About the Author
Lauren is a online article writer who loves the Assassin's Creed franchise.
Lauren is especially interested in Assassin's Creed lore, and will be exploring this more in future articles.
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Assassin's Creed: Gold
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7/3/20 By Lauren Harris Edited by Ashlea Buckley
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Over the past 13 years, Ubisoft have given fans a wealth of Assassin’s Creed transmedia material to enjoy. From novels to comics to online projects like Initiates, the fans are never short of new content. This latest venture, however, is a completely new medium for the franchise. Assassin’s Creed: Gold is an audio drama released exclusively through Audible. Unlike an audiobook, Gold is a dramatic piece complete with voice actors, sound effects, and music. At a run time of 4 hours and 40 minutes, and with 8 chapters of content, it is certainly a meaty story to invest in.
Gold focuses on a new modern-day character named Aliyah Kahn, played by Tamara Lawrence, who rents a flat in London with her friend Bianca. At some point, Aliyah received money from Bianca’s father to invest in her start-up company – but since then, she has lost the money. Aliyah is trying everything from street magic to gambling to get the funds back – which is why she is so willing to help our old friend Gavin Banks when he offers to pay her all the money she needs in exchange for her diving into the memories of her ancestor, Omar Khaled. Fans will be excited to witness the return of Gavin Banks, who has been absent from the series since his role in Last Descendants. This is also the first time he has a full voice performance, played here by John Chancer. Gavin is aided by My’Shell Lemair, a character who made her first appearance in the Assassin’s Creed comic series and who is voiced by Laila Payne in Gold. Seeing these characters return proves to be interesting as they have not featured in any of the recent video games. Bringing My’Shell to life with a voice makes her feel more involved in the wider AC narrative.
The modern-day characters are certainly engaging. Aliyah has a number of quirks and fears which make her feel more rounded. She is definitely not excited about the idea of jumping into the Animus – and she’s probably the character who has enjoyed the experience the least out of the entire series so far. It is a nice change of pace. My’Shell has a sharp tongue and an attitude. She does not suffer fools, time wasters, or setbacks. As a result, she does not take kindly to Aliyah at first. However, her abrasive personality has its own charm and it is easy to warm to her as the story continues. She is feisty and determined – exactly what a good Assassin needs to be. She also has a fantastic teaching ability and manages to guide Aliyah exceptionally well considering the circumstances. Aliyah and My’Shell are both great characters who would lend themselves well to more transmedia projects, or indeed the games themselves. Gavin, however, was less engaging. Gavin has always come across as a very diplomatic man – the more tolerant and friendly foil to William Miles’ grumpy and unpleasant leadership style. Despite this, Gavin comes across as aggressive and uncaring in Gold. When he first appears, he attempts to play mind games with Aliyah that seem wildly out of character for him. He also did not seem to display any of the overwhelming stress which has followed him throughout the series. Perhaps it is simply my interpretation, or I have forgotten aspects of his character, but he did not feel like the Gavin Banks we have come to know so well.
William Miles and Gavin Banks
There is one other well-known character involved in the modern-day story – but not in the way you would think. As was revealed during promotion for Gold, Shaun Hastings returns to the franchise after his 4-and-a-half-year absence. However, this is a bit misleading as Shaun is not physically there. Rather, his role is as an Artificially Intelligent construct created by the Brotherhood using the voice and personality of Shaun. Why? That is a question we never get an answer to. Personally, I cannot understand the logic of this. For years, Shaun has been aiding Initiates remotely through the Assassin network. Why could he not do that now? Why would the Brotherhood use him as their own version of Siri? It does not make a lot of sense. It also means that we still have no idea where Shaun is at this point in time or what he is doing. Whilst I very much enjoyed his wise cracks and ridiculous commentary, as he is still my favourite AC character of all time, I was sorely disappointed that he was not actually present in Gold and that his story has not been continued at all through this much-publicised return.
As always with Assassin’s Creed, there is a historical story to follow as well. The historical portion takes place in London during the Great Recoinage of 1696. The reason for this is that, in the present, Abstergo are launching a takeover of the Dark Web using a code which can be found on a counterfeit coin in 1696. I felt this was an odd choice as it does not seem like a particularly heinous thing for Abstergo to be doing, in the grand scheme of things, and whatever was written on the coin would probably be listed in a historical record somewhere. Nevertheless, that is the plot that Gold puts forward. The protagonist is Aliyah’s ancestor, Omar Khaled, an Assassin who becomes the aide of Sir Isaac Newton, warden of the Royal Mint. Omar is an engaging character who stands out within the story. The most interesting fact about Omar, which sets him apart from other Assassins in the series, is that he is blind. As a result, when Aliyah is reliving his memories, she cannot actually see anything. Omar is a kind and peaceful man who wishes to move away from the bloodshed in his past but finds this is more difficult that it seems. He probably believes being the aide of Isaac Newton will achieve the quiet life that he seeks, but he soon discovers Isaac’s world is just as full of chaos and intrigue as Omar’s was in the Brotherhood. Omar and Isaac find themselves on a mission to uncover counterfeit coins for the Royal Mint, a quest which introduces them to William Lowndes of the Treasury, renowned criminal William Chaloner, and Omar’s childhood friend Rose Galloway.
Of these characters, Sir Isaac Newton was my favourite. He has a wonderful sense of humour and brings some of the funniest lines to the narrative. From his impressions of the bourgeoise at their parties to his little comments to Omar whilst they investigate, he adds a dash of comedy to a dark tale. However, he is serious when he needs to be, and he can become downright scary when he is angry.
Omar is also very enjoyable to listen to. He is always so calm and collected, no matter what situation he is faced with. It is obvious why so many characters gravitate towards him throughout the story. He has a pure heart and is the kind of ancestor you would want to discover you have. Another engaging character is Rose Galloway, whose cheerful demeanour and desire to break away from the constraints of high society make it impossible to resist her charms. She has a great character arc throughout the story, and my only complaint is that I wish we had more of her.
Assassin’s Creed: Gold is a stand-alone tale from the Assassin's Creed universe in which we meet Aliyah Kahn, a card shark and hustler who’s been dealt a rough hand in life. Surviving through her smarts and street scams, Aliyah struggles to get by until she loses big time to a mysterious older man, Gavin Banks. Her only option to repay Banks is to become an Assassin. During her training, Banks tells Aliyah of the centuries-old battle between the Assassins and Templars, imploring her to help him decode a secret message inscribed on an illegal form of currency during the Great Recoinage of 1696.
(Minor Spoilers below)
Anthony Head and Riz Ahmed star in the audio drama
The story itself is quite short. Even at almost 5 hours of run time, I still felt like I wanted more. I suppose that is a good thing – it shows that I truly enjoyed it. When you are used to an Assassin’s Creed story spanning at least 15 hours, it is easy to be left wanting more when Gold is so much shorter than this. Despite that, the storytelling is solid. In the past, there is a mystery which is full of twists and turns and deception. You are never sure who to trust or who to suspect. In the present, the threat of the Templars is ever-present, and you are constantly waiting for My’Shell to kick Aliyah out of the Animus when Abstergo rear their ugly head again. Aliyah also spends a lot of time narrating and we learn a lot about her life and her past which becomes important knowledge as we move further into the story. One of the aspects of Gold I enjoyed the most was the bond that formed between Isaac Newton and Omar Khaled. To develop such an engaging relationship in such a short time is a credit to Anthony Del Col’s writing. I also thought that the concept of Omar being blind was truly inspired. Whilst Aliyah can see, Omar cannot. This means that we experience his memories in exactly the same way Aliyah does - entirely through sound. It is a fascinating idea and it makes it feel much more realistic when we have to create the images in our mind the same way Aliyah would.
Whilst I think Del Col has done at outstanding job with this story, there are some bits that I was less enthused about. For one, the dialogue in the modern day came across a bit over-the-top at times. Aliyah and My’Shell seemed to say “s**t”, “s***e”, or “f***” at least once in every sentence, and it just felt excessive. When I listened to the story over such a short period of time, I felt like all I ever heard was Tamara Lawrence yelling “s***” in my ear and it became exhausting. There is one other issue that I felt hindered my enjoyment which was quite how standalone the story is. Despite having a large chunk of the drama happen in the modern-day, nothing that occurs actually furthers the wider Assassin’s Creed narrative. With so many unanswered questions in the modern-day right now, such as what happened to Desmond’s son, Elijah, or where Shaun and Rebecca are, it feels disappointing that nothing of importance was addressed during Gold. Other than that, and my confusion over Gavin’s personality, I have very few complaints about the narrative.
The performances in Gold are, for the most part, stellar. Anthony Head is the stand-out for me. I have been a fan of him ever since the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and he is one of my favourite actors. Even without that acclaim, though, he gives such a powerful performance as Sir Isaac Newton that he overshadows everyone else in the cast. He captures every aspect of Isaac’s complex personality and leaves you constantly guessing as to what his true ambitions are. Riz Ahmed is wonderful as Omar. His serene voice and calming tones are exactly what Gold needed in its stoic main character. I really felt for Omar throughout the story and wanted the best for him, and I believe that is partly due to the way Riz played him. I felt Tamara Lawrence could be a bit shouty at times. If I’m honest, Aliyah reminded me so much of an adult Tracy Beaker. Despite this, she captured all of the fears and worries of a truly distressed character and made her feel real. She made Aliyah a character you would root for as the listener. Finally, I have to mention Danny Wallace, who continues to be one of the funniest people purely from his natural way of speaking. Somehow, everything is funnier if Shaun Hastings says it.
I also have to credit whoever was in charge of sound production on this project. Foley is a difficult thing to get right, especially when you have no visuals to suggest where the sound is coming from. The foley in Gold is truly exceptional. Every sound was clear as crystal and I knew exactly what was happening, even though I could not see it. This is also so important when the protagonist is blind, as he would be relying on these sounds too. I thought it was very impressive. The soundtrack to Gold is also enjoyable as it uses classic Assassin’s Creed style music. I could not tell if it was newly recorded music or tracks from previous AC titles, but I knew instantly it was Assassin’s Creed. The famous leitmotifs can be heard during the most important moments, reminding you that this is definitely the AC you know and love – even it is purely audio.
Overall, I thought this was a thoroughly enjoyable piece of additional content and I am grateful to everyone involved for the hard work they put in. It has clearly paid off. While there are a few parts that I felt could have been improved, such as the strange use of AI Shaun, the short length, and the lack of impact on the overall AC narrative, I did thoroughly enjoy Assassin’s Creed: Gold and I would recommend it to any fans of the series who are looking for new content to engage with. It is a humorous, mysterious, and heart-warming drama which helps fill the empty space in our hearts that comes with the long break between Assassin’s Creed game releases. If you have Audible and are looking for something new to listen to, pick up Assassin’s Creed: Gold. You won’t regret it.