Over break, I played Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry. I’m not overly familiar with the series, but I have played part of Brotherhood, and I found that in both of these games I much preferred when the storyline took a break. With Brotherhood, this didn’t particularly bother me. I did a lot of goofing off, ignoring the quests that I was supposed to be doing, and wishing that I was in the limbo of directionless play after the game has been completed. The plot of the game only mildly interested me, and I was done with the character of Ezio pretty much as soon as the game began, so whenever I could get him to stop talking I was happy. The joy in the game came from parkour and creative assassinations. And gentle pushing. I love a good gentle push.
Freedom Cry was a little different. As much as I was excited about parkour and creative assassinations, the whole concept of a game about slave liberation in Haiti was also really intriguing. We’ve talked a lot about how the mechanics do a disservice to the concept of the game. The negation of the lives of the slaves to a number and reward, the fact that it’s only a DLC, the never-ending supply of identical slaves. However, one of the things I found most disappointing was the character Adéwalé himself.
Or, should I say, lack of character. On paper, he had a backstory and motivations. However, Freedom Cry presents his backstory only as a small, vague movie about his escape from slavery. As a standalone game, the player doesn’t know anything about the in-between. There’s a brief mention of Edward Kenway and Adéwalé’s status as a pirate, but in this particular game it’s left unexplored. Adéwalé is also fairly bland. His unwavering determination is admirable, but it leaves little room for depth. There is no room for character when he is only interested in achieving his goals.
Because Adéwalé as a character leaves so much to be desired, the plot-driven aspects of the game are boring. I want to see Adéwalé succeed, only because I know that it’s the right thing, not because I am at all invested in his character. The parts of the game that I do really like – the mindless running and jumping and violence – are better when I have freedom. Therefore, it’s a much more enjoyable game for me after the (hour long) credits are over and I don’t have anything specific to do.
This is really sad. This is a game of wasted potential. The protagonist, probably in an effort to make transparent and relatable, is bland and uninteresting. The player can’t be sympathetic toward a nonentity. Adéwalé had the chance to be such an interesting character, but he ended up being a failed attempt at transparent.