VG Tribune

Review: Assassin’s Creed Unity: Abstergo Entertainment: Employee Handbook

November 30, 2014 / 10:20 PM

By: David Jones

The Assassin’s Creed universe is made up of a rich, fascinating tapestry that blends significant historical events and figures with its ongoing narrative of the war between the Assassins and Templars. As both sides race to unravel the secrets of artifacts from an ancient civilization of intellectual beings in a modern-day, dystopian version of our world, we begin our journey into the Assassin’s Creed Unity: Abstergo Entertainment: Employee Handbook.

It’s immediately evident upon browsing through the Handbook that a lot of effort went into creating it. This is a satisfyingly hefty, well-constructed book that fits perfectly into the world of Assassin’s Creed. The cover bears the tricolor Abstergo Entertainment logo surrounded by a silver Abstergo Industries logo, and as you dive inside you’ll find corporate documents, post-it notes, letters, file folder-esque divisions between Case Files, and a ton of the series’ illustrations that range from environment development to official character pieces. Cartoonist Andy Belanger’s work is featured prominently throughout the book in the form of mugshot illustrations for nearly every character the book covers, while illustrator Karl Kerschl lends his technical illustration skills to a few key items featured in Assassin’s Creed Unity. One of the best decisions the design team made when creating this book was utilizing the artwork. It’s a fantastic way to give context to the written material while also showcasing the illustrations.

There are a lot of interesting things at play throughout the book. Aside from its paperclip, tape, and coffee-stained scrapbook presentation, there are a few extra little details that added to my enjoyment of reading it, such as an Abstergo Industries Mission Statement certificate one could conceivably remove from the book, some post-it notes that have been placed onto the pages, a foldout letter, and a few QR Codes that lead you to a few interesting pieces of information.

If you’ve played Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag or Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, you’re already well acquainted with Abstergo Entertainment, the entertainment division of Templar mega corporation Abstergo Industries. In Assassin’s Creed IV we (the player) took on the role of an unnamed Research Analyst who relived the memories of pirate (and eventual Assassin) Edward Kenway by way of the Animus, a virtual reality machine that allows a person to live out parts of another person’s life by projecting their genetic memories. Now, I can’t conclusively claim that we (the reader) are the same Research Analyst from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag due to a conflicting document late in the book (Sages And Ghosts in the Machine: Aita And Juno – Page 138), but until I encountered said document I was under the impression that we were the same character from the games.

In any case, the reader takes on the role of “Agent”, and we have been assigned to follow the work of former Abstergo Entertainment Research Analyst Robert Fraser as it relates to Assassin Creed Unity’s lead Assassin, Arno Dorian. Fraser had been tasked with researching Arno for Abstergo Entertainment, but after spending an extensive amount of time in the Animus reliving Arno’s memories, Fraser started believing that he was the reincarnation of the Assassin and attempted to destroy his own research. Our duty as Agent is to take the remaining scraps of Fraser’s research and piece everything together, but I should warn you that the book contains some major spoilers for Assassin’s Creed Unity.

There are multiple narratives happening simultaneously throughout the book, and you have to pay close attention to get the whole picture, but the two main stories focus on Robert Fraser’s descent into madness, and our journey as we (Agent) rapidly rise through the ranks of Abstergo Entertainment. In addition, the book acts as a kind of art gallery and archive for the series, providing the reader with a biased overview of every lead Assassin from the games, and details on important characters featured in Assassin’s Creed Unity.

Author Christie Golden takes us on an eerie journey inside Abstergo’s schemes with great success. As we progress through our Agent’s story we’re constantly given praise from upper management, but that praise always comes with an underlying threat. Should we prove successful, the rewards will be great, but if we fail… Well, you simply don’t fail Abstergo once they have you in their grasp.

Here are some of my favorite highlights from the book:

“EMPLOYEE further agrees to have sensitive information removed from his/her memories if ABSTERGO INDUSTRIES deems such action prudent.” – Abstergo Nondisclosure Agreement, Page 19.

Memory removal? I really hope all of Abstergo’s employees read that NDA thoroughly before signing it.

“Connor: A calm and stoic exterior cannot contain the murdering beast within, as a young man known as Ratonhnhaké:ton attempts to stop progress and alter the course of American history through a series of brutal killings.” – History’s Hit Men, Page 35.

Because all of the book’s information comes with Abstergo’s Templar prejudices, each of the Assassin’s descriptions vilifies them.

“DVIJA A.I.: Abstergo Entertainment and MySore Tech are honored to bring you the final feature of beloved Bollywood star Monima Das. Although Monima died during production, Animus technology allowed the film to be completed, and to keep Monima alive in our hearts forever.” – From Abstergo Entertainment, Page 39.

Does any of this sound familiar? Because they passed away during production, it was announced that actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker were planned to be digitally placed into scenes of their final films.

I would also like to point out that if you follow the QR code on page 90, it takes you to my favorite part of the book. I won’t spoil it for you here, but that part really stood out to me in a fun, creepy way.

The Employee Handbook has a lot of great things going for it, but not everything works perfectly. Longtime fans are definitely going to get the most out of it, but newcomers may not be able to grasp the weight of the material. Also, within the context of the story I found that some of the writing was a little too forceful in its cheerleading of Arno.

“Okay, a powerful story with a hell of a likable hero, but still just a story.” – Aidan St. Claire, Page 107.

“Abstergo Entertainment’s licensing division is interested in potentially creating some figurines if we find that the Arno project could be the source for an entertainment blockbuster (you never know!).” – Melanie Lemay, Page 121.

Maybe I’m nitpicking here, but I found these statements preachy. It was a definite turnoff because I would like to form my own opinions of the characters, not have them spoon-fed to me. My only other complaint would have to be the spoilers for Assassin’s Creed Unity (the game) because I’m actually playing through it and haven’t come to those revelations yet. In the book’s defense, I will say that this information was necessary to tell Robert Fraser’s story.

As a longtime fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Abstergo Entertainment: Employee Handbook. It was great to see things from the Templar point of view, and I loved seeing so much of the series’ illustrations used to such great effect in bringing the text to life. The dual storylines of Robert Fraser and Agent were intriguing, and the book successfully held my interest from cover to cover.

VG Tribune gives the Assassin’s Creed Unity: Abstergo Entertainment: Employee Handbook a 9 out of 10.

About the author /

David is a California native and has been a gamer all of his life. He is a graphic designer and the author of The Rainblade and Onyx The Half Hero Dragon.

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