Book Review: Assassin’s Creed: The Complete Visual History

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Of the more than 30 art books currently in my personal library, Assassin’s Creed: The Complete Visual History may just be the most comprehensive and substantial of them all. It’s certainly among the largest in physical dimensions. While the massive God of War: Ascension tome from Bluecanvas still reigns supreme in terms of page count and sheer girth, this book isn’t far behind. In fact, at 13″ tall it’s the only art book that won’t fit on my bookshelf unless I turn it horizontal!

Why’s it so big? Well, the answer is all in the title. Assassin’s Creed: The Complete Visual History‘s 320 pages cover the artistic development of the iconic characters, architecture, and historical events and locales spanning the whole franchise. From Altair’s original Middle Ages adventure to the most recent Industrial Revolution storyline of brother and sister Assassins Jacob and Evie Frye, the book sequentially chronicles the art design behind the main series, including: Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood, Revelations, Assassin’s Creed III, Liberation, Black Flag, Rogue, Unity, and Syndicate.

But it doesn’t end there. DLC add-ons like The Tyranny of King Washington and Freedom Cry are also covered, as are spin-offs like the Chronicles episodic mini-series and the Project Legacy Facebook browser game. There’s even a closing chapter with images and commentary on cross-over brand extension beyond the games for things such as the tie-in novels, comic books, action figures and toys, and animated shorts like Lineage, Embers, and Ascendance. The only games that are MIA (missing in artwork) and aren’t even mentioned are the ones from DS, PSP, and mobile. (Like the rest of us, Ubisoft’s probably just as happy to forget any of those games even fall under the Assassin’s Creed banner.)

As you’ll read–and as you’ve surely already experienced firsthand playing the games–the series has constantly redefined itself with each installment, introducing new heroes, establishing new historical settings and backstories, adding new features, and yes, evolving artistically. Each game is familiar yet unique in its own way, adapting the look of its protagonist, hidden blade, and even small details like the Assassins Crest logo and UI design to marry with the changes in time period and technology without ever veering away from the core artistic ideals that give Assassin’s Creed such a distinguished and uniquely recognizable visual identity. Being able to follow this progression chapter by chapter is an absolute treat. Just the presence of Assassin all-stars like Altair, Ezio, Connor, Aveline, Arno, Adewale, and the Frye twins all within the pages of a single book is enough to make any series fan geek out.

Now, considering the abundance of past game-specific art books that have been released over the years, some redundancy is to be expected. As I personally own previous art books for AC3, Black Flag, and Unity, as well as the latest one from Titan Books dedicated solely to Syndicate, I did some comparison browsing and can confirm that there are indeed reused artworks between these books. However, the formatting from those books to this one as well as the overall context in which the images are presented is very different. Due to the scale of this book alone, a number of concepts that were smaller or displayed alongside other artworks elsewhere are now displayed in full glory across an entire page or in gorgeous two-page spreads. So in no way should you feel the need to sit this one out if you too own earlier franchise literature.

As for the book itself, the print and binding quality is just spectacular. I especially love the minimal design underneath the dust jacket, a red hardcover with white title text on the binding and the Assassins Crest debossed at the center of the front cover. It’s so clean and understated yet immediately identifiable as Assassin’s Creed before even peeking inside.

Insight Editions really knocked this one out of the park, folks. Assassin’s Creed: The Complete Visual History does such a wonderful job of taking you on a journey through the evolutionary process behind Ubisoft’s series of open-world playgrounds where historical authenticity and fictional embellishment collide. There is recycled content, but even the most studied of Assassin’s Creed fans should be able to take away some valuable insight or background facts about the franchise that they didn’t know before (particularly in the section that goes into discussion on the First Civilization). No Assassin’s Creed collection is complete without a copy of this beauty on your bookshelf or coffee table.

Assassin’s Creed: The Complete Visual History is available now from Insight Editions at a starting MSRP of $60, though it’s easy to find for nearly half that from retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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Disclosure: A copy of Assassin’s Creed: The Complete Visual History was provided to VGBlogger.com for review by Insight Editions.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!