Assassin's Creed Unity: behind the closed doors of Gamescom2014
Markuz, August 24, 2014
Translated by: Stefania

As many of you may have noticed following our news, Assassin's Creed Unity is proving to be, day by day, more and more interesting, especially in terms of interactions with the game world, freedom of action and also depth of characters and plot in general.

During our visit to Gamescom we had the chance to see everything with our own eyes, with not one, but two demos of the first chapter of the saga completely dedicated to next-gen. The first demo (which was also released online) was available for all the visitors and was dedicated to a single player mission showed by Patrick Limoges, Art Director Assistant on Unity, while the second one was showed to us behind closed doors (so a hands-off) by Benjamin Plich, Lead Game Designer on Unity.

The single player demo

As you can see in the video, the demo takes place in the first stages of the game (sequence 3, mission 2). Mainly, what we saw is exactly the same path, but we were especially impressed by some details we’d like to focus your attention on. First of all the graphics at the beginning of the mission shows that, in the mission zone, in this case Notre Dame, there are actually ten possible entrances, plus a secret one (probably the one shown at the end of the mission). This indicates not only a great care for details, especially as for the monuments and Notre Dame, but also the quality of Ubisoft’s work dedicated to the possible interactions that these ten entrances allow. To give you an idea, from what we saw in the video, it’s possible to enter frontally through combat against the guards, the “lockpick" ability, the theft of a key and also through a secret passage.

Another thing that impressed us, even though we were prepared thanks to the news, is the dialogue between Arno and the person who seems to be his instructor/Mentor (who seems to us to be voiced by Mark Bonnar, voice of Blackbeard in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag). The latter tells Arno he’s not an apprentice any more, he needs to get by on his own studying the surroundings, taking advantage of all the chances he has and creating new opportunities (so a real tutorial for the players), but that’s not the most important thing. The instructor/Mentor says “And if all other plans fails, why not sacrifice yourself for the cause? Your life for his. Before Altaïr, that was the Levantine approach" and provides a strong proof of what the developers often affirmed about the Assassin Order in Unity, too bound by tradition and decadent (our interview with Vincent Pontbriand is a perfect example). Similarly, as the developers already affirmed, Arno won’t be bound by tradition, to the CHAPTER that he’ll question them. As proof of that, in the demo it is possible to hear him saying “You mean a dagger in broad daylight, as I’m cut down where I stand? (...) I’ll do it my way.”

Among the other things we noticed during the presentation of the demo played by Limoges, we surely remember Paris' skyline, which can be seen at dusk from the top of Notre Dame, and especially Arno’s fluidity while he climbs down, through the controlled descent, to the ground.

As a last information about this demo, we’d like to add that, unlike what happens in the video, in our case Arno was detected by guards before Sivert (did you know that he’s a real historical figure?) could reach the confessional. So Arno had to hit him with the sword several times to kill him before the video with the scene dedicated to him was launched. This means that you have a great freedom also in the assassination and not only in the approach to it, so much so that sometimes it has some special sequences (like the one of the confessional).


The "heist" co-op demo

For us the true innovations weren’t in the single player demo (which can be seen online by everyone) but in the hands-off demo we were able to see behind closed doors thanks to Ubisoft Italia and which was shown to us by Benjamin Plich.

It was a “heist" mission, one of the types of co-op missions that will guarantee a high degree of replayability because, every time we’ll play them, the number of guards and their positioning will randomly change. Similarly every time the mission will be replayed, the layout (for example in the catacombs / sewers) will change and some passages may be closed the first time and open the next time and vice versa. Also, at the end of the mission, it will be possible to get different rewards.

At the beginning of the mission Plich showed us the incredible variety of customization for Arno that the player will have at disposal. Each element of Arno’s clothes / armours has four attributes, which describe its characteristics: Deadly, Resilient, Unseen, Agile. The player will choose which types of equipment to use, depending on the approach he/she is going to take in-game.

From what we saw while Plich was browsing the menus, we noticed the presence of at least 28 hoods (the first seven rows of four hoods can be seen in the menu itself) and probably the same can be applied to the other categories of equipment, as shown in this piece of news.It'll also be possible to change the color of clothes/equipment. Also, we were able to see a set of parameters called “Modifiers”, which weren’t explained to us, but we assume they are variable thanks to which the player can upgrade his/her equipment. Those parameters were:

  • Melee armor
  • Ranged armor
  • Time to blend
  • Blend fade time
  • Restricted area detection time
  • Disguise radius
  • Disguise duration
  • Health

Customization menu
The game will also have different types of currencies, and, if we are not wrong, the customization menu had four logos: the first one indicated the Francs, the second one was the Assassin emblem and the other two logos didn’t have a previously known representation (one of them was a sort of set of small squares). To stay on topic, as already stated in the news, Unity will introduce microtransactions. If we have understood correctly, they’ll work through a mode called “Hack", thanks to which it will be possible to obtain equipment and other objects without buying them or getting them through missions.

Bringing the customization subject to a close, we also briefly saw the section dedicated to weapons, which are divided in five categories: swords, long weapons, heavy weapons, guns, rifles. About this aspect, we were also told that there will be enormous differences in power among the weapons at the beginning of the game.

Once Arno's customisation was concluded, we finally started to play the mission. Before starting, we noticed that there were three indicators of the weapons at our disposal at any time: close-range weapons, long-range weapons, bombs (presumably each one can be activated with a specific button). There’s also a fourth indicator, the one for the Eagle Vision / Sense, but it appears only if it’s activated.

Before starting to play the real mission, Plich showed us how the connection between multiple players to play co-op missions works (or at least how it works for the “Heist" missions). The player, in fact, will start the mission and have three possibilities:

  • Play in private
  • Play in public
  • Invite friends

As you can see it seems that it’s possible to play co-op missions with random players who are online at that moment.

Once we finished the last preparations, we could finally watch the introduction of the mission by... a mechanical voice, which reminded us the classic Animus "voice”. The voice said that the reason behind the “heist” mission was the smuggling of jewels and artifacts (no, not THOSE artifacts) by Templars from Notre Dame through the sewers of Hôtel-Dieu (if we have understood correctly) So the objective was to recover the artifacts and flee.

The mission, according to Plich, was the first "Heist" of the game and so it was very easy (for two people), but it was very useful to see some of the gameplay characteristics and also the buttons mapping.

For instance, we saw that you stealth mode gets activated with the left trigger. This mode will allow not only to be more silent and stealthy, but will also show the positioning of guards on the mini map. In addition to that, we noticed that the non-lethal and silent “assassinations” (bare-handed) will be executed holding the B / circle button, without having to choose the “bare-handed” weapon. Lastly, sliding under objects / doors / blockages could be performed simply by pushing the B / circle button while running.

We also noticed the return of classic mechanics of the series, like the looting of objects from corpses, the presence of alarm bells that can be deactivate and the mechanisms to quickly reach the rooves (the ones in which the protagonist cuts a rope and clings to it to reach the roofs). On the other hand, we also noticed some new characteristics, among which the possibility to throw bombs while hanging from an edge (or at least that’s what it seemed to us), the presence of chests with different colors on the mini map (since some of them were blue, we thought the social events were back, but we were told the chests will have different colors depending on the lock pick level required to open them) and also the mini game to open the locks, which will have a bar that has to be watched to push the right button at the right time.

The mission ended with the two Assassins stealing the smuggled treasure, unfortunately without the return of the Animus’ mechanical voice at the end.

Our report on Assassin's Creed Unity at Gamescom 2014 ends here. We want to thank once again Ubisoft Italia and the Ubisoft Montreal developers who had the patience to show us all these contents. Stay tuned for our next article!

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