Monday, February 3, 2014

Ubisoft Commentary of its Audience

I thoroughly enjoy the Assassin Creed series. Not every game is made equal, but I really enjoy the various historical settings, the characters, and the quirky first civilization plot. I’ve currently played all the console released games (played Liberations on the Vita), and can easily say that ACII is my favorite game, Ezio the most charismatic lead in the series, and AC Revelations is the weakest post ACI. So when ACIII was first announced, I was excited, especially because it was being made by the same team that made ACII, but also because of the new setting. When October 30th, 2012 came around, I opened up my new copy of ACIII and dived into this new world. You know what, I had a great time. However, it seems that a lot of people did not.
Our four leads
At first I was surprised by the reaction ACIII seemed to be getting among gamers. There was an overly underwhelmed response. People didn’t seem to like the setting or the main character that much. I, on the other hand, really liked Ratonhnhake:ton’s journey. Sure he wasn’t as fun as Ezio, but that’s due to the times and setting. Ezio was a young man, with no ambition or self-drive outside of bedding a girl or two, and suddenly he is thrust into a world he knew nothing of and has to shoulder a world of responsibilities. However, he never looses that sense of lightheartedness, and this is largely due to the setting of Renaissance Italy, a time period of great innovation in art and culture with beautiful architecture. 
Italy truly is a beautiful place
Colonial America on the other hand, was a harsh environment, an untamed wilderness. Coupled with this is the slaughter of countless Native Americans by the colonists, who themselves are fighting their British overlords. Its dark times full of revolution, and caught in the middle of it all is a young boy who not only has to avenge the death of his people and the theft of his land, but integrate himself into a new brotherhood of the Assassin’s that loosing a war against the Templars. Ratonhnhake:ton is angry. First his mother is killed by his father’s cohorts, then he leaves his people who start to grow apart from him. He finds his Assassin mentor to be slow and largely useless (but that is more to do with the exuberance of youth). Then his people are killed by the man he has been protecting (General Washington). This game has none of the lightness that held Ezio’s trilogy together. ACIII deals with difficult stuff, and there are no easy answers that await the protagonist or the gamer. It was a game that demanded a lot from the gamers, and it seems they did not like that.
Life was harsh for the colonists
That all comes to light in ACIV, which follows the exploits of Ratonhnhake:ton’s grandfather Edward. Throughout the game, the player gets some time in the present, hacking Templar computers and generally not knowing who they are working for. One of the computers you can hack leads to a video entitled ‘Market Analysis: C. Kenway’, and discusses the complexity of Ratonhnhake:ton story, the fact that he speaks the Iroquois language for most of his young life forcing the gamer to read subtitles, that he is an angry young man (with reason), and that you don’t get a sense of resolution at the end of the game. The final analysis decides that the character of Ratonhnhake:ton’s would be too complicated for the audience to accept, and thus they should abandon the character. It was interesting of Ubisoft to include this video, directly pointing at the mass consumer who play their games and stating that they weren’t smart or patient enough to handle a character of Ratonhnhake:ton’s complexity and muddied life. 
Not much love for our young Assassin
Sadly, the video essentially put an end to all hope of Ratonhnhake:ton’s story continuing via a new game focusing on him. It’s quite a shame, as I liked Ratonhnhake:ton, and I feel he deserves more time. I would have loved to see him trying to live in a world where his people are continuously marginalized, killed, and treated lower than animals. I would have been interested in seeing whether or not he could justify fighting against the Templars for a free America (probably not) while a newly freed America does its best to put an end to Native Americans nationwide. Sadly, we may never know; Ratonhnhake:ton was in his late 20’s/early 30’s by the end of ACIII. Who knows how he would have changed by the end of his story arc? After all, by the end of AC Revelations, Ezio is no longer the same man he was in ACII.