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[Design][Unity] "Confession" and "Rise of the Assassin"

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Leo K's picture
Leo K
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I think the "Confession" Main Assassination mission from Assassin's Creed Unity had some really great level design, which is probably the reason they used it for one of the gameplay demos shown to the public, the one closest to release. I think it was the Gamescom demo.

This mission has a lot to like about it, and it's pretty interesting that their very first main Assassination is probably the best-built one in the whole game. There is no Assassination mission I've replayed more times in Unity than that one, and I'm *well-known* for disliking Unity as one of the worst games in the franchise, so for me to say that means "Confession" is doing not just one, but a *number* of things correctly.

First, it takes place in Notre Dame, which the game's hugest and most iconic interior environment. I don't think there's any interior location in the game that has such grandeur and scale. The interior of Notre Dame is like its own mini open world that you can move through and experience in various ways. It has multiple exits and entrances, it's got decent verticality, and even the "rules" of Assassin's Creed's game worlds function inside of Notre Dame on a "micro-level."

  • General World: On ground level, there are enemies, civilians, and walls. Movement is difficult, less "free," but most of the gameplay opportunities are located on ground level. This means, Assassins need to eventually go back down to ground in order to fulfill objectives. It is the most dangerous place to exist in, but all the games force players to take that risk of returning to the dangerous-zone in order to acquire and complete goals. On roof level, there are seldom enemies, and if there are, they are easily killed and have a hard time getting reinforcements from ground level. The rooftops are the Assassin's territory. We are above the people, above the Templars too, literally and metaphorically, when we run on the rooftops. We oversee the world and can plan, move, and strike freely. Eventually, we must return to ground level in order to take and fulfill our next objective, but the rooftops are our realm.
  • Notre Dame: On ground level, there are sermons, mass, speeches, civilians gather in large crowds, in one of the only places they can feel solace and solidarity amid the chaos of the revolution. Guards patrol the interiors, of both groups, Templar Extremists and Blueguards/Police. There is a tension below, but everything is kept civil, so long as no one openly attacks anyone else... Or so long as an Assassin, the vilest of scourge in the eyes of the People, is not detected. We are safe up in the rafters and top floors, where there are only a few enemies wandering around, but we must eventually move down to the ground floor, because that is where Sivert is located.

In this manner, the Notre Dame interior follows the game design structure of Assassin's Creed as a whole, expressing it on a smaller scale but retaining its core principles.

On top of following the design structure of the game, the Notre Dame Assassination of Sivert also offers gameplay that involves both Social Stealth and Line of Sight stealth within the same play-environment. This is incredible and not something any of the other Main Assassinations or even regular missions deliver, in either Unity or Syndicate, to quite the same degree. Lastly, the environment the Assassin finds themselves in contains a specialized assassination opportunity that is unique to *that particular environment,* in this case, the confessional booths that Arno and Sivert can move into, which offer a method for Arno to both assassinate Sivert unseen, and leave him in a hiding spot all at the same time. It is by far the most pragmatic method to finish this target without causing any commotion, and the reason it feels special here is because it is not something that could have happened in any other environment and still make a lot of sense.

For the escape, Notre Dame offers various options, most notably containing a lift on the ground floor which leads to the higher floor, and from there, a player can either exit through one of the windows, open, lockpickable, or unlockable with stolen Keys from the Red Guards outside. Or, they can move higher up if they used those same keys to let the Priest back into the building, and Leap of Faith into the Haystack below.

There is a kind of "life" and "soul" to this mission that the rest of the game seemingly lacks. Even "Rise of the Assassin," the mission with the most opportunity for Social Stealth, and in some ways the mission most reminiscent of "Classic Assassin's Creed," indeed *definitely* reminiscent of Assassin's Creed 1, lacks that feeling. It is, however, still quite a good Assassination mission, and I hold it as the second-best Assassination in the game on a technical and design level, especially when "paired" or taken in combination with Confession..

It's meant to be a book-end. It's the largest outdoor Assassination, while Confession is the largest indoor one. It's the final true Assassination in the game, while Confession is the first one. They both contain a mission-unique Assassination method, "Impersonate Priest" and "Fake Prisoner." Both missions lead to a Helix Server Bridge after being completed; Confession leads to a Belle Epoque Server Bridge, and Rise of the Assassin leads to a Medieval Server Bridge. Confession is a mission that is done with the oversight and teamwork of Bellec, not in gameplay but in a cutscene. Rise of the Assassin is a mission that is done with the oversight and teamwork with Elise, not in gameplay but in a cutscene. Bellec gives Arno the task to kill Sivert, Elise gives Arno the task to kill La Touche.

Interestingly enough, despite Confession being indoors, and Rise of the Assassin being outdoors, it is Rise of the Assassin that is the more oppressive-feeling and more claustrophobic mission, with many guards concentrated around Arno at all times. It is also a moment which is foreshadowed. At the beginning of the game;

  • "If all else fails, why not sacrifice yourself for the cause, your life for his? Before Altair, that was the Levantine approach."
  • "You mean a dagger in broad daylight as I'm cut down where I stand? I'll do it *my* way."

Rise of the Assassin is a mission that *necessitates* Arno cut down his Target in broad daylight, in front of a massive crowd, like the Assassins of the Crusades would do, making his escape immediately after. There is a sense of nostalgia to this mission, a callback to Assassin's Creed 1, showing that Arno has become experienced enough to the point where he can freely take the life of a Templar who is seemingly protected and surrounded by guards on all sides, in the middle of the afternoon, in front of a horde of citizens. He no longer fears what he has to do, he simply *knows* what he has to do, and does it.

***

Assassin's Creed Unity is *not,* on the whole, a very good Assassin's Creed game. I wouldn't even say it's a very good videogame overall, either. But, it does have some golden moments, which, if isolated from the rest of it, contain game design that's not only decent, but actually deserves discussion, conversation, and the privilege of being in a player's awareness. Confession and Rise of the Assassin are examples of such moments, which feel more "complete" and "pure" than the rest of the game, as if everything but the necessities for what they need in order to work were taken away, pared down until any further removals would have damaged the experience. These two missions are focused on what they intend to do for the player's experience and for Arno's role in the story, and the rest of the game, I imagine, *wishes* it were as good as them.

Double McStab with Cheese's picture
Double McStab w...
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Agree with much of this.

Agree to disagree on one of your key points: "The rooftops are the Assassin's territory. We are above the people, above the Templars too, literally and metaphorically, when we run on the rooftops. We oversee ... "

1 - The Assassins are NOT above the people and Templars. If the recent games have taught us anything, it's that Assassins are no better than the Templars, they just go about things a little differently. They feel a moral superiority to those around them, sure. But a sanctimonious murderer killing for revenge is not really someone to look up to
2 - I never liked the idea of moving on the rooftops as a core tenet of the game or the creed. In fact, I thought it was "Hide in plain sight, be one with the crowd." Sure doesn't sound like "climb every building you see just because you can." Social stealth is always more interesting, and more satisfying, than simply walking over everyone. You even touch on that in your description of the La Touche mission: "Arno has become experienced enough to the point where he can freely take the life of a Templar who is seemingly protected and surrounded by guards on all sides, in the middle of the afternoon, in front of a horde of citizens." It's much more satisfying to pull this one off than an assassination where you simply drop down and kill a guy and hit the eject button back to safety.

“To have peace there must be strife; both are part of the structure of the world and requirements.” - Ancient Egyptian Proverb

Leo K's picture
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I think that's fair enough, but it bears consideration that this has been the reality for the entire series up to now, and it's not as extreme as you make it sound. I do mention Social Stealth while talking about the La Touche mission because I take it into account, it fits within The Contrast, it's not excluded from it. Social Stealth is always going to be a part of the games by sheer VIRTUE of The Contrast; The Contrast being that same, "On the rooftops you are Safe, but you have to go to the ground EVENTUALLY because all your objectives are there. When you're on the ground, you should be in a crowd." The recent games have forgotten some of that, but it is this very contrast that used to make Assassin's Creed as engaging as it is, and indeed, that La Touche mission as engaging as it is. You are of course still free to disagree with that.

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I personally think the Chrétien Lafreniére assassination is very well set up. You have a large outdoor area with plenty of places to hide and the target walks around the whole place. Had planned to make a variety pack, still might later on.