A Look at Assassin’s Creed – AC1: The End

By Charlie Jubilee Posted Thursday Sep 7, 2023

Filed under: Epilogue, Charlie Writes 21 comments

Content warning to those sensitive to violence. If you have an issue with stabbing, hanging, blood, breaking limbs, or other such topics, please go read Bay’s posts on The Sims instead.

When Desmond wakes up in Abstergo again, he catches the end of a conversation about ending him. Yes, we’ve known they were going to kill him this whole time, but did they have to say it in front of Desmond?

When Vidic leaves the room, Lucy, in a hushed voice, talks about the Templars taking over again. She is worried they will remove free will, but doesn’t explain how, simply that they will force order and discipline with the Templar treasure, the Piece of Eden. She knows they are trying to use Desmond to find other Pieces of Eden. When she leaves the room, we find a letter in her email, that, when decoded, is a clear call for help from some outside group. My favorite thing about it is that the email is set up as an ad for…male enhancement.

The message is 'will be there soon' but the way it's delivered is hilarious.
The message is 'will be there soon' but the way it's delivered is hilarious.

The next morning Vidic makes fun of Desmond for thinking the contradictory nature of history in the animus is odd, considering known facts about history. Like the people who lived it wouldn’t know as well as some old books and writings. After that we hop back in the animus.

Al Mualim sends us to kill Robert, the villain that started this whole game. Al Mualim admits that he agrees with Robert’s goals, but not with the way he goes about them. In the end, he sends Altair to Jerusalem, where Robert is supposed to be attending a funeral.

Something interesting here is Malik, who is our contact in Jerusalem and the man we betrayed at the beginning of the game. As time has passed, he seems to slowly be forgiving Altair, as he grows and changes. This culminates in Altair apologizing for what happened in the cave where the Templar’s treasure was found. Considering Altair’s refusal to apologize before, this is a huge sign of character growth, one of my favorite things to watch happen in games. With Malik, Altair also makes a distinction between the Templars and the crusaders, marking the Templars as the true enemy.

Running around Jerusalem, the difficulty of the game seems to have amped way up all of a sudden out of nowhere. It makes sense, in a way. We’ve killed a bunch of people, the guards are on high alert, but as a gameplay mechanic, it seems odd to not scale it over time. I don’t know, maybe that was just my perception as I attempted to chase down an informant twelve times.

Of course, the funeral was a trap, Robert was never there. Instead, we almost killed a young woman who, after some research, I found was Maria Thorpe, Altair’s future wife and ancestor to Desmond. She is sort of a footnote throughout the Desmond era of the games, but this is where she first met Altair, which is cool to know. She tells him that Robert is in Arsuf, where the war is at it’s prime, and he spares her life.

When your future wife tries to get assassinated
When your future wife tries to get assassinated

At the bureau, Malik tries to tell Altair to go to Al Mualim. In return, Altair warns Malik to keep his ears open and listen, as Al Mualim is not to be trusted as he is keeping things from the Assassins. We head to Arsuf, where Robert is attempting to make peace in order to unite both sides of the war against the Assassin’s order. We enter a war zone in Arsuf. It’s brutal, with multiple fights against large groups of soldiers. The grey pallor of Desmond’s world seems to permeate here as well, an almost hopeless look to the land as you watch armies march below the cliff you walk along to find Robert.

War. War never changes.
War. War never changes.

After fighting our way across the landscape, King Richard the Lionheart himself is there to greet us, with an accompanying guard, of course. Altair spills everything to this man. He marks Robert as a traitor. We step through the line of guards as Richard is told his lieutenant is not who he thinks he is. Altair lays out the reason for each of his assassinations and how their plans would have blocked Richard at every turn. Turns out Robert is standing right next to us, hidden by a helmet as we talk shit about him. He tries to leave to go make his deal with Saladin, but Richard decides to have us duel it out with Robert and a bunch of Templars first, and declares us favored by God when we win.

He's still got that classic villain look. Shifty and bald.
He's still got that classic villain look. Shifty and bald.

During his death sequence, Robert laughs at us for being a puppet of Al Mualim. He marks our master as a member of the Templars even though he is leader of the Assassins. Altair is upset, angry, but ultimately chooses to believe Robert. After all, Al Mualim has been nothing but cagey and difficult the whole game. Robert says that Al Mualim betrayed the Templars to avoid sharing power.

After a short talk with Richard, Vidic wakes us up to make us listen to an attempted rescue. Vidic is livid, accusing Desmond of calling them somehow. He makes Desmond listen over the phone as the last of the rescue team is killed. Desmond makes fun of Vidic for being worried, and Vidic tells him that the group that came for Desmond was the very last of the Assassins, finally ended.

When Vidic leaves, we find out Lucy is an Assassin and that she called the rescue there, and lets Desmond know his parents got away. Now, I’m going to step back a moment to lament the inconsistency of this game. Lucy shows us she’s missing a finger, just like Altair. I hate this. She isn’t missing a finger earlier in the game, she’s not missing one two seconds after she shows us her hand, it’s not consistent. Meanwhile, Altair’s hand is missing a finger consistently throughout all sorts of gameplay and cut scenes. Clearly they could have been consistent here, but for some reason, she’s only missing a finger for a second while she’s showing it to us. She’s telling us to have faith while somehow removing and replacing her finger at will.

See here, before showing us, while showing us, and two seconds after showing us. Something here isn't right.
See here, before showing us, while showing us, and two seconds after showing us. Something here isn't right.

Once again, Vidic wakes us in the morning, throws us in the Animus while making covert death threats, and off we go. We go back to Masayaf, where people are being weird. We talk to a man who says we will walk the path or perish, as ‘the master’ commands. Altair immediately calls this out as Al Mualim pulling a takeover. We run up the hill and Malik rescues us from an ambush as he says he found a journal from Robert marking Al Mualim as a Templar, just as Robert said. Malik attacks the fortress from behind as we head into the final boss fight with Al Mualim.


We make our way through a crowd of zombie people to Al Mualim in the back courtyard. He’s holding the Piece of Eden, which is glowing, and he sets all nine of the men he had us kill against us with a powerful illusion. When we defeat them, he freezes us, arms splayed painfully as we are bathed in light, and he turns into multiple people, praising the illusion based powers of the treasure. He throws as around and when we beat his clones, we call him the liar he is. We accuse him of all the things Robert told us were true. I’m not sure how an illusion forces people to follow Al Mualim against their will, but he admits to it all, and that all the power he wields is based in illusion. For whatever reason, he can’t compel Altair with the treasure, so we fight to the death.

As the Piece of Eden finally leaves his hand, he calls his loss impossible. Altair argues with him, some words lost in translation as for some reason, he speaks in his native tongue rather than English. He tries to destroy the Piece of Eden, but fails, unable to even approach. A globe of the world with pinpoints all over it explodes from the treasure as Malik joins us in staring.

What a wild ride.
What a wild ride.

We hear Vidic say ‘We’ve got it’ as we fade back into Desmond’s world. Turns out that map marked all the Pieces of Eden. Vidic and some man on the phone both agree to kill Desmond and Lucy saves him, pointing out they may need his memories later. As they both leave the room, Desmond’s vision changes and he sees marking on the walls and floors that were invisible moments ago, and then the game ends, fading into credits.

Desmond thinks it's blood. He's probably right.
Desmond thinks it's blood. He's probably right.

Finally, my review of the game is upon us.

Let’s start with the voices. Most of them were spot on and I love Kristen Bell as Lucy. Altair’s was bad though, mostly monotone throughout the whole game. His emotions felt muted and  his tone came off as uncaring, even when he wasn’t. The gameplay is clunky and frustrating to say the least and there was this weird invisible barrier that would only let you jump so far, meaning Altair would suddenly fall out of the air like he hit a wall all the time. Desmond usually comes off sounding whiny despite the threat of death against him, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. The lack of subtitles in the game made it difficult for me to follow the story. On top of all that, the game has a grey pallor over most of it, even the colorful parts.

That being said, the story and idea behind the game is excellent. I would go so far as to say this was a great jumping off point for the series as a whole. The cities are beautifully laid out and change with time as the story progresses. The various characters throughout come off as genuine and that really helps immerse you in the game.

Would I recommend playing this game? Absolutely, with the caveat that you give it a little time to build. It is difficult to get into because of the poor responses of the controls which become frustrating at times, but ultimately, it’s a beautiful and well thought out game. I think a remake of it would be wildly successful, perhaps with a few subtle, but important changes.

I would love to hear what all of you think. If you agree or don’t, and what changes you’d make to the game to improve playability.


From The Archives:

21 thoughts on “A Look at Assassin’s Creed – AC1: The End

  1. Milo says:

    Lucy isn’t missing a finger, she bends it over behind her palm for the recognition gesture.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      This right here. You can even see it quite clearly in the picture up there, that her finger is bent. As a matter of fact, the next game in the series would show that eventually the assassins learn to make a blade that didn’t require the user to lose a finger, so it wouldn’t make sense for Lucy to be missing hers anyway.

      1. Charlie Jubilee says:

        Let’s talk about that for a moment. Yeah, I totally buy that her finger was just bent, but that brings up so many other issues. Desmond only knew it was a symbol of the assassin because of the memories that he had through Altair that Lucy saw as well. It’s even more insane to me that he believed she was an assassin based on that, especially with how hard she tried to befriend him. Either she has a disappearing finger or Desmond is super naive. Either way, it’s bonkers.

        1. Sartharina says:

          What’d he have to lose by believing she’s an assassin? He was pretty much a dead man walking, with no control over his date at this point. Even if it was a “Good Cop, bad cop” scheme, he didn’t really lose anything.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Yeah, it’s basically:

            Choose not to believe her, get killed.
            Choose to believe her, she’s lying, get killed.
            Choose to believe her, she’s telling the truth, have a chance to survive.

            Believing her isn’t naive, it’s the only logical choice (per game theory). They’ve already got everything they need from him (to the point where they’re going to irrevocably remove their access to his memories), it’s not like she could be pretending to befriend him to get some further secret out.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              I mean, as it turns out… although I do personally believe that’s a retcon and to be fair they’ve got everything they want from him as far as Demond knows.

          2. Charlie Jubilee says:

            Oh, he had nothing to lose in believing her, but it’s still bonkers as a plot line.

        2. Dreadjaws says:

          I mean, what possible reason would he have not to believe her? He knew Vidic intended to kill him. It was no secret. It’s not like there was a chance Lucy could be drawing him into a trap. What would that trap be? “Oh, you thought we were going to kill you, but in reality… we’re going to kill you! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!”

          Honestly, with how forward Vidic was being about his intentions towards Desmond even if Lucy was also evil why would she lie about it? Desmond has absolutely no reason to suspect her.

          1. Charlie Jubilee says:

            I think you’re looking at this too hard. My argument isn’t whether he should have believed her, it’s that the whole finger thing is weird and insane, whether it’s cut off or not. Honestly, I would have just gone with whatever she said, she was the nicer of the two captors, but the finger thing was not convincing.

            1. beleester says:

              Been a while since I’ve played this, but I don’t think the finger thing is supposed to be some sort of secret password, it’s just a way of communicating that she’s an assassin without the risk of being overheard. Since, you know, they’re in an Abstergo facility and the walls have ears.

              Desmond might feel that Lucy is trying to help him, but there’s a difference between “I’m sympathetic to your situation” and “I’m secretly working with a group on the outside who is planning to rescue you,” and the assassin sign communicates the second one.

    2. Charlie Jubilee says:

      See my reply to Dreadjaws.

  2. Kincajou says:

    Boss, the whole article is on the front page! ;)

    1. Adam says:

      And has a embed of https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/artwork.png which is broken (at least, it is for me!).

  3. Dreadjaws says:

    I remember being far more charitable to this game than reviews were back then. I’m not much of a fan of scores, but following that tradition the game was being considered as something of a 6-7 for most, but I thought it was easily between 8 and 9. Yeah, it was clearly clunky, but it was trying to do something different, so that was expected.

    Can’t speak much for the voice acting. Back then due to a number of reasons I mostly got to play the game in its Spanish translation, and while I eventually figured out how to stop Steam from doing that I haven’t played the game ever since.

    Never really had much of an issue with the controls. The only thing I really didn’t like about the game was that it ended in a cliffhanger. It’s OK when a regular episode of a TV show does that, far less OK when the final episode of a season does it, extremely annoying with a movie does it and absolutely despicable when a videogame does it. I have no issue waiting a week or two for a resolution, but months or even years? F**k off with that. Unfortunately this would become tradition in the series.

  4. beleester says:

    Yeah, the run up to the fight with Robert has a *lot* of forced combat. Kind of disappointing for a stealth game, it really should have been some sort of sneaking challenge. Parkouring into a fortress, maybe?

    I think the main things I’d want to fix in a remake are the combat – use the system from any of the later games, all of them are better than “wait and counter” – and put more variety into the pre-assassination sidequests. The actual assassinations were IIRC pretty good, but repeating the same missions in different cities got boring fast.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I find the comment on combat interesting because it was in some of the later games, I believe AC2 or one of its sidegames in particular, where the “wait and counter” combat has peaked forcing you to wait for a counter but that turning into an instakill that you could then chain into instakilling multiple other enemies. To be fair it was still much less stilted than in this game.

      1. beleester says:

        Brotherhood was the one that did the “killstreak” mechanic. I actually liked it, because it forces you to keep attacking, which makes it more likely that you’ll mess up and miss a counter, and it means that fights resolve quickly. I think it just needed a better way to start a killstreak, and maybe some more enemy variety so that you have to be smart about who you target, Arkham-style.

  5. PPX14 says:

    I remember thinking the opposite for the traversal system – it was too easy, just press forward and the jump button and he does everything for you. It looks great, but isn’t really gameplay in the way that I’d hope from the franchise that took the place of Prince of Persia for Ubisoft.

    Aw I liked bland deadpan Altair – playing as the ultimate assassin I liked his reserve. Especially contrasted to the range of loud characters and assassination targets with their personalities on their sleeves. Pure efficiency from the master. But not in the inhuman cyborg way of Agent 47.

  6. Dev Null says:

    Oh man, that long combat runup culminating in the forced duel with Robert. I’d forgotten about that. That was awful. I nearly didn’t finish the game because of that sequence.

    1. Zekiel says:

      I hadn’t forgotten it… in fact it one of my most abiding memories of the game! So infuriating!

  7. Zekiel says:

    Reading this has brought back a lot of memories. There’s so much I’d forgotten, but what I remember was mainly the awesome parkour (I’d never played anything like it before), the gorgeous cities, the repetitive gameplay and the infuriatingly long cutscenes. I’d forgotten how annoying Altair was!

    My one sentence review is that this game is basically a necessary evil in order for Assassin’s Creed 2 to exist :-)

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