The Assassin’s Creed series has become the new FIFA. Like the famous European football series, we’ve been getting a new Creed game every year since Assassin’s Creed II was released in 2009. The games have taken place in different time periods, and featured protagonists like the assassin Altair, the Italian womanizer Ezio Auditore and the fearless pirate Edward Kenway.
But I am probably not the only one who thinks that Ubisoft has been cashing in on the success of Assassin’s Creed II since 2009. That game had a longer 3 year development cycle and the extra care and attention led to one truly fantastic video game. It is still the best of the series, chronicling Ezio’s Auditore’s quest for revenge against the conspirators who betrayed his family and featuring great characters like Ezio’s sister Claudia, cool Prince of Persia-style tombs and of course, a truly mind-blowing ending. But all the Assassin’s Creed games that came afterwards have featured the same tired gameplay, with only incremental improvements. It has always been about parkour, assassinations and searching for treasure.
So it is no surprise that the Assassin’s Creed Unity “Time Anomaly” trailer left many Creed fans dumbstruck. In it, we see Unity’s protagonist Arno racing on Parisian rooftops… but all of a sudden a time anomaly occurs and Arno ends up in World War II Paris. He gets to climb the magnificent Eiffel tower and even uses a machine gun against attacking Nazi warplanes. This sort of time travel is certainly a novel idea for an Assassin’s Creed game, and a step in the right direction to freshen the series tired gameplay formula.
But according to creative director Alex Amancio, this is not the only novel feature we will find in Unity. The game will also allow players to enter buildings and to “navigate down a building”. So it will be possible to get back to the streets in a more civilized manner, by using the stairs, instead of performing the famous leap of faith and jumping into a cart with hay below. It is nice to know that Arno won’t be treating the city of Paris like a jungle and behaving like a Tarzan clone, at least not all the time.
And in the name of subtlety, another thing Amancio mentioned on the Ubi blog that could liven up the game is the improved stealth. It has always struck me as odd that to perform most of the assassinations in previous games you always had to take out an army of bodyguards before dealing with your assassination target. Aren’t assassins supposed to be masters of deception and shadow? Unity appears to be giving stealth a makeover, making protagonist Arno behave like the assassin he is, instead of an unstoppable killing machine. According to Amancio: “You’re an Assassin. You shouldn’t be Rambo.”
But sadly one thing we won’t be getting is French accents. No really, according to Amancio all the major characters will be speaking English with British accents, stating that “the Animus is translating everything into the language you’re playing in”. This is a pity, because hearing a character like Elise babble about the French revolution in a cute French accent was something I was looking forward to. But still, this is a game I have high hopes for, given that Mr. Amancio was also creative director for Revelations, which ranks amongst my favourite Assassin’s Creed games. And given that this is a new gen game everything is bound to look prettier than ever: it is clear that the game pushes the technical envelope by looking at the PC requirements. And climbing buildings such as the Notre Dame, enjoying the views of 18th Paris from the top of it and then performing the series iconic leap of faith will surely be a stunning experience, and if the game feels fresh in the gameplay department then it could be the best entry in the series since Assassin’s Creed II.
Note: Assassin’s Creed Unity releases on November 11th, for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.