The lights are on
When Assassin's Creed released in 2007, most gamers had no idea what to make of the strange project. Set in the modern day, the game established a complex fiction about a machine that allowed users to stare back into their own genetic memory and experience their ancestors' lives first hand. As Desmond begins to explore the life of his ancestor, Altaïr, we gamers get to come along for the ride. We discover a richly imagined and researched land at the height of the Third Crusade. The chance to experience history in this new form was remarkable, establishing Assassin's Creed with of the coolest settings in gaming.
In that first game, it became apparent right away that the developers at Ubisoft Montreal had done their homework. Historically accurate architecture and locales are everywhere in the game. The mysterious fortress of Masyaf, Altaïr’s home base in the game, is an actual site in modern-day Syria. In fact, it was the fortress home of the Hashashins, the group upon which the Assassins in the game are based. Venturing out into the vast open world kingdom, players find a landscape meant to echo the lands between Acre, Damascus, and Jerusalem. The northern part of the kingdom is dominated by lush green hills that give way to harsh deserts in the south. While in retrospect, this kingdom had a dearth of real mission content, at the time it was fascinating to cross the countryside on your horse, killing Templars as you went along, and climbing high towers and churches to uncover new viewpoints.
Each of the three cities at the edges of the kingdom has its own distinct identity. Blue-tinged Acre is the classic port city, and it shows the signs of the recent conflict that had given control of the city to the attacking Christian armies. Damascus, with its bright colors and Islamic mosques, feels like a gem in the midst of the desert. Jerusalem feels like a clash of different cultures – a rich, cosmopolitan city with all sorts of nooks and crannies to explore. In each, the city is filled with people going about their business, and reacting to the way you run or walk through the world. As missions progress, you interrogate enemy soldiers for hints to your target’s location, or sit quietly on a bench to eavesdrop on a nearby conversation, deepening the sense that you are a deadly assassin hiding in plain sight.
More recently, other entries in the Assassin’s Creed games have dramatically expanded the complexity of the locations you visit, from trips to Rome and Constantinople to recent adventures in Boston and New York. In addition, other game projects like LA Noire, Red Dead Redemption, and The Saboteur have further developed the potential of exploring a fictionalized historical setting. Nonetheless, Assassin’s Creed tapped the idea early on, showing the potential of an open world rooted in historical fact, and just how big and ambitious such a game world could be using this generation of console technology.
Visiting Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus, and all the lands in between was one of the highlights that made me an early believer in the potential of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. As I think back on what made those locations so intriguing, I’m excited once again to see where (and when) the series will go next.
What was your favorite Assassin's Creed setting? Or for that matter, your favorite historical setting in any video game? Let us know in the comments below.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.
I would say Jerusalem for its historical significance.
Back then, riding around the country infiltrating cities meant something. It made you feel like an assassin. Renaissance Italy is great, but the first game ultimately meant more to me...
I loved Rome, Florence and Venice as well as the original 3 cities. As a person who has traveled to those cities in Europe, it was cool to see it in its historical setting.
Most people complained about the repetitiveness of the first Assassin's Creed, and personally it never bothered me because the world in that game was and still is so massive and captivating.
AC I was cool to explore in, but I liked the cities in Italy the most. Constantinople was cool, and I kinda liked New York and Boston (though, I admit, they were probably my least favorite).
As far as settings in different games, I tend to like fantasy settings like Skyrim and Cyrodil the best.
AC3 historical (not the modern-day part) and the game, place: probably in italy part. (venice.)
I liked Rome the best in the series.
I loved this game, but I started out with AC: Brotherhood and with all the gameplay mechanics that Brotherhood had, I was getting increasingly frustrated at the game. But for a starter game for a legendary franchise, this game goes above and beyond
All of them!!!!
to be honest, i enjoy every setting AC has offered...so much detail and hard work went in to create this magnificent worlds...i tip my hat to the people at ubisoft, great job!!!!
The recent pictures of the Venice flood brought back memories of AC2. It's weird how accurate St. Mark's Square was in that game.
THE TWO BEST PARTS WAS LOOKING FOR THE TEMPLAR AND GETTING DESTROYED, THEY WERE HARD AS HELL TO KILL. THE SECOND WAS THE SCREAMING AS THE FELL OF THE BUILDING. WHY AM I SCREAMING
first time I played Assassin's Creed, I was very impressed. I love to travel and wanting to be an Anthropologist makes other cultures very interesting and exciting to me, and The Holy Land is one of those places I really want to visit first. Who ever made this game was brilliant, their history is perfect and the storyline blew me away. I will never forget Assassin's Creed for it gave me a feeling that games rarely do, like Halo: Combat Evolved and Kingdom Hearts.
I'm glad I wasn't around during this time. Modern day is where it's at.
I love all of the AC locations. I was always so blown away by how historically accurate they were. I've had art history classes where I studied some of the structures that Ezio/Altair climbed. So I've always enjoyed looking and moving around structures I studied in books I would otherwise never get a chance to experience.
My favorite setting is anything in feudal Japan, have that and that game is mine.
My fave AC setting was in AC2. 1400's Italy.
Venice in AC2 was up there, but Rome in Brotherhood was fantastic, I've loved all their settings so far