Monday, January 13, 2014

Assassin's Creed - The problem with Desmond

As I prepare myself to once again dive into the Animus, I'm reminded of all the problems I've had with this series. Assassin's Creed is probably the one game I can find a different subject every day of the week to rant about. Mainly because I loved the series so much, and Ubisoft just screwed it right up. So today it's Desmond's turn.

I actually started out as a fan of Desmond. I loved the puzzle aspect and sneaking around the Abstergo office in AC1. But then I'm an adventure gamer at heart, and I love a good conspiracy. Huge spoilers from this point forward.

For me, I think one of the biggest issues for Desmond come later in his life. In Revelations and AC3 the writers totally screw up all of his important moments. He kills Lucy at the end of Brotherhood, giving you a huge WTF!?!? moment. But in ACR, instead of this being a major issue, everyone practically shrugs their shoulders and writes it off as A) Juno took control and B) she was a double agent anyway. Desmond killed the woman I'm pretty sure he was falling in love with and it became a non-issue.

His first (voluntary) kill should have been a big moment for him too. We know Desmond ran away from the Assassin's. Arguably retconned but I'll get to that in a bit. He may have had the training but he didn't want the life. The first time he actively takes a life is a big moment for anyone, and AC just glosses over Desmond's. This would lead to the next big moment.

Finally - and I'm pretty sure I mentioned this in my AC3 review, because it was the moment I was waiting for since AC1 – there's the hood. The assassin's hood has become such a iconic symbol for the series. It's the S shield on Superman's chest. Desmond accepting he's an Assassin and pulling up the hood for the first time should be equivalent to Daniel Craig turning up with a SMG in a tux at the end of Casino Royale or Bruce Wayne seeing the bat crashing through the window. This is the moment that they accept who they are and just what they need to do. Instead, it was a throwaway action, in the back of a van in the middle of conversation.

Oh and the retconning. In AC1 and 2 Desmond, I'm pretty sure, has no idea about Templars and Assassins. He's completely lost. He's picked off the street because of his DNA. A side effect of AC1 is him picking up a few tricks from Altair, which is why they put him in Ezio in AC2, to train him, with the side effect of learning about another Apple Piece.

Then all of a sudden he totally understands what's going on and turns out he was a part of it for all of his childhood, but ran away as a late teen to have a normal life. Oh and he had a lot of this training before. That was probably my first disconnect with the whole series.

Basically, the writers of AC:R (maybe Brotherhood, I can't remember when the concept of William being his father was introduced) onwards didn't think about Desmond and just tacked a storyline to him. I want to blame the yearly schedule, because I want to blame that for so much that's wrong with Assassin's Creed.

Desmond's death should have meant something. Desmond had all the beginnings of a hero in the first game. He climbs his way from obscurity and persecution into a place where he can take on the big bad. Instead he became an annoyance. Something the developers had to include because the original game did, but they have no idea how to do it. So they just made him generic. When Desmond died it meant nothing. And among the many things that haven't worked with Assassin's Creed, if you can't make your main hero's sacrifice meaningful you're doing something very wrong.
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