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Assassin's Creed: The Essential Guide
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12/2/20 By Siobhan MacLurg Edited by Ashlea Buckley
“The ultimate guide to the blockbuster Assassin's Creed game franchise.
This richly illustrated guide is the definitive guide to the blockbuster Assassin's Creed game series. Packed with information on characters, technology, locations, historical settings, storylines, organisations, and backstory, this guide encompasses the whole franchise to date and is essential reading for fans and newcomers alike.”
On January 31st 2020 a new book called Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide was released by Titan Books. It quietly snuck in for pre-order back in August 2019, where I stumbled upon it quite by accident. Being the massive AC fan that I am, needless to say I pre-ordered it straight away and then spent the next five months impatiently waiting. It was only recently (part way through December) that any real information about this new book was given; prior to that it was simply a picture of the front cover, the publisher name and a little summary that was a bit generic. Then we got a bit more information by the way of page count, a better summary, and some page previews (which were actually taken from the previous version I found when I received my copy) that hinted at it being a good quality publication. The summary, shown below, is not very detailed but is a good quick glance at what is contained within the book.
When it arrived, I was surprised by how big and heavy it was, because even though I have the original Essential guide I had still been expecting something slightly smaller due to the low price – books of this size and quality are usually above £30 and this was under that with a RRP of £24.99. The technical specifications, such as size/weigh etc. of this essential guide, for those interested, are towards the end of this review.
So what’s in it? The quicker answer is what is not in it: This is not a game walkthrough or strategy guide, it does not cover gaming platforms or controls etc. but it does contain spoilers for the whole game series.
The Essential Guide is just that – a guide to the world of Assassin’s Creed. Not as in-depth per article as the Encyclopaedias by UbiWorkshop, which only covered the franchise as far as 2014, but it is still a great book for providing a wider collection of information from across the franchise, covering the story aspects. This is an updated version of the 2016 Essential Guide, so it has all the previous information and now includes AC Odyssey and Origins as well as modernised articles in the technology and weapons, locations and settings, modern day and about the real life brotherhood (that’s the bit about us, the fans!). It’s not an exact copy and paste of the previous book: The general overview is the same, with article formats and layout styles, but the colour schemes have shifted and some information has simply been altered however the new sections and information are a worthy addition.
There is a new foreword written by Aymar Azaïzia, the Head of Content for Assassin’s Creed, where he talks about the origin and evolution of the franchise and the passion it has invoked in all of us, creators and fans alike. The contents page no longer lists each individual article, just the sections under each chapter and is more concise, going from 3 pages to just 1, so it is much quicker to find the relevant section and feels less like its padding out the page count of the book. There is an entire additional chapter called Before the Brotherhood, which has the main chunk of the new Odyssey and Origins specific information, but most chapters also have new sections that bring is all up to date with current knowledge.
Aimed at fans and newcomers to the franchise, this guide gives a lot of information that is handily broken down into eight chapters that make it easier to parse through, plus a foreword and a little bit at the end about the Assassin’s Creed Community. The chapters are titled as follows: 1.Introduction, 2.The Precursor Civilisation, 3.Before the Brotherhood, 4.The Assassin Brotherhood, 5.The Templar Order, 6.Technology and Weapons, 7.Locations and Settings, and 8.Modern Day.
Each chapter is clearly started by a double page spread of richly coloured artwork; with the title of the chapter, a related symbol and a small blurb concerning to the subject of this chapter situated on the lower half of the right side page. After this - at the top of each left side page - is the header, with chapter icon and title to make it easier to locate the appropriate section in the book (when searching for a specific part). The right side is mostly blank, but a couple have quotes and phrases tying into that page’s contents. The rest of the page is made up of the articles and pictures, mostly concept art for the larger images and in game stills, comic panels and promotional art for the smaller. Whilst there is clear definition between articles and images they aren’t blocky or even kept separate; the art might wrap around or under the text box, overlap each other or border the page edges. Each chapter is written in chronological order, so information from Odyssey is presented before Assassin’s Creed 1 and AC3 comes after AC4, and that keeps it easier to understand the evolution of all the factions over time, as well as the time periods of the world.
The text is clearly printed and has good spacing when reading; paragraphs are a manageable size and aren’t padded with useless bits or repetitive information, unless it is relevant to the current explanation. The articles themselves are well written, presenting the information in a way that is easy to read and neatly broken across the page with related images to avoid overloading the reader with long blocks of text. Each chapter starts with overview information, such as who the Assassin faction is and what their goals are, including how this has changed over time. It is then followed by the individual entries for characters, weapons, location etc. The main character pages give an overview of the person and what they achieved in their lifetimes, but don’t go into the depths seen in game strategy guides. While it spoils what happens to the character storylines for those who haven’t already played these games or read the graphic novels it won’t help with actually playing the games.
They are also pages containing various important support characters (allies and foes), though their information is a lot more concise, limited to the most relevant parts of these characters and how they tie into the stories. It is worth noting the character pages added for AC Odyssey list Kassandra as the Misthios and Alexios as the Deimos, because even though the game lets you chose which ways around you want to play these characters it would be confusing to list the information twice to account for it. The general story is the same no matter which way around you play the siblings, so the information pertaining to the Misthios and the Deimos is still relevant if you played Odyssey as Alexios providing you ignore the names used for each role. The locations gives a general overview of the settings of each game, with information specific to that period of time and key places highlighted in bold. This provides a basic background understanding of how different places are connected and why some plot elements only happened in certain storylines.
There are separate timelines in the book in different chapters that track the ongoing Assassin’s Creed story, the evolution of the Animus technology and the changes in time periods; each providing key moments of change or importance and giving a more immediate visual aid to understand what order everything happened in. They have been cleverly designed to use a wave of hexagonal blocks instead of a straight line with so that they can be adapted for any possible future revisions to include new key moments without disturbing the overall flow of information or leaving large blank spaces. In the technology section you get some breakdowns of important ship stats from the games, that include size, armament, ammunition and equipment, as well as a small bit about the modern day patrol boat (Altaïr II) that we learned about on the Initiates website.
The chapter that has probably seen the most change and expansion would be the Precursor Civilisation, as that area has been developed in every addition to the Assassin’s Creed franchise, even when it is not outright stated as being Precursor. There is a large amount of information pertaining to various Precursor artefacts important to the franchise, with every known item having a segment of information detailing its purpose and who used it. One of the very few references to the Assassin’s Creed movie is found in the pages about the Apples of Eden, where it shows Aguilar’s Apple that Callum Lynch helped locate. There is also expanded knowledge of the Isu who have been named and seen within the franchise, explaining who they are and what their part in the ongoing story arcs are.
Overall, the book a great addition to any fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and helps as a quick reference source for what we’ve learned so far of the series. For newcomers it might seem a bit of an informational overload at first glance, especially if they do not have an idea of how large this franchise is, but it’s broken down into manageable portions that can be parsed through a bit at a time as they delve into the games, graphic novel and movie. In comparison to the original version released in 2016, there isn’t a massive amount of new information added to the old articles, but there are enough new entries to still make it a worthwhile purchase. There is a lot more information that could be included however it doesn’t detract from the usefulness of this book. Considering that adding in all that extra information would require the book to either become a tome of unwieldy proportions or a full encyclopaedia set, I think they have managed to condense everything down to a really good size without weakening the book’s impact. This is, after all, an ‘essential guide’ to Assassin’s Creed. Not that I’m against an encyclopaedia set in the future, I love my AC Encyclopaedia from UbiWorkshop (all three versions of it), but I’d rather wait for the franchise to reach a full close before investing in that sort of expense.
We would like to say a huge thank you to our good friend Siobhan from Assassin's Creed United Kingdom for writing this review for the AC Community!
You can find her on Twitter
Barring a few minor spelling mistakes that have snuck through the proof reading stage, I haven’t found anything really negative to say about this book. I wish it had a dust jacket like the original version because the cover would be better protected against handling marks, though the paper jackets tend to gain damage along the edges easier. It is not easily transportable, being so heavy and large, but it is not really designed to be so I can’t hold that against it much. I absolutely love the layout and the use of colours as it makes it much less boring to look at, which is always a positive for me, but it still feels professional. Actually the design is very reminiscent of the files that you can read in game, especially the Black Flag files that are Abstergo’s advertising examples. I am very happy with this addition to my Assassin’s Creed collection and highly recommend it to everyone who wants to expand, or refresh, their knowledge of this amazing franchise.
256 page hardcover book without a dust jacket
Measuring 25.7cm wide x 30.8cm tall x 2.5cm thick
Weighs approximately 1.29kg
Published by Titan Books (UK), 1st edition was released 31 January 2020 in English