Assassin’s Creed #1

Cover+AA+ACAssassin’s Creed is a machine. There’s a new one every year, whether you need one or not. If you like pirates, there’s an Assassin’s Creed for that. If you’re a Revolutionary War buff, there’s an Assassin’s Creed for that. There are no fewer than 19 Assassin’s Creed games including mobile and browser entries in the series.

And I haven’t played any of them, which makes me either the absolute best or the absolute worst person to review the new Assassin’s Creed tie-in comic from Titan Comics. Written by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery with art by Neil Edwards and colors by Ivan Nunes, Assassin’s Creed centers on Charlotte de la Cruz, a low-level megabank employee with a Robin Hood streak and a penchant for VR videogames. After an unsuccessful interview with an international development NGO, de la Cruz finds herself drawn into the centuries long struggle between the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templars as the two organizations show up nearly simultaneously at her apartment to recruit/kill her.

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Project BG&E:
Carlson and Peeters!

Dear Sara,

I need to thank you for bringing up and giving kudos for the extent of the presence of people of color in Beyond Good & Evil because you’re totally right and it pointed out to me a significant oversight in the way I’d taken in the game. I’m still very slightly disappointed at the way the second half of the game focuses on Homo sapiens rather than the various other sapiens the game has introduced and I’ve certainly spent time trying to figure out whether the portrayals of the Mamago rhinos and Secundo veer into the offensive, but—and that should probably be written in all-caps—BUT I somehow failed to catch the way that Beyond Good & Evil really seems to try to resist a default category of whiteness.

There is in fact in Beyond Good and Evil something of a push against the idea of a racial or ethnic “default” state against which race and ethnicity are defined through the presence of racial or ethnic markers. Arguably, Double H is the only unambiguously Caucasian character, and by hinting very strongly if very briefly that he’s a clone, the game may even make an implicit comment on the possibility of a “default,” non-racinated state.

But (embarrassingly,) none of this occurred to me until you pointed out how many people of color there were on Hillys. It’s a common “I’m not a racist” gesture for (white) people to claim that they don’t see race, and to not even see how that claim is self-damning. That is, not seeing race is really a conditional extension of an assumption of whiteness to individuals whose appearance and behavior doesn’t “insist” on racial coding.

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Carlson and Peeters!

Project BG&E:
Of Human Bondage

Dear Sara,

Okay, so I’ve made it through the Slaughterhouse, which, happily, involved surprisingly little slaughter. Well, as long as you don’t include me. I died a bunch.

I can’t totally put the blame for this on the game—I mean, dying is a thing that happens in videogames. No big, right?—but I nearly got stuck a couple of times. In one place all of these blue bouncy manta rays pop out, and I tried fighting and running and climbing but nothing worked. When I tried killing the rays, they seemed to respawn indefinitely. When I ran away, Double H stayed put and got killed, which served as a game over just as if Jade had died. When I tried to climb to safety, I got shocked by a gate and thrown back down onto the main floor, where the rays killed me.

Finally, and seemingly randomly, Double H and I fought the rays and suddenly the soundtrack played a triumph flourish and Double H was praising me for my teamwork. Chances are better that I finally somehow fought the way I was supposed to rather than that the game was glitching into a loop in earlier attempts, but that’s what it felt like.

That’s a weird sort of failure—succeeding in an unsatisfactory way, and in the case of Beyond Good & Evil it might be traceable to the fact that the game includes a number of different interaction mechanics—stealth, fighting, taking photographs, basic puzzles—but doesn’t really emphasize any of them. This is, I think, meant as an early gesture toward games like Dishonored or The Last of Us that allow players to pick between different styles of play and provide multiple possible paths to specific goalpoints.

When it works, it’s liberating, but it doesn’t work when it prevents the game from communicating its own specific expectations to the player.

Continue reading Project BG&E:
Of Human Bondage