10 Things I love about… Assassin’s Creed

Way back on my old LiveJournal, I started doing periodical “10 Things” posts, each one linked only by the fact there were 10 items.  This was originally inspired by the movie “Ten Things I Hate About You,” and I’ve come to love the concept so much that not only will I be doing them here, but I use them as periodic assignments in my classes.

Anyway, today’s “10 Things” is, as the headline says, 10 Things I love about the video game series, Assassin’s Creed.

1. The storyline isn’t what I expected.

When I first heard about the original AC game, I thought it was set totally in the past.  But when I looked into it, I realized it’s actually a Science Fiction story, in which Desmond Myles, a 21st century New York City bartender, is kidnapped by agents of a corporation and forced to use a machine called an Animus, which allows the user to relive ancestral memories encoded in their DNA.  Along the way, his own secrets are revealed: Desmond is actually a member of the Assassins, an order that goes back to the 12th century–and the Assassins are the good guys, fighting for freedom for all people against the Templars, who wish to “unite” humanity under their forced rule.  And the assassins are actually descendants of an earlier, advanced civilization, the memories of which helped inspire several religions and myths on earth.

2. Multiple Characters

In addition to Desmond, in the first game you play Altair through much of the game.  In the second, you play Desmond and his ancestor Ezio Auditore, who stays with you through two other games.  In AC3, you play yet another of Desmond’s ancestors.

3. High Stakes

The stakes in the AC universe are nothing less than the life of all the inhabitants of Earth.  You see, the First Civilization, who created humans as a slave race, were wiped out by a massive solar flare they didn’t see coming (due to fighting off a human rebellion).  In the aftermath, only 10000 humans and even fewer Ancients remained alive.  The two sides agreed to a truce, and began working together to ensure it never happened again.  Human/Ancient hybrids were created, and their descendants became the Assassins (though not all Assassins have the DNA, those who do are the most gifted).  Those with a high concentration of First Civilization DNA, such as Desmond, can “read” the memories of their ancestors by using the Animus, and Desmond has uncovered much of the background, including that the Ancients foresaw another, identical disaster would befall the Earth–on 12/21/2012.  So now Desmond must use the memories of his ancestors to uncover the secrets of the Earth’s history in order to find the installations the Ancients left for him to use to prevent the Earth’s destruction.  

4. Plenty of “Holy SHIT” moments.

And I do mean PLENTY.  My favorite one occurs in AC2, when Ezio uncovers a hologram of an Ancient, Minerva, who explains how their civilization fell, then tells Desmond–not Ezio, but Desmond, who she calls by name–that it is up to him to stop it from happening again.

Another is when another Ancient somehow takes over Desmond’s body at the end of AC: Brotherhood, and forces him to kill one of his Assassin friends, Lucy, saying she was a traitor.  We still don’t know if that’s true; the Ancient Juno wasn’t very fond of humans.

5. Sheer joyous gameplay.

Often in the games, the player must move through crowds, hiding in plain sight.  Sometimes guards spot you, and know who you are–and then you must either fight, which gets harder and harder, or run, lose the tail, and become anonymous again.  It’s actually a lot of fun.

Likewise, running across the rooftops, climbing buildings, sliding down cables… the games makes generous use of the concept of free-running/parkour, and does it well.

6. Everything is Topsy-Turvy

The game turns accepted tropes around.  The Assassins are the good guys, trying to win freedom for all by killing only the corrupt.  Their code demands safety for innocents, and to kill an innocent is their highest crime.

The Templars are corrupt, believing that peace will only be achieved by uniting all humanity under one imposed rule–one man’s vision.  Their goal is to gain control of all remaining First Civilization technology and use it to enslave humanity.

7. Philosophy

Many of the targets, when struck, have fascinating philosophical discussions with their assassin as they lay dying.  Many living characters discuss the realities of rule, the vagaries of life, and the weariness of their struggles.  In short, they seem like real people. There is an eternal struggle between individuality and conformity being fought in the games, and it never feels cliche.

8. Great Voice Acting

Enough said.  The voice acting is much better than in most games, and some star actors lend their talents to various roles.

9. It Feels like a Movie. 

The animation and the storyline combine to make it feel like you’re not so much playing a game as you are watching and guiding an interactive film.  The experience is, for someone as addicted to good storytelling as I am, wonderful.

10. There’s so much to do

In addition to the plotline, there are many other things you can do in the games, from helping random folks out to renovating and rebuilding merchants, recruiting others to the Assassin’s Guild and training them, and generally either helping or hurting the world around you.  Game mechanics error on the side of helping; the more asshole things you do, the less “synchronized” you become with your ancestor, and the game boots you out.

All in all, I love the Assassins Creed world, and I hope the story continues beyond AC3.

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About Michael Johnston

Father of a third grader, high school English teacher, writer. Forty-three years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA
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