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

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

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

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

You control three well-known assassins.

“Nexus” is structured differently than the other parts of the game series. You are a hacker for the Assassin’s Brotherhood and work undercover at Abstergo. The Abstergo corporation is the 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 achieving its goals. And you are the key person for it.

Goal Meta Quest 3 virtual reality headset 128 GB

Meta VR Headset Meta Quest 3 128 GB

The Abstergo cloud contains the complete memories of several assassins. This is where the Animus comes in: it is 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 in a coherent and consistent manner. For me, the whole Animus story was pretty abstract in the later parts of the game, but in a VR game it actually 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 insert several important moments into the memory of three well-known 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.

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

In the middle and not right in front: first appearance in a palace

After the intro, things start right away: you open your eyes like Ezio in an Italian palace. As always, virtual reality takes my breath away: I am 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 own nose, I see the tip of Ezio, whose nose size is adjustable. With the right hand movements above your head, you can even put on the assassin’s hood.

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

The game does not immerse you in the deep end. It gives you enough time to interact with the elements and familiarize yourself 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 actually crouch down to make yourself small or press a button on the controller. But I can tell you: the life of a crouching assassin is pretty exhausting.

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. Pulling the trigger and flicking your wrist reveals the infamous Assassin’s Blade, which you can forcefully plunge into unsuspecting guards. By the way, there is no blood, opponents die without visible wounds. “Nexus” is still only allowed for those over 18 years of age.

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, although not as easy at first, to hit the opponent’s weapon in the right place and at the right time to interrupt their attack. You can then finish off your badly hit opponents with a quick attack with the assassin sword.

You also unlock various abilities and weapons as you progress through the game, such as jumping attacks and crashing into enemies. The throwing knives you receive find their target almost on their own, no need to aim precisely. But if you completely pass the opponent, he will notice you and unwanted fights may occur. You can also use the knives to activate traps, for example a box hanging from a rope. If you cut the rope, the box will bury your opponents.

The fights are very fun. To dismantle opponents professionally, you must recognize and take advantage of the right moments. Development studio Ubisoft has 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 run the risk of being defeated.

Small but nice game environments

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

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

Graphically, of course, the environment can’t keep up with an “Assassin’s Creed Mirage” of 2023. Up close, the models and textures are more reminiscent of games from 2010, but the standalone VR glasses are not a next-generation console either. The main characteristic of virtual reality games is immersion and Ubisoft has done a great job in this regard.

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

To better orient yourself 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 walking through the streets. Perhaps Ubisoft based it on “Google Earth VR,” which is 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: Débora Pape

There is 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 have more things to do: you talk to your sister, listen to conversations, look for objects and put them together. Of course, sneaking, killing, and fighting are also part of it.

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

Additionally, Ubisoft has hidden several collectibles, such as historical information. That’s why it pays to keep your eyes and ears open. Upon exiting the mission there is a recap and I realized I missed almost all the collectibles.

What about dizziness and fear of heights?

Motion sickness is a well-known problem in VR games: many people feel uncomfortable moving around in VR games. For this, Nexus offers different levels of comfort. These include the ability to choose between free movement and teleportation, tunnel vision when turning and moving, and, depending on settings, a reminder every 15 minutes to take a break before your stomach rebels. With the teleport feature, you can have your character “jump” from one place to another instead of continually moving.

I chose something in between for the comfort setting. Immersion is very important to me. But this comes at a price: after half an hour at most I notice slight discomfort and have to take a break. Movement in VR games is just a problem (for me). Consequently, I have no major 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 this. If you are afraid of heights, you can have lines that simulate the ground and thus reduce the feeling of great heights.

VR 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 virtual reality and impressively shows the possibility of virtual reality taking the player to places that would otherwise be unreachable.

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

Compared to current games you play on screen, action options, such as riding a horse or talking to NPCs, are more limited. That is why free exploration of the game environment offers fewer demands. But the immersion makes up for it. Real action can also be found in the mission environments.

I think Ubisoft has 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 big game companies will take the plunge and implement VR versions for their popular game series.

Cover photo: Ubisoft

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