It’s the first day of rAge, and I was lucky enough to snag a bit of time with Lesley Phord-Toy, one of the producers on Assassin’s Creed: Unity (hereafter AC5) to chat a bit about Ubisoft’s upcoming action-stealth-stabber that’s set in Revolution-era Paris. She works at Ubisoft Toronto, just one of the ten studios bringing AC5 to life.
AC5 is the most ambitious Assassin’s Creed game Ubisoft has ever made. Phord-Toy told me it was conceived of over four years ago, when the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were distant dreams and precious little was even known about them; Ubisoft took a guess at the hardware they’d be developing for and adjusted accordingly. But thanks to the more advanced hardware that ultimately went into the two newest consoles, Ubisoft was able to do things they could only dream of before, giving the developers the opportunity to put more detail than ever before into the environment.
The many videos I’ve seen are testament to how far the designers have managed to push the limits of gaming graphics. Phord-Toy told me each one of those videos was captured using in-game assets rather than being pre-rendered. Impressive.
When it comes to the game’s protagonist, this time around Ubisoft is aiming to bring more of a sense of progression to your character – Arno. Rather than just upgrading weapons and armour (and the ship in Black Flag),.AC5 will have RPG-lite features that let you tune Arno’s stats in a pleasing manner..
This is done through a bunch of items that boost stats – Phord-Toy says there are around 200 of these to be discovered throughout the world – and there is a total of between 80 and 85 hand-crafted weapons for Arno to find and use.
When asked if players will have the opportunity to maximise all of Arno’s skills or be forced into specific upgrade paths at the expense of others, she said no, Arno will be fully maximisable. The point, she stressed, is to give players as much choice as possible.
When I asked her about the game’s subtitle – Unity – she said this is the first time an Assassin’s Creed development codename has been used as its commercial name. Unity, she said, is seen everywhere in the game itself, from the seamless drop-in co-op multiplayer to the unification seen in the streets of Paris of common folks uniting in their struggle with the ruling class. That extends to the actual development, too, as having a total of ten studios involved in the game’s creation requiring a significant amount of harmony to work towards the huge, over-arching common goal that is AC5.
She also told me the game has been designed to be as accessible as possible. To that end, players aren’t shut out of the game’s 20 co-op missions – which are separate from the main storyline – if they don’t have friends to play with, as all of them can be played solo. But should they play with friends, they’ll get to take part in assassinations that reward team work, and unlock achievements for things like simultaneous takedowns.
The main story is entirely solo, though, as it’s all about Arno’s story and his quest for redemption. There will of course also be Abstergo-related things to see and do, but there’s not much been shared about that side of the storyline to date.
The coolest thing I heard about is the presence of taverns throughout Paris, where players will see ghosts of their friends who are currently playing the game. Joining their session for some co-op killing is a simple matter of finding their ghosts and pressing a button, so there’s no need to for separate multiplayer foyers or leaving the game for another screen – everything is seamless.
AC5 sounds better every time I hear about it, and it was a pleasure talking to someone so close to the game, who is clearly incredibly passionate about Assassin’s Creed’s future.
It’s out on November 11 for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.