Ubisoft’s action adventure game series took a big turn with Assassin’s Creed 3 by moving continents and onto the sea. It continued the sea-faring, tree-climbing saga of the Kenways with last year’s Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. With Assassin’s Creed: Unity, not only do we see a return to Romanticism, but we are also taken back to Europe.
Set in 1789 Paris during the French Revolution, Arno, the Assassin will see himself at the center of the shaping of a nation, in the same way Connor Kenway played a pivotal role for the Colonialists in Assassin’s Creed 3 (AC3's story ended around 1783).
I was able to get a personal developer-led demo with Unity, and I’m pleased to report that this game looks and plays just as amazing as it looks in the trailers.
Unity’s graphics engine was built from the ground-up, and has been in development for several years already. Its visuals are reminiscent of gorgeous oil paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries with a gorgeous color palette, high dynamic range, an unprecedented amount of unrepeated detail, realistic lighting and shadow effects, and stunning architectural and costume designs. Unity is easily the most beautiful game I saw at E3 this year.
Never before has an Assassin’s Creed title featured so many non-player characters on one screen, and they’re not static objects either. Amongst an enormous crowd, you can see looters pilfering artwork, protesters rioting, bystanders gawking at a murder scene, and a blood-thirsty audience watching a guillotine working to deliver “justice” (beheadings happen on a regular basis, as it appears).
Naturally, there are plenty of rooftops to climb onto and jump from, but in a franchise first, around 25% of the buildings will have real interiors which you can enter. These won’t just be the pubs or Assassins’ hideouts either. Some buildings will accompany side-missions (like solving a murder), should you wish to engage them.
Ubisoft decided that it’s not enough to simply upgrade the graphics. Unity will include new traversal techniques to make getting around a bit quicker. The assassin can now wall run horizontally, and can now free-run down buildings (previously you could only free-run up buildings and either leap down or climb down slowly). The degree of movement and parkouring is greater than ever.
One of the biggest improvements with Unity is a dedicated stealth button. Yes, the assassin can finally be forced to crouch! When in stealth mode, you will constantly be crouched, and moving up against stationary objects will cause you to take cover behind it automatically.
There is also a new fighting system that is apparently more challenging, but also more rewarding. Add to that a new hidden assassin’s blade, the Phantom Blade, which has crossbow functionality, and you've got gameplay elements that make Unity sound like it might be the best Assassin’s Creed yet.
Although I personally did not see any live co-op gameplay, the potential to play through missions (e.g., sabotage an execution, pull off a heist, etc.) with three friends is very exciting, especially in such a huge, vibrant, and living world.
As the latest title in one of Ubisoft’s greatest selling franchises, Assassin’s Creed: Unity looks almost like a reboot of the franchise, as if it were going back to its roots and improving just about everything that makes Assassin’s Creed so fantastic to play.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity launches on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC on October 28 this year. Pre-order this title at Amazon.