Assassin’s Creed games place a premium on historical accuracy. If we bring out our History books, we can have a good idea of what we’ll be seeing in the game. The French Revolution, which serves as the background for Assassin’s Creed: Unity, was a particularly violent time in French history (Assassin’s Creed Unity French Revolution). The primary plot takes place in Paris during the time of the revolution. The plot focuses on Arno Victor Dorian and his quest to uncover the actual forces behind the revolution.
The French Revolution is one of those timeless historical periods, which is rife with disputes and revelations. It also has political resonance throughout the social spectrum. Many artists have explored French Revolution; in novels, movies, paintings, music, plays, and other forms.
A brief on French Revolution (Assassin’s Creed Unity French Revolution)
The French Revolution was a time of profound social and political upheaval in France that began in 1789. The revolution concluded in 1799 with Napoléon Bonaparte’s ascension. During this time, French citizens demolished and rebuilt the country’s political environment, destroying centuries-old institutions; such as the monarchy and the feudal system. The French Revolution was influenced by enlightening ideals, notably the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. However, it did not achieve all of its objectives and at times devolved into a massacre. Tens of thousands of people perished throughout this period. The movement played a vital role in the formation of modern states. It revealed to the globe the power inherent in the will of the people. (Assassin’s Creed Unity French Revolution)
How did the French Revolution start?
The revolution began in 1789 with the Estates-General and concluded in November 1799 with the establishment of the French Consulate. The Estates-General of 1789 was a general meeting of the estates of the realm in France. It comprised clergy (First Estate), nobles (Second Estate), and commoners (Third Estate). It was the last of the Kingdom of France’s Estates-General. The Estates-General of 1789, summoned by King Louis XVI, came to an end when the Third Estate created the National Assembly; and asked the other two estates to join in, despite the King’s desires. This marked the beginning of the French Revolution.
End of French Revolution and rise of Napoléon
According to most historians, the Coup of 18 Brumaire established General Napoléon Bonaparte as the First Consul of France. Thus ending the French Revolution. This bloodless coup toppled the Directory and installed the French Consulate in its stead. This event occurred on 9 November 1799, which was 18 Brumaire, Year VIII. According to the French Republican calendar (1793–1805), Brumaire was the second month.
From the fall of the Directory in the coup, the Consulate was France’s top-level government. The Consulate remained at the top until the start of the Napoleonic Empire on 18th May, 1804. During this time, Napoléon established himself as the leader of a more authoritarian, autocratic, and centralized republican administration in France; without declaring himself sole ruler. After the long-lasting institutions were established during these years, Napoléon also introduced autocratic personal authority. The autocratic personal authority has been characterized as a military dictatorship. (Assassin’s Creed Unity French Revolution)
Assassin’s Creed Unity’s link with the French Revolution
Arno Dorian, the main protagonist of Assassin’s Creed: Unity; was born in Versailles to an Assassin father. Arno is adopted after his father is slain post the Assassin’s Creed: Rogue. He was unaware that his new father figure is the Templar Grandmaster. François de la Serre was the Grand Master of the Templar Order’s Parisian Rite in the late 18th century. He was the biological father of Élise de la Serre and the adopted father of Arno Dorian. Élise was also Arno’s love interest.
As a follower of the Ancien Régime’s absolutist monarchy, François de la Serre dismissed his lieutenant, François-Thomas Germain, from the Order; for his radical views of dethroning the nobility and transferring authority to the burgeoning middle class. Germain saw de la Serre as a complacent Grand Master who had forgotten the fundamental aims of the Templars and had him assassinated in 1789 as part of a coup inside the Order.
When Arno’s adoptive father is slain, he blames himself and embarks on a quest for redemption. It leads him to the Brotherhood of Assassins, where he steadily climbs through the ranks, much like Ezio Auditore da Firenze in earlier games. Arno and Élise set out to learn more about her father’s death and its involvement in the Templar Order’s increasing ideological shift, which threatens its basic principles.
The Storming of the Bastille
Bastille was a fortress that served primarily as a prison, and it signified royal power in the heart of Paris. (Assassin’s Creed Unity French Revolution) The revolutionaries saw it as a symbol of the monarchy’s abuse of power. The revolutionaries’ storming in on July 14, 1789, was a watershed moment in the revolution. The prison contained only seven inmates at the time of its storming. Supposedly, the revolutionaries proceeded to the Bastille to release the captives. In reality, the revolutionaries were more interested in the firearms and the thirty thousand pounds of gunpowder stored within the prison.
Bernard-René Jourdan de Launay, the governor of the Bastille, refused to relinquish the castle and opened fire on the mob. After four hours of battle, de Launay decided to surrender the fortress as long as the garrison was not wounded. The revolutionaries stormed the castle and savagely beat up de Launay. He was intended to be spared and transported to City Hall, but he kicked a chef and died as a consequence.
It isn’t an iconic moment, but it does sound like an Assassin’s Creed mission. It already appeared in the game’s CGI trailer, also a playable mission in Assassin’s Creed: Unity. In the mission, Arno was one of the seven captives. Arno met Pierre Bellec, a member of the French Brotherhood of Assassins in Bastille, where he trains Arno in combat. The enraged Frenchman assaulted the prison two months later. One of them was Templar Élise de la Serre, who was looking for Arno. The mob assassinated the general of the Bastille, de Launay, signaling the beginning of the French Revolution. During the chaos, Arno and Bellec took advantage of the chance to flee.
The execution of the King Louis XVI
Louis XVI was the last King of France before the monarchy was deposed during the French Revolution. During the summer of 1791, he sought to escape Paris with his family to start a counter-revolution. Unfortunately, they only made it to Varennes before someone recognized Louis based on his image on an assignment (a monetary instrument used during the French Revolution). Flight to Varennes is another name for this episode in the French Revolution. After the whole royal family was apprehended in Varennes, they were brought back to Paris. This attempted escape resulted in treason allegations against Louis XVI, which ultimately led to his death by guillotine. The execution occurred on January 21, 1793.
The execution happened in Place de la Révolution, now known as Place de la Concorde. This place changed its name to Place de la Révolution during the course of the French Revolution. Place de la Révolution was the location of several noteworthy public executions. King Louis XVI and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, were also executed here.
In the game also on 21 January 1793, the execution of Louis XVI happened by the guillotine in Place de la Révolution. Under the influence of the Templars, the National Convention sentenced the death of the King. François-Thomas Germain oversaw the King’s death as part of his plan to take control of France. He was a Sage and Grand Master of the French Templars; the main protagonist of Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Arno confronts Germain on the day of King’s execution. Unfortunately, the Grand Master fled, leaving Arno to cope with his bodyguards.
Jean-Paul Marat‘s assassination
Jean-Paul Marat was a political thinker, physician, and scientist from France. During the French Revolution, he was a writer and politician who was a staunch supporter of the sans-culottes, a radical voice who disseminated his ideas in pamphlets, posters, and newspapers. His journalism was noted for its fiery tone, advocacy of basic human rights for society’s most vulnerable members, and unflinching support for the revolution’s new leaders and institutions.
Charlotte Corday, a female assassin, stabbed him to death in his bathtub, but she made no move to run. She was eventually prosecuted and sentenced to death for the crime. Marat had a severe skin issue, and the only way he could find relief was to take long baths filled with medical plants. Corday gained entry to his chamber during one of these medicinal baths with the help of a note offering information of a counter-revolutionary ring in Caen. Corday belonged to a modest aristocratic family and was also a political adversary of Marat. She also held him responsible for the September Massacres. During the French Revolution, the September Massacres were a series of executions of prisoners in Paris; that took place between 2-6 September 1792.
In Assassin’s Creed: Unity, there is one side mission where Arno has to solve the mystery behind Marat’s death. The name of the mission was The Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat. In this mission, Arno has to go through all the possible clues leading to Marat’s killer.
The Fall of Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a French lawyer and statesman who was a well-known prominent person during the French Revolution. He was also the architect of the Reign of Terror. Reign of Terror was a period from September 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794. In reaction to the revolutionary fervor, a series of killings and several public executions occurred during this time period. During that time, almost 17,000 individuals were murdered as read by official statements. Historians estimated hundreds of thousands more fatalities as a result of revolts around France or unrecorded murders. All of the killings of individuals caught up with Robespierre, and the revolutionary government arrested him. He attempted to shoot himself in the face but was only able to shatter his lower jaw. His execution happened the next day of the botched suicide, without any trial.
In the game, Maximilien Robespierre was a member of the Templar Order. He was working for the Grand Master François-Thomas Germain. Arno and Élise were trying to find Robespierre in one mission. The name of the mission was The Fall of Robespierre. Robespierre knew about the whereabouts of Germain, and that’s what Arno and Élise were after.
Role of Napoléon Bonaparte
Napoléon Bonaparte was a French military and political commander. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution and commanded numerous victorious Revolutionary War operations. From 1799 until 1804, he was the head of the French Republic as First Consul. He was the Emperor of France as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814, then again in 1815. During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoléon controlled European and global politics for more than a decade while leading France against a succession of alliances. He won the great majority of these wars, establishing a huge empire. His empire reigned over continental Europe until its final collapse in 1815. He is one of history’s greatest commanders and one of the world’s most famous contentious political leaders.
In a few of the missions in Assassin’s Creed: Unity, we’ll get to see Napoléon. He ascended to power in the middle of the French Revolution’s instability and political turbulence. He was an ally of the Assassin Brotherhood on several occasions, and he had a long and complicated friendship with Arno. Arno agreed to assist Napoléon and the French Army in several missions to safeguard Paris from the final royalists. He even handled some of Napoléon‘s personal tasks, which lead to his rise.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity received mixed reviews during its release. It received positive feedback for its graphics, customization possibilities, location, and characterization. It was criticized for its lack of originality and for seeming unprofessional.
The French Left Party, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, criticized the game’s historical depiction of the French Revolution. Mélenchon told France Inter radio that the game capitalizes on the anti-Republican sentiment in France today. The game is not a history lesson, although it does depict certain historical events in a fictitious manner. It is undoubtedly entertaining, and it encourages players to learn more about History.
The game had various graphical flaws and glitches, leading Ubisoft to apologize and provide compensation. In the years after its release, most of the glitches got ironed out. After that, the game has received good critical re-evaluations and is now regarded as an underrated title in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Overall the game was also a commercial success.