Now that I am fresh off the sci-fi induced high of making fun of my fellow columnists, who were all such good sports about it, it is time to quit shirking my duty to bring insightful analysis to pressing video game issues of the day, sort of like Townhall.com bloggers do to…
I am sorry. I cannot, in good faith, complete that sentence. What I lack in insightful analysis I promise to make up for in cursing and jokes at Japan’s expense. Except not today. I am actually going to be complimentary of Japan.
The topic of the day is inspired by someone’s completion of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Naturally upon finishing a game wherein one must inevitably assume the presence of a sequel (damn it, cliffhanger endings!), one speculates upon the setting of the sequel.
There has already been some internet speculation about the sequel, and here is what we know: bunkum.
We do know this: Desmond will be back (yay!) and (spoiler alert!) shit is about to get real, especially if a character is voiced by Kristen Bell. Why Desmond chose to (serious fucking spoiler alert!) stab Lucy is beyond me. I would have stabbed R3b3c(4, just for the fucking 1337-sp33k, like it is fucking Megatokyo: The Video Game Desu or something. But still, the public has a right to wild speculation on the sequel, so here we go!
We know, or pretty much should, that Ezio is gone as our leading man. We’ve turned him into a godly über-Assassin twice now, and if the third game starts off with me losing all my hard-earned armor and weapons again, I will stab a sumbitch. Finally, Ezio’s getting pretty up there in years, so we need a new young Bildungsroman character to bildung. But where to locate this character? To fit with series continuity, two minimal conditions must be met: (1) it must be conceivable that within the 500 years or so since we last saw Ezio he had sex with someone that conceivably had a child that, through the miracle of generations, had a descendant that ended up in the new place and (2) it must be a period of major, world-changing historic upheaval where both the Templars and Assassins would be fighting over a Piece of Eden.
We also know that the series will conclude its overarching mythic story about the destruction of the world in 2012 by a solar flare unless Desmond can prevent it by finding the remaining Temples of the First Civilization that he found (spoooooiiillleeerrrs!) by activating the Apple at the end of Brotherhood. But we do not really know where these Temples are; we have some nuance of an idea from clues dropped in both the original game and the sequel as to the locations of Pieces of Eden, and we know that Denver, Colorado is a big place to Abstergo/the Templars. But where to locate the memories of the Assassin ancestor to give us that juicy mix of historical, swashbuckling gameplay and free-running?
Candidate One: Feudal Japan
Why this works: the “romanticized” versions of the Assassins (in-game) and the ninja are virtually identical. They are secret societies of warrior-assassins trained in all manner of deadly arts, credited with supernatural speed and powers, that live in remote hermitages apart from the main power structure and work against that structure by fomenting rebellion for the “little people.” There is literally nothing about the common conception of ninja and ninjutsu that does not scream “Assassins!”
Japan has also had a period of major political upheaval within the right time frame, the Meiji Restoration. It is complete with samurai versus ninja (swords! throwing knives! guns!) and distinctive culture and architecture, just like the AC treatment of the Third Crusade and the Renaissance.
Textual support: we also know that there is some connection between Japan and Those Who Came Before, as listed by Subject 16 at the end of the first game: Yonaguni, which is hinted at being one of the First Civilization’s installations, maybe the one seen in The Truth video found by decoding Subject 16’s glyphs in Assassin’s Creed II.
Why it will all end in tears: although the Meiji Restoration was very important to Japan, it did not have much effect outside Japan, as the Japanese tended not to export their own internal strife by being so damn closed off to everyone. It is also a bit daunting (not impossible, but daunting) to explain how the Auditore family line migrated across the middle and far East to arrive on Japan just in time for the end of the samurai era. It is also a bit “too convenient” for Japan to have a ready-made assassin mythos parallel to the Hashashin. It is the “easy way out,” so to speak, and there is no clear way to tie it to the 2012 storyline, unless the big ultimate Temple with the magical McGuffin that will save us all is buried in the Yonaguni facility.
Candidate Two: The French Revolution
Why this works: In the great swath of European history, the next major time of social upheaval following the Renaissance is when those cheese-eating Jacobins in France decided that kings sucked and they wanted democracy, and if they could not get it, they would start guillotining motherfuckers left and right. It is the perfect continuation of the story.
It also has some degree of swashbuckle to it, with Alexandre Dumas’ famous novel providing both the setting and some interesting side characters. Throw in some famous historical figures like Napoleon, Robespierre, et cetera, and we have the makings of an AC game!
Textual support: literally, none. I suppose there is one bit during the climactic scenes of Brotherhood, dealing with distinctive Anatolian headgear, but even that is pretty tenuous.
Why it will all end in tears: because Europe has been done to death by Assassin’s Creed. C’mon, there is a wider world out there, Ubisoft Montreal! Also, while the French Revolution and ensuing wars are well-documented as being motivated, in some part, by Pieces of Eden (thank you, puzzles in AC: II), it is still rather difficult to connect it to the 2012 storyline. And while Paris is a city full of architectural wonder and many goings-on of history, it lacks the iconic cultural and social markers of the Crusades-era Levant or Renaissance Italy.
Candidate Three: Revolutionary Russia
Why this works: talk about the people rising up against a brutal monarchy! This is the quintessential people’s rebellion. Plenty of upheaval, lots of iconic architecture and language, lots of really, really bad people to kill (on par with the Borgia), and no one can deny the impact of the events in the Russian revolution on the ENTIRETY of the 20th century.
There are also lots of cool cities and environments in Russia to explore, from Moscow to St. Petersburg to the frozen wastes of Siberia, and a literal shit-ton of historical figures with which to ally and slay, from Lenin and Stalin to the peoples and nations involved in the First World War.
Textual support: not much, except that the comic book series related to the game is set in 19th century Russia, which acts as an effective prelude to the game, much in the same way the shorts about Ezio’s father acted as a prelude to Assassin’s Creed II.
Why it will all end in tears: although this one has the best chance of being connected to the 2012 mythology (the Tunguska event, old Soviet space tech that could save us all), I am not sure America is ready for something portraying the Russians as the good guys, specifically the Bolsheviks, what with their evil soshulist ways that would later lead to blood libel against all capitalists everywhere.
Candidate Four: World War II Europe
Why this works: I do not think it does, actually. Not enough swords and stabbing people with knives, too touchy subject matter, and most importantly, there are people still alive that experienced that era that might get a tad offended if their actual lives were being subverted for a fantasy/sci-fi conspiracy game.
On the other hand, having a chance to hide in Hitler’s bunker and stab the guy? Priceless.
Textual support: Pretty bare bones, consisting a single interview where it was mentioned as possible. Other than that, we know that Hitler had a Piece of Eden during the run-up to the War, but must have lost it some time (during his disastrous decision to invade Russia?) because he was eventually defeated. Still, there was so much more going on besides the European front that it might just be too “big” of a setting to fit comfortably within a single game.
Why it will all end in tears: because World War II games have been done successfully in other genres, and the world is not ready for a re-imagining of arguably recent history in terms of an epoch-spanning conspiracy theory replete with aliens and an apocalypse. Too soon, Ubisoft. Too soon.
Candidate Five: There Is No Past
WHAT??: Bear with me, people. We know Desmond has to save the world, and he has already been trained to be a master assassin. Now it is time to take those Templar scum out in the modern world!
THIS IS A BAD IDEA: What gives the series its charm is its exploration of true history with a “reinterpretation” according to the game’s mythological structure, which is a battle between the humankind-enslaving Templars and the freedom-fighting Assassins. The free running is really an excuse to explore the architecture and culture of an interesting historical period, and to kill historical figures with a hidden blade. The use of archaic weaponry like swords provides a different feel to combat than a standard shooter, which is what a modern AC game would have to be, because no one kills with swords any more.
By removing that and focusing on Desmond’s struggle against the modern-day Templars, with no Animus, no historical tie-ins, no Subject 16… it removes these key elements of the game and makes it a forgettable Parkour-based time waster like Mirror’s Edge.
SO WHY EVEN MENTION THIS?: Because Five is a nice round number, and I like to be complete. Also…
It is the only one that has a real chance of being able to satisfactorily resolve the 2012 problem. Ezio’s purpose was to reveal to Desmond what he needed to do, and it is the height of silliness to say, “OK, let’s save the world! Plug me into a machine so I can relive my ancestor’s life!”
So which one is the most likely? Personally, I would love feudal Japan, and that is the one I am secretly rooting for. I feel, however, that the most logical choice is Revolutionary Russia, because of the cities and the architecture, and the potential for a world-spanning conspiracy that could possibly resolve the 2012 issue. However… I think that the most likely choice is Revolutionary France, because it is European and the mention of the Phrygian Cap during the final scenes of Brotherhood.
So, grab those epees and floppy hats, Valjean, because shit is about to get miserables.