Welcome back to my extended look at Boston in gaming! This post directly continues off Part One.
(2) Assassin’s Creed III (2012)
Developers: Ubisoft Montreal, Directed by Alex Hutchinson.
While the previous entry takes us to a post-apocalyptic, speculative future, Assassin’s Creed III takes us — in true Assassin’s Creed fashion — to the historic past. Welcome to 18th century Boston, when people still dressed like they do at that one tea party museum. You are Connor Kenway, birth name Ratonhnhaké:ton, the latest member-in-training of the Assassin Brotherhood. Your mission? Well, uh, whatever you want! It’s an open world game!
In all seriousness, the narrative takes you through Boston, New York, the Colonial Frontier, there and back again. The map is massive, and because Connor finds himself at the heart of the American Revolution, he’ll be scouring every inch of it. But Boston remains one of the game’s biggest stars; despite the architectural and developmental differences from the city we know today, it still approximates that same atmosphere. You know how you come across that occasional old house in Boston and suddenly remember what a historic gold mine the city is? That history is what Assassin’s Creed III aspires to recapture, and it largely succeeds.
The landmarks, of course, are there. Faneiul Hall, built in 1742, is teeming with people in-game even back then. Hop on the MBTA today and drop by, and you’ll find it just as crowded, with celebrations and performances galore outside. People, it seems, have been swarming Faneiul Hall for food and shopping for centuries now and understandably so. It’s a beautiful, magical place that screams culture from the top of its lungs even today.
Also open for exploration are Beacon Hill and Boston Commons. I’m a huge fan of how the latter looks in the spring and in the summer here; in the right light, the greenery and scenery come to life more vividly than most other parks I’ve visited. Your surroundings feel so lush, so vibrant, and all the infectious energy that swirls and typhoons around as you see people playing with their adorable, well-behaved puppies or their gross, slobbering babies is one I’d imagine is tough to recapture. It’s difficult to fully appreciate Assassin’s Creed’s rendition in this case; perhaps because it’s a park that had only opened in 1634 or perhaps because the Common was apparently a lot more mellow in the 1700s. Either way, it’s noticeably different — especially compared to other in-game maps.
There’s a whole lot more that Ubisoft’s Boston boasts, but the last thing I’ll note is its set pieces. As Connor, you’ll also be there near the Old State House on March 5th, 1770 to witness the Boston Massacre and even get partially blamed for it by your sexy British father. You’ll befriend Paul Revere, and pass by his house (now a museum) a few times. You’ll even eventually get to help throw a famous, cozy little tea party!
Hah. Throw. I’m such a riot.
And last but not least, we have…
(3) Fallout 4 (2015)
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios, Directed by Todd Howard.
Perhaps the most notable Boston on this list is also the one I haven’t had a chance to personally scour. Fallout 4 is wholeheartedly a Boston game. While it brings us back to the realm of post-apocalyptic and speculative sci-fi, it also finds its massive, open-world setting in the heart of Boston and its surrounding regions in Massachusetts.
The year is 2287. You, the Solve Survivor of Vault 111, awaken from stasis and set out in search of your long-lost child. Well, sort of.
See, Fallout 4 is a role-playing game, and a massive one at that. Which means your child is really going to have to take a backseat while you go about poking various mutated monsters in Boston and its surrounding New England regions. Wee!
Once more, familiar sights include Boston Common and Faneiul Hall, but both are even more sober than Assassin’s Creed III’s renditions. As to be expected, the nuclear fallout’s done its damage, the effects of which are felt in every street, hill, and corner of Fallout’s sprawling, deadly open world. Again, you’ll find swan boats washed up on the ground, and more. Beyond Boston you’ll travel to Salem, where you’ll be met with just a dash of post-apocalyptic bait-and-switch. As in real life, the witch’s museum has been touted as a marvel to look at and the atmosphere fittingly eerie.
(Unless you visit in October, in which case you’ll see more people dressed as Disney characters than anything substantially scary.)
But as depressing as it all sounds, Fallout 4 is still a visually bright and vivid game. Fenway Park has been touted by many players as one of its most well-developed areas; in the game, it is now a haven for settlers and survivors. They’re people who seek to live undisturbed and, curiously, pay very close attention to keeping the iconic green walls freshly painted and clean. Its peacekeepers dress in jerseys and wear umpires’ equipment as armor.
While BU didn’t quite make the cut, MIT (now called CIT in the 2200s) is up for exploration, apparently even playing a big part in the story. I can’t complain; in real life their campus is quite gorgeous, and if you’re ever in the area I suggest looking up the rooftop garden. Harvard Square is represented in the game too and has also been praised for being accurate. Again, there’s something eerily exciting about the idea of creeping through one of our iconic streets, this time avoiding not strange folks who stalked you off the Red Line or even viral window shopping, but strange monsters who stalked you out of Kendall Hospital and viral scavenging.
It’s not stealing if the city is dead, okay?
There’s something immediately powerful about living and seeing all these places you’ve only poked at before through a digital lens. It suddenly feels even more real as do the stories of the games and all their characters. It’s like a convergence of two worlds, and I would encourage anyone Boston-bound to plan a few excursions and poke around – either through the city, through games, or even YouTube playthroughs. It’s a fascinating study!
And if you’re lacking motivation and need just one more game to push you to hop the T, head over to the App Store. Pokémon Go’s got quite a bit to say about Boston too! Fun fact: We have a very concerning Drowzee population around BU…
Featured photo credit: Aaraf Afzal/Sifana Sohail.