The "Assassin's Creed" series from French publisher Ubisoft has now been around for more than 15 years. Since 2007, the first game with the title of the same name on the PS3 and Xbox 360 has been followed by numerous successors. Well, I at least have played through all the instalments on console up to and including 'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag' (2013). After that, since "Assassin's Creed: Unity", "Origins", "Odyssey", "Valhalla" etc., I've honestly only looked at them sparingly. Wow, great graphics, but er, too many side paths in the story, too many mini-games and always a bit different basic schemes in the combat mechanics, I don't know ... For me, it's the typical "Ubisoft formula" of rehashing individual game elements with repetitive side quests over and over again. But every player may have their own opinion on that.
But now, after years of development, Ubisoft is releasing an immersive VR adventure for the first time under the title "Assassin's Creed Nexus VR", which is available exclusively for Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest 3 (for 39.90 EUR). And first of all: I have to say: "Oh wow". I immediately felt drawn into the first-person perspective of Ezio Auditore from the first parts. But you are also immersed in the memories of other well-known assassins such as the Indian Connor and the Greek Kassandra. In my dive into Quest 2 and Quest 3, I'll tell you whether "Assassin's Creed" in VR really "grabs" me again.
Ubisoft already has several years of experience in the development of VR applications. The "Ubisoft Escape Games" division was founded within the company several years ago, which develops so-called escape rooms exclusively for gaming halls, in which you usually explore an environment in teams, search for objects and communicate with each other in order to progress. For the first time, we find ourselves in the first-person perspective of three assassins from different eras in the quest-exclusive VR spin-off of the main game series. Just like on the console, you explore cities in the best parkour style by climbing up walls, jumping over poles and performing combat techniques with the hidden blade, sword, throwing knives and bow and arrow.
Do you need a Quest 3 or is Quest 2 still "enough"?
You can tell that several years of development have gone into "Assassin's Creed Nexus VR": For example, numerous comfort options are available when customising the controls and vignette in space - including a fear-of-height reduction function. The audio language is available in German, French, Spanish and English. A lot of attention has been paid to the details of the cities, and you experience almost the same feeling of freedom and realism as in the original game series. At least in part. Somewhat droll: In the mobile VR experience, you often encounter the same characters and faces in the cities several times, because even more population diversity in the picturesque cities of Renaissance Italy would probably have resulted in too much loss of memory and loading times.
A few small stutters here and there sometimes take me slightly out of the immersion. I even get the feeling that the VR experience on the older Quest 2 is a little smoother. On the previous headset, the textures of distant objects look a little blurrier. I would also say that the light and shadow effects are a little more pronounced on the Quest 3. But the bottom line is that the Ubisoft newcomer is very well adapted to both headsets. Thumbs up. Incidentally, the game takes up around 16 GB of memory on both headsets.
General controls and gameplay
As in the classic "Assassin's Creed" games, you can also physically sneak up on enemies in VR, duck or disappear into the crowd to remain undetected. Throwable objects can also be used to distract guards. In addition to Ezio's hidden blade, Kassandra can draw her bow or Connor can throw his tomahawk at enemies. For me, the VR game is particularly impressive with its innovative basic gestures, which can be used to block or perform attacks. In a sword fight, you can gain an advantage by blocking a sword strike with your own attack at the right moment and using the right moment to strike. With more challenging opponents, you can also jump to the side and skilfully dodge. The obligatory aerial attacks with the hidden blade are part of the basic repertoire. The handling of the weapons is very well realised. Particularly cool: The hidden blade is triggered by pressing a trigger and holding out your hand at the same time. Ezio's sword can be put back into the sheath at any time and for a throwing knife you simply reach straight for your chest. It all feels very natural.
Very successful game mechanics
In addition to blocking, parrying, counter-attacking and death jumps, eagle vision is also included, with the "inner eye" scanning the entire environment with a simple press of a button and looking for new clues. The direction along your main quest is always indicated by a directional arrow. Sometimes there are smaller puzzles to solve in order to enter other rooms, such as correctly assembling an artefact at a fireplace or operating a lifting platform from high above. What is particularly fun, however, is the certain "drive" of action when moving around. Just like in the flatscreen experience, you can quickly stalk across rooftops and gallantly jump over ravines. What's more, you don't always have to climb up entire walls - the pulley is also available in some places - to swing onto a roof at lightning speed. And then, of course, to get more clues about the surroundings, you can (once again) enjoy the panoramic views from high above, including the obligatory "hay wagon plunge" downwards, just like in the original games.
For once, I've been pleasantly surprised by another Assassin's Creed game. It hasn't become a quick-fix VR product for the microwave that just capitalises on the popularity of the franchise. Ubisoft has also not tried to develop a completely different game in VR, nor has it simply ported a flatscreen game to VR. Instead, a noticeable amount of passion has gone into "Assassin's Creed Nexus VR". They apparently wanted to give both fans and players who are unfamiliar with Assassin's Creed an experience in virtual reality that should feel like it does today or that they could never have imagined back in 2007 with the first "Assassin's Creed". Ubisoft has put all its experience and passion into this title. Now I'm looking forward to it staying that way for a while, should Ubisoft want to follow up with a sequel or port the game for other platforms later on.