A matter of points of view
Simonsens, September 22, 2013
Translated by: Sara

My first official article on Access The Animus, a big responsibility in a way. For this special occasion, I decided to discuss with you a simple topic that I've often seen on facebook pages and forums. I would like to talk about the aesthetic part of the franchise because, in my opinion, no one has ever been able to face it from the right point of view. Among the many criticisms on Connor's episode, there were, in fact, a lot of heavy and predictable complaints for the total change of location.

We have seen a slow and careful selection for the locations of the games and it has always been able to capture gamers, transporting them into distant lands and times that only the history books had given them the opportunity to see. Finally, thanks to Ubisoft's programmers, this places came to life in the beautiful settings of the games. Assassin's Creed, especially with Ezio's saga, made us Italians really proud: looking at our cities in this unusual but functional way, is something incredible that can only be overcome by actually visiting the cities themselves. With Assassin's Creed III, however, everything changed: the Corinthian capitals, the classicism, the Renaissance gave way to a colder architecture, way more industrial and less organized but still based on the actual atmosphere that you could have seen in the American colonies at the end of 700.

My speech might seem an apologža of Assassin's Creed III. My goal is, actually, to provide an objective analysis on what we saw in the games of the past and to relate it to last chapter. I think, in fact, that the criticisms of the last days around this matter are due exclusively to a superficial observation of it.

The filters, this damn obsession for filters. For those who do not know, the photographic filter is a color that is applied over a fixed or moving image in order to alter the natural lights that are normally acquired. To put it simple, it is an Instagram style effect. Assassin's Creed, as you know, has often used this trick to create the right atmosphere for the cities in which the Assassins had to act. Let's think, for example, to Altair's cities: Acre, with a blue light, Damascus colored of ocher and Jerusalem surrounded by greenish filters. And the Italian cities? Also thoroughly characterized by different colors: Venice with its grays and Florence with amber hues that bring to mind the lights of the Tuscan countryside.

In short, filters, along with all the artistic and architectural (and I'd add socio-cultural) components, converge in an impressive stylistic and visual complexity which ensure a clear difference between every single location of the entire saga. But which is the reason for using this technique? It's a simple historical matter. Each location had, in fact, to be different, not only for artistic matters, but also to stress the transition from a city to another or, if you want to be more poetic, from one world to another (keep in mind this step). We are talking about worlds in these historical contexts because crossing the threshold of a city or its gate really meant to enter in a whole new world with completely new sounds, people, colors and architecture. In addition, in the game the usage of colors helped to mark the boundaries of the three Middle East cities which were, actually, deeply separated in consequence of their different domination. Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus were respectively a free zone, an area of European domination and an area of Islamic domination. We could say the same for Ezio's cities.

The fact that Rome does not reach the levels of Constantinople is due, in part, to a lack of filters. Rome is a city trivially reduced to a classical Mediterranean framework, with solar lights and a completely invented and anachronistic Baroque style. Constantinople, on the other hand, is perfectly reflected in its lights and atmospheres, with colors and golden hues, glimpsed between the crimson sails of the boats in the port.

But let's talk about Assassin's Creed III. Users complained about the lack of personality of the environment, the lack of filters that made the urban areas all the same, indistinguishable from each other. Proceeding step by step and from a purely architectural and stylistic analysis, I can say that, unlike European cities, American towns had a different and simultaneous evolution that did not allow a great diversification between them. Every city in Italy, in Europe and in general in the old continent had various developments due to following dominations (Spanish, Arabic, English, German, French etc..). We had more than three thousand years to shape our cities, to give them a unique charisma. We cannot say the same for colonial towns: they were built and influenced by different dominations but they rose and developed, for better or worse, under the English ascendancy (at least the colonies we saw in AC3). This is the reason why I said that Connor's cities are similar for an historical issue and this is also the explanation of their greyness: that colour is, in fact, typical for the towns grown under the influence of an early "industrial revolution".

I wanted to underline the importance of the filters because in the third chapter they weren't used to diversify the colonies from each other but to stress the transition from one world to another. Very few pleople realized in fact that, in this game, the difference is not located between Boston and New York, but between the urban environment and the natural one. In my opinion, this is a great proof of concept, anything but trivial as it may seems. All of this would have been wasted if the intervention had been applied to all the locations, using a simple copy-paste of the previous productions.

There is an affinity between Connor and the enviroment around him. The character of Connor, in fact, is torn between his being a native son, descendant of an ancestral culture and, at the same time, the heir of the modern age. The setting of Assassin's Creed 3 is clearly divided in the colonized and urbanized world and the pure and emblemished frontier one where the forests, with their leaves and lawns always enlighted by the rays of the sun, create a credible and dynamic ecosystem that resembles a woodland version of the city crowds.

Assassin's Creed III is a journey into the origins of the human being and his daily quest for the natural self. As Ezio's chapters took us back in our cities and in our past glories, Connor leads us on a different journey, far away from the cities and their chaos. He takes us where we can absorb ourselves in an environment of which, probably, we have no more memories.

Please, leave a comment below to express your opinion especially about the location of the new chapter!

comments powered by Disqus




The curious case of Rising Phoenix

Between ecstasy and shellackings