What Happens When Assassins Work Together
We have sailed the high seas, sculpted the American Revolution, and flew around renaissance Italy on a hang glider. Where else can the Assassin’s Creed franchise take us? The answer is France apparently, according to a first look gameplay demo of the new Assassin’s Creed Unity that we saw at E3 2014. Class warfare is the flavor of the day, at 18th century Paris commoners revolt against the foppish aristocracy. Of course, every good revolution comes with some murdering, and that’s where you come in.
The last installment, Black Flag , kind of took a sharp left turn from stealth elements, what with the larger than life pirating on the high seas theme. Can’t really sneak up and stab a pirate ship in the back, can you?
Assassin’s Creed Unity , however, is an attempt to get back to the roots of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Instead of high seas battles or conflicts between two rival armies, Assassin’s Creed Unity takes place in the dense and claustrophobic streets of France. You will be spending a lot of your time hiding in plain sight, pushing your way through crowds so that your enemies cannot see you, and losing yourself in crowds if you are ever spotted. If the hustle and bustle of the unwashed masses is too much for you, then you will be stressing your parkour skills by taking to the rooftops and clinging to ledges outside of windows. You will use the city to your advantage at all times, allowing the chaos to mask your presence. It feels a lot like the early days of Assassin’s Creed with Altair, more than anything else.
A lot of the big updates in Assassin’s Creed Unity come in the engine. For example, buildings and outdoor environments are now seamless. There is no loading screen, no separate maps, just an open window or door and boom you are inside. This changes gameplay quite significantly, as you can now duck inside and outside of buildings in order to remain hidden. Hide in an alleyway one second only to burst into the bedroom of a high class noble the next and stab him in the throat. It’s pretty awesome.
Similarly, the new engine can render many more objects on screen at once. The Ubisoft reps said that the game would be able to render thousands of characters, all angry, all flooding the streets. That’s a veritable ocean of people for you to wade through, or better yet, throw the corpse of a recently slain noble to. Each of these characters will have their own motivations and methods of behavior, even though they are just a part of the environment so you won’t interact with any two groups the same. Heck, you might even see other people stealing from each other, getting into fights, or even killing each other as you make your way toward your goal… perfect distractions for the assassin on the run.
Speaking of other assassins, Assassin’s Creed Unity has fully integrated co-op into its campaign mode. Now, one to four assassins can work together to complete missions, and doing so gives you access to a lot more tricks. Say you want to distract a guard. Your friend could knock on the wall, causing the guard to turn his back. Then you could sneak up behind him and take him out silently. If you are more of the “charge in guns blazing type” then you can quickly storm a noble’s room, having one assassin take out each guard, and letting you do what you will with the noble without anyone able to call for help. There are lots of other things you can do with a little bit of teamwork. An ally can incite a riot letting you sneak by unnoticed. A friend can pose as an important person, allowing you entrance into a building you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. The world is very open and your options are many as long as you have people who will work with you.
Assassin’s Creed Unity looks like a great step forward for the franchise. It takes chances on innovating with new system enhancements and co-op mechanics while still staying true to the series’ original gameplay conceits. I’ve long worried that the Assassin’s Creed franchise would start to get dull if Ubisoft continued to chase down yearly releases. However, Unity does look like it’s going to be a lot of fun to play. Unfortunately, we still don’t know much about the story and Unity might suffer from the “generic protagonist syndrome” that Black Flag suffered from. But as long as Ubisoft has some good writers on the project, I could see this being one of the must buy titles of next year.