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Few video game stories are more involved and detailed than Assassin’s Creed. Mixing present day conspiracy theories, true historical events, and the imaginary tale of two warring organizations fighting over humanity’s destiny, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot to keep track of.
We’ve boiled things down to some of the fundamentals so you can get everything straight before Assassin’s Creed III releases on October 30. Our article is filled with SPOILERS about all the Assassin’s Creed games and available DLC, but we promise to remain spoiler-free about Assassin’s Creed III. We’ve also tried to leave out characters, events, and storylines that we don’t think will be relevant moving forward.
The First Civilization
To wrap your head around everything else, start with the idea of the mysterious civilization that existed before humanity. Assassin’s Creed posits that this advanced humanoid civilization once lived on Earth, but they all died off in a devastating cataclysm thousands of years ago.
Before this ancient people were wiped out, they crafted two important creations for purposes of the Assassin’s Creed story. First, they built the Pieces of Eden, unique and powerful items of technology that offered strange powers to their wielders, from changing the flow of time to controlling minds.
Their second important creation was humanity. The First Civilization built a new race to utilize as a workforce. The humans they created eventually rose up in revolt and through sheer force of numbers won their independence. The relatively small number of individuals that existed in the First Civilization were wiped out in the disaster, but enough humans survived to carry on and build our civilization. In some human civilizations, members of the First Civilization are worshipped as gods.
In the events of the Assassin’s Creed games, ghostly visages of individuals from the First Civilization communicate with main character Desmond in unusual visions triggered at unique sites around the world. They detail the history of the First Civilization, its untimely demise, and warn Desmond of a similar impending catastrophe on its way to Earth. In the game world, that catastrophe is coming at the end of 2012, which just happens to be around the same time that Assassin's Creed III is set for release.
The uniting thread that ties together all the Assassin’s Creed games so far is a man named Desmond Miles. Born into a family of Assassins in the late 20th century, Desmond runs away from his heritage to live a life on his own, but against his will he is drawn back into the middle of the age-old conflict between the Assassins and Templars.
Unfortunately for him, the modern day corporate arm of the Templar order, called Abstego, kidnaps Desmond for nefarious purposes. With a strange invention called the Animus, Abstergo begins to probe into the genetic memories built into Desmond’s DNA. These memories of Desmond’s ancestors offer a glimpse into historical events, but also allow Abstergo to hunt down lost Pieces of Eden left behind by the First Civilization.
With the help of a woman named Lucy Stillman, Desmond escapes from Abstergo and joins up with a hidden cell of Assassins, and with them he is able to continue his search for the truth about the artifacts and their disturbing revelations.
Unbeknownst to Desmond or the rest of the team, Lucy Stillman has betrayed the Assassins and is working for Abstergo. When Desmond and the rest of the Team go to an ancient First Civilization site beneath Rome’s Coliseum, Desmond picks up the Apple of Eden that resides there and his body is temporarily controlled by Juno, one of the ghostly members of the First Civilization. Detecting Lucy’s true allegiances, Juno forces Desmond to stab and kill Lucy.
This traumatic event sends Desmond into a coma and his fellow Assassins place him into the Animus to keep him alive. While he’s unconscious, they move Desmond across the world towards the next site in their investigation, which is a hidden First Civilization temple in upstate New York.
Meanwhile, by reliving the events of his own past and those of the other ancestors he’s visited up to this point, Desmond reconstructs his fractured consciousness and awakens from his coma, ready to face what’s next.
[Next Up: The rest of the cast, both past and present]
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.