Before diving into a demonstration of Assassin’s Creed: Unity’s in-depth character customization, Lead Game Designer Benjamin Plich stated that the main pillar of the system is to “effect gameplay.” Accessorizing your assassin isn’t new to the series, but cloaking your killer in gear that makes him look good – while simultaneously buffing his abilities – is a fresh feature that fans have been begging for.
While all players will rewrite history from behind the hidden blades of protagonist Arno Dorian, Ubisoft Montreal wants each Templar-hating hero to be different. To achieve this goal, they’re encouraging veteran assassins, as well as the Order’s newest recruits, to personalize and progress their characters in ways previous Assassin’s Creed entries only hinted at.
First and foremost, players are welcome to outfit their Arno in the latest – well, latest French Revolution-era – fashion. You’ve got to look good when overthrowing a super-secret organization, after all. More than just sporting slicker threads than those stuffy Templars, though, cosmetically tweaking Arno directly ties into upping his skills and abilities.
Featuring over 200 individual items (not counting color variations), Arno’s costume is broken into five categories: hoods, chest pieces, forearms, waist, and legs. Each piece is then rated in four areas: deadly, resilient, unseen, and agile, which determine an item’s worth to a particular play style. Unseen and agile measure stealth and navigation, respectively, while resilient rates armor; deadly, of course, looks at an item’s ability to shorten the life expectancy of your enemies. As he showcased a screen consumed by cool garb to potentially outfit Arno in, Plich called out some specific examples, such as the Prowler Coat. As its name so aptly implies, this assassin attire is the perfect complement to a shadow-stalking playthrough.
Gear can also be mixed-and-matched, allowing players to craft whatever kind of assassin they like. Outfits are given an overall rating, so it’s also easy to determine if your personalized protagonist prefers to kill silently, violently, or somewhere in-between. As Plich pointed out, however, equipping Arno in the gear of your choice is only the beginning. Skills and weapons can also be tweaked to your Templar-killing heart’s desire. The former are rated in the same four categories as gear; the latter, however, is measured by a quartet of different, self-explanatory attributes: damage, speed, parry, and range.
When coupled with the staggering amount of costume combinations, the ability to arm yourself with various combos of over 85 weapons should ensure that no two assassins look – or play – alike. The aforementioned skills further differentiate your hooded hero from the blade-baring pack. While the developer guarded details like a dark Templar secret, he did reveal that some skills have been tailored to co-op play; Communal Sense, for example, lets players share their eagle vision ability with each other, while activating the Disguise skill camouflages everyone in their party.
Players can fully upgrade their skills during a single playthrough, experiencing what Plich referred to as “emulating Arno’s story from novice to master assassin.” Additionally, skills – as well as gear and weapons – are found in all corners of Unity’s enormous map; whether sticking to the critical path, tackling side-quests, or joining friends for an impromptu heist mission, players are continuously awarded with the means to pimp their protagonist.
From its Xbox One-fueled visual presentation and unique approach to co-op, to its scary-real historical setting and ambitious storytelling, Assassin’s Creed: Unity is shaping up to be the franchise’s most full-featured entry. With gameplay-shaping character customization added to that list, it may also turn out to be the best Creed yet. Either way, we look forward to finding out when we dress to kill on November 11.