Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood novel:
Enriching the experience?
Books and games working together…
©2010 David Hilton
Ezio’s quest will test him to his limits. Cesare Borgia, a man more villainous and dangerous than his father , will not rest until he has conquered Italy. And in such treacherous times, conspiracy is everywhere, even within the ranks of the brotherhood itself… Alexander IV Borgia
I was among those who watched the Lord of The Rings films before reading the novels. For me this worked very well as I could enrich what was already a very exciting movie experience with added detail, characterisation and background.
Films and games usher you through a visual story, largely painting events for you, while novels are able to fill in the mental thoughts and motivations of the characters and plot points as you read along. Games in particular are generally more focused on action over exposition.
Films and games based on novels have mixed success often because if you read the novel first you get your own ideas of what characters and places look like and so they inevitably look different on screen to what you had imagined.
However, novelisations, like the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood book by Oliver Bowden, are different: they are meant to reflect the original film or game subject. The problem is that the books can also be too similar and end up being a travel diary of the places you’ve already seen.
So can they enrich the experience?
• Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Shadow of Tomorrow
complement the story or just rehash it?
When I read the Assassin’s Creed: Renaissance novel by Oliver Bowden (see my book review here) I felt the results were mixed. Most of the book was a retelling of the Assassin’s Creed II game, which I had completed, but it also included the two missing memories that you got to play later when the downloadable content was released. (Mind you it seems that Ubisoft may have kept back the explosive canon gameplay described in the Forli siege section of the book from the DLC The Battle of Forli, so that it could be used in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood game’s siege of your home city instead.)
Most of the Renaissance story was as in the game, with a few more details of Ezio’s love life that were barely explored in the game. For gamers who rush to the action and tune out to story advancements, the book would certainly put the tale cleanly together for you, but for those who keenly watch cut-scenes and concentrate on new information there’s not much to expand the experience.
This is where things differ when a film or game is based on a novel. If you read the novel after watching the film or playing the game you are almost certain to get much more detail and different tangents that are not explored in the visual medium because of time and creative constraints.
• Brotherhood – There’s a darkness in Rome
Assassin’s Creed universe
better as a an expanded story or new story?
It will be interesting to see if the same strategy is employed with Bowden’s second Assassin’s Creed book based on the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood game. Because it is titled exactly the same as the game, we know it will be another retelling.
I would have liked to see some stories within the Assassin’s Creed universe but not too closely tied to the game, as the DC graphic novel series Assassin’s Creed: The Fall or the newly announced Uncharted novel are doing.
The Assassin’s Creed trilogy The Fall is going to 19th century Russia to cover the battle between Assassins and Templars there, while the Uncharted novel sees Nathan Drake “embark on an all-new, original, action-packed adventure-in search of a secret that will put him on the trail of the legendary labyrinth of Daedalus, and take him from the ruins of Crete to a secret crypt deep in the heart of China“.
• Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – Singleplayer.
That’s not to say direct novelisations of games don’t work, especially if they flesh out the story and not just retell scene for scene what you already knows happens.
They need to get into where the games (or films) cannot: the heads of the characters. They need to provide extra details, go different places, and provide backstories that give added clarification, thus enriching the combined experience.
So what do I hope to see?
Oliver Bowden is the pen name of a novelist and renaissance historian who currently lives in Paris and so he certainly knows how to write the period. If, for example, he included the stories of some of the more relevant unseen side-quests you send your new assassin recruits on, especially as it is hinted that some of the brotherhood may not be as loyal as Ezio would have hoped, this could enrich the story’s experience.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood also leaves your villa and Rome to go to Naples and, if my reading of the situation is correct, for a massive final conflict in Viana, Navarre, Spain. If these are only minor areas in the game, as Rome was in Assassin’s Creed II, this means there is scope for Bowden to expand on the situations and conflicts ravaging these areas beyond the conflict between Ezio and Cesare, and the Assassins and Templars.
Assassin’s Creed: Renaissance never touched on the modern story either: it stuck to Ezio’s Renaissance story. It might be interesting if in the second book Bowden told Desmond‘s tale as well, especially since he will have a much bigger role this time around in the game.
There have been many examples of novels these days that alternate between modern and historic stories that relate.
In any case I will be getting the book, simply because I enjoy a good read and Assassin’s Creed’s rich historic universe.
So what do you think?
Do you think game novelisations work?
Please comment below.
• Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is an upcoming novel based on the game of the same name, set to release on November 25, 2010.
‘I will journey to the black heart of a corrupt Empire to root out my foes. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and it won’t be restored by a lone assassin. I am Ezio Auditore da Firenze. This is my brotherhood’. Rome, once mighty, lies in ruins. The city swarms with suffering and degradation, her citizens living in the shadow of the ruthless Borgia family. Only one man can free the people from the Borgia tyranny – Ezio Auditore, the Master Assassin.
- For other novels based on video games, click here.
- For Games based on novels, click here.
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- Assassin’s Creed 3 – Where and When to Next Part 1. – Read more.
- Assassin’s Creed 3 – Where and When to Next Part 2 – Read more.
And even more Assassin’s Creed:
©2010 David Hilton
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