So Kotaku unveiled what is likely the setting/hero/etc. for Assassin’s Creed III, and online reaction seems divided into two camps:
1.) The idea of an Assassin operating during the American Revolution is awesome;
2.) But what about Desmond?
Afterall, the overarcing plot of the Assassin’s Creed story demands an awesome epic conclusion with Desmond in 2012. But this is an example of how video game writing can be constrained by the gameplay, which is relatively unique to video games.
The problem with a Desmond-centred storyline isn’t a problem with Desmond himself. Some people don’t like his character, and I agree he comes across as whiny in the original Assassin’s Creed, but the following games flesh him out and make him more appealing (and his white hoodie is a nice modern equivalent of the Assassin robes). It’s not Desmond’s character that makes him unsuitable as the primary character in the next game in the series.
No, the issue with Desmond is that at this point in the series, Assassin’s Creed, as a family of games, does certain things. And one of the things that makes it mostly impossible to do what it does are automatic weapons, because while sneaking around and stabbing people and getting into awesome swordfights is terrific, it’s all more or less rendered obsolete by firearms. Indeed, the end sequence in Assassin’s Creed II, where Desmond has to fight his way through a bunch of Templars with the wrist blade, makes absolutely no sense. Why do none of the Templars have guns? Heck, why don’t any of them have so much as a frigging taser?
This is not to say that eventually we might see an AC game where the protagonist exists in an era where there are reliable guns. But it would demand being a wildly different game from the existing franchise in many ways. Arguably, Assassin’s Creed III‘s American Revolution setting is about as far forward as you can go in time and still use most of the existing gameplay of the franchise: multiple-shot rifles and pistols start showing up a few generations later, and realistically that’s the ball game for stabbing people as a raison d’etre. “All men are created equal – Sam Colt made them that way” isn’t just a cute saying: for Assassin’s Creed it’s the obelisk standing before the cavemen.
If you put Ezio Auditore in the Wild West, he would be one dead Italian pretty damn fast. And Ubisoft isn’t going to fuck with how the franchise plays in the final game of their flagship trilogy which, in best Douglas Adams fashion, is now five games long.