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Assassin’s Creed: Unity E3 2014 Preview

June 13, 2014 | Posted by Liana Kerzner

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The French Revolution was the bloody birth of the world’s second modern democracy. It changed the world through the overthrow of a monarchy and the horrors of the Terror. It’s also a uniquely interesting setting for an Assassin’s Creed game because it shows the dark side of the Assassin’s mantra of freedom at all costs… or does it? The Templar role in the Terror seems pretty complex based on the bits I’ve seen, since they outlast the execution of Louis XVI… but enough nerding out about fictional history.

Those who long for the days of the AC2 Brotherhood games are in luck: Assassin’s Creed: Unity’s game mechanics are re-built from the ground up by the Brotherhood development team. There are definite notes of nostalgia too. But while some emphases and missions harken back to even the first Assassin’s Creed, the gameplay takes steps to correct the one definite weakness of the franchise: loose navigation controls. The new Assassin moves are less wall scrambling and more parkour inspired.

The series is also returning to its roots in terms of the Assassins actually being, uh, Assassins, and not flat-out melee specialists who can take on twenty enemies single-handedly. Trying to engage more than three or four enemies at a time is apparently going to give you trouble, so stealth and carefully-planned attacks are critical… although there are still occasions where you can make big flashy public sssassinations too.

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Other innovations and improvements include three options for the amount of detail displayed in the user interface, from almost nothing to objective markers everywhere. There are also multiple types of side missions, including Watch_Dogs style murder investigations.

Not surprisingly, Revolutionary Paris is recreated in the painstaking detail one would expect from a Next-Gen-only game. Sixty-five landmarks are meticulously reproduced, inside and out, including Notre Dame cathedral. There are no longer load screens when entering and exiting buildings, and the crowds number in the hundreds.

Historical figures such as Danton and Robespierre are, of course, incorporated. And the guillotine is quite prominent. The map is huge, and integrates missions where new Assassin Arno Dorian is replaced by custom-created player characters to form small Brotherhoods with friends.

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And this is why Ubisoft fans are so devoted: the company refuses to play it safe. Some players may end up hating the change in controls just because it’s change, but those of us who suffered through spazzy Assassins because we liked the stories may finally get an Assassin’s Creed game that plays as fluidly as the narratives imply they should. Arno is a leaner, less flashy Assassin, designed to blend into the shadows and backgrounds of his glittering, roiling, bleeding game world. The French Revolution helped usher in modern Western civilization. Ubisoft is hoping that Assassin’s Creed: Unity will do the same for the PS4 and Xbox One console cycle come October 28th, 2014.

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Liana Kerzner