Language in fiction can be tricky to pull off. Is it worth being authentic if your audience is going to complain about reading subtitles? Can their suspension of disbelief handle the fact that everyone, including aliens or monsters, is speaking fluent English?
The Assassin's Creed games have always boasted an impressive amount of historical accuracy, but when the latest game in the series was revealed, people noticed that something was a bit off. If Assassin's Creed: Unity takes place during the French Revolution, why is it that absoutely no one speaks with any hint of a French accent? Creative Director Alex Amancio explained on the Ubisoft development blog that, when it comes down to it, it's an artistic choice.
To fully understand Amancio's reasons, diving into the Assassin's Creed lore is necessary. Characters in the games are connected to a machine called the Animus, a device that allows a person to see into their genetic memories. By doing so, one can witness an event hundreds of years in the past from the eyes of their ancestors. It's a plot device that allows each new Assassin's Creed game to take place in a different time period while maintaining a semblance of cohesiveness throughout the series. Plus, according to Amancio, the Animus can simply translate everything to English:
"The idea is that the Animus is translating everything into the language you're playing in...That's why, since you're an Anglophone, you're hearing all the dialogue and cinematics in English. It would really make no sense for there to be a French accent because that would mean that this French character is trying to address you in accented English. Everyone in the game is not trying to speak English for your benefit."
It's a bit strange, especially considering that Ubisoft's own Assassin's Creed II, which took place in Italy, featured English-speaking characters with Italian accents. On top of that, instead of any hint of French, Ubisoft has opted to use British accents for all major characters. While the studio claims that the British accents are an easier way for players to be immersed in the game's world, it all does seem a little backwards.
Ubisoft did go on to say that only the story-related dialogue will be spoken in English, while everything else will be in French. That means crowd dialogue and random lines from NPCs will be in French, and for those that want to be as authentic as physically possible, Ubisoft is also including an option for players to play through the game in French with English subtitles.
Regardless of one's preference in accents, Assassin's Creed: Unity is shaping up to be one of the biggest next-gen releases of the year. The game is set to hit store shelves on Nov. 11, 2014.