It's Almost Time for Assassin's Creed Syndicate
Spanning a millennia and locations across the globe, the Assassin's Creed series has become sprawling through both time and space. The eight main games feature a combined six protagonists, all with their own storylines. Each character's plot also plays into the overarching, present-day meta-narrative. The Assassin's Creed story has grown massive, with branching plots and unresolved mysteries. It's tough to keep track of all of the elements of the series' universe, so we put together a gallery breaking down the most important parts to get you up to speed before the upcoming launch of Assassin's Creed Syndicate. There are spoilers throughout this gallery, so proceed accordingly.
The Assassins were a secret group of highly trained commandos who specialized in stealth, freerunning, and hand-to-hand combat. They often acted like an anarchist group, as their goal was to protect individual freedom above all else. Their motto was, "Nothing is true; everything is permitted," which informed their strong belief in individualism and the destruction of authoritarian policies. They used violence to achieve their goals, but adhered to a strict set of guidelines known as the Assassin's Creed: Never use violence against innocents, hide in plain sight, and never compromise the Assassin's Brotherhood. They sought to protect people from corrupt political machinations by assassinating politicians and officials taking advantage of the populace. The modern-day incarnation of the Assassins at the time of Syndicate is a weakened, although still operational, group of people who use covert tactics to stop the Templars. The in-game Assassins are the fictional successors to the real-world Nizari Ismailis, who constituted a branch of Islam that arose in Iran during the time of the Crusades.
As the Assassins' main rivals, the Templars aimed for peace through order. Whereas the Assassins generally stayed out of political roles, the Templars often occupied many different positions in government. They pushed for more authoritarian policies that imposed strict rules on societies. Their utopian vision focused on community purpose and governmental control. In the Assassin's Creed universe, the Templars appeared and manipulated events throughout history. For example, the actual conflict between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison over alternating vs. direct current was resolved in the game's story by the Templars, who used their influence to turn public and corporate opinion against Tesla. The Order of the Knights Templar existed in the real world as a branch of the papal military dedicated to protecting pilgrims to the Christian Holy Land. They played an important role during the Crusades, but faded from significance afterwards.
Abstergo is a huge, multinational corporation that specializes in bleeding-edge technology that still operates during the events of Assassin's Creed Syndicate. It was responsible for the vast majority of global technological innovations since it was founded in 1937. The company invented the Animus, the device that allows people to play through the memories of their ancestors. Abstergo is a front for the modern-day Templars, who control the company and use it as a means to achieving their ultimate goals of destroying the Assassins and ushering in a New World Order.
This is the most prominent technology in the Assassin's Creed universe. After Abstergo's discovery of ancestral memories coded into people's genes, the company set out to develop a way to extract and visualize them. As a result, Abstergo made the Animus, which eventually was used during the events of Assassin's Creed 1 to compel Desmond Miles to relive his ancestral Assassin memories. Eventually, Abstergo refined the Animus to become little more than a game console. Whereas early versions of the machines could only recreate an individual's own memories to that same individual, later iterations could recreate memories from any DNA in storage for everyone to witness and play through.
The modern-day protagonist of the first five Assassin's Creed games was once a bartender. He was abducted by Abstergo after the company discovered that he was the descendant of a long line of Assassins. Abstergo forced him to use the Animus, reliving the memories of Altair. Later, he broke out of the Abstergo compound and joined the modern Assassins, helping them by reliving the experiences of Ezio and Connor. He gradually acquired skills of the Assassins such as Eagle Vision due to the Animus' "Bleeding Effect." He died at the end of Assassin's Creed III after saving the world from an apocalyptic event.
Shaun is still alive during the events of Syndicate and is a member of the modern-day Assassins. He gave support to Desmond and the other Assassins in maintaining the Animus and hiding them from Abstergo. He mostly played a role as an analyst and historian, creating and updating database entries on all of the information Desmond discovers during his time in the Animus. After Desmond died, Shaun went undercover at Abstergo to help gather information and convince Desmond's father to rejoin the Assassins. He also assisted in the training of the nameless, modern-day main character in Assassin's Creed Unity.
Rebecca is another surviving member of the Assassins who supported Desmond during his time in the Animus. She was responsible for the development of the Animus 2.0, which significantly refined the device. Following Desmond's death, she also went undercover at Abstergo, then continued working with the Assassins Initiates.
Pieces of Eden
These are extremely powerful items which are the focus of the Assassin-Templar War at the time of Syndicate and, consequently, every Assassin's Creed game. The First Civilization made these devices for a variety of purposes, principal among them being the enslavement of humanity. But at some point in prehistory, a huge solar flare wiped out the First Civilization, in spite of them attempting to use the Pieces of Eden to save themselves. The relics were scattered across the globe in many different Temples, and the discovery of the artifacts became central to the Templar Order's goal of global dominance. The Assassins arose in a direct attempt to stop the recovery of the Pieces of Eden and prevent the use of them to bend the will of people to the items' bearers.
Altair Ibn-La'Ahad (Assassin's Creed)
He was the protagonist of the very first Assassin's Creed game, and his strange American accent (contextualized by a statement that translation tech in the first Animus wasn't good enough) coupled with his iconic robes made him a main symbol of the series. He lived from 1165 to 1257, primarily in Masyaf, Syria, where the main headquarters of the Assassin's Guild was located. Altair was elevated to the rank of Master Assassin after saving some Assassins during a Templar assault on Masyaf. Later on, during the events of the first game, the Assassins stripped him of his rank after he broke all three of the tenets of the Order by killing an innocent man, attempting to murder a Templar official in plain sight, and endangering the Assassins by bringing the Templars to Masyaf.
Altair (Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed Revelations)
He was given a chance of redemption, however, and went on a quest to assassinate nine Templars among the ranks of Crusaders. After completing his assignment and killing the Templar Grand Master, Altair discovered that the leader of the Assassins was a Templar in disguise, who was using Altair to help keep control of the Apple of Eden. The two men battled, and eventually Altair overwhelmed him and killed him. Altair then accessed the information stored in the Apple and learned about other Pieces of Eden and a mysterious civilization that came before. In his later life, depicted in flashback sequences in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, he compiled a library about that information while also consolidating and strengthening the Assassin's Order. Eventually, he sealed himself in the library, along with the Apple, and died.
Ezio Auditore da Firenze (Assassin's Creed II)
The protagonist of the second, third, and fourth Assassin's Creed games starts out as a witty, overconfident, somewhat troublesome Italian who joins the Assassins out of a desire for vengeance. In Assassin's Creed II, which takes place during the Renaissance, Ezio's father and brothers are executed because of his father's participation in the Assassin's Order. Following the executions, Ezio is trained as an Assassin and, with the help of Leonardo da Vinci, tracks down the men who killed his family. He also helped out the Medici family, who later used their influence to clear the Auditore name after he stopped a plot designed to get the Borgia family into power. The leader of the Borgia family, Rodrigo, had found the Apple of Eden. Ezio managed to recover the Apple, but Rodrigo escaped.
Ezio Auditore (Assassin's Creed Brotherhood)
Following the end of Assassin's Creed II, Ezio escaped from where he fought Rodrigo Borgia and returned to his home at Monteriggioni. While he was there, his home was besieged by Cesare Borgia, Rodrigo's son, who captures the Apple from Ezio. The assassin and his family moved to Rome, where Ezio began to undermine the Borgias and destroy their grasp on the government. Ezio built up the Assassin's Brotherhood in Rome and utilized his allies to fight against the Borgias. After Cesare killed his father out of greed, Ezio recovered the Apple and, after a last confrontation with Cesare, hid it in a temple.
Ezio Auditore (Assassin's Creed: Revelations)
Four years after hiding the Apple, Ezio went to Masyaf to learn more about Altair and his ancestry. There, Altair had hidden clues about keys to open his tomb. Ezio then traveled to Constantinople to find these keys, and in that city he became wrapped up in a feud between Ottoman families spurned by the Templars. After the feud concluded and Ezio recovered the final key, he traveled to Masyaf, where he learned the truth about Altair's life and opened the tomb. Inside the tomb, Altair's Apple of Eden was hidden. Ezio left the Apple in the room, and then spoke directly to Desmond across the years, knowing that he was meant to give a message to a future Assassin. After the events of the game, Ezio returned home and died in Florence.
Ratonhnhake:ton, or Connor Kenway (Assassin's Creed III)
Connor is the son of a Templar Grand Master, Haytham Kenway, who is himself the son of the Assassin, Edward Kenway. Haytham teamed up with a Mohawk woman to open an important Temple hiding a Piece of Eden, and the two became involved romantically and had a son named Connor, or Ratonhnhake:ton. After a raid by Templars resulted in the murder of his mother, Connor looked into taking revenge. During this time he was approached by Juno of the Ancient Civilization, who told him to find the key to the Temple. He was later framed for the Boston Massacre of 1770 by Templars, and spent most of the American Revolution assassinating Templar officials. Later, Haytham and Connor teamed up to kill a rogue Templar, and Connor tried to make an alliance with his father. But he couldn't convince Haytham of the virtues of freedom, and Connor eventually had to kill his father. Connor then hid the key to the Temple for someone to find later.
Edward Kenway (Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag)
Connor's grandfather was born in Wales into a pastoral family, but he became restless and a troublemaker in his youth. His goals of being a privateer in the West Indies brought him to Jamaica, where he served under an English captain until a truce brought legal privateering to an end. He then took up piracy and, after being stranded on an island after a shipwreck, killed an Assassin who was about to defect to the Templar order. Edward wore his Assassin's robes, and took his place in a Templar induction ceremony after Edward got to Havana, learning about a First Civilization site called the Observatory.
Edward Kenway (Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, cont.)
Edward resolved to discover the Observatory and sell its location, got imprisoned, then recruited a crew during his prison break. Edward teamed up with James Kidd to find a Sage (a human with First Civilization DNA) who could lead them to the Observatory. Over the course of the game, Edward collaborated with pirates to break the Templar hold on the Caribbean, and eventually uncovered the location of the Observatory. He was betrayed, however, by the Sage, who turned out to be working with the Templars. He broke out with the assistance of the Assassin's Order, and then he recovered a Crystal Skull, a Piece of Eden that powered the Observatory. Edward sealed the object inside. Later, he moved back to England and started a family, and eventually died at the hands of Templar hitmen who were looking for Edward's notes on Pieces of Eden.
Shay Patrick Cormac (Assassin's Creed Rogue)
Cormac was born in New York in 1731 into an Irish immigrant family. Later in his childhood, he joined his merchant marine father on the seas. After his father and crew were killed during a storm, Shay became depressed. His friend introduced him to Achilles--the Assassin mentor who taught Connor Kenway--and Shay became a member of the Assassin's Order. Achilles sent him on a mission to recover two First Civilization artifacts, which eventually led him to a Temple in Lisbon, Portugal, with a Piece of Eden inside. When Shay tried to recover the Piece of Eden, the Temple collapsed and destroyed a lot of the city. Already conflicted about the goals of the Assassins, this disaster enraged Shay, who confronted Achilles. After a short conflict, Shay ended up injured and in the care of Templars.
Shay Patrick Cormac (Assassin's Creed Rogue, cont.)
Shay began to work with the Templars and started cleaning up New York, driving out gangs who were supported by Assassins. Eventually, he joined the Templars officially under the leadership of Haytham Kenway. Together, the two Templars took down much of the colonial American Assassin's Brotherhood. They confronted Achilles and eventually crippled him, and Shay then continued to work to prevent more Pieces of Eden from being uncovered and taken from their Temples. This quest led him to France, where he killed Arno Dorian's father, who had a First Civilization artifact in his possession.
Arno Dorian (Assassin's Creed Unity)
Arno was born into a noble family in Versailles, France, in 1768. Following his father's murder at the hands of Shay Patrick Cormac, Arno was adopted by a member of the Templar Order. The Templar's daughter, Elise de la Serre, became Arno's closest friend. After many years, the Templar, Francois de la Serre, was killed, and Arno was framed for the murder. The French authorities imprisoned him in the Bastille. In the prison, Dorian met the Assassin Bellec who introduced him to the Assassin Brotherhood after the Storming of the Bastille by the French.
Arno Dorian (Assassin's Creed Unity, cont.)
During his quest for vengeance against the people who ordered de la Serre's murder, Arno discovered a Sage, who has DNA from the First Civilization that can be used to locate Pieces of Eden. After assassinating many Templar operatives, Arno met up with Elise again, whom was working with the Templars, and convinced her to help the Assassins instead. Bellec attempted to destroy the French Assassin Brotherhood, which was, in Bellec's mind, moving too close to Templar beliefs. Arno then killed Bellec and began to pursue the Sage again with the help of Elise. With the French Revolution occurring, Arno and Elise tracked down Robespierre, who told them the location of the Sage. Elise confronted the Sage, but his Sword of Eden exploded, killing her and mortally wounding the Sage. Arno finished off the Sage, then years later hid his skeleton in a church, preventing Templar agents from using it.
Jacob and Evie Frye (Assassin's Creed Syndicate)
We don't know much about the two Assassins playable in Syndicate, but they were twins who were born in the outskirts of London and raised in Victorian-era Britain. Their father died of natural causes, and the twins then moved to London to take on the Templars. They were motivated by a desire to help the lower class in London and attempt to rebalance the class divide which widened during the Industrial Revolution. They integrated into the London underworld, rising the ranks of the criminal class and making their own gang, called the Rooks. They attempted to break the Templar stranglehold over the city by taking it back, borough by borough. Evie adhered more to the Assassin's Creed, while Jacob identified more with the brutality of gang crime.
The Modern-Day Story (Desmond)
The modern-day meta-story of the Assassin's Creed universe begins in Assassin's Creed I with the abduction of Desmond. Abstergo, which had developed the first Animus, kidnapped Desmond after discovering that he was descended from a long line of Assassins. They forced him to relive his genetic memories in order to discover the location of Pieces of Eden. Eventually, alongside Lucy Stillman and a couple of members of the modern-day Assassins, Desmond escaped Abstergo and fled to a hideout. There, he entered Animus 2.0 to better learn how to be an Assassin and to locate more of the Pieces of Eden before the Templars could find them.
The Modern-Day Story (Desmond, cont.)
Desmond was supposed to use the Animus' Bleeding Effect to help the Assassins by learning more about them, faster. While experiencing the events in Ezio's life, Desmond was approached by Minerva, a member of the First Civilization. She told Desmond that he needed to save the world from an apocalyptic event by returning the Pieces of Eden to their Temples. Pursued by Abstergo, Desmond and his crew moved to Monteriggioni, where Desmond began reliving more of Ezio's memories to locate the Apple of Eden.
Modern-Day Story (Desmond, cont.)
Desmond then discovered that the Apple was hidden underneath the Roman Coliseum, and during his retrieval of the artifact, he was possessed by Juno of the First Civilization and was forced to kill Lucy, who was an undercover Abstergo agent. Desmond went into a coma and was placed in the Animus, in which Subject 16, a man also kidnapped by Abstergo and who had committed suicide after leaving Desmond an imprint in the Animus, helped him work through the last of Ezio's memories.
The Modern-Day Story (Desmond, cont.)
Desmond located the First Civilization's Grand Temple, and then used Connor Kenway to locate the key to activate it. Eventually, Desmond was given a choice by Juno and Minerva: Either activate a First Civilization device in the Temple which would sacrifice himself and release Juno, saving humanity, or leave it, which would also result in the survival of humanity, but would cause Desmond to eventually become cursed as a villain. Desmond chose to sacrifice himself and leave the Assassins to stop Juno.
The Modern-Day Story (Post-Desmond)
Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane left the Grand Temple with Desmond's father, William. William soon declared that he would step down as leader of the modern-day Assassins, and Gavin Banks would be leading instead. Banks sent Hastings and Crane to Montreal, where they began undercover work as low-level employees at Abstergo. The company had managed to create an Animus that could let anyone relive genetic memories in anyone else's DNA, as long as Abstergo had harvested the DNA. As such, Abstergo employees were working on going through Desmond's DNA, specifically focusing on the memories of Edward Kenway. The Assassins had an informant in the company, named John Standish, who began helping an unnamed Abstergo employee (the player character) hack into the company's system. The player character gradually fed info about Abstergo to the Assassins.
The Modern-Day Story (Post-Desmond, cont.)
Eventually, Standish led the employee deep into the company, where it became clear that Standish had gone rogue. He meant to let Juno--alive on Abstergo's network--possess the employee. But Juno was too weak, and Standish failed. Hastings and Crane withdrew from Abstergo. During the events of Unity, an operative called Bishop helps the player locate a Piece of Eden via Arno Dorian for the Assassins to secure. Although the Brotherhood is weak leading up to the events of Assassin's Creed Syndicate, the modern-day Assassins' mission to locate Pieces of Eden and protect them from the Templars continues.