September, 2012: Desmond escapes the Abstergo facility with the assistance of Lucy Stillman. They join two Assassin allies at a safe house: academic Shaun Hastings and Animus specialist Rebecca Crane. With Lucy assuming command of this small Brotherhood cell, Desmond’s task is to relive events in the life of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an Italian ancestor from the Renaissance era. Lucy believes that Ezio’s life will reveal information that will benefit the Assassins, but also enable Desmond to exploit the Bleeding Effect to obtain years of Brotherhood training within mere days.
1459-1499: Charming and capable, yet decidedly callow, the young Ezio Auditore’s life of leisure as the son of a nobleman is abruptly curtailed when Templar machinations cause his father and brothers to be executed for treason. After learning of his Assassin heritage and claiming his father’s robes and accoutrements, he spirits his mother and sister out of Florence to seek refuge with his uncle, Mario Auditore, in the small settlement of Monteriggioni.
Determined to exact revenge on the authors of the attack upon his family, Ezio is drawn into the aeonian conflict between the Assassin and Templar factions. Trained in the art of combat by his uncle, and assisted by a growing band of allies, Ezio identifies Rodrigo Borgia as the man behind the politically motivated murders that drove the surviving Auditores from Florence – and, moreover, a far broader web of Templar deceit. Ezio eventually confronts Borgia in the Sistine Chapel for the right to open the secret chamber that lies beneath it. Inside, he encounters an ethereal projection of a woman who introduces herself as Minerva. Dismissing the Assassin’s questions and utter incomprehension, she instead speaks directly to Desmond – even referring to him by name – and warns of an imminent “Catastrophe” that could destroy all life on Earth. She explains that this cataclysm occurred once before, annihilating her kind – the First Civilization – many thousands of years ago.
End of September, 2012: After Minerva’s address, Desmond emerges from the Animus to discover that Warren Vidic and Templar agents have arrived to recapture their erstwhile assets. Demonstrating combat skills acquired via the Bleeding Effect, Desmond fights to repel the attack.
Key Concepts & Developments
First Civilization: Also referred to as “Those Who Came Before” (and, among Templars in later episodes, as “Precursors” or “the Precursor Race”), the First Civilization was an advanced species that became extinct tens of thousands of years ago. Humans, we learn, were their genetically engineered slaves, governed by devices that would later be exhumed and exploited as Pieces of Eden.
Catastrophe: Though the precise nature of the cataclysmic event isn’t specified at this stage in the story, it is made abundantly clear that the First Civilization was extinguished by a disaster of global proportions – an event that coincided with a rebellion by their human creations. Small pockets of First Civilization survivors attempted to rebuild, but their numbers were too few; with a certain irony, their human creations proved more robust, and supplanted their former masters. Over time, erosion and vegetation removed any meaningful trace of the First Civilization’s existence.
Minerva: Minerva warns Desmond of an imminent repeat of the Catastrophe that reduced her society to mere relics and indirect whispers from a forgotten era. She claims that her people had been developing a solution, a method of salvation. Though the Catastrophe effectively annihilated her race before the work could be completed, she believes that Desmond can locate the fruits of their labors, concealed in secret locations around the world – and that humanity might avert the apocalypse that destroyed its creators.
Subject 16: Hidden as a reward for dedicated players (especially those with an appetite for hidden collectibles), Assassin’s Creed II begins to develop the identity and backstory of the individual responsible for the visceral graffiti witnessed during the arresting cliffhanger ending of Assassin’s Creed. Subject 16, Desmond’s predecessor in the Abstergo laboratory, committed suicide after the Bleeding Effect caused him to experience the agony of multiple overlapping personalities. However, prior to the creation of his grizzly (and quite literally) self-penned epitaph, the tortured Assassin hacked into the Animus to upload a wealth of information. His cryptic puzzles and messages serve to underline the mutability of history, implicating Templar use of First Civilization technology – and Assassin intervention – during major events in thousands of years of human civilization.