«Assassin’s Creed Nexus»: I have fun assassinating in virtual reality

«Assassin’s Creed Nexus»: I have fun assassinating in virtual reality

The first “Assassin’s Creed” for virtual reality glasses has arrived! I tested the game and really liked it.

Sneaking around like an assassin in virtual reality and fully immersing yourself in Ubisoft’s beautiful game worlds has been my desire since I first donned VR glasses in 2017. With “Assassin’s Creed Nexus” and a Meta Quest 3, that dream is now becoming reality.

Assassin’s Creed Nexus is now available for Meta Quest 3, Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro. I’ve already managed to spend a few hours in the game. You can get an impression of the controls, combat system, graphics and of course the plot here.

You control three known assassins

“Nexus” is structured differently than the other parts of the game series. You are a hacker for the Assassin Brotherhood and work undercover at Abstergo. The Abstergo corporation is the cover for the machinations of the Templar Order – the traditional enemy of all Assassins – who want to increase their power at the expense of the freedom of all people. Abstergo has found a new approach to achieving its goals. And you are the key person for this.

Meta VR Meta Quest 3 128GB Headset

goal Meta Quest 3 128GB VR Headset

Meta VR Meta Quest 3 128GB Headset

The Abstergo cloud contains the complete memories of several assassins. This is where Animus comes in: this is a virtual environment where you can relive memories of important people from the past. Most “AC” veterans should be familiar with this concept. In “Nexus” the element of memory simulation as virtual reality is implemented in a coherent and consistent way. For me the whole story of the Animus was quite abstract in the last parts of the game, but in a VR game it really makes sense.

The Abstergo cloud: This is where you will be informed about your task.
The Abstergo cloud: This is where you will be informed about your task.
Screenshot: Débora Pape

Your task is to record several important moments in the memories of three well-known assassins from previous games. There you must find special artifacts for Abstergo and sabotage them – for the brotherhood. “Assassin’s Creed Nexus” is not an open world game, but a compilation of different missions with different assassins in different locations.

Playable are Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Italy circa 1500, Kassandra in ancient Greece, and Connor Kenway at the time of the American Revolution circa 1800.

In the middle instead of just in front: First appearance in a palace

After the introduction, things begin immediately: you open your eyes like Ezio in an Italian palace. As always, VR takes my breath away: I’m in a beautifully furnished room. It’s night, through a window I see fireworks over the rooftops of Venice and I hear people whispering. When I look down, I realize I’m wearing Ezio’s clothes. Instead of the tip of my nose, I see the tip of Ezio – whose nose size is adjustable. With appropriate hand movements on the head, you can even put on the killer’s hood.

Ezio's hands are my hands.
Ezio’s hands are my hands.
Screenshot: Débora Pape

The game doesn’t take you off the deep end. It gives you enough time to interact with the items and familiarize yourself with the controls. Once you feel confident, you can really get started. Your first task is to find your sword. A quest marker in the interface shows where you should go. This first memory simulation serves as a tutorial so you can get at least rudimentary assassin training.

Of course, this also includes sneaking and killing. Whether you actually crouch to make yourself small or press a button on the controller is up to you. But I can tell you: the life of a squat assassin is quite tiring.

The combat system is intuitive and fun

You can distract enemies by throwing scattered objects. Or you can choose the radical method and send them to your ancestors. Pulling the trigger and flicking your wrist brings out the infamous Assassin’s Blade, which you can slam into unsuspecting guards. In fact, there is no blood, the opponents die without visible wounds. “Nexus” is still only allowed for people over 18 years old.

If you can’t get it from behind, you can attack from the front. With your sword you block your opponents’ attacks and take advantage of opportunities to counterattack. It’s also possible – but not so easy at first – to hit your opponent’s weapon in the right place at the right time to interrupt their attack. You can then finish off badly beaten opponents with a quick attack with the killer blade.

You also unlock various abilities and weapons as you progress through the game, such as jumping attacks and bumping into enemies. The throwing knives you receive find their target almost by themselves; Precise aiming is not required. But if you completely pass by the opponent, he will notice you and unwanted fights may occur. You can also use the knives to trigger traps, for example a box hanging on a rope. If you cut the rope, the box will bury your opponents.

The fights are a lot of fun. To dismantle opponents professionally, you need to recognize and take advantage of the right moments. Development studio Ubisoft put a lot of thought into using the possibilities of VR to create an interesting combat system. Encourages you to execute good combos like an assassin and eliminate an opponent quickly and cleanly. Simply hacking your opponent is also possible, but you risk being defeated.

Small but pleasant game environments

After the introductory level, you, as Ezio, visit your hometown of Monteriggioni in Tuscany. You should visit Ezio’s sister Claudia at the family estate. On the lively streets of the picturesque small town, noble ladies stroll in beaded dresses made of velvet and silk, artisans hit wooden beams with hammers, vendors advertise their wares and every now and then a thief runs through the streets. In short: the game world feels alive.

Monteriggioni: The city seems lively.  On the left side of the photo you can see the tip of Ezio's nose.
Monteriggioni: The city seems lively. On the left side of the photo you can see the tip of Ezio’s nose.
Screenshot: Débora Pape

Graphically, of course, the environment cannot keep up with an “Assassin’s Creed Mirage” from 2023. Up close, the models and textures are more reminiscent of 2010 games – but independent VR glasses are not a next-generation console either. The main feature of VR games is immersion and Ubisoft has done a great job here.

There is an invisible wall around the city that you cannot overcome. Monteriggioni is largely open to you for this, and after syncing with the Animus at the highest point, several side activities will be displayed for you. Synchronization and, above all, the somersault afterwards into the obligatory haystack should not be missing in any “Assassin’s Creed” game. Of course, virtual reality gives a special thrill when jumping from heights.

For better orientation in the city, you have the Animus Scout at your disposal: when activated, you appear to float over a realistic model of the city while people continue walking through the streets. Perhaps Ubisoft was based on “Google Earth VR”, which looks equally fascinating.

Animus Scout's vision: The game environment as a real-time model.
Animus Scout’s vision: The game environment as a real-time model.
Screenshot: Débora Pape

There’s a lot to do in story missions

Walking around town is cool, but things get really interesting in the story mission at the family estate. There you have more to do: you talk to your sister, listen to conversations, look for objects and collect objects. Of course, stealth, assassination and combat are also part of this.

Sometimes you can move more or less freely in the mission area and sometimes you follow a predetermined route in which you climb, jump and swing in classic “AC” style.

Additionally, Ubisoft has hidden several collectibles, such as historical information. So it’s worth keeping your eyes and ears open. When leaving the mission there is a summary and I realized that I lost almost all the collectibles.

What about motion sickness and fear of heights?

Motion sickness is a well-known problem in VR games: many people are uncomfortable moving around in VR games. “Nexus” offers several comfort settings for this purpose. These include the choice between free movement and teleportation function, tunnel vision when turning and moving, and – depending on the setting – a reminder every 15 minutes to take a break before your stomach rebels. With the teleport function, you can make your character “jump” from one place to another instead of moving continuously.

I chose something in between for the comfort settings. Immersion is very important to me. But this comes at a price: after half an hour at most, I feel slight discomfort and need to take a break. Movement in VR games is just a problem (for me). Consequently, I have no greater interest in the course challenges offered in free play environments.

In “Assassin’s Creed” climbing the facades of buildings and rooftops is also part of it. If you are afraid of heights, you can display lines that simulate the ground and thus reduce the sensation of great heights.

Virtual reality is also a lot of fun as a killer!

Even though I’ve only seen a small part of the game, I can already say: it’s a lot of fun. The implementation with different assassins in different locations is consistent with VR and impressively shows the possibility of virtual reality taking the player to otherwise inaccessible places.

Unfortunately, I can’t yet assess whether the game develops an exciting story as it progresses or whether it relies too heavily on repetition. In total, “Assassin’s Creed Nexus” should keep you busy for about 15 to 20 hours. There is nothing to complain about when it comes to gaming performance. I played directly on Quest 3 and had no crashes or freezes.

Compared to current games that you play on screen, action options like riding a horse or talking to NPCs are more limited. This is why free exploration of the game environment is less demanding. But the immersion pays off. Real action can also be found in missionary settings.

I think Ubisoft made a very good argument for virtual reality with “Nexus”, similar to Valve’s “Half Life: Alyx”, for example. If the game is also financially successful, I hope other major gaming companies will take heart and implement VR versions of their popular game series.

Cover photo: Ubisoft

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