Haytham E. Kenway is a fictional character in the video game series Assassin's Creed, a British Templar who serves as a central character during the games set around the American Revolution. He is introduced as the protagonist and later antagonist of Assassin's Creed III, and serves as a supporting character in Assassin's Creed Rogue. His backstory is further explored in the novel Assassin's Creed: Forsaken.
|Haytham E. Kenway|
|Assassin's Creed character|
|First appearance||Assassin's Creed III (2012)|
|Last appearance||Assassin's Creed Rogue (2014)|
|Created by||Ubisoft Montreal|
|Portrayed by||Adrian Hough|
|Family||Edward Kenway (father)|
Tessa Stephenson-Oakley (mother)
Jennifer Scott-Kenway (sister)
Kaniehtí:io / Ziio (partner)
|Children||Ratonhnaké:ton / Connor (son)|
|Origin||London, Kingdom of Great Britain|
Born to Master Assassin Edward Kenway, Haytham joined the Knights Templar after his father was murdered, eventually rising to the rank of Grand Master of the North American colonial rite and establishing the Templar's dominance on the continent. He unknowingly sired a son, Ratonhnaké:ton / Connor, who in turn joined the Assassin Brotherhood and eventually killed his father in battle.
Prior to Assassin's Creed III's release, Haytham was not advertised as a playable character in order to surprise players, who were also led to believe that he was an Assassin, while actually controlling a Templar during the first third of the game. Unlike his son Connor, who had a divisive reception, Haytham was well-received for his charm, complexity, and is noted as one of the best villains in the franchise.
Creation and conceptionEdit
Haytham's inclusion as a playable character was kept secret from the press and was only known to the development team, with all advertisement solely focusing on Connor. Looking back on the game in 2019, Alex Hutchinson, the Creative Director of Assassin's Creed III, named the decision to make Haytham the surprise protagonist of the first third of the game as a great and really effective idea to draw players into the narrative. It also offers a fresh perspective on the conflict between Assassins and Templars, as Haytham is the first playable Templar in the series. However, he noted that his character arc was far too long because there was no time for extensive product testing, which led to some backlash. According to series writer Susan Patrick, in Rogue, the emphasis of his role was placed on him being a role model for Assassin-turned-Templar Shay Patrick Cormac, because they both had similar backgrounds, while one of the main objectives of the game was to show the missing chapters in Haytham's life. Adrian Hough, the actor who performed Haytham's voice and motion capture, noted that the writing was very good for the character, and acknowledged that the development team gave him artistic freedom to make the character his own, ultimately considering him a product of his performance as well as writing and animation.
Darby McDevitt, the narrative director of the 2020 series instalment Assassin's Creed Valhalla, found an opportunity to include a reference to Haytham for the game. Recalling that certain fans had given feedback that Haytham sounded like an Arabic name, McDevitt suggested "Haytham or Hytham" for the name of a supporting character who brings the Hidden Ones back to England during the events of Valhalla, which serves as an in-universe basis for Edward Kenway's likely decision to name his son.
Fictional character biographyEdit
Born in 1725 in London to Master Assassin Edward Kenway, Haytham was born into nobility and raised secluded from other children, being trained to be an Assassin from an early age, until in 1735 his father was murdered by Templar assassins, who also kidnapped his sister. His father's acquaintance Reginald Birch, unbeknownst to him a Templar in disguise and responsible for the attack, was appointed his legal guardian and took the young Haytham on an unsuccessful quest throughout Europe to find his sister, where he was trained in the ways of the Templars, eventually joining the order in 1744.
In 1754, he was tasked by Birch to travel to the Thirteen Colonies after retrieving a "Piece of Eden", a powerful artifact from a lost precursor race, from the Assassins, to find the Precursor temple it was thought to open, as well as establishing a presence for the order on the continent as the new Grand Master of the colonial rite. Recruiting Benjamin Church, John Pitcairn, Thomas Hickey, and Charles Lee, Haytham was successful in establishing a base for the order on the continent after killing Edward Braddock, however; his quest to find the door his Piece of Eden was supposed to open proved unsuccessful. During this time, he unknowingly sired an offspring with a Native American woman, Ratonhnaké:ton.
He returned to Europe in 1757 to continue searching for his sister, which eventually led him to the Ottoman Empire, where he recovered her from slavers. After she revealed to him that Birch was behind their families demise, he led an attack on his estate, where Burch was killed, and Haytham was gravely injured.
After recovering from his injuries, he returned to the colonies, where he extended the Templar's influence. Starting in 1758, he worked with former Assassin-turned-Templar Shay Patrick Cormac to keep the Order of Assassins from accessing Precursor sites that could lead to devastating earthquakes, eventually taking out his father's former first mate and fellow Assassin Adéwalé in the wake of the Siege of Louisburg. As the assassins refused to give up hunting for the Precursor sites, Haytham and Shay eventually clashed with the remaining Assassins in a Precursor site in the Arctic, where the Order of Assassins was annihilated and their leader, Achilles Davenport, crippled by Haytham.
After crushing the Assassins and making the Templars the dominant force on the continent, Haytham's main goal over the next two decades was to replace British colonial rule and establish a new state where the Templars' ideals would become law. However, his attempts were thwarted by his son, who was trained as an Assassin by Achilles Davenport after his Native American tribe was attacked by Charles Lee. Over the next years, his son, now known as Connor, would eventually kill most of Haytham's associates, until the Templars managed to have him imprisoned by framing him for an assassination attempt on George Washington. There, Haytham met his son for the first time. Realizing his son could become an important asset, he secretly saved him from his execution. Around 1780, he and his son formed an unstable alliance when tracking former Templar Benjamin Church and furthering the Revolution, which eventually came to blows. Admitting he would not be able to turn his son into a Templar and realizing the threat he posed to the order, he decided to kill him, however; he was bested by Connor and died in his son's arms in 1781.
Aside from Assassin's Creed III and Rogue, Haytham has made cameo appearances in several other games in the series. In Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, which stars his father Edward, he appears as a young child in a post-credits scene, while the fictional video games subsidiary of Abstergo Industries considers him suited as a video game protagonist advocating the Templar's ideals, due to him being regarded as one of the greatest Templars in history. This idea has materialized in Assassin's Creed Unity, where the fictional video game The Lone Eagle, starring him, can be seen at the start of the game. Alongside multiple other Templar characters from the series, Haytham appears in the 2014 online role-playing collectible card game Assassin's Creed Memories.
Haytham was well-received as a character and often contrasted with his mixed to negatively received son, Connor. In a contemporary review of Assassin's Creed III for PC Gamer, Chris Thursten called Haytham a good villain but also observed that "the writers seem to like [Haytham] more than they do their ostensible lead [Connor]." However, a lot of contemporary reviewers refused to give a detailed account on Haytham, in order to not spoil the plot twist that he, a Templar, is the game's first protagonist. Alex Hutchinson, Creative Director of Assassin's Creed noted that the character faced some backlash as a surprise protagonist due to his arc being too long, but pointed out that he remains a fan favorite, making his way into other installments and selling a lot of action figures, whereas GamesRadar+ lauded this move as "bold" in a list of gaming's most satisfying character switches.
IGN listed Haytham among the best new video game characters of 2012, claiming that "no man is as cunning, conniving, and sassy as Haytham Kenway". In 2020, IGN Brasil ranked Haytham as the second best villain in the franchise. In a ranking of all Assassin's Creed characters by PC Gamer, Haytham was ranked much higher than Connor (who finished last) and also eclipsed his father Edward, with the reviewer comparing him favorably to James Bond, noting that "his ruthlessness make him a joy to play as", in contrast to Connor. In a similar ranking, Haytham finished seventh in a list of the ten best characters in the series, where his role as a "superb villain" was a good contrast to the game's protagonist, with Haytham being one of the "most charismatic characters seen in Assassin’s Creed to date", while he was ranked the franchises tenth-greatest protagonist by German outlet GamePro, who noted that his moral ambiguity and complexity made players reflect on the nature of the Templar Order for the first time in the series' history. Likewise, GameRevolution featured Haytham in a list of video game villains who were actually right, especially in regards to his vision of an ideal state.
Adrian Hough, the voice actor who portrayed Haytham, was nominated for a BAFTA Games Award in the "Performer" category at the 9th British Academy Games Awards ceremony for his portrayal. In an interview, the actor noted the positive fan response his character had received, especially in regards to cosplay.
While discussing which characters should be included in a future Netflix series based on the video games, Matthew Aguilar of Comicbook.com opted for Haytham, noting his charm and backstory, calling him one of the most interesting villains in the series.
Writing for Heavy.com, Paul Meekin observed that the Templar Order seeks control of governments, finances, and the day-to-day lives of individuals they view as "too dangerous to themselves to be trusted" because they believe that this is the best solution for humanity’s supposedly self-destructive nature; he highlighted a quote by Haytham from Assassin's Creed III where the character posits that it is within humanity's nature to be told what to believe and how to believe it. Nick Dinicola from PopMatters noted that while the Templars can produce good leaders, in truth their true goal is to consolidate power for personal gain: Haytham himself is "sympathetic to the plights of those beneath him, but he’s among terrible company: two tyrants and a slave trader". With regards to his position and legacy within his Order, Dinicola drew attention to in-game Templar propaganda presented in Rogue which contends that Haytham was “slain by the ungrateful [Assassin] son who could not appreciate the wisdom of his pragmatic, race-blind approach to politics and personal life” as an example of how the Templars use their position of power to rewrite history and promote themselves in a more favorable light.
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- Assassin's Creed III, chapter 1
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- Assassin's Creed: Forsaken, chapter 33
- Assassin's Creed: Forsaken, chapter 35
- Assassin's Creed Rogue, chapter 5
- Assassin's Creed Rogue, chapter 6
- Assassin's Creed: Forsaken, chapter 40
- Assassin's Creed III, chapter 9
- Assassin's Creed III, chapter 10
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, credits
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
- Assassin's Creed Unity, prologue
- Assassin's Creed Memories
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