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

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

Sneaking as an assassin in virtual reality and fully immersing myself in Ubisoft’s beautiful game worlds has been my desire since I first put on the VR glasses in 2017. With “Assassin’s Creed Nexus” and Meta Quest 3, this dream is becoming reality.

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

You control three famous assassins

“Nexus” is structured differently than other parts of the game series. You are a hacker from the Brotherhood of Assassins and work undercover at Abstergo. The Abstergo corporation is a front 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 achieve his goals. And you are the key person for this.

Half VR headset Meta Quest 3 128GB

Meta VR Headset Meta Quest 3 128GB

The Abstergo cloud contains the complete memories of various assassins. This is where the Animus comes in: a virtual environment where you can relive the 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 consistently and coherently. For me the whole Animus story was pretty abstract in the later parts of the game, but in a VR game it really makes sense.

The Abstergo cloud: here you will be informed about your assignment.
The Abstergo cloud: here you will be informed about your assignment.
Screenshot: Debora Pape

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

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

In the center instead of in front: first appearance in a building

After the introduction, things get going right away: you open your eyes as Ezio in an Italian palace. As always, virtual reality takes my breath away: I’m in a beautifully furnished bedroom. It’s night, from 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 movements of the hands on the head, you can even put on the assassin’s hood.

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

The game doesn’t throw you into the deep end. It gives you enough time to interact with the objects and get familiar with the controls. As soon as you feel confident, you can really get started. Your first task is to find your sword. A mission marker in the interface shows you where you need to go. This first memory simulation serves as a tutorial so you can get at least rudimentary training as an assassin.

Of course, this also includes sneaking and killing. It’s up to you whether you want to crouch to shrink or press a button on your controller. But I can tell you: the life of a crouching assassin is pretty tiring.

The combat system is intuitive and fun

You can distract enemies by throwing objects around. Or you can choose the radical method and send them to their ancestors. By pulling the trigger and flicking your wrist, the infamous Assassin’s Blade emerges, which you can forcefully thrust into unsuspecting guards. By the way, there is no blood, opponents die without visible wounds. “Nexus” is still only allowed to those over 18 years old.

If you can’t do 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 is also possible, but not so easy at first, to hit your opponent’s weapon in the right place at the right time to interrupt his attack. You can then finish off badly battered opponents with a quick attack with the assassin’s blade.

You will also unlock various abilities and weapons as you progress through the game, such as jumping attacks and slamming into enemies. The throwing knives you receive find the target almost by themselves; Precise aiming is not necessary. But if you completely pass by the opponent, he will notice you and unwanted clashes may occur. You can also use knives to activate traps, such as 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 professionally dismantle opponents, you need to recognize and exploit the right moments. The development studio Ubisoft put a lot of thought into using the possibilities of virtual reality to create an interesting combat system. It encourages you to execute good combos like an assassin and eliminate an opponent quickly and cleanly. It is also possible to simply hack your opponent, but you risk being beaten yourself.

Small but nice game environments

After the introductory level, you as Ezio visit his hometown of Monteriggioni in Tuscany. You should visit Ezio’s sister Claudia at the family estate. In the lively streets of the picturesque town, noble ladies stroll in dresses decorated with velvet and silk beads, craftsmen 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 town appears lively.  On the left side of the image you can see the tip of Ezio's nose.
Monteriggioni: The town appears lively. On the left side of the image you can see the tip of Ezio’s nose.
Screenshot: Debora Pape

Graphically, of course, the environment can’t keep up with a 2023 “Assassin’s Creed Mirage.” Up close, the models and textures are more reminiscent of 2010 games, but the standalone VR glasses aren’t a next-gen 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 at your disposal for this, and after you have synchronized with the Animus at the highest point you will be shown various side activities. Synchronization and, above all, the subsequent obligatory haystack somersault should not be missing in any “Assassin’s Creed” game. Of course, virtual reality offers a special thrill when jumping from above.

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

The Animus Scout view: the game environment as a real-time model.
The Animus Scout view: the game environment as a real-time model.
Screenshot: Debora Pape

There’s a lot to do in the story missions

Wandering around the city is nice, but things get really interesting on the story mission at the family estate. There you can do more: you talk to your sister, eavesdrop on conversations, search for objects and put objects together. Of course, thefts, murders and fights are also part of it.

Sometimes you can move more or less freely around the mission area and other times you follow a set path where you climb, jump and swing in classic “AC” style.

Additionally, Ubisoft has hidden several collectibles, such as historical background information. So it’s worth keeping your eyes and ears open. When you exit the mission there is a summary and I realized 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 feel uncomfortable when moving in VR games. For this purpose “Nexus” offers various comfort settings. These include the choice between freedom of movement and the 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 turns. With the teleportation feature, you can make your character “jump” from place to place instead of constantly moving.

I chose something in the middle for the comfort settings. Immersion is very important to me. But this has a price: at most after half an hour I feel a slight discomfort and have to take a break. Motion in VR games is just an issue (for me). As a result, I don’t have a growing interest in the path challenges offered in free-to-play gaming environments.

Climbing up building facades and rooftops is also part of “Assassin’s Creed”. If you suffer from vertigo you can visualize lines that simulate the ground and thus reduce the sensation of great height.

Virtual reality is also a lot of fun as an assassin!

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

Unfortunately, I can’t yet judge whether the game develops a compelling story as it progresses or relies too much on repetition. In total, “Assassin’s Creed Nexus” should keep you busy for about 15-20 hours. There is nothing to complain about regarding the game’s performance. I played it straight on Quest 3 and had no stutters or crashes.

Compared to current games that are played on screen, action options, such as riding horses or talking to NPCs, are more limited. That’s why free exploration of the game environment offers fewer demands. But the immersion makes up for it. Real action is also found in mission environments.

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

Cover photo: Ubisoft

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