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.