Mortality in Video Games or Why I like Assassin’s Creed So Much

Strange title I know but bare with me. This will all make sense, hopefully. Also, be warned if you have no played the whole series in question as this will most likley have a spoiler or two.

So today as I couldn’t really think of anything to do and I’d been meaning to do it for a while I decided to look up Assassin’s Creed: Embers. As a quick overview, this is a short (as in about 20 minute) animated film set after Revelations  to contiune a little bit of the Assassin’s Creed storyline. In this video Ezio has retired from being an assassin, has gotten married to Sofia and has two children and is living out his days in the Tuscan countryside.

It is also a film that shows Ezio’s death.

And that is what I wanted to talk about, death and mortality in general in video games. (Wow, that makes me sound rather morbid)

Although it would seem that death is a very common theme in games. Heck, it’s the main part in most they never really seem to actually hit on mortality. Sure you cut your way through eneimes, you die chances are you’ll respawn but mortality? Nah.

Assassin’s Creed is a series though that seems to highlight this. Asssassin’s Creed II where we first meet Ezio the first scene we see of him is his birth, it then skips 17 years to show him as a young man. And over the course of two more games we see him age and then finally we see him die in Embers. It’s an interesting series for that aspect as playing through the games we get to watch him mature. When it starts, Ezio is a young man, he is cocky, bold, atheltic and maybe just a tad immature. By the end of the game, he’s older and  a bit wiser.

Brotherhood comes around, Ezio is older and unlike his younger self he’s maybe just a bit calmer, less rage, less motivated by revenge he’s grown up between games and you can tell he’s getting older. Instead of just reskinning him to make him look older they make him act older. Revelations comes around and he’s aged even more and it shows. The once cocky teen is now a middle aged man, he moves slower is less motivated by revenge can control his emotions and he is tired and wanting to retire from his life as an assassin and put it behind him.

During Revelations we also find out about Altair instead of the game just leaving him as a never aging one time character. Like Ezio he goes from being young and arrogant to being older and wiser. Through the snapshots we recieve of Altair’s life we see him, we see him loose his wife, one of his children and see him disappear. Each time he comes back he’s older, a bit slower he reclaims his place as the mentor and works to rebuild the order but each time we can see him getting older, wanting a end to this. Until that last memory where we trace his last steps.

In Embers we see that Ezio is old, he’s got grey hair, wrinkles, moves slowly and wheezes. He is no longer physically fit in a way he is a shadow of his former self. We can tell it’s nearing his time and he knows as well as he says “I knew I wouldn’t have time to do everything but now I fear I don’t have time to do anything”.  And in those final scenes we see him slowly pass away in the middle of a Florentine market with his wife and daughter around him. Just before his passing we see a young man, chastising the women of Firenze a man who is very much like Ezio when we first meet him, in response Ezio states that the city is not the problem, but that the man himself is.

I think, that is what makes this series great. The fact that unlike many other the protagonist isn’t invincible and never aging that you get to follow them through their life story and ultimatley see their final moments. Not many games do that.

I will finish with this letter from the end of Embers:

“When I was a young man, I had liberty, but I did not see it. I had time, but I did not know it. And I had love, but I did not feel it. Many decades would pass before I understood the meaning of all three. And now, the twilight of my life, this understanding has passed into contentment.

Love, liberty, and time: once so disposable, are the fuels that drive me forward. And love, most especially, mio caro. For you, our children, our brothers and sisters. And for the vast and wonderful world that gave us life, and keeps us guessing. Endless affection, mio Sofia.

Forever yours,
Ezio Auditore.”

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