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Assassin's Creed exclusive: Inside Unity's setting, parkour, size, co-op & more

Ready for some AC?
Ready for some AC?
Permission given to use photo by Ubisoft

Sipping delicious wine, $50, touring monstrous cathedrals, $20, slurping hot French Soup, $8, a brand-new assassin and seeing the Eiffel Tower, priceless.

Assassin's Creed has come to Paris, and we are ready to paint our masterpieces of death in the name of the French Revolution. Okay, so that's a little dark and we'll go ahead and pull back the drama meter a bit, but still, it's very exciting to know this year's Assassin's Creed Unity is heading back to land-dominated gameplay.

The last two iterations have split the land gameplay up quite a bit with enjoyable, entertaining naval gameplay, but it's time for the series to get back to its roots. Assassin's Creed is a game best fit for the shores and in Unity; players will be doing no sailing.

Assassin's Creed Unity stars the newest protagonist Arno Victor Dorian, who is a French-Austrian assassin taking the fight to the oppressive Great Britain. Set in the monstrous city of Paris, France, players will assume the role of Arno and will at times be able to join friends online for a little co-op action.

In Ubisoft's version of Paris, you will find no Les Misérables and the same goes for Russell Crowe. Paris will be a city that feels more alive than any other game before it, or at least that's what initial impressions tell us about the game. Fans who are wondering, Ubisoft has not given an update on where the present day storyline lies and whether or not it will continue the first-person plot from Black Flag.

This will be the first Assassin's Creed installment without a competitive multiplayer mode since Assassin's Creed II. Fans have clamored for co-op for years and as Ubisoft always does a fine job of listening to its fans, the company obliged.

To learn more about the latest Assassin's Creed installment, and the first one to be current-generation only, sat down with Assassin's Creed Unity Producer Lesley Phord-Toy to discuss this year's journey.

Size matters
Size matters Permission to use photo given by Ubisoft

Size matters

The size and scope of an open-world has always been at the forefront of any Assassin's Creed game. Assassin's Creed Unity is no different and in fact, it will boast one of the most enormous cities we've journeyed to yet.

After already taking us to worlds such as the Caribbean, Boston, New York, Constantinople, Rome and many other cities, Assassin's Creed Unity brings us back to Europe. Paris will be the setting for this new Assassin's Creed game and it will bring with it more than just size that's far and wide.

"In previous Assassin’s Creeds, we created Rome and a bunch of other cities. They were a bit cheated in terms of scale. Paris and its monuments are really on a 1:1 scale because you’ll be able to go inside [of buildings] seamlessly with no loading.

"The actual size of Paris is larger than all of the landmass in Black Flag. The Notre Dame is three or four times the size of the Coliseum. [Assassin’s Creed Unity] is really on a massive scale, and you notice it right away," Phord-Toy said.

Traveling to different locations within the same game has been a strong theme of the past few Assassin's Creed games. Assassin's Creed III took us to various parts of the East Coast, while Black Flag took us to different regions in the Caribbean.

Assassin's Creed Unity will mostly take place within Paris, but Phord-Toy did say players would be able to leave the city by traveling to "the Palace of Versailles, which is outside of Paris."

Scale and size are two strong points of emphasis for Ubisoft and they are really focused on making players feel like they should when they're climbing up a cathedral in Paris.

"You’ll be climbing these buildings and [notice] you feel so small, but then you also feel extremely powerful [at the same time]. [Paris] just feels like it extends forever," Phord-Toy said.

Oh Mon Dieu, why Paris?
Oh Mon Dieu, why Paris? Permission to use photo given by Ubisoft

Oh Mon Dieu, why Paris?

It's always one of the first questions that are asked when a new setting is revealed for an Assassin's Creed games, and that's because it really is interesting to learn the thought process of taking a game from a setting like the vast Caribbean to a dense city like Paris.

"It was very much a combination of the French Revolution and Paris," Phord-Toy said. "What happened was after Brotherhood the core team was given a mandate to say let’s bring Assassin’s Creed to next-gen."

For those who are keeping track at home, that's four years since Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood launched to when Assassin's Creed Unity will debut. So relocating the game went hand-in-hand with trying to redefine the three pillars (navigation, combat and stealth) that have made this series so successful over the years.

Phord-Toy remarked on how Ubisoft wanted to "provide more choice for the player," generate a combat system that is more difficult and unravel plenty of new approaches to completing a mission in Assassin's Creed Unity.

Players will not only have more choice; they will also be able to visit a tomb of dead bodies underground. Not exactly the pairing you were expecting, sure, but The Catacombs are going to be a location that players can explore underneath Paris. As someone who has walked through them, there's sure to be some creepy fun there in an Assassin's Creed game.

At the end of the day, it all comes back to the total package of what the French Revolution and the city of Paris brought to the Assassin's Creed franchise. It's a fitting, dreamy combination and should provide players with yet another memorable city to fight through.

"The French Revolution is such a historically, culturally relevant time in history and made a powerful impact on all of Western Civilization. It’s the perfect playground for an Assassin’s Creed game," Phord-Toy said.

Stayin' dry and redefining parkour
Stayin' dry and redefining parkour Permission to use photo given by Ubisoft

Stayin' dry and redefining parkour

The past two Assassin's Creed games have featured naval gameplay on a very significant level. Assassin's Creed III introduced revolutionary, never-before-seen naval gameplay and fans wanted more. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag took it to the next level with the vast majority of the game taking place at sea.

Another iteration with a heavy focus on naval gameplay could've proven to be one too many, though, and Ubisoft decided to sail away from the sea. Phord-Toy quickly answered the question about more naval gameplay with, "There’s no naval gameplay [in Assassin's Creed Unity]."

In previous Assassin's Creed games, the parkour was more about going straight up or going straight down. There wasn't a whole lot of diagonal flexibility and it left players with a somewhat rigid system.

Ubisoft decided to scrap the old system and blend things together to allow for a more organic parkour setup. "There were two systems before, climbing and free running. [We decided] to combine them so it really feels like parkour.

"[The changes we made] were about making the system more modern and giving players [more freedom]. It’s an open-world so we need to treat it as one," Phord-Toy said.

'Assassin's Creed' OCD
'Assassin's Creed' OCD Permission to use photo given by Ubisoft

'Assassin's Creed' OCD

If you've played any Ubisoft open-world game before, you know how much side content is in one of them. Assassin's Creed games are particularly notorious for delivering side content that is just as captivating as the main story itself. Assassin's Creed Unity does not seem like it will be letting up on that trend either.

"There’s going to be tons of side content in the game. [Players] will be able to do Assassination Contracts, Murder Mysteries and other side content. If you encounter something, but you don’t want to deal with it right then, you can put it in your Quest Log. You can keep a queue of all the missions you want to do," Phord-Toy said.

Thank you Ubisoft for bringing a Quest Log to Assassin's Creed. This will help those of us who have a very difficult time saying no to an Assassination Contract, while traversing across the city to get to an upcoming main mission point.

The Paris that Ubisoft is creating will allow for a more thorough inside-and-out journey, as the incorporation of "real interiors" will open up more "opportunities to tell stories." Factions will be another point of interest in Assassin's Creed Unity.

"There are all of these rival factions during the French Revolution, where the AI does what they want, and players will be able to intervene or they can walk past it, and not get involved," Phord-Toy said.

Be a friend, fight together
Be a friend, fight together Permission to use photo given by Ubisoft

Be a friend, fight together

No Assassin's Creed game has ever featured co-op gameplay before, but Unity will become the very first. A feature that has long been requested by fans of the series is finally coming at a time when Assassin's Creed Unity also marks the first current-generation only installment for the franchise.

The co-op experience in Assassin's Creed Unity will be an integral part of this year's game and to find friends, you need only find a Tavern.

"You’ll see a list of all your friends who are online. You can go up to these characters and see if your friends are in the middle of a mission. [If so,] you can join them right away. Maybe they’re wandering around the city, you can drop in and [explore] the city with them. There’s going to be seamless drop-in, dropout," Phord-Toy said.

This is the first Assassin's Creed game where we actually see Taverns used as a legitimate feature in the game. They've always kind of been there with no real use in previous iterations, but now they add a lot more value to the overall game.

Finally, Arno will be customizable to some degree, according to Ubisoft. Completing a Brotherhood mission (co-op) will provide players with "skill points to upgrade or customize Arno’s skills and categories of weapons." People will have some interesting diversity to choose from when it comes to Arno's weapons. Those choices will be made based on your play-style, of course.

When we step back and take a look at the Assassin's Creed franchise, it's such a monstrous universe that has covered so much. What it has yet to show us remains to be seen, but Paris will serve as a fantastic new canvas for Ubisoft to paint the newest Assassin's Creed adventure on.

Assassin's Creed Unity will launch on Oct. 28 and will be available on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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