The continuing storyline that is prevalent in the entire main console series of Assassin’s Creed games follows a fictitious conflict that has been continuing on Earth for thousands of years. The struggle of power between good and evil is the struggle the games focus on, and the entire conflict between the two sides is fueled by artifacts called “Pieces of Eden“.
In this world, famous historical and mythic characters build toward the story and interweave to make the story as believable as possible. Gods and goddesses, like Jupiter (also known as Zeus in Greek mythology), Minerva (also known as Athena) and Juno (Hera) are made out to be members of a civilization that existed before our own, and which experienced an extinction event before mankind emerged.
Certain artifacts and locations survived the extinction event and are known throughout the series as “Pieces of Eden” or “Isu Artifacts” and “Precursor Sites“. Gods that left behind holographic messages (or in one case, a copy of their consciousness) refer to themselves as Isu.
The complexity of the storyline is attributed to the inclusion of various beliefs and versions of history, all blended together to give one possible “true” explanation. The apple from the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden ends up being an orb that has different abilities, like waves of emanating power that can knock down groups of people.
Later in the series, we discover there were actually many of this artifact, but the purpose is not as apparent, other than using them as keys.
Other artifacts appear at various times during the storyline and explain the rise to power by many historical figures.
The Hunt for Pieces of Eden
The actual character the user plays in each of the games exists in our time, the present. Each game has a character that is focusing on a specific time period in history and one or more people that lived during that time period.
To do this, they use a technologically advanced machine called an Animus, developed by Abstergo, the corporation run by the descendants of the Templars with the ambition to have power over the world, believing peace can only be achieved through domination and control. The original Animus required a descendant of the person of interest to actually use it to access “genetic memory”, and follow that person’s experiences in order to locate an Isu artifact that they had come in contact with during their lifetime.
Both the Assassins’ and Abstergo’s goal is to figure out where they left it or hid it in the past in order to find it in the present.
The Assassins have also developed their own version of the Animus and use them to retrieve artifacts before Abstergo, fighting to provide world peace by allowing free will.
The first five main games feature Desmond Miles as the protagonist. He is a bartender that ends up being abducted by Abstergo. His genetic code includes the memories of various past Assassins, and Abstergo attempts to exploit his heritage to gain power with Isu artifacts. By the time we reach the sixth game, Black Flag, featuring infamous and terrifying Caribbean pirates, such as Blackbeard and Charles Vane, Abstergo devised a way of using genetic material from the descendant to access the memories, no longer needing the subject to personally relive the memories.
This complicates the balance between good (Assassins) and evil (Abstergo, Templars, Cultists, etc), since rescuing and protecting a subject no longer guarantees the other side cannot find artifacts first.
The Bleeding Effect
As an Animus subject spends more and more time in the memories of their ancestors, they begin to develop a condition called the bleeding effect. This is a psychological “break” where the subject starts having difficulty separating the present from the memories and essentially shifts to multiple personality disorder.
A positive effect before the bleeding effect takes hold is the subject learning the same abilities as the ancestor whose memories they are “reliving”. This makes it possible for the Assassins to quickly train new members, and learn new methods and styles of fighting and killing.
A secondary and deeper problem with the bleeding effect is the mind locking itself in a neutral zone, which happens to Desmond in one of the games. The way our mind works is quite simple, protect us and keep us alive. So, when Desmond starts not knowing whether he is Desmond, Altair, Ezio or Connor, his mind removes his ability to control his body, and his consciousness ends up in a psychological “desert island”.
This plays a very important role in the progression of the storyline and provides some history on Abstergo’s Animus research.
Historical Figures and Events
Each of the Assassin’s Creed games features a particular period of the past and includes prominent people and places from the time.
The very first game released is set in the Middle East, including Jerusalem, Damascus and Acre. The main stronghold of the Assassins is Masyaf, which has historically been used for such in the real world. The Nizari Ismailis were originally founded by Hassan-i Sabbah and were located in Alamut, located in what we know as Iran. They were exiled in 1140 AD and captured Masyaf in what is now Syria.
Assassin’s Creed follows a fictional Assassin, Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, who was trained in Masyaf fifty years after it was captured. Altaïr was born January 11, 1165 AD and becomes a Master Assassin during the Third Crusade.
The Knights Templar are the main antagonists in the storyline of the first game.
A few of the prominent historical figures in this game are Robert de Sablé, the real-life Grand Master of the Knights Templar from 1191 to 1192 AD, King Richard I, Rashid ad-Din Sinan (named Al Mualim in the game, which means “The Teacher”), who was the leader of the northern Syria districts controlled by the Nizari, including Masyaf, starting in 1162 AD, and Bahā’ ad-Dīn Yusuf ibn Rafi ibn Shaddād (named Majd Addin in the game, roughly meaning “Glorious Faith”), who was close to Sultan Saladin (Rashid ad-Din Sinan’s enemy) and was the eye witness of the Siege of Acre and the Battle of Arsuf.
Assassin’s Creed II
The second main game jumps to Renaissance-period Italy, exploring beautiful cities as Ezio Auditore da Firenze, such as Florence, Tuscany and Venice and including limited gameplay in the Vatican City.
The Animus 2.0 that is now being used has multiple “upgrades” that make the memories more user-friendly and realistic. Swimming is now possible, the combat system is amended and Eagle Vision (explained in the next section) is more useful.
More weapons are available, including weapons made by Leonardo da Vinci, based on Codex pages left behind by Altaïr. The player will also help da Vinci with some of his more famous works, such as his Flying Machine.
Other notable historical figures include Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, who wrote the famous book, The Prince, and is often named the father of modern political philosophy, Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forli, and Rodrigo Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI in 1492 while the New World was being discovered.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
The first direct sequel starts as Assassin’s Creed II ends in 1499 AD, and introduces Rodrigo Borgia’s son, Cesare Borgia, and King John III of Nevarre, husband of Queen Catherine.
Brotherhood takes place in and around Rome, Naples, Navarre (Spain) and Monteriggioni (where Ezio’s family home is in the games).
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
The majority of Revelations takes place in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in starting in 1511 AD, with brief play in Rhodes, Masyaf and Cappadocia.
Being the second direct sequel in the series, it mainly follows Ezio as he explores Constantinople, but also includes gameplay as Altaïr. Ezio first travels to Masyaf in search of a Piece of Eden to stop the war with the Templars. He quickly learns that Altaïr has it hidden in a vault that requires multiple disc keys.
Each key contains some of Altaïr’s memories, which Ezio must navigate. This deepens the dynamic of the storyline by having Desmond reliving Ezio’s memories who is reliving Altaïr’s memories simultaneously.
Historical figures include Manuel Palaiologos, the nephew of Constantine XI, the final emperor of the Byzantine empire, Prince Suleiman, the eventual tenth Sultan of the Ottoman empire, Niccolo and Maffeo Polo, Marco Polo’s father and uncle, and a woman based on the painting Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman, named Sofia Sartor.
Assassin’s Creed III
The series takes a completely new turn to the first taste of gunfire and cannons in the setting of the American Revolutionary War. Desmond is the present-day playable character, while the playable ancestor changes from Ezio to Connor, born as Ratonhnhaké:ton, the son of Haytham Kenway and a native American woman.
Connor can use a mix of muskets, swords and pistols, as well as the weapons of his upbringing, like the tomahawk and bow. Introduced in this game is the rope dart, which can pull an enemy toward Connor, or hang them from a tree.
Also, introduced in Assassin’s Creed III is the use of ships: learning how to sail and naval combat.
Included in the story are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, Paul Revere and General Charles Lee.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Arguably, the true beginning of the modern Assassin’s Creed games. Abstergo has found a way to use a DNA sample to send anyone into another person’s ancestor memories and runs a corporate office producing “Animus Entertainment” virtual reality films, sending many people to many points in history to search much faster for the Pieces of Eden they require for power over the world.
The present-day protagonist is no longer Desmond Miles but is contacted by members of the Assassins from the previous games.
The unnamed playable character is sent back to the time of swashbuckling Caribbean pirates, to become the awesome and powerful Assassin and pirate captain, Edward Kenway (grandfather of Connor, father of Haytham).
The focus on Edward’s life is not to find a Piece of Eden, but the Observatory, a first civilization “Precursor” site. With it, anyone can use a blood sample to track any living person anywhere in the world.
Diving head-first into naval battles and island hopping, Edward finds himself in the middle of the Golden Age of Piracy, meeting and fighting against or alongside famous historical figures like Edward Thatch (Blackbeard), Calico Jack and his infamous two female crew members, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, Charles Vane and Benjamin Hornigold.
While most of the gameplay is set around Havana, Nassau and Kingston, the player does find themselves briefly in Florida, Mexico and an island off the coast of Africa.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue
This, the seventh installment of the game series, changes the view that the player actually plays from. The past-life character that you are able to control is Shay Cormac, living in the 18th century during the Seven Years’ War. Early in the game (tutorial phase), we find Shay training and living as an Assassin. He is quite quickly betrayed by his order and becomes a Templar Assassin-hunter.
The gameplay is very similar to Black Flag, and occurs after Edward, but before Connor shows up in Assassin’s Creed III.
Since Shay is hunting Assassins, they regularly try to eliminate him as a threat, hiding and performing air assassinations, much like the player uses against the Templars in previous games. This gives a completely new set of challenges while playing the game.
The weapons are very similar to Black Flag, with the addition of the air rifle, which can be used with various darts, firecrackers for distraction and as a grenade launcher with a few different grenades.
(Re)introduced in this game are Achilles Davenport, Connor’s future mentor, and Adéwalé, Edward’s first mate aboard the Jackdaw, and now Assassin.
Among the historical figures present in Rogue are Lawrence Washington, the older half-brother of the future President George Washington and founder of Alexandria, Virginia, Benjamin Franklin, famously working on his electricity experiments, Colonel George Monro, who lost the defence of Fort William Henry in 1757, and Louis-Joseph Gaultier de La Vérendrye, a famous French Canadian fur trader and explorer.
Assassin’s Creed Unity
The second of two major Assassin’s Creed game to be released in November 2014, (Rogue on previous generation consoles, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Unity on next-generation consoles, Playstation 4 and Xbox One), begins shortly after the ending of Rogue. The closing scenes of Rogue lead to the death of a person who is very close to the ancestor Assassin character being played, Arno Dorian. This death is very instrumental in Arno choosing the Brotherhood and becoming an Assassin.
The story begins in Versailles, France and the majority of the gameplay finds the player in Paris at the beginning of the French Revolution, 1789.
Famous French historical figures appearing in Unity include the infamous Napoleon Bonaparte, the Marquis de Sade (Donatien Alphonse François), and Maximilien Robespierre.
In a side-quest line, the player shifts to different points in French history, such as the beginning of WWI and the Nazi German occupation of WWII.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
This game was the ninth major title in the Assassin’s Creed series and was received very well upon its release in November 2015. This is the first AC game that allowed the player to choose male or female as the protagonist, but also to switch between them throughout the game.
This was made possible by making the main ancestor-character into two, the Frye twins, Jacob and Evie. Based in Victorian London, 1868, Syndicate gives the player much more control over how they play the game. Those that prefer upfront, aggressive battling in the streets can play the majority of the game as Jacob, where players that have become incredibly stealthy and almost invisible, thanks to the training of the previous eight games, can play as Evie (who actually has a “somewhat” invisible talent later in the progression).
The weapons also change quite a bit, due to the fact that we are entering the industrial age in the ancestor timeline. Available to choose from are brass knuckles, cane-swords, and revolvers. Added to the hidden blade is the rope launcher, making it easier to climb the buildings, bridges and barges of London, as well as zip-lining across gaps.
The main hideout is among the other huge changes, as it moves. Jacob and Evie quickly set up shop in a train that continues to travel around London while the player explores.
Truly great men and women are depicted in Syndicate, such as Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Alexander Graham Bell, Karl Marx, and Queen Victoria. In the brief time-jump side quests, Jacob’s granddaughter also has the chance to help Winston Churchill.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
Assassin’s Creed goes back further than ever before in Origins (which makes the name make sense). We follow the story of Bayek of Siwa, a Medjay in Ptolemaic Egypt, just before the rise of Cleopatra VII.
Origins introduces a brand new modern-day character who is adapting and using her own Animus, in a cave in Egypt, Layla Hassan.
The first game to land in BC times, we start in 49 BC. Bayek is forced into hunting down a group of masked men, called the Order of the Ancients, each taking an animal to hide behind.
The story follows the famous meeting and relationship between Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, along with appearances by Ptolemy the Great (Ptolemy XIII), Cleopatra’s brother and Pharaoh of Egypt, Pompey the Great, who started the Civil War with Caesar, ending the Roman Republic and beginning the Roman Empire, and Apollodorus the Sicilian, who arranged the meeting between Ptolemy XIII, Cleopatra and Julius Caesar which ultimately led to Ptolemy being overthrown and Cleopatra rising to power.
Known for its incredible graphics and depiction of ancient Egypt, Origins shook off a stagnation that many players started to complain about with this series, and also won Best Console Game for Playstation 4 at Gamescom 2017, and Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project (the effects while playing, not during cut scenes, where most production companies focus their graphics ability) at the 16th Visual Effects Society Awards in 2018.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Sliding smoothly from worshipers of Amun, Anubis and Ra to classical Greece with Zeus, Poseidon and Hades comes Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Multitudes of mythology and legend come to life in the best possible ways while the player searches the limits of the life of the character they choose to control.
In true Assassin’s Creed form, the game has changed again. The entire story shifts according to who you choose to be, Alexios or Kassandra, a Spartan brother-and-sister pair, with the opposite becoming the antagonist, Deimos.
Left for dead, the character of choice is found and raised by Markos of Kephallonia, and grows up to become a “misthios”, or mercenary.
Throughout the game, it becomes obvious that the Misthios and Deimos are the grandchildren of the legendary Leonidas I, who held off the Persian army led by Xerxes I, at the “Hot Gates” of Thermopylae, long enough to stop the second Persian invasion of Greece.
The Misthios carries the broken spear of Leonidas, which ends up being an important Piece of Eden, while Deimos carries another, the Sword of Damokles, the proverbial sword hanging over those in power, symbolizing the problems waiting to happen at any time.
This game is loaded with historical figures from Classical Greece, including Plato (as a child student), Pythagoras, Socrates, Hippocrates, Pericles, Praxilla, Thespis, Brasidas and Kleon, as well as many others and takes place during the Peloponnesian War between Delian League headed by Athens and Sparta leading the Peloponnesian League.
Added to this game are mythological battles and stories, including Atlantis which was later recorded by Plato, Medusa, the Minotaur, the Sphinx and the Cyclops, allowing the player to follow in legendary footsteps left behind by Odysseus, Theseus, Perseus and Oedipus.
The main game is focused on finding and eliminating the Cult of Kosmos, who are pulling the strings behind the war, and are the predecessors of the Order of Ancients, Knights Templar and Abstergo. The goal for Layla is to discover and recover the Staff of Hermes Trismegistus, a Piece of Eden containing the consciousness of Aletheia, an Isu.
A major definitive part of the entire Assassin’s Creed series is the ancestor character having a sort of sixth sense, referred to as Eagle Vision. Their path almost always has them very close to an eagle, either as a pet or one follows them around.
Eagle Vision is different for each ancestor character, but always reveals important information, like the location of enemies and treasure the player may overlook.
Some enter a state that lasts a certain period of time and encompasses their entire surroundings, and some, like the Misthios in Odyssey, have a wave of Eagle Vision emanate from them that highlights important things for a limited amount of time.
This seems to be one of the very few characteristics that exclusively connect all of the ancestor characters.
Thanks for reading this article on the timeline of Assassins Creed and I hope it starts you on the wonderful historical journey that this series allows.
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