When someone spends much of their daily life playing a video game, what’s real and what’s fiction start to intertwine. I felt like that recently after playing Assassin’s Creed Unity and, earlier last year, frantically trying to read everything on the Assassin’s Creed Initiates website, resulting in my frequent inability to separate pop culture (and other myths and generalizations found in several if not all of the AC titles) from what is real.
This problem, partly due to playing too much Assassin’s Creed, was agitated when I could no longer get my AC fix via the Initiates website because it went down for an undetermined length of time. So what happened to Initiates now, and why did it not work in time? Should we blame Ubisoft for aiming too high with an extensive upgrade instead of just sticking with the older but more stable version of the Initiates website?
As fans of the Assassin’s Creed franchise will know, the Bleeding Effect is the physical and psychological deterioration (or in some cases enhancement) of a person as a result of his or her overexposure to the Animus. Essentially, the memories, personalities, and traits/characteristics of the ancestors of a person all start to get jumbled and mixed together in a person suffering it, causing hallucinations, temporal confusion, and other issues.
Not familiar with Assassin’s Creed Initiates? In a nutshell, it’s a website/database companion to the main AC titles. The name “Initiates” refers to the fact that, in the modern-day period of the game world, there is a shadow group of ordinary, but nonetheless talented, people who have figuratively and literally watched the war over control of the world be waged between the Assassins and Templars. These Initiates logged, recorded, and sometimes stole data, documents, and intelligence from the Assassins and Templars.
Prior to its temporary shutdown last year to “enhance the AC experience,” the Initiates website was chock full of information spanning the entire AC franchise and its related spinoffs on other media platforms (books, comics, Twitter, and even a short film). In addition, it also formerly was used to set the stage for and integrate real-time in-game-world story events. So overall, it was a fun and awesome way to bridge the gap between the real world and the fictional world of AC.
The franchise depends heavily on fictionalizing the modern, real world we live in, and as such, for the Initiates website real-time events thing to work, the website needs to be up and running before or soon after the simultaneous release of AC Rogue for last-gen systems and AC Unity for next-gen systems. But, predictably, whatever could go wrong did go wrong, and the state of AC Initiates (and probably a boatload of planned promotional events and synchronized story-related posts) went into limbo with the announcement that the website wasn’t ready for the public just yet.
Fast-forward nearly three months later today, and it’s still the same story: to ensure the best experience possible for its users, AC Initiates is in a continued state of maintenance while stability issues (and who knows what else) are being worked out. Great, just great….
What of the fans that flock to AC simply because of the sheer amount of information that the franchise boasts?
Simply put, Ubisoft should not have bit off more than it could chew in its attempt to upgrade Initiates. Fans no longer have access to the on-demand encyclopedia of knowledge and real-time tie-ins to the modern-day storyline that the old version provided satisfactorily enough.
Yes, Ubisoft employees are (presumably) working their tails off to fix the problem. Yes, Initiates is not needed to fully enjoy Unity and Rogue. And yes, the modern-day story might not be a major and important part of the franchise for many players.
So does that mean that AC totally doesn’t need Initiates? Perhaps. Or perhaps it never even needed it in the first place. Or maybe, it never even needed a modern-day storyline at all.
And yet, as I discussed previously, without the modern-day storyline acting as a frame in the framing tale that encompasses the entirety of the AC series, all that AC really is is just trekking through time periods doing what you do as an Assassin or Templar. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all well and fine and would probably rake in profits, but if the games took that path from the start, we miss out on the unifying overarching themes and “oomph” that the Desmond Miles + Modern-day Assassins versus Templars + First Civilization triumvirate of storylines has given to the franchise.
This is why Initiates was such an innovation to me and many others when I first laid eyes on it: it provided an extra dimension of interactivity and story immersion.
And that is what I think continues to draw the masses to the franchise: in addition to the rocking visuals, engrossing and addictive gameplay, and gorgeous and historically-accurate locations that do fine as a separate triumvirate themselves, the complexly-woven and often tangled story (both in-Animus and frame-tale-wise) is still interconnected and, with every entry in the franchise, continues to climb higher and higher in its artistry and pure epicness.
Yes, it may not be necessary to some people, and yes, it may take longer to get it just right to be as stable and as beautiful as it can be, but Initiates remains an integral part to the components that combine to further enrich my AC experience, and I’m sure the same would be said of other die-hard fans like myself.
On a final note, have faith, Assassins: I’m sure Ubisoft has something cool and epic to make up for all the lost time and opportunities that the past Holiday season could have afforded.
And as always: Live by the Creed!