How do you balance the fictional struggle between the Assassins and the Templars with real historical events? This is something the Assassin’s Creed franchise has always worked to perfect – and in Assassin’s Creed Unity, it’s being handled in a new way: the game’s Parisian history-driven side content.
“Some of the side missions in the game let you play with characters that are relevant to the French Revolution, but are less linked to the fight between the Assassins and the Templars,” Assassin’s Creed Historian Maxime Durand explains. These missions are where you get a real taste for what was happening in France during the French Revolution. You’ll be solving murder mysteries and investigating cults and myths, as well as meeting historical figures that played important roles during the revolution. Durand gave us a bit of a history lesson and walked us through just a sliver of these side stories and the people you’ll encounter.
Perhaps the most-recognized symbol of the French Revolution, the guillotine was (at the time) considered a more “humane” method of execution. Before the guillotine, beheadings were only for nobility, and even then they were done by sword or axe, neither of which guaranteed a quick death (you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a clumsy executioner’s swing). The guillotine we know today was invented by a man named Dr. Antoine Louise, with the help of Tobias Schmidt, who suggested using an angled blade as opposed to a rounded one for a speedier death.
The guillotine’s name came from Dr. Joseph Ignace-Guillotin, who proposed its use as a less painful method of execution. He actually opposed the death penalty and regretted having his name tied to the device. His family petitioned the government to rename it; however, the request was denied and the family changed their name instead. (History fans might be interested to know that death by the guillotine was still legal in France until the 1970s.)
In Unity, you will encounter Dr. Guillotin and Schmidt, along with Charles-Henri Sanson, the Royal Executioner of France during the French Revolution. Parts of their invention have been stolen, and it will be up to you to help them recover the missing components.
Marquis de Sade
When people think of the Marquis de Sade, they often think of the word derived from his name: sadism. He had quite a penchant for “phantasm and sex,” as Durand puts it. Many of his literary pursuits were pornographic (and violent) in nature, which landed him in trouble with the law frequently. He even ended up in the Bastille for his crimes.
But the Marquis you will meet in Unity is not some deranged lunatic. He’s incredibly intelligent and charismatic. In fact, when we met him during a recent demo of the game, there was a flippant charm about him. He’s decked out in gaudy jewelry and ragged clothing that has certainly seen better days and casually discussing business as we watch a man’s leg get sawed off. You’ll have multiple encounters with the Marquis de Sade, both on the main path of the game as well as in the side content.
You probably know of Madame Tussaud. In fact, you may have even visited her wax museum. But what you may not know is during the French Revolution, the figures she created were less along the lines of glamorous celebrities and leaned more toward… the faces of those put to death at the guillotine, post-death. A bit darker than the smiling Hollywoodites you might associate with her name.
After her arrest and near execution during the revolution, she was put to work creating these grim death masks, including those of Louis XVI and Robespierre. She claims to have dug around among corpses searching for the heads herself. Throughout the game you will encounter her a few times in side missions and interact with her and her strange business.
Widely considered the father of modern chemistry, Antoine Lavoisier was a renowned chemist in the 18th century. One of his most notable discoveries was the involvement of air in combustion, and he was eventually appointed to the National Gunpowder Commission where he was charged with improving the production of gunpowder. He kept up his work for nearly 20 years before the French Revolution began. After being forced to resign, Lavoisier was branded a traitor and executed at the guillotine in 1794. In Assassin’s Creed Unity you will meet him in a mission called The Chemical Revolution, where Arno must help him escape his captors and recover the formula for his poison bomb.
“Obviously a lot of people expect that in every game we’re going to have this cool scientist character who makes weapons and is politically involved and all that,” Durand says. “Leonardo da Vinci has set a lot of expectations. Every time period has very cool scientists or important historical figures, but we shouldn’t always just be hoping for the da Vinci character. Sometimes it’s just not feasible to have that one political or scientific mind constantly present in the game.”
Yeah, especially during the French Revolution when famous figures were knocked off left and right.
The Red Ghost of Tuileries Palace
Built on the site of a tile factory, the palace of Tuileries was rumored to be haunted by “Le Petit Homme Rouge,” or The Little Red Man. Some of those who saw him claimed he was protecting them, while others claimed he bore prophecies of their deaths. Even Napoleon was said to have had dealings with this strange Red Ghost. “Obviously we don’t know if any of the stories are true, but it’s all so interesting,” Durand tells us. “It’s these fantastical legends from Parisian history that just add another level to the game.”
To the Lamp Post!
“À la lanterne!” was a phrase that gained quite a lot of popularity during the French Revolution. As Durand explains it, during this time of great unrest, the citizens of Paris would turn lamp posts into makeshift gallows where they strung up nobles. Arno will have missions involving this practice. Allowing someone to be put to death simply because they’re a noble might not be the most ethically sound decision. “When you’re playing Assassin’s Creed, the goal isn’t to have Arno be super pro-Revolution or anti-Revolution,” Durand says. “We try to present two sides to the player so they can decide which is wrong and which is right.”
The Cult of Baphomet
Like the story of the Red Ghost, the Cult of Baphomet missions dive a bit more into the mystical side of France’s history. You’ll need to steal mysterious artifacts in order to infiltrate this strange cult and find out what they’re up to. Historically, Baphomet has been linked to the Knights Templar, so you can probably assume the cult isn’t there for the betterment of the Assassins.
Eugène François Vidocq
Often considered to be the father of modern criminology, Eugène François Vidocq became the Chief of Police following the French Revolution. During the French Revolution, however, he was quite the criminal, and found himself in jail many times. This is where Arno first finds him in Assassin’s Creed Unity. Vidocq wishes to atone for his crimes and make Paris a better place for people to live, and it’s up to you to help him.
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