A History of Assassin's Creed
7th Oct 2011 | 10:00
Assassin's Creed has now become an annual highlight of the gaming calendar, with Ubisoft Montreal producing an always excellent yearly instalment in the ongoing story of the ancient war between the order of Assassins and the Templars.
Mixing sci-fi, stealth, free-running, action, brutal combat, amazing open world historical settings and a overwhelming feel for epic history, the AC series has gone from strength to strength. Yet when the original Assassin's Creed debuted in 2007, the success of the blockbuster franchise looked anything but certain.
So how did Assassin's Creed come to stab its way to success and become one of the landmark gaming series? To find out, we take a retrospective look at AC's most important games as well as peering deep into the Animus to see if Revelations can live up to its name and what the future of the series may hold. Naturally there will be spoilers, oh yes.
The original Assassin's Creed mixed sci-fi and historical adventure to introduce an ages-old conflict between the Assassins and Templars which has run throughout the course of history to the present day. Held by the sinister (is there any other kind?) Abstergo corporation, innocuous barman Desmond Miles was forced to enter the Animus and explore the memories of his assassin ancestor Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad.
Charged with retrieving an ancient artefact known as The Piece of Eden and restoring harmony to the Holy Land, Altair tracks down and kills nine Templar targets on both Saracen and Crusader sides before facing their apparent leader Robert de Sable. However his own mentor, Al Mualim is revealed as the secret tenth Templar and Altair faces him down in a climactic duel at the assassin stronghold of Maysaf, before hurtling back to the present day as a puzzled and still very captive Desmond.
Anticipation for Assassin's Creed had been high following an intriguing build up campaign, but on release its detractors gave it a hard time for its inconsistent and occasionally annoying stealth system and somewhat repetitive structure. Yet for fans, the original AC's many joys outweighed its imperfections and also offered a tantalising glimpse of the series' real potential.
AC laid the foundations for many of the AC systems we take for granted today with key elements like the beautifully realised cityscapes, fluid Parkour based free-roaming, visceral crunching combat and huge set piece assassinations. Climbing your first viewpoint, performing a leap of Faith or just sprinting around Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus, baiting guards and causing havoc, all these and those mysterious eagle vision glyphs in Desmond's cell, still bring back golden gameplay memories.
While the original Assassin's Creed was a flawed gem, it was still a gem nonetheless and to find out why, see our original Assassin's Creed review for the full story.
Assassin's Creed II
If the original AC was an appetiser, then Assassin's Creed II was the main feast with all the trimmings, dessert, coffee, cheese and biscuits and a swift nightcap to follow. Ubi Soft Montreal not only addressed AC's shortcomings, but built in new and innovative gameplay, improved stealth and combat, opened up a complex and beautiful medieval world, while adding much deeper character progression. Now you could enjoy a vast variety of missions and a compelling Renaissance storyline which encompassed the glories of Florence, Venice and the Vatican City.
Busted out of Abstergo by accomplice Lucy, Desmond went on the run with new Assassins associates Shaun and Rebecca and delved back into the Animus mark 2.0, to take on the mantle of Italian nobleman and watershed series hero, Ezio Auditore de Ferenze. Pitted against the might of Templar pope Cesare Borgia, Ezio allies with the cunning Niccolò Machiavelli and the inventive Leonardo Da Vinci, to win through a dark labyrinthine plot, recover two more lost pieces of Eden and become the prophet and leader of the Assassin order during the middle ages.
AC II was also full stand out gaming moments: haring through the countryside on a wild carriage ride, soaring over the rooftops in Leonardo's flying machine, acquiring your hidden pistol, a one-man vendetta on roaming minstrels or swooping through the majestic Assassin's tombs, AC II remains perhaps our favourite title of an impressive series. Two DLC expansions, The Battle of Forli and Bonfire of the Vanities extended the story even further.
Still amongst the handful of full 1000 complete GamerScores we possess, AC II was truly light years ahead of its predecessor, set a new standard in what sequels should achieve and also gave us in Ezio, one of 21st century gaming's truly iconic characters. To learn the full story on why AC II was such a triumph, Leap of Faith on over to Assassin's Creed II review for the full story.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Brotherhood took the AC series in a new and intriguing direction, with Ezio now a master assassin and able to recruit new agents and assassins - the brotherhood of the title - to his cause. More strategic than previous games, Brotherhood dug beneath the surface of the ancient Templar Assassin feud, with Ezio dispatching assassin agents across Europe, while simultaneously battling the Borgias for control of the eternal city.
After a night of wild passion with Caterina Sforza (well here's hoping), Ezio awoke to find his villa at Monteriggioni besieged by the Borgia horde. After his uncle Mario was killed and the Apple of Eden fell into the hands of Cesare Borgia, Ezio escaped to Rome where he set about wreaking a terrible revenge on its Borgia overlords. While both Rodrigo and Cesare were eventually put to the historical sword, Desmond used the Apple of Eden to open up the Temple, a gateway to the other Eden artefacts. But the game concluded on a proper cliffhanger with Desmond forced to stab Lucy, while under the control of the enigmatic being known as Juno.
Re-inventing, refining and streamlining, Brotherhood's main success was to really gave you a feel of being in control of an Assassin clan, training them up and even calling on their help in- game. The sandbox was bigger (Rome being about three times larger than any previous city in the series), more bewitching, more inventive and the mechanic of capturing Borgia Towers to extend your control over the city adding an entertaining strategic element.
Combat was more attacking, frequently on horseback and stand out moments included rumbling around in Leonardo's tank, the Romulus mission's gravity defying platforming and of course for the very first time, a very decent multiplayer component. For the full story on joining the Brotherhood see our Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood review
Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Set to swing into action this November, AC: Revelations promises to be exactly that, a complete revelation, laying bare the truth behind the medieval conflict, unifying and the stories of Desmond, Ezio and Altair, wiping the slate clean and paving the way for Assassin's Creed III.
Revelations' action will transfer to the jewel of the east, the crossroads of Constantinople, where Ezio will seek five keys hidden by Altair centuries previously which will ultimately reveal an artefact capable of ending the eternal war between Assassins and Templars, saving the world and repairing the shattered mind of the unfortunate Desmond.
New features include the Ottoman assassins' hook blade, which speeds up travel by around 30%, allowing you to zip line around the city, new bomb crafting abilities, an innovative Assassins Den tower defence mechanic and even deeper and more compelling multiplayer experience.
Yet splendid as all those new gameplay bells and whistles sound, what we're really most looking forward to is seeing the tales of Ezio, Desmond and Altaïr conclude, as all the loose ends are tied up, the disparate plot threads explained and everything resolved in one climactic, cataclysmic, conclusion. Quite simply, we cannot wait. For all the latest check out our complete Assassin's Creed: Revelations game hub
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If you are victorious you will receive a fantastic trip to Istanbul for yourself and a friend, including flights, four nights of hotel accommodation and £500 spending money and a chance to tour the beautiful and historic Constantinople of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods. Good luck!