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Assassin's Creed IV Gets Closer to the Heart

Cari Scholtens | 28 Oct 2013 23:00
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The first possibility is that it goes exactly the way Ubisoft expects it to go. The more they tried to jam Desmond in our faces, the more we seemed to despise him. So rather than just giving us another Desmond, they have done an about-face and given us... well, us. They have promised us an immersive experience in which the ultimate combination of realism and fiction is achieved. You are just another employee on the job working alongside hundreds of people just like you doing menial research day in, day out. As far as monotonous job simulators go, it doesn't get much more real than that. You will also be able to keep a modest collection of Assassin's Creed action figures in your cubicle which will further remove you from the fact that this is part of the game. That and the decision to place Abstergo Entertainment in Montreal, Quebec is a creative flourish that will certainly draw die-hard fans to the trough asking "just how real is this going to be?"

For a game to feel real, it has to touch a part of us that feels personal. It has to strike those chords in us and make us feel as though we are the ones on this journey where there is a chance at success beyond our wildest dreams and also a danger of being profoundly hurt. We all have gambles in our daily lives, but they and their repercussions are rarely so grand as in the world of gaming and film. Since the storyline is trying to sell the fact that it is happening to us rather than around us, there's an opportunity here for a very personal experience. Rather than feeling removed from the action as in the previous games, we are now living it. When we first saw Desmond strap into the Animus, not one among us was immune to the twinge of curiosity. What would my ancestry have in store for me? Rebecca Crane even fuels this in AC: Brotherhood when she describes her experience in the animus, reminding us that even normal people have an ancestry worth exploring...no matter how "lame" it may be. I, for one, would be willing to be kidnapped, prodded and studied all day long by Abstergo if it meant getting a glimpse into my Assassin roots. Even if I found out I wasn't an Assassin or Templar, it would certainly be interesting to wake up on a ship bound for the Americas or on a battlefield behind a Nordic ballista. In ACIV we will be getting that chance...more or less.

The storyline will likely highlight one of the most basic of human fears: betrayal. At some point in the game Abstergo will throw us under the bus and either forcibly extend our employment or cut it decidedly short. If Ubisoft knows what they are doing, they can make this inevitable betrayal hurt us in a deep place. If they give us a friendly co-worker, a love interest, or even a kindly old custodial woman to befriend, who would then have a hand in betraying us, it could wound us more than any hidden blade or pirate cutlass ever could. Time and time again, we have seen the dramatic and theatrical Hamlet-esque betrayal in both videogames and film, but seldom have we seen betrayal which begins in a humdrum place like an office space or research facility. Something like that would really eat at our core and would cement Ubisoft as a true contender among developers and mark a definite turning point for the Assassin's Creed franchise.

But that's only if all goes according to Ubisoft's plan. Let's remove the rose-tinted glasses and remember that there's another possibility.

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