Bottom Line Up Front
Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad is the first Assassin’s Creed protagonist. He spent his life fighting for the betterment of the Order and encouraging a positive effect on the world whilst ensuring the free will of the masses.
One of the hardest things a video game writer can do throughout their career is choosing and sticking to a certain tone throughout their game’s creation. This tone must exist and flow through every element of your game’s story, place settings, and characters. The most important of which always being your central character or protagonist.
For this very reason, developers and writers spend so long agonizing over every little detail of their lead character’s personality. In fact, in the modern era of video game design, creators often cast real actors and place them in motion-capture suits to ensure their character’s movements are as hyper-realistic as possible.
Combine this with the alternate history storyline that permeates the entire Assassin’s Creed universe. You have a real challenge when it comes to your main character, especially when it is your first one. You cannot simply work off of past examples as they did with Ezio and Conner.
For all of these reasons and many more, Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad is one of the most interesting and deeply considered characters throughout the entire Creed saga. I would even argue that he has more of a character arc than Ezio, even though he had three fully dedicated games portraying his entire life.
So, with all of this in mind, why don’t we stop beating around the bush and get right into the meat of this guide, diving right into Altair and what makes the original master assassin who we all fell in love with so legendary.
The Little We Know
First appearing in Ubisoft’s biggest flagship title for many years, Assassin’s Creed, released in 2007, Altair was born into the Creed way back in 1165, as his two parents were assassins themselves. He was born into a community of assassins, the likes of which the world has never seen again. In his Levant village, Altair was born in an area that is now modern-day Syria.
This village, as mentioned, is unlike any other represented throughout the AC franchise. Here, assassins were allowed to walk about in the open, with everyone around them, assassin or not, aware of their position and job requirements. They served almost like town guards, protecting the civilians who lived outside their orders walls.
There is very little known about what Altair actually did in his formative years. We can assume that due to his parents already belonging to the Creed and being accomplished assassins themselves by the time he was born, that young Altair was probably thrown into training at a very young age.
Whether it was due to complications in childbirth or from some other mysterious illness at the time, we know that Altair’s mother did not survive long after his birth, leaving his father alone to raise the young assassin to be. As mentioned, he was thrown into training at a very young age; however, his own father did not get to see the culmination of this training as he also passed when Altair was still a young boy. After this, he was taken in by the head of the Order based out of Masyaf Castle, Al Mualim. During this time, Altair’s training only increased in intensity.
Although very intense for one so young, the training seemed to pay off, however, as the young man grew quickly in skill, becoming a master assassin at the age of 25, a feat that was previously unheard of. The rank usually being preserved for those who have served the order for a great deal longer.
The Slip Up
It would seem then that Altair very rarely made any mistakes in terms of his various missions and assassination contracts, rising up through the ranks faster than anybody in his guild’s history. However, this all changed in the year 1911, when during a seemingly common mission with his friends, Altair allowed his ego to get the best of him and broke with assassin tradition and their codes. In doing so, he would not only fail a very important mission for the Order, but he would also put his fellow assassins in danger by leading Templar agents back to his village.
After this horrid mistake, Altair seemed very close to either being banished from the Order altogether or, worse, being killed as a traitor to the Order and the people they had sworn to protect. However, before this could happen, Al Mualim, out of sympathy or parental love, decided to spare the young and foolish assassin, opting to strip him of his master assassin rank instead. This left Altair as a novice assassin once again, a rank held at that time by children.
- Altair was partially raised by the head of the Masyaf Brotherhood, Al Mualim.
- At the age of 24, Altair reached the rank of a master assassin, the youngest to ever do so.
- During a mission to kill Templar Knights and retrieve the Apple of Eden from them, Altair lets his ego get the best of him, and this caused him to break the Orders code and not only kill a civilian but endanger his fellow assassins in the process.
Altair’s Journey to Redemption
His punishment did not stop there because, as penance for the sheer stupidity of his actions and the breaking of the trust that the Order had bestowed upon him, Altair was tasked with one of the hardest missions ever prescribed to a master assassin, never mind the novice rank which he now held.
This task, set by Al Mualim himself, was to travel throughout the lands and assassinate nine different Templar agents. Through these missions, the hope of the mentor assassin, Al Mualim, was that Altair would become less arrogant and self-assured through seeing more of the world and experiencing the people who inhabit it.
Altair’s mentor and father figure would seem that this was the correct call, as, during his assassination quests, we can see that Altair does change from the arrogant and self-assured narcissist we first met in the caves surrounding Masyaf.
When out committing these assassinations, Altair changed greatly. He lost the arrogance he once held, but he also began to see the world as something other than black and white, good and evil.
After each assassination, the conversations we can see Altair having with his victims portray a protagonist who is learning something crucial from himself and the assassin Order he so desperately identifies with that the Order is fallible. By this, I mean that, through his assassinations and learning more deeply about the Templar order, Altair begins to realize that they too are striving towards peace and that the Order he works for is possibly to blame for some of the issues going on in the world around him as well.
What follows is a rather significant character arc wherein Altair can be seen to begin questioning the true intentions of the Brotherhood and their end goals. Eventually, leading the young man to question the very motivations of his mentor, Al Mualim.
In the end, we are left with a protagonist who is shown to not only begin questioning the world around him and everything he has been brought up to believe in but is actually willing to break free of convention and instead forge his own path. This path is the path of truth.
The Power of the Truth
As Altair continued down this path, he realized that both the Templars and the Brotherhood of assassins were more alike than dissimilar, two organizations who were entirely willing to inflict their own views of the world on those around them, whether that was through flowery language or by force.
Altair, rightly, took umbrage with this state of affairs and began to operate using individual acts of goodness and truth as his underpinning. Eventually, this would lead the assassin back to Masyaf an Al Mualim when he discovered that his very mentor was one of the key perpetrators behind the Orders needed to control the world’s people.
When Altair arrived back in Masyaf, he discovered that Al Mualim himself ordered Altair to kill certain Templar agents. Al Mualim strategically planned these assassinations in order to acquire the Apple of Eden for himself and his Order of assassins. The end goal of which is his ability to control everyone around him to bring about his idea of ‘peace.’
Confronting Al Mualim
Near the end of the first installment in the AC franchise, Altair returns to Masyaf in order to finally confront his mentor and surrogate father, Al Mualim. During this confrontation, Al Mualim attempted to use the Apple of Eden on Altair in order to bend the young assassin to his will and thus restore order in his camp.
Al Mualim’s plan initially looked like it was going to work, allowing him to continue with his plot and maintain the status quo. However, possibly due to the journey Altair had gone on, the Apple did not work on him as well as Mualim would have suspected, and it was Altair’s new ability to actually think for himself and pursue the truth that allowed him to resist his mentor’s command over him, even with the most powerful object in creation in his hands.
Not only did Altair’s ability to resist the call of the Apple display to the player that Altair’s character arc had been fully realized, giving him the ability to care more about those around him and the future of his Order rather than himself, it also allowed him to ultimately defeat his mentor and restore order to the Creed. However, there is a slight moment at the end of this confrontation wherein a clear choice is presented to Altair. He can take the Apple for himself and construct the world in his own image, or he can use the power of the Apple to pursue knowledge and the betterment of mankind.
Suppose you have played any of the entries of the AC franchise but still somehow missed this first installment. In that case, you will know that Altair chose to pursue knowledge and didn’t let himself be corrupted by the call to ultimate power symbolized by the Apple.
After Al Mualim’s Death
Immediately following the death of Al Mualim, our protagonist decided to do something rather stupid, in my humble opinion. Instead of dealing with the matter of Mualim’s treachery secretly and allowing the upper echelons of the Creed to find out through sensible conversations and proof, Altair decided to the march the body of their dead mentor through the grounds of Masyaf castle, culminating in Altair setting his body alight in case the Apple somehow resurrected the former leader.
As you would expect, some of the assassins looked on in confusion while others began to question whether Altair had just committed treason, killing their mentor in some form of coup. Before Altair could explain what had just happened, the assassin Abbas, and many others, began attacking Altair, believing that he had killed Mualim in cold blood without reason. Eventually, though, Altair would prove too skilled and powerful for the combined efforts of the other assassins, and they were defeated. However, this was not before Abbas managed to wrangle the Apple out of Altair’s hands.
When Abbas managed to wrestle the Apple away from Altair, he climbed the nearest watchtower and inadvertently activated the Apple of Eden. Soon after, the strain that the Apple was placing on Abbas was clear to see as the artifact began eating away at his very life force. Altair then sprang into action and fought Abbas, quickly securing the Apple from his grips.
Soon after, he managed to save Abbas and put down the rebellion within Masyaf; Altair ensured that nobody was killed or harmed. Those who rebelled were simply subdued long enough so that Altair could prove his innocence and share the story behind Al Mualim’s death. After this, Altair officially took his position as a mentor to the Masyaf Order.
- As part of his punishment, Altair was sent to kill nine Templar agents throughout the kingdom.
- After he assassinated all of his targets, he realized that Al Mualim had been lying to him and using the Brotherhood as a way to gain more and more power, his end goal being the acquisition of the Apple of Eden.
- Altair was able to resist the Apple because of his ability to think for himself, which led him to kill his treacherous mentor, Al Mualim.
- Once Al Mualim was dead, Altair had to put down an internal uprising within the Order. After doing this, he took his place as a mentor.
Assassin’s Creed Revelations
In the next 20 years that followed the events of AC:1, Altair managed to win the hearts and minds of his fellow assassins through numerous acts of kindness, strength, and strong leadership. He was also known to devote a great amount of his time to scholarship and the search for knowledge, using the Apple of Eden to better the lives of the people under his care and those beyond the walls of Masyaf.
During these 20 years, everything seemed to go to plan for Altair, but during one of Altair’s few trips away from Masyaf, all would seem to crumble. These events are seen through flashbacks during Ezio’s third installment in the AC franchise, Assassin’s Creed Revelations.
A name you might remember from the final events of Assassin’s Creed 1 is Abbas. You know, the man who was first to question Altair’s motives after Al Mualim’s death. Well, it would seem that his hatred for Altair did not end 20 years ago; instead, he had been planning a coup for the last 20 years.
After a trip to Mongolia, Altair returned with his wife to Masyaf in 1228. On arrival, they were met by an apprentice named Swami. Swami informed the pair that much had happened during their trip away. As he told it, during his time away, Altair was betrayed by Malik, someone who he trusted implicitly. Apparently, Malik had tried to usurp the position of mentor away from Altair during his absence, but his rebellion was put down rather easily, ending with Malik being thrown into prison. Soon after, Abbas formed a council in order to lead the Brotherhood in Altair’s absence.
As you might imagine, the shock news of a friend’s attempted betrayal and the formation of a ruling council in his absence did not sit very well with Altair. This feeling was further compounded by the fact that they were shown to a small chamber inside the castle instead of the mentor’s chambers when they arrived.
Eventually, Altair managed to make his way to this council, and what he saw angered him greatly. Not only did he see that the members of this council intended to keep on ruling despite his return, but he also noticed that it was made up of assassins who lacked any strength or redeeming qualities, stooges who Abbas could easily control.
After this, Altair returned to his wife, mourned the day’s events, and questioned how Malik would ever betray him. His wife, Maria, quickly scolded him and forced him to realize that Malik would never do such a thing. It would seem that she was right when Altair managed to sneak in and find the degraded Malik. Breaking him out of prison and returning with him to his home, Altair learned that Malik didn’t actually betray him but that it was Abbas who staged a coup over two years ago, throwing Malik in prison for good measure as Altair’s most loyal follower. Now that Altair knew the full extent of Abbas’ betrayal, he went to confront the man after Malik drifted off to sleep.
After leaving his residence, Altair and his wife walked into the fortress of Masyaf and confronted Abbas. There, they were greeted by the traitor and his second in command, Swami, who ran up to his new master with a burlap sack in hand. When Altair saw that the sack contained the head of his dear friend Malik, his rage was palpable. However, the fact that he had infiltrated the prison and broke out a known ‘traitor’ caused the gathered assassins to doubt Altair’s motives and immediately treat the mentor as suspicious.
Soon after Milk’s head was shown to Altair, Abbas demanded that he give up his seat as mentor and therefore pass over the Apple of Eden. Abbas promised that he would tell Altair the truth behind his son’s death if he did so without commotion. Altair begrudgingly agreed, knowing that he and his wife needed the truth in order to get some form of closure.
However, Swami would show his true colors by apparently gloating in front of the master assassin when he moved to take the Apple from him. When reaching for the Apple, he whispered to Altair that his son died shortly after he was told Altair himself ordered his execution. The anger that this statement brought out in Altair saw him lose control of his anger and pain. This lack of control whilst holding the Apple caused the artifact to activate and take hold of Swami, causing him to injure himself.
During this altercation, Maria tried to intervene and protect everyone, including Swami, from Altair’s rage and the power of the Apple. However, during the confusion and mass hysteria caused by the Apple and Altair’s rage, Maria was wounded by Swami in a move that would prove fatal. Eventually, Altair was forced to kill Swami, finding himself soon after holding his dying wife in his arms.
While Altair held her, she spoke to him and told him to remain strong, to not use the Apple for revenge or to assuage his anger and pain.
Forced to Flee
After his wife’s death, Abbas orders the gathered assassins to attack their former mentor and take the Apple away from him. However, due to the power of the artifact, all present seemed reluctant to challenge the assassin.
Even though it is not actually articulated in the game’s dialogue, the player can see that, at this point, Altair considers using the power of the artifact to not only destroy those who have betrayed him and killed his son but to kill himself in the process so that he doesn’t have to experience the grief of his wife’s death.
However, this feeling seems to pass quickly as Altair decides his only option is to flee from Masyaf to not kill those around him. Along with his eldest son Darim, Altair fled to Alamut.
Years in Exile
Once Altair and his son settled down in Alamut, the pair lived alongside his widowed daughter-in-law and their grandchildren. Eventually, though, Altair’s family would eventually move on to Egypt and England, respectively.
Altair then spent many years in a dark depression before eventually coming out of it and beginning to study the Apple once again. During this time, Altair managed to unlock many secrets regarding medicine, tactics, and technology.
After many more years spent in Amulet, Altair decided to return to Masyaf. The master assassin, now over 80 years old, encountered some bandits on the road on his journey. Altair quickly dispatched the first, but the second managed to make some quick blows, wounding him greatly before Mukhlis, a traveling merchant, saved him by intervening. When Altair came to and fully healed from his injuries, he finished his journey to Masyaf, encountering Tazim Al-Sayf, Malik’s son, on the way.
After meeting with Tazim, Altair found out that some within the order still held true to the old ways and that everyone did not welcome Abbas’ reign. Tazim and Altair formed a rebel group of assassins and marched on Masyaf castle with this knowledge. Eventually, when the two sides faced one another, Abbas’ men crumbled and joined forces with Altair as they saw that they were on the losing side.
The last of Abbas’ forces, the most loyal, stood with their master until he came face to face with Altair. When the pair saw each other, Altair used the secret gun which he built into his hidden blade with the knowledge obtained from the Apple. Witnessing this incredible technology, the assassins who formerly stood by the now-dead Abbas’ side simply crumbled and gave way to Altair.
Altair’s Later Life
Now that he once again served as a mentor to the assassins based in Masyaf, Altair brought his belief in knowledge above all to fruition by building a secret library underneath Masyaf castle. Here, he stored all the knowledge he could get his hands on.
After this, Altair decided that the Brotherhood he had helped to shape should begin operating worldwide to assure that their ideals could not simply be lost with them. This proved to be a shroud decision as not long after his order to spread the Brotherhood throughout the world, Masyaf castle came under attack by the Mongol empire.
Altair almost immediately recognized that he and his men were outnumbered and simply could not win a battle against such a large army. Therefore, he oversaw an incredible evacuation effort of the entire fortress and the surrounding villages. Once he was sure that everyone had gotten away safely, he took the Apple and sealed it and himself inside his library. Thus, revealing his true plan for the library, to serve as both a vault and a tomb for himself, ensuring that nobody who was not worthy would be able to get their hands on the Apple.
Altair was not inside the vault for long before he finally sat down and, knowing his work was over, passed on at the age of 92.
- Once Altair regained his position as mentor to the assassins, he worked to spread their Order around the world to ensure their continuance long after his death.
- Altair locked himself and the Apple of Eden inside of his library, which doubled as a vault.
- The latter stages of Altair’s life are chronicled through flashbacks in Ezio’s third installment, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.
So, there you have it, a complete and complex guide into the assassin who started it all, Altair. During the writing of this guide, I came to love the character arc of Altair so much more than I had ever done in the past. His journey from selfish, egotistical man-child into a mentor who solely cares about the wellbeing of his Order was simply wonderful to chronicle.
With this in mind, I really hope you enjoyed your time here and learned something about the most famous assassin in all of AC franchise history, the one that they all look up to. See you later!
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Are Altair and Ezio related?
Answer: There is a common misconception regarding Ezio and Altair that because they are both related to Desmond, they must also be related to one another. However, this is not the case, and Altair and Ezio are both related to Desmond but through different sides of Desmond’s familial bloodlines.
Question: How old is Altair?
Answer: During the events of AC: 1, Altair is roughly 25-26 years old, and in Revelations, he ends his life at the age of 92.
Question: What language did Altair speak?
Answer: Because of the region, he is from, Altair most likely spoke both Greek and Arabic.
Question: Why is Altair missing a finger?
Answer: Earlier renditions of the hidden blade required the potential wearer to give a finger as a sacrifice to the blade. Without modification, the blade would not work without removing this finger. Altair modified the hidden blade so that this was no longer a requirement to wield the weapon.
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