Assassin's Creed II Spoiler Talk With Patrice Desilets

Yesterday's Kotaku interview with Assassin's Creed II creative director Patrice Desilets covered a lot, but it did not reveal his thoughts on some of the more surprising and controversial parts of ACII. That's in this post, which is all spoiler.

OK. If you're this far into this post, then I assume you have finished Assassin's Creed II or don't mind having parts of it spoiled for you.

We talked in some general terms about making a game based on history. It's something that Desilets sees as an Assassin's Creed franchise trademark but also "a pain in the arse sometimes". It creates rules that he and the team who conceive the AC storylines are tempted to obey. "Sometimes it gives us ideas. Sometimes it gives us constraints… You want to kill that character, but he didn't die until he was old. So how do we kill him? So we don't kill him." Historical characters will only die when they died in real life.

Consider, then, that the following is an Assassin's Creed franchise rule regarding the death of the fictional characters in the games "that cannot be transgressed," according to Desilets: "You cannot have your ancestor die, because then you couldn't have any memory. You need to move the memory forward." So Ezio or Altair or whoever else might star in the playable historical re-lived memories of true Assassin's Creed protagonists, the modern-day Desmond Miles, cannot be killed in the memories Desmond is experiencing. Otherwise, those memories could not have been passed down. But, Desilets noted with a chuckle, there probably is one way around this limitation: "The only way would be to die while f—king."

Some history is bent in the series, of course. Players know this as long as they assume that Rodrigo Borgia may not have really been in a secret society that sought a sci-fi golden apple. And they might know this if they believe that Machiavelli wasn't really in an assassin's guild. These deviation from historical fact are OK, Desilets said. "It's a feeling." He could see Machiavelli as a fighter. "Is he a fighter really? He was more of an intellectual. But it seems neat to have Machiavelli with a weapon. It's much more cool than to have this guy who is always writing. That's not fun. So we decided he fights, but that's not [the real]Machiavelli." On the other hand, Leonardo Da Vinci cannot be an assassin. Ever. "Imagine Leonardo with a sword and it doesn't fit… There's so many things we can do that sometimes we just have to say, 'I feel it or not.' And it's not really much more scientific than that."

Rules of life, death and sex aside, why did Patrice Desilets go and mix the widely-praised historical parts of Assassin's Creed with the less popular parts of the series that go all sci-fi, with an end of the world, 2012 pending apocalypse, evil corporations and a seemingly alien race meddling with human history? (Remember I said this post would be all-spoiler?)

Desilets describes the series as "A mix of what I really like: history and science fiction. It's a junction between the two." He is aware that the Desmond parts, slow-paced and frequent in the first Assassin's Creed and more sparingly used and action-based in the sequel aren't universally loved. "I know a lot of people are more into the history than the present, but I know that this time around [with the sequel]people understand the present part much more than they did in the first game. In the first game they thought it was useless, but now I'm reading some forums people want to know what's happening with Desmond. Even if some people, like IGN, don't want us to talk about Desmond.

He's aware that some people felt blindsided by the amount of sci-fi in Assassin's Creed II, especially the end-game conversation between Ezio, Desmond and the otherworldly Minerva about a pending modern apocalypse. But that's what players signed up for. "It's been there all along, since the first one, since we developed our thing. If you remember, at the end of AC1 the apple showed this entire world map. No, it's planned. I don't want to talk too much about it, but it's a narrative part of our backstory… it's a mix of historical accuracy and science fiction and where they meet." He cites Dune and Isaac Asimov as personal sci-fi favourites as well as a love for history and a fascination with assassins.

A few more spoiler topics. That Alatair flashback in Assassin's Creed II? "The flashback was planned as soon as we did our first conception meeting [for the sequel] ," he said. These days, it seems natural that Assassin's Creed II would have a different main playable protagonist than the first game. But it was a creative and business risk to chuck the lead character from a popular first game. So Altair had to at least show up. "We said we needed to do something with Altair. Alatair needs to be back somehow. He can't be the star of the show, otherwise we missed our point… but somehow he needs to be back. [We came up with]this bleeding effect that would allow Desmond to re-live a memory without an Animus. We said that's great. And we have Acre, the map, so we said let's take a portion of it and make it and we can tell a portion of the story of Altair." Was it wedged in by marketing to promote the Altair-starring Assassin's Creed Bloodlines? Desilets said the marketing team can have good ideas, just like anyone, but it sounds like they're not the ones to credit/blame for ACII's Altair return.

Back to the past. Assassin's Creed II, via some cutscenes and the level unlockable via a Uplay connection, explains some of the Assassin's guild history that bridges the first console game and the second. It mentions Dante and Marco Polo. Even further into the past, ACII shows what appears to be the Biblical Adam and Eve running through a Garden of Eden that is really an alien (or lost) civilisation on Earth. I asked Desilets if I could infer from all that that we could get an Assassin's Creed: Adam and Eve: "I don't know. Not any time soon. Is that a good answer?"

Desilets is coy about who would star in future Assassin's Creed games. But he is playful about the possibilities: "You never know… you could also say, 'Oh there's six more games to do with all the assassin's that we showed you. We could do games about them. … We did a graphic novel and in the beginning of the graphic novel there's another assassin from the Roman Empire. We could do a game about that."

So, no hints? No. But he did say that the outline for the Assassin's Creed series is more fleshed out now than ever before. "I have a general idea of where we want to go. The more we go forward the more we know the more we decide this idea goes, let's do this, this and this. It's not like the [storyline]bible is perfect and finished. It's ongoing for us. But we know more and more now."

And now, Assassin's Creed II fans, the floor is yours. Feel free to talk about spoilers, be it what Desilets had to say or your own theories.


    Hmm, I never finished ACII, or played it, for that matter, so I'm probably gonna stay out of this one. I might come back if I get it though.

    I loved the Desmond story far more then Altair's in the first game, and still preferd his bits to Elzio's in the second.

    Personly I'm hoping we get an AC game entirley based around Desmond since now he has all the abilities of the assassins.

    For me? I guess I'd be pleasantly surprised to have it set in early 1900s England maybe...

    I've always thought the whole Demond/Present day part of Assassin's Creed is just pointless. I mean they could have just created the game with the story-line based around Altair or Ezio. It would have worked - it does offer something different and possibly branch out with a Demon game, which would seem less appealing to me personally. But I still would have preferred the Demond thing to be out of the game.

    The thing i loved about AC2 was that Demond was hardly in it and you didn't need to do those pointless little missions in the lab as Demond like spying on a laptop etc... All that was required was training and then a bit of fighting at the end which was KIND OF stupid. Why wouldn't they have had guns and not some sticks.

    But then it made me think, with Desmond HARDLY being in the game it just makes him even more pointless even though they did the right thing in excluding him from most of the game.

    If they created AC1 with Altairs story similar in length and depth as to Ezio's it would have been perfect. I wouldn't have noticed the Demond thing missing with Ezio cause I was interested in HIS story not Demonds.

    Maybe i just really hate Demond, i dunno. But thats my 2 cents worth.

      I asked Patrice about this when I spoke to him last month. I asked him directly: how much of Assassin's is the story of Ezio and Altair, and how much of it is the story of Desmond?

      He told me bluntly: "Assassin's Creed is the story of Desmond."

      I'll paste the rest of his answer and my follow-up questions below. I wasn't able to use these in a post, so consider this a bonus!

      "It's a story that will give a glimpse here and there [of Desmond's life] until we stop. But we realise as we finish the second game that those ancestors, they share a common thing, they are assassins that fight to protect the Al Mualim from the Templars. And this war is going on for centuries. But you don't follow Altair any more, in this game it is Ezio. So the main character of Assassin's Creed is Desmond."

      Do players understand that?

      "They don't have to. Once you've played five hours straight with Ezio, you're Ezio, it's alright. But the real story of Assassin's Creed is Desmond's story."

      But there were players who reacted badly to Desmond. They just wanted to be Altair and wondered why there has to be this sci-fi overlay to it.

      "Well, that's their problem! [laughs] That's what we want to do. Why? Because we want to tell the story of this guy who goes into a machine called an Animus. We felt this narrative device was kinda cool. The Assassin's Creed universe needed a sequel in order to exist. It's true, without Ezio, all the thing in the present is maybe just gimmicky. But, with the sequel, it's like now you understand. It's lead us to do all these different things. It means we can create a game in the Italian Renaissance. I mean, sure we could have done a game set only in the Italian Renaissance, that's true. But I think it gives more depth this way to what we're doing. And we can do it 35 times like that and move between different time periods."

      So we'll eventually see a sequel where you play a guy who visits the memories of a guy visiting the memories of a guy who...


        Wow. Not the reply i was expecting but even better! Thanks for that. Re-reading my post, i seriously think my keyboard is on its way out. I don't re-call a character known as Demon or Demond.

        I personally like to get involved with the storyline of games that interests me. AC is one of the best franchises i've ever played. I loved the first and loved the second more. Don't get me wrong, i didn't HATE being Desmond as such, it's just so slow to take off.

        We still don't know much about him & all that. And i personally don't want to wait for 5 games to past before we know who Desmond really is.

        I agree that with the sci-fi/Amnius touch they have added, it has given them that sort of reason to do sequels and thats good and it will let them expand etc... I'm sure Ubisoft realize how different AC2 is to AC1. But comparing them both, Altair hardly had a story to tell where as Ezio did. You lived Ezio's life but not Altairs, which is where my problem is. I know they cannot fix it and they didn't intend on it, as giving Ezio that STORY, fixed an issue some had with the first. But also, giving Ezio that story takes away that part from Desmond & gives AC2 a reason to be a game without a present day storyline.

        I'm probably repeating myself a little, but after reading that answer from him, I understand a little more where they are coming from. But one more thing, if Assassin's Creed is the story of Desmond, MAKE it the story of Desmond. Cause right now, it's not even moving at baby-steps.

        I guess thats one thing they can improve on from AC2 when they begin on AC3 (even though, in my eyes AC2 flawless).

    i see as your seeing a story about Desmond seeing a story about Ezio
    but on another Front the AC game's are game's based on a concept "how can be make a franchise based on diffrent periods in history" thus the Animus and Desmond

    they can go any where any when with this concept and still have the same main character but on the other hand any AC title can be seen out of order or just on there own without people wondering whats going on they can just ignore Desmond and focus on Ezio or Altair

    so as long as the gameplay stays fun with this story concept i can see Assassin’s Creed 3, 4, 5, and 6 very likly if not always with Desmond as the person on the Animus Ride

    I bought AC2 out of an interest for the story as I had never played AC1 before. I went onto Wikipedia and read the plotfor AC2 and I was ready to buy AC2. So you people who are saying that the Desmond part in AC1 was boring, I know nothign about that. But I think AC2 was A very good game, Rivaling and going above ModernWarfare 2 and Halo in it's complexity, although they are not the same genre. I also believe that AC IS the story of Desmond as he is advancing and becoming the Ultimate Assasin, taking the Skills of Altair, Enzio and the future Assasins to come. I think the Part with "Minevra" was a bit much of an addition to the story but it still tags along with the idea of obliterating the Templars.I think (and this is the last of my many thoughs) that Desmond will , in the end of this story himself end up in a different country/place, or him sneeking up into the Templar stronghold to steal the first apple back (that the Templars find somewhere in the later story).

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