1. Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent.
2. Hide in plain sight.
3. Never compromise the brotherhood.
You'll be forgiven if you've already forgotten the three tenets of the Assassin's Creed. There have been four games released in the span of five years, each building on the network of assassins and the lore leading up to 2012, the end of all things, the apocalypse, or so we think.
Before Assassin's Creed III lands on Tuesday, let's take a look back at where Desmond Miles, our modern-day, over-arching protagonist began and where Ubisoft has taken him throughout the centuries. Beware: there will be spoilers below.
First, let's look at the important figures in the Assassin's Creed universe:
Desmond Miles – As the overarching protagonist in the modern day, Desmond experiences the lives of his ancestors in the Animus. While Desmond is originally introduced as a simple bartender, he's quickly pulled back into the war between the Assassins and the Templars. Desmond quickly gains the abilities of his ancestors through the Bleeding Effect, a symptom of frequent use of the Animus that also emotionally and mentally links the user and the ancestor.
Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad – Literally translated, Altaïr's name means "The Bird, Son of No One." Altaïr lived during the Third Crusade, at a peak in Assassin strength. Altaïr lives a long and happy life, marrying Maria Thorpe and fathering two sons. He dies of natural causes in a scene towards the end of Assassin's Creed: Revelations. Like Ezio after him, Altaïr is also driven by a strong sense of personal justice. Even when facing off with his mentor, Al Mualim, Altaïr is dedicated to truth and honor above all else.
Ezio Auditore da Firenze – Players come to know Ezio, as the lead protagonist in the central trio of Assassin's Creed games, better than anyone else in the series. The Italian noblemen is first seen on the day of his birth in 1459. Players spend decades of lifetime in the guise of Ezio, fighting corruption across Italy, liberating Rome, and eventually traveling to Istanbul to discover the path of Altaïr.
William Miles – Desmond's father worked as a member of the Assassins Order as a point of contact for the groups working around the globe. William raised his son on the Farm, a compound used to protect Desmond from the Templars. William rejoins his son, along with Rebecca and Shaun at the end of Brotherhood. By the time Desmond awakens in the Animus in Revelations, William has relocated the team to North Eastern New York to find the Grand Temple. To think all Desmond wanted was a Game Boy and the Templars never would have gotten him.
Lucy Stillman – Though she appears to the player and Desmond as an Assassin agent within Abstergo industries, Lucy is eventually killed by Desmond's hand at the end of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Though it's unclear why, it comes to light later that Lucy was a Templar double-agent. It also comes to light that writing off characters is really easy when you've got a machine that allows the user to see what life was like centuries and centuries ago in the past.
Warren Vidic – As the Templar overseeing Desmond's progress in the Animus in Abstergo, Vidic acts as the main modern day antagonist in Assassin's Creed. As demonstrated by Subject 16's descent into madness and eventual suicide, Vidic cares about nothing other than the pursuit of the Templar's goals. Vidic also heads up the Templar Order's initiative to train an army of would-be soldiers in the series' multiplayer.
Subject 16 – Clay Kaczmarek preceded Desmond in Abstergo's plot to uncover the truth. As such, 16 was driven insane by way of the Bleeding Effect and the ancestral identities sharing his mind. In his madness, part of Clay was left inside the Animus (later to antagonize Desmond in his coma). As a part of the Animus, 16 leaves clues for Desmond throughout the world. Clay also leaves a message for Desmond, written in blood on the walls of the holding chamber within Abstergo.
Next: the war against the Templars begins….
The first Assassin's Creed game released to mixed reviews, but many fans rose to defend the title based on the deep narrative threads and open-world traversal that have become hallmarks of the series. Desmond, of course, is just a simple bartender with no ties to any century-spanning orders dedicated to fighting other globe-spanning multinational (evil) organizations. What could his ancestral memories possibly unlock?
Regardless of how unassuming Desmond Miles might be, Abstergo industries is hoping to record his ancestral memories by way of the Animus, a device that allows the user to relive the lives of generations past. In the Animus, Desmond inhabits the body and mind of Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad, a disgraced assassin on the road to redemption after the violation of the Creed's three tenets (see first page). Altaïr is directed to kill nine targets or else face exile from the order. When Altaïr's final target reveals that there were in fact 10 templars and that the final enemy of the order is in fact Al Mualim, the leader of the Assassins, Altaïr races back to Masyaf, the order's stronghold.
After Altaïr defeats Al Mualim and recovers the Apple of Eden and it's revealed that 28 such items are scattered around the world. With the knowledge in hand, Desmond is removed from the Animus back at Abstergo. Lucy Stillman, an assistant in the lab, reasons with Warren Vidic a leader within Abstergo, that they should keep Desmond alive until they've recovered the Pieces.
When Desmond is left alone in his room, the bleeding effect, by which Desmond gains the abilities and experience of his ancestors, allows him to use eagle vision which reveals messages written in blood on the walls. One of these messages reads: "I Entered the Animus and never returned."
Lucy breaks Desmond out of Abstergo and takes him to a hideout where two other templars, Shaun and Rebecca, are waiting to further Desmond's progression in the Animus. This time, Desmond lives the life of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a young italian noblemen whose father and brothers are killed by Uberto Alberti, a corrupt official with ties to the Templars.
When Ezio and his mother and sister flee to Monteriggioni, they meet Ezio's Uncle Mario who teaches Ezio about his Assassin bloodline. Ezio also befriends Leonardo da Vinci who helps the order by decoding a codex that contains Altaïr's memories (in addition to some advanced gadgets for our new assassin). Once all of the codex pages have been gathered, Ezio's eagle vision reveals the locations of several tombs around the world. Over the next 10 years, Ezio exacts his revenge on the conspirators that murdered his father, until only Rodrigo Borgia is left.
Borgia loses the Apple of Eden to the Assassins and flees. Here a glitch in the Animus skips Desmond and Ezio ahead about a decade. Players can see Ezio's role in the Battle of Forli and the Bonfire of the Vanities if they play the DLC chapters released for Assassin's Creed II.
The next thing Desmond sees is the Vatican, where Rodrigo leads as Pope Alexander VI. The Papal Staff is another Piece of Eden, used as a key to open a vault described in the Codex's prophecy. Ezio defeats Rodrigo, spares him, and enters the vault himself after the other members in the Assassin order tell Ezio they believe he is the actual prophet.
In the chamber, Ezio discovers a hologram of Minerva, a member of the first civilization. Minerva tells Ezio that her society suffered a great disaster and that it would soon repeat itself. Minerva turns to the camera and speaks directly to Desmond when she says finally, "The rest is up to you."
At the end of the game, Abstergo storms the hideout where the team had set up while Lucy, Desmond, and the others flee in the hopes that they can return Desmond to the Animus so he can unravel further clues as to what the order must do next.
Next: Ezio's saga of violence against the Templars continues…
When Desmond reenters the Animus, he finds Ezio in Monteriggioni. Things quickly devolve out of this tenuous peace as Cesare Borgia, son of Rodrigo, begins his siege on Monteriggioni, forcing Ezio out of the villa and on to the armaments. In his escape from this Templar force, Ezio sees his Uncle Mario killed by Cesare, who then takes the Apple of Eden.
Ezio then travels to Rome once more. A large part of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is based on freeing territories around Rome from oppression and corruption. Doing so tallies new members of the Assassin's Order, giving the brotherhood more strength and Ezio new abilities in combat and on missions. As the tide turns, Ezio chases Cesare and Rodrigo.
Cesare kills his father with a poisoned apple, originally intended for Cesare by Rodrigo himself. Ezio retrieves the Apple of Eden and Cesare is arrested, though he quickly escapes from prison in Spain with the help of the Borgia clan and the Templars. Ezio confronts Cesare amid the chaos the Templar has spread in his wake. When Cesare claims he cannot be killed by a mortal man, Ezio leaves the villain "in the hands of fate" by dropping him from on high.
Of course, Cesare was a dumbass and he died. Ezio then hides the Apple of Eden underneath Santa Maria in Aracoeli. That's when the player returns to Desmond in the present day. With the coordinates of the Apple in hand, the four modern Assassins recover the artifact from its hiding place, but they are again confronted by a mysterious being, projected from the mysterious technology in the temple. Juno is not visible to Lucy, Rebecca, or Shaun, but Desmond learns from the being that humanity is "innocent and ignorant" and lack the sixth sense: knowledge. It's at this point that Juno becomes violently angry and yells, "We should have left you as you were!"
When Desmond touches the Apple of Eden, time appears to freeze and he can no longer move or speak. At this point, Desmond seems to lose control of his body. Juno forces the assassin to stab Lucy in the abdomen, stating that there is a woman who would follow Desmond through "the gate," but that it could not be allowed. Desmond then falls into a coma. As the credits begin to roll, two men are heard arguing whether or not they should put Desmond back in the Animus.
In the final title of Ezio's trilogy, the player cycles between the three main protagonists, Desmond, Altaïr, and Ezio. Where Desmond had previously inhabited the White Room of the Animus, his coma drops him in the Black Room, a hacker's back door, if you will. Desmond's task is to piece together the rest of Ezio's life in order to make his escape from the Animus. As the story progresses, Desmond can complete platforming puzzles to learn more about his childhood and the Assassin order he grew up in. Still, as Ezio, Desmond finds further conflict with the Templars in the search for five keys required to unlock Altaïr's library under Masyaf.
The keys allow Ezio to inhabit Altaïr like Desmond does with the Animus. When his search takes Ezio to Istanbul, he meets with Master Assassin Yusuf Tazim who refers to Ezio as Mentor. With Yusuf's help, Ezio recovers the five keys, but discovers that Altaïr's library is not a library at all. Instead, he finds a vault where Altaïr's remains lay at rest with another key and the Apple of Eden. Ezio leaves the Apple to itself in his old age. At this point, the older Assassin speaks to the air in order to communicate with "anyone watching." Ezio leaves his hidden blades and sword in the vault with Altaïr.
At this point, Desmond is approached by Jupiter, another member of the "first civilization," who explains that the vaults sought out through the course of the series were built to study methods that would save the planet from a repeated disaster. The knowledge was transmitted to a central vault where theories were tested. Jupiter says that the first civilization failed, but that the central vault is located in New England and that Desmond must use the combined knowledge of his ancestors and the first civilization to prevent a second solar flare from destroying the planet yet again.
Demond wakes up, greeted by Rebecca, Shaun, and his father, William. "I know what to do" he says while the central vault begins to activate underground.
In The Lost Archive DLC, players taken on the role of Subject 16, the previous Animus user trapped inside the machine. In this segment, we learn that Lucy was actually a Templar posing as an Assassin (posing as a Templar within Abstergo).
Now that that's all behind us, which is your favorite Assassin's Creed game? I personally like the city-building and wide-open space of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, but Assassin's Creed II's focused story and varied cities makes for a compelling experience as well. Share your AC hype, hate, and more in the comments below.