Assassin’s Creed Nexus creative director on time periods, protagonists & building from the ground up
Despite having a fairly large hit on its hands with Star Trek: Bridge Crew VR, Ubisoft has been remarkably quiet on the VR front for the last several years. Outside of a few location-based experiences that resemble theme park experiences, such as the Rabbids Ride and Far Cry VR: Dive Into Insanity.
Now, Ubisoft is releasing another fully-fledged VR title, developed from the ground up for the latest technology - and it’s based on one of the publisher’s most successful franchises. Assassin’s Creed Nexus aims to fulfil the ultimate Assassin fantasy, and our early preview of the game reckons it does a pretty good job of delivering just that.
However, bringing the world of Assassin’s Creed to life in virtual reality is no easy feat. GGRecon spoke to David Votypka, the Creative Director of Nexus, to learn more about the development challenges involved, as well as why players should be excited to don the hidden blades (almost) for real.
- Here's our review of Assassin's Creed Mirage
A whole new world
When thinking about how to bring Assassin’s Creed to VR, perhaps the biggest challenge to start with is nailing down the core identity of what makes an Assassin’s game. For many, this has been blurred a little with the recent shift to RPG-focused titles, although Mirage has recently done a stellar job of revisiting the series’ roots.
While the historical settings of Assassin’s Creed are the main draw for some, Votypka and the team had to think beyond that when bringing the world to life in VR. “When you look back at all the AC games there have ever been, they’ve developed this breadth of experience and mechanics that players expect.
“When you think about how you can play Assassin’s Creed in VR, we think of all the things you can do, like climbing, parkour, hidden blades, air assassinations and stealth. I would say the biggest challenge is to take all of that and not skimp out on it.”
In a lot of ways, the team at Ubisoft had to begin from scratch when building Assassin’s Creed Nexus. Sure, there’s already plenty of location scouting information and pre-built maps used to create the previous games in the series - but putting that all together for a VR product is a whole other ball game.
“One of the ideas we had was to bring stuff over from these previous games,” Votypka explains. “So we did quite a bit of this at the beginning, and we were like ‘This is gonna be great! We’ve got these three games to use all these [assets]’, and it was actually a lot harder than we thought.”
He goes on to explain how the assets from Odyssey were very modern, whereas the assets from Assassin’s Creed 2 were much older. In fact, the assets from Assassin’s Creed 3 were about the right resolution the team needed for VR.
However, going back to these older titles still proved immensely helpful for the team. “It was helpful in the sense that it allowed us to recreate those places because we have the exact positions of those buildings… it was still a win because of that familiarity that we’re able to create for players.”
While some assets and areas will most certainly appear familiar to players, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new here. Boston and Athens will return, but brand new areas like Newport have been built from the ground up for Assassin’s Creed Nexus, too.
The golden trio
Assassin’s Creed Nexus isn’t just the first VR game in the series - it’s also the first game to feature three playable assassins in the same game. Ezio, Connor, and Kassandra all take centre stage at some point in the story, letting you live out your fantasies in each of their respective time periods.
As for why these three assassins were chosen, it of course slightly comes down to the story - after all, all three of these assassins have come into contact with pieces of Eden in their lifetime. However, Votypka explains that favouritism also played a small part: “Ezio is always the obvious one, right? He’s like the fan favourite, so that’s an obvious one to include.
“Connor is popular as an Assassin, but his setting is even more popular. We found that it’s just such an interesting time period, and playing in that was something that we were really drawn to.
“We also really wanted to have a newer, more modern AC game included to span the timeline of the games, and Kassandra is also a really popular character. Her lore is very interesting, and this is the first time that players get to play with the hidden blade that she got in a DLC,” he finalises.
According to Votypka, there were discussions early on in the development of Nexus as to whether the abilities and loadouts of each assassin should be different or similar. In the end, the team settled on mostly similar with a small amount of variation, largely to minimise the number of tutorials in the game. As you can expect, it’s tricky enough to learn how to physically embody one character avatar, never mind an additional two.
As such, each character holds a melee weapon on their hip, with Connor’s Tomahawk Axe also being a throwable, ranged weapon. Connor and Kassandra also share a ranged bow weapon, whereas Ezio swaps this out for a crossbow. “You’ll feel familiar playing them from a gameplay mechanics standpoint, but they each have a few specialisations among them,” Votypka explains.
What makes the return of these characters even more exciting is that the original actors have returned to lend their voices to new lines for all three protagonists. “We’re super excited about that. Some of the additional supporting characters like Achilles have the original voice actors, too,” says Votypka.
As someone who has grown up playing every instalment of this monumental series, hearing the authentic voice of Ezio buzz through your skull via the Meta Quest 3’s immersive speakers is a comforting, nostalgic experience.
- We also recently previewed Dragon's Dogma 2 - read it here
Fans of Assassin’s Creed will know that the narrative is now sprawling, encompassing an absurd number of time periods with a fairly consistent throughline - although now we’ve got reincarnated gods involved.
As for whether Assassin’s Creed Nexus will become required reading, Votypka was a little vague: “It is a canon story. It goes like the other AC games have done where their modern stories are one after the other. So this is the next modern-day story.” This is assumingly following on from Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, given that Mirage doesn’t feature much of a modern-day story, if at all.
“The things that come after for the future of AC games, well, you’ll have to ask those teams,” he hints, cryptically. Of course, we’ll have to play through Nexus fully when it releases in November to see where the narrative leads us, but it certainly sounds like it will be no slouch when it comes to advancing the overarching story of Assassin’s Creed.
And from what we’ve seen so far of Nexus, it’s certainly something that’s worth getting excited for. Few VR games have managed to vividly capture the essence of what their source material is about, but Nexus is surely rooted with the right intentions.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus is set to release on November 16 for the Meta Quest 2, 3, and Pro. For more Assassin’s Creed, keep reading GGRecon.