A new Assassin, a new setting, and a whole new way to play. Assassin’s Creed Unity is the next generation of Assassin’s Creed, redefining the series for new-gen consoles and PC. After seeing the game in action at the E3 2014 press conferences (if you missed those, check the UbiBlog for all the videos), you’re probably hungry for more info on Unity. We pulled back the hood to get a quick look at what’s in store for gamers when they play Assassin’s Creed Unity – but keep in mind that this is just a small taste of what’s in the game. Here are the 10 essential things you need to know right now.
1. Everything Is New
Assassin’s Creed Unity isn’t just an iteration on the previous Assassin’s Creed. This game has been rebuilt from the ground up specifically for the next-generation of consoles and the latest PCs. “Because of these new-gen consoles, this is the first time that we can fundamentally change a lot of the core mechanics and a lot of the stuff under the hood in terms of engine, game mechanics and actual game structure,” says Creative Director Alex Amancio. “So this is what Unity is. It’s not a reboot. It is a reinvention of Assassin’s Creed for this next generation.”
2. Including the Parkour…
One of the biggest changes: the ability to navigate down a building. Previously, you’d climb up a building, race across the rooftops, then find a convenient haystack for a leap of faith, landing safely on the ground below. “We wanted to avoid having haystacks all over the place and doing that special move all the time,” says Senior Producer Vincent Pontbriand. “Controlled descent is more exciting. It also allows you to do things that are different each time. This also adds to the sense of joy of being free and doing whatever you want.”
You’ll need that extra freedom of movement, as the buildings are now all designed at a 1:1 scale. Acrophobics, beware: You’ll really feel that height when you’re standing atop Notre Dame, staring out over the city.
And that’s just a small taste of how navigation has been overhauled. The way an Assassin will move through Paris will be radically different than in previous games – but we’ll have more on that later.
3. …And the Stealth…
From how the enemies react when they spot you, to how you sneak around Paris, stealth gets a full makeover. That includes a new stealth stance, which changes how Arno moves and alters how he sees the world. In fact, stealth is once again at the center of the experience, thanks to some radical changes to the gameplay. After all, as Amancio says, “Assassin’s Creed is first and foremost a social stealth game. You’re an Assassin. You shouldn’t be Rambo.”
4. …And the Combat
Speaking of Rambo, when it comes to combat the team went back to the original core values of the game – but then executed everything on a next-gen level. “We actually made combat a little bit harder than before,” Pontbriand says. “The Assassin is still a very, very strong fighter. He can easily dispatch an individual or a couple of guards or enemies. But we also wanted the game to be a little bit more realistic.”
Enemies are both smarter and tougher, but so is the Assassin. Button mashing will no longer work when facing a large crowd. A savvy Assassin will have to rely on a combination of stealth, planning and all the tools at his disposal to handle certain situations. “It’s more fun because there are more tactics involved,” Pontbriand promises.
5. Mission Uncontrol
Mission structure has also changed. Or, to put it more directly: missions no longer have a set structure. In previous games, you’d be given a defined set of goals. You’d achieve them, or you’d start over – either at the beginning of the mission or at an appropriate checkpoint. Assassin’s Creed Unity introduces something called Adaptive Mission Mechanic (AMM) – which is exactly what it sounds like.
To explain AMM, Amancio lays out a typical scenario from previous games. Let’s say you’re tailing a Templar target; if you get spotted, the mission might be over. That’s no longer the case. “We’ve opted for a different philosophy where we won’t tell you Tail this guy,” Amancio says. “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,” Amancio says.
Of course, there’s much more to AMM than this. It’ll never be as simple as choosing the easiest path (i.e., killing every target and looting their bodies) because that could have serious repercussions in the world. “If a guy is missing, maybe they’re going to double up patrols in your next mission. So there’s a risk. It evens itself out.”
6. Say Hello to Arno
Every Assassin finds his way into the Creed in his own way. For Arno Dorian, his journey is about redemption. “Arno was witness to a great loss,” Amancio says. “He feels responsible for that. He feels that he could have prevented it, and he didn’t.” So Arno seeks out the Assassins in the hopes of acquiring the means to prevent the corruption that hurt him from hurting other people.
Of course, that’s just the first layer of the story. Amancio promises that there are multiple layers to Arno’s tale – but we’ll have to wait a little longer to learn more about this intriguing new Assassin.
7. Paris Bound
Assassin’s Creed Unity is set in Paris during the French Revolution – one of the bloodiest, most chaotic periods in world history. This was also a time that set the stage for the modern era, changing everything that came afterward.
But history lesson aside, Paris during the French Revolution was also a bustling, dense city, with amazing architecture and a diverse population. There are various factions in the world, groups of people who will interact with each other – and who the player can use to his advantage. And there are moments when you might see crowds of up to 5,000 NPCs on screen, as opposed to 150 or so that you might find at maximum in previous games.
Assassin’s Creed Unity also introduces interiors. Yes, you can enter buildings throughout the city – some of which will be simple interiors, with others being fully decked out settings for missions. “It’s a game-changer for us,” Pontbriand says. “You can explore Paris inside and out.”
And under. The catacombs of Paris will also be available for players to explore.
8. Slay Together
Along with the single-player experience, Assassin’s Creed Unity also let’s up to four players join up and take on story-driven missions within their game world. “Each mission is a self-contained story, which means that we picked different really cool elements of the French Revolution and built a huge systemic mission around it,” Amancio says. And each of these missions can be played multiple times, tackled in multiple ways, offering a different experience depending on how many of your Brotherhood join, and how they’re customized…
9. Choose Your Own Assassin
…Yes, customized. “We have a fully customizable Assassin, who can evolve over the course of the game,” Pontbriand says. “So as you complete missions, you’ll earn skill points, which you’ll be able to spend upgrading your skills.” Unity includes different skill trees for stealth, combat and navigation; it’s up to you how you spend those points. And you can also further customize your Assassin with different gear, offering even more diversity in how you play. This customization fully crosses over from the single-player to the co-op and back again.
One thing to keep in mind: You are always playing Arno. “You’re playing Arno’s story, but when you start you’re not even an Assassin,” Amancio says. So all your customization is about Arno and his journey. As you become an Assassin, you pick up skills, and you acquire weapons and gear – all of which affect the way you play the game. And because Assassin’s Creed Unity continues to be built around a strong story and will deliver a seamless cooperative experience, it only makes sense to maintain the same character in both solo and co-op play. “When you’re playing co-op, you’re actually playing a memory of Arno performing a Brotherhood mission for the Assassin Brotherhood,” Amancio adds.
But what happens when you’re playing with three other “Arnos”? “From everybody’s perspective, they’re playing Arno,” Amancio explains. When you look at your friends, you’ll still see their unique gear and their unique weapons – but when you look at their faces, you’ll see generic Assassin faces. That way each player can still “peacock”… strutting their stuff and showing off their uniquely customized setups.
BONUS! Present Day
Yes, there will be a present day – but we’re not talking about it yet. We did, however, get one tasty tidbit out of Amancio. “It’s very different than anything you’ve seen in any of the past games,” he says. “Black Flag was different. This is more different.”