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Over-salting Assassin's Creed - Destructoid

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I started this blog to voice my opinions about the artistic merits and disappointments of video games today. I'm Canadian, so for anyone reading outside the Canada, pardon the variance in spelling. To give you a general sense of my experience, I've been playing videogames for over seventeen years. My primary console is the Playstation 3, though I also own all Nintendo, Playstation and Xbox platforms, along with a Macintosh computer.





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The early Assassin's Creed games had a particular rhythm that allowed for the congruence of ancient science-fiction elements, with the historical periods featured in each game. I'm not sure where this originated, but I first noticed the pattern with the Indiana Jones films. George Lucas carefully plotted the story to build the audience's interest in Indiana's fairly realistic goals, but then elevated the fiction to level that defies the audience's presumptions of what the diegesis previously entailed.

For example, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is venturing to acquire the titular treasure before the Nazis do. During his escapade, he endures trials of strength and wit, all normal obstacles for the hero of an action-adventure film. Though when it comes to the third act, the preceding logic of the film no longer applies. A supernatural facet is introduced to stupefy the audience, and also heighten the momentousness of Indiana's objectives. This introduction of the supernatural in the third act, is later reused to strong effect in The Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. The Uncharted series, Indiana Jones's videogame parallel, uses this plot structure for the exact same reasons.


Once part of background fiction, the Roman gods became integral to the plot of each game by Assassin's Creed 3


Spoilers follow.


The first three titles in the Assassin's Creed series use this same concept to develop the overarching mythology, focusing on the historical narrative first and foremost. Though as the franchise met an annual release schedule, the writers began to apply the ancient-scifi lore much more liberally. There's nothing wrong with expanding on the fiction of an established property, but issues arise with balancing the seclusion of the historical epoch from ancient science-fiction. By forcefully blurring the lines between actual history and the mythology of the series, the perplexity, and impact of the reveals in the third act, simply dissipate. This is because of the frequency at which these reveals occur, to the point that they're no longer reveals, and merely integral components of the game's expected plot. Of course, the mitigating impact of the mythology is aggravated by an annual release cycle.

Assassin's Creed Revelations, is the point at which the series suddenly squandered any grounding in reality, by sewing the ancient-scifi elements with the historical narrative. Even worse, the story taking place outside of the historical narrative, now takes place in a computer. Consequently, any fan of the overarching narrative, is fed too much information to remain in a consistent state of intrigue, and any player looking forward to the historical period, is impelled to sit through a marriage of historical-fiction, and science-fiction.


As the series progressed, the scifi narrative was promoted from a means to explore a historical period, to the reason why the historical period is explored.


Essentially, Revelations is about a man locked in a computer, reliving the memories of his ancestor, who is searching for a scifi artifact, but must relive the life of another ancestor through different artifacts, to find the artifact he initially sought after. Yeah, seriously. To top it off, another Roman god (for three games in a row, a new god has been revealed during the third act) is introduced preceding an information dump during the conclusion. By Assassin's Creed 3, the gods are peppered throughout both the historical narrative, and the setting outside the period, as it takes place in a futuristic temple that the gods created.

In the game that debuted the series, the ancient-scifi aspect of the narrative is mentioned once. The game immediately discloses its present day setting, but all that is known is that the scientists of the facility are searching for an artifact. The gods are only mentioned once, and are simply known as "those who came before". At the end of the medieval narrative that the protagonist relives, an ancient-scifi element is introduced. Again, this reveal in the third act is tolerable to those who enjoy the historical setting, and maintains curiosity with those invested in the mythology. It's a safe and effective means to tout the creativity of the studio, while appealing to those interested in history -- and for that reason, the same tempo is plied in Assassin Creed 2 and Brotherhood.

It's a shame to see a once compelling narrative lose its focus and become so inauspicious. By delineating the mythos from the historical period, Assassin's Creed was able to cater to two distinct audiences. Even though the two narratives of the franchise have converged, the series continues to sell well enough to warrant annual releases. Thus, the plot structure is unlikely to change, and continue to weaken intrigue until the games become purely spectacle, and a hodgepodge of saturated lore.
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