The long-running Assassin’s Creed game series is coming to cinemas later this month, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. If you’ve never played any of the games or can’t tell an Assassin from a Templar, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with our guide to Assassin’s Creed universe.
In the new film, Michael Fassbender plays Callum Lynch. A death row inmate who undergoes his execution… until that is, he awakes in a mysterious facility. Here he is attached to a strange machine called “The Animus”; a contraption that can access his “genetic memory”, allowing him to relive the memories of his ancestors and granting his captors access to information long thought lost.
“Welcome…to the Animus”
Unless “Callum Lynch” is a fake name, the film doesn’t seem to feature any of the Assassin’s Creed’s game characters. Many of the series trademarks do however appear in the pre-publicity material. “The Animus”; the hidden extendable blades that are strapped to Callum’s wrists and the Abstergo Corporation whose logo is displayed prominently in the trailer, are all reproduced from the games. For the meaning behind these items, we have to go all the way back to 2007’s and the very first Assassin’s Creed.
Potential Spoiler Alert
While the games are split into the modern day and historical sections, Assassin’s Creed has a much more fantastic back story than the games initially suggest. As we don’t yet know how closely the film will stick to the video game’s roots, we’ve split this guide into two sections. The first, outlines the main story of the games, while the second covers the overarching background plot, that may or may not be included in the film.
First Among Assassins
It’s easy to forget how the first Assassin’s Creed game was released behind something of a veil of secrecy. Advertising for the game emphasised its historical middle eastern setting, but frequent computer glitches style video effects hinted at something more. When they game came out gamers were somewhat surprised to find themselves playing not as the hooded Assassin from the trailers but as Desmond Miles, a mild-mannered bartender who, like Callum was abducted by the Abstergo Corporation. While the Animus used by Desmond was a far less cinematic device than the one used by Callum, they both played the same role, allowing both characters to relive portions of their ancestor’s lives.
In the film, Callum relives the memories of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha during the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th Century, while in the first game Desmond assumed the role of Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, an Assassin in the Holy Land during the crusades.
Through their Animus adventures, the player is introduced to the forces of the Assassins and Knights Templar, two forces locked in a seemingly endless battle for the fate of humanity. The Templars sought a perfect world though absolute control, while the Assassin’s defended free will.
The game stood out for its, still unusual, setting of Damascus, Jerusalem and Acre as well as its implementation of parkour and crowd dynamics. Altaïr’s weapons of choice were retractable blades contained in a sheath hidden up his sleeves, weapons that had become the series’ signature, as well as his sword when his cover was blown. Although there were a decent variety of weapons and action in the game, it was the stealth aspect of it that stood out.
While many games had implemented stealth mechanics before, not many had done so with the style and crowds of Assassin’s Creed
Everybody Loves Ezio
Ending the first game having found the locations of some “Pieces of Eden” but still in the clutches of Abstergo, Assassin’s Creed II begins with Desmond being rescued by lab assistant and undercover Assassin Lucy. He’s taken to join up with a new group of modern Assassins. Once more, Desmond re-enters a new Assassin-built Animus to experience 15th century Italy and train to become an Assassin himself. This time Desmond relives the memories of the flamboyant Ezio Auditore da Firenze, undertaking a mission of revenge against the historical Borgia family.
Thanks to what is known as the “Bleeding Effect”, Desmond’s sessions in the Animus as Ezio, passed Ezio’s skills on to him, something that very likely will happen to Callum in the movie as well.
As Desmond reached the end of Ezio’s first story, the origin of the Pieces of Eden and their impact on the future of humanity was revealed, along with a vision of a woman named Minerva (more on her later), right before Abstergo forces attack, forcing the new Assassins on the run once more.
While the concepts of The Animus and genetic memory can be considered science fiction, the series treats them more like a plot-device to waive any concerns players might have had about playing a purely historiceducational game. The conclusion to ACII, however, doubled down on some far more “out-there” science fiction elements.