«Assassin’s Creed Nexus»: I’m having fun killing in virtual reality

The first Assassin’s Creed game for virtual reality glasses is now available! I tested the game and really liked it.

Sneaking around as an assassin in virtual reality and completely immersing myself in the beautiful worlds of Ubisoft games has been a dream of mine since I first put on VR glasses in 2017. Thanks to Assassin’s Creed Nexus and Meta Quest 3, this dream is coming true.

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 see here my impressions of the controls, combat system, graphics and of course the plot.

You control three famous assassins

“Nexus” has a different structure than the other parts of the game series. You are a hacker from the Brotherhood of Assassins working undercover at Abstergo. The Abstergo Corporation is a front for the machinations of the Templar Order – the traditional enemy of all Assassins – seeking 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 in this.

Meta Meta Quest 3 128GB VR Headset

Meta Quest 3 128GB Meta VR Headset

The Abstergo Cloud contains the complete memories of various assassins. This is where Animus comes in: it is a virtual environment where you can relive the memories of important people from your past. Most “AC” veterans should be familiar with this concept. In “Nexus”, the element of memory simulation in the form of virtual reality is implemented coherently. For me, the whole Animus story in the final parts of the game was rather abstract, but in a VR game it actually makes sense.

Abstergo Cloud: Here you will be informed about your task.
Abstergo Cloud: Here you will be informed about your task.
Screenshot: Debora Pape

Your task is to introduce several important moments in 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 compilation of different missions with different assassins in different locations.

Playable characters include Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Italy around 1500, Kassandra in ancient Greece, and Connor Kenway during the American Revolution around 1800.

Inside instead of right in front of it: first appearance in the palace

After the introduction, everything starts straight away: you open your eyes as Ezio in an Italian palace. As always, VR takes my breath away: I’m in a beautifully furnished bedroom. It’s night, through the window I can see fireworks over the roofs of Venice and hear people whispering. When I look down, I realize I’m wearing Ezio’s clothes. Instead of the tip of my own nose, I see Ezio’s tooth, whose nose size can be adjusted. With the right hand movements, you can even put on an assassin’s hood on your head.

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. This gives you enough time to interact with items and become familiar with the controls. Once you feel confident, you can really get started. Your first task is to find the sword. The quest marker in the interface shows where you need to go. This first memory simulation serves as a tutorial to help you gain at least basic assassin training.

This, of course, also applies to sneaking and killing. Whether you actually crouch to shrink yourself or press a button on your controller instead is up to you. But I can tell you: the life of a lurking assassin is quite tiring.

The combat system is intuitive and fun

You can distract enemies by throwing objects lying nearby. You can also choose a radical method and send them to your ancestors. By pressing the trigger and flicking your wrist, the infamous Assassin’s Blade emerges and you can stab it hard into unsuspecting guards. By the way, there is no blood, opponents die without visible wounds. “Nexus” is still only allowed for people 18 years of age and older.

If you can’t do it from behind, you can attack head-on. Using your sword, you block opponents’ attacks and use opportunities to counterattack. It is also possible – although not so easy at the beginning – to hit your opponent with your weapon in the right place and at the right moment to interrupt his attack. You can then finish off severely battered opponents with a quick assassin’s blade attack.

As you progress through the game, you also unlock different skills and weapons, such as jumping attacks and running into enemies. The received throwing knives find their target almost on their own, precise aiming is not necessary. However, if you completely pass your opponent, they will notice you and unwanted fights may occur. You can also use knives to trigger traps, e.g. a box hanging on a rope. If you cut the rope, the box will bury your opponents.

Fights are a lot of fun. To defeat opponents professionally, you need to recognize and use the right moments. The Ubisoft development studio has thought hard about using VR capabilities to create an interesting combat system. Encourages you to perform good combos like an assassin and eliminate your opponent quickly and cleanly. It is also possible to simply hack your opponent, but you risk being defeated yourself.

Small but nice gaming 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. Noblewomen in beaded velvet and silk dresses walk along the bustling streets of the picturesque town, 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 is alive.

Monteriggioni: The city looks bustling.  On the left side of the image you can see the tip of Ezio's nose.
Monteriggioni: The city looks bustling. On the left side of the image you can see the tip of Ezio’s nose.
Screenshot: Debora Pape

Graphically, of course, the environment cannot keep up with “Assassin’s Creed Mirage” from 2023. Up close, the models and textures look more like 2010 games – but the standalone VR glasses aren’t next-gen consoles either. The main feature of VR games is immersion and Ubisoft has done a great job here.

The city is surrounded by an invisible wall that cannot be overcome. Monteriggioni is largely open to you, and once you sync with the Animus at the highest point, you will be presented with various side activities. Synchronization and, above all, the deadly jump into the obligatory haystack should not be missing in any “Assassin’s Creed” game. Of course, virtual reality provides special emotions when jumping from heights.

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

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

There is a lot to do in the story missions

Wandering around the city is fun, but where things get really interesting is the story mission at the family estate. There you have more to do: you talk to your sister, eavesdrop on conversations, look for items and put them together. Of course, stealth, assassinations, and combat are also part of it.

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

Additionally, Ubisoft hid several collectible items such as historical information. So it’s worth keeping your eyes and ears open. After exiting the mission, a summary appears and I realize that I missed almost all the collectibles.

What about motion sickness and fear of heights?

Motion sickness is a well-known problem in VR games: many people experience discomfort when moving in VR games. For this purpose, “Nexus” offers various comfort settings. These include the choice between free roaming and teleportation, tunnel vision when turning and moving, and – depending on the setting – a reminder every 15 minutes to take a break before your stomach rebels. Thanks to the teleportation function, you can make your character “jump” from place to place instead of constantly moving.

Due to comfort settings, I chose something in between. Immersion is very important to me. But this comes at a price: after half an hour at the latest, I feel a little uncomfortable and have to take a break. Moving around in VR games is just a pain (for me). As such, I have little interest in the course challenges offered in free play environments.

In Assassin’s Creed, climbing the facades of buildings and roofs is also part of the fun. If you are afraid of heights, you can display lines that simulate the ground, thus reducing the feeling of high altitude.

Virtual reality is also great fun for a killer!

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

Unfortunately, I am not yet able to assess whether the game develops an exciting story as you progress, or whether it relies too much on repetition. In total, “Assassin’s Creed Nexus” should take you around 15 to 20 hours to complete. When it comes to game performance, there’s nothing to complain about. I played it directly on Quest 3 and had no stutters or crashes.

Compared to current games that are played on screen, action options such as horse riding or talking to NPCs are more limited. Therefore, free exploration of the game environment places fewer demands. But the immersion makes up for it. Real action can also be found in missionary environments.

I think Ubisoft made a very good case for virtual reality by creating “Nexus”, similar to Valve’s “Half Life: Alyx”, for example. If the game is also a financial success, I hope that other major game companies will have the courage to implement VR versions of their popular game series.

Cover photo: Ubisoft

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