Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise turns five-years-old this month, though at the time of the original game’s release, no one perhaps could have predicted its mammoth success half a decade later. Its unique combination of stealth-based gameplay, meticulous in-game recreations of some of the world’s most glamorous cities and an intricate tale of conspiracy and bloodshed, Assassin’s Creed has made its mark as one of the most prolific IPs of this generation.
However, despite birthing one of gaming’s most enigmatic heroes in Italian Stallion Ezio Auditore da Firenze (while I personally love Altair, he wasn’t the fan-favorite) plus a host of memorable supporting characters, one could argue that the real stars of the franchise are the cities and hold some of our greatest memories within the games.
After all, who could forget the majestic view of Jerusalem from the hilltops outside the city, the first time you gazed upon Florence’s beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and its towering bell tower or performing a Leap of Faith off of the mammoth Coliseum in Rome? Indeed, these are moments that defined the Assassin’s Creed experience, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the other awe-inspiring moments of this current crop of consoles.
With that in mind, PSU.com decided to pick our 5 favourite cities from the Assassin’s Creed series, from its inception through to Revelations.
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5. Florence (Assassin’s Creed II)
The home of Ezio Auditore, Florence – known colloquially as Firenze – is the first city gamers get to explore in 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II, and is easily one of the most dazzling in the entire franchise. The stunning architecture juxtaposed with Jesper Kyd’s hauntingly beautiful score makes for quite the evocative backdrop for some of the game’s earliest stalk ‘n stab antics. While Venice is far greater in terms of scale, Florence still gives off an impressive aura, and carries a sense of importance about it thanks to the various landmarks dotted throughout. It’s also home to the Medici Family, one of the most prominent historical figures to come out of the Italian Renaissance, and their influence is firmly felt throughout this portion of the game. With stunning vistas and memorable set-pieces, Florence may be first in line but its awe-inspiring nature means it is never forgotten, making it all the more satisfying when Ezio returns to the city later in the game.
4. Jerusalem (Assassin’s Creed)
The original Assassin’s Creed may have been eclipsed by its successor in terms of gameplay mechanics, but aesthetically it still remains one of the strongest entries to date. This is no better illustrated in the sprawling city of Jerusalem, one of three bustling cities protagonist Altair visits during the Crusades. Whether you’re in the poor, middle, or rich district, this ancient city oozes atmosphere and feels completely alive. Bustling market streets, eagle-eyed guards, surreptitious thieves and stunning architecture make this one of the most immersive cities to have graced a home console this generation. It’s also a parkour playground, with Altair literally able to scale the entire city via rooftop and clamber up massive towers to admire stunning viewpoints and perform breath-taking Leap of Faiths from their summit. Even five years after its release, Jerusalem stands proud among the series’ best.
3. Constantinople (Assassin’s Creed: Revelations)
Now known as Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city is one of the last areas visited by the assassin Ezio Auditore during his search for Altair’s lost keys. After spending two full games in Italy, Constantinople marks a rapid departure in terms of architecture, and is one of the most densely populated cities in the series. Metaphorically, it holds great significance as it acts as a ‘meeting’ of sorts between the two heroes Ezio and Altair, as the city itself is on the border of Europe and Asia. As such, there’s an interesting mishmash of cultural influences to behold as you explore, making for quite the stunning scenery as you scale Mosques, towers and beautifully-rendered palaces. Ezio’s travels are further facilitated by the use of zip lines, making Constantinople a joy to navigate, even if we miss the use of horses. Galata Tower stands as one of the most striking landmarks in the city, and one of the missions involves you scaling it as quickly as possible, which really pushes your parkour-fused abilities.
2. Rome (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood)
The legendary city of Rome stands as the Assassin’s Creed series’ finest achievement in terms of scale – it’s the biggest place you visit, after all. And, while a fair chunk of the area Ezio explores is comprised of large crops of farmland and dirty tracks, the bulk of the city is awe-inspiring. Naturally, the mammoth Coliseum stands as the most stunning structures, emitting an almost patriarchal air about it and can be observed from miles away thanks to the top-notch draw distance. The meticulous attention to detail is apparent throughout, from townsfolk chatting vociferously in markets to the tranquility of the gardens and fountains that punctuate the cobbled streets. Rome’s scope and scale never ceases to amaze, and there’s nothing quite like exploring every nook and cranny of this sprawling city, soaking up the atmosphere and immersing yourself every step of your journey. In fact, it’s easily to forget about the task at hand and just gallop throughout the hills and city streets – which is probably why Brotherhood took us so damn long to finish.
1. Venice (Assassin’s Creed II)
As one of the most romantic cities in the world, Venice has an obvious charm about it that is stunningly replicated in Ubisoft’s dazzling digital version in Assassin’s Creed II. Okay, so it might give off a nasty whiff (at least, according to Ezio’s initial opinion upon arriving in the city), but in our humble opinion Venice trounces everything else in the franchise. It’s not the biggest city, sure, but size isn’t everything; Venice has personality, and relishes in dropping-jaws with its iconic landmarks, beautiful vistas and undeniable personality. Back in Ezio’s time the city was the capital of Italy, and it shows in the sheer volume of its population and bustling streets, making you feel like you are part of a living, breathing community. However, it’s the buildings that really accentuate Venice’s appeal; and you can scale each and every one. Chief among these is the Basilica of Saint Mark, Venice’s largest and most prominent Cathedral, as well as the Palazzo Ducale – both stunning structures and in the case of the former, one of the earliest examples of Renaissance architecture. Then of course you have the sparkling canals that run throughout the city and the exuberant carnival celebrations, all of which serve to complement the exquisitely-detailed building work. All in all, it's a place you'll want to get lost in again and again.
Let us know what cities you favoured in the Assassin’s Creed franchise in the comments section below.