This year, Assassins Creed developer Ubisoft is spreading the love and releasing two separate games depending on which platform generation you’re playing on. If you have yet to upgrade your PS3s or Xboxes, then you’ll return to the open seas and North American setting as a Templar in Assassins Creed: Rogue. But if you have made the change to PS4 and Xbox One, then get ready to return to the sprawling cityscapes that Assassins Creed first became famous for.
It’s important to realize that this game is not Assassin’s Creed 5. It’s not just another game in the PS3 series; but is actually a complete restart for the Next-Gen consoles. For the first time since Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, we will return to an immense European city; but this time everything from combat to the way you move has been changed for enhanced mobility and freedom of choice.
For those who don’t know the tragic story of Edward Kenway’s death, he was murdered by one of his business associates Reginald Birch, who was actually a Templar. What made this even more heartbreaking was that Birch after birch slaughtered Edward’s family, he took in his son, Haytham, and manipulated him into becoming a Templar. In Assassins Creed: Unity, we will discover that Arno Dorian has had a similar – yet completely opposite – upbringing.
Orphaned at a young age when his Assassin father was killed, Arno gets taken in by a Templar who feels responsible for the death of Arno’s dad. Despite being on opposite sides, this Templar respected Arno’s father and doesn’t want to tarnish his memory so he decides to keep everything a secret. While Arno doesn’t become an Templar during his time with his foster parent, he does fall in love with the Templar’s daughter, who is named Elise – the woman we saw tied up in the Execution trailer.
“He feels [indebted] to Arno’s father, not because he had anything to do with it, but just because of respect for his enemy, so he takes Arno under his wing … But he doesn’t want to corrupt the memory of Arno’s father by making him become a part of the Templars, so he hides the whole Templar thing. Arno has no idea.” – Creative Director Alex Amancio
The two go their separate ways; but find themselves pulled back together after Elise’s father is killed. Arno feels responsible for this death and decides to make it his mission to find out who killed him and why. Elise will embark on the same exact mission; but whereas Arno desires redemption; Elise wants nothing but revenge. She sees her father’s death as the result of the Templar Order becoming corrupted and wants to punish those involved.
Arno might be a quick witted, no-nonsense person; but he will constantly find himself torn between his sense of duty to the Assassins and his love of Elise, who’s methods and free spirit attitude stand in stark contrast to his own. This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen an Assassin and Templar together romantically (ie: Altair and Marie). It’ll be interesting to see how this love story will play out and which path Arno will choose. It’s truly a Catch 22 – or more specifically a “Cornelian Dilemma” as Creative Director Alex Amancio puts it. Either Arno must renounce his Assassin brotherhood to pursue love; or stand with his brotherhood and possibly play a hand in Elise’s death.
“Love stories are always a hard thing in video games because ultimately they can very easily become a tangent. By making Elise a Templar and making that part of the core, it’s part of the actual struggle of the character. It prevents it from becoming a B-plot or a tangent.” – Amancio
Not A Damsel:
Despite the whole ‘love story’ angle, Elise isn’t just in this game to be a romantic foil. She’s not just the strongest women the franchise has seen; but also the most important secondary character ever. Brilliant, driven and in many ways Arno’s superior in combat, Elise is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Contrary to Arno who constantly questions his own creed, Elise follows her Templar creed without question and is fighting to prevent it from being corrupted. This story in much more than just Arno’s; but also explores Elise’s story to discover what are “the dangers of vengeance and where that can lead you”. Whereas I am still sad that we won’t get to play as this stunningly brilliant and powerful character, I am glad that a companion book will be released to detail all of Elise’s adventures before her and Arno meet again at the start of AC: Unity.
Customization – Become Your Own Assassin:
One of the greatest new innovations in AC: Unity is the full range of customizations that you can outfit Arno with. Now this won’t be like the different colored robes or armor sets of past games; but will actually allow you to mix and match different pieces (almost 200) that will allow for different abilities and skills. From forearms, legs, boots, chest, mask and hood, everything is customizable and grants you different perks (more blades, health, soft footed, blending, eagle vision, defense, etc). Whether you want to blend in faster or carry more items, any combination is possible to make your ideal Assassin. You can even choose which weapons types you want to be proficient in (ie: do you like close combat or would you rather do max damage at a distance with spears and pikes. Or will you forget about weaponry and focus instead on pure stealth. Then again, you might want to become an unstoppable tank. You make your own Assassin.
Unlike past Assassin Creed games, here you can actually earn skill points to be spent in new trades and techniques. There are literally hundreds of quests in the city of Paris, so you will have ample time to explore new skills, equipment and weaponry. Additionally, you will be able to unlock the costumes of past Assassins to play around with as well.
Freedom – Discover Your Own Path
As you can imagine, AC: Unity is all about reinventing this series for the next gen; and that comes with exceptionally enhanced freedom of choice. It’s not just your look you can customize; but also the way you approach and uncover missions as a whole. Synching a viewpoint might reveal a lot of the surrounding area; but many missions will only become available if you are conscious of your surroundings.
By exploring houses, watching the crowds and even reading newspapers, Arno will gain a better understanding of the city of Paris and who needs help in this tumultuous time. Once uncovered, these new missions will appear on the map with a question mark and can be added to your Quest Log to be handled when you see fit to handle them. From thefts to murders, Arno will find himself solving many crimes; so it’s only fitting that he should run into the Father of Modern Criminolgy himself, Eugene Francois Vidocq. Eugene might be young when we meet him in the game; but he is already well aware of the countless acts of corruption taking over the city of Paris during the Reign of Terror.
As for missions themselves, players will have to find their own way. No more checklists or paths to follow. You will execute missions in the way you find most comfortable. With the ability to explore and climb inside any building, you can even use window ledges now to assassinate your targets. In the footage above, you can see how missions come with optional side objectives along the way if you so desire to accomplish them. Also worth noting is that now when you assassinate a target, you get a vision of that person’s life. In the demo clip, this ‘life vision’ seems brief and doesn’t make a lot of sense; but in the game itself there will be much more information presented to the player.
Reimagining The Basics – Parkour, Stealth, and Combat:
In order to make this brave new world of freedom come to life, many game mechanics had to be completely revamped from the ground up. Everything from the way you fight to the way you move has been completely redone to better suit your new environment. For starters, the Parkour system will now offer a wider array of movement and control as you can choose to either dive upon your enemies or softly and swiftly make your way to the ground without being detected. Additionally, you can even choose whether you leap over obstacles or stealthy slide beneath to keep hidden. The world is truly your playground, and you decide where, when and how you parkour.
Though when stealth is absolutely necessary, there’s a mode for that too. The newly created ‘stealth mode’ does away with all the “let me stand behind this box awkwardly and hope no one sees me” mentality. In ‘stealth mode’, everything Arno does will be swift and less noticeable. From diving from cover spot to cover spot, or crouching down to break line of sight, this new approach to stealth play makes the action much more fluid and truly highlights on of the assassins most vital skills. The cluttered streets and over the top architecture isn’t just for show; but also offers countless places to disappear into the shadows
You might wonder why there is so much focus on stealth and parkour in this new game. Well the answer is because you’re going to need it. The enemy AI – Artificial Intelligence – is unlike anything we’ve seen in the series before. The enemies will have a ton of offensive and defensive options at their disposal – including bombs. What makes matters even worse is that the AI actively works together. The enemy will try to surround you. They will try to disorient you while another makes his way to attack. The days of chain kills are gone. You will need every skill you can muster to fend off these vicious fighters. Though most shocking is the addition of actual and honest to God Boss Fights. These won’t be the same old ‘constantly press attack button’ bosses, nor the kind that are impossible to defeat. These bosses offer interesting battles against opponents who move much like Arno, so you will have to focus on achieving your goal.
Co-Ops – Know Your Game Mode:
As for Co-Op, this will be te only experience for Multiplayer this time around; but considering the present day story and what Co-Op’s role is in the game; it actually makes a lot of sense. Co-Op will be a chance for Arno to take on bigger missions that deal directly with the French Revolution – rather than just being set around it. Your rewards from these missions will deal entirely with your in-game character, which is why you can’t opt to play as a different character. These are just another segment of Arno’s life story.
As for the types of missions, these will vary. In the original Co-Op announcement trailer we saw a game style that was very assassination focused; but this isn’t the only type of game mode. There will also be something called “Heist Missions” where you will infiltrate an area, steal the treasures, and escape without being noticed. Though don’t think of these missions as simple knock offs of Multiplayer games. These are all set within the single player missions, so the ridiculously improved AI will still be in effect. This isn’t an excuse to play with others. This missions are truly designed to be something much larger than just one assassin can handle. You will need teamwork – which brings us to our next point.
Anyone who has played any multiplayer game session of AC knows that there are countless people who treat the game like a free for all and run around leaving stealth and precision at the door. From being the first to die to stealing hard earned and planned kills, these tactics remain infuriating to say the least. Thankfully, these Co-Op Missions will force players to actually think things through; and if they choose to play foolishly, they’ll learn the hard way not to. When you die in Co-Op, you can respawn; but you will lose money. Also, during the previously mentioned ‘Heist Missions’, if you are detected you will lose some of the treasure.
For those of you who do take multiplayer-style missions seriously, prepare to be rewarded with amazing enhancements. From synched kills to real time strategizing, Co-Op returns the best features of multiplayer with some new gems. These missions also promise to never get repetitive as the number of guards and their routes will noticeably change every time a mission is played. There will also be a number of achievements to unlock in Co-Op Missions. If you haven’t before, I think these missions offer the perfect opportunity to invest in a headset for devising tactics and communicating with your brotherhood.
Connections To Past Games:
Beyond this game reinventing a lot of long time series staples (parkour, stealth, combat, etc), this game also sees a return to MANY elements that we haven’t seen in some time – both thematic and gameplay. For example, this game will be the first time that our main character reports directly to an established brotherhood of Assassin since the original Assassins Creed. ACII’s series saw Ezio as the Master Assassin, AC III saw Connor trying to rebuild the brotherhood and ACIV: Black Flag had Edwards basically doing whatever he wanted to do. In AC: Unity, Arno will directly go before and report to more experienced Assassins to learn about the creed and seek redemption – very similar to what Altair did in the original Assassin Creed.
I already mentioned how this game returns us to the European cityscapes of Assassins Creed II and AC: Brotherhood, but there is also a stunning gameplay addition that we haven’t seen since the finale of that series AC: Revelations – warring factions. In Revelations, the city streets were patrolled by both Ottomans and Byzantines. Some pursed Ezio, others only if provoked; but they certainly hated each other. The same style of play will return in AC: Unity as the streets are overrun with thugs and police. The police might only attack when provoked, but the thugs will always be after a fight with Arno. Sometimes the best approach to these factions is simply to get them to interact with each other – and sneak past as the fighting begins.
Though despite all these thematic similarities, there are also some direct connections to other installments in the Assassins Creed series. For starters, it has already been confirmed that AC: Unity and AC: Rogue will have a tie in to each other towards the end of the game – at least on the part of AC: Rogue. Though the greatest bit of remembrance comes from some revealed voice acting credits in the game. As you could imagine – due to their proximity of timelines – Connor Kenway from Assassins Creed III will apparently be making some kind of appearance in the game. What role he will play is still unknown; but an older Connor will make an appearance at some point – most likely representing the American Colonial branch of the Assassins.
Present Day Setting:
Assassins Creed’s present day storyline began as exclusively tied to Desmond Miles; but in the multiplayer for Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, we began to get this sense of personal involvement in the story. Later games expanded upon this and soon we went from a ‘hopeful Templar recruit’ to a game tested at Abstergo. Much of the present day story for AC: Unity is still under wraps; but Amancio assured us that it’ll be the most immersive one yet as we ourselves will be the protagonists. We won’t be game testers at some company; we will literally be the protagonist!
“The present day is what gels everything together and the spread that allows limitless possibilities … I think we just need to find its voice, and seriously I think what we did, I strongly believe this is where it has to go, and it has to go even further with other games.” – Amancio
Alex Amancio went on to reveal that the first 20 minutes of the game will not only be very surprising; but will reveal everything the player needs to know about the game world and where everything is going. How immersive will it be? Again, many details are still unknown; but personally I’m hoping for a Job Offer from Abstergo – I am available by the way 😉
One question that I’ve been hearing a lot is WHAT the game title means by “Unity”. Well, it could be the fact that this game unites old and new with its Next-Gen upgrades of last gens staples. Or it could point to how we the players are becoming more and more closely tied to the game’s present day story. Though I personally believe ‘Unity’ points to the closeness of Arno and Elise, and how that represents a possible merging of Assassin and Templar Orders.
For a while now we’ve been hearing about Erudito – a mysterious organization that is opposed to the modern Templars but also doesn’t seem to stand exclusively with the Assassins either. Are Arno and Elise the foundations of this third group. We already know Elise is trying to prevent her Templar Order from changing, so it all comes down to whether or not she succeeds in that mission. Either way, we’ve seen Templars and Assassins work together briefly in the past. This time proves to be the most fulfilling and allied example yet.
The only question that really remains in my mind is whether or not I’ll try to play both AC games simultaneously. Assassins Creed: Unity will be available November 11th to coincide with the release of Assassins Creed: Rogue which will hit the last-Gen consoles. To learn more about Assassin’s Creed: Rogue – Ubisoft’s other Assassin’s Creed game for this year – please check out my Everything You Need To Know article about that title.
If you are interested in Pre-Order Bonuses and Special Editions for this game or Assassins Creed: Rogue, please check out my Pre-Order Guide to discover which package is best for you. Also, a very special thanks to Access The Animus for many of the photos pictured here as well as some quotes with Ubisoft game directors.