E3 2014 Preview: Assassin’s Creed Unity

June 21, 2014

Assassin’s Creed Unity brings the historical/sci-fi/murder series into French Revolution, but while its setting may be stuck in the 1700’s, the developers are making full use of the next-gen platforms the game is being released on. The game has been in development in one form or another for the last four years, ever since the team at Ubisoft went for a tour around Paris to perform recon on locations they wanted to develop for future titles. It was envisioned as a next-gen title from its original conception, allowing the developers to start brainstorming ideas for what they wanted in the game, before they even knew the power or features that would be available to them, and the first fruit of their endeavors was on show at E3 this year for the first time.

The Unity developers knew they wanted detailed architecture and locations, with a large number of seamless interiors, as well as massive crowds that could demonstrate the full brutality of the Revolution. It’s definitely a big visual upgrade from Black Flag, as while it doesn’t have the rolling oceans or expansive vistas of that game, the character models of Unity up close are much more detailed. Even the individual character models in those massive mobs look great, and are all rendered on-screen without any slowdown or even that many repeating models among the crowds.

The game’s new protagonist is Frenchie Arno Dorian, but beyond that story details are light at the moment. The developer I was paired with at the E3 booth was unable to share further details, not even to confirm if Arno is part of Desmond’s bloodline, and there’s only so much we can infer from the gameplay demo. The Animus (the device which allows present-day characters to relive their ancestor’s memories) obviously returns, although it’s had another makeover yet again. Its appearance seems mostly similar to Black Flag (in terms of the colour scheme used, and the return of eagle vision ‘marking’), so maybe this’ll be another trip inside the terrors of a game development studio, like the last one? Who knows.



There are many more interior locations around Paris that simply come across at any time, by walking the streets. An on-screen overlay brings up icons of side missions around Arno, but he can also follow crowds to see where they are gathering and uncover new missions. For instance, passing by a house with a mob trying to peer inside indicates there might be something of interest in there. Investigating inside reveals a murder scene, and unlocks a new side mission which you can try to solve now, or later. Side missions are added to your new quest log and can be completed any time.

Arno himself has a few new moves up his sleeve, including a new adaptive dismount ability to use when descending structures. Rather than simply dropping off a building or finding posts to jump off, Arno will now intelligently use the building’s architecture and other objects to naturally get down, just as he would when climbing up. Arno will also be able to ‘level up’ certain abilities, for instance his eagle vision can be upgraded to increase range or effectiveness.

The most advertised feature of the game is thew new 4-player co-op missions, which allow Arno to join up with three other members of the Assassin Brotherhood under the control of online party members. These missions run parallel to the main campaign and are not required to finish it, rather serving as additional content with situations and puzzles built around the need for four players. Throughout all this, the development team also wanted to make clear that they wanted to return the series ‘back to its roots’, with assassinations that leave the details up to the player, rather than railroading you towards a performing it a certain way.

Assassin’s Creed Unity surprised with me with just how polished it looked, and with its release date in October fast approaching, I’ll definitely be looking forward to the series’ full-fledged next-gen debut.