It's becoming increasingly likely that the next major instalment in the Assassin's Creed series takes place during the American War of Independence.
Which shouldn't be a surprise. It's been suspected for years now that the game would be set around there. Seeing what appears to be final proof, though, has a lot of us excited. And for almost purely historical reasons. Here's why.
(Yes, this is going to be largely about actual history. Indulge me.)
Given it was the birthplace of the American nation, the War of Independence has taken on mythical status in the hearts and minds of many Americans. Yet anyone who actually knows a thing or two about the war, and its causes, knows that there's actually very little mythical about it.
Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed games may play loose with the facts, but in the more tangible history of a time period, they excel. What I mean by that is the politics, the attitudes, the society, even the fashion. It'll be interesting seeing them apply the same focus to such a revered time in American history, and hopefully show that it wasn't all as heroic as most movies and popular accounts would have you believe.
The choice of a Native American protagonist, as it appears has been made, would only aid this. Rather than having you play as a colonial, or a loyalist, being one of the indigenous population gives them the opportunity to propel the story from outside the partisan restrictions of the reds vs the blues.
People are already complaining that Colonial America lacked the large urban sprawls present in previous games. To that I say...those cities weren't exactly to scale. You can't run across Constantinople in a day. I also say, Colonial America had plenty of large urban centres. New York at the time was home to just under 50,000 people, while there were around 25,000 living in Philadelphia. Not exactly Rome, I grant you that, but big enough (if recreated in scale) for someone to run around in all day.
Another aspect of the same complaint is that those cities lack the towering landmarks we've been able to climb all over in other games. Well, they had church towers, same as any other city you've played an Assassin's Creed game. There were also large forts and plenty of tall ships.
But consider the character (who appears to be Native American) and the setting. Ever see Last of the Mohicans? Specifically, the scene (to your left) where the French and Native Americans ambush the British column in the forest? Colonial America may have been short on medieval cathedrals, but it had plenty of tall trees and mountains you could just as easily run through and over. Opening things up like that would also give the new game a nice change from the previous games, in which buildings were about the only things you could climb.
Oh, and if you really want to (I'm sorry) go out on a limb: given the war was as much driven by events in London and Paris as in the New World, what's to say you don't end up at one or both of those locations as well?
It's approaching cliché, the number of times the argument that there aren't enough minorities represented in video games pops up and someone makes a joke about Prey. Well, here we have what looks to be a Native American starring in one of the biggest video games on the planet, one that precedence shows may last well beyond a single title. And it's an entirely serious series to boot.
I'd long argued this game would be set in this time period based on a single assumption: that it was as late as they could set a game without having to completely overhaul every aspect of its combat. The late 18th century saw large battles fought by lines of men armed with muskets, yes, but smaller-scale engagements weren't so grand. And the American War of Independence had plenty of those. Whether it was Europeans using bayonets and swords to Native Americans using tomahawks and other melee weapos, there's enough gunpowder around to make it important (remember, Ezio's had a pistol for a while now) but still enough reliance on bladed weapons to retain those essential mechanics of sticking sharp things in people's necks.
Also: scalping. You know it'll be in there. Somewhere.
While we have no idea which side you'll be on in the war, if you even take a side at all (hopefully you don't), the fact there were so many nations and races at play should make for a great variety of people to talk to, rob from and stab in the face. Past games have always featured a clash of peoples or cultures, and the War of Independence was no different.
You've got established colonials. European immigrants from all corners of the continent. Local militias. The Continental Army. The British Army. Tens of thousands of Germans fighting for the British Army. The Royal Navy. The French Army. The French Navy. The Spanish Army. Slaves. Not to mention Native Americans on both sides (and stuck in the middle).
One of the things that's helped the latter games stand out from the original is the cast of supporting characters. Some of them are fake, sure, but others, like Leonardo Da Vinci, are of course real people, and weaving them into the story has worked wonders.
Imagine, then, the possibilities present in the War of Independence, which has no shortage of both important and fascinating characters. There's George Washington, of course, interesting not only for his importance, but also for the fact he fought for both sides in his long military career. There's Benjamin Franklin. Paul Revere. And don't forget Benedict Arnold as a possible Templar villain, who like Washington fought for both sides (only he did it in the same war).
I've already seen a few people complaining that this is yet another game about America, that it's a shame to see a series that had been so un-American end up so, well, American. That to me sounds ridiculous. The America you're sick of seeing wouldn't be the America represented in a Colonial video game. This is that nation's origin story, and as such will sound and feel much more European (particularly British) than anything you normally associate with electric guitars and square jaws.
Besides. Desmond Miles is American. His lineage had to end up in the US sooner or later. And the guys making the game? Most of them aren't American either.
Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends. You'll find Total Recall stories every Mon-Fri between 11pm and Midnight ET.