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View Full Version : Long-term problem with the AC (non-modern) plot



Torvaldesq
02-10-2015, 03:58 AM
I don't know whether the developers ever read these forums, curious as to how people react to the story in their games. I'm not a frequent poster, usually I just check in when I've finished an AC game. But I've long been a fan of the series, and I wanted to comment about something I see as a growing weakness in the plot. (Some spoilers ahead for AC 3 and Unity).

The Assassins feel directionless in the main non-modern story segments. Now, in one sense of course, they've always been directionless. They started out as nothing more than a reaction against the Templars, by which I mean the Templars had proactive plots, and the Assassins derived their only goal from a desire to stop the Templars. That worked well at first, because initially the pieces of Eden were front and center in the Templar plots, and the Assassins were the counter organization aware of the technology and opposed to the efforts of the Templars to use those objects in a way that would remove free will. It's a very cool core concept, that a secret war is being fought over the use of ancient technology, and that this war has directed the currents of history.

But with Assassin's Creed 3, the impetus starts to unravel. The Templars start to lose focus on the pieces of eden, and the Assassins in reaction lose focus too. Templar plots start to sound like little more than common political ideology oriented towards more authoritarianism. Assassin political ideology starts to become oriented to very vague notions of liberty and freedom. The notion that this is a fight to prevent outright loss of free will starts to recede. Sure, the Templars Altair fought wanted to use the Apple of Eden to take away free will, and the modern Templars Desmond dealt with initially had a plan to use the Apple of Eden in a satellite, but it's certainly not a driving force during Haytham's time or during the French Revolution.

To my mind, then, this highlights the problem: As the Assassins start to identify with vague notions of liberty and freedom, their actions and goals start to feel very arbitrary. Arbitrary is a bad thing for your protagonist organization to feel like. Unity, the newest game, may be the starkest example of it. What does the French Assassin Brotherhood want? Revolution, but not radical revolution. Revolt, but not overly violent revolt. Why? They're into notions of equality and democracy but... so are the Templars, in their sneaky Templar way. The Templars actually seem to think that it's easier and more reliable to control a population through democracy than to control it through a king (given that their organization met with disaster when one king betrayed them, that view makes sense). Naturally, you'd think this would make the Assassins consider whether the Revolution is a bad idea. But it doesn't. They aid it in conventional ways, barely considering the Templar angle. A similar thing happens in the American Revolution with Haytham and Connor. The Templars under Haytham both push for the American Revolution (Charles Lee causing the Boston Massacre) and against it (Pitcairne wanting to push for a diplomatic resolution with the Patriots to bring them back into the British fold). Haytham's goals do not seem well thought through, other than the notion that the Templars might view it easier to control America if it's independent of Britain. Connor, meanwhile, aids the war for independence, in a kind of thoughtless, naive manner.

I don't want this to be taken as an indictment of the whole story for these historical periods. But after playing Unity, the Assassin story (in the historical period portion of the games) feels like a mess. Take the execution of Loius XVI in Unity. Where were the Assassins? Twiddling their thumbs, apparently. It's the center-piece violent turn of the revolution, the culmination of a massive Templar plot, and the Assassins are absent except for Arno, who's not really concerned with the fate of the king. Meanwhile, the Assassins' numerous agents (seen through the Co-Op missions, a major feature of Unity) go to missions like: "Feed hungry peasants" or "keep the Women's March peaceful" (by slaughtering tons of agitators and royal military... guess we'll just let the logic of that one slide). One mission has you intercepting intelligence being sent to the Austrian army coming towards Paris. Another mission has you defending Napoloen from royalist forces.

And where's the logic exactly? Why are the Assassins, an international organization, intervening to stop Austria and help the revolution, especially when the revolution has Templars running the show? And why, later, do the Assassins seek to stop the royalist forces? The royalists are the side most direclty opposed to the Templar aims. The answer why, of course, is that the writing falls prey to wanting the Assassins to be on the general, vague side of people fighting for "liberty" and "equality." It feels like the writers are satisfied with the image of the Assassin as a random freedom fighter. And they should not be satisfied with that. It should not be enough. How much better could the plot be if the setting were handled with greater care, and if the Brotherhood (as an organization) felt methodical, nuanced and practical in its actions? While the Templar writing feels sometimes nuanced and interesting, the Assassins seem like naive morons who are just really good at killing.

The historical-period is the primary gaming area of each AC game, so that's what I wanted this post to focus on. We spend relatively little time in the modern-day portions. I don't think the modern day portions have the same plot mess the historical portions do. Rather than being arbitrary and illogical, the modern day plot just suffers from being underwhelming. (Post-Desmond, the Assassins feel pathetic, and the lack of a modern-day protagonist really minimizes any sense of "identifying" with the "modern" struggle for the player). My proscription for the modern plot would be simple: Get a modern protagonist, and start building a story with an end in sight for them. My proscription for the historical periods is more complicated: Make the Assassin Brotherhood feel like an organization that approaches the world smartly instead of just constantly hoping to stumble upon short-term Templar goals, and do not let them devolve into just being random "freedom-fighters" anytime they see a people they deem "oppressed." It's just less interesting, and ultimately means less thought is put into the real potential of the plot to tell a story about how a secret war over insane ancient technology influenced key events in history.

DemonLord4lf
02-10-2015, 07:10 AM
I don't know whether the developers ever read these forums, curious as to how people react to the story in their games. I'm not a frequent poster, usually I just check in when I've finished an AC game. But I've long been a fan of the series, and I wanted to comment about something I see as a growing weakness in the plot. (Some spoilers ahead for AC 3 and Unity).

The Assassins feel directionless in the main non-modern story segments. Now, in one sense of course, they've always been directionless. They started out as nothing more than a reaction against the Templars, by which I mean the Templars had proactive plots, and the Assassins derived their only goal from a desire to stop the Templars. That worked well at first, because initially the pieces of Eden were front and center in the Templar plots, and the Assassins were the counter organization aware of the technology and opposed to the efforts of the Templars to use those objects in a way that would remove free will. It's a very cool core concept, that a secret war is being fought over the use of ancient technology, and that this war has directed the currents of history.

But with Assassin's Creed 3, the impetus starts to unravel. The Templars start to lose focus on the pieces of eden, and the Assassins in reaction lose focus too. Templar plots start to sound like little more than common political ideology oriented towards more authoritarianism. Assassin political ideology starts to become oriented to very vague notions of liberty and freedom. The notion that this is a fight to prevent outright loss of free will starts to recede. Sure, the Templars Altair fought wanted to use the Apple of Eden to take away free will, and the modern Templars Desmond dealt with initially had a plan to use the Apple of Eden in a satellite, but it's certainly not a driving force during Haytham's time or during the French Revolution.

To my mind, then, this highlights the problem: As the Assassins start to identify with vague notions of liberty and freedom, their actions and goals start to feel very arbitrary. Arbitrary is a bad thing for your protagonist organization to feel like. Unity, the newest game, may be the starkest example of it. What does the French Assassin Brotherhood want? Revolution, but not radical revolution. Revolt, but not overly violent revolt. Why? They're into notions of equality and democracy but... so are the Templars, in their sneaky Templar way. The Templars actually seem to think that it's easier and more reliable to control a population through democracy than to control it through a king (given that their organization met with disaster when one king betrayed them, that view makes sense). Naturally, you'd think this would make the Assassins consider whether the Revolution is a bad idea. But it doesn't. They aid it in conventional ways, barely considering the Templar angle. A similar thing happens in the American Revolution with Haytham and Connor. The Templars under Haytham both push for the American Revolution (Charles Lee causing the Boston Massacre) and against it (Pitcairne wanting to push for a diplomatic resolution with the Patriots to bring them back into the British fold). Haytham's goals do not seem well thought through, other than the notion that the Templars might view it easier to control America if it's independent of Britain. Connor, meanwhile, aids the war for independence, in a kind of thoughtless, naive manner.

I don't want this to be taken as an indictment of the whole story for these historical periods. But after playing Unity, the Assassin story (in the historical period portion of the games) feels like a mess. Take the execution of Loius XVI in Unity. Where were the Assassins? Twiddling their thumbs, apparently. It's the center-piece violent turn of the revolution, the culmination of a massive Templar plot, and the Assassins are absent except for Arno, who's not really concerned with the fate of the king. Meanwhile, the Assassins' numerous agents (seen through the Co-Op missions, a major feature of Unity) go to missions like: "Feed hungry peasants" or "keep the Women's March peaceful" (by slaughtering tons of agitators and royal military... guess we'll just let the logic of that one slide). One mission has you intercepting intelligence being sent to the Austrian army coming towards Paris. Another mission has you defending Napoloen from royalist forces.

And where's the logic exactly? Why are the Assassins, an international organization, intervening to stop Austria and help the revolution, especially when the revolution has Templars running the show? And why, later, do the Assassins seek to stop the royalist forces? The royalists are the side most direclty opposed to the Templar aims. The answer why, of course, is that the writing falls prey to wanting the Assassins to be on the general, vague side of people fighting for "liberty" and "equality." It feels like the writers are satisfied with the image of the Assassin as a random freedom fighter. And they should not be satisfied with that. It should not be enough. How much better could the plot be if the setting were handled with greater care, and if the Brotherhood (as an organization) felt methodical, nuanced and practical in its actions? While the Templar writing feels sometimes nuanced and interesting, the Assassins seem like naive morons who are just really good at killing.

The historical-period is the primary gaming area of each AC game, so that's what I wanted this post to focus on. We spend relatively little time in the modern-day portions. I don't think the modern day portions have the same plot mess the historical portions do. Rather than being arbitrary and illogical, the modern day plot just suffers from being underwhelming. (Post-Desmond, the Assassins feel pathetic, and the lack of a modern-day protagonist really minimizes any sense of "identifying" with the "modern" struggle for the player). My proscription for the modern plot would be simple: Get a modern protagonist, and start building a story with an end in sight for them. My proscription for the historical periods is more complicated: Make the Assassin Brotherhood feel like an organization that approaches the world smartly instead of just constantly hoping to stumble upon short-term Templar goals, and do not let them devolve into just being random "freedom-fighters" anytime they see a people they deem "oppressed." It's just less interesting, and ultimately means less thought is put into the real potential of the plot to tell a story about how a secret war over insane ancient technology influenced key events in history.

I agree with ya. I dont think any of the development teams talk to each other about the story line. I think they used to up to AC 3. Afterwards, they dont see a point since there is no MD protagonist. Lets hope they finally give us a new MD protagonist in Victory, although its very unlikely.

CeeJay Reilly
02-10-2015, 08:22 AM
I totally agree and AC is my favourite game series and I'm starting to feel like ubisoft is running it into the ground it's depressing

DemonLord4lf
02-10-2015, 08:28 AM
I totally agree and AC is my favourite game series and I'm starting to feel like ubisoft is running it into the ground it's depressing

It really is. Im sure more people would be up here complaining, but I think Unity just drove off alot of fans. I'm a huge fan of Watch Dogs and seeing how they screwed up Unity, I'm starting to get worried about Watch Dogs.

Torvaldesq
02-10-2015, 05:44 PM
It really is. Im sure more people would be up here complaining, but I think Unity just drove off alot of fans. I'm a huge fan of Watch Dogs and seeing how they screwed up Unity, I'm starting to get worried about Watch Dogs.

Well, on kind of a side note, I don't feel like their forums are well divided into categories, which might also make fans less likely to show up here. I mean, if people have a strong opinion about the story, where do you post? The general discussion for AC on the console is KIND of where you end up (it's where I did), but clearly the story is a subject that's not specific to consoles vs. PC. The Hints and Tips forum makes a note about spoilers being inside, which means it might make sense if you're engaged in a spoiler-heavy post to post there, but of course comments on a story are neither a hint nor a tip. The forum named "general discussion" is described as being the place to make posts for "multiplayer" aspects of the series (why they didn't name that forum "multiplayer" I don't know).

All that to say, when I came here, I was just kind of surprised at how awkward the forum categorization is. The way it really seems like it should have been categorized is:

Gameplay forum (to discuss opinions on gameplay)
Story forum (to discuss opinions on the plot)
Technical Support Forums (sub-divided between PS / X-Box / PC / mobile)
Multiplayer strategy forum
Multiplayer recruitment forum

The way it's designed now is just... really weird. I've got to imagine that has some effect on discouraging larger forum participation.