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Assassin's Creed Unity Preview - Should Assassins be Working Together?

Joshua Vanderwall | 13 Aug 2014 08:00
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Assassin's Creed Unity was designed from the ground up with two core ideas in mind. First, it must be a next-gen game. In order to take full advantage of the new hardware, you can't be working within the limitations of the previous generation, so a purely next-gen Unity has been in the cards from the outset. Not only did Ubisoft start with next-gen in mind, but the idea of cooperative play has similarly been there since Unity's genesis. Having seen cries from the players for co-op play basically since the beginning, Ubisoft took the hint and started working towards an AC concept that would allow it. With the game's various systems, like guards' lines of sight, being incapable of accounting for more than one assassin, it's no surprise that the game has taken upwards of four years - and three other AC titles shipped - to finally debut. According to Senior Producer Vincent Pontbriand, Unity "feels like the first one all over again," noting that Ubisoft wants to once again redefine action-adventure for the new generation.

While Unity is the first fully online title in the series, it's not all about the co-op. In fact, the co-op missions have their own sort of storyline (not necessarily a cohesive plot like you see in the core story missions, but a progressive sequence of occasionally inter-related missions) and you can't actually make single-player story progress while playing multiplayer. The SP story missions are going to largely be "black box" missions, such that you are introduced to a scenario, given an objective, and then set loose to complete the objectives with your own personal touch.

Many of these missions will even offer up some missions stats before you dive in, listing how many physical entrances there are to the interior of the building, for example. Additionally, it'll let you know if there are Unique Kills available, or secret routes that you can uncover. This freedom is part of an attempt by Ubisoft to "give ownership of the main character to the player," according to Benjamin Plich, lead game designer for online. Another bit of dynamism in Unity is the "Adaptive Missions Mechanics" idea that's been integrated across the entirety of the game. Failing a mission step, getting frustrated, making mistakes, and failing it again "becomes a negative loop," says Pontbriand, continuing, "What the players do to meet their objectives needs to be as open as possible." So the team developed a scheme to allow just that across a variety of mission types.

If you're on a "tail" mission, where you're required to stealthily follow a target, but he spots you and runs, the mission objective dynamically changes to become a "chase" mission, where you're just required to not let him get away. Then, Pontbriand says, "if you lose sight of him because you got distracted... it will systemically become a location mission." The missions evolve based on your actions in game, so you're never stuck in an endless fail/restart cycle.

The hands-off demo we saw was a single-player mission, in which you're required to assassinate a well-guarded target inside a church. There are heavily armed soldiers everywhere, and fighting your way in and out would require an impressive amount of talent and luck, so subterfuge is your best friend. You have the option of simply trying to sneak into the church unnoticed, but that may prove too difficult as well without any assistance, In the demo, the player scouted the area looking for points of interest. He spotted a man taunting a priest, holding a set of keys far out of reach, so you know this gentleman has keys that might be helpful. He also spotted the target's liaison, who you can stealthily assassinate, and take his place for the meeting, giving you a prime opportunity for murder.

After a few minutes of investigation, the player went off to execute his plan. He followed, isolated, and murdered the liaison, creating the opportunity for the meeting. Then he doubled back to the town, found the hooligan that stole the clergy's keys, and pickpocketed them, further demonstrating the options available at every turn. A brawl would have been my approach here, without a doubt. Sneaking along the rooftops, he found his way to an upper entrance to the church which he unlocked with the newly acquired key. Of course, if he had the lockpicking skill, it would have been a simpler matter, but that's why the skill tree offers tough choices along the way.

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