Assassin’s Creed: Unity – Preview

Title   Assassin's Creed: Unity
Developer  Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher  Ubisoft
Platform  Windows PC, Xbox One, PS4
Genre  Action adventure
Release Date  October 28th, 2014
Official Site

There is something undeniably cool about the Assassin’s Creed series. Let’s not be blind though, the series has had its issues, but for every minor quibble there is the overriding truth that jumping through the air in a colourful bed sheet, with your hands hiding the business end of a knife evokes a certain childhood feeling of being awesome. Perhaps not everyone spent their youth trying to stab their little family members, but whenever I play the Assassin’s Creed series – pulling off the perfect assassination, escaping pursing guards or just successfully reaching unknown heights – I can’t help but be impressed. I’ve played most of the games in the series, and although I’m currently two behind it didn’t stop me from jumping at the chance to find out what Ubisoft had in store for the next chapter.

Despite the success of Black Flag, the series is making a return to its roots by casting us back into the urban sprawl that is 19th century France. This was a dark time in France’s history, known as ‘The Terror’, in which a revolution took place that saw the death of many people, both rich and poor. Players will take on the role of Arno Dorian, who is a native Frenchman on a quest for redemption and sees the Assassins as a means to achieve this.

Given how well received Black Flag was, I think Ubisoft have clocked onto the fact that everyone enjoyed their take on ship combat but, equally, they can’t base every game from hence forth in the ocean. In order to not just return to the same old formula on land, Ubisoft are shaking things up by overhauling the ‘three pillars’ of the series: navigation, combat and stealth. The arrival of the ‘next generation’ would also seem to have made them reconsider how they can further innovate the series.

Firstly, they’ve totally taken apart navigation. They say ‘navigation’ and what they’re referring to is the movement system – specifically, how players will use Parkour to get around the challenges that France holds for them. The developers are calling their new system Parkour 2.0 and it does look pretty incredible. The choices you make are completely dynamic, so while you may choose to just jump from plank to plank, if you’re being pursued you may need to change direction so, with a press of a button, you can go from jumping on planks to swinging on them. Perhaps a quick wall kick will elevate you to a higher platform where your momentum will allow you to change direction. I don’t doubt there will be mistakes made by players but, given enough practice, it (hopefully) shouldn’t be an issue; this looks to be the most fluid and responsive system implemented in a game where free-running or Parkour is featured.

The second pillar is combat and it’s probably been the weakest part of the series, to a certain degree. You know the routine: run into a group of dudes and they all take turns to attack you while the others circle like a gaggle of nervous geese. Ubisoft are not implementing a full parry system, indicating that there will be high and low parries as well as leg sweeps and full blocking. It could mean the end of one on one fighting and, instead, make you feel even more empowered when you manage to keep a group of enemies at bay. There is also more of a focus on dynamic reactions from crowds of people and guards, rather than having scripted moments, and you’ll need to monitor the reactions of those around you without the aid of your Eagle Vision, which has had some tweaks made to it. It acts more as a sonar now, sending out a pulse across the immediate area, meaning that you can get details of what allegiance everyone is but will fade over time. I’m not sure if they’re going to explain this decision with any sort of story related exposition but it makes a change from just wandering around with Eagle Vision turned on.

The changes to combat are going to force players to really consider how they will deal with every conflict. Before, you could see the target surrounded by ten guys and just cut down those enemies in a under a minute by chain-linking kills together. Now, that isn’t going to be possible, because combat is going to be considerably harder due to having to break down an opponent’s defences.

The final pillar is stealth, which is now playing a bigger role than before (although you could argue stealth played a huge role before – clambering around rooftops and hiding in plain sight are cornerstones of the series). However, you could never hide behind things and ‘stealth’ essentially meant following the predefined path that had been set out before you. Now, thanks to a dedicated crouch button, you can have Arno hug cover and navigate areas without arousing suspicion. It seems utterly bizarre that this hasn’t been a feature before and I’m not sure how the series has got this far without someone pointing it out, but it’s a helpful inclusion and will likely factor into the other two pillars quite heavily.

The last thing  I took away from Assassins Creed: Unity was just how good it looked. This is one of the most beautiful games I’ve seen on the new generation consoles to date and I can only imagine how good it will end up looking on the PC. France was incredibly detailed, the number of people on screen interacting with the scripted moments was huge, and I was genuinely impressed with how run down and grimy the streets looked. Overall, I’ve come away from Unity with a strong desire to get back to the series and catch up, so I’m ready to play this upon release. Each game has improved on its predecessor in various areas, but with Unity I think we’re about to witness the biggest improvement since the initial jump from the first title to the second.

Last five articles by Chris


One Comment

  1. Edward Edward says:

    If there isn’t a sequence where you have to rescue Blackadder and Baldrick from some revolutionary scum, then I’m not interested.

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