If there has been one growing criticism of the hugely successful Assassin’s Creed franchise in recent years, it’s that the annual release schedule has prevented the games from making the huge leap forwards like, for example, the one that occurred between the first game and Assassin’s Creed II.
Last year’s release of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag managed to quell those claims by expanding the naval gameplay from Assassin’s Creed III into a vast open world ocean ripe for exploration and plundering. With upcoming title Assassin’s Creed: Unity set to retreat from the shores and into the boiling cauldron of 18th century revolutionary Paris, the pressure is on for Ubisoft to prove that Unity will be another step forward rather than a step back.
The official Ubisoft blog has taken this task in hand with a post listing the ways in which Assassin’s Creed: Unity brings something new to the table. Creative director Alex Amancio describes the game as “a reinvention of Assassin’s Creed for this next generation,” and says that a lot of the core mechanics, the engine and the game structure have been fundamentally changed. There have been a lot of small elements of the gameplay in Assassin’s Creed that players have been criticizing for years, so does this this rehaul mean that they’ve been addressed?
One of the most flawed aspects of the series, particularly in the more recent titles, is the stealth. Though in theory this should be a crucial part of assassinations, most of the stealth mechanics revolve around hiding in bushes, crowds or haystacks, and thanks to the all-powerful counter-attack move it’s often much easier to simply run in and methodically kill any guard who gets close enough.
The Assassin’s Creed: Unity development team is confident that this will be the game to change things up. Amancio says that the radical changes to the gameplay have put stealth at the center, since “Assassin’s Creed is first and foremost a social stealth game. You’re an Assassin. You shouldn’t be Rambo.” Senior producer Vincent Pontpriad adds that the combat is now “a little bit harder,” but that Arno is still “a very, very strong fighter [who] can easily dispatch an individual or a couple of guards.”
Some of the mission types in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, such as eavesdropping, have also come under fire in the past. Amancio explains that this has been addressed in Assassin’s Creed: Unity by introducing “Adaptive Mission Mechanic,” which allows for players to be a little more free in their approach to missions.
“We’ve opted for a different philosophy where we won’t tell you ‘Tail this guy.’ We’ll just maybe tell you ‘Figure out where he’s going.’ That means you can tail him if you like — and if you get spotted, the tail could turn into a chase. If you lose him altogether, your goal switches to locating your target. If a riot happens to break out and your target is killed, then you can loot his body to, say, find a letter that tells you where he’s going. So it’s really up to the player to figure out how he’s going to do this.”
That sounds a lot more fun than being forced to start the mission all over again if you happen to bump into a clumsy merchant carrying some crates.
That’s the mechanics, but what about the story and the Assassin at the heart of it? Assassin’s Creed: Unity puts the player in the shoes of Arno Dorian, described in the above character trailer as “a young man wounded by loss.” While this might sound reminiscent of both Ezio and Connor, Arno is described as being “stealthier, deadlier, and more ruthless than any before him.” Amancio expands on his motivation, explaining that Arno feels responsible for the loss that he suffered and became an Assassin to “prevent the corruption that hurt him from hurting other people.” That sounds like a far cry from Edward Kenway’s self-concerned, devil-may-care attitude.
Although Arno sounds like a defined character, players will also be able to fully customize their own personal Assassin as part of the cooperative gameplay. That customization includes earning skill points for completing missions and then spending those points in skill trees for stealth, combat and navigation. Gear can also be customized to fit the player’s own personal style of playing the game, and these changes cross over from singleplayer to co-op.
Do you like the sound of all these changes? Tell us in the comments what gameplay elements you want to see introduced (or ditched) in Assassin’s Creed: Unity.
Assassin’s Creed Unity releases October 28 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.