The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been with us for fifteen long years, with the first entry in the famous series taking the world by storm, creating a platform for the developers over at Ubisoft to explode out of and make many, many more in the years following.
The franchise has a total of twelve fully-fledged main games released, with another seventeen titles bearing the franchise logo as spin-offs. From this apparent and obvious success, we can see that something in the makeup of Assassin’s Creed must strike a chord with gamers the world over, producing enough enthusiasm and a renewed love for the franchise year after year.
It is my opinion that for a storyline to truly succeed and touch the hearts and minds of everyone who engages with it, one thing is non-negotiable; a great main character with a compelling story arc to back it up.
Desmond Miles is the only character that links all of the early AC games and the main character of the first seven AC games. So, with all of this being said, why don’t we learn a little bit more about Desmond Miles and why his story is so important when it comes to truly understanding the AC franchise and the complicated story it somehow expects even casual fans to be following along with?
Bottom Line Up Front
Desmond Miles was the main character of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. We got access to countless past assassins who contributed significantly to the world throughout history through his bloodline. Desmond’s main task throughout these games is to prevent the world’s end.
We know very little about Desmond’s life before the events of AC: 1. However, we do know that he came from a long line of assassins and is the product of the coming together of two incredibly important assassin bloodlines. These matrilineal and patrilineal bloodlines coming together places Desmond as the only descendant of multiple famous assassins throughout history, including Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, Edward and Haytham Kenway, and Ratonhnhaké:ton/Connor.
Desmond, therefore, grew up within the Assassin Brotherhood, training in their ways from a very young age. However, as he matured, he began to detest the secrecy and hard work which came with being an assassin in training. Due to his enclosed and sheltered upbringing, young Desmond could not possibly understand why he had to live the way he did, why he could not be like everyone else his age, and why he had to train these weird and seemingly useless skills day in and day out.
After years of feeling like this and countless failed attempts, Desmond finally managed to break free from the confines of his childhood and enter the real world. After this, he got a job as a bartender and moved around often.
We do not know how long Desmond worked and lived like this. However, we do know that, eventually, while working as a bartender in New York, Abstergo Industries managed to track him down and capture him. Through the opening events of Assassin’s Creed: 1, we learn that due to his bloodline, Desmond is the only person on the planet who has the ‘ancestral memories’ they need encoded within his DNA. Because, you know, that’s a thing.
Desmond Miles is the main character of the first seven Assassin’s Creed games, acting as the driving force for all modern-day activities in the franchise’s early days.
– Due to his mother and father’s bloodlines, Desmond is related to a long line of crucial assassins throughout history.
– Desmond is eventually captured by Abstergo Industries and placed in a machine that gives them access to his ancestors’ memories via his DNA.
Assassin’s Creed: 1
As mentioned, AC:1 is the first time we get to meet Desmond and the arch antagonists of the series, Abstergo Industries, and by extension, the Templar Order. The game opens after Desmond has already been captured by the company, placing him under lock and key in their futuristic offices, forcing him to engage with their exciting and groundbreaking new piece of machinery, the animus.
Entering The Animus
By forcing Desmond into the animus, Abstergo Industries, a company owned and operated entirely by the Templar Order, can gain access to Desmond’s ancestral memories, seeing through his eyes the lives of his countless assassin ancestors. In this game, Abstergo focuses entirely on the life and memories of the master assassin and mentor, Altair Ibn-La’Ahad. At this point, when Desmond is first placed into the animus, neither he nor the player knows the motivations behind Abstergo. Originally, his captors tried to attain Altair’s knowledge and the answers to their questions from Desmond while he was unconscious. This process proved too difficult as Desmond’s mind seemed to put up some form of blocker or firewall against all of their efforts, actively defending him from anything the Templar agents could throw at him. After this, the group decided that it would be easier to wake up Desmond and force him to collaborate with them under fear of death.
During the events of this game, Desmond gets to relive the life of his ancestor, Altair, and experience everything just as he did. However, the game tends to break up long bouts of Altair-focused gameplay with moments of respite for Desmond as his captors give him some much-needed n breaks and kindly allow him to actually sleep from time to time. During this time, Desmond and, therefore, the player finds out just what is going on and why they have been abducted by Abstergo.
Outside the Animus
As already mentioned, the game is split up between chapters of gameplay as Altair and brief moments of Desmond recovering from his time in the animus. During this time, we get to know Desmond a little bit more, as well as his captors. Desmond interacts with the two prominent people within Abstergo; Dr. Warren Vidic and his assistant Lucy Stillman.
During Desmond’s various conversations with the two Abstergo employees, we sense that Lucy is deeply sympathetic to Desmond’s plight, and the pair grows closer over the period of the game.
Eventually, the player and Desmond overhear gunfire on one of the intercoms within the animus suite. This gunfire, Desmond later finds out, was caused by members of his former Creed order attempting to rescue him from the hands of the Templars. However, shortly after this altercation, we are informed that the attempt had failed, and the assassins tasked with rescuing Desmond had been killed during the altercation. Dr. Vidic then takes a great deal of pride and joy in telling Desmond that those assassins killed represented the last of Desmond’s old Order, as the Templars had already wiped out all remaining members when they found their hidden dessert base some months previous. This leaves Desmond devastated as he realizes that his parents and everyone else that he loves have most likely been killed. Immediately after Dr. Vidic leaves, Lucy moves to comfort Desmond by telling him that his parents had most likely escaped as the Templars found their hideout completely deserted. After this, with Desmond proceeding to question Lucy’s motivations, she told him that she was actually undercover, working for the assassins all along and that it was her who alerted the Order of his capture and location.
On the other hand, Dr. Vidic appears to be deeply obsessed with his and Desmond’s progress through the animus, apparently searching for one specific memory amongst Altair’s entire lifespan. As the process continues and draws out over an extended period, the doctor gets more and more frustrated with Desmond and Lucy as the mostly calm doctor vents his anger at the pair.
Eventually, through these dialogues with both Lucy and the good doctor and the memories of Altair, the player is able to put together what is really going on. At a certain point, the player will probably put together that the enemies Altair is fighting in the past may be the same enemy in the future. Thus, when the central artifact of the game, the Apple of Eden, is presented to the player, the lines seemingly join up for most as to why Abstergo needed Desmond to find this artifact and pieces like it.
Dr. Vidic and his Quest
Eventually, after pushing Desmond to his limits within the animus, Dr. Vidic and Desmond get closer and closer to discovering the location of various pieces of Eden. However, this did not occur until the bleeding effect of the animus began giving Desmond some of Altair’s abilities, the main one being his eagle vision, allowing Desmond to see deeper than he had before.
Once the location of the artifacts was discovered, the doctor was ordered by the higher-ups within Abstergo to eliminate Desmond as he was no longer of use to them. However, before he could do this, Lucy stepped in and convinced the doctor to keep Desmond alive just a little bit longer until they could fully extract his ancestral memories. This gave the pair just enough time to begin their escape. This incident brings AC: 1 to a close, allowing the player to re-enter the animus to continue as Altair if they wish.
– Abstergo wishes to use Desmond to access his ancestral memories in order to find pieces of Eden left behind by the precursor race.
– Desmond is helped throughout his imprisonment by the doctor’s assistant, Lucy, who eventually turns out to be an undercover assassin working to help and subsequently free Desmond.
– After long-term exposure to the animus, Desmond gains the eagle vision ability commonly held by his ancestors, allowing him to find hidden messages and determine friends and foes.
Assassin’s Creed: 2
As with any successful game in the modern era, once AC: 1 was determined a hit and fan favorite, development started on the next game in the franchise. This game would see Desmond’s journey pick up from where we had just left him, escaping Abstergo Industries with Lucy’s help. During this escape, Lucy neutralized several guards, and Desmond used his eagle vision ability to pass through several locked doors.
Once the pair had successfully escaped Abstergo, Lucy decided that the best course of action was to return to her team of assassins, bringing Desmond with her to their hideout. Once there, Desmond met two people who would fast become some of his key allies in his fight against Abstergo and the Templar Order; Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane had key knowledge regarding the mechanics of the animus to which Desmond was initially subjected to. With this knowledge and their time underground waiting for Lucy to return, they built a new and improved version of the animus.
Back in We Go
As you might imagine, the Templar Order is well and truly dominates the Brotherhood at this point in the early 21st century. Therefore, they need all the help they can get, especially if that help comes from someone uniquely gifted in the ways of the Creed by birthright and destiny, such as Desmond. So, with this in mind, the decision for the group of assassins was clear, they had to convince Desmond to not only step back into the animus, but they also had to convince him that joining their Brotherhood again was the right thing to do, not just for him but the entire world.
Shockingly enough for Lucy and her team, it would appear that Desmond’s time under lock and key within Abstergo Industries had done just enough to change his opinion on the idea of becoming and operating as an assassin as he agreed to join and help them almost immediately.
This apparent readiness to get stuck in and once again join the Brotherhood was sadly tinged for Desmond when he realized the team had planned to put him inside another animus in order to properly train him. A place that Desmond certainly didn’t want to return to after the horror show the first machine played on his health. However, after his new friends assured him of the tweaks they had made to the base machine and the improved functionality of the bleed effect, they were able to convince Desmond to re-enter the machine in order to train via the memories of one of his other ancestors, Ezio Auditore da Firenze.
The Bleed Effect
As with the first installment in the franchise, this second entry seems to split up the action and the main campaign via breaks from the animus for Desmond. During these breaks, we get to see just how well the new bleed effect is working and how Desmond is progressing very quickly in his assassin training without actually having to physically move to learn the skills.
Through this process, we can see that when playing Desmond, he behaves very similarly to Ezio and has therefore developed his acrobatic skills as well as his expertise in all aspects of combat.
The Precursor Race
As the game continues to progress, we learn more and more about this precursor race we have heard so much about over the course of these two games. However, it is not till the very end of Ezio’s screentime in this title that we get any real indication of what is truly going on.
The events of the game eventually lead Ezio to the basement of the Sistine Chapel. Here, Ezio encounters a hologram of Minerva, a representative of said precursor race. Upon activation of the hologram, Minerva speaks to Ezio. Still, she addresses him as Desmond instead, revealing that they knew all along the path their bloodline would take, and Desmond would ultimately be the one who must receive the message.
This conversation between the pair sees Minerva task Desmond with the prevention of an apocalyptic event that is scheduled to occur at the end of the year. Minerva continues to say that this is the same event that almost wiped out her people tens of thousands of years prior and that he is the only one capable of preventing it.
Shortly after learning this important piece of information, the meeting between the pair is cut short due to Desmond being pulled out of the animus during an Abstergo raid on the team’s secret compound.
This kick starts another escape mission for the small group, but we do get to see just how far Desmond has come as he easily uses his newfound abilities to rebuff countless Templars during their efforts to escape.
When they ultimately do manage to get free of the Abstergo units hunting them, Desmond returns into the animus whilst fleeing in the back of a van, knowing that he needed to learn more from Ezio and that he had little time to do so. This brings the events of AC: 2 to a close.
– Desmond joins the Brotherhood once again in order to prevent the Templars from enacting their plot.
– Through Ezio’s memories, Desmond becomes a skillful assassin.
– The climax of the game sees Desmond learn of an apocalyptic event that he must prevent.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
After their near-miss with the Templar Order at the end of AC: 2, not much occurs with Desmond throughout AC: Brotherhood. Instead, this title focuses more on Ezio’s character development.
However, sections of the game are still dedicated to Desmond and how he fits into everything. The main thing about this game is that Desmond finds out via Ezio that the apocalyptic event is definitely coming, and preventing it, he must find and use the Apple of Eden. He learns of all of this through brief conversations with Juno, another member of the precursor race.
After this point, Desmond becomes obsessed with finding the Apple and using the animus and Ezio to do so. This intensity takes a toll on him, but he eventually finds the answer he had been looking for.
After finding out that the apple is underneath the famous colosseum in Rome, Desmond and his team head over and find the entrance to one of the precursor race’s temples. Inside, the team finds the Apple sitting on a podium.
Of course, Desmond moves to pick up the Apple, but upon his first contact with it, we can hear Juno say that his DNA has somehow activated it, displaying that because Desmond shared the same DNA as Altair and Ezio, people who have been able to use the Apple without hurting themselves, so can he. However, once the Apple is activated, Juno seizes the opportunity and takes over Desmond’s body, forcing him to draw his hidden blade and stab Lucy, killing her in the process. Juno rationalizes this by saying that she was eventually fated to betray him and the Order.
The combination of this massive emotional blow and the effects of the Apple send Desmond into a coma, ending the third installment in the franchise.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
A Protective Coma
After the traumatic events that ended AC: Brotherhood, Desmond is placed into a coma within the animus to give his brain time to recover. This coma sees Desmond enter a section of the animus called the ‘Black Room,’ a location that was designed to protect the minds of those who routinely use the machine. To Desmond, this room appears as an island with one massive gateway. Here he is joined by subject 16, Clay Kaczmarek, the man who lost his mind and life as the previous Abstergo subject before they abducted Desmond.
During the main campaign of this entry, the animus island begins to fall apart as Desmond begins to learn more and more about the apocalyptic event, which is fast approaching. After learning that it is a solar flare he must prevent, the black room and animus island begin to disintegrate. If this were to happen, Desmond would become completely brain dead in the real world as his consciousness would be destroyed along with the island within the animus.
To prevent this, Clay sacrifices himself in order to protect Desmond and ensure that he is capable of completing his mission and returning to sanity in the real world. Soon after this, Desmond is informed by another member of the precursor race, Jupiter, that this solar flare is coming soon. To prevent it, he and his team must travel to their Grand Temple to access the information stored there.
Somehow, learning this information seems to reinstate the will within Desmond, and he soon refuses to stay in this coma and machine for much longer, forcing himself to wake up and continue his mission.
When he does this, he is surrounded by his surviving teammates and his father, William, who is now the leader of the Assassins. Without much noticeable shock, Desmond simply tells the gathered team that he now knows their next move. This brings Revelations to a close.
Assassin’s Creed: 3
At the beginning of AC:3, Desmond has clearly changed for the worse. As he walks into the frame, the player can easily tell that he is not only weaker and frailer, but he has aged greatly due to the stress the animus has been putting on his body. We can assume that Desmond has spent most of his time in the animus during these two games as not much real-time has passed.
The Grand Temple
Desmond and his friends travel to the Grand Temple that Juno has been directing him to. However, just before they manage to enter the location, they are blocked off by a massive, locked door. At this point, Desmond learns that to pass through the door, he will need both a key and some power cells specific to this temple.
Opening the Door
To find this key, the player must step back inside the animus and relive the memories of Desmond’s other ancestor, Conner, also known as Ratonhnhaké:ton. Through his memories, the assassin ultimately finds the key to the temple. However, during this main quest, Desmond frequently exits the animus to both conversate with Juno and find the power cells required for the door.
Eventually, Desmond retrieves everything necessary to open the door and enter the temple. However, during this entire time, there is one wrinkle, Desmond is being chased by a Templar agent named Daniel Cross.
During his hunt for Desmond, Cross losses track of Desmond and ultimately settles for capturing his father. This forces Desmond to return to the Abstergo lab he was originally held in and gives the player the opportunity to seek revenge over Dr. Vidic, Cross, and many other Templar agents.
Accessing the Temple
Desmond and his team enter the facility after saving his father and returning to the temple with everything necessary to open the door. As they travel through the ancient structure, Minerva begins to speak to Desmond once again, warning him that he will be killed if he goes through with what Juno wants him to do and touches the podium.
Apparently, if Desmond dies in this manner, he will release Juno back into the world, opening up the door for her to regain her control over the planet and, therefore, humanity. This, of course, places a monumental decision on Desmond’s lap, one in which he simply could not know which option was right or wrong.
Eventually, though, Desmond, knowing full well what would happen, decides that his destiny is to simply prevent the solar flare from happening and killing all of humanity. Therefore, the only thing he could do was sacrifice himself for humanity. He, therefore, touches the pedestal after forcing the other members outside the room and dies, saving the world in the process.
Even though Desmond dies at the end of this game, his effect on the world does not vanish with his death. This is because Desmond is uploaded into the Abstergo system as Sample 17 after his death, thus allowing them to access his memories.
It is also revealed through the events of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla that Desmond is still part of the franchise and that whilst he is still dead, he still exists in a computer simulation created by the precursor race. This place, called ‘The Grey’, is where Desmond now resides. However, he has forgotten his previous identity. He is now called the Reader, a person tasked with analyzing all timelines to identify and prevent other cataclysmic events.
– Juno forces Desmond to kill Lucy through the Apple of Eden because she was destined to betray him and his mission.
– After Lucy’s death, Desmond falls into a coma and is recuperated in the animus.
– Desmond dies in order to save the world by freeing Juno from her confines. However, he is included, mostly in passing, in other AC games.
– Desmond still exists in the AC world as an entity known as The Reader.
So, there you have it, a complete and in-depth guide to the main character of the AC franchise. Desmond is not only one of the more interesting main characters created by Ubisoft, but he is also one of the more complicated ones. His motivations are unclear, and the forces driving his actions are often disguised, leaving the player in a place where they must search for answers themselves.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and learned something from it. So, why don’t you jump back into your favorite old-school AC game and relive some of these amazing events for yourself? I promise you won’t regret it. Best of luck
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is Desmond still alive?
Answer: Desmond died at the end of AC: 3, and it does not appear that he will ever be able to come back.
Question: Did Desmond save the world?
Answer: He saved the world by releasing Juno and sacrificing himself. He did this knowing that Juno’s influence would negatively affect the world.
Question: Who is the voice actor for Desmond Miles?
Answer: The famous voice actor Nolan North is the voice actor for Desmond throughout the series.