Since 2007, the Assassin’s Creed series has become a staple of modern gaming. With its unique freedom of movement and open world settings that cover a lot of big moments in history, it’s no wonder how this franchise has been able to maintain its place in AAA gaming for so long. Not only has it kept the public’s attention for almost 10 years, but it’s also done it with yearly installments. Whether you think that the series is getting a bit annoying or if you love getting a nice helping of Assassin’s Creed every year, there’s no doubt that you could use a refresher on the series’ long thread of storylines.
If you’re thinking about picking up Assassin’s Creed Origins as your first AC game, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The franchise’s nine main titles represent one of gaming’s most elaborate and epic storylines, although even hardcore fans will probably tell you that the game suffers from “Kingdom Hearts Syndrome” in another aspect as well. With so many spin offs and timelines and characters in play, it can be hard to keep things straight if you’re just trying to get acquainted with the franchise in 2017.
But fear not, AC virgin. Because Den of Geek is awesome and we love you, here, as best as we can condense it, is the main storyline from Assassin’s Creed across all of the titles that actually matter (that means we’ve skipped the handheld/mobile installments).
Assassin’s Creed (2007)
Desmond Miles is just a down on his luck bartender in modern day whose life is about to get a lot more interesting. He is captured by an organization called Abstergo and then gets shoved into a machine called the Animus, which allows Desmond to time travel.
Well, sort of. Desmond doesn’t physically leave his prison, but his brain is able to sync up with an Assassin named Altair from the Third Crusade. Desmond is actually a descendant of Altair, which is how he is able to experience his ancestor’s past. Altair jumps from building to building, attempting to stop Robert de Sable from obtaining a Piece of Eden. We eventually learn throughout the course of the series that a Piece of Eden is an artifact that was once used by the First Civilization to control humans and force them to work as slaves. These people, known as “The Precursors” were actually the first beings to call Earth home. They created the human race and the Pieces of Eden so that they could control their creations. Humans looked upon these beings as gods.
But I digress. Altair’s job in the first game is to stop the bad guy from getting the Piece of Eden, killing many Knights Templars along the way in order to be sworn into the “Brotherhood” of Assassins. Altair succeeds in killing de Sable, but learns that there is another Templar named Al Mualim, Altair’s mentor and leader of the Assassins, who has the Piece of Eden. Altair finds and kills him, too, because he is a bad ass. Recovering the Piece of Eden alerts Altair to the fact that there are many other artifacts from this previous age scattered around the world.
Just as things were getting good, Desmond gets ripped out of the Animus by a woman named Lucy Stillman. She’s a secret mole within the organization that kidnapped Desmond and explains to him that he is quite important, as all of these ancient memories he’s unraveling could reveal a plot for the end of the world.
Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009)
Desmond and Lucy break out of his prison. Desmond fights his way out thanks to the skills he picked up in the Animus. The duo meet up with Lucy’s friends in the resistance who have their own Animus, because of course they do. So Desmond trades one kind of hell for another, voluntarily heading into the past yet again, this time inside the mind of an assassin named Ezio Auditore de Firenze, who lived and killed during the Italian Rennissance.
We begin our time with Ezio just as he’s watching his father and brothers be unjustly executed. Looks like Desmond’s bloodline has had it rough for a while. Ezio swears revenge, which leads him down the path of the Assassin. We meet many well-known historical figures, including Leonardo da Vinci, as Ezio begins taking his revenge against the Templars. The Piece of Eden again rears its head, as Ezio learns it’s in the hands of a man named Borgia.
A decade passes with Ezio kicking ass, getting closer to his main target. Eventually, he discovers that Borgia is now the Pope. Which is great, because it’s probably going to be super easy to sneak in and arrange a meeting with the freaking Pope, right? Ezio succeeds and learns that Borgia possesses two Pieces of Eden, in the form of a staff and an apple.
He gets into a fistfight with the Pope….Take a few moments to think about that…Ezio uses these pieces to unlock a secret chamber where he meets a being named Minerva, who is connected to those Precursors we mentioned earlier. Minerva allows Ezio to reach out to Desmond directly. Desmond is once again warned that he is the key to stopping the end of the world. Just then, Abstergo strikes back. They uncover Desmond’s hideout, causing him and the others to make a run for it.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010)
Desmond has escaped the Abstergo agents and reenters the Animus to once again relive the memories of Ezio. Ezio returns to his family after confronting the Pope, only to find that the son of the Pope, Cesare, has invaded his home. Ezio’s uncle dies in the process and the apple, a Piece of Eden, is stolen. Ezio once again swears revenge and begins training other young men as assassins. Ezio eventually confronts Cesare, who has just poisoned his father (the Pope). Cesare is arrested, but is eventually broken out of his prison.
Upon learning of Cesare’s escape, Ezio takes his new brotherhood of trained assassins to war against Cesare and his army. Ezio wins and recovers the apple. He shows Desmond through the Animus where to find the apple in present day. All seems well, until Desmond runs into another virtual figure named Juno. Juno takes control of Desmond after learning that Lucy is actually a Templar double agent. Desmond is forced to stab Lucy and then falls into a coma. This guy just can’t catch a break.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (2011)
This is what it feels like when worlds collide.
The first game in the series to merge the storylines of Altair and Ezio, Revelations begins with Desmond in a coma, but awake inside the Animus. Lucy is dead. It is explained to Desmond that he must finish off the memories of both Altair and Ezio if he is to regain conciousness.
We pick up with an older Ezio following the events of Brotherhood. He journeys to Altair’s library in Masyaf, and learns he needs five keys to unlock its secrets. The Templars are also present and want to get into the library as well.
Ezio follows his own story for a while, meets a love interest named Sofia and eventually finds the keys. Ezio reads up on what happened to Altair following the death of Al Mualim from the first game. Altair lost his wife and child but managed to take revenge and implant his memories onto the keys Ezio just recovered. Ezio locates Altair’s corpse and the Piece of Eden he had recovered. Ezio speaks directly to Desmond, learning he is a conduit into the present day. After that Ezio decides to leave the ways of the Assassin behind.
Desmond meets another virtual figure from the First Civilization, this one named Jupiter. Jupiter explains that his brethren tried to use technology to save their planet from a solar flare but it failed. Desmond learns that another flare is coming, the doomsday scenario that has been alluded to throughout the series. Desmond learns the locations of the vaults that can stop the next flare. Desmond wakes up and announces to his friends and father that he knows what he has to do.
Assassin’s Creed 3 (2012)
With Ezio and Altair’s stories both wrapped up, AC III introduces us to an new assassin named Connor.
Desmond and friends make their way to New York, looking for a way to stop the world’s impending doom. They open a secret room with the help of a Piece of Eden and find a door that requires another key. Desmond passes out and is put into the Animus. Desmond syncs with the mind of Haytham Kenway and eventually his son Connor.
Haytham Kenway was a Templar when he met Connor’s mother, only no one knows that until it’s revealed at the end of his chapter. But Haytham is revealed to be a Templar spy. He recruits Charles Lee, who is later responsible for killing Connor’s mother. After Connor’s mother dies, Connor is taught the ways of the Assassin by Achilles Davenport. He then helps the Continental Army stop various Templar plans during the American Revolution. Eventually, Connor confronts his father Haytham, killing him after learning of his background as a Templar. Connor also kills Charles Lee, his mother’s murderer and recovers an amulet. Juno appears and explains that Connor must bury the amulet.
Back in present day, Desmond unburies the amulet, which is the key needed to open the inner door. A control board appears and Juno implores Desmond to touch it, saying it will stop the solar flare. But just then, Minerva, the Precursor from the first game, appears and tells Desmond that touching the sphere will indeed stop the solar flare but it will also release Juno into the real world, which might be a bigger threat to humanity, being that the Precursors used to be their slave drivers and all.
After an argument, Desmond decides to stop the solar flare but he dies in the process. Juno is freed and ominously says that it is “time to do her work.” Which is just great. Really great, Ubisoft. Five games with Desmond as the protagonist, but all he really manages to accomplish before his demise is keeping the human race alive so that they can probably be enslaved again. Fantastic. I’m so glad I just dedicated the last six years of my life to this franchise.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag (2013)
Anyway, now that I got that out of my system, it’s time to journey back in time to a land of pirates. AC IV: Black Flag follows the story of Edward Kenway, father of Haytham Kenway and grandfather of Connor. With Desmond gone, the players assume the role of the modern day Abstergo agent. Abstergo can now view a host’s memories of previous lives through a DNA trick. They obtained samples of Desmond’s DNA in the moments after his death.
The player assumes the role of a Abstergo researcher and is sent back in time using the DNA to investigate the story of Edward Kenway. The story is set in the Caribbean and features open-world ship exploration from island to island. As we know, Abstergo is really a front for the modern day Templars and they are using Edward Kenway to try and search for a First Civilization structure known as the Observatory. The Observatory allows anyone in the world to be monitored through a blood sample.
There are Templars back in Kenway’s time who wish to use this ability to blackmail world leaders. In order to find it, they must locate the “Sage”, who is later identified as Bartholomew Roberts. Roberts is the only one who knows the location of the Observatory. Kenway and the player eventually locate Roberts, mingling with other crews of famous historical Pirates along the way. Eventually Kenway and Roberts uncover the Observatory and retrieve its power source but then Kenway is betrayed by Roberts. Edward is imprisoned but escapes with the help of Ah Tabai, the Assassin Mentor and Edward formally resolves to join their order. Kenway eventually catches up with Roberts and Templars, retrieving the artifact, where he seals it away at the Observatory.
Back in the present day, the player is contacted by John, who is Abstergo’s IT Manager. John lets on that Abstergo is more than it is letting on and the player is compelled to hack into its security systems, the information being passed on to Desmond’s old friends Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane. As Abstergo goes into red alert, John allows the player to access the Animus directly, which allows our old friend Juno to appear.
It is revealed that the “Sage” is a human reincarnation of Aita, a member of the First Civilization and… wait for it… Juno’s husband. It is revealed that John is the modern day reincarnation of the “Sage” and that he was attempting to resurrect Juno, his wife, into the modern world by getting her to possess the body of the player. But Juno is not strong enough to assume the body of a human. With his plan foiled, the Sage tries to kill the player, but he is killed by Abstergo security, who now thinks that John is the one who hacked into the system.
The Sage, as Roberts, admits to Kenway that he has no love for the Assassins or the Templars and will use whichever group he feels gives him the best chance of meeting his goals. The player is contacted by the Assassins as they continue their work. Everyone, most of all this writer, remains confused as to what the deal with the Sage is and if we’re going to have evil gods walking among us or not.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue (2014)
Assassin Shay Patrick Cormac, the most Irish man who ever lived, is a young member of the Brotherhood under the leadership of Achilles Davenport, the Assassin we first met in AC III. So this game, which takes place during the French and Indian War, is a prequel to the adventures of Connor Kenway, and wraps up “The North American Trilogy.”
Cormac is a bit insubordinate, and questions Achilles’ leadership. He is sent on a mission across the sea to Lisbon to find a Piece of Eden before the Templars can get their hands on it. To his horror, the Piece of Eden causes an earthquake that razes the city much in the same way that another had years before in Haiti. Cormac decides to steal a manuscript necessary to interpret the artifact and make a run for it. The Assassin’s give chase and manage to shoot Cormac in the back, leaving him for dead.
Rescued by a ship and taken to New York City, Cormac decides to use his Assassin skills to drive out the criminal gangs from the city. This gets the attention of George Monro, the city’s governor, who decides to recruit him into the Templar order.
Working with Haytham Kenway from AC III, Cormac gives chase to the Assassins before they can find more of the Pieces of Eden. These particular Pieces aren’t weapons, but instead “hold the world together.” Achilles and the rest of the Brotherhood doesn’t know this, of course. They’re still the good guys, I guess.
Cormac takes the Assassins down one by one until he corners Achilles deep in the Arctic Circle. All but defeated, Achilles recognizes that Cormac was right to stop him. Cormac spares Achilles, but Haytham cripples him as a precaution. Cormac spends the rest of his life locating the remaining Pieces of Eden for the order, which leads him to the events of Unity…
Assassin’s Creed Unity (2014)
The first current-gen only installment of the franchise tells the story of Arno Dorian, the son of a French nobleman and Assassin named Charles, during the French Revolution. After the death of his father at the hands of Templar Agent Shay Patrick Cormac (who’s the star of Rogue) in the Palace of Versaille, Arno is taken in by the Templar Grand Master of Versaille De La Serre unbeknownst to him that he is now living with the enemy. Arno also befriends De La Serre’s daughter, Elise, during that time. Understandably, Arno falls a bit astray and ends up in the Bastille after De La Serre is murdered. There’s lots of murder before the game really gets started.
Meanwhile in the real world, you are the “player” in this very meta twist to the present day storyline. You are experiencing the memories of Arno Dorian through an Abstergo gaming device when suddenly the Assassins hack in to the connection and recruit you to find the Sage once again. And that’s pretty much the entire present day setup of the story.
Back in 18th century France, things are getting worse. While locked in the Bastille, Arno is recruited by an Assassin named Bellec, who is also locked away in the Prison. During the Storming of the Bastille, which many consider to be the moment that ignited the Revolution, Bellec and Arno manage to escape to safety.
Arno returns to Elise, only to discover that she is now an initiated Templar and technically his enemy. It is revealed that other members of the Templar order had her father murdered. Arno decides to use his new Assassin status to kill the conspirators. Things get a bit more complicated (or convoluted) at this point.
While tracking down all the bad guys, Arno runs into a silversmith named Germain, who actually ends up being the Sage. The Sage plans to ignite a revolt against the King of France. Arno races against time to stop Sage, but fails to stop the execution of King Louis XVI.
A big gray area begins to develop as the Templar and Assassin leadership begins to team-up (so to speak) during the Reign of Terror. What else can they do? They’re all being hunted. This doesn’t fair well with Bellec, who plans to purge the Assassin leadership for beginning to agree with Templar beliefs. Arno is able to kill him before the rogue Assassin can go through with his plan.
Arno is banished from the Brotherhood, and is sent into a drunken depression. Elise begs him to continue his fight against the Templars, who have now amassed more power due to the Sage’s appointment as the Templar Grand Master. Arno confronts Sage, who now has the Sword of Eden (wtf?), and defeats him. Unfortunately, Elise dies in the struggle.
As you’d expect, Arno decides to continue his fight against those who would do Paris harm in the name of Elise. End credits. Basically.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015)
This installment in the series takes place in 1868 London during the Industrial Revolution. It tells the story of two twin Assassins named Jacob and Evie Frye, who must fight the Templars in London in order to restore the Monarchy and the Church. Along the way, the Assassins team up with Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, and Queen Victoria.
Templar Grand Master Crawford Starrick has destroyed the Assassin Brotherhood in London and has taken over the city. He plans to poison the city’s population with a “soothing syrup” and assassinate the Prime Minister. It’s up to the Frye twins to take down the Templars before they tear London apart, all while searching for another pesky Piece of Eden called the Shroud.
The Shroud has the power to heal all wounds and make you immortal. It also bestows superhuman strength. Naturally, that’s exactly what Starrick wants. The Frye twins work together to take down Starrick and recover the Shroud.
Meanwhile, in the present timeline, the Assassins are on a mission to find the Shroud before Abstergo does, and get into a bit of trouble along the way. They also discover that Juno has been manipulating Abstergo all along and has her own plans for the Shroud, which remain unclear…
Assassin’s Creed Origins (2017)
The return of Assassin’s Creed takes place all the way at the beginning. The game takes place in Ancient Egypt during a time of great turmoil within the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Threats of insurrection by the deposed Cleopatra and a conflict with the Roman Republic looming on the horizon. A Medjay named Bayek must work to protect the Kingdom and its people, and in the process become the world’s first Assassin.