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Review by C.J. Bunce

Gigantic and worthy of the expansive universe it chronicles, Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide is one of the better visual histories in the fantasy and science fiction genres.  Titan Books has released a full-color expanded hardcover edition, updating a 2016 edition with plenty of new content, including new sections and the incorporation of recent storylines.  In a word, it’s a comprehensive look at Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed for past gamers and new gamers, and readers of its many tie-in stories, or anyone wanting to know what the game, and tie-in film, novels, and comic books, are all about.

The fun of the Assassin’s Creed universe is the merger of history and adventure in a way that incorporates both fantasy and science fiction.  The science fiction is from the time travel that isn’t.  That is, from the vantage point of a seemingly unlimited selection of starting points across history, characters can look back to the past to gain knowledge and answers to essential questions along their hero’s journey, much like in Doctor Who.  A catalog of important objects, showcased in the book via artwork in the style of the game and comics, is a treasure trove of fantasy, roleplay devices that propel players and readers through the labyrinthine stories.

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Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide explains the history behind the two key factions–the Creed and the Templars–and the conflict between them.  It includes timelines of events, and takes a step back to the fantasy world of the distant past that grew into modern civilization, all presented as in-universe, as if the reader lives in this secret realm behind our own.  Readers learn of objects like the Animus device, the Apples and Staves of Eden, and other important ancient artifacts and totems unearthed in the games and tie-ins.  Diehard gamers will meet again the key characters–and subordinate characters–from the video game who have presented the journey so far, and readers of the books and novels will find their familiar heroes and denizens here as well.

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