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View Full Version : [Design] [Unity] "Confession" and "Rise of the Assassin"



LeoKRogue
05-27-2017, 07:40 AM
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.

LoyalACFan
05-27-2017, 11:26 PM
Very thoughtful post, thanks for sharing :) I don't necessarily agree with this part, though.


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.

I would argue that the Marie Levesque assassination already showcased his skill on that front. "Hoarders" is one of my favorite missions in Unity after the two you mentioned (though it's largely spoiled by Marie's AI, which doesn't follow the same pattern as every other enemy in the game; if you enter her line of sight once, even blended from across the room, she flees) and it checks most of the boxes you lay out here; Marie is completely surrounded by guards, and though it is indoors at night (which makes it less visually thrilling than the killing of La Touche) it's still a very public venue with dozens of party guests and rioting civilians on all sides. So while I praise "Rise of the Assassin" as probably the best mission in the game, I don't see it as any major growth of skill or character on Arno's part. La Touche had been terrorizing Versailles for some time, apparently, but true to form, Arno spent that time moping around, feeling sorry for himself, and getting tossed out of bars like the violent drunken menace he was because his girlfriend wouldn't follow his instructions. He would have let La Touche decapitate everyone in France if Elise hadn't shown up to give him a pat on the back. I go back and forth on who I like the least; Arno (the whiny sociopath who won't lift a finger unless there's a chance Elise will notice) or Jacob (the stupid bully who masks his own idiocy with sarcasm and violence).

LeoKRogue
05-28-2017, 12:24 AM
Ah, you're right, I just remembered how much I loved Hoarders haha. Could do absolutely crazy stuff like this in it, making Marie run into your arms for a deadly, deadly embrace...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIQe84tkGOw

SixKeys
05-28-2017, 02:59 AM
The problem with special assassinations - like the confession booth one - is that because they're so cool, there's really no reason to do the mission any other way. It would be better if they didn't mention in the full sync requirements which assassination technique will trigger a special cut scene. Would have been an awesome surprise to just randomly decide to hide in the booth and then be rewarded with a special kill you weren't aware of.

I'm not a big fan of missions like the Marie Levesque one because I'm crap at navigating through huge interiors. "Confession" is good because you get a nice, clear overview of the area and all the possibilities from the balcony

With that said, that "deadly embrace" video is brilliant. :D

LoyalACFan
05-28-2017, 04:12 AM
The problem with special assassinations - like the confession booth one - is that because they're so cool, there's really no reason to do the mission any other way. It would be better if they didn't mention in the full sync requirements which assassination technique will trigger a special cut scene. Would have been an awesome surprise to just randomly decide to hide in the booth and then be rewarded with a special kill you weren't aware of.

I like them, but I agree that they could be done much better. Dishonored sort of does the same thing; there are of course several ways to kill each target, but there's also one super-secret nonlethal way to eliminate them that you have to discover on your own by exploring the level. There's no map marker or anything pinpointing it for you, you just have to figure it out (or cheat and look online, but still) Unity and Syndicate had the right idea by having special kills, but ruined it by making them stupidly obvious to execute, and usually much easier than just doing it the old-fashioned way. Just off the top of my head; Le Peletier, Doctor Elliotson, Pearl Attaway, Lucy Thorne, and Lord Cardigan are all WAY easier to get to with the special assassination and infiltration options.

My idea to counter this would be to bring back AC1's investigations, except fully optional and with more mission variety. For one thing, it would help flesh out the villains (which, in my opinion, have been woefully underdeveloped in the last couple of games), and for another, they could serve to unlock special conditions for the assassinations. So if you're a completionist who wants to get the most out of the game and master every level, you could do the investigations, and if you're an uncultured casual swine, you can skip them :p

LeoKRogue
05-28-2017, 04:23 AM
I can resonate strongly with the concept of being rewarded for doing stuff that made sense to us as a player, without having to be told and hand-led toward those objectives. I mention that the Special Kills are super cool, which is true, I genuinely hold that belief, but they would be far, far cooler if they were done more organically and emergently. "Let us figure it out for ourselves," is a statement that will always have a place in my heart.

To be honest, I'm not that great at navigating interiors in Unity and Syndicate either, and neither are most of the players I've asked about it. When we all sat down to have a chat and figure out why it is that interiors in Unity and Syndicate feel so wonky and frustrating, while interiors in something like, say, Dishonored, feel perfectly fine, one of the conclusions we came to is that in Dishonored, almost all the doors can be opened. Most of them that are locked are wooden, so they can be blasted down with your pistol or a grenade, or burned down with an Incendiary Bolt. In AC Unity and Syndicate, most of the interior doors are not openable, and if they are, you must always Lockpick them.

It really would've been preferable if the player could choose to open and close the doors themselves, that would've made navigating around a lot better. Locked doors could then actually mean something, as the layers of navigation would be deepened. Right now Locked Doors actually symbolize the opposite of what they should, they symbolize a door you can actually GO through. Why? Because all other doors that are not "Locked" are straight-up not even doors, they're just level geometry dressed up to look like a door.

SixKeys
05-29-2017, 03:34 AM
To be honest, I'm not that great at navigating interiors in Unity and Syndicate either, and neither are most of the players I've asked about it. When we all sat down to have a chat and figure out why it is that interiors in Unity and Syndicate feel so wonky and frustrating, while interiors in something like, say, Dishonored, feel perfectly fine, one of the conclusions we came to is that in Dishonored, almost all the doors can be opened. Most of them that are locked are wooden, so they can be blasted down with your pistol or a grenade, or burned down with an Incendiary Bolt. In AC Unity and Syndicate, most of the interior doors are not openable, and if they are, you must always Lockpick them.

It really would've been preferable if the player could choose to open and close the doors themselves, that would've made navigating around a lot better. Locked doors could then actually mean something, as the layers of navigation would be deepened. Right now Locked Doors actually symbolize the opposite of what they should, they symbolize a door you can actually GO through. Why? Because all other doors that are not "Locked" are straight-up not even doors, they're just level geometry dressed up to look like a door.

This too. The other thing that was frustrating was that it wasn't always clear where the objective marker was pointing. Your target may have been upstairs, with only one staircase leading up in the whole building (and no way to enter through the windows). The objective would be pointing to your target on the other side of the building instead of the one staircase that was your next waypoint. This was more of a problem in Unity than Syndicate since Unity had more complex interiors.