As a gamer for a very long time I’ve been especially lucky to see videogames morph from a hobby that the general public viewed as dirty and only for the geeks, into a mainstream phenomenon. Now it’s not just videogames, there’s books and toys and soundtracks and all sorts of merchandise.
Most of it is utter crap. Seriously. Much of it is crap, produced to simply make money, spat out by a growing juggernaut of publishers whose bank accounts would make most of us cry into our cups of tea. Sometimes, though, products are produced that are worth our time, and this week I’ve gotten my hands on two of them; the Assassin’s Creed Unity art book that I reviewed earlier this week, and this, an interesting piece for fans of the Assassin’s Creed series titled the Abstergo Handbook for New Employees.
The entire book is designed to resemble a thick case file focusing on one Arno Dorian, star of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and features written reports on the character and the events surrounding him authored by a previous Abstergo employee by the name of Richard Fraser, a man whose story unfolds throughout the book, providing a light narrative to the case file. Within its 152 pages are things like letters written by Arno to his father, reports written about Arno’s personality, brief history lessons, character profiles, Abstergo documents talking about their products, employee regulations and much more. Every page is worth reading, a collection of fascinating little tidbits.
The presentation of the book is outstanding throughout. Pages are decorated with images of ragged notes and hastily penned memos, pictures taped to the paper, reports that have been clipped into the file, pieces of art and much more, creating the idea of a detailed case file pieced together for your perusal as a new employee of the company. There’s even the occasional pieces of paper stuck to the pages, although not enough as they almost feel out of place, only very occasionally appearing like the author wasn’t willing to commit to the idea. The only way the presentation could be better is if all the images of notes and pictures stapled to the pages were actually notes and pictures stapled to pages. In short it could only be better it was an actual file.
The Abstergo Handbook doesn’t provide any major revelations in regards to the wider Assassin’s Creed narrative. Those who read it won’t discover important new information that suddenly casts a whole new light upon the war between Templars and Assassins, but it does expand the universe, adding just a touch more depth to it. For instance, there’s a small section where the various Assassin’s throughout the years are described as maniacal killers, the slant Abstergo use when shipping their entertainment products. There’s a small segment talking about how the Assassin’s creed has three ironies, like how it aims for freedom yet demands obedience. What new information what the Handbook does provide is small, but for dedicated fans interesting nonetheless, a tiny glimpse into the Templar/Abstergo world.
It’s purely for fans of the game, then. Those with a passing interest in the Assassin’s Creed universe may get some enjoyment from the pages, but it’s those who have played every game that will draw the most pleasure from reading the handbook. It’s a perfect collectors book, something to sit on the table and announce your love of videogames. It’s geeky, in other words, and joyfully so.
If anything negative could be said it’s that there is potential that’s never truly filled. The letters written by Arno are intriguing glimpses into his personality, but the reports written about him lack depth. There’s an opportunity to explore the Templar culture of Arno’s time in comparison to that of the modern, or to go a bit more in-depth about the Assassin’s and their traditions and habits. The handbook merely offers tantalising glimpses rather than full, luxurious views. It keeps the mystery of both orders alive, but it can also be a little annoying. Reach the final page of the book and you’ll have a smile on your face, but some small part of you will want more.
Still, it’s a brilliant read. For someone who has been a fan of the series from the beginning and wants to delve into the universe a little more it’s a fantastic book with very little in the way of flaws.
+ Great presentation.
+ Interesting insight.
– Could have gone much further with the idea.
The Verdict: 5/5 – Awesome
One for enthusiasts this is an awesome book. Go ahead and whack it down on your list to Santa.