I'm Rather Worried About Assassin's Creed Coming To Victorian London

I'm Rather Worried About Assassin's Creed Coming to Victorian London

Fifty quid says Queen Victoria is a Templar. Empress of India seems like a Templar-y thing to be, and the history books have it that at least eight people tried to off her. I'm placing another twenty on Jack the Ripper turning out to be at once a nice guy and a flawlessly animated woman.

I know now how Italians must have felt as Assassin's Creed's cultural wrecking ball of various faiths and beliefs swung towards them, but the Renaissance of Assassin's Creed II was 600 years ago. Who knows what those folk were up to? That hubbub in America was more recent, but then our cousins are fond of cinematic stabby panache, so what does it matter if Ubisoft embellishes the details? The French Revolution, meanwhile, was carnage. Creed is good at carnage, but I worry that it's not so good at what would make Victorian London believable.

I'm Rather Worried About Assassin's Creed Coming to Victorian London

Though admittedly I haven't met many of them, I can't think of anyone more British than the Victorians. They're the honorary inventors of the modern Brit, all prim and proper and apologetic while enacting devious plans to expand the Empire and out-class the world around them. Every film to feature Alan Rickman being intellectually evil owes something to the Victorians. Detectives in deerstalkers playing mind games with master criminals? Late 1800s. Long-running legal dramas fraught with social consequences? Cheers, Charles Dickens.

The Victorians perceived themselves as living in a period where the clever exercise of political and administrative power could accomplish a great deal more than fighting the French again. For the first time, the concept of adviser and politician as full-time professions had sprung into being, and indeed our actual warring was a bit hit-and-miss .

London convulsed with social, religious and technological change at the height of imperial power, but no one stormed Buckingham Palace, and the excess bloodshed of the preceding century was tucked away in the less tasteful colonies, far from London society. Basically it's a bloody fantastic setting for an assassin game: political intrigue and concentrated centres of power, a city where one knife in the dark could reshape the world's largest empire.

But this has never been Assassin's Creed. Mechanically and tonally, I worry that it lacks the apparatus to capture the spirit of the era.

I'm Rather Worried About Assassin's Creed Coming to Victorian London

Assassin's Creed: Unity's chaotic Paris

Let's not pretend that Assassin's Creed is about -- has ever been about -- espionage, rather than cutting your way through the headlines of history. Hey, Borgia! Chop. Yo, Robespierre. Lop. Fuck you, random guard. Schlick. How do you begin to tell the story of the social developments which forged our introverted island when you are (one assumes) scalping policemen on Tower Bridge?

I'll subdue the academic in me temporarily, because I'm aware no one plays a Ubisoft game for its historical precision and keen social commentary. I'm flustered because the developers Ubisoft Quebec, unless they're very different storytellers to their Montreal siblings, are in danger of squandering the richest arena for cloak-and-dagger tactics that historians have on record. Ubi could choose a single strand of political wrangling and follow it from workhouse to Whitehall, cataloguing each class's manoeuvring and casting the player as a true instigator of social change, with tangible results outside of the Animus. The 19th century is yesterday in timeline terms.

But I don't think that will happen. Assassin's Creed has frequently shown itself to be incapable of subtlety, preferring to fixate on big events and brash happenings rather than capture the zeitgeist. But let's say Ubisoft surprises us and unveils a British story that's restrained in its outward ambition, tuned to the historical importance of class and politick. It would probably still fall tragically short, because the best Victorian assassin game already exists.

I'm Rather Worried About Assassin's Creed Coming to Victorian London

Concept art for Dishonored's Dunwall

Dishonored does what a game deep in a long running franchise can't -- it abstracts. Assassin's Creed tries to recreate each aspect of its settings in perfect (unoptimised) detail, which is a task too colossal to get right. London will look gorgeous, but sprinting all over it collecting beefeater hats and anti-establishment pamphlets won't convey how the city felt. Dishonored, by contrast, selects core themes and paints them with vigour in big, broad strokes.

In Dunwall, Dishonored's London-in-all-but-name, rumbling whale oil engines power the latest technology, products of the industrial revolution in conflict with the watercolour townhouses they're attached to. As much as its scientists proclaim their progressive brilliance, however, their inspiration is ultimately the arcane powers of times gone by. Meanwhile, the protagonist wields competing magic and artifice to achieve his goals. Apart from feeling fantastic in play, the juxtaposition is a very Victorian issue.

While packing plenty of potential for bloodshed, the storyline doesn't demand it, centring instead on the backroom dealings of high society. The Lord Protector, symbol of the old regime, is jailed. On your escape, you topple the Lords Pendleton to accrue seats in parliament, party with Waverly Boyle, whose romance keeps the traitor government funded, and eventually come toe-to-toe with Haverlock, his ambition failing as his social ties snap.

Corvo Attano acts with restrained, almost gentlemanly power to disrupt all-important political networks. If you opt to go on a rampage, Dunwall dies even as you succeed. In its artwork and focused story, abstracted from one thread of British history, Dishonored is quintessentially Victorian. OK, yes, everyone speaks with American accents and they have misspelled the title, but the self-control that Arkane Studios displays is British through and through.

I'm Rather Worried About Assassin's Creed Coming to Victorian London

Another scene from Dunwall.

Assassin's Creed, with its collectibles and set pieces, is anathema to Victorian London. Like a puppy wetting itself in excitement, we'll crash through each point on the BBC's Victorian timeline, stopping in on Dickens, inventing the stamp and dining with Darwin before fighting Queen Vic herself in a phone box for the show-stopping finale. Oh, wait, phone boxes hadn't been invented then? It's cool - that didn't stop us having fun with Leonardo da Vinci's non-existent flying machine.

I'm sure it will be fun. It just… won't be Victorian.

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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour with a U from the British isles.


Comments

    The one thing that's been bugging me about all the assassins creeds though is the hood. It kind of made sense in the first one cos there were even non assassin NPCs that had hoods. But it sort of makes you stick out in pretty much all the other games - Hey there's the ONE guy in the whole city who has a hood, I'm sure he's not suspicious at all. One thing I liked about AC liberation is that Aveline's assassin outfit was hoodless, and of the time. And looking at these screenshots of victorian england, pretty much the whole assassin's outfit doesn't look that timely. At the very least, if we're going to have all these standard assassin adornments on the outfit, can we at least get the option to not have the hood up?

      I really liked how Black Flag had a couple piratey outfits that didn't include a hood. Hopefully this one will have a few period appropriate clothing options like that.

        The best ones didn't have the hood, in fact. But AC4 wasn't really about being an Assassin. It was a bout being a pirate, yaarrrr! Which is what made it the best one to date.

          I will always think of AC4 as the best Pirates of the Caribbean game Disney never made

        except for the fact that he kept doing the animation to put his hood on in every cut scene no matter what haha :) that made it look a bit silly when you didnt have a hood.

          Why did something as minor as this drive me up the wall all game? We will never know why, but I sure know it did.

          Instead of "putting on a hood that isn't there", I mentally reinterpreted that action as a little "double-mini-fist-pump", like Edward's secretly really pleased with how the preceding conversation played out.

        Top hat and tails, with a sword hidden in a walking cane. The current assassins outfit pretty much has tails already!

      Yeah. It worked with Ezio, because people were wearing all sorts of strange hats. It worked with Desmond, because he wore a hoodie. Everywhere else, it's stuck out (especially as when you see the statues of historical assassins in Brotherhood, they didn't wear hoods.

        I just want Harry Flashman to be the protagonist - he'd fit right in!

        http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/01_01/019flashmanDM_468x582.jpg

          Oh god, I want to kiss your brain :D

      read some where that you there may be an option to change your hat... on kotaku i think

      edit: "A few quick kills later, the assassin arrives at the Charing Cross railway station, where he swaps his hood for a top hat and runs through the crowd..."

      edit: here is a pic
      http://www.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fi.kinja-img.com%2Fgawker-media%2Fimage%2Fupload%2Ft_original%2F1015726147524388674.png&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.kotaku.com.au%2F2014%2F12%2Fnext-years-big-assassins-creed-is-set-in-victorian-london%2F&h=977&w=1741&tbnid=fq_4TF28u6hh9M%3A&zoom=1&docid=o3riqwy70BqccM&ei=NDyKVKiAOsXbmgX0mILwCg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCEQMygEMAQ&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=2525&page=1&start=0&ndsp=19

      Last edited 12/12/14 11:55 am

      Hats were real big in Victorian London. Top hats were all the rage.

        If there isnt top-hatted, mutton-chopped assassin with a cane-sword in the next game, I'll pass

          Heh, I refer you to my post above...

          http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/01_01/019flashmanDM_468x582.jpg

          Or even someone like Lord Flashheart:

          http://www.modernbritishgent.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/a490e7a6211e4f413d787ea63f44cebc.jpg

    I swear to gawd if they shove another stupid lazy, boring, predictable love story in there I will literally scream.

      You play AC for the love story? Lol.

        Wat?

          Me replying to @caterpillarmitch:
          You mean to tell me that you play Assassin's Creed for the love story? Laugh out loud. *based on his comment about the love story in the game, I immaturely assumed that he played the game for the love story as a joke*

          Do you need further explanation?

            Lol no but I am tired of seeing movies and games have cleche plots or motivations just because they think we need or what it.

    Spolier alert - In the end you discover that your character was jack the ripper.

    I love history. I love my country's history. I love that I'll be able to play an AC game in a period of my country's history that I love. Do I expect it to be historically accurate? Asides from the environment (minus the glitches) which will be spot on, no I don't. It's a game. It's fantasy. You're talking about a series where modern day people are playing out scenarios pulled from someone's head because they're a distant relation of someone from centuries ago.

    Maybe I play games wrong. I'm excited to be able to run around Victorian London, sight see everything there is to be seen and then play the game within the context of the game that I'm playing.

    I'm not really sure what the point of this article is tbh. You're upset because your idea of what Victorian London was like is more like Dishonored rather than a game based on Victorian London that you haven't played yet? That's fine, I'll enjoy it and you can play it with negative preconceptions

    Last edited 12/12/14 11:07 am

      This. Playing AC2 in Italy I can understand factually it's not all going to be true, but having been in Italy on a Contiki tour I loved how the the Duomo, San Marcos piazza looked how I had seen them in the game.

      There were plenty of times where I was walking around Italy, thinking about Assassins Creed and think to myself 'I have killed here.'

    Ubi needs to take a step back with their next AC, and regain the focus on story that made AC2 great. Ditch the crappy smartphone-app chests and pointless distractions, and give us a game that's FUN. TO. PLAY.

    Or, you know, just skip all the bullshit and go F2P with microfuckery and let the IP burn to the ground.

      Lol they already have micro payments in full priced games, think that's not going to get worse?

      I finally was able to start the Companion App 2 weeks ago and man, to complete the quests, you need more than month. There are missions that take 48 hour and you have to repeat it 3 times to fully unlock.

        Ubi's probably waiting to jump on the first comment asking about adding micropayments to their shitty companion app to use as justification that gamers want this as a feature; something like:

        IT'D BE GREAT IF I COULD SPEND SOME REAL MONEY ON FAKE GOLD BARS OR SOMETHING TO FINISH THIS APP MISSION QUICKER LIKE IN FARMVILE AMIRITE!1?

        ...

        Oh god. I'm so sorry.

    I haven't played an Assassin's Creed game since AC2, and given Ubisoft's recent shenanigans, I don't expect to any time soon. While the idea of playing in Paris or London is certainly appealing, I just don't trust them to deliver a quality product any more.

    Fifty quid says Queen Victoria is a Templar. Empress of India seems like a Templar-y thing to be, and the history books have it that at least eight people tried to off her. I’m placing another twenty on Jack the Ripper turning out to be at once a nice guy and a flawlessly animated woman.
    Hah! I hadn’t even thought of it, but it’s bound to be true.

      I figured that Our Assassin would be Jack the Ripper, and the 'victims' were assassination targets

        Once upon a time, maybe, but remember that most of Jack's targets were reportedly prostitutes. Women whose throats were slit and their guts rummaged around in.
        That shit isn't going to fly these days.

        I thought that too, but then I though that I'd rather have Sherlock Holmes as the assassin shouting at Watson to keep up as he parkour'ed up the Crystal Palace in pursuit of Moriarty the arch-Templar...

    Im worries they are quickly driving this once great franchise into the ground with monotony and lack of real innovation. Every AC has been a close clone of the last but a different setting. Black Flag was the one I enjoyed the most go figure.

    I feel like they need to take a break, rethink the franchise direction and deliver a new AC adventure that delivers something new and fresh.....but they wont because it is a bonafide money maker.

    You make some valid points i too share. I'm a huge AC fan, but Unity was a massive let down for me in the story dept. I wish they would take a step back for a year or too, to get there shit in order then come back fresh. I am really looking forward to Division, just hope they don't fuck that up.

    Last edited 12/12/14 12:51 pm

      The stuff I'm seeing on The Division doesn't look quite so promising. Especially not in the story department. It seems like they're really going to be relying on the multiplayer (especially PVP) component for 'emergent gameplay' to shore up a lack of content, with a focus on gimmicks and social pressure instead of rich narrative.

      Maybe it'll be really fun, but I'm getting far more warning signals off it than I did for Destiny, and man did that blind-side me in the story department.

        True man true. Destiny was a massive let down for me in the story dept. I was on the hype train for that one. Trying to stay off the hype train for Division so i don't get burned again.

        Yeah PVP has killed a lot of rich story telling, it's like reality TV.

    brb must replay Dishonored. Thanks for reminding me how much I loved it

    Well, of course it'll fail if your expectations are so unrealistically specific. Shouldn't Dishonored at least be considered an ideal representation as opposed to the minimum or even compared to an entirely different series?

    One thing I thought would be awesome is if you were Jack the Ripper, who was actually an assassin.

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