OF ASSASSIN’S CREED, AYREON, ANCIENT ASTRONAUTS, AND AWESOME ALLITERATION
(DemiGodRaven (ex-TNOTB) looks at the similarities between the Assassin’s Creed games and the albums of Ayreon, and speculates about how the latter may shed light on how the former is going to end.)
Anyone who has been aware of my writing for a while knows pretty well that I’m a pretty huge nerd when it comes to video games. They’re my second love, with the first being music. They’re also the two most expensive hobbies in the world, but that is a whole other subject for some other time. Occasionally, there is an incredible crossover between some form of metal and video games, and I can’t help but give it a knowing wink and nod. Or, in this case it’s a confluence of all sorts of things that just happen to share the same archetypal concept.
The thought for this article began to cross my mind as I wrestled my way through the latest Assassin’s Creed game, which if you haven’t been following the series has basically gone from a sort of Lost-esque conspiracy science fiction to batshit fucking insane within the span of two yearly iterations as Ubisoft (the game’s developer and publisher) attempts to strange as much money out of the franchise as possible.
What is funny about the story of these games is that it has pretty much evolved into the same story told by the Ayreon discography, with its dream sequencer experiments and the end of mankind. Of course, you also have to acknowledge that even though the elements of each story are as fantastic as can be, the bare guts of each one are fairly basic and recognizable. I’ll be analyzing this to some extent while also pointing out the ridiculous similarities between the game series and the concept behind most of Ayreon’s work.
As always this deserves warning: I am going to be spoilery as fuck in the following article. Just a note though, it’s not like you should give a shit. Judging by the latest Assassin’s Creed game, the writing team doesn’t.
One of the more basic beats of the story for Assassin’s Creed is that the whole time you are playing as someone from the past, it is a simulation. They explain that pretty quickly — that the main character of the series (Desmond) is the product of a bloodline of Assassins, and that using a machine called the Animus, they are able to have him simulate his ancestor’s memories through some McGuffin-esque bullshit involving memory being linked to your DNA.
Believe it or not there is actual research being conducted in this field, as people attempt to explain how generations of turtles are able to return over thousands of miles of ocean to the exact place on Earth where they were born, and lay their own eggs there, too. It is also being studied as a way to explain how salmon are able to return to the same river systems to spawn and why other animals instinctively know certain behaviors when they haven’t been taught them. Whether or not any of this DNA-linked memory theory has really played out, I don’t know, but the results of any of this research will be interesting.
For the purposes of Assassin’s Creed’s story (I’m going to be referring to it as AC from here on out), though, it’s basically a really, really, really ridiculous way of explaining away the videogame’s HUD system. I shit you not, as you are playing the game, that little health bar in the corner is basically the same health bar that the main character of the game sees. You’re playing as a guy playing a game, more or less.
Now, the connection on the Ayreon side of things right now is pretty interesting. The main concept of the Flight Of The Eternal Migrator, Dream Sequencer, and The Human Equation albums are similar to the story of AC. They tell the story of a man who is able to use a machine to relive the memories of those before him through simulation.
Ayreon did it first, but to fault the AC series as if it were ripping off Arjen Lucassen (the man behind Ayreon) seems a bit ridiculous. It is actually a surprisingly common story, with the only real difference being its execution and what the people in the machine are simulating. It is basic philosophy that ties into Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave and even sees some iteration in the form of The Sprawl Trilogy by William S. Gibson and The Matrix films. The characters may not all be reliving memories of ancestors, but the idea of a human in some form of machine simulating a whole world is very common.
When you drill right down into it, only two of the Ayreon CDs deal with the idea of actual human events. The Human Equation doesn’t explain whether it’s featuring the same character from the first two CDs, or hell, whether any of the events described in that disc really happened in the world Ayreon has built or if they were instead just some sort of ginned-up computer experiment that would enable the person inside the Dream Sequencer (when the events of that disc take place) is able to feel emotions again.
As a sidenote: The whole ginned-up-by-the-computer experiment is also something that AC touches on when explaining how the characters from the multiplayer keep appearing in the single-player aspect of the game. There are a few times when your driver (who does a lot of the explaining about which historical figure is which) can’t explain why some random jester appearing as an assassination contract are part of the memories of Ezio or Altair (the two AC ancestors thus far). She just says there is no trace of them in history and that they appear out of nowhere.
Of course, this also hints at the fact that perhaps all the various Animi (animuses?) are linked together on a certain network, and even though the one being used by the Assassins in the later game is in no way connected to the people who are handling the multiplayer side of things (they say that they are the templars, but to be honest, they’re basically just Bad Person McBadGuy nowadays), every time they log in so that Desmond can relive another’s memories, they are still on the same server.
The original game had the main guy working with the Bad Guys by coercion and using their genetic memory device, but then he learns the truth and runs off with the Assassins, who happen to have their own genetic memory device. Multiplayer is basically the bad guys training legions of people on these devices as their own little assassin avatars.
One of the common themes with Ayreon’s music is the concept of a group of humanoid beings known as Forever, who manage to figure out the key to immortality but at the cost of emotions, basically becoming cold machines who feel nothing. They’re the puppet masters throughout a lot of Ayreon’s work, sending back the dreams that show the cold desolate future to each of the prophet characters in Ayreon’s early discs. Basically it plays out that Forever creates humanity by putting their DNA on an asteroid and crashing it into Earth. This allows Humanity to form and Forever experiences life again through humanities trials and tribulations. Forever begins to meddle in human evolution and gives them the equation of E=MC2 and then teaches humanity how to survive various viruses and bacterium.Then Humanity destroys themselves via Nuclear War on Earth and the rest of the species is left to go extinct on a colony on Mars. Thus, Forever sends these images back to early prophets in an attempt to change things and in a ‘what a twist!’ shocker still manage to fail.
But the idea of beings outside of our own creating us and then meddling in our own evolution is familiar…
Ahhh, hello friend.
Of course, this all ties back into Assassin’s Creed in that they too have something similar. The main thing driving the bad people to make the main character relive his memories is that they are seeking something called the Piece Of Eden. There are many of them but they only need one in order to activate a machine that will prevent the end of the world. Of course, the Assassins are seeking a similar thing because they too have something that will prevent the end of the world.
It has been strongly hinted in the game that the end of the world will be via Solar Flare and that the devices they plan to activate were made by the same people who made the Piece Of Eden. Those people are commonly referred to as” The Ones Who Came Before” and they are a race of humanoid beings who came to Earth and created humanity as slaves, yet altered their evolution by breeding with them. Then the world was destroyed via Solar Flare, while the race of humanoid beings (now worshiped as Gods) and the slaves are at war with each other. Most of this is explained via Assassin’s Creed 2’s batshit insane ending, and then expanded upon by the following two games.
The only changes between Ayreon and the video game series’ work is the method of humanity’s destruction. Hell, you could say that the appearance of all the gods at the end of each game, addressing Desmond, is basically what Forever did on Ayreon’s work, which was try to send messages of a bleak future back in time, with information about how to prevent it from happening.
So the basic gist of both the game and Ayreon’s work boils down to The Ancient Astronaut theory. Fantastic.
Now what does this mean for the future of the series? To be honest, I don’t know. The series has lost two creative directors now for various reasons, meaning that anyone who had any clue what the fuck was going on is probably gone at this point. It has been turned into a yearly franchise, which has basically slowed the whole experience down to a crawl.
You’ll note that the ending of Revelations, which I linked to above, doesn’t even really reveal anything that we didn’t already know. However, this year is supposed to be the big year that the story of the game and real life all converge around the big 2012 Apocalypse event that isn’t happening. One of the things I can try to do, though, is parse out where the story will go from here via my knowledge of Ayreon’s works and one of the more interesting theories I’ve seen.
It seems like a total cop-out when you think about it, but it is highly likely that the main character of Assassin’s Creed will fail in saving humanity. One of the main grounds for my suspicion of this is how much we’ve seen that’s pointing to the fact that very little time remains to prevent anything; Subject 16 (who is later introduced and killed off in Revelations with no fanfare at all) even says so in his prophetic moment during Brotherhood — all of which leads to the theory that I think is interesting from a story standpoint, yet by the same token I feel is a total cop-out.
I’ve seen it written a couple of times across the internet now, and it makes me roll my eyes, but I’m starting to think that Desmond is another avatar for someone else, and that you are really playing as someone else further down the line, after an apocalyptic event, trying to figure out just what the hell happened.
The funny thing about this theory is that it sounds startlingly similar to the story behind the Dream Sequencer albums. The game has hinted a few times that you may in fact be Desmond’s son, who says that he survives the upcoming killer solar flare, but maybe most of humanity does not, and yet somehow perhaps they stumble upon an Animus, and said offspring is reliving his father’s memories as a way to either revive humanity or just get some sort of explanation before he too, passes on.
It’d be depressing as hell, but if you apply the Ayreon template to the Assassin’s Creed story, I think that is probably where they are heading with this. It’s likely, because at this point there have been so many different cooks in the kitchen that all the disparate elements that have made Assassin’s Creed interesting will never be brought together in any sort of way that makes sense.
They’ll really never be able to explain Subject 16 with any sort of satisfying result, or how he was prophetic as all hell in Two and Brotherhood, yet was really just a bit player in Revelations who didn’t and couldn’t explain shit.
It will likely feel like a really heavy cop-out, but that tends to happen when you take a game like this and turn it into a yearly franchise. They’ve been stacking question on top of question in order to make things super-mysterious and have now written themselves into a corner. It is surprising how much the Ayreon idea of Forever and The Dream Sequencer lends itself to explaining away things, even though the method of destruction of humanity is different.
And to be honest with you, none of the games has Mikael Akerfeldt, Devin Townsend, or Jonas Renske screaming at you at any point. And oh yeah.
And yes Ubisoft, if you are hiring I am looking for work.
Beautiful fucking tits, man!
I didn’t understand most of this post, not being a gamer. But I sure as fuck understood that!
I figured that if you made it that far through my rambling and had no idea what was going on, then at least there’d be something to look at.
I applaud your thinking.
Yeah, I’m not a gamer but I found the article interesting and that cleavage very comforting.
Holy Shit…How high were you when you thought this up?? Fuck chronic, you must’ve been on that Melange shit.
Seriously though, this is a fascinating post and im glad you took the time to express these ideas clearly. I have to wonder if either the band or the producers at Ubisoft are fully aware of each other’s work.
Yep. I’m gonna go ahead and say you’re probably right about the game. I mean, unless they come up with something EVEN MORE BATSHIT CRAZY, like that, in fact, this is the dream of lizard hooked up to a matrix to power a race of Desmond’s clones fighting a war against the Jedi in a galaxy far far away, in a showdown to determine which boob is bigger. in the end, if there’s boobs, it will be fine.
Just stab shit.
That should have been the tag line for Assassins Creed.
That’s what Samuel L. Jackson should have said when he should have popped on the screen when the guards were trying to kill you.
Totally NOT MW3.
Should have been their goddamn design philosophy.
(I’ve only played the first game…but now that I have a computer that can handle games, maybe I’ll play the whole series.)
OH GOD I spit spaghetti on my keyboard laughing at the Sam Jackson “HIDE HUTHAFUCKA”.
Five Star Post
You wouldn’t be laughing if he were actually there… 😐
I feel so alone. I don’t understand anything in this post except the boobs. But maybe I would pay more attention to video games if Samuel L. Jackson was in all of them shouting “Hide muthafuckas!”
I like video games, and I don’t begrudge anyone playing them. But I can’t recommend anyone start playing. Fun is fun, but they make time disappear worse than getting black out drunk.
if you do wind up playing them, play 2 and Brotherhood. 2 for the improvements on the game engine as a whole (way better than 1, 2 is the game that made me like the series) and Brotherhood has enough improvements on its own to make the trip worth it again. Revelations on the other hand, was kind of a downer. The city was great to run around in but for a game called ‘Revelations’ nothing was really revealed. Everything that you happened, you already knew.
I thought about just getting revelations when it was for sale on steam, but I’m glad I didn’t now.
I just finished Deus Ex Human Revolution, so I’m craving stealth…. maybe I’ll be getting AC2 soon as well…
Speaking of stealth games, what do you think of “The Chronicles of Riddick”?
The game? I haven’t actually played it yet… But it looks pretty interesting… Yourself?
One played the first game “Escape from Butcher Bay” about half-way through. It was pretty cool.
Now waiting on one’s asshole friend to return one’s copy of the second game “Assault on Dark Athena” which one never got to try out… One hears the stealth elements are more refined in the second game (“Pitch Black mode” or something?).
On that note, one is also waiting for the release of “Batman: Arkham City” for PC over here. [It might have already been released. But, one hasn’t checked since New Year’s Day.]
Where are you? I got Arkham City from gamers gate right after it was released, and I’m in Japan.
It’s a good game, but I feel like it doesn’t translate well to keyboard and mouse.
Riddick was fucking great for its time and Dark Athena was a pretty good followup. It actually made ma fan of Starbreeze as a development studio, which is why I bought The Darkness sight unseen…and will probably be doing so with their Syndicate reboot. It’s weird to think that one of the best movie to videogame adaptations is based off of one of the worst movies out there.
Which aliens are you talking about? Aren’t you already a host to one or more kinds of alien specimens?
No! Tentacles, cocks, and tentacocks are NOT aliens. We are 100% earth grown in this host.
Well, that’s good to know. Fucking Aliens… 😐
Speaking of aliens, one is reminded of a line from Tango & Cash:
“You wanna cut my throat, go ahead. You wanna cut my fuckin’ head off and use it for a fuckin’ basketball? You can *bowl* with the motherfucker for all I care! Just don’t let HIM do it! I don’t wanna get killed by this limey, immigrant JERKOFF! I wanna get killed by an AMERICAN! …jerkoff!”
One cannot hope to adapt that to the context of love for earthly tentacles as opposed to extraterrestrial tentacles without ruining the mood of the dialogue.
One was reading the post… and went “Boobs?” …One read nearly the whole post all over again to see if any hint of the boobs was dropped.
Also, what do you suppose is a “really heavy-cop out”?
The idea of it being all of it being a simulation by one of Desmond’s later ancestors who managed to survive the apocalypse after discovering a still operating animus. It’s basically the same as the idea an ‘it was all a dream!’ ending. Yeah, it would be caused by the events of the game but then you’d know nothing you did in any of the games really mattered because hey, it was all a simulation by some later person. They keep hinting towards that being the path we’re going down with these games but to be honest, I don’t think anyone on the writing staff has any clue what is going on. Since it is a yearly franchise now, the teams for development are fucking huge and there is a really heavy turnover so it may be a case of too many cooks spoiling the food now. Just too many loose ends to wrap up and no real way to do so other than, “It was all a simulation!”
The fact that it would be post apocalypse too, would be a real downer because ti wouldn’t make sense otherwise since the game announces the world in that game is ending in 2012 and this year is 2012 and they’ve repeatedly announced intentions to wrap up the arc of the story this year. Hence my idea of it being a really heavy cop out, even if it is still surprisingly close to how the Ayreon project was closed out.
That would be a “really heavy cop-out”. What then is a “really heavy-cop out”? Notice your choice of placement of the hyphen. 😛
[Pardon one for ruining the mood if so. The notion of the cop-out does also irk one.]
Islander is a great editor and he probably put that hypen there for reasons I wouldn’t know of since I didn’t do it in my draft.
You are a really nice person.
I meant to put the hyphen between “cop” and “out”, and fucked it up. Though the idea of a heavy-cop out is interesting, whatever that might mean.
One was hoping someone would come up with an interpretation of that phrase though.
I did fix my fuck-up just now, however.
Interesting comparison between the two stories. As you said, the idea of genetic memory is hardly a new thing and has been a part of science fiction – and real research – for a long time. Assassin’s Creed has done a good job with its story and when I finally got the game (a couple years after its release, mind you), I was pleasantly surprised, somehow having avoided spoilers about the science fiction element to the game and plot.
As for Ayreon, The Human Equation doesn’t really have anything to do with the Migrator story. Maybe it didn’t even happen at all, just being a way for the Forever to further explore human emotion. Hell, it could have been done after 2085, the humans having seemingly failed in their quest to pass along information about the end to people in the past. If not for the very end, the album would only join Actual Fantasy as an Ayreon album that has nothing to do with Ayreon. Still, it’s just a footnote.
Now, back to the comparisons…. Is Desmond (or perhaps one of his descendents) going to become the franchise’s version of the Universal Migrator to set things in motion by going back too far and maybe prevent the premature end of the world in the process, plus save the First Civilization? They created humanity and took parts away from us; the Forever seeded Earth with a comet, knowingly destroying the dinosaurs in the process and gave us knowledge that was misused.
While I doubt there’s actually a connection between the Migrator saga and Assassin’s Creed, it’s neat to see what things they have in common. In a way, both deal with time travel in a manner that’s not what we’re used and the problems that can arise from that. Both have an older race that is responsible for our existence, which is nearing an end.
Of course, if Ubisoft actually is a fan of Arjen’s work… well, it could make for a very interesting end to Assassin’s Creed. Or maybe set things for one helluva final game.
I think in the grand scheme of things that Human Equation was just a way for Arjen to make some great music more than anything else. Like I’ve said, I’m somewhat half and half on the idea of it being one of Desmond’s descendents but it seems like the only way things can be cleaned up relatively neatly and it happens to line up with Ayreon’s stuff incredibly well. Now if they manage to do anything else with it I imagine it will be batfuck insane because to be honest with you, it seems like both groups are trying to save the human race…just with a different method of going about it. Now if they both fail, well, that’d be something interesting to see. I don’t know if there would be too much to save though, since they’ve established that all the of the first civilization people are gone (although, I have a sneaking suspicion that by Juno’s attitude towards humanity in Brotherhood, that she may be leading the Templar group, since multiplayer shows that their leader is a woman).
Well, I’m not entirely convinced that Ayreon’s Migrator story is over either. Then again, any time you’re dealing with time (even in the sense that the Dream Sequencer uses it, or the Animus of Assassin’s Creed for that matter), most anything is possible.
The scientists knew that they had sent something back in the past, but it only ended up being a footnote in history (they kept trying), while the last colonist from Mars ended up becoming the Migrator after exceeding the safe limits and going back too far. Unfortunately, cause and effect can really mess things up with history, not to mention introduce self-fulfilling prophecies to the mix. Still, I don’t think it’s all over. Maybe one of the Forever could use the Sequencer as the scientists did to try to set things right – or point humanity in the right direction. Maybe there could be a ripple in history somewhere that makes a change that allows the scientists working on the Final Expiriment to suceed. I don’t think Arjen’s the kind of guy to let it have a bad ending for us.
Then again, if the story really did end with 01011001 and “The Memory Remains” from Timeline, maybe Arjen could release another Ayreon album that takes place at pretty much any other point in the progression from the blind minstrel to the nuclear war, or perhaps offer a glimpse into the lives of the others after leaving the Electric Castle (except the hippy, who I think is supposed to be the same guy from “The Truth Is In Here”). Granted, another Ayreon album doesn’t even have to be a a part of the story, nor does it even have to be science fiction (such as The Human Equation).
Arjen has a certain sound that one can hear in the likes of Guilt Machine and Star One, even a bit with Ambeon (not as much with Stream Of Passion’s first album). He’s made a lot of connections over the years and I’m sure there are a lot of singers he can turn to and a more than a few guest musicians to add to all the work Arjen puts in. An ensemble cast with Arjen’s sound, to me that’s enough to make an Ayreon album. A solo album is next for Arjen, but I don’t think he’ll take much time off after that’s done.
Yeah, he’s hinted quite a few times that he would love to return to the Ayreon project. I personally think that the story is wrapped up, warts and all though. The Memory Remains was a pretty tight wrap on everything, even if it was a little underwhelming on the really hard details. The only thing that I’m really rough on is that they had hinted, or made pretty hard mention of the fact that The Universal Migrator lives forever now, and that he is a wandering soul headed to a new galaxy in order to restart life, but that is one of the details that I can’t quite recall. I enjoyed Guilt Machine a lot so it’d be awesome to see another one come out of that project. I think if he takes on a whole new story, that would turn out incredible as well, especially given the amount of talented vocalists out there these days.
Well, he did a second Star One, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up doing a second Guilt Machine album. Too bad it doesn’t look like there’ll be another Ambeon album, since Astrid left the music industry. Maybe since she was 14 for the first album…
With the Migrator, you have cause and effect. Was it always that way, or are events going to play out differently with colonist as the Migrator? For it to end just like that, with everything in vain…
Yes, it’s just a series of albums, but it’s not something that I want to see an end to. Not on a negative note.
Or how about another live Star One album?