The story of Assasin’s Creed takes place in both the present and the past of the Assasin’s Creed version of Earth in which the game is set. Throughout the various games in the franchise, there is a lot of information given to the players with each experience.
To understand the backstory that sets the game in motion, we’re going to focus on connecting the information in all of the present day accounts into one coherent thread. This means the majority of the details from the individual past storylines will be intentionally left out. If you want to read the narratives of those individual past storylines, check out our article on the Entire Assassin’s Creed Story So Far.
If you haven’t guessed by now, there are major spoilers ahead. That being said, let’s start at the beginning.
Before we’re introduced to any of the playable characters, the timeline of Assasin’s Creed begins just before the creation of mankind. In this timeline, the “First Civilization” on Earth was comprised of beings referred to as “The Precursors” which were humanoid lifeforms that were more akin to Greek Gods and Goddesses than they were to humans. These Precursors possessed technology that far surpassed what we have access to today.
In fact, one of their most notable technological advancements was the creation of humans. It is hinted that humans were created through the genetic alteration of a pre-existing species on the planet. The Precursors created humans as a subservient race that revered them as gods and performed tasks obediently.
As a way to control and manipulate the humans, the Precursors also developed highly advanced technological instruments known as the “Pieces of Eden” which posses the ability to alter consciousness. In other words, the Pieces of Eden made mind-control possible and some possessed other unique abilities such as divining the future and more. However, this didn’t last forever due to the intervention of Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were hybrid creations, more advanced than the other humans at the time because they could not be controlled by the Pieces of Eden. It is hinted that this is due to genetic mutation from interbreeding of humans and Precursors, but for whatever reason, Adam and Eve were born without the neurotransmitters in their brains.
Eventually, Adam and Eve became angered by their enslavement, realizing that the Precursors were not gods. They stole one of the Pieces of Eden, which is also referred to as the Apple of Eden, and escaped the confines of Eden.
The exact chain of events after that is not clear, but shortly after, war broke out between the Precursors and the humans. The humans, being a rebellious species that demanded freedom at any cost, went into battle against the Precursors to end their enslavement. Though the Precursors were more advanced, the humans were numerous and adaptive, making the war a difficulty to fight on both sides. However, this war between the humans and the Precursors came at the worst time possible, paving way for the collapse of The First Civilization.
The Toba Catastrophe
While many of the Precursors focused on the war with the humans, there was another, more serious threat looming in the background. Neither the humans nor the Precursors fully understood the consequences of fighting one another instead of staying united to prevent a cataclysmic disaster known as the Toba Catastrophe. Only a small sect of Precursors was tasked with finding a way to stop a rapidly approaching solar flare from wiping out the entirety of life.
As far as we know, the team was composed of three Precursors named Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno but Aita, who was Juno’s husband, was also involved. Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno built temples underground that would outlast the solar flares, which all culminated in a Grand Temple that served as the center of operations. There were six different failed solutions employed to stop the oncoming solar flares. These attempts and failures set in place the backbone of the Assassin’s Creed story so far. Without detailing all of them, we’ll sum up the major effects.
During this process, it was realized that if enough humans all share the same thought, it will actually begin to influence reality. The hope at the time was to save the planet by using an Apple of Eden to control all the humans into thinking the thought, “Earth is Safe” as to bend reality to their will. The complications in aligning everyone to the same message and thought at the same time was the downfall of this plan. But this line of thinking does not die with the plan.
Also, Minerva learned that existence itself is subject to mathematical repetitions and patterns, meaning that with the right equation, it would be simple to see both forwards and backwards. Though traveling back in time to avert the catastrophe was unfruitful, Minerva also saw that there would be a second solar flare event thousands of years into the future, which would threaten to wipe out the current human civilization in the year 2012.
Having failed all attempts to save The First Civilization, Juno, Minerva, and Jupiter send messages forward into the future. Through their divination, they know that select descendants of Adam and Eve will come into contact with the Pieces of Eden as well as the underground temples. To save the future society, Minerva creates an item called “The Eye” that only a descendant of Adam and Eve can use to manipulate existence in such a way that will protect the Earth from the second coming of the solar flare catastrophe. Together, the Precursors record messages for the descendants of Adam and Eve to guide them to the Grand Temple to save humanity by using The Eye.
The Descendants of Adam and Eve
For the most part, the descendants of Adam and Eve split into two groupings: Templars and Assassins. While both groups attract widespread members who are not descendants of Adam and Eve, the core leadership of these organizations is often held by those with a greater amount of Precursor DNA coursing through their veins than other humans. The ones with the enhanced DNA are less susceptible to being controlled by the Pieces of Eden and also have extrasensory abilities which make them stand out and rise to leadership if not born into those positions.
Throughout the story of the Assassin’s Creed timeline, we see the entire narrative of history being re-written through the perspective of the knowledge of the Precursors and the Pieces of Eden. In this view, all major miraculous events ranging from Moses parting the Red Sea, to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to Hitler’s domination of Europe and mass control of the population, and more are caused by the human use of a Piece of Eden.
While the individual timelines of the games are interesting stories, they sort of happen inside a vacuum. In other words, every story from Altair and Ezio straight through to Arno is a repetition of a Piece of Eden being stolen, killed for, used to control humanity, see the future, receive messages from Precursors, etc. while the Assassins and the Templars of that time period duke it out at the whims of your controller. For that reason, we’re going to skip over a lot of that and focus on the present day timeline. In the Assassin’s Creed timeline of modern civilization, the descendant of Adam and Eve that receives the messages of the Precursors is none other than single bartender, Desmond Miles.
Before Ubisoft decided to kill him off in what some fans still think was one of the worst decisions that has ever been made within the series’ storyline, Desmond Miles was the star of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. In the first game, he is kidnapped by an organization called Abstergo which is the embodiment of the modern day Templars. Although raised to be an Assassin as a kid, Desmond rejected that lifestyle and abandoned his family in pursuit of creating his own destiny. Unfortunately, fate had other plans for him.
At Abstergo, Desmond is forced into a machine called the Animus that allows him to relive the memories of his Assassin ancestors. Abstergo hopes to use the memories of Assassins who interacted with the Pieces of Eden in the past as a way to help locate them in the present. In the first Assassin’s Creed, Desmond relives the memories of his ancestor Altair at the Abstergo facility, but it does not do much to advance the larger plot. Here we are just barely introduced to the Pieces of Eden.
In Assassin’s Creed II, Desmond is moved to a secret Assassin headquarters by a double agent named Lucy who rescued him from Abstergo. We’re also introduced to the Assassin associates Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane, who continue to appear throughout the later games. In this Assassin’s Creed, Desmond relives the memories of Ezio and for the first time is able to use a Piece of Eden to receive a direct message from the Precursor Minerva. Though speaking to Ezio, and though all of this is confusing to Ezio, Minerva is aware that Desmond can hear her through Ezio and so, for the most part, she speaks directly to him. She warns him of the coming 2012 solar flare and tells him to seek the Precursor temples.
At the end of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Desmond communes with a Piece of Eden not through an ancestor’s memory, but by finding one his ancestor Ezio hid within a temple in present day. Through this Piece of Eden, Juno possesses Desmond and uses him to kill Lucy. While this is shocking at first, we eventually find out that she wasn’t a double agent for the Assassins, but rather a triple agent for the Templars, of which Juno was aware. And we also see that Juno conveys a general contempt and hatred for humans that the Precursor Minerva did not, despite the fact that they claim to be saving us together.
At the end of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Jupiter communes with Desmond through the Animus. He gives Desmond a little more info on the Precursors and shows him how the First Civilization was destroyed by a solar flare. But at that time, there were barely any Precursors left, and for the most part they died out. At this point in the story, we’ve also been introduced to Desmond’s father, William Miles, who joins Rebecca and Shaun’s efforts.
At the end of Assassin’s Creed III, we see the completion of the Desmond Miles saga. In the Grand Temple, Desmond uses a Piece of Eden to commune with Juno and Minerva. Juno informs Desmond that he has the opportunity to sacrifice his life to save the world from the solar flare. However, Minerva warns that Juno has secretly programmed the Piece of Eden in a way that will allow her consciousness to re-incarnate into the world with the potential to control and enslave human civilization once again, claiming, revenge for the Precursors.
It’s a tough decision to make. However, the way Desmond sees it, if he allows the solar flare to hit and destroy the majority of life on the planet, then there is no hope. He cannot justify the deaths of all those billions of people to himself in any way. Minerva shows him that even though Desmond will survive, the world will rebuild and find peace. But that after his death, the world will fall into the same chaos it was in before and people will use the justification of Desmond’s legacy to commit great evils.
Instead, he believes in humanity. He has faith that if he gives his life to prevent the solar flare from destroying civilization, the remaining Assassins will find a way to save the world from Juno’s sinister plans. And so, in the most tragically heroic moment in the Assassin’s Creed series, Desmond Miles gives his life, freeing Juno and unleashing her upon the world. Some fans suspect that Desmond’s mind may still be alive somewhere, but this has not been confirmed.
Juno in the World
At this point, the story takes an unexpected twist. After the death of Desmond Miles, Abstergo finds a way to use his remains and DNA to make it so anyone can use the Animus and go back and experience the memories of his ancestors. To further their research, they funnel their activities through a company called Abstergo Entertainment. The present day character you’re playing is an employee working on an Assassin’s Creed pirate video game and gets tangled up between the modern Abstergo Templars and Assassins. Here, we again meet up with Shaun and Rebecca who, along with William Miles, are still leading the efforts of the Assassins.
While all of that’s going on, Juno’s consciousness is now loose in the world and seeking a way to find a body. Earlier, we mentioned that, “Minerva learned that existence itself is subject to mathematical repetitions and patterns.” Juno was also aware of this knowledge and she found a way to program human DNA in such a way that at various points in time, a human vessel would embody her husband Aita’s consciousness in human form. While the person usually has his own memories, he also has Aita’s memories and likeness, and while there is a dual consciousness for a while, it seems that Aita eventually takes over.
In Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, we learn that these reincarnations of Aita throughout time have been referred to as “Sages.” In history, Sages are influential figures who use the Assassins and Templars indiscriminately in attempts to resurrect Juno and/or control human civilization throughout time.
In the present day timeline of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Aita the Sage is embodied in the form of John Standish, the Abstergo Entertainment IT manager. He attempts to sacrifice your character’s life so that Juno can possess your body and come into the world, but he is unsuccessful and is ultimately gunned down. Before he dies, he disseminates a Manifesto of the Instruments of the First Will, which is a document encouraging humanity to intentionally submit to Juno. While the Sage is dead, this leaves the possibility for others to try to resurrect Juno in future games.
The Path to Syndicate
While Assassin’s Creed: Rogue and Assassin’s Creed: Unity do a good job of connecting some of the individual past Assassin storylines, they have both been criticized for not doing a lot to advance the present-day story that began with Desmond Miles and the Precursors.
Between these games, we see Abstergo taking interest in something they call the “Phoenix Project,” which is an initiative sequence the genome of the Precursors triple helix DNA by finding past Sages. The Sages have such a high percentage of Precursor DNA that they are able to interact with the Pieces of Eden in more advanced ways than the average human, similar to the descendants of Adam and Eve. It is for this and perhaps even darker reasons, that Abstergo is interested in fully understanding the Precursor genome. But besides this tidbit, we haven’t been given much more info on the Assassin’s Creed present day story and Ubisoft knows it.
In an interview with Gamespot, Marc-Alexis Cote, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s creative director was questioned about fan concern regarding the game’s story arc, specifically the events started in Desmond’s timeline, and he replied:
“The Assassin’s Creed series story is still going somewhere, absolutely. The overarching story is divided up into cycles. So we had what we called the Desmond cycle, which ended with AC3. Black Flag was the transition point between the Desmond cycle and the new cycle….
And then we started up the new cycle, which I think will become much clearer with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, without spoiling it…
I can’t go into details about the present-day story, other than to say it is coming back, it is going to make sense for our players, and they’re going to understand the conflict between the Assassins and the Templars…
One of the things that’s been super important for me and for the team is to make sure the player feels in the present-day story that he or she has importance.”
So while the present day-story has been admittedly gone for a while, we have a guarantee that in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate we can expect a major comeback.