The Dark-Skinned Dark Horses Of The Assassin’s Creed Universe
Slightly racist? I can get away with that, right?
I recently played to 100% completion and then reviewed Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD, which I’m sure tens of you checked out and thought along with me, was a really decent game that had the unfortunate outcome of releasing on a handheld nobody cared about, for the longest time. Now I sit here with legitimate claim to having played all of the Assassin’s Creed games, save for post-release DLC for AC3 and ACIV, and I have just one lingering thought in my mind.
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It infuriates me that after so many Assassin’s Creed games, people still cannot get over their massive gamer boners for Ezio Auditore da fucking Firenze.
And yet each and every time a discussion about Assassin’s Creed is brought up, and the conversation shifts to Connor, people turn hostile and express their personal desires to end him. I’m sorry, are they just being racist or is there something more to this than simple hatred? I hate to be that guy, but doesn’t it seem strange that the fair-skinned protagonists of the series are all beloved heroes, save for Desmond who could make a catholic want to kill themselves and burn in eternal damnation. Technically, Altaïr shouldn’t even count because he’s not even supposed to be fair-skinned.
But let’s not fixate on complexion and skin tone and rather assess why Connor is hated by most. He’s one-track-minded, hot-headed, lacking in discipline, he killed his dad in the middle of the series’ most interesting discussion hands down, and finally, “CHARLES LEE!” Thing is, I actually like Connor. It was recently said to me that Connor became an assassin because a glowing orb told him to do so, in the game. Were those people not around for when Ezio was talking to ghosts and picking up discs that caused him to relive memories the same way the Animus did, some five hundred years later? At least with Connor’s Native American culture, we know stories of spirits, kindred and of nature; guides that helped those folks along their way. So it came to him as a glowing orb; what if that was just the First Civilisation doing what they do, or a hallucination of some sort? At least it fit the history better than a one-man assault of the Vatican ending in talking portraits.
Speaking of Connor’s outright hatred of all things, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Yes, he desired revenge, but that was because to him the white man had come in and taken away everything he held dear. He didn’t know his father and the mere fact that they were estranged meant that he held no notion of love for him. Most of you with your perfect families (I include myself in this, don’t worry) probably don’t know what it’s like to look at a parent and consider them a stranger. So how can you dare to think on behalf of Connor? Yes, I agree, I was just as frustrated with his blind urge for revenge, the way he constantly ignored Achilles and finally, when he killed his father while Haytham Kenway tried his hardest to convince Connor to think. To Connor, everything Haytham represented was what had killed his family and his home. Including everyone he loved and held dear to his heart. The game didn’t do that so-called ‘six hour tutorial’ for nothing. They were trying to establish that fact. It’s just a shame they did it so poorly. Connor, though, was acting in his own interests. He didn’t want to be brainwashed by Haytham; he didn’t want to become that thing he swore to destroy.
I’ll ask again. How is this less believable than a man whose family is killed, swearing vengeance upon a bunch of Borgias and becoming an assassin in order to do so; against the better judgement of everyone around him, including his girlfriend who ends up dead because of his choices. But no, we love Ezio because he’s just so charming and delightful and oh Ezio, *orgasms violently*.
Connor was a flawed hero, that much is true. But what he represented, for me, was an unerring personality and someone who was forced to grow up before he wanted to, trying his best to do what’s right by his lost family and home. If you played through the Homestead missions, a shame they were so poorly coded, you would see that Connor’s compassion does exist and his love for the world is not absent. The story just did a really bad job of showing it, while simultaneously exaggerating his hatred. Connor knew why he had to become an assassin and yet he did it for reasons he felt were right. Not like Altaïr, where it was just about the killing and servitude to a master; not like Ezio, where he simply wanted revenge and later sought answers to mysteries (although why Ubisoft opted to cut glyphs from the AC series, I don’t know); not like Edward, who was just a selfish bastard. Connor became an assassin because he desired inner peace and with everything lost, he needed to look elsewhere. The revenge thing was just what the story tried to nail home. Unfortunately a lot of people only played the story, so they only saw that part of him.
I’ve spent way too long talking about Connor, so I’m going to double back and speak about Aveline for a bit. She is the protagonist for Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD. You can read more about her story in the review, but she is basically a black French former-slave-turned-lady female assassin from New Orleans. Her birth mother, also black French, was a templar. Her father, privileged white male, was not. At a young age, she was given up by her mother and given to a foster mother called Madeleine. Through her younger years, she came into the acquaintance of a man called Agaté, who taught her the ways of the assassin and inducted her into the Brotherhood. Yet she remained a strong and independent woman who, because she was black, could easily pass for a slave or a Lady depending on what she wore. Likewise, her loose affiliation with templars meant that she could just as easily have passed for one of the Order, as she could, a member of the Brotherhood. Added to that, she presents the first female perspective of the ongoing battle between the two factions; hopefully extended beyond simply caring about who she kills and not being available once a month — humour to convey a point, not seriously intended differences.
How is she not automatically the most interesting character of the series? Well for one, she’s female, so that somehow makes her immediately less interesting than other assassins unless she’s getting her top off. For two, not many people actually care about Liberation, perhaps owing to its ported nature. You can tell as much by the viewcount of the review I put out. Although even then, I’ve read some reviews which stated Aveline is barely even interesting. Absolute bullshit, if you ask me. The other thing is that people are so fixated on Ezio that every subsequent protagonist is immediately compared to him rather than weighed on their own attributes. Why compare someone from the 1400s renaissance period to a 1700s survivor of a race-based war and then another war about who gets to stay and who fucks off back to England?
For the first time in the series, we were presented with a character who was making choices more aligned with the feminine mind. This, together with her free-spirited independence really presented something different for the series. And this was firmly established when, during the course of the game, Aveline betrayed a direct kill order on a target so that she could follow him back to where he kept his slaves, and then free those slaves before killing him. She fell out with her mentor after that, and lost some faith in the Brotherhood, but she did it because, as a former slave herself, she cared about those slaves and wished to see them freed. As a result, she ended up reconnecting with her long lost biological mother in the process. Only to discover she was a templar. Sound familiar? Well, the difference is that she set aside their differences for family, even though she knew it meant once again betraying her Brotherhood to do so.
I cared more about Aveline in that five-hour-long story, than I did for the duration of three games, about Ezio. Likewise, I cared more about Connor after 100%-completing that game, than I did about Altaïr after three full playthroughs of the first Assassin’s Creed.
It frustrates me that Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD, two games set in North America’s founding history, are immediately dismissed as the low points of the series when both those games did more for story and character progression than the entirety of Brotherhood and Revelations ever hoped to do. It’s sad, for me, that these games are so badly let down by bad coding and shoddy programming, because of their gigantic scale and cross-development. I truly wish that more people could have experienced the games the way I did.
Perhaps then they might let go of Ezio and embrace equally interesting characters, and the Assassin’s Creed series might be considered a better experience for all. We criticise Ubisoft a lot for annualising the series, but this one time I’d like to thank them for daring to be different and presenting us with such interesting characters. Even if they fucked it up with turning Haytham’s story into a book, rather than its own fully fledged game.