This week has seen not one but two new entries in the popular Assassin's Creed series hit our consoles. Over the years, this series has seen us exploring a number of different historical eras and locations, entering the age-old conflict between the Assassins and the Templars. From the Holy Land in the Third Crusade in Assassin's Creed Achievements, to Renaissance Italy in Assassin's Creed II Achievements and its spin-offs, through to revolutionary North America in Assassin's Creed III Achievements, up to the French Revolution in Assassin's Creed Unity Achievements, as well as other places and times in multiple different entries and spin-offs, the series has often delved deep into each entry's history, culture and architecture (naturally, with a few artistic licenses and revisionism thrown in for the purposes of telling the Assassin's story). With the latest games out, we're now left wondering where the series will take us next. In this week's Top Five, we thought we'd explore some of the possible locales and important eras in history that future entries in the series could take us to, as well as some of the historic figures and monuments you could bump into on the way.
Eden (75000 BCE)
We've seen very little of this era in the games, where humans fought a war against the First Civilisation that, along with a solar flare, almost led to the extinction of both races. All we know has come through brief flashbacks and discussions experienced when series protagonists have interacted with the holographic visions of Minerva and Juno. The events of this ancient time are really the starting point of the series lore. The technologically advanced First Civilisation used Pieces of Eden to act like gods and control the human population until hybrids Adam and Eve stole an Apple of Eden, inciting a rebellion that led to a full on war. Also, Adam and Eve's fratricidal son Cain is commonly identified as the first Templar after killing his brother Abel for an Apple of Eden. Although these events occurred nearly 100,000 years ago, the technologically advanced and powerful First Civilisation meant that, rather than living in mud huts, humanity lived in thriving cities with skyscrapers, similar to today. Exploring this mix of very, very old and somehow modern, whilst seeing these series defining events first hand, would make for a trippy experience.
Historical Figures: Human hybrids Adam and Eve, and their sons Cain and Abel, as well as the members of the First Civilisation we've "met", Minerva, Juno and Jupiter, who were tasked with trying to protect Earth from the impending solar flare.
Key Viewpoints: Although no particular monuments are known about from the time, what we've seen of it includes cities with towering skyscrapers, so there'd be plenty of climbing to be had. As the humans worshipped the First Civilisation like gods, there'd also be plenty of audacious temples, including the underground vaults already explored in some entries of the series.
Viking era Scandinavia (late 10th to early 11th century)
If Ubisoft decided to continue expanding on the sea-faring mechanics introduced in Assassin's Creed III and then expanded on in Black Flag and Rogue, what better period to focus on than the early 11th century, when the Vikings ruled the waves and conquered lands left, right and centre. Some of these Vikings would make the likes of Blackbeard and fellow pirates seem like pussycats. They also tended to have better beards. Sailing in longships to pillage, conquer, trade and whatever else you fancy, you could explore various Viking settlements in Scandinavia, England, Iceland and Greenland. You'd also experience such historic events as the St. Brice's Day massacre, when king Æthelred the Unready ordered the deaths of all Danes living in England.
Historical Figures: Notoriously violent Erik the Red, whose father was banished from Norway to Iceland on manslaughter charges, and then himself was banished from Iceland for his own killings, went on to discover and settle in Greenland. His son, Leif Erikson then went on to establish a Norse settlement in Vinland (i.e. North America) 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
Key Viewpoints: Vikings aren't especially known for their skyward architecture, with the typical residences known as Longhouses (not Tallhouses). That's not to say there wouldn't be the occasional great hall or fortress to climb, as well as the English monasteries that tended to be sacked by the invading Norsemen. However, as with Black Flag, this game would focus more on the exploration of the seas and settlements, rather than circumnavigating cityscapes.
The Top Five
5. Khmer era Cambodia (late 13th to early 14th century)
The Khmer Empire controlled much of Southeast Asia for hundreds of years and is probably best known today for its majestic cities in Angkor (modern Cambodia). The Khmer kings were often involved in wars with surrounding kingdoms and large freestanding armies were held at Angkor, ready to fight invaders from places like Champa (Vietnam). The royal families were also often embroiled in internal power struggles over successions and control of principalities. Religion was also split amongst the population between Hinduism and Buddhism, with kings who leaned one way often being succeeded by ones who leaned the other, often leading to religious upheaval. This particular era would see the kingdom in decline, as the leaders faced pressure from the neighbouring Mongolian Empire and Thai rebellion leading to the formation of the Thai kingdom, forcing back the Khmer.
Historical Figures: King Jayavarman VIII who was forced to abdicate by his son-in-law, Srindravarman. This new king also converted the state religion from Hinduism to Buddhism after his father-in-law had done just the opposite. Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who controlled China and threatened to invade if regular tributes weren't paid to him.
Key Viewpoints: The architecture of the Khmer empire is truly magnificent and scaling the temple complexes of Angkor Wat and gold-covered Bayon would be amazing.
4. Inquisition era Spain & the Southern Americas (early 16th century)
The torture, trials and executions of the Spanish Inquisition, which was started in the late 1470s as a way of maintaining a Catholic control in the Spanish kingdom, are notorious for their brutality and forced the conversion or exile of all Muslim or Jewish citizens. This period of repression, censorship, prejudice and persecution is ripe for Templar involvement. Additionally, this was the era in which the Spanish expanded their territory by colonising South America. As well as exploring Spain during the time, we could go cross-contintental and journey to the Americas. We'd also experience the Spanish conquest over the native Incan and Aztec empires, giving us the opportunity to explore the culture, architecture and mysteries of these civilisations.
Historical Figures: Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II, who set up the Inquisition and sanctioned the New World expeditions. Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus, who set up initial trade routes and colonies in the Americas. Charles V, a later king and Holy Roman Emperor, who believed that it was his divine mission to spread Christianity and allowed Conquistadors like Hernán Cortés to conquer the Aztecs and Incans.
Key Viewpoints: In Spain, the palace fortress of Alhambra and the Burgos Cathedral of the then capital. In South America, the various temples and settlements of the Incan, Aztec and Mayan empires, including the mountain-top site of Machu Picchu and the El Castillo pyramid
3. Feudal Japan (late 16th to early 17th century)
The Assassins in these games often completely own everyone else they come across in combat, unless faced with a large group. I think if an Assassin had to come face to face with a ninja or samurai, that may even the odds. This era consistently comes high in polls when people are asked where they'd like to see the series go, and samurais probably play a big part in that popularity. Dominated by powerful ruling families, the era, called the Warring Kingdoms period, was known for its intense internal warfare until unification was brought about by powerful lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The country was also making its first major contacts with the west through Portugese traders. This also opened the doors for Christian missionaries to begin spreading their message, something that was at first welcomed by Hideyoshi. Then he changed his mind and ordered all Christianity to be banished from the country, leading to the mass persecution and in some cases execution of all those who stuck to their faith.
Historical Figures: As well as key Japanese leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi, we'd also encounter other lords Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who helped unify the country. As such, you'd be meeting up with plenty of the different warring families and samurai lords, as well as some of the mercenary ninja assassins they hired to do their dirty work.
Key Viewpoints: The various warring regions housed many castles with iconic Japanese architecture, including Himeji Castle, Matsumoto Castle and Edo Castle, which was the seat of the Tokugawa shogunate government.
2. Egypt (50BCE to 10BCE)
The period of Roman control in Egypt is one of intrigue as the political machinations of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar and last Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra spilled over into a romantic liaison, which was interrupted by the Roman Civil War that led to Caesar's assassination. Cleopatra then had a steamy love affair with Mark Anthony, who fought to control the empire in the power vacuum that followed by forming an alliance known as the Triumvirate. Unfortunately that didn't work out and fellow Triumvirate member Octavian defeated Anthony in battle, leading to the latter's suicide and the former's ascension to Emperor under the name Augustus. Cleopatra then took her own life, supposedly by allowing an asp to bite her. All of this death and politics is very reminiscent of the Borgia saga told in Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood. And, of course, almost everyone died very Assassin-like deaths, not least Julius Caesar's infamous stabbing. Even the supposed suicides of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra could be refashioned as assassinations. In fact, pretty much everyone died violent, unpleasant deaths in this time. As well as getting embroiled in all the intrigue and warmongering, you'd also get the opportunity to traverse the Nile delta and clamber over and inside some of the greatest monuments of the ancient world, including the pyramids, pillaging them for loot and avoiding booby traps.
Historical Figures: As well as the big three, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, you'd also run into Roman military leader Pompey, who was assassinated after a defeat,
Key Viewpoints: Egypt is well known for its awe-inspiring monuments, including the pyramids at the Giza Necropolis, the Great Sphinx, the temples of Karnak and Luxor, the Lighthouse and Library of Alexandria. Additionally, a trip across the water could see us revisiting (although actually 500 years earlier) Rome, although many iconic monuments, such as the Colosseum, were yet to be built.
1. Russian Revolution (1880s-1920s)
Revolution has been a key theme in multiple entries in the series as the oppressed people rise up against their oppressors, usually aided in some way by the Assassins. Unfortunately, sometimes the people who take power following the revolt end up just as ruthless and corrupt as those they have deposed. Such was the case with the Russian Revolution, which saw the royal family abdicate in favour of a new, Soviet ideology, fronted by Lenin and his Bolsheviks, which then gave way to the iron fist of Stalinist repression. When you take the Russo-Japanese war, the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1905, the Tsar's poor handling of the country's affairs during WWI, the rise of Lenin's Bolsheviks, and the October 1917 Revolution, there's a lot of history packed into a short time frame. We'd also get to see events such as the killing of one of the most enigmatic characters in history, Rasputin, who was a mystical advisor to the Tsar and rose to prominence whilst he was off fighting in the war by manipulating the Tsar's wife. Rasputin, an unpopular figure with the public, was famously difficult to kill. Following an earlier failed assassination attempt in which his stomach was sliced open and his intestines tumbled out, but he survived, he was later poisoned, shot multiple times, then finally beaten to death by supporters of the Tsar who didn't care for his influence.
Historical Figures: The Tsar, Nicholas II, and his ill-fated family would be present, as well as the mad monk, Rasputin. We'd also see the revolutionary leaders Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, as well as other key figures of the time, such as Dzerzhinsky who headed the Soviet secret police.
Key Viewpoints: The Winter Palace would be a key location as the site of Bloody Sunday and the storming of the October Revolution. Additionally, the iconic architecture of many buildings, particularly the churches like Saint Basil's Cathedral and the lovely named Church of the Savior on Blood, would make some great climbs.
What places and times would you like to see future entries in the series explore? Let us know in the comments.
The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!