Evolution of the ‘Creed’

Adam Baird

Does anybody remember learning about the American Revolutionary War back in high school? I recall being spoon-fed stories about our heroic founding fathers who bravely stood up against the tyrannical might of the tax-loving and freedom-hating British Empire, and after the smoke cleared, a new nation was born unto the virgin landscape. 

It’s too bad that I didn’t have Assassin’s Creed III back then. My hand would have been raised in class much more often, ready to debate on such brushed-away subjects such as slavery, Native American relations, propaganda the character of our forefathers and the true intentions behind the revolution itself.

Now I don’t want to get ahead of myself. This is supposed to be a game review, so what could anything I have just said have to do with a video game, right?

The Assassin’s Creed series, spanning five games developed by Ubisoft, is truly epic in proportions. While explaining what the series is about could take up a whole article itself, I’ll give a brief synopsis for those who are unfamiliar with the series.

Two ideologically opposed organizations, the Assassins and the Templars, have been waging a secret war against one another for roughly a thousand years. The goal for both is the same: to save the planet from a terrible catastrophe. Yet both have opposing views on how this should be achieved; the Assassins believe in a path of liberation and freedom, while the Templars view humanity as needing to be controlled.

Desmond, a direct ancestor in a bloodline of some very prominent Assassins, uses a special machine called the Animus to relive their memories and experiences from across time through his DNA. By uncovering the secrets of the past, he and a small team of modern-day Assassins hope to prevent both the Templars’ plans for global domination and the coming apocalypse.

Every game is based around historical locations, people, and events, and aims to highlight and discuss details that tend to be either omitted, or completely misconstrued in textbooks. Cultural, political and philosophical themes and ideas of the time periods are also presented in an introductory manner. It is in these elements as to why the series has such a widely acclaimed and loyal following.

But I bet you’re wondering … is there an actual game in here, or is it just an interactive history lesson? Well yes, and Assassin’s Creed is an action-heavy game. You take the role of an assassin who performs strategic, political assassinations (in an attempt to prevent full-scale wars…one death to prevent the potential deaths of millions). Stealth-assassination contracts, hand-to-hand combat against legions of soldiers, parkour-style navigation over buildings and ancient ruins, strategic diplomacy, naval pirate ship battles, bear-hunting … plenty of action.

In AC III, Desmond relives the memories of his ancestor, Connor, a half-English, half-Native American man who, through a series of tragic events, is thrown in the midst of the tenuous and violent time period during the American Revolutionary War. Because of his cultural ethnicity and heritage, Connor sees events from a different mindset than most, and isn’t shy about speaking his mind, or doing what is needed. He eventually gets entangled in many of the events and people of the time, with familiar figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Samuel Adams are all portrayed, and at times, in an unfavorable or questionable light.

It brings a certain level of satisfaction to see these lofty, symbolic figures in a much more honest and humanistic perspective than they are typically portrayed as, such as Franklin’s voracious sexual appetites and opinions, to Washington village-burning, battle-losing and slave-owning tendencies. In fact, the central idea of the AC III story deals with the ethical double-standard of these men being champions for freedom while simultaneously denying it to everyone but their own white, male, land-owning selves.

The game world in which all of this takes place is massive. Colonial Boston and New York, two wilderness areas with a plethora of side-quests and missions, and a whole new gameplay dynamic of naval battles (which are simple but very fun) can and will keep you playing well past the 20 hour storyline. Multiplayer has also been upgraded with new features and gameplay elements.

Which brings me to my final point; even with all of the new features, not much has changed in terms of changes to the AC formula. Everything is just bigger, better and more refined, from fighting, navigation and side-quests. Visuals and animations are gorgeous, and due to the new wilderness areas, running from tree-top to tree-top along the branches is an easy way to zone-out for a few hours.

In fact, AC III does a great job of allowing for new players to jump right in without needing to play any of the previous games. For current fans, it will be a rewarding experience that will live up to, and in some ways but not all, exceed expectations. For newcomers, Assassin’s Creed III is highly accessible and rewarding, and will allow for experiencing one of the pinnacles of modern gaming.