By Victor Kalogiannis
The Colonies before the states were united, before there were states, is a world full of secrets, violence and paranoia. Tensions are high, frustration and confusion are palpable, and trust is comes uneasily at best.
Armed with urgent information about the British pulling out of Philadelphia and marching for New York, Connor, the half Mohawk protagonist, and Haytham, the stoic Templar master who is Connor’s father, make their way through Valley Forge to warn President Washington. Haytham, as he has so often done before protests, suggesting telling Charles Lee, instead. The protest seems to be a half-hearted attempt, but then again Haytham constantly projects this confident swagger and seems to calmly roll through any situation.
However, this still prompts Connor to reinforce his decision and ideals. Washington is a good and honorable man. He fights with the best intentions, and when this conflict with the British is finished, Washington will unite Connor’s people – and others like them – into a cohesive and peaceful country.
There are a number of great and memorable moments in Assassin’s Creed III. Most revolve around the luscious environments, key set pieces, burying a tomahawk into a redcoat, or the simple joy of moving from tree to tree like a human bird. Many of the standout moments have been talked to death (I could go on for hours about how much I loved the naval missions). While this one may be more obscure, it is no less affecting.
Once they reach the President, Connor learns that Washington recently ordered the troops to burn down Kanathseton, his village in the MohawkValley. Years earlier, a similar order, years earlier, that resulted in the death of Connor’s mother. On top of this, Haytham, Connor’s father, has known this information, and had been sitting on it during their fragile, temporary alliance. Upon learning this, Connor ends his ties with Haytham, and makes for his village, but not before threatening to kill Washington and Haytham, should they try to stop him or get in his way.
It’s the kind of thing that sticks with you. I mean, to kill Washington, the first president, the Washington of legend, the cherry tree chopper of myth. Not only does it show Connor’s emotional ferocity when it comes to protecting his village, it shows that he would do whatever needs to be done in order to save his people, even if that means killing his father or the leader of country whom he both admires and fights alongside. Sure this was just one spoken threat, but I had no problem believing that he would follow through. This is one of the rare times that we see Connor become heated and angry. This isn’t just some frustration and childishness spewing out, as when he lashes out at Achilles. This, to me, is an important moment of characterization for a character who is so often reserved and even naive.
Connor’s people and village are always a soft spot, but it is interesting to see that even as he gets caught up in events much larger than him, and begins questioning the true purpose of the Assassins and Templars, he never loses sight of his original goal. This moment shows that he has his priories, his adamant focus, and nothing, neither father nor President, will change that. Connor has been knocked for not being as interesting or likeable or charismatic as Ezio, his predecessor in the series. But I think there is something compelling about such a stubborn and determined protagonist, especially when he is pushed to his limits.
This betrayal was a key point in Connor’s character development and one of the most stand-out and impactful moments in my playing experience. It’s a tipping point for all of the emotions and evil life events eating Connor up inside. It opened Connor’s eyes to the real world, forced him to grow up a little, and showed that there is in fact some emotion behind his deadpan and stoic demeanor. Maybe one day he’ll learn how to smile. Baby steps.
Victor Kalogiannis works as the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s videographer. And he loves the Assassin’s Creed series of games.