Assassin’s Creed is no complete stranger to other types of storytelling, however amongst the series’ racks of tie-in books, stacks of graphic books and lonesome Blu-ray of the Michael Fassbender movie, there’s not been anything rather like Assassin’s Creed Gold. An eight-part audio drama developed and launched by Audible, Gold is a pleasurable mix of the computer game series’ normal historic shenanigans – that sensation you’re blending with essential historic figures – through a dollop of Hollywood skill to assist things along.
Gold’s stellar cast consists of Star Wars: Rogue One’s Riz Ahmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Anthony Head, who respectively take the program as blind assassin Omar Khalid and apple-loving researcher Sir Issac Newton. Together, the 2 take on a counterfeiting conspiracy which has actually left a path of bodies in its wake. Meanwhile, in Gold’s present day story, Khalid’s descendent Aliyah Kahn (No Offence’s Tamara Lawrence) – functions as its lead character, assisted by familiar Assassin deals with such as series stalwart Shaun Hastings (the ever-present Danny Wallace).
The story starts in a familiar method – with Kahn being scooped up by Assassin handlers so her hereditary memories can be checked out through the Animus. Kahn, a poker-loving scammer with a heart of gold, is as established a modern lead character as Assassin’s Creed has actually ever had. This isn’t stating excessive, obviously, however we hear enough about her life around journeys to the past that there’s more of a balance to the present and historic storylines than we’ve had for a long time. There are parallels to her experiences too, sort of – she’s a victim of the recent cryptocurrency bubble, while her ancestor helps Newton investigate a plot to destabilise the British economy with fake coinage. And her reflections on the racism Khalid faces in the past, as a person of colour today, are well observed.
As ever in Assassin’s Creed, it’s in the story’s historic portion where the fun really lies. The first time Kahn enters the Animus to visit her ancestor’s memories, she is bewildered by the fact she can’t see anything – until she’s told Omar Khalid was blind. So it is from an audio-only perspective that Khan hears the past – a knowing decision by author Anthony Del Col for this Audible series. The idea is never played as a gimmick – instead, Khalid’s blindness only makes his abilities as an Assassin all the more impressive, the sound effects in this series’ dramatisation all the more important as they represent how his Assassin-heightened senses detect the world around him.
Khalid, an Assassin, has been sent to keep an eye on the easily-distracted Newton and ensure he roots out the source of England’s counterfeiting epidemic. Riz Ahmed’s calm, assured tones here as Khalid are the perfect foil for Antony Head’s excitable, eccentric Newton – a character whose layers are allowed to gradually unfold as the series progresses and, in particular, after his close relationship with mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier is introduced later on. While Newton is perhaps not as well known as some other Assassin’s Creed figures, his portrayal here as a kind – if stubborn and mildly misanthropic – figure is well textured.
Back in the present day, all this plays out while Kahn and her Assassin companions attempt to stay one step ahead of the Templar-run Abstergo. It’s a familiar-feeling plot – especially as Kahn’s own heritage begins to play into it more – but one which is aided by this series’ greater freedom to include her thoughts. Where other modern day protagonists such as Desmond and Layla were kept to limited hubs, their plot developments largely consigned to cutscenes, Gold mixes its stories better by letting Kahn occasionally interject amid the historic action. It feels a natural step considering the Animus’ setup – and one perhaps the games could explore in the future.
Gold isn’t flawless – it can sometimes play a little too goofy (expect Rogue One references and a Danny Wallace commentary on video games showing violence but demurring from sex), while Kahn’s historical search for a secret code to stop an Abstergo product launch in the present (software which, we’re informed, could instantly hack anything on the internet) is a thinly-veiled mcguffin. But Gold’s characters help elevate the story beyond its pulpy roots, assisted by strong efficiencies by its ensemble cast, routine episodic cliffhangers, and aspects of Austin Wintory’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate rating (made up to flaunt that video game’s variation of London, some 150 years later on). Just like Kahn’s Animus journeys into the past, Gold deserves listening to.
Assassin’s Creed: Gold launched through Audible today. The complete series is readily available for among Audible’s membership credits (or you can redeem it as your giveaway if you trigger an Audible trial).