Assassin’s Creed is, of course, a fictional game series so all ‘historical’ events seen in it should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, it is not completely without historical merit and lots of the plots have a basis in truth.
Records do indicate that a Guild of Assassins was based in Masyaf Castle during the third crusade as seen in the first game. Although the many deaths of actual historical figures in the series are changed to assassination, they do occur at the right time and often the right place. A lot of credit must be given to the designers, as the surroundings and cities portrayed in the game, from the guards’ uniforms to the buildings the player ascends, are very close to how they would have been at the time.
The Knights Templar were a real military order, but their existence ended in 1312 after many of their members were burned at the stake, as seen in Assassin’s Creed Unity. The idea they secretly operate behind the scenes today can neither be proven nor disproved, and exists solely in the realms of conspiracy.
Ultimately, Assassin’s Creed prevents a fictionalized version of history and should not be taken as fact by any means, but it does offer an intriguing basis on which to build your own historical knowledge of the people and events featured in it.
The further back in history people go, the harder it is to tell what exactly happened. Languages have died off and some traditions and cultures don’t exist anymore. This is the problem faced by Origins, which is set between 49-47 BC (aka Ptolemaic Period) and some time after the rule of Alexander the Great.
Because Cleopatra was the ruler of this era, every major event was recorded but the exact way of Egyptian life fell through the cracks. The player takes the role of a Medjay, a bodyguard of the Pharaoh, and this allows players to see the turmoil firsthand. It’s the smaller, more mundane details of this world that may or may not hold up to future academic scrutiny.
The French Revolution changed a lot for France, and a lot of historical figures during this time are still relevant today – especially in Unity. For one, meeting Napoleon Bonaparte for the first time before he becomes the greatest general of his time is pretty cool. Ubisoft has been getting better and better over the years, and retelling history without distorting too much – Unity is proof of this marked improvement. Even the noticeable buildings like Notre Dame, are an exact replica of the real-life buildings!
The detail in Unity is widely regarded since there’s so much information about it and it’s a pretty complicated time. With political turmoil, differing ideologies, and technology that was changing, it’s a period that can be retold over and over. The only issue is that everyone in this version of France has an English accent for some reason.
In 2014, we saw the release of Assassin’s Creed Unity, in which the main hub was a stunning, true-to-form recreation of the now-scorched cathedral. In an interview from the Verge leading up to the game’s debut, Caroline Miousse, a level designer for Assassin’s Creed, detailed how intensely she studied Notre Dame to recreate it in the game. Utilizing her in-game model could prove helpful for the people tasked with rebuilding Notre Dame after the fire, considering players were able explore a large percentage of the cathedral in the game, all rendered in a three-dimensional field.