[We love guest writers! This article comes from community member Triplezer0! He talks about how Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’s out of place flirting should have been ditched. You can reach him on Twitter at @RsHunter88]
I just finished playing Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood the other day after forcing myself to just sit down and finish it. It wasn’t a terrible game by any means, and I’ve already pre-ordered Revelations. Most of my problems with Brotherhoodare issues inherent in the sandbox/open-world genre: loose story, lots of poorly connected (if connected at all) sidequests, filler material, and sometimes just too much stuff to do. But I’m not here to talk about all that; none of those are the thing that broke my immersion the most. No, I’m here to talk about incongruous witty banter and out of place sexy flirting.
Brotherhood opens up right where Assassin’s Creed II left off. Spoilers I guess for those of you who haven’t finished II yet. Desmond, Lucy, and the rest of the Assassin Scooby Gang are fleeing from Abstergo and they make their way to Monteriggioni, the 16th Century home of Desmond’s assassin ancestor, Ezio. They arrive with the Abstergo and the Templars hot on their trail, but the way down into the reinforced, underground sanctuary is blocked!
Using his genetic memories, Desmond realizes that there is another way into the sanctuary, but to get there he has to thread his way through crumbling underground tunnels. Lucy, his rescuer from the original Assassin’s Creed and potential love interest, accompanies him.
This platforming/climbing sequence happens at the very beginning of the game so it makes sense that its level of difficulty isn’t too challenging. While the gameplay itself doesn’t create a tension-filled experience, you’d expect the narrative and characters to pick up the slack. They don’t.
The characters let you know that the Templars are tracking you through your characters’ cell phones. You only have so much time before they triangulate your location. So there are two ways the developers could’ve designed this scene.
One: they include a non-diegetic clock or timer that counts down until the Templars find you. That would inject some tension into the game, but to me that is heavy handed approach. The floating timer covering part of the screen breaks player immersion and really doesn’t make much sense. Unless the characters know exactly how long it would take for the Templars to finish their cell phone trace, it would feel like an intrusion into the game-world on the part of the developers.
For the most part timers and countdowns feel like cheap ways to make a game tougher. Sure Mario’s always had a timer, but how many of you have actually ran out of time on a level–outside of when you’re attempting a tricky section to find a secret exit? Timers are an exterior way of forcing the player to make hasty decisions without the benefit of time to think. Personally, I feel like a timer would’ve been the wrong way to go with that part of Brotherhood.
Two: Forget a timer or countdown. Give the player as much time as they need to complete the sequence. It’s the beginning of the game. Don’t force new players into a timed section while they’re trying to grasp the game’s controls and mechanics.
Instead the developers could convey a sense of urgency with other tools at their disposal: non-digetic music, sound effects, and character dialogue. Imagine you’re in a stressful situation where you’re climbing through rotting underground tunnels, hoping you’ll be able to find a way inside before you and your friends are caught and killed. I think you’re conversation would go along these lines: “Hurry up!” “We gotta go!” “How much time do we have left?” Probably short, terse sentences trying to urge your companions onward. I don’t think flirting would be foremost on your mind, even if your companion is voiced by the very attractive Kristen Bell.
Instead of doing any of these things, Brotherhood’s developers instead chose to have Desmond and Lucy flirt with each other the whole time. I understand that the two characters are attracted to each other and their flirting acts as characterization. Still their chatter could’ve been more subdued and the player still would’ve gotten a sense of their personalities. One of them might react to their situation with anger, another with fear or panic, or perhaps with logic and critical thinking. While some people do react to stressful situations with attempts at humor or sex, there’s a point where it takes away from any intensity the scene requires.
To me this sequence felt more like a scene from a romantic comedy than a third person action videogame. At one point I was talking to my TV, telling Desmond and Lucy to just shut up. To many of you I’m making a big deal out of nothing. It’s the beginning of the game. Desmond is voiced by Nolan North, let him be smart alecky and glib. I don’t buy that argument.
The beginning sets the tone for the entire game, and Brotherhood kind of drops the ball at creating an explosive start to the rest of the game. To me this missed opportunity is actually emblematic of the game as a whole: a lack of cohesiveness between the various narrative components. Though for what I’ve heard about Revelations, that installment is supposed to focus more on Ezio and less on Desmond. Let’s hope that Revelations keeps its sexy flirting confined to sections that suit them.