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Posted by Marianne Miller on Jul 23, 2012

My Name Is Desmond Miles, And They’re Kicking Me Out Of My Game.

 

For those of you who don’t know, I am an enormous fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise.  While I can’t claim to have loved it before it was even released, I can claim that the only reason why I bought an Xbox was because my friend moved out with hers in 2008, taking her precious copy of the first installment with her.  I have bought Assassin’s Creed 1 for every platform available, and beaten it on every platform save for PC (those controls… are just… bleh).  I have purchased every limited edition or bundle available for every other console release.  I have a small Assassin’s Creed tattoo nestled behind my left ear, pictured above.

And while the first game shall forever remain my favorite, despite its many flaws, I had no real issue with Ubisoft releasing sequels.  I felt they built upon the previous games very solidly when it came to gameplay, even if I had issues with the writing (and I had many of those with Revelations), and Assassin’s Creed has the only multiplayer function that I will play consistently.  I was in Europe when they announced Assassin’s Creed 2, and made a point of visiting Florence and Venice, just so I could brag about it when the game came out.  And Assassin’s Creed made it possible for me to revisit Florence while I was dealing with a severe trauma that I experienced in that very city.

I. Love. Assassin’s. Creed.  And even though I’ve had a great deal of trust in this series, I couldn’t stop the alarms that went off in my head the second I read this article.

 

Getting rid of Desmond?

I have no problem with the series moving on, but I have some very specific problems with the reasons cited by the game’s creative lead, Alex Hutchinson—the first of which being his claim that “things that go on for too long lack resonance.”  While I know others had a problem with Ezio starring in 3 console games, I personally didn’t.  To me, Revelations was a massive disappointment, but the fact that Ezio was starring in it had nothing to do with that.

The fact of the matter is, players will play franchises they love with the same lead characters for years on end.  Using some of Ubisoft’s own properties as examples, Sam Fisher has been a staple for the Splinter Cell series since 2002, and yet despite that, sales have not suffered.  Splinter Cell for the Xbox has sold just over 3 million copies worldwide to date whereas Splinter Cell: Conviction has totaled just under 2 million, despite being released during a recession.

Prince of Persia: The Sands Of Time is another strong Ubisoft title, with a very loyal following.  The first game sold and was received incredibly well.  Five years after the first, Ubisoft decided to pull The Prince from his own game to “refresh” the series and gamers were nowhere near as pleased with it.  The reboot barely outsold the game released before it, The Two Thrones, despite having the same character in it that people apparently couldn’t “resonate” with.

A good game will not make a character boring, no matter how many years and installments they’re featured in.  A good series will find new ways of keeping a character interesting.  Nathan Drake has starred in three of his own games (for the entirety of them, can you imagine?) since 2007, the exact same year that Assassin’s Creed was released, but I don’t see players begging for him to go.  It’s because he and his cohorts are probably some of the best-written characters in gaming at the moment.  The only reason why players would ask for new characters is if the ones you gave them were poorly written.

Moving on, I also have a huge issue with the fact that they’re claiming that with Desmond, gamers will have to keep track of “seven years worth of story.”  Mostly because if you want to get really picky, we’re technically keeping track of 900 years of story (considering the first installment took place in the 12th century), but who’s counting, right?  Unless you’re referring to how long it’s taken them to get to this point in real time, of course, which apparently is the only factor they’re considering.

This team has released 4 console games, three handheld games, facebook games, mobile games, comic books, and normal books, and despite that, Desmond Miles has seen a combined total of maybe 10 hours of anyone’s time.  However, Altair has starred in three games, Ezio has starred in at least five, and their stories have spanned over nearly a century each.  Yet somehow we’re going to have trouble following Desmond’s story?

 

 

Hutchinson proves that he has severely underestimated his playerbase’s attention span when he thinks that any of us are eager to rid ourselves of Desmond because we’re somehow unable to keep track of what’s going on, after all the other information they’ve shoved at us.  Hell, if anything, after seven years of being titillated as to what his involvement is going to be at the end of all this, I’m even more pissed off that it seems as though the developers are eager to kick him out the door.

Assassin’s Creed 3 has me very worried for this present -day story that has barely gotten any attention whatsoever.  Desmond’s levels in Revelations had me excited at first; I couldn’t wait to get a better look at the hero I’ve spent so many years with.  However, the levels only regurgitated information that could have been discovered if anyone had bothered playing only a few hours of the first game.  His involvement in the second game was pitifully minimal, and while it was nice to free-run as Desmond for a while in Brotherhood, the ending obviously cut off his involvement with the real world, as well as Shaun, Lucy and Rebecca (who I also care about and would love to play with more, thank you very much).

And while I’m on the subject of Assassin’s Creed 3, I want to stress that I’m less than optimistic about this game as a whole.  While Assassin’s Creed 2 was a mass improvement over the first game when it came to gameplay, the writing suffered immensely, in my opinion.  The setting and nationality of the character were used as a crutch for decent character development, and because that one game took place over 30 years, it was impossible to get to know Ezio as a character.  I only warmed up to him after Brotherhood settled down and took place over a short amount of time, and it helped that his hormones had calmed so that the character could do something aside from think about vaginas constantly.

 

 

However, Assassin’s Creed 3 is not only going to take place over 30 years within the ancestor’s story, but it also claims that it will wrap up the present day arc as well—something that doesn’t bode well.

It’s near impossible to write a good story that takes place over a long span of time when you have only a limited amount of time.  Books have no limitations.  Television shows have lesser limitations.  Videogames, especially here in the west, seem to only last about 20 hours.  So tell me, in 20 hours, how can someone really bring a new ancestor to life, skip across three decades, and bring that to any sort of satisfying conclusion, as well as wrap up the 2012 story (you know, the one we’ve been waiting for since 2007?) in a way that doesn’t feel rushed?  I just don’t think it’s possible.  Especially since they proved they couldn’t even finish Ezio’s 30+ year story in one game, and Assassin’s Creed 2 featured Desmond very minimally.

If they’re eager to get rid of Desmond because there were lots of negative responses to his character in Revelations, that has to be the biggest oversight to a larger problem that I’ve ever seen.   Metacritic shows that Revelations was the worst rated game of the series– -those ratings can’t be only because of Desmond’s increased involvement.  It’s because Ubisoft promised answers and closure but gave us some strange backstory for Altair that felt like a glorified tie-in to their Secret Crusade novel, and then “wrapped up” everything with Ezio before making a short movie just to make sure he was dead.  Desmond’s parts were terrible, but that had nothing to do with Desmond and everything to do with the fact that Assassin’s Creed turned into some weird, half-assed first person platformer.

The Assassin’s Creed team has always struck me as oversensitive to criticism—their complete overhaul of the second game to address literally everything anyone ever thought of complaining about with the first game, even down to the length of the credits- -and with this I definitely feel like they’re jumping the gun.  Fixing repetitive gameplay problems was one thing.  Eliminating a protagonist?  That’s another.  It’s difficult for me to trust their team when it seems like Assassin’s Creed is becoming more of an excuse to sell another tie-in, and when you eliminate the one thread that ties all of your sequels/spin-offs together, it’s difficult for me to see that as something that’s done to retain the integrity and quality of the series.

That being said, I’m still interested in the latest portable game that was announced at E3 this year, Liberation.  And with Abstergo apparently being the ones to develop this simulation in the game canon, it is possible that they can continue making quality games without being too obvious that they just want more of my money.  However, I still can’t help but feel as though possibly throwing Desmond out of the series after 3 is a bad idea, especially since he’ll be sharing that game with an ancestor as well.

Time will tell.  And in the meantime, I will continue to play the first one until my fingers bleed.

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