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and now, for something completely different.

Assassin’s Creed – So Far

My buddy Raul got me Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for my birthday last year. I really had no idea about these games except that they seemed to be quite popular. I didn’t even know who made them (Ubisoft Montreal). Well, when everyone went home after the dinner we’d invited them to on my birthday, I put it in the PS3 and took a look. I didn’t come out until about 3:30 in the morning. 3:30 in the morning is nothing really all that special or crazy, but it is a little bold when you have a 2-year-old to match your morning wake-up time with!

Spoiler alert: I do spoil a bit of the overarching story in this write-up; so if you want to play them and get the surprises, don’t read this and play the games first.

The Assassin’s Creed series follows the centuries-spanning conflict between the Assassins and the Templars. In general, the Assassins view themselves as defenders of peace and more importantly free-will, and the Templars view themselves as perveyors of peace through control. So, Templars would force peace by abolishing all religion to end all wars, where Assassins would – no matter their beliefs – defend all religions even at the expense of holy wars happening so that people still have free-will to choose. In each game in the franchise, you get to explore history through the eyes of an assassin in a particular historical era.  Historically, the Assissins and the Templars were real groups, whose interactions are documented in lots of places, including this book. One of the really great strengths in the series is the real history woven around the games, and they stick to it as much as they can and have you dealing with real people from the eras.

Jumping in and out of different historical eras is done by wrapping the main conflict around a modern tale of Assassins and Templars. The main character of the series – Desmond Miles – is inserted into a virtual simulation of his Assassin ancestors’ lives called the Animus. The Animus software uses keys from DNA to unlock hidden ancestral memories stored in the user’s genes.

As the series starts in the first Assassin’s Creed game, Desmond is kidnapped by a company called the Abstergo corporation and forced into the Animus.  Abstergo wants him to help them find an artifact hidden by the Assassins sometime in history. He is inserted into the memories of an assassin named Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, who lived in the Holy land during the times of the crusades. This introduces us to the conflict between the Assassins and the Templars near its inception, and begins to uncover the roots. Throughout the initial Altair adventure, clues about a Templar treasure and its ability to control minds begins to surface. The Crusades becomes a background to what becomes the unknown – yet more critical – conflict over the treasure. The Templars want to use it to force peace through mind control, and the Assassins want to preserve free will. As Desmond jumps in and out of the Animus, eventually he discovers that the conflict still exists in modern times. Abstergo is the corporate face of the modern Templars, and they are trying to use the memories of Desmond’s ancestors to find the treasure. Worse than that, there are more than one of these pieces of Eden, and with modern technology the Templars plan to use them from Satellites to create a new world order (all in the name of peace, of course)!

That’s as far as I’ll go into the series’ back story; I’ll leave the development of the plot and its characters to you to discover on your own. Really, if you enjoy stories rooted in intrigue and secret societies and conspiracies interwoven with history (did you enjoy Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, or The DaVinci Code?), this adventure story will resonate with you.

Back to the games. As I mentioned, my first introcution to the series was actually the third installment, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. The first thing that amazed me about the game was the detail. In Brotherhood, I was walking around Rome. I’ve been to Rome, and in several places I could say “hey, I know this street.” That sensation was amazing. And it felt like Rome: big, busy, important, old, yes. The second thing that got me was the gameplay itself. I had played Prince of Persia on the PS3 the previous year, and absolutely loved the gameplay. That was my kind of game! The only thing that ever bugged me about it was the combat: I never got the hang of combat in Prince of Persia. Fast forward to Assasin’s Creed, and my discovery of the same type of gameplay with the addition of combat that works! Extremely enjoyable.

I went mad in Rome: I had to uncover every secret, complete every contract, and repair every shop in the city before I was satisfied enough to finally finish it. It took me a while (no playing while the 2-year old is awake limits the hours dedicated to gaming!). Using the skills of the Assassin Ezzio Auditore da Firenze, I expunged the Borgia influence from Rome and (historically) foiled the Templars’ plot to control the piece of Eden. How’s that for vague?

I was probably only a quarter of the way into the game when I started shopping for the other two games in the series at the time: Assassin’s Creed, and Assassin’s Creed II. By the time I finished Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (the fourth installment) was released, and it came in a two-pack with Assassin’s Creed. One box, two games! So, after getting that for Christmas and buying Assassin’s Creed II used for $14, I had all of them!

I just finished Assasin’s Creed a couple of nights ago. It was a bit of a trudge, honestly. While the gameplay is excellent, it’s certainly not as developed or as fluid-feeling as Brotherhood. Hey, it was the first installment! Also, the game itself felt quite repetitive, while it didn’t feel as much like that in Brotherhood. Still, it was a lot of fun to play (if a bit easier than Brotherhood), and I got some back-story filled into my out-of-order game playing.

I’ve just started Assassin’s Creed II, and it’s amazing how much the series developed from #1 to #2. It’s a breath of fresh air to get into this game after finishing the first installment. It feels much closer to Brotherhood, and there is a much larger variety of things to do and explore – it feels like a much more free game playing experience.

Anyways, that’s all I’ll write for now on the topic. I’ll probably write it up again after I finish Assassin’s Creed II and then Revelations, before the recently announced Assassin’s Creed III comes out. I’m looking forward to that, as it will take the conflict and back-story uniting the other games in the series into a new historical era: the American war of independence!!

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