By Kareem Korayem
In the city of Acre in the 12th century, an Assassin is stalking the king of Jerusalem Conrad of Montferrat in his citadel. The Assassin eliminates the archers posted along the walls before reaching the courtyard where Conrad is unleashing his paranoid delusion on two of his soldiers who he believes have been derelict in their duties. As Conrad’s soldiers file out of the courtyard, the lone assassin pounces on the king and assassinates him with his hidden blade, with his last words Conrad says that “everything I did, I did to prepare them for the new world”. This is not a historical documentary or a movie, but a video game franchise, Assassins Creed.
The assassins creed series is based on the concept that our ancestors memories are stored in our DNA, and according to this idea, the main character Desmond Miles is introduced to the gamers.
Miles is depicted as a bar tender who has lost touch with his identity and is in practical terms what you would call “a good for nothing”. He is abducted by a sinister corporation called Abstergo Industries, they keep Miles as a prisoner and forcibly connect him to the “Animus” which is capable of deciphering our genetic memories. What Miles doesn’t know is that he is a descendant of the Assassins, and that Abstergo Industries is a continuation of the Templar order. As he explores the memories of his ancestor Al-Tair during the days of the Crusades, he realises that the Assassins and the Templars have been at war for over a thousand years.
He is later liberated by the Assassins and continues working through the memories of his individual ancestors in order to help the assassins find the “apple of Eden”, a piece of heaven that has enormous powers, a power that the Templars themselves are seeking but incapable of finding because Miles’ ancestors have hid it.
Through the series, Miles gets to live and experience life through three of his ancestors: Al-Tair who belonged to the original middle eastern assassins, Ezio Auditore who was an Italian assassin at the time of the Renaissance, and finally through his ancestor Connor who is a half British half Mohawk Assassin at the time of the American Revolutionary War.
The game, which is an open-world stealth game allows you to walk down the streets of Damascus, Jerusalem, Acre, Constantinople, Florence, Rome, Boston and New York during the respective timelines of each game in the series. Not only that, but you can also explore Vatican City and even view major art works such as the Sistine chapel. You can also position the character in front of a historic landmark, press the Select button and view a short description and history of the landmark. You can also view in menu biographies of all the important personalities at the time.
The game itself, as stated during its opening credits, is “Inspired by historical events and characters, this work of fiction was designed, developed and produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs.”
The game might be based on historical facts, for example, in the first part of the series you have a mission to assassinate the king of Jerusalem, Conrad of Montferrat. Historically Conrad was attacked by an Assassin on the street where he was injured, he was taken to a church where a second assassin was lying in wait to finish the job. Al-Muallem (the teacher) who was the head of the assassins claimed responsibility for the assassination at the time. Though many historical events are related in the game, the storyline itself is fictional, only the first part in the series was historically accurate about the Assassins, the later series tries to imagine that the sect of the assassins survived the Mongol invasion (which they did not) and continued to live on through other assassins around the world, like Machiavelli, Benjamin Franklin and other prominent personalities.
Other than the fictional story line, not much else is fictional. During the latest instalment of the series you witness the Boston massacre, take part in the Boston tea party and also take part in the fighting at Lexington and Concord. You also have to hunt down a traitor loyalist, Charles lee, who was betraying the revolution to the British crown. During the earlier series you can also wander over to a town crier and listen to the latest news updates of a thousand years ago.
The Assassins Creed franchise has proven very lucrative to its French producer Ubisoft, as it tops the companies selling list. The franchise has sold almost 30 million copies so far, with a spin-off of several books, comics and film.
The game has proven itself to be a breakthrough in gaming, as it involves history, politics and an endless number of ways through which you can carry out each historical mission. It proves that the style in modern games is constantly evolving, and that many companies will attempt to recreate the wide-eyed amazement one experiences while playing as one of the Legendary Assassins.