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Assassin’s Creed Nexus is a VR adaptation that retains the charm and gameplay loop of the popular mainline Assassin’s Creed entries. At IGDC 2023 in Hyderabad, India, we went hands-on with the new VR title on the Meta Quest 3. We also interviewed Ubisoft for some insights into its creation.
While Assassin’s Creed Nexus lets you pick from three assassins (Connor, Ezio, and Kassandra), I only got to step into the role of Ezio in the demo. The experience that followed was incredible and hearing Ezio Auditore de la Firenze’s voice sold it for me. Stepping into the Animus felt like fulfilling a childhood dream. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Nexus was more than a glorified tech demo. Tasked with seeking lost Isu artifacts, the real-world plot sounds like a good excuse to return to some fan-favorite locations. While you don’t get open worlds, Nexus’ sandbox levels offer multiple paths to success.
Everything felt right as I put on the Meta Quest 3 and picked up the controllers. Despite the new first-person view, Renaissance-era Venice looked just as lovely as the day I left it a decade ago. I was particularly pleased with the NPC variety and their interactions. And yes, you can step near bystanders, pull up your hood, and watch as a target you’re supposed to tail ignores you. This was the first segment of the ‘Rizzo’s humiliations’ mission that takes place halfway through the game.
Walking around felt great and having a button to parkour meant it was both simple and satisfying in VR. Parkour relied on your vision to guide Ezio as he leaped from ledge to ledge. Climbing buildings one handhold at a time was pretty immersive. Navigating buildings took on a new degree of risk since you could slip from handholds and thin ropes if you weren’t careful.
Sashi Menon, a Production Head at Ubisoft Mumbai, noted that navigation was key to the Assassin’s Creed experience. “It took a lot of playtesting to get it right. We leveraged our experience with VR games to bring that ‘AC feel’ to the game.” This culminated in the game nailing its ‘leap of faith.’ Jumping from a tower into a pile of hay didn’t feel disorienting in the slightest. But if heights aren’t your deal, Assassin’s Creed Nexus has a fix for that.
Accessibility is a strong suit of Nexus, letting players perform most actions on their terms. “There are a lot of settings in the game to keep you from feeling disoriented. Based on the level of comfort, you get to choose how you play.” Sashi mentioned that you can teleport between spots or enable certain options if you fear heights. As for the teleport, players can check if they’ll be detected between teleports, making it a tactical option despite being a feature focused on accessibility.
The franchise’s sense of verticality and expansive arsenal gracefully leap into VR. In the sandbox demo, I jumped across buildings and tackled guards with throwing knives, crossbow bolts, and my trusty sword. Each of them could be picked up from different places on Ezio’s person. And yes, you can pick up throwing knives from enemy bodies. Loading a crossbow bolt needed both my hands, a realization that didn’t help when I was holding onto a ledge.
Speaking of stealth, crouching manually and peeking from corners felt natural as I tailed targets or checked guard positions. Flick your wrist and you can flash your hidden blade to take down an enemy. Air assassinations are on the menu too. While you can drag a body around, I could feel the weight of this task in VR. And if you do end up in combat, you can draw Ezio’s sword or Connor’s tomahawk. Parries, blocks, and attacks work as you expect, unlike the jarring combat in Assassin’s Creed Mirage that nearly forced stealth on players.
Being caught gives you a generous window to hide and lose notoriety. The NPCs themselves aren’t as suspicious as I’d like, though that seems intentional and helps nail Nexus’ heroic fantasy vibe. The environments also have objects that can be interacted with. For instance, a bottle had to be moved before lockpicking a chest. Ignore it and you might push it accidentally, alerting the guards. Or you could physically grab the key from a guard, a rather satisfying task thanks to Nexus’ first-person view.
Ubisoft Mumbai and Ubisoft Pune were responsible for the implementation of several key features in Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR. They worked in close collaboration with Meta to make the most of the Quest hardware. Sashi noted Meta’s contribution during our conversation. “We [with Meta] managed to bring a console-like experience to VR devices. This required us to focus on what’s best for the game. It took a lot of iteration and reiteration.”
Outside the frame drops as you enter a sandbox level, Assassin’s Creed Nexus runs well, even amidst heated combat encounters. While Ubisoft could have pared down ambitious features like scaling a city, I’m glad that Nexus does justice to the VR setting. While fan service is a great way to bring players into VR, I was hoping for a new protagonist and storyline. Ezio’s missions take place between Brotherhood and Revelations. There’s a lot that the Assassin’s Creed franchise has to offer to the VR medium and vice versa.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus releases on November 16 at a rather enticing $39.99 asking price on the Quest 2, Quest Pro, and Quest 3.