I must admit to not being the biggest of readers: and I do understand that that’s probably the worst phrase to use upon commencing your evaluation of a new book, as I will be doing here. However what I lack in literary prowess I more than make up for in video game smarts, and that just so happens to come in useful here as Titan Books have recently released the Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide onto the market. It’s a deep dive, and I mean a deep dive, into the extensive lore, storytelling and characters surrounding Ubisoft’s lucrative and incredibly popular franchise. With similar publications on the making of 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and the behind the scenes on the crazy Borderlands 3, Titan Books are definitely the stars in this department.
So, with that all being said, join me as we take a look at Titan Books’ Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide – from Ezio to Arno, from Ancient Egypt to Industrial England!
From the offset, and the foreword provided to us from Aymar Azaïzia, Head of Content for Assassin’s Creed, lets us in on just how much content will be packed into the 250-odd pages of gaming goodness ahead. He describes it as a “summary of the work of thousands of passionate people, made over a decade”, and in fact this can be seen as a massive understatement, as the sheer amount of detail that has been put into this book is astounding.
The author of this gargantuan hardback, Arin Murphy-Hiscock, has split his writing into eight main chapters, with each providing information about a specific theme that all culminate to give the ultimate celebration of AC lore. The shortest of these, Chapter 1 provides a rough overview of the key events of the AC timeline to ease you in, spanning the formation of the Templar Order and Assassin Brotherhood, and then ending off in the present day and detailing the story arc of one Desmond Miles, and the events that follow this. A logical progression of this is in Chapter 2, where the Precursor Civilisation of yester-millenium is described. It’s quite easy to dismiss all the ancient supernatural occurrences in the AC franchise, but the work of the ancient Isu, the Pieces of Eden and the known precursors is ultimately what compelled the Templars and Abstergo to undergo all their shady wrong-doings. Chapter 2 is certainly an interesting read, particularly as its content is probably the most overshadowed element of the plot of the games.
Chapter 3 is, in my opinion, where the Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide really gets its teeth stuck in – there really is no stone left unturned when it comes to any element of the extended AC universe. This chapter, named ‘Before the Brotherhood’, introduces us to well-known game protagonists such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Kassandra as well as Bayek from Assassin’s Creed Origins. Before the Brotherhood, in general terms, explains the characters and events that contributed to the official formation of the Assassin’s Brotherhood…
And this is where, you guessed it, Chapter 4 picks up: it’s a dive into the Assassin essentials, from the instantly recognisable Hidden Blade to the allies of our famous heroes. Page 77 was where I immediately headed upon getting my greedy mitts on the book, as this is where Murphy-Hiscock goes through each and every playable assassin that has had an entry into the series. As someone who has grown up as a video game fan alongside Assassin’s Creed, ever since the first instalment back in 2007, it was a real treat to go through all of the protagonists. There’s obviously the famous Ezio Auditore da Firenze and Edward Kenway, the likes of which will go down in gaming history, but you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be some inclusions that you may have forgotten – such as Arbaaz Mir from the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles 2.5D spin-off titles. I haven’t however seen a mention of the film adaptation of Assassin’s Creed, released in 2017 – for the best, perhaps?
But alas, as has been the case for the millenia that AC has covered, with the Assassins come those dastardly Templars, and it is this organization which is next delved into. The layout is much like the chapter preceding it, and Chapter 5 likes to provide information on some of the Templar elite, as well as give a bit of background knowledge as to the allies that assisted in their deeds. Memories instantly came flooding back about the corrupt Borgias that plagued Ezio’s existence, as well as the backstabbing evil that was Haytham Kenway who took center stage in Assassin’s Creed III.
Next up on the agenda, and following on from all the character talk, the reader is treated to a look at the array of technology that has been used by both the Templars and Assassins across their journeys. There is a particular in-depth look at the use of the Animus across the 21st Century, with both the Templars and Brotherhood using it in some form or another to get an edge in their unending feud. Expect also to be viewing some of Leonardo da Vinci’s finest works for Ezio – that Flying Machine had never made the skies of Venice look so beautiful!
Continuing the move away from character bios, and Chapter 7 is handily titled ‘Locations and Settings’ – I’m sure you can figure that one out for yourself. Here we are treated to stunning art and in-game screenshots of every location that has been present in the AC franchise, as well as a ton of detail that makes you understand and appreciate Venice, Ptolemaic Egypt and the Caribbean just that little bit more.
Finally, and we move on to the Modern Day with the eighth and final chapter. Here everything we (and Abstergo!) have learnt from the Assassin’s stories is intertwined into what is going on at present in the AC chronology. As well as taking a look at the moguls that are overseeing a much more bureaucratic and seemingly business-like Templar Order, under the guise of Abstergo, we also get to take a look at what figures are headlining the Brotherhood nowadays. Who knows – with all this talk of where AC will travel next, could we be seeing a modern or, dare I say it, futuristic take on things?!
I better wrap this thing up after that piece of blasphemy, and finally Titan have dedicated a couple of pages to the Real-Life Brotherhood – showing just how much AC has infiltrated the real-world through the medium of video creation, cosplay, fan art and more. It’s undisputed that Assassin’s Creed has touched the lives of people, not just gamers, across the globe, and this final note is a touching sentiment to just that.
So have Titan Books pulled out the stops once again? You bet they have! It’s almost impossible to sum up in writing just how much detail and information is present in the Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide, so I implore you to take a look for yourself. The written word included is brilliantly crafted, and the images, both in-game shots and artwork, are of a similarly high degree.
For £24.99, this one really is a no-brainer, and I’d go as far as to say it’s a must-buy for anyone who is a fan of video games in general – this is simply an indication of just how extensive and in-depth a humble video game can be. Is it truly The Essential Guide? Undoubtedly.
Huge thanks go out to Titan Books for once again providing us the opportunity to look at their publication. If you wish to grab the Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide then hit them up direct. You’ll also find it available on Amazon.