Assassin’s Creed 3 hasn’t been officially revealed yet. It has been announced, though, and that – coupled with what look like authentic concept art, advert, and screenshot leaks – means that we can make some wild predictions as to what’s going to happen.
From the looks of things, AssThree (yes, we really are calling it that) is set during the American War of Independence. The main character looks like he has some Native American blood in him. It’s due out on 30th October. That’s about all we know.
You think we need more information before we can start putting down thoughts and predictions? Clearly, you don’t know Peter and Tim. While this wasn’t exactly high on either of their lists for settings they wanted to see in AssThree, they’ve had a bit of a think and have come to the conclusion that, actually, the American Revolution might be a very good setting indeed. Read on to find out why, and to see what they think the game might involve in terms of settings, characters, mechanics, and more.
(Oh, and for what it’s worth: this article was written prior to the potential leaks of info, but we left it as-is so that you could see our thoughts and guesses based pretty much solely on the setting.)
1 – A Great Leap Forward
Peter: In order to encompass much of what we’ll be speculating about here, AssThree needs to be as sizeable a leap forward as the difference between Assassin’s Creed and its sequel. Assassin’s Creed 2 took the impressive cityscapes and movement template from Ubisoft’s first title and pretty much just gave us something to do with them, filling the feature void of Altair’s outing. Since then, feature creep has got a bit out of hand (hello ‘den defense’ from Revelations), so we’re not really asking for fresh activities to waste our time on.
Instead, we hope AssThree will nail down a compelling character to rival Ezio Auditore, tweak our Assassin’s toolkit to be era-appropriate and transfer the well-established parkour techniques beyond the city streets and into the landscapes beyond. A fresh time period and a brand new batch of legendary historical figures to weave into the grand conspiracy, combined with a refinement of the strongest game mechanics of previous Creed titles (perhaps in a new engine), should be enough to carry the series into an intriguing third phase.
2 – The Native American Connection
Tim: If there’s one enduring legend from American history that’s stuck in my mind, it’s the lost colony from Roanoke Island. In short: an English colony was founded on Roanoke Island in 1587… and vanished mysteriously. John White, the leader of the colonists, had gone back to England in late 1587 to fetch supplies. When he returned to Roanoke three years later, he found the colony completely gone, with only the word “Croatoan” carved into a nearby tree as a hint.
So how does this tie into AssThree, considering that the Roanoke disappearance occurred 200 years before the Independence War?
One of the prominent theories about the Roanoke disappearance is that the colony, short of supplies and needing security, essentially merged with a local Native American tribe. Considering the potential for our protagonist to be partially Native American, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he was a descendant from this lost colony. Assassin’s Creed loves mixing its fiction into historical mysteries, after all, and having the lost colony form a set of wayward – or hidden – Assassins that have been based in the Americas for 200 years is a mythologically appealing notion that might just explain his proficiency with a tomahawk.
Speaking of which: that tomahawk has the Assassin symbol in its head. Absurd lack of structural integrity aside, this might well indicate a decades-old relationship between the Assassins and whichever Native American tribe to which our protagonist is linked. I can’t imagine he just had it made, after all; it seems like the sort of thing that would be handed over to him. So, once again – Roanoke?
Peter: The excellent documentary Reel Injun taught me that cinema has misrepresented Native Americans in almost every possible way. Videogames got off to a reprehensible start with Custer’s Revenge (in which the sole aim is literally to rape Native American women), but improved considerably on that most disgraceful of beginnings with 2006‘s Prey. Michael Greyeyes, voice actor for Prey’s Domasi ‘Tommy’ Tawodi, even praised the portrayal for being outside of the usual Hollywood stereotypes. Now, AssThree has a great chance to push on even further and give us a subtle, nuanced portrayal of a Native American protagonist in a major, established series. Please don’t blow it, Ubisoft.
3 – A Revolutionary Setting (In More Ways Than One)
Peter: The amount of dismissive eye-rolling from some quarters at the reveal of an American Revolutionary War setting rather surprised and bothered me. Perhaps it shouldn’t have (this is the internet, after all); especially as the arguments against it all seemed pretty flawed. It was easy to yawn and ho-hum at another game set in America, but, actually, how many games set in this period of history can you name? Outside of strategy titles, I came up blank. I appreciate concerns that AssThree could be at risk of turning into a nationalistic piece of trash like The Patriot, but development is being handled by a French-Canadian team who, let’s face it, are unlikely to be blinded by stars and stripes.
Whatever your feelings towards the America of today, the Revolutionary War is a period rich with characters, incident and locations. All crucial ingredients for a fine Assassin’s Creed title. Oh, and to everyone who decried the played-out nature of a US setting but who desperately wanted to see feudal Japan instead; do you really not see the fallacy here?
Tim: As part of the dismissive eye-rolling clique, I’d like to defend my fellow cynics against Peter’s unwarranted verbal assault. My initial knee-jerk problems were two-fold: firstly, that this might end up being a trumpet-blowing patriotic game that was pandering to the audience; secondly, that compared to the more exotic possibilities, the Independence War wouldn’t be all that interesting. And let’s face it: when the first concept art leaks show our hero standing in front of the flag of the Thirteen Colonies, and another piece has him about to wreck a British soldier with a tomahawk, I think fears that it might be sickeningly patriotic weren’t entirely unreasonable.
Then I came to much the same conclusions Peter did – that this is actually a setting that’s rarely been explored in gaming, and that with actual characters and a close-up, personal view of events, there’s an awful lot that can be done with this. There’s another advantage to it, too, but I’ll be talking about that in our next point.
(And yes, I’d still like to see one set in Japan, but more over the decades from the Bakumatsu through the Meiji era. I think the whole fall-of-the-samurai, modernisation-of-warfare, and western-influence-changing-everything could make for a fascinating backdrop that’d fit well with the series. One day…)
Peter: And I’d like to see the French Revolution, but I’m not going to cry about it (much).
4 – A Twist in History
Tim: I’ll come right out and say that the American Revolution isn’t an event I know a great deal about. It wasn’t taught to me in school, and pretty much everything I’ve learned has been through research when bored.
For once, though, I don’t think this is true for a large part of the audience. This is perhaps the first Assassin’s Creed game I’d expect a large part of the target audience to actually know about, and I can’t help but think that’ll make it all the more fascinating to explore.
This can come across in a few ways. The first is that events you’re familiar with are almost certainly going to have a variety of twists to make them fit in with the Assassin’s Creed mythology – it’s already (sort of) been confirmed by an aside in one of the earlier games that George Washington ends up with a Piece of Eden, for instance. The second is that locations you may well have visited, and time periods you may well have “experienced” in museums and those historical village things, are likely to be recreated. Again: this is something that most players won’t have had with this series, before AssThree.
Skewing reality ever-so-slightly is a great way to get people invested in things (keeping things true enough to reality that there’s a link, but far enough away that there’s still a hint of mystery) and it’s something the Assassin’s Creed series has traditionally done well. Seeing the team do it with a setting and time period that a large proportion of their players will know is, I think, going to be very interesting indeed.
5 – Tools of the Trade
Tim: From the looks of things, AssThree will be set at least 250 years after Revelations’ 1511 setting. As such, I figure we can expect our Assassin’s equipment to be significantly upgraded from past outings.
Gunpowder weapons are likely to be a little bit more prominent, with muskets and grenades both entirely common in this particular war. Concept art shows our protagonist with a pistol in one hand and another strapped to his back; this could imply either dual-wielding (for multiple kills at once) or carrying a brace of pistols and simply dropping those he’s already used, rather than wasting 20 seconds reloading.
We’ve also seen a longbow and a tomahawk displayed prominently. While I’m not going to guess too much about the longbow (although, quickly: sniping?) I am curious about the tomahawk. Could this be a weapon used in melee, as well as acting as a retrievable throwing weapon? Oh, the possibilities…
Peter: Apropos of nothing, I think our new hero’s coat is looking quite snazzy. True, he isn’t going to blend in terribly well, but this has never been a major concern of the series (you could walk around Brotherhood’s streets dressed in bright red if you fancied).
Tim: I should probably add that, as with most wars, the American Revolution also featured some truly improbable devices. Chief amongst these was the “Turtle” – a submarine from 1775, designed to attach explosives to (or drill through) the bottom of enemy boats.
It didn’t exactly work, but considering AC2 had us soaring the skies in Leonardo’s flying machine, and Brotherhood had Ezio driving a tank, I think I could contain my shock if there turns out to be a mission or two involving this particular device.
6 – Location Frustration?
Peter: People have expressed worries (with fair reason) about the locations that a Revolutionary War setting can offer up. After all, Assassin’s Creed has always been about the layouts of legendary cities, from Jerusalem to Venice. The America of the 1770s can offer a few sizeable population centres, but nothing to match Renaissance Italy. The American ‘big three’ of 1775 – Philadelphia, New York and Boston – were populated by 40,000, 25,000 and 16,000 people respectively (based on the estimated data I’ve managed to look up). In comparison, 15th Century Florence had around 60,000 inhabitants and Venice a staggering 180,000.
I don’t think we need to worry too much though. One of the recently leaked screenshots shows our new hero at a bustling port-side, with buildings aplenty in the background to climb and leap around on. The magic of artistic license already compressed the cities from previous titles into smaller spaces, so the American ones can just take up a space closer to historical reality. Granted, there may not be as many iconic landmarks as the great cities we’ve seen previously, but AssThree seems as if it will counterbalance this by spreading to the countryside.
Further leaked images have shown the protagonist variously up a tree, hunting wild game and engaging in a spot of guerilla warfare against marching soldiers. The latter will be both appropriate to the period (as much of the colonial strategy relied on guerilla tactics), and for the series. You might miss the tall, vertical buildings, but America has plenty of tall, vertical geology for you to get your climbing mitts into. Don’t rule out the chance of a naval mission that has you leaping from mast to rigging in order to stab an Admiral in the face, either.
7 – Event Horizon
Tim: Stabbing random Admirals in the face is one thing, but the American Revolution was also known for a great number of very specific battles.
I don’t know how far through the Revolution the game will take us, but I suspect we’ll probably see a large course of the war: early battles in Boston giving way to the fall of New York, perhaps. I don’t think it’s inconceivable that the game could possibly come to a conclusion around the turning point of the war at Saratoga, wrapping up whatever Assassin/Templar-based meta-plot exists shortly thereafter. Of course, it’s also possible that the game proper will open shortly after Boston, and run right the way through the war.
One way or another, though, it’s going to be interesting seeing how our Assassin influences events. Perhaps we’ll aid the retreat at Brandywine. Perhaps we’ll pass a Piece of Eden onto Washington at Valley Forge. Perhaps we’ll be storming Yorktown. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
Considering the setting, though, I think it’s a certainty that we’ll be taking part in – and influencing – a number of important battles.
8 – Hating your Historical Heroes
Tim: If you’re expecting AssThree to extol the virtues of Great American Heroes like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and John Adams, you may want to think again. In fact, if at least one or two favoured historical figures aren’t evil Templars, I’m going to be both surprised and disappointed.
This is a series, after all, that claims that World War 2 was a Templar plot. Churchill? Templar. Hitler? Templar. Stalin and Roosevelt? Templars. Thomas Edison? Henry Ford? Alan Turing? Templars, all.
Prominent historical figures are, all too regularly, a part of the Templar Order. While the Revolution may be characterised as an Assassin-driven war to create a country free from Templar influence (which would annoy me so much) I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if it has some shadier undertones, or was somehow all part of a huge Templar plan. In fact…
Peter: Let’s go all the way and predict that the Revolutionary War is a grand piece of Templar manipulation. Perhaps the Templars recognise that the monarchistic empires of Europe will soon have had their day, requiring the birth of a new imperial instrument to serve their desires for control. Certain ‘Founding Father’ figures may or may not be in on this, but the ultimate irony could be that their actions will liberate a nation from one empire, only to lay the foundations for the creation of another.
9 – The Franklin Factor
Peter: That said, I will be sad if Benjamin Franklin turns out to be a Templar stooge. Alexander Hamilton, sure, but not Franklin.
If anything, Ben Franklin is absolutely perfect as a go-to confidant and ally. His work as a scientist (he made great strides in the fields of electricity, oceanography and meteorology) means he’s fairly well positioned to kit the player out with handy new gadgets; although I’m not entirely sure what a Native American freedom fighter would do with a Glass Armonica. More importantly, Franklin’s role as a European ambassador and his involvement with Revolutionary War espionage mean he’s exactly the sort of person you’ll be wanting to get mission information from (assuming he’s not feeding you info for his own purposes). Plus, he’s so quotable that entertaining dialogue should be no bother at all. To give you an idea, (played brilliantly by Tom Wilkinson) in the HBO mini-series John Adams advising the titular character (Paul Giamatti) on politics.
Ben Franklin’s signature is on the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance, Amity, and Commerce with France (1778), the Treaty of Peace between England, France, and the United States (1782), and the Constitution of the United States (1787). His inky fingerprints are all over this era, and he’s a dead cert to feature heavily in AssThree.
Tim: Also, the old Ben Franklin legend gives Ubisoft the opportunity to add the most entertaining assassination device ever conceived. If I don’t get to electrocute at least one person by attaching a kite to them in the middle of a thunderstorm, I’m going to be seriously unhappy.
10 – Desmonda Non Grata
Tim: If only.
Peter: Look, I know – I know – some of you out there actually care more about Desmond’s plot than the one that’s playing out in the historical-era-of-the-week, but I’m afraid I’m not one of those people. If I were to get my selfish way, Desmond would be Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Game. Inevitably though, he must, so I hope his presence is kept to a minimum so I can concentrate on being a super-splendid Native American defender of justice, and not be interrupted by sub-Prince of Persia segments featuring a guy in a sweater.
More seriously, I think Desmond has always been symptomatic of some unnecessary over-writing in the Assassin’s Creed series. I’m just about fine with the Grand Global Conspiracy of Assassins vs Templars throughout history, but adding multiple other layers (ancestral memories, aliens, pre-human society) has always felt like pointless convolution to me. We’re rapidly approaching Lost-like levels of absurdity, where because everything is supposed to matter in earnest, in actual fact nothing does.
Tim: I’m not exactly a fan of Desmond myself, I have to admit. I like the side-benefits we get by virtue of the Animus – the database and the hidden glyphs and so on, and taking a break to chat to Lucy was always a nice switch in pacing – but most of the meta-plot leaves me cold, and I’m dreading the possibility that we might someday have to play a fair amount of Desmond in modern environments. Part of why Assassin’s Creed works is that it relies, in large part, on the player’s skill at navigation and assassination while beating human-based security. Having to go to hack X console to unlock Y door is a much bigger disconnect between the player and the character than scaling walls to take out this guard to go through this passage to get to this target.
But, honestly, I’m not anticipating this being too Desmond-heavy, and even if it is it’ll likely be in plot-relevant ancient locations rather than modern-day secure facilities. None of the past games have been too heavy on the Desmond, and considering the level of work that will doubtless go into recreating a large swathe of colonial America, I don’t think we need worry too much about extended Desmond sections.