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American History and Assassin's Creed III

JAlbor October 18, 2012 User blog:JAlbor

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We know Assassin's Creed III is set in a tumultuous time period of American history. While the game is not about the American Revolution at it's core, this is a story about Connor, Desmond, and the Assassins, and there are events before and after the war. However, the historical backdrop still provides some sweeping and thrilling moments in which Connor can find himself in or affected by.

As Alex Hutchinson, the Creative Director of the game states in a Forbes interview, "You find this long history of the indigenous population allying with the French or the British, or the Spanish or the Dutch, and it just seemed like a very believable backdrop for the character."

Below are my selections for interesting moments in American Revolutionary history that enrich the game and why.

What are yours?

1770 - The Boston Massacre
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In 1770, Connor Kenway, after years of his village suffering at the hands of colonists, decides to join the Assassins under the training of Achilles. That same year, on March 5th, a riot broke out on the streets of Boston against the increasing presence of British troops. The rioters, a mere 50 citizens, threatened the armed troops enough for them to open fire - killing three men instantly and wounding eight others. In the fallout, two soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter and eventually the Royal Governor would pull all the troops out of Boston.

While the riot may not make an appearance in Assassin's Creed III, its historical relevancy is not lost on the game. While Connor finds himself pushed to the breaking point, American citizens are also finding themselves increasingly pushed to the brink of war.

The Midnight Ride
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Paul Revere's famous "midnight ride" on April 18, 1775, in which he warned the Colonial militia of approaching British forces, has become a quintessential example of American folklore. I probably knew of Paul Revere before I know of the underlying causes of the Revolutionary War. It is only fitting, then, that the event appears in Assassin's Creed III.

Perhaps more importantly, Paul Revere represents a wider class of revolutionaries distinct from icons like George Washington. Revere was a lower-class than the leaders, but played a huge role regardless. He was also an artist and his depiction of the Boston Massacre was widely used to spread discontent. In a series of games that features characters with various backgrounds and from different social means, Revere represents the Assassins in a way - he fought for a cause he believed, despite the cost.

The Shot Heard Round the World
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April 19, 1775. Roughly 70 Colonial minutemen, having received warning from Paul Revere and other riders, stand prepared to meet about 240 incoming British troops. The British soldiers killed seven Americans in Lexington, but they would suffer over 125 deaths by the time they retreated from the increasingly organized American militia.

The event was both a victory and a symbol. The classic story of the American revolution in a simple example - inferior numbers defeated a stronger force by using smart tactics. The feeling of both a disadvantage but also power has always resonated in the Assassin's Creed story. Time and again, the Templar represent a huge overwhelming force. Yes, this is a sort of classic underdog story, but in this case, it is more than that. This first major battle of the Revolutionary war mirrors the beginning of the end for the Templar/Assassin relationship as well in a way. It's a great backdrop to an already compelling and universal story.

The Battle of Bunker Hill
Another momentous event in American Revolutionary history is one in which we know Connor makes an appearance. On June 16, 1775, an American infantry set camp on a hill just outside of Boston. The British troops, influenced by custom, led multiple charges on the encampment, losing nearly half of the 2300 soldiers sent to attack before they successfully claimed the territory.

It was an immense and long battle that eventually triggered the King's decision to treat the Revolution as a full-blown foreign war. For his part, (and minor spoilers here), Connor is tasked with hunting down and killing John Pitcairn, a British marine and Templar stationed in Boston. It is fitting that an incredibly offensive move carries the full-force of the Assassins along with it.

Treaty of Paris
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There are many events that take place between the end of the war and the Battle of Bunker Hill, but I wanted to end on a final and important note. September 3rd, 1783 marks the conclusion to the war. While I do not expect Connor to make an appearance (or will he!?), I still find the event fascinating.

The Unites States became a sovereign nation, but we know that the conflict between the Assassins and the Templar did not end with a signed document 300 years before Desmond was born. Assassin's Creed has always been a story about a conflict raging through time - literally. Knowing what we know about American history after the nation's founding, the idea that a war ended but a struggle over values continued is compelling and one of the greatest thing about the game series over all. Yes, I love the climbing, and stealth, and combat systems of Assassin's Creed, but I also love that this is a game story about something real - and I can't wait for that story to continue.

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