Assassin’s Creed 3 Is At Its Best When it Challenges History
There’s an easily missed conversation in the early going of Assassin’s Creed 3 that’s one of the game’s standout moments. Many players probably never see it.
It requires players to double back after their first meeting with Benjamin Franklin to John Hancock’s general store, where they can run into Franklin again. Talking with the future face of the 100-dollar bill yields a rather hilarious conversation lifted almost verbatim from his 1745 letter, in which he gives advice to a (potentially fictional) friend on choosing a mistress.
When I say hilarious, of course, I mean sexist and awful (although it’s conceivable Franklin was just joshin’, I guess, though I’m not sure how much that would mitigate the sexism). Just read the letter yourself (here) or find the conversation in Sequence 3. The point is, Assassin’s Creed 3 slows things down to give you a historically accurate snapshot of one of the Founding Fathers being as Dude, Brother as can be conceived. It is not a flattering moment for Franklin, to say the least.
It’s also a consistent theme throughout Assassin’s Creed 3: The game goes out of its way to remove the historical romanticism that goes along with this country’s founding myth, relying (to at least some degree) on characters who are (or who at least seem) more real. The game reminds us that George Washington wasn’t particularly cool to Native Americans (again, to say the least), and that the Patriots were kind of being jerks to the English king, who, after all, had just financed a war with the French and Native Americans on their behalf.
A lot of these viewpoints get elaborate explanations from Shaun, the resident Brit on the Assassin team back in the modern era. Players can trigger some discussions with Shaun about the history the team is seeing unfold from Connor’s point of view, and Shaun argues with protagonist Desmond about some of the ideas and facts Americans hold dear, or choose to ignore — like the fact that many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, for example. Connor also has a moment in which he calls out Samuel Adams on the same point; Adams brushes him off, saying something to the effect of, “Once we’re free, we’ll deal with making those other guys free.”
Of course, we know that that doesn’t actually happen for another 90 or so years.