In 2014, Ubisoft has found itself in a unique situation. For a long time now, their Assassin’s Creed series has stood out as unique. They have a certain formula, pacing, gameplay and execution that few other games are attempting.
But now Ubisoft has created competition with itself. The AC series is getting two major console installments on two generations, and both are playable at rAge 2014. So, how do they compare? What’s different? Which one is the best? Hit the jump.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity
First announced on the 21st of March for PS4, Xbox One and PC, Unity has had a bit of a rough road. Plagued with issues and controversies from console parity to gender equality, the game is going to have to work really hard to impress gamers.
The demo available at rAge dropped players into the middle of an assassination mission. Our hero, Arno Le Fancypants, is tasked with figuring out the best way to take down a Templar. The demo kicks-off on a rooftop, and the Parisian skyline is really impressive to behold. The buildings are detailed well, and there is a good feeling of vibrancy. The new parkour element works well too, and feels a lot like Mirrors Edge. By holding in a button, Arno finds a contextual route up or down. It’s super-fun, and parkouring down a building feels better than the old-fashioned Leap of Faith. Keeping with the good, the mission structure feels like the first AC, and gives you multiple options and approaches to taking down your target. The combat has changes and benefits from the addition of a roll button, again like AC. Also, the Hidden Blade is no longer a seperate weapon, and is only used to assassinate, and not in combat. Also the crowd has become more, crowdy. Blending in with them is easier than ever.
But not all is well here. The biggest and most obvious problem is the voice-acting. Main characters speak with a prominent English accent and NPC city-folk speak French. It’s jarring, and an utterly mystifying design choice. What’s worse is these characters are constantly speaking isolated French words, and French names. It’s immersion-breaking, and really detracts from the authenticity the AC games have. Another problem is with the Eagle Vision. It now gives you X-ray vision and you can see objects from behind walls. It makes things too easy and removes elements of strategy. Also, killing your target triggers a weird cutscene where you view what your target was doing before, as well as what story-threads he was tugging on. Seriously, what the hell? First Arno has x-ray vision, and now he can read dying minds? This makes no sense…
Another bad point is a little more subjective: the game has no heart. There are no cool visuals, no good music, exciting new gameplay mechanics, or exotic locales. It feels competent and plays well, but this game has no underlying x-factor. At least, not at this demo-stage.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
Officially announced back in August for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, Rogue stars Shay Cormac. An ex-Assassin turned Templar, Shay’s character could open doors into the AC mythos that have never been explored before. And playing as the baddies is always a good time.
The rAge demo kicks off with the undeniably most popular part of the recent AC games: a naval battle versus five French ships. The naval combat has been tuned-up a bit, and Shay’s ship, The Morrigan, is far nimbler than other ships from the series. The two big changes to naval-combat are the inclusions of manually-aimed puckle-guns (which act like rapid-fire cannons and actually existed) and the ability to leave a stream of burning oil behind your ship. The puckles are fun to use because they remove the automation of the previous game’s swivel-guns and involve you much more in the action. The ship combat can also rapidly segue into a boarding, as a ramming enemy can trigger a melee by boarding. There’s another thing about the naval sections: YOU CAN SHOOT ICEBERGS! After some cannon-fire, the ice cracks apart and causes large waves all around it, jostling your ship and others. And a quick look at the map confirmed a scale in line with AC4, and new harpooning targets like narwhals.
On land, Shay handles much the same as in AC4. A fun addition to the combat is the rifle, which is a combination dart-gun and grenade launcher. At a certain part in the demo, I shot a sleep-grenade at a polar bear. It was hillarious! The rifle replaces the blow-gun, and really feels like there will be a lot more tactical options here.
Now on to the bad, because I crave a certain structure in my articles. AC: R feels like a largely re-skinned AC4. There are new locales, tools, animations and weapons, but the UI is identical to AC4, right down to the menu noises. So keep in mind that the fancy parkour-up/down from AC: U will not be here. Granted, familiarity can be good, and this is only really bad if you didn’t like the last game. And the only other glaring, terrible, atrocious problem with the game? Penguins in the Arctic Circle.
Here’s your winner: Assassin’s Creed: Rogue. It doens’t look the prettiest, or have the modern features, but it does enough to make it the better crafted game. The frozen locations are beautiful to look at and fun to play in, the naval segments have improved, and there aren’t any stupid accents out of place. The game is taking full advantage of its location too, and this injects that much needed style and heart into the game.
Granted, this is all only based on two demos and the finalised games may be much different. But at this stage, Rogue looks to be the better Assassin’s Creed.