As I hinted at in my previous Assassin’s Creed 3 Review, I found the ending to be disappointing, to put it mildly. I feel like any such statements should never go unqualified, and I wanted to spend some time picking apart the ended to see exactly why I found it so disheartening. In the attempt to keep my review spoiler-free, I refrained from mentioning much about the ending there, but now with it’s own article, I’m under now such restraints. So this piece is going to be absolutely spoiler-tastic!
*In nice bold letters now, SPOILER WARNING, this post will contain spoilers for Assassin’s Creed 3. Ye have been warned*
Okay, everyone gone who wants to avoid spoilers? Yes? Good. Moving right along then.
So yes, I found the ending to be all kinds of disappointing. I found myself both unsatisfied and a little frustrated with the process. By the end of it all, Desmond is presented a choice by two lingering beings of the First Civilization. He can either release Juno, and doing so will protect the world from the solar event, but as a result Juno will attempt to subjugate the world, and Desmond will not survive the release. The alternative is to leave Juno trapped, in which case the world will burn, but the human race will not be destroyed, merely reduced to the dark ages. Desmond will arise as the spiritual guide for the survivors, who having knowledge that the others do not. But over time, his words will be twisted, and used to intimidate and corrupt rather than guide.
Now, the second option I found interesting to ponder. The parallels between the histories of real religions were stark and compelling, and raised a number of compelling questions. Would freedom be worth it? Was the corruption avoidable in any way? But when I thought about it, there was no choice at all. This is a video game, and in order to ensure a sequel, you needed an antagonist, and a world that can be saved. So that meant releasing Juno, and by that point I had determined the course Desmond was going to choose.
So a dilemma that was no dilemma at all, thanks to the constraints of video games. That can be a bad sign, but that really wasn’t a deal-breaker. A game will need to do that from time to time, and that’s fine. What really became the proverbial thorn in my paw was the cheapening of the story, and my contributions as a player, that resulted from Desmond’s death.
I have no qualms about a game killing off its lead character, or any character for that matter, if it appropriate for the story. I’ve heard the argument that the audience never really had a connection to Desmond as a character, so killing him off is not such a tragedy. On one hand, I do agree that Desmond was a fairly bland protagonist, not helped by the fact that we spent most of our time with his far more interesting ancestors, so I didn’t have a great deal of connection with him as a person. However I can’t agree that killing him off has no effect, because even if I didn’t connect with him as a character, I had enormous investment in his story.
We have been with Desmond for five games now, that is a large amount of time to spend with any protagonist. Over the course of these five games, we have been lead to believe that all our actions were contributing towards saving the world from some global catastrophe, that each part of the story we completed was another piece of the puzzle. That you were the equivalent of the chosen one from the perspective of the first civilization. Only to be told at the end that you were a few hundred years too late, even though they asked for Desmond by name about five hundred years prior. Now, all of your actions of the previous five games leave you with the choice of destruction, or subjugation and probable destruction.
To be honest, I felt a little cheated. I wanted to feel like I had accomplished something, when in fact, I had done little.
To top it all off, Assassin’s Creed 3 finishes with the worst kind of cliffhanger. A good cliffhanger leaves you anxious about what will happen next. You might fear for the main characters, or the plots that are unfolding. You can theorize, wonder, form and reject ideas as to the direction you’re about to take. Assassin’s Creed 3 does none of that, instead it wipes the slate clean, leaving you only to say “Well, I guess we’ll see where they go with this”. Which in my opinion, is far less satisfying.
I still enjoyed Assassin’s Creed 3 to death, the gameplay is often more than enough to make up for faults in storytelling, but I can’t help feeling like the ending was hollow and arbitrary. I’ll reserve my final judgement, as if Ubisoft can pull it all together well in the next game, all will be forgiven. All I can say is, it had better be big.