Assassin's Creed: Unity - Dead Kings releases next week, and it's free to boot. Here's why we're excited for the first expansion to Arno's adventures.
Gosh y'all, having spent the holidays playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, Far Cry 4 and a handful of Telltale games, and having come home to resume my love affair with Destiny, I was absolutely certain I was over Assassin's Creed: Unity.
Then this happened:
I wasn't even going to watch this until one of my buddies asked me what I thought about "scruffy" Arno, and my interest was piqued as to why our hero had given up shaving again, since his beard was something of a sticking point for me.
Having watched it, I'm completely sold. I am such a sucker for story DLC, especially when I've enjoyed the core story so much (so, so much). But this trailer, I don't know - it reached inside me to be occasionally wavering Assassin's Creed fangirl core, and squeezed. I suddenly remembered all the good things about Unity, and I wanted to play it some more.
Here are a bunch of things I noticed or thought about while watching the trailer:
01) Yep, Scruffy Arno makes a return
Look at his poor wee emo face there. That expression is definitely more of a pout than a firm manly jaw. Assassin's Creed: Unity was distinguished by not one but TWO periods of the hero getting depressed and doing very little, and in both instances Arno ran about in his shirtsleeves with far too much beard (the bit where he's drunk and then hungover was particularly fine, I thought). I enjoyed these sections, although I'm pleased to see he's kept a coat on this time; it gets cold in Europe.
My enjoyment of characters' suffering aside, it's great to see Ubisoft acknowledging the events of the core game, which would throw anybody into the doldrums, to say the least. Too often expansion content feels like it ought to have taken place before the big finale, in that your world-shaking final confrontation seems to have had about as much seismic impact as a sparrow's fart. I'm sure Arno will shuck off his sads and get on with things (the closing line of the narration certainly suggests it), but even a token gesture is appreciated.
02) Dead Kings is set in a new location
Having realised the DLC takes place after the main storyline, I rewound the trailer to look at the date and setting text - a thing I almost never do. After a bit of thought (and Wikipedia checking) I figured out that Dead Kings must follow on pretty soon after the end of Unity, since the final missions take place during or just after the Reign of Terror (1793).
Having done a bit of historical research I felt especially smug, so I decided to do a bit more and looked up the location - Saint-Denis. Having compared the game's map with a map of Paris, I'm confident this is an all-new environment, so you won't be retreading the same streets over and over again with a tiny bit of extra dungeon. Nice. (Also: wow, Paris is a shitload bigger than Unity would have you believe, even accounting for game scaling.)
03) Napoleon is back
I'm not saying this mysterious hatted figure with the imperious gestures is 100% Napoleon, because I have no proof whatsoever. But just look at him! It totally is. Don't be confused by the later guy with a hat who is definitely not Napoleon, because after tracking back a forth a few times I realised the first one has no beard. Ergo the second one is someone else. Ergo this one can totally be Napoleon.
I am very excited for this to be Napoleon because Napoleon was one of my favourite parts of Unity. It was really interesting to see this historical figure presented with such sympathy, as apposed to the anglo-centric villainous depiction we normally get. It looks like that's going to change, but I won't care; seeing someone you already know has other sides to their character commit atrocities is way more interesting then one-dimensional Skeletor baddies, amirite?
04) The lantern
When I first watched the trailer I didn't think much of the lantern, but then I noticed that Ubisoft specifically called it out in the accompanying text. So this isn't just a prop; you'll actually be using a lantern in-game.
I have no idea how this tool will be used, but the fact that Ubisoft is experimenting with new systems is exciting, because Assassin's Creed is still a bit of a mess. Ubisoft Montreal has two years to make the next one, and has said it wants to use the time to try new things. It's apparently decided to start early, though, and the DLC gives it a safe place to tinker with the game and actually see how players like the changes before committing to a full game using them.
Assassin's Creed has never paid much attention to light, as far as I can tell, but it's an important part of the stealth systems of games like Thief and Dishonored. I'd be very interested to see Ubisoft implement a light-based modifier on its existing stealth systems (or even, please glob, an entirely new stealth system), and this bit of the trailer, especially when you later see someone hiding, seems to suggest that light will play a part in detection in the DLC.
As previously discussed, Unity didn't have enough animals. I suspect Dead Kings is going to have too many, assuming you don't enjoy having your face eaten off. Switch your lantern on and watch them stream away in great numbers, alerting or maybe terrifying guards! Switch your lantern off and risk them nibbling your toesy-wosies and blocking access to items and paths!
If this isn't how it works, I'm going to be pretty disappointed, and also Ubisoft can send me a cheque for that great idea. Here's another (less great ??) idea: let Arno befriend rats ala the fascinatingly dire Julian Sands version of Phantom of the Opera. But uh. He can leave his clothes on, please.
06) Proper dungeon puzzles
I say "proper" but I do of course mean "Assassin's Creed proper", so don't expect any Legend of Zelda fare here. But one thing I missed in Assassin's Creed 3, Black Flag and Unity was big, convoluted dungeon-style puzzles.
In his last two outings, Ezio really got a handle on these, facing switch, timing, jumping and climbing puzzles as he tracked down rare items. Unity's glyphs weren't a patch on the experience of picking through these ruins, and I'd love to see that come back. I hope that's what all this secret door with skull buttons business means.
07) The science-fiction nonsense is back
Assassin's Creed: Unity shucked off the trappings of the modern sci-fi story, mostly; a relic popped up at the end, but that was it. I think it was much better for it, but on the other hand I missed the continuity - the feeling that I was slowly putting together a bigger picture as we did in all the games right through to the end of Assassin's Creed 3.
I have no doubt that Dead Kings will tell either a self-contained story or a story that will conclude with the end of the DLC releases, but I'd love to see it touch on the larger setting in some way. If we're going to head down into a First Civilization structure of some kind, that has to happen - and if the First Civilization is not involved in exploding lightning doors I'll be quite surprised.
08) The Guillotine Gun
"What is that thing he's got? Like a portable cannon with a ... climbing hook? Blade?" According to the press release, it's a Guillotine Gun. Quite what that is or how it works, nobody knows. It looks like the sort of ridiculous weapon carried by Samurai Warriors characters. I'm certain that it's absolute nonsense, and would never work in the real life.
Just like the entirety of Assassin's Creed, then, and also video games in general. Hurrah! I can't wait to do whatever it is this terrific thing does, including stab people and then shoot them from their own insides.
BONUS: The science-fiction nonsense is definitely back
WHERE IS THAT
I WANT TO GO THERE
LET'S GO THERE
LET'S LOOK AT ALL THE THINGS
Assassin's Creed: Unity - Dead Kings is coming to PC and Xbox One on January 13, and to PS4 on January 14. It is free, as a sort of "sorry" for the game's buggy launch.