A Look Back at the Cinematic Trailers of Assassin’s Creed
Cinematic game trailers quite literally put the ‘cinema’ into video games, often combining a snapshot of the game’s story and several gameplay mechanics and features into a beautifully rendered miniature movie. As a franchise, Assassin’s Creed has made a name for itself on many iconic and recognisable traits, from hidden blades, hooded assassins, secret societies and up until 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey a number of incredible cinematic trailers (which thankfully returned for 2020’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla). In A Look Back at the Cinematic Trailers of Assassin’s Creed, we’re looking at each game’s cinematic trailer and how they helped shape the franchise.
The first Assassin’s Creed game proved to be an industry influencing hit, introducing some now-iconic concepts. The first game doesn’t have a cinematic trailer on par with its sequels (most of which hold up exceptionally well years later) but instead has what looks to be an in-game engine trailer that shows off the main character Altair, the games setting, free running and several signature Assassin moves.
Although the trailer doesn’t look as good as it’s successors, its place in the franchise as the first real glimpse at how the series would look, sound, and feel, is undeniable, and is still one of the most recognisable video game trailers.
Assassin’s Creed II
After the first game proved to be a massive hit in 2007, the first of many (many) sequels came with 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II. The second game in the series brought with it a brand new primary Assassin, a new setting, many new weapons and gadgets, and of course an intriguing continuation of Desmond’s storyline. Assassin’s Creed II’s cinematic trailer does what all good cinematics do, and shows off a number of places, characters, and moves from the game in a movie-quality sequence that instantly sells the viewer on this brand new Assassin story.
The trailer sees a beautifully rendered chase sequence where Italian Assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze hunts a Templar across Venice, in 1468. Not only does the trailer showcase everything fans would expect from a sequel to the first game, with lots of running across rooftops, fighting with city guards, and sneaking around, but it also shows off some of Ezio’s combat style, and cunning. The cinematic trailer from 2009’s E3 has gone on to become one of the most recognisable and iconic cinematic trailers of all time, and one of the best representations of everything Assassin’s Creed is (all in only a few minutes).
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
Topping Assassin’s Creed II’s trailer was never going to be easy, but I’d argue Brotherhood’s just about did it. The cinematic once again opens with an animus effect that shows us 1503’s Rome rendered within seconds. We see Rodrigo Borgia, the man responsible for the execution of Ezio’s father and brothers in the first game is now the Pope and head of the Templar Order.
The scene then shows Ezio walking through the crowd with many would-be attackers shot or taken down by unseen forces. Eventually, Ezio faces off against Rodrigo’s son Cesare Borgia and a number of Papal Guards – but more than keeps his cool. The final reveal of the trailer comes with some other Assassins showing up by Ezio’s side, each with a unique style and weapon variations.
The cinematic was the first real tease at the Brotherhood element in the game, which for the first time saw not only Ezio recruiting Assassins and dispatching them on missions around Europe, extending the Assassin’s influence but of course introduced multiplayer to the franchise. Brotherhood’s cinematic managed to make it clear that although there would be plenty of familiar elements in the latest Assassin’s game, there would be plenty of new ones as well, all while continuing the story of the hugely popular Ezio Auditore.
Assassin’s Creed Revelations
The Revelations cinematic took a different approach to that of the first three games and went for narration from Ezio rather than just a musical score. We hear Ezio reading a letter he sent to his sister. The narration is played over a scene of a much older Ezio than we’d seen before being captured by Templars and on his way to execution. The added twist is that he is in the Assassin stronghold in Masyaf, the main Assassin base from the first game featuring Altair.
As Ezio narrates, explaining why he is in Masyaf, his journey is seen through flashbacks, which shows off an incredible fight-scene between the ageing Master Assassin and countless Templars, an appearance from what looks to be Altair’s ghost, and for the first time in the cinematic trailers an Ezio that seems to be on the losing side of the Assassin and Templar war.
The trailer doubles as the opening scene for Revelations, with gameplay picking up right after Ezio breaks free from his Templar captors and manages to perfectly set the tone for a meaningful farewell to both Ezio’s and Altair’s story.
Assassin’s Creed III
After four games, three of which featured the immensely popular Ezio, Assassin’s Creed III introduced the third main playable Assassin in Ratonhnhaké:ton (or Connor Kenway), a native American Assassin who went on to rebuild the Assassin Brotherhood during the American Revolutionary War.
The trailer continues the Assassin narration we saw in the Revelations cinematic but starts with an eagle overlooking a battle between the English Red Coats and the American Revolutionaries. The eagle flies from the battlefield through a wintery forest, and as it works it’s way between the trees the eagle turns into Connor Kenway.
Connor then arrives on the battlefield, takes down a number of Red Coats including their leader who is revealed to be a Templar, and inspires the Revolutionaries to victory. The cinematic does a great job at showcasing several of Connor’s fighting moves, how he free runs and moves through the trees (which was a big focus for Assassin’s Creed III), Connor’s unique weapons like the bow and tomahawk axe, and an appearance from George Washington. Overall the trailer establishes a whole new era and Assassin very well.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Up until Black Flag, the apparent rule for Assassin’s Creed games was that each numbered entry would introduce a new Assassin, as we had seen in Assassin’s Creed II and III. In contrast, the subtitled entries would focus on pre-established characters. Black Flag bucked that trend, by having both a number and a title, and was also the first to feature two fully realised cinematic trailers.
The first Black Flag Cinematic sees another narration over some more scenes of the titular Assassin, this time the life of the pirate Assassin Edward Kenway (Connor’s grandfather) and his notoriety is detailed by non-other than Edward Thatch, aka Blackbeard. Blackbeard goes on to point out that Kenway is much more deadly than he is, with his narration played over some beautifully lit and rendered scenes that show off Edward’s various adventures across the Caribbean as both an infamous pirate, and deadly Assassin.
The second, which debuted at E3 in 2013 follows the route of the original cinematics and features only a musical score while showing off a movie quality look at a number of the game’s mechanics. The scene opens with Edward in a bar somewhere in the Caribbean. He assassinates what looks to be a Templar with the help of his crew, only to be chased into a ship to ship battle at sea.
The trailer shows, or at least teases, some significant parts of how the ship combat systems work and how Edward interacts with his crew, adding up to a very fun, bright and different looking Assassin’s Creed than we’d seen before.
Assassin’s Creed Rogue
Assassin’s Creed Rogue was for a while a sort of under the radar title, as it was a PS3 and Xbox 360 exclusive, released around the same time as Assassin’s Creed Unity. (which was exclusive to the next generation of consoles). And despite the game acting as a bridge between Assassin’s Creed III and Black Flag, and even linking into Assassin’s Creed Unity, the game didn’t receive a tremendous amount of recognition, even after a re-release on next-gen consoles in 2018.
With the game doing things differently than previous titles by, for the first time, focussing on a character who was once an Assassin but now a Templar, it was only fitting that its cinematic trailer was also unique. The trailer simply sees the game’s main character, Shay Patrick Cormac, walking in slow motion towards a bleeding Assassin, taking off his hood, and retracting his hidden blade, only to shoot the dying Assassin. The scene is narrated by Cormac, who explains that he is following his own Creed.
The cinematic, like the game (at least in terms of story), is very different from previous entries into the franchise and does a great job at teasing not just a new character, but a much darker and intriguing look at how someone could turn away from the Assassin’s, who up until this point have always been the good guys (you know, if you ignore all the ‘assassinations’).
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Like Black Flag Unity also has two separate cinematic trailers, each showing off a different aspect of the game. The world premiere trailer from E3 2014 shows off yet another revolution, with the Assassin’s on one side and the Templars on another. The trailer demonstrates how the game’s main Assassin Arno Dorian was a crucial part of the Storming of the Bastille. The cinematic also gives off the first hint at co-operative multiplayer which was introduced to the franchise with Unity. The trailer is appropriately narrated by Lorde’s cover of ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’.
The second trailer dives a little more into the specific story of the game, namely Arno’s journey. We see some familiar shots of an Assassin running across rooftops, intercut with a number of guillotine executions. As Arno races towards the execution site, he fights off guards, until the person he is after is revealed to be a woman wearing a Templar symbol. The trailer then cuts to black as Arno gets out his sword and swipes at the woman.
The trailer comes back in to see the two back to back, the Templar woman who the trailer names as Elise along with Arno, ready to fight against the incoming guards. The trailer not only showcases more of Paris and Arno but hints at an interesting love story between Arno the Assassin and Elise the Templar, all accompanied by Woodkid’s ‘The Golden Age’. Unity also has a short additional cinematic trailer that sees Arno take on a guard and inspire the people of Paris to ‘Unite’. Although perhaps less iconic than those early Assassin’s Creed cinematics, or even the ones of Black Flag, by this point the consistent quality of the cinematic trailers was almost expected and was a clear highlight of any new Assassin’s Creed entry.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
After exploring a variety of cities and periods, there was only so long that Assassin’s Creed could put off visiting some of the most requested eras like Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Victorian London. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate delivered on the Victorian London aesthetic, introducing Jacob and Evie Frye as the two main playable characters. The game sees the two Assassin’s take on the Templars of London in a variety of ways.
The cinematic announcement trailer from E3 in 2015 features more character dialogue than any of the other cinematics and shows off the corrupt and gang filled London of 1868. We see Jacob Frye rally his gang of ‘rooks’ to take on a Templar gang, along with several teases at game mechanics like helping children at a workhouse, taking over and recruiting new gangs, horse and carriage races, and of course Jacob’s hidden blade grapple gun.
The trailer is cut to a remix of the fittingly British Noel Gallagher’s ‘In Heart of the Moment’, but interestingly, despite showing off lots of Jacob Frye, doesn’t feature Evie Frye at all, seemingly sticking with showing off the main male Assassin for the cinematics. Syndicate also came with two shorter cinematic trailers, one which showed off more of The Rooks, and another more conceptual one which sees head Templar Crawford Starrick chased by a hidden blade.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
Following Assassin’s Creed Syndicate in 2015 the franchise took its’ first break from an annualised game since Assassin’s Creed II, waiting until 2017 to come back with a host of new features in Assassin’s Creed Origins.
Origins introduced a massive map, the earliest period yet, a look at the ‘origins’ of both the Assassin Brotherhood and the Templar Order, as well as an overhauled modern-day story and a brand new combat and levelling system. But as much as 2017’s entry into the franchise came with several new features, one thing that did remain the same is a great cinematic trailer.
Interestingly the three-minute trailer, which debuted at Gamescom in 2017, doesn’t feature an Assassin for the first two minutes. Instead, it features some incredible shots of Ancient Egypt, and the influence of the Templar processor’s the ‘Cultists’, along with some big players in the game such as Cleopatra and the invading Greeks. When the game’s principal character, Bayek, does arrive the scene shows a number of his combat moves from the game, including using a variety of weapons, the introduction of a shield to the franchise, the return of a bow and arrow, and even more specific moves like Bayek taking an arrow that was stuck in his shield and then shooting it back at his attackers.
The trailer is accompanied by the very appropriate “You Want it Darker” by Leonard Cohen, and like Syndicate before it doesn’t feature any of Bayek’s wife Aya, who is also a playable character, but it does tease a darker looking revenge story, and turned out to be a huge leap forward for the franchise.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Unfortunately, 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey didn’t come with a cinematic, perhaps due to the choice between two main characters Kassandra or Alexios, and the resultant story differences, but either way, the franchise has delivered more than enough in terms of outstanding, and truly iconic cinematic game trailers.