Ubisoft are set to break their hiatus from the Assassin’s Creed franchise with Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which is rumoured to release this Autumn. It’s what everyone has been waiting for: An Assassin’s Creed game set in Egypt, with a large open world – one not defined by waypoints and tower-climbing – but with an ambitious narrative, embodied within both its side and main quest lines. Essentially, people just want the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but with more shanking in the back, eagles and diving into hay bales.
Once of the key questions whenever an Assassin’s Creed title is announced is who the protagonist will be. They seem to vary in quality with each title as Ezio set the bar with his trilogy of games set in the Renaissance period. Those who followed struggled to keep up. We’ve had some okay ones over the years. Edward Kenway in that pirate one that everyone liked. What about Evie and Jacob Frye in that one set in London that people liked but, ultimately, no one bought?
It seems that over the years, Ubisoft have been trying to recapture the same fanaticism for their central characters that Ezio had inspired. They have achieved this to varying degrees of success, but it is important to cast your mind back to when Ubisoft first tried to move on from Ezio. That moment was Assassin’s Creed 3, and the catalyst for change, was Connor Kenway.
Conner is no one’s favourite brooding Native-American. The mohawk-sporting misog had the unenviable spot of succeeding Ezio, who by that point had come to define the franchise. Rather than spending this game in the presence of a character who is both charming and charismatic, we had to sit through thirty hours of Connor mumbling surly monosyllables, and Forest Gumping his way through American colonial history. If anything, Connor’s absence in the history records could be justified within the lore because he was quite forgettable.
Thus, we gave Connor a bad rap. People slammed him for being the anti-Ezio. Bearing few likable traits to relate or emphasise with. Sure, he was out to avenge the death of his mother and save his peoples’ land from being snatched away by the nefarious British. But by God, he could have done it with some panache.
Still, despite his shortcomings, I grew to like his character and at the end of the game, I sympathised with what turned out to be a fruitless and wasted battle.
Assassin’s Creed 3 was not like the Ezio titles that preceded it. It took itself too seriously and was more narratively ambitious. Ubisoft went into Assassin’s Creed 3 with the desire make it more of a historical drama than the Ezio trilogy. Consequently, this called for a more serious and stoic character, and he was an interesting one too. Whilst it is common knowledge that a large part of American history is that the Natives were given the fuck off by the settlers, very few stories, at least in videogames, have focused on their plight. So, we start with young Connor, losing his mother when his village is burnt to cinders. Then we meet what transpires to be the game’s antagonist, Charles Lee, a sniveling little prick who resides about a foot up the colon of Haytham Kenway. You remember Haytham? The suave Brit who impregnated Conner’s mum and subsequently jogged on to become a Templar Grandmaster? The one we would rather have spent the game playing? Yeah, he was a lad, wasn’t he?
The story progresses into Connor’s adult life and, when not being punctuated by Desmond Miles running around some cave, Connor struggles to defend his people and their land from those pesky British settlers. He turns up at home of Achilles – famed master assassin and future mentor – in Davenport and, after he refuses to leave and trespasses for a bit, Achilles agrees to train him but is a bit pissed, as Connor has the charisma of a dry sponge and how are you supposed to banter with that.
Connor kills his way through the colonists who, conveniently, are Templars, and even kills his father, Haytham, out of angst for all those years of missed child support payments. He then goes after Charles Lee and, after suitably fucking him up, chases him to a pub out in the countryside where they share a drink before Connor fucks him up some more. His work is done and he can ride off into the sunset, get a proper haircut and perhaps find himself a nice, miserable wife to share his despair with.
The ending of Assassin’s Creed 3 is not a happy one. Achilles passes away and Connor is left with no one. He later learns that the land of his people has been sold to settlers so that the new US government can settle its debts and Connor, after a twenty-year journey to avenge his mother’s death and take care of his people, has effectively failed.
This is ultimately one of the key points to take away from both Assassin’s Creed 3 and Connor as a character. History is littered with people who dedicated their lives to causes that are sometimes misguided, often noble, but always futile. Connor’s life was in vain, his struggles for nothing, and he dies without even being a footnote in American history. It’s poetic and resembles great fiction. A similar character to Stoner, the titular character of John Williams’ 1965 novel. Whilst not achieving as much as Connor, he is a remarkable man whose life you follow and sympathise with, but ultimately, he fades away having little lasting effect on those around him. Connor may not have been the ladies’ man Ezio was, nor did he possess his linguistic charm or have his rugged good looks, but he was, a flawed and hurt character, attempting in his own futile way to save a land from ruin and avenge the brutal death of his mother.
I played Assassin’s Creed 3 to completion a couple of times and found Connor more endearing on the second ride around. Maybe that’s what is needed, a second journey through his life to soak up the details and understand the humility of it all. Or maybe you could just get Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection. What about them textures, eh?