Until we actually get our hands on a finished copy of the game, it’s impossible to know with absolute certainty what places will feature and in what capacity. What we can do is take a look at the locations which have been mentioned or shown by developers up until now and show their significance to the events of the time and how they might feature in the Assassin’s Creed III story.
In a separate feature in this mini-series, we’ll look at some other notable locations to the events of that time and suggest ways in which Assassin’s Creed III might use or reference those places.
There was a constant army presence in and around Boston between 1753 and 1783, when the game is set. Massachusetts was often subject to the dangers of Indian raiding parties that made that standing army necessary, even when the two wars covered during the timespan of the game were not in progress. That means plenty of Redcoats.
Boston will, we assume, be the main urban location for the game. It was a large settlement with meeting houses, churches, restaurants and plenty of local government and royally appointed officials to embroil in conspiracy theories. There was a very large merchant community which did a lot of trade with Europe so there’s likely to be an ample stream of information from the “old world” as well as some of those bloated, greedy traders that Assassin’s Creed games love to set us against.
Boston was much smaller then, obviously, but it was a bustling town that acted as a hub for many smaller settlements around it as well as being an access point to many of the key battle sites in both of the wars spanned by the game’s time line. It also had one of the most important ports in the colonies and many of the pivotal events which led up to the Declaration of Independence took place in the city.
There will be ample opportunity to show the disregard for colonial life demonstrated by the distant British parliament as well as the cruelties of both the quartered troops and the growing dissenting colonists. Those colonists were apt to take part in a little public beating or tar-and-feathering themselves from time to time in the years immediately preceding the Declaration. The men who took part in the famous Boston Tea Party are looked back on as a jovial bunch making mockery of the British obsession with tea but in actual fact, they were a murderous mob, masquerading as Indians while destroying a year’s supply of one of the most valuable commodities in the region. It certainly wasn’t jovial – for either side – at the time.
New York was far from the massive metropolis that it is today but it was still a large town with a strong colonial identity. The colony of New York suffered defeats during the French and Indian War after a failed invasion of Canada in 1760 and was subsequently quite poor, despite – or perhaps because of – its importance as a naval base.
In 1765, the British parliament imposed a law on the colonies which was known as the Quartering Act. That law demanded that all colonies be liable for the quartering (housing and feeding) of any Crown Forces in the colony. Barns and outbuildings were taken over, colonies were forced to build barracks and innkeepers found themselves responsible for feeding soldiers they must have been very keen to see move on. New York opposed this law more staunchly than anyone else, nervously watching the largest naval fleet of the 18th century growing in its harbour.
That same year, the Stamp Act was issued by a British government that didn’t even debate it in parliament. The Stamp Act taxed all documents, from newspapers to legal licenses. Anyone found in violation would be tried not by a jury but by Admiralty courts.
New York strongly opposed this duty too, hosting a Congress in which nine of the thirteen colonies signed off on a resolution of opposition. Interestingly, the subsequent debate in British parliament saw much opposition in England to this duty. Even the King himself urged parliament to repeal the tax.
Their continued refusal to bow to the Quartering Act would see New York suffer even further at the hands of a later set of taxation laws called the Townshend Acts of 1767. Those Acts basically taxed everything that the colonies imported, with extra penalties against New York for their belligerence concerning the Quartering Act. New York urged a trade boycott with England which cut the colonies’ trade with English merchants in half.
It was the Townshend Acts that were later partially repealed at the request of English traders to leave only tea as the heavily taxed import – a fact which led to the famous Boston Tea Party.
During the Revolutionary War, George Washington only just made it out of New York with his men before being captured. Subsequently, the British held the city for the entire duration of the war and used it as a base of operations with large scale troop movements through the city and a massive naval fleet.
So, with so much going on in the colony of New York during the French and Indian War, period of tax opposition and during the Revolutionary War itself, there is so much scope for the kind of twisting stories of corruption that Assassin’s Creed has always specialised in.
We’ve seen footage of this in gameplay demonstrations. Valley Forge was a large camp of over 1,000 log cabins built and used by the colonial side during the Revolutionary War in the winter of 1777-1778. It was constructed and stationed by 12,000 exhausted, poorly equipped soldiers (only around a third even had shoes) in the countryside of Pennsylvania, around 25 miles outside of Philadelphia, the seat of the Continental Congress which had been recently taken by the Crown Forces.
Avid fans of the Assassin’s Creed expanded universe will probably remember from Assassin’s Creed: The Fall that there’s an Abstergo Industries facility housed in Philadelphia. Obviously, Abstergo wasn’t founded as a front for Templar activity until long after this time period in 1937 but perhaps we’ll see a little bit of fan service in the dialogue around this section of the game? Given Philadelphia’s massive involvement in the Revolutionary War, we should at least see cutscenes set in the city, even if the grid layout and wide avenues preclude it from being useful for Assassin’s Creed’s core gameplay experiences from a mechanical point of view.
At one point, 4,000 men in Valley Forge were listed as unfit for duty. That winter, 2,500 men and hundreds of horses would die amid food, blanket and clothing shortages, constant snowfalls and ice melts and rife disease. George Washington, who led the camp, repeatedly petitioned the Continental Congress for relief but his pleas could not be met. During their time in the camp, the entire army was tirelessly drilled and schooled in martial skills.
In June 1778 the British troops who had recently taken Philadelphia, concerned about France’s now open involvement in the war and the city’s openness to naval attack, decided to tactically withdraw for New York City. The relentless drilling and horrendous conditions of Valley Forge were finally bearing fruit as Philadelphia was now returned to the Continental Army and Washington’s men could give chase to the retreating troops and force them back to New York.
As you move further west from the coastal settlements of the colonies, the country got wilder but there were many settlements and Indian camps which could serve as game locations. In addition, the French and Indian War took place along that western (and northern) front so there were many forts and battles we could visit in the game before the prospect of American Independence is even raised. The Appalachian mountain line proved almost impassable for most and the vast forests could make for a really interesting open world area in Assassin’s Creed III.
A Mohawk camp has been seen in screenshots, presumably this will have something to do with the Mohawk half of Ratonhnhaké:ton/Connor’s heritage. It makes sense that this camp would also be included in the game’s Frontier area as the Mohawks lived on a few sites in the valley of the Mohawk River, about halfway between New York City and the Canadian border.
We’ve seen footage of naval battles that are captioned as taking place in the Caribbean in Spring 1778. That’s just after the hard winter at Valley Forge, right around the time that the British retreated for New York and George Washington chased them through New Jersey, eventually engaging in one of the biggest battles of the war in Montgomery.
The colonists had, rather sensibly, sought support from traditional British enemies and the French, Spanish and Dutch were keen to do anything that might unsettle British interests overseas, lending military assistance eventually but initially supplying cannon and arms to the Continental Army.
As well as obvious forms of support, there was an eager and extremely profitable trade, with ships who had evaded the British blockade of the colonies, through the Caribbean ports. The British Navy had blockaded the east coast around the colonies but there was a very active smuggling operation which brought goods to trade with other European nations who had evaded British ships on the European side of the Atlantic, often pretending to set sail for Africa and turning for the Caribbean once well out to sea.
In February 1778, the French openly declared involvement in the war and the threat of their navy was enough to worry the British troops back in Philadelphia. It also brought the threat of a French invasion of England and minor confrontations in European waters – making this colonial war a truly global one.
We can reasonably assume that Connor’s presence in the Caribbean at this crucial time in the Revolutionary War is either to aid or obstruct the smuggling of arms to the beleaguered forces of George Washington or to interfere in some way in the formal French entry into the war.
More in this series:
- For the first, on the subject of nationality at the time, click here.
- For the third, on other important locations, click here.
- For the fourth, a timeline of some key events, click here.
- For the fifth, on secret societies we may hear from, click here.