Thursday, December 5, 2013

Assassin's Creed: Forsaken review

    I was a huge-huge fan of Assassin's Creed 3. Of the seven main games in the series, it is my favorite. As much as I loved Ezio, I felt he'd worn out his welcome by Revelations and the cartoonishly evil Borgias were fun to fight but less interesting than the more nuanced antagonists of AC1 and 3. Likewise, I was a huge fan of Connor who I felt to be the most fascinating of the six leads.

    So, I was rather nonplussed to find out the novelization of Assassin's Creed 3 wasn't going to be a chronicle of Connor's adventures but from the perspective of Haytham Kenway. The, SPOILER ALERT, Big Bad of AC3. I liked Haytham but found him to be overrated when compared to his son.

    For those unfamiliar with the Assassin's Creed novelizations, they're actually quite a bit more intricate than just re-tellings of the games themselves. Assassin's Creed: The Secret Crusade, for example, actually expanded on the story of Altair to the point much of the information within was incorporated into Revelations. So, despite the oddball premise, I decided to give Assassin's Creed: Forsaken a try.

    I'm glad I did.

    The first half of Forsaken is entirely new material, chronicling the life of Haytham Kenway from the time he's eight years old and the child of notorious pirate Edward Kenway to his recruitment into the Templars to a multi-year quest to avenge the death of his loved ones. Haytham Kenway is a decidedly cultured and erudite figure, even as a boy, which contrasts nicely against the occasionally savage actions he's forced to take part in as an agent of the Templars.

    For those who are fans of Edward Kenway, the protagonist of Assassin's Creed: Black Flag, this book provides extremely valuable information. His fate after the events of Black Flag is spelled out, right up until the moment of his death. Admittedly, though, readers should be warned it's not the most uplifting of tales. Oliver Bowden presumably didn't know Edward Kenway would eventually be a protagonist so he has a decidedly atypical ending for a hero.

    This actually increased my enjoyment of the story as not everyone gets to live out their lives in luxury, surrounded by their loved ones, like Altair and Ezio. If a decidedly "downer" ending bothers you, this may not be the book for you.

      Really, my favorite part of the book was how it expanded on Haytham's goals and the power of the Templars in the early-to-mid 17th century. They're not, apparently, a group with much belief in the power of the Precursors. Instead, they treat the legends of them as myths despite owning several pieces of their technology. Likewise, their power over mortal governments is far less than as usually depicted in the games where they seem ubiquitous.

      I'm not sure whether this jives with their depiction in Forsaken but I like it. The Templars are akin to the Illuminati but imagining them as just as belabored as the Assassins is rather pleasing. Likewise, we get the sense the Assassins aren't the primary concern of the Templars but a distant annoyance which never stops rearing its ugly head.

    The later half of the book, covering the events of Assassin's Creed 3, are far less interesting. We get few new insights into Haytham's character and even fewer into Connor. Still, there's a good epilogue to with Connor deciding, despite his many setbacks, he didn't regret his actions as he still believed he helped the world take baby steps towards being a more egalitarian one. This makes up for the ambiguous ending of the game proper, where we're not sure if Connor made the situation worse than better. If nothing else, our hero should have the power of his convictions.

    In conclusion, I strongly recommend Assassin's Creed: Forsaken. It's an enjoyable novel well worth the expense for the first half and epilogue. Sadly, the second half is only worth skipping if you've played the game. Which, of course, should be played in lieu of reading the book. I look forward to reading the next entry in the series.


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