Fans of Assassin's Creed have been demanding a game set during the French Revolution for years, and they're finally getting it with Assassin's Creed Unity. The new hero, Arno Victor Dorian, may already look the part of a full-fledged Assassin, but the game's creative director warns that the actual story will be quite different than fans might expect. Unity is Arno's story - not France's - and it all hinges on a story of love and honor.
While franchise leads may all be walking in the shadow of Ezio Auditore to some extent, Unity's creative director Alex Amancio explained to us that Arno Dorian will be a very different hero than most players are used to. Where Ezio adopted the garb and role of an Assassin, Connor simply sought training, and Edward Kenway never officially joined the Brotherhood, Arno's choices and motivations will form the true heart of Unity's story.
We got a chance to see and play the game at a recent Ubisoft preview, where the developers continued to emphasize that Arno's mechanical and narrative progression would be linked from beginning to end. And when it comes to the mystery at the game's center, the player's own progression is drawn into the mix as well:
"Arno's story is extremely personal. At the beginning he doesn't really care about the Assassins. He is an Assassin - it's not like Edward where he's not really an Assassin. Arno is an Assassin. But what motivates him to join the Assassins at the beginning might not be what traditionally motivates somebody to join the order.
"But then the whole story is really about that: about what he learns, learning about the Assassins as the player is."
Thanks to new details, fans know just how different Arno's motivations really are from the heroes that have come before. He's not after a place in the world, a great cause to support or oppose, or even a direct enemy he seeks to kill. More than anything, Arno is simply after answers, no matter how he can get them. Or, as Amancio puts its, "he's on a redemption quest."
Like almost all heroes in the Assassin's Creed series, Arno Dorian is forced to endure a significant loss: that of his father, a member of the Assassin Brotherhood. He is soon taken in by a close friend of his father - the father of Arno's childhood friend and future love, Elise - and raised as a member of the de la Serre family.
Out of respect, neither family's respective order (or the implied rivalry) is mentioned to Arno, meaning he never knew that his adopted father was actually a high-ranking member of the Templar Order. But when he, too, is killed, Arno and his full-grown childhood love Elise set out for answers about the two murders that have intertwined their lives.
For Arno, that means joining the Assassin Brotherhood in his father's footsteps; for Elise, it means pursuing those responsible from within the Templar Order. Amancio isn't going into extensive details about just how committed each character is to their respective orders - whether they adopt their goals and beliefs, or are simply both using them to find their fathers' killer(s) - but he did explain to us that Arno's struggle soon becomes about more than answers:
"It's a Cornelian Dilemma: a very fancy way of saying a Catch-22 where somebody has to choose between love and duty. You know Elise is a Templar, but we wanted to take the story to a different level. We felt that next-gen deserved a lot of improvements, not only in terms of core gameplay, but also the narrative. We felt like we could tackle a more serious story, a more mature story. So we wanted to do a love story. Would it work?
Just as Amancio cited the fusion of gameplay progression and narrative momentum as one of the top priorities for Unity's development team, he went on to explain that even the story's romance was only agreed upon when it was determined to influence both sides of game design equally:
"We thought that for it to work, it has to have to do with the actual core of the game. This is why we're pitting an Assassin and a Templar together: it creates really interesting stuff that can be explored in missions, not only in cinematics."
While details were scarce, Amancio did hint that the lack of any 'right' or 'wrong' path to answers could mean changes to traditional game design in terms of narrative as well as mission design. In the past, the Templars have been depicted as more tolerant of civilian casualties, or collateral damage, while Assassin's more heavily restrict themselves.
Just as Assassin's Creed: Rogue will be taking the notion of a good or bad side of the centuries-old conflict and casting it to the wind, Unity is less interested in the forces driving the French Revolution, and more in the men and women who will be enforcing the orders' will on street level:
"We try not to portray either the Assassins or the Templars as good and bad, or villains. We try to look through that, and look at the individuals that represent these orders, and their individual take on the order. It's not because you have the stamp of an Assassin or a Templar - that doesn't really mean anything.
"It means that you follow a doctrine - but it's your interpretation of that doctrine that really defines what those societies are for you."
Eager fans will notice the absence of France's political scene in those story summaries, and it's no mistake. Amancio was eager to emphasize that the French Revolution would be acting as backdrop to the game's events, offering metaphors relevant to the relationship between Arno and Elise, and their respective orders. And from his comments and the new plot details, it seems the war on the streets won't overshadow the story of love, family, and betrayal.
How do you fans of the series or this particular premise react? Does the decision to set a strong story within the French Revolution seem a wise one, or were you hoping for a more historically-informed adventure? Sound off in the comments.
Assassin's Creed Unity releases October 28, 2014 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
Source: Game Informer