Assassin's Creed is back. Will the game innovate and recapture lost and fading fans? From what I saw at E3, it could succeed and..then some.
We saw the main news around the game at Ubisoft's Conference, which we would then see firsthand at E3: as well as the long-awaited solo mode, there will be a co-op game with up to 4 players.
Assassin's Creed Unity introduces an important new feature that doesn’t significantly change the saga or the gameplay we're used to, but integrates into the game, enriching and giving life to the franchise that seemed to have lost its charm and vital energy since AC Black Flag.
The perfect setting for an assassin
Assassin's Creed is back, and this time it’s in a perfect setting, long awaited by fans: the French Revolution and the reign of terror. In Unity, we’ll start to see the power of next-gen with impressive graphics, film sequences and spectacular environments, populated by NPCS that interact with each other as real people.
In the mission that I saw, before killing our mark, we witnessed an execution by guillotine from the roof of a building in a square packed with people. After that, Arno falls on top of his victim, the assassination sequence perfectly imitating the brutality of the time.
In addition to the classic street life and watching passers-by from above, Assassin's Creed Unity explores the interior and the private life of the city for the first time. In the virtual Paris of the game, you can explore one in every four houses and inside you’ll find hidden characters, quests and treasures.
Unlike previous chapters, in which we had to wait until the next scene is loaded whenever we walked indoors, in Assassin's Creed Unity, entry into a building is smooth. In addition to houses, we can go down in the catacombs and the city’s sewerage system.
A return to murderous agility and renewed fighting
In the first chapters of the saga, I was impressed by the agility of Altair and Ezio when moving from one roof to another and climbing the walls of the buildings, but in the last releases, progress had stopped.
Assassin's Creed Unity proposes new movements, especially with regard to climbing along the walls, with Controlled Descent. Now Arno manages to exit elegantly, clinging to the walls and projections without following a predetermined path.
Even the fighting in Assassin's Creed Unity seems renewed compared to the fighting seen in earlier chapters, even though they look similar at first glance. The main feature concerns the counterattack, which won’t be as lethal as it often used to be.
Killing in fighting isn't as immediate, and as a result, the fight will be based more on the player's timing and pressing the right button at the right time. In the live demo that I saw, the fight seemed to be very different, even though it seemed more fluid and with better animations. We’ll really have to wait until a gameplay demo to see how much the gameplay has innovated.
In the single player mission of Assassin's Creed Unity shown at E3, I noticed how the stealth component of the game seemed rediscovered, with a brand new stealth system that lets you go unnoticed and seek cover behind objects more easily. From this point of view, is more the sense of being an assassin that skulking in the shadows.
To the delight of fans of AC, I also saw a kind of in-game map, thanks to which we can see goals and points of interest without having to pause and open the map. When you are high enough (for example on a roof of a building) and you are using Low Profile, these points will automatically appear on the screen.
Assassin's Creed Unity adds a mini RPG component to the game, thanks to which we can strengthen Arno gradually as we progress. In the demo we saw, for example, Eagle Vision lasted just a second or so, but over time we can build the duration up.
Coop Multiplayer: the real gem of Assassin's Creed Unity
The most eagerly awaited and substantial change to the Assassin's Creed saga is the online cooperative multiplayer, which involves all the game campaigns. In Unity, we can call friends to intervene in missions, with a max of 4 players simultaneously.
In the demo, we saw the people's assault on the Palace of the Marquis, the objective of the murderers’ mission. In the four screens, each character moved independently but had tools like the countdown timer to coordinate with others for synchronized action.
French Revolution or a murder revolution?
As seen at E3, it seems that Ubisoft has made enough changes to Assassin's Creed Unity to give continuity to a series that has appeared stranded over the last 2 installments. It’s managed to do this, however, without upsetting the soul of the game.
Fans of Assassin’s Creed will have in their hands a title that brings back the heart of the game, even at this early stage. The question is whether Unity will win back those who abandoned the saga because they found it too repetitive. The power of next-gen and the co-op mode, as well as the protagonist’s new moves seem sufficient evidence to at least give it a try, but we’ll have to wait until GamesCom to try the game first hand and let you know for sure!