Nothing is true... except these things
For the past few years, the Assassins Creed franchise has managed to entertain and captivate audiences with a rich and detailed historical fiction. With Assassins Creed IIIs launch looming, we thought it would be advantageous to take a look back at the events that shaped the series. There are a lot of ins and outs to the history of Assassin's Creed, but with our help, youll have a pretty solid grasp on all the major events and characters that have brought the franchise to where it is today.
Spoilers for the past games but not ACIII, obviously, will be littered throughout, but with major plot points being tucked away in DLC packs and comic books you're really going to want to read this if you want to be caught up before firing up the revolution.
The Templar Order has wanted to rule the world for more than a millennia
With origins that trace back to Cain and Abel, the Templar Order has been plotting and scheming for longer than the history books let on. For ages, the Templars have worked in secret, hoping to gain an advantage over their oldest enemy, the Assassin Brotherhood.
The Templars believe they can help save humanity, but only through careful control and manipulation of the population. Our first glimpse at the Templar influence came in Assassin's Creed, where we saw first hand how the Knights Templar used the Crusades as a means for hunting down strange artifacts through the Middle East. This wasnt the first time the Assassins and Templars would clash over ideology, nor would it be the last.
The Assassin Brotherhood has battled them to keep it free
Just as old as the Templar Order is the Assassin Brotherhood. Where the Templars seek to save humanity by controlling it, the Assassin Brotherhood has fought them tooth and nail throughout history to preserve mankinds freedom of choice. A secret organization with ties to some of the most famous figures in history such as Leonardo da Vinci, Marco Polo, and (apparently) George Washington, the Assassin Brotherhood has directly affected or had a guiding hand/blade in a great number of historical events.
But the Assassin Brotherhood lacks the power and numbers of the Templar Order, which has made the struggle against its oldest foe quite difficult in recent years. However, both groups still actively seek out Pieces of Eden to help guide humanity to a safer future. What are Pieces of Eden, you ask?
Before any of that happened, the First Civilization (a glowy alien society) enslaved early humanity
Yes, though it has kept it hidden in its many trailers, Assassin's Creed's mythos is deeply rooted in mythology and science fiction. The real story begins many thousands of years ago, when humanity was created through genetic manipulation by a race of beings known as the First Civilization. An advanced race with a superior scientific intellect, the First Civilization created humanity in their image, but made sure to keep humans less intelligent so they could be enslaved.
Using items known as "Pieces of Eden," the First Civilization was able to ensure humanity remained a slave race forever. However, after some time, crossbreeding began to happen, resulting in smarter, more evolved humans who gained some special abilities thanks to the improved genes. It was because of this improved physiology that Adam and Eve (yup) were able to lead the human revolt against their masters.
A very naked Adam and Eve freed humanity from the First Civilization
Yes, that science fictiony. Despite having advanced technology and superior intellect, the First Civilization was toppled by the vast number of humans they had created. The uprising came about due to Adam and Eve stealing one of the Pieces of Eden called the Apple of Eden, and using it to lead humanitys first crusade for freedom. As the war continued, the First Civilization found their numbers dwindling. However, it wasnt until the "Toba catastrophe" that the few remaining members of the First Civilization were forced into seclusion, while the human race took over Earth.
Some 70,000 years ago, a massive solar flare wiped out a great deal of both populations. The humans managed to scatter around the globe, with the limited remaining members of the First Civilization hidden in Vaults underground. It took thousands of years for the First Civilization to become extinct. In that time, they helped shape early societies from the shadows. Now, in some form or another, the First Civilization is trying to help prevent a similar catastrophe from happening again.
Both groups are after Pieces of Eden, which have shaped human history
There are still remnants of the First Civilization scattered around the globe in the form of Pieces of Eden. Though there are a few different types (swords, staves, crystal skulls) of this ancient technology that have survived through the years, it is unclear just how many Pieces of Eden there are in the world. What is known is how influential they are--it's hinted that many of the strange occurrences in human history (including just about every religious event) were actually an effect of someone using a Piece of Eden.
Of all the Pieces of Eden though, the most coveted are the Apples of Eden. The Apple of Eden allows its wielder to control the thoughts, emotions, and behavior of those affected. The Apples are also home to a wealth of knowledge, as they archive the research, technology, and methods of the First Civilization. The Templar Order and the Assassin Brotherhood have studied Apples extensively, and both groups are aware of the power these Pieces of Eden possess. Thats why the Assassins have been fighting so hard to prevent the Templars from finding more.
In the modern era, the Templars use Abstergo Industries to achieve their goals
In the modern day, this battle still rages. Now, Abstergo Industries is the public face of the Templar Order. Once the Templar Order realized science and technology would be the leading industries of the future, a braintrust of the most influential members created the Plan. Almost thirty years after the Industrial Revolution, Abstergo Industries was formed. Now, in 2012, Abstergo is a massive, multinational corporation.
Abstergo also invented the Animus, a device that allows a subject to explore an ancestors "genetic memories" in virtual reality (see: how the Assassin's Creed games work). The Templars have used the Animus Project to discover the locations of more Pieces of Eden, and also to train their own soldiers in the fight against the Assassin Brotherhood. Abstergo plans to launch the Eye-Abstergo satellite on December 21, 2012, a key date in the Assassin's Creed story, as thats when the Assassin Brotherhood and the remnants of the First Civilization believe another cataclysmic event will occur.
and the Assassin Brotherhood continues to operate in the shadows
While the Templar Order has used its influence to become a worldwide threat under the guise of Abstergo Industries, the Assassin Brotherhood is forced to remain in the shadows. Sometime after World War II, the Brotherhood shied away from the open conflict against the Templars, and opted for a more behind-the-scenes approach. This meant the Brotherhood would use media and elections to help shape the world, rather than direct force.
However, the Templars dont adhere to any sort of moral code, which eventually led to the Great Purge (which we'll get to in a bit), and the downfall of the majority of the Assassin Brotherhood. Fortunately, small packets of the Brotherhood still exist. The Brotherhood also has an Animus of its own, which is slightly improved over the Abstergo version. Instead of just allowing subjects to live through genetic memories, the Animus 2.0 allows subjects to learn the skills of their ancestors.
The Assassins are struggling to survive after the (ironic) assassination of their leader
In 2000, the Templars pulled off what could be considered their masterstroke in the age-old battle against the Assassin Brotherhood. Using a sleeper agent (and fourth subject of Abstergo's experiments) named Daniel Cross, the Templars were able to kill off the Assassin Brotherhoods leader, the Mentor. As a descendant of Russian assassin Nikolai Orelov, Cross was the perfect candidate for the Templars to infiltrate the Brotherhood, as he already had some of the innate skills of the Assassins. After spending a great deal of time infiltrating the Assassin Brotherhood and learning many of its secrets, Daniel Cross was activated the moment the Mentor gave him the trademark hidden blade.
After learning almost all of the secrets of the Brotherhood, Cross returned to Abstergo with the knowledge, which led to a series of attacks on the Brotherhood known as the Great Purge. All of the Assassin training dens and bases were attacked, forcing the few remaining members of the Brotherhood to scatter across the globe. With diminished numbers, the Assassins' chances for stopping the Templar plan for world domination, let alone reprisal for the murder of the Mentor, have decreased significantly over the last decade.
Daniel Cross is now one of the Templar leaders
The multiplayer experience in Assassins Creed games puts you in the role of an Abstergo subject tested for the skills necessary to become a member of the Templar order by way of the Animus. Its revealed in Assassins Creed: Revelations that the man in charge of this training is none other than Daniel Cross. With such an intimate knowledge of how the Assassins are trained, how they work, and what skills they possess, Cross is the ideal man for Abstergos initiatives in creating their own assassin army.
Cross isnt just limited to training sessions though. In 2012, Daniel was tasked with organizing the hunt for Desmond Miles. After Desmonds capture, Daniel returned to training more assassins for Abstergo. Already unstable psychologically due to the Bleeding Effect caused by prolonged Animus exposure as a child, Daniel became increasingly unreliable after learning about the failure of Project Siren (the initiative based around Desmond's capture). Cross is still considered a major threat to the Assassins, and is believed to be on the hunt for Desmond Miles once again.
The Assassins last hope is Desmond Miles, who comes from a long line of Assassins
The Assassins Creed series has centered on protagonist Desmond Miles. Each of the games in the series thus far has been predicated on going into Desmonds past to learn more about the war between the Templars and the Assassins, the Pieces of Eden, and the First Civilization. Its believed Desmond may have some genetic ties to the First Civilization, and thats why hes been chosen to help try to avert the world-ending catastrophe predicted to happen on December 21, 2012.
Desmond initially tried to get away from the Assassin Brotherhood, and ran from his compound during his formative years. Desmond was able to stay off the grid until 2012 when Abstergo discovered him. Realizing how important Miles was to discovering more Pieces of Eden, the Templar front captured him for their own devious purposes.
But Abstergo captured Desmond before he could realize his potential
The first Assassins Creed finds Desmond in the clutches of Abstergo, forced to undergo Animus treatments while in captivity. In custody, Desmond meets Dr. Warren Vidic, head of genetic research at Abstergo (and member of the Templar Inner Sanctum), and Lucy Stillman, Vidics assistant (and undercover Assassin).
Vidic keeps close tabs on Desmond, as he believes his genetic ancestry will be the key to finding another key Piece of Eden for the Templars. He's right.
Abstergo used the Animus to research Desmonds ancestry
While undergoing Animus sessions at Abstergo, Desmond was put into the genetic memories of Altair Ibn-La'Ahad, a Syrian Assassin who battled the Templars during the Crusades. At first, Desmond struggled with the memory hunting within the Animus, which caused Vidic and Stillman to argue about how much exposure Miles had to the device. The previous user, Subject 16, was driven insane by prolonged use, and Stillman advocated for Desmonds time in the Animus to be measured. Vidic conceded, and shortly thereafter, Desmond had a breakthrough.
While reliving Altairs experiences, Desmond saw a map with key locations of valuable Pieces of Eden marked out, which is exactly what Abstergo was hoping to find. Vidic wanted to dispose of Desmond once the map was discovered, but Lucy advocated for his safety, indicating Desmond may be useful again in the future.
until Lucy Stillman, Shaun Hastings, and Rebecca Crane helped Desmond escape
After Desmond outlived his usefulness at Abstergo, Lucy (a spy for the Assassins) and several other Assassins put plans into motion to help him escape. After convincing Vidic to keep Desmond around, Lucy quickly threw Desmond into the Animus one more time. There, Desmond was linked to an ancestor who also had ties to Subject 16, Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Once the new genetic link was set up, Lucy grabbed the Animus hard drive, and escaped with Desmond to meet up with Hastings and Crane.
Once at the new Assassin hideout, Desmond was introduced to the Animus 2.0. With Cranes and Hastings help, Desmond would be able to not only live out the genetic memories of Ezio to help the Assassins find more clues to help stop the Templars, but he would also be able to learn all of Ezios skills thanks to the Bleeding Effect. Now fully aware of the stakes, Desmond willingly entered the Animus 2.0, and began the path to being humanitys potential savior.
Desmond also had some help from Abstergos previous victim: Subject 16
Subject 16s prolonged exposure to the Animus drove him crazy, and led to his committing "suicide" (psst, it wasn't really suicide). Before he did "kill himself," Subject 16 implanted his memory into the Animus core, and made it so only his successor would be able to access that portion of the core. Subject 16 was a direct descendent of Adam, which meant he had prolonged knowledge of the Apple of Eden, and was of great importance to Abstergo before his paranoia got the best of him.
Though Subject 16s influence on Desmond in the first Assassin's Creed was minimal, Desmond was aided greatly by Subject 16 during his time in Ezios memories. This was due to Subject 16s imprint still being part of the memory core stolen from Abstergo, and implanted into the Animus 2.0. Subject 16 had left some broken and hidden code in the core, and Desmond was able to find and explore these areas to learn more about the ongoing battle between the Assassins and Templars, as well as the truth about Adam, Eve, and the First Civilization.
He has lived through the lives of two of his ancestors so far
There have been a handful of Assassins Creed titles released, but Desmond has only gone into the genetic memories of two of his ancestors: Altair and Ezio. Desmonds time with Altair taught him a lot about the way the conflict between the Assassins and Templars has worked throughout time, and introduced him to the modern day face of his foes at Abstergo. Desmonds time with Ezio has proven far more valuable. He has lived through a larger portion of Ezios life, and has thus learned more skills, more information on the history of the feud, and conversed with members of the First Civilization.
While living through the memories of Ezio, Desmond was also able to put the Assassins back on track in the war on the Templars by discovering one of the remaining Apples of Eden.
and managed to find an Apple of Eden
There are believed to be five remaining Apples of Eden in the world at the onset of Assassins Creed. Abstergo has one, but lost another during a tragic event in Denver that still remains shrouded in mystery. Even though Desmond was able to wield the power of the Apples of Eden both Altair and Ezio had found during their lifetimes, these Apples were still missing in the modern day. The Assassins hadnt had as much luck until Desmond was able to discover where Ezio hid the Apple of Eden he found centuries ago.
Buried in a hidden vault deep in the catacombs of the Colosseum, Desmond found the Apple of Eden. While in the vault, Desmond was contacted by Juno, one of the members of the First Civilization. Juno warned Desmond again of the cataclysmic event that was approaching, and that there was a traitor in his midst.
After touching the Apple, Desmond killed his BFF Lucy, and fell into a coma
Once Desmond touched the Apple of Eden in the vault, Juno possessed him. Time stopped, and Desmond found himself helplessly watching as Juno controlled his body, directing it to stab Lucy.
When Juno released Desmond from her possession, Lucy was dead, and Shaun and Rebecca could only look on in horror. Overwhelmed with the power of the Apple, the prolonged Animus times, and the shock of having just murdered one of his closest friends while being possessed by an advanced ancient being, Desmond slipped into a coma.
but its okay because Lucy was totally a Templar spy
Abstergo and Dr. Vidic planned out every single moment of Lucys friendship with Desmond (if you missed this during the series we understand--it was tucked away in Revelations DLC). Dubbed Project Siren, the operation for Lucy to infiltrate the Assassins by way of befriending Desmond was almost a success. Once Desmond had gotten his hands on the Apple, Lucy was going to betray the team to the Templars, and return to Vidics side. No one had planned for Junos intervention however, and Abstergos grand plan fell apart at the very last moment.
Once Desmond had slipped into his coma, Shaun and Rebecca hastily contacted one of the Assassin leaders, who just so happened to be Desmond's father. Mr. Miles advised putting Desmond back into the Animus to try and revive his consciousness. The group has been on the run ever since, trying to stay one step ahead of Abstergo and the Templars while Desmond recovered.
Now Desmond is totes better, and is ready to save the world
The events of Assassins Creed: Revelations all occur while a comatose Desmond is in the Animus. There he finally meets Subject 16 face-to-virtual-face. Seeing just how close Desmond is to losing his mind to the Animus, Subject 16 reconstitutes himself in the virtual reality construct, and helps Desmond not only see through Ezios final days, but also helps Desmond put his mind back together. Being in a coma while in the Animus is very bad, you see, so Subject 16 and Desmond have to work fast before Desmonds consciousness is absorbed into the Animus, and his living body becomes brain-dead.
We learned a lot about Desmonds life while he struggled to put the pieces back together, including how he spent his time between leaving the Assassin compound and being captured by Abstergo. With the help of Subject 16, Desmond is able to put back his shattered mind, escape the Animus, and whats more, leave with knowledge of how to use the Apple of Eden to stop the Templar Order.
The Templar Orders world-ending plan concludes on December 21, 2012
The Templar Order plans to launch their Apple of Eden into space via satellite to control the minds of the worlds population. Originally, Abstergo was going to launch the Eye-Abstergo satellite earlier in 2012, but an incident at Denver International Airport caused them to lose the Piece of Eden they originally intended to use, and thus delayed the launch until December 21. Daniel Cross was on site at Denver, and there is believed to have been an altercation between the Templars and the Assassins. However, since the Assassins never reported back and Cross refuses to discuss those events, the entire episode remains a mystery.
Fortunately, the delay allowed Desmond to recover an Apple of Eden for the Assassins, and learn more about the impending disaster from the First Civilization ghosts/holograms who continue to contact him throughout the series. With a clear plan of how to prevent the catastrophe, Desmond has returned to the U.S. to put an end to the Templar threat.
but Desmond has spoken with members of the First Civilization, and knows how to stop the Templar plan
At various key moments in the Assassins Creed series, members of the First Civilization have reached out to Desmond to pass helpful information along. One of Desmonds earliest conversations was when Minerva contacted him through Ezios memories in the past (he talked to Ezio but spoke to Desmond, it was weird). Minerva warned Desmond of the approaching apocalypse event, though details on how to stop it were sparse. As Desmond dove deeper into Ezios memories, more contact with the First Civilization was made, and more was learned about how the First Civilization fell.
With a clear understanding of what happened those tens of thousands of years ago, Desmond and his close-knit band of Assassins are headed to the location where the First Civilizations Grand Temple was located and buried by thousands of years of planetary evolution. What Desmond will find there is anyones guess, but rest assured, he will be ready to face whatever challenges wait to save all of humanity.
Everything is permitted
Assassins Creed III is due out very shortly, and Ubisoft has promised plenty of answers and an ultimate conclusion to Desmonds story. There are plenty of narrative threads to pick up and finish, including the possible truth behind the Denver incident, whether or not Daniel Cross and Desmond will cross paths, and why Desmond was the chosen one. Its an exciting time to be an Assassins Creed fan to be sure, and we can only hope this final game in the trilogy delivers upon expectations.