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Assassin's Creed: The Complete Visual History Review

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  • Assassin's Creed: The Complete Visual History Review

    Recently, I was offered the opportunity to share my thoughts on the just released art book for the Assassin's Creed franchise, Assassin's Creed: The Complete Visual History. I am no stranger when it comes to sharing my wonderful opinions about an art book or two. It's never an easy task but 320 engaging pages later, I believe I am ready to share why I feel this book is the best product with "Assassin's Creed" in the name to come out in years.

    Initially, I believed that this book would be a slow burn. I vowed that I would not pressure myself to rush through the book for the sake of the review, instead opting to see how long a casual fan of the series might take to something like this. I am, without question, a very casual fan of the series now. I can take it or leave it, as it really makes no difference to me. Indeed, in later releases, I even found that I did not particularly care if I finished a game or not. This began with Black Flag and continued up through last year's release of Unity. Of course, the bugs did not help Unity's cause all that much, but even after multiple patches I just could not bring myself to go back to it.

    I grew tired and weary of the franchise. A series that once captivated my mind and controller for hours merely elicits a shrug and a scoff now. Yet here I am reviewing an art book dedicated to the very same franchise. What was I thinking? I took a chance, I rolled the dice, and I found that old spark I once held for the franchise thanks to Assassin's Creed: The Complete Visual History. This may sound like hyperbole, but it is the truth. Author Matthew Miller put together a solid blend of concept art from the extensive history of the franchise alongside insightful remarks from himself, members of the Assassin's Creed development team, and members of the art team.

    I started by saying how I believed that this book would be a slow burn, one that took days to work my way through as my interest piqued and faded. To my surprise, that was not the case at all. I sat down one night, and without having realized just how much time had passed, I found that I was already near the end of the book. That is not to say the book was short or light on content. In fact, the 320 pages are full of great looking pieces of art and insight. The thick, sturdy pages includes concept art that I never knew exist for the franchise.

    Every so often Miller treats the reader to detailed insight on concepts, characters, locations, and more. Every new chapter opens with an overview of the content that lies in the pages ahead, a small sampler before the feast. These insightful and hefty chunks of text often include quotes and deeper insight from members of the Assassin's Creed art team and development team. Beyond that, Miller's writing also does a great job at keeping the pace of the book strong. Too often, art books contain nothing but page after page of contextless art without much explanation as to why that piece or this piece was selected. It can grow tiresome and the reader can and will lose interest. That really is not a problem here.

    I wanted to continue because what I read piqued my interest enough to make me internally say, "Wow, that sounds interesting. I want to now actually see what he's talking about here." For instance, the fact that the entire franchise began its life as an updated Prince of Persia was known. What I never saw before were the initial character concepts that clearly showed the Prince of Persia influence. All of these concept pieces are tied together by exposition from the development team that explains how they realized that what they had started to create was something more, something that deserved its own life. It was the fact that I read this interesting story and insight first that then pushed me to keep going to actually see these concepts and art work that I just read about.

    Beyond that, each section that detailed how historical locations were brought to life captivated my attention. Every main character, be they fictional or rooted in real-world history, have their own forward that explains how the team brought them to life in each of these digital worlds. This is exactly what I feel a good art book needs to include and this one delivered in spades.

    The book's eleven chapters cover the visual styles of each important point in history that the game franchise encompasses. This includes the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Golden Age of Piracy, the Seven Years' War, and more. It even covers the Industrial Revolution, a period that is covered in 2015's Assassin's Creed Syndicate. Not content with simply covering the main games of the franchise, the art book also touches upon some of the Assassin's Creed offshoot offerings. This includes a look at the Assassin's Creed Chronicles games, an examination of the fictional world prior to the events of the games, the Assassin's Creed visual novels, and even figurines.

    As I made my way through the book, I never once felt like there was too much or too little content. I was satisfied. I was content. I felt that spark reignited for the franchise that I once loved. Priced at $60, it could place some in a situation where they need to decide if they want to pick up a new game for the Holidays or pick up this art book. Of course, I cannot tell you to pick one over the other. What I can tell you is that if you have someone in your life that enjoys the Assassin's Creed franchise or they love a very well put together art book, then you cannot go wrong with gifting them this book for the Holidays or "just because." If you are one who enjoys both Assassin's Creed and a good art book, well this is obviously a no-brainer.

    + It feels and looks like a very premium product. It is large and sturdy and seems built to last.
    + Great selections of art works that span the history of the Assassin's Creed franchise, from the games, to visual novels, and more.
    + Author Matthew Miller did a tremendous job providing a great deal of insight for new chapters, important concepts, and more. This is all thanks to his personal exposition and comprehensive interviews conducted with members of the art team and the development team.
    - None
    Related Information
    Title: Assassin's Creed: The Complete Visual History
    Price: $60 (USD)
    Author: Matthew Miller
    Publisher: Insight Editions
    Pages: 320
    Dimensions: 12.75 x 9.25 inches
    ISBN: 978-1608876006
    Alternate Website:
    Full Disclosure: Total Gaming Network was provided a copy of Assassin's Creed: The Complete Visual History for the purpose of review.