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.
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.
As history is key to the adventure, readers will encounter those real-world characters, from Julius Caesar to Alexander Graham Bell, who have crossed paths with the Creed and Templars alike. Adequate attention is given to training, weapons like the Hidden Blade, the main Assassins players and readers confront, and the places they’ve been.
Here is a look inside:
As a visual encyclopedia, standout artwork can be found in the costume designs and recreated characters from the Creed universe. This is not a behind the scenes guide so we don’t meet the creators, but no doubt thousands of hours have gone into the preparation, research, and design work of the universe depicted here. Costume and object images will also be essential resources for cosplayers recreating this world.
A must for the diehard Assassin’s Creed fan, and a fun example of creative worldbuilding and fantasy storytelling for everyone else, Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide is just out in bookstores from Titan Books, and available for order here at Amazon in a full color, updated and expanded hardcover edition.