Assassin's Creed: Moral Dissonance

chikusho

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This is why the original Assassins Creed is still the best one, in my opinion.
You played as a Master Assassin and was tricked into believing he was on the side of righteousness in a war between two different but equal forces over ideology, power and influence. By the end, you realize that neither of the sides were ultimately either good nor evil, and that the entire conflict was just repeating a cycle of destruction.

And, while I despised Ezio, at least he was a wronged man out for vengeance. You could see him not caring about the people he murdered, because there's an in-game justification for his dark and brooding behavior.

As Ed Kenway you just run up and start slaughtering people.

I have found it hard to care about any AC story after the first one, and AC4 was no exception. I found the story about the faceless abstergo worker much more interesting in the end. Because in some ways, that story actually matters within the context of the world.
 

bluegate

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Dirty Hipsters said:
Unsilenced said:
He actually is pretty much an assassin in all but name. He takes assassin missions even. Also, if you kill a civvie or even a cat, the game scolds/autofails you. Unless it's on the ocean where you're deliberately murdering hundreds of civvies at a time, then it's dandy. It's a game largely about killing civilians as a game mechanic, and it scolds you for killing civilians. It's just... augh.tuohu.tuh tohu.s th
I just read up about this, and according to the assassin's creed wikia you cannot kill civilians with normal weapons in assassin's creed 4, all you can do is use sleep darts on them and they don't even drown if they fall in water.
You can aim a gun at civilians, shoot them and they will die.

As for the topic at hand, haven't read the opening post yet, just swung by to share my experience on civilian killing.
 

Foolery

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Fuck moral dissonance. You know what I would like? More stealth options. Better controls. A crouch button. IV did give us a blowgun so that's cool. But I think stealth could play a bigger part and be more refined. Stepping up combat to make it more challenging would also help.
 

Rattja

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Who cares? In a game where you can be surfing on a killer wave while fireing broadsides at a man o war ship during a storm, to then board it and strip it of it's flag while the rest of the convoy are fighting someone else in the back... you really want to care about this?

First of all, these are memories of other people, usually you see yourself as good or doing the right thing. Also, you just can't bring modern moral into a setting like that, when it's different time, and not even a real one at that.
He's a pirate doing pirate stuff and he likes it. Freedom for a pirate is not the same as freedom for you.

Other than the original startup crew, all my fellow pirates are either fished up at sea, or joined me after a fight. Seems reasonable to me.

But my main point I think is this one. You are in a machine, that some people are testing for the public to use, and they make sure they are fun to use. Being pictured as the bad guy is not as fun youkno, people want to be the hero.
 

Rattja

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Dead Century said:
A crouch button.
If there is anything wrong with this series, it's a lack of this. Been missing one since the first one, tend to walk on ropes or narrow paths just to pretend I have one..
 

Adam Jensen_v1legacy

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I had that problem with AC since the beginning. Too much killing. Even if they're all soldiers there's just too many of them and at some point killing so many people does create a dissonance. That's why I was so glad that I can just knock out enemies in Black Flag.
 

hermes

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Its not different than any other Assassins Creed game, really. If anything, its a lot more justified in 4 than in other games.

In AC 2 you didn't kill only Templar, but everyone in uniform on the streets was a fair target. Some of them didn't do anything to you other than standing on your way, yet you smoked them left and right... At some point, the ratio of Templar guards versus regular official I had smoked was disproportionate. In AC 3 it was worst, because many times you didn't target a particular faction... you were targeted by British and Rebel soldiers alike. Even right after "liberating" a fort, the new occupants would waste no time in targeting me (which was mighty ungrateful of them)

The only difference here is that Edward is a pirate (not the Johnny Depp or Errol Flynn kind, the real kind), so he has no scruple about killing people, even civilians, regular soldiers or other pirates. The game goes to great lengths to present him as someone that follows its own moral compass. He doesn't care about the Assassins, their code or their mission. He are greedy, rude and full of bloodlust, and if he felt joining the Templar order would benefit him more than the Assassins, he would do it in a heartbeat.
 

BrotherRool

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This is why I only killed 4 people in Assassins Creed 2 :p And they wouldn't be the people you're thinking either, the only people you have to kill are a couple of guards who are unfortunate enough to be part of the tutorial, and one whose a (non-failable) QTE. The QTE is especially bad because it's meant to be Ezio springing an ambush, but if you refuse to shiv the guy everyone just stands their awkwardly looking at each other whilst they patiently wait for Ezio to kill the guard and ambush them.

You can just punch all the assassination targets, they give a dramatic death speech, but afterwards you can see them moving on the floor and even groaning/muttering a bit.

...well okay that was probably more about the you-barely-have-to-play-this-game combat system. But I also never felt right stabbing my way through arbitrarily decided targets. Sure the Templar's might be the bad guys but they're not the ones running through cities on a mass-murder spree killing everyone he deems 'unworthy' to live and anyway who gets in his way.

AC2 also pulled the absolute BS ending of, I'm fine with having killed hundreds of people to get to you, but now I'm alone with the one guy who was genuinely responsible for it I'm going to prove my nobility but not killing you and let all those orphaned children know I didn't actually follow through with what I killed their parents for.

chikusho said:
This is why the original Assassins Creed is still the best one, in my opinion.
You played as a Master Assassin and was tricked into believing he was on the side of righteousness in a war between two different but equal forces over ideology, power and influence. By the end, you realize that neither of the sides were ultimately either good nor evil, and that the entire conflict was just repeating a cycle of destruction.
I always find it weird how easily they transitioned between AC1 and the rest of the series. The major plot twist of AC1 was about how the Assassins were a bunch of hypocrites and the whole right to assassinate everyone was a lie ... and then they just seemlessy move to playing it straight in all the sequels. 'Oh I know you were tricked into a ideological war in the first one, but this is ideological war is completely justified, honest'

Although at least AC2 had the revenge thing, so even if the Assassins part was weird at least it made sense on a personal level (even if still pretty questionable in terms of morality)
 

Something Amyss

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Unsilenced said:
But if a game had you play as Hitler, I doubt it would agree with the character's delusions.
If you played specifically as a guy named Hitler, yes. If you played as someone in command of a country doing questionably moral things? Gamers do this all the time.
 

MarsProbe

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No, I never really thought of this. It is only a game after all. Plus, I'm sure this isn't the first time the pirate way has been glamourised in media. Anyway, I wonder, is this not just that stupid "ludo-narrative dissonance" concept going by a different name? That's one term I hope never ever to hear again.
 

Ftaghn To You Too

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On the one hand, all of your points are completely on the nose.

On the other, fuck you, I'm a pirate. If you aren't a pirate get out of my face before I stab you and then go do something morally abominable to people that don't deserve it because, once again, fuck you I'm a pirate.
 

Dirty Hipsters

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Ftaghn To You Too said:
On the one hand, all of your points are completely on the nose.

On the other, fuck you, I'm a pirate. If you aren't a pirate get out of my face before I stab you and then go do something morally abominable to people that don't deserve it because, once again, fuck you I'm a pirate.
That should have been the title of the game, "Assassin's Creed: Fuck You I'm a Pirate."

It just rolls off the tongue better, and is a much more apt game-play description.
 

Fleaman

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Assassin's Creed has been stupid since the second game, which turned the SCP Foundation paranoia into hipsters cracking the DaVinci Code, turned the morally complex Assassin and Templar organizations into monolithic embodiments of all good and evil, and revealed that the first Assassins were literally alien slave freerunners Adam and Eve.
 

EternallyBored

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To me, Assassin's Creed has always been pretty good at using the Animus excuse to let you know that you aren't actually playing the historically accurate version of these memories. In AC2 and 3, they specifically mention that a lot of the combat is just a fragment of the Animus designed to help Desmond train to be a master assassin. The 100% synch challenges give you a better look into what the actual ancestors did, which usually involved stealthing past everything and just killing their target, so the ancestors within the story likely had much lower kill counts than your Animus counterpart.

By AC4 they've dropped the pretense of training now that you're playing a random game tester/ programmer (? Do they ever describe what your actual job title is supposed to be in that game). Now, if you read the codex, they flat out admit to editing in buildings, locations, and people to fit with the game they are trying to make, even if it's not completely historically accurate to the memories they removed from Desmond (There's a few subtle jabs at Farcry 3 in there too).

So yes, all the people on ships being uniformed soldiers is a product of Ubisoft not seeing a point in putting civilians on its ship boarding pirate mechanics, but the game justifies it as a decision by Abstergo Entertainment to keep Edward Kenway more exciting to play as. They talk about making changes, and in the hacking minigame they show unlockable promos of the fictional game Abstergo is working on where they deliberately play up the pirates being lawless chaotic villains
 

jackinmydaniels

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Unsilenced said:
Dirty Hipsters said:
I'm having trouble seeing the moral dissonance of doing piratey things when you're literally playing a pirate. Now I haven't actually played Assassin's Creed Black Flag, or any Assassin's Creed game since Brotherhood so maybe I'm not exactly right to comment on the main character and how he's presented in the story, but as far as I know he's isn't as assassin who is honor bound to observe the assassin code and not kill innocents. He's a pirate who took the cloths and tools of an assassin, and he does what pirates generally did, reek havoc, steal cargo, sink ships, and get paid.

And again, it's not like pirates didn't have the same kind of moral dissonance that is presented in the game. Many pirates were former soldiers/navy men who felt screwed by their government and turned to piracy when they were unable or unwilling to find honest work. They didn't really think much of sinking merchant or government ships or killing those on board to steal cargo because those people were standing between the pirates and feeding themselves and their families so if they didn't have to treat them like people they really didn't want to. Remember, desperate people tend to be assholes. I'm sure they also loved to talk about how free they were and how they hated government tyranny and all that jazz, criminals tend to do that. Hell, listen to some gangster rap, one minute they'll be talking about how great it is getting rich off drug money and killing competing gangsters and "fuck da police" and the next they're talking about how they're the only free people in an oppressed society. Criminals (or wannabe criminals) haven't changed in hundreds of years.

And again, this is an Assassin's Creed game, meaning that you're supposed to be living out the character's memories. Of course the game you're playing is going to present the main character in a positive light considering you're playing through his memories of himself.
He actually is pretty much an assassin in all but name. He takes assassin missions even. Also, if you kill a civvie or even a cat, the game scolds/autofails you. Unless it's on the ocean where you're deliberately murdering hundreds of civvies at a time, then it's dandy. It's a game largely about killing civilians as a game mechanic, and it scolds you for killing civilians. It's just... augh.tuohu.tuh tohu.s th

And yes it's likely that the pirates in question are deluded as to the nature of their actions, but the game totally agrees with their delusions. It puts military uniforms on merchant ship sailors so you don't feel bad about killing them, never has the murderers and rapists you recruit murder or rape, and has any named "villian" characters kick puppies about all day so you know that they're bad.

My favorite though might be that there are ships in the dock that you get scolded for blowing up, since they're "civilian," but no ship out on the ocean is ever civilian. The moment they pick up anchor, *poof.* Magic uniforms for everyone!
Except that the explanation in game is that Edward isn't attacking civilian ships, he's attacking military ships. Blackbeard and him have a conversation about it at some point or another, that's the reason there are so many soldiers aboard the ships you can board, maybe it's a tad unrealistic to have that many military vessels, but you aren't taking out civilian schooners, and doing so does autofail you.

"Aye, we'll leave the clashin' of cutlasses to the military, we won't be spillin' no innocent blood.' That's what Blackbeard says, or something like it at least.
 

L. Declis

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MAJOR SPOILERS! I can't discuss this without spoiling it!

Unsilenced said:
Am I the only one who sees the Assassin's Creed games as becoming creepier and creepier? In the earlier games there was some nod to the idea that you weren't necessarily a perfect "good guy," and the generic enemies running around were clearly alligned with the villians. In all of the AC games with Ezio, you were mainly killing mercenaries of sorts. Then AC III came and you started frolicking about murdering English conscripts. Men who, rather than killing because they were paid to, were only there because they were forced to be, and had no idea they were working for the bad guys. Still, you're the hero! Fuck them for not knowing things they had no possible way of knowing.
Well, I do want to remind you that the game does have several mechanics for you to avoid murdering everyone you come across. If you feel that it might have been difficult and the best thing to do was to murder everyone, then that is how your version of Connor worked. Believe it or not, but getting inside a hostile fortress and murdering the leader WITHOUT hurting anyone should be difficult, and murdering everyone in between you and said target should be morally worrisome, but justifiable as "Ends justify the means".

And then there's Black Flag. Now, if it were clearly supposed to be "Assassin's Theft Auto: Carribean," I'd get that. Asshole protagonists aren't a new thing. I'm fine playing a character who's morally bankrupt, as long as the game in some way acknowledges that that is the case. Instead, we get to listen to Edward and his comrades monologue about freedom and justice and the American way. Edward himself at least has the decency to be greedy about things, but that doesn't stop the game from trying to make him as charming and likeable as possible at every other turn.
American Way? I don't remember much about that. It was mostly "Those big Navy's come in here, a land that they shouldn't own, and try to tell us what to do? Well, we shouldn't live under a king who does nothing for us!" Which is kinda the same mindset as most of the world came to have regarding empires.

Also, you can be greedy and extremely charismatic; confidence is an attractive thing and once you've got a ship which easily destroys things, and he is a big shot pirate captain like he's been dreaming for a few years, I imagine you'll have a swagger in your step as well. If you're greedy, you don't have to adopt evil twirling mustache; some people are more complex than that. I'm sure we've all met a likeable person who isn't actually that nice.

And the game starts with him hunting down a man and killing him, taking his clothes, lying and performing illegal acts, unknowingly betraying the Assassin's orders, getting beaten and imprisoned with the intention of slavery, his best mate constantly chides him for jealousy, one of his friends points out his selfishness, the Assassin's all but mistrust him, he is beaten, betrayed several times, looses everything that has ever mattered to him, and only once he accepts it is his fault and must make amends does he get a slight happy ending. Note that nearly everyone he has ever loved has died, his life is gone, and he had about ten years of the worst time you can imagine.

I think he gets a bit of punishment.

"Oh, you saw a shot of his wife! That means he's the good guy! What? The people he pointlessly slaughters? Oh, no. People who wear uniforms don't have families, silly!"
Those people are probably shooting him. The best way to stop shooting is to actually MAKE them stop. With a wrist knife. In the ribs. Or between them.
What I'm saying is this is the Carribean. Where everyone is either a killer, or an innocent. If you've put on an army outfit, and you see a pirate trying to steal or sneak in, or you've been ordered to kill him, doesn't matter if he wears fancy robes, he's gotta die. See my earlier point on how much you kill is up to you and why it might be necessary.

Let's look at some of the things he does in the game, just as gameplay mechanics. I haven't progressed far in the plot yet, but these are every day in the life of Edward Kenway.
I'd suggest going further. A three Act story needs to have all three Acts seen. "I can't believe Frodo died from the Nazgul", "Oh my god, Ben Kenobi died, it's all over", "Harry and Ron can't get to Hogwarts, so they will be expelled!"

To recruit new pirates, Conner must free men who have been taken prisoner or are being attacked by the authorities. Now, he doesn't ask /why/ this is happening to any of them. In one case there's even an explicit mention that a pirate has killed innocent people, but since it's said by a person in a uniform (clearly satanspawn), we get to ignore it. Now, you generally find these people either about to be hanged, at gunpoint, or fighting with soldiers. To get that kind of attention they probably committed a pretty serious offense. Granted, you are a pirate, so you have to recruit people who are pirates, but you're not exactly screening them. Maybe that one was there because he raped a 10 year old. Maybe he shot his mother. Who knows? Who cares? He's a roguish, lovable freedom fighter now!
Wait, Connor? I assume you mean Edward.
A pirate has killed innocent people? Yes. They do that. So did the British army. And the Spanish. And the Dutch. And whoever else had an army and Imperialistic tendencies. It was a rougher time, and we are in a rough place.
You know what is a criminal offence in those times? Piracy. Edward did it to make enough money for his wife as working inside the law is never going to work. His best mate did it because his crime was he was black and going to be a slave. Those pirates fighting in the street? They probably looked at the British army men funny. Have you walked down a British street at night? It's not unbelievable. Now give those thugs legitimacy and weapons.

And then, of course, there's the piracy. It's cute, really, how they think that putting a uniform on all of the character models will make it O.K, but you're still attacking merchant vessels, and not just by going "hey surrender and we won't hurt you!" like actual pirates did, but by dropping a fucking mortar shell on them before they even know you're hostile. Ships that carry rum and spice aren't manned by a crew consisting entirely of hardened soldiers in fancy, soul-nullifying uniforms. They're civilian. Maybe there's guards if it's an important ship, but often the people manning the cannons would just be ordinary shmos who wanted to live to see their families again.
Correction; you're playing the game. Do you want Edward to not attack merchant ships? Then pick up the random loot all over the sea. Eventually, you made the choice that it wasn't worth it, and decided to go for convenience rather than morality. Not the game; you did. It provided an option, but you choose otherwise. You can walk up and ask if those crews employed by the army will willingly surrender their supplies, and since surrendering would have likely been cowardice and execution, they'll fight to live. So either you leave, after asking nicely, or you take what you want. If you want them to back down, bad language won't do it; you gotta incapacitate a few. If you're so against killing, there are blow darts and fists. If you're murdering, it's your choice to pick the guns and swords for convenience.

But fuck em for that. Clearly evil, shell those fuckers to the bottom of the seas. Oh, and also some of them might be slaves/conscripts/shanghied/etc, so you're killing people who were literally forced to be there. But it's ok, it's for FREEDOM! If we brutally kill enough poor people and slaves, we'll really show those kings who's boss!

*single bald eagle tear*
What is it with you and your obsession with the America thing? I think I heard one mention of it. And it wasn't a revolutionary thing either. The people that made this game are in Canada. And mostly French. They're hardly pumping the Stars and Stripes. Regarding you killing them, see above point.

Of course, never mind that Edward's main objective at this point is to sell the world into slavery to the highest bitter. That's just kind of a "quirk" of his, and we love him for it.
Yes. A man who has always said "I want to make enough money so me and my men can retire, and I can look after the wife I've loved forever since I met her" will intend to sell something that would allow him to do such a thing. Note that you can love him or not, but it's an understandable stance to have.

Also note that EVERYONE tells him how selfish he is. He is marooned for this. He is betrayed for this. Multiple times. He looses everything for this. The game actively punishes him for this. I don't know what else you want. The "cut off a finger" from Heavy Rain?

Once again, if Edward was clearly supposed to be an asshole, I wouldn't have a problem with it. If the game was meant to be amoral, that'd be fine. I don't have problems with running down hookers as Niko Bellic, because Niko is an asshole in a world where pretty much everyone else is also an asshole. He has a shitty life, befitting his status as an asshole. Black Flag though doesn't seem to be capable of shutting up about how noble and liberated the pirates are. And of course, there's still the thing if you attack domestic animals or "civilians," it's bad. Apparently Edward didn't kill civilians, except for the thousands of times he did.
How noble and liberated? Nearly all of them either become insane (Blackbeard) or turn to the Templars (that guy) because how wrong the pirates are, or complain the entire time that it isn't working, and everything is turning to hell. You think Kenway didn't have a "shitty life"? He has a noble wife he can never truly support in England, he is betrayed... I've written this several times, go back and read that again. And the world of pirates is full of horrible people. I mean, take Blackbeard.

Kenway didn't attack people who didn't attack him, or stand between him and his goals. Like a reasonable human being who is a pirate. A pirate lives on trade; if he is killing random people in a settlement, then no one would trade with him. So, you dislike he is an "arsehole", but not enough of an "arsehole"?


Remember:
Firebombing 100 civilians and leaving them for dead in the ocean: Good, honest work for FREEDOM!
Shooting a cat: OH MY GOD HOW COULD YOU YOU HORRIBLE FUCKING PERSON!?!??!?!?!?!?
Well, you can choose to rescue them. And if there is a reason for attacking them, then it's somewhat justifiable. Shooting a cat in Assassin's Creed is never justifiable; even in the mission where you must hunt one, you can shoot it with a sleep dart and leave it be. Like the people. Don't blame the game for what YOU did. This isn't Spec Ops. You can choose to ignore it.

TL;DR: It's annoying when games have you play as the villain, but have absolutely no understanding that that's what they're doing.
The game has demonstrated that Kenway does not good things and gets suitably punished.
 

ultrachicken

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Did you actually finish AC4? Because I'm getting the impression that you either didn't, or didn't pay attention.
The other characters, particularly the assassins, make it very clear that Edward is NOT a good guy, and in fact that his overwhelming selfishness is what drives all the people he cares about away from him. Hell, even Adewale leaves his side because of his selfishness, and Adewale was also a pirate (though a more morally conflicted one). It's only after Edward's character altering epiphany that one can say his actions are moral, and that's a major part of the story.
 

sXeth

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Within the Animus framing device, it establishes that those "bonus objectives" in 3 and 4 were the precise actions of the ancestor. Which often includes a stealthy non-lethal approach. It also allows that there's a certain level of "free play" without desynching, and in Black Flag Abstergo Entertainment probably has that at a maximized level so they can portray the pirates as more bloodthirsty; as depicted in the trailers for 'Devils of the Carribean".

Given that you don't in fact have to sink any civilian/merchant ships, outside of the early tutorial where Hornigold lets them live anyways, there's nothing to say that Edward attacked non-military ships himself, simply that Present-Person is choosing to do so, at the behest of Abstergo wanting a certain depiction of pirate life. They do specifically ask for more action and combat scenes, subtly pushing the present-person to depict a more bloodthirsty caricature.

Edward (and Altair) also both have a character arc of progressing from hamfisted-in-approach jerks to more finesseful and wise assassins over the games. Whereas Ezio and Connor are more about growing past their revenge fantasy to acquire a more mature perspective (arguably, Connor's main problem is he seems to never complete his arc in AC3). In all four cases, there's a certain direction of going from "Take no prisoners, and achieve my self-oriented obsessions" to finding a greater purpose and developing a greater empathy for others.