happen...