Right & Wrong
One of the biggest criticisms the Assassin’s Creed series has faced with its previous entries leading up to this, comes in the form of its repetitive and formulaic gameplay mechanics. With Ezio’s story now done and the spotlight falling to a new protagonist in the form of Connor, the setting and story takes on a very different face this time around as Ubisoft’s flagship stealth series moves into new and uncharted territory. While the narrative never quite hits those lofty heights seen before, the inclusion of thought provoking questions and morally grey choices make for one of the more unique entries in the series.
The story picks up directly after the events of Revelations as Desmond and the team make their way to the Grand Temple of the First Civilization. Although managing to gain access through the Apple of Eden, Desmond is only able to partially activate the temple. Juno communicates with Desmond and this leads to him being placed in the Animus where Juno’s influence causes him to relive the life of one of his ancestors, Haytham Kenway, in England 1754.
Haytham assassinates his target at the Royal Opera House and steals a medallion that happens to be a Key to the Temple’s inner chamber. Haytham is dispatched to the American Colonies to locate the Temple and in Boston, teams up with Ziio who helps him find the Temple in exchange for killing General Braddock. Romance blossoms between the two, complicating matters further when Ziio ends up giving birth to their son, Ratonhnhaké:ton. While this is going on, Haytham learns that the Key he’s obtained isn’t able to open the temple.
When Haytham inducts a man named Charles Lee into the Order, the big plot twist comes from the fact it’s actually the Templar Order and not the Assassins.
This ultimately serves as the backdrop for what follows; a prologue of sorts for the main story to play out. The narrative shifts to Ratonhnhaké:ton, and in particular his childhood in 1760. His mother dies during an attack on their village which Ratonhnhaké:ton believes was led by the Templar, Charles Lee.
As years pass and Ratonhnhaké:ton becomes a teenager, the village Elder informs him that their duty is to prevent the Temple’s discovery no matter what. Believing him to be ready, the Elder gives him a transparent Sphere which allows Juno to communicate with him. When she appears, Juno shows him the Assassins’ symbol. That symbol then leads him to retired Assassin Achilles Davenport, who begrudgingly begins training him.
In order to blend in and move freely through the American colonies, Achilles suggests Ratonhnhaké:ton rename himself Connor. While out seeking supplies, Connor is framed by the Templars for instigating the Boston Massacre. Over the following years, Connor aids in the Revolutionary War between the Patriots and the British, meeting with his father as the two bridge an uneasy alliance in order to eliminate a rogue Templar.
Haytham uncovers a letter detailing George Washington’s plan to remove the Indigenous population – including Connor’s tribe. This also reveals that the attack on their village – the one which killed Connor’s mother – was instigated by none other than Washington himself during the 7 Years War. Angry and vengeful, Connor breaks the alliance and returns to his village but finds himself unable to reason with his childhood friend Kanen’tó:kon, forcing Connor to kill him.
Back in our present day timeline, Desmond conducts a series of missions to retrieve power cells from Manhattan and Brazil which are necessary for activating the Temple and preventing the Templar, Daniel Cross, from taking them. William goes after the final cell himself but is captured by guards from Abstergo Industries. Desmond attacks the facility and manages to rescue his father, killing Vidic in the process.
Back in the Animus, a conflicted Connor is unsure about eliminating the Templars and contemplates working with Haytham for peace and freedom. However, Haytham believes it necessary to control the nation by replacing Washington with Lee. Lee is disgraced by Washington for attempting to sabotage the Battle of Monmouth and retreats to a heavily fortified Fort George. Connor infiltrates that very same fort but ultimately finds himself face to face with Haytham, leading to a fight between the two.
As the fight reaches its climax, Connor kills Haytham and later manages to kill Lee too, recovering the key for himself. With the Colonial Templars eliminated, Connor returns to his village but finds it empty, save for the Sphere which has been left behind. As Connor picks it up, Juno instructs him to hide the Key where it cannot be found; he buries the key in the grave of Connor Davenport.
Back in 2012, Desmond retrieves the Key and manages to access the Temple’s inner chambers. Juno appears before him and explains that activating the pedestal will save the world but consequently cause him to die in the process. Minerva appears before them both, opposing the plan as it will free Juno, who was actually sealed in the temple to prevent her conquering humanity. As the plot thickens, Juno and Minerva explain that if the solar flare occurs, the world will be plunged into a post-apocalyptic chaos but through those ashes of ruin, Desmond could lead the survivors into a bleak, new future.
This leads to an interesting choice between the two outcomes, one which sees Desmond ultimately sacrificing himself in order to save humanity. William, Shaun, and Rebecca scramble out the temple as Desmond activates the pedestal. As he does, a golden veil shields the planet and protects it from the impending solar flare. With humanity safe for now but Juno freed from her cage in the process, she commends Desmond’s choice and ominously declares that it is time for her part to begin.
During the game’s epilogue, Connor takes down and burns the Templar portraits and symbolically removes the hatchet he had struck into the manor’s pillars all those years ago, signifying his part in all of this is now over.
Assassin’s Creed III is an interesting story and one that manages to take all the criticism on-board in the past to deliver something that’s surprisingly thought provoking and challenging. The idea of playing as a Templar for the first portion of the game and presenting this faction as more than just “the bad guys” is a clever narrative tool that does allow us to empathise a lot more with Haytham which is nice.
Continuing to blend real historical figures into the plot works well to flesh out the world too, and the changed setting does inject the story with just enough originality to keep things interesting.
The Desmond saga in the modern-day timeline is the weak-link in all of this, although the ending does give some closure to the apocalypse narrative that’s been spread across numerous games now and Desmond’s part to play in all this. His choice is ultimately something that ties back into the game’s themes around what’s right and wrong. If there’s one thing Assassin’s Creed III excels in, it’s this idea of morally grey areas and challenging what we’ve come to know as the established order of things.
There’s a lot of challenging ideas thrown into the mix and the way Assassin’s Creed III ends its modern-day story with the door open for future games is certainly a welcome and it’ll be interesting to see where Black Flag goes from here.
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