Before we dive into this review I need to mention that while I’ve played a few of the games in the series, I wouldn’t consider myself a fan. I can appreciate certain elements and enjoy the incidental gameplay up to a point, but I’ve always found the stories to be unbelievable cheese fests. Having said that, the concept of a modern-day global conspiracy with historical mysteries is something that I can get behind. So with that in mind, I’m dipping my toe deeper into the Assassin’s Creed universe starting with the Assassin’s Creed: Gold audio drama.
Assassin’s Creed: Gold takes the formula from the games’ of a modern-day person diving back to an ancestor to figure out something that happened in the past. In this case, we follow Aliyah Kahn who is initially set up as a card shark and small-time con woman. She’s recruited by the Brotherhood of Assassin’s to delve into her ancestor’s past and uncover the inscription on counterfeit gold. The twist here is that the assassin we follow is blind and so finding this inscription is a seemingly impossible task. And as a hook, it’s pretty decent. You’re always engaged wanting to find out more of the historical mystery and Aliyah is a compelling character with a nuanced past.
I should also say that the voice acting is consistent and does a good job of making sure that recognise each character instantly. While I think some of the accents are a bit over the top, I enjoyed listening to these actors. The music stings that come in at the start and end of each chapter are fun and get you pumped for the next part in the story. While I don’t think they necessarily evoke the themes of the audiobook or the setting, they serve their purpose.
Before we delve into my criticism, I need to talk about expectations. Assassin’s Creed has, for me at least, always had cheesy dialogue, stupid plots and a list of contrivances that spirals back to your ancestors. What I’m saying is, don’t come here looking for a Sherlock Holmes level mystery, even if it tries to set itself up as one. Instead, this is pulp action that is fun but ultimately nothing more than that. While there are aspirations to be more than that, specifically what happens with Aliyah’s character, Gold never becomes more than another entry in a series known for its mad stories that stop making sense when you think about them for more than three seconds.
Alright from this point onwards there will be some mild spoilers for Assassin’s Creed: Gold. Firstly, we need to talk about why Aliyah works with the Assassins. She plays poker against one of them, loses and is invited to a random warehouse. Upon arrival, they reveal that they need her to use the Animus to access the memories of her ancestor so that they can get this code to stop a Templar attack. She agrees with very little persuading despite there being no reason for her to trust these people or even know that they aren’t Templars themselves. And yes there is the agreement to pay off her investors, but it feels flimsy at best. Her character motivation seems to be that she wants to pay her friend’s Dad back and gives complete faith to these strangers and their random device. It’s not awful but it’s not good either.
My second example of being unable to suspend my disbelief comes in at the climax of the book. I won’t go into the major twist but it’s stupid and I warned you. I’ll stick with the obvious, she finds the inscription on the gold (shocker) and they put this into a computer and it stops the Templar attack. This is so remarkably dumb that I had to pause the book and take a second. We’re told that it’s a stop code that stops their plans but we aren’t told why this the case or why the Templar’s can’t just do the same thing again with a different stop code. It’s awful. The conclusion of divining to the past for a mysterious inscription ends with a few button presses on a computer and hey presto the world is saved.
I won’t spoil the endings to the modern-day plot or the historical plot. All I’ll say is that the modern-day stuff is stupid and the historical stuff is alright. None of it is going to set your world on fire but the historical parts are at least passable and make sense within the rules it set up. Whereas the modern-day bits are genuinely awful and stack more awful on top the longer it goes on.
The one saving grace in this is Aliyah. She’s a well-rounded character and the more delved into her past the more we learn about her horrific childhood and the challenges she’s had to overcome. These parts were impactful and make you understand why she’s the person she is today. Her growth through introspection during the historical elements and learning from her blind Assassin ancestor are organic and the best parts of this story. Unfortunately, the revelations at the end of the book and the final direction her character takes are less good. However, I think the good outweighs the bad on this one.
While I had many, many issues with this story I wouldn’t say that I hated it. The dialogue is cheesy and ridiculous but that is all in keeping with the tone of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. The story is also trite and borders the realm of so bad it’s good, but still ends up being a fun action romp. If you like Assassin’s Creed, then you’ll find this a fun listen. Similarly, if you want an Assassin’s Creed jumping off point then this is a good example of what to expect from the series – good and bad. If you’re somewhere in the middle and enjoy a bit of cheese (I know I do), then there are worse ways to spend 4-5 hours but don’t expect anything beyond a silly story about a machine that reads DNA memory to stop a global conspiracy.
Thanks for reading. If you want more video game books, check my coverage the Halo novels. Alternatively, if Warhammer is your thing then Helsreach is an excellent 40k book.
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