TimeOut: You rightfully received a lot of praise for the pirate ship gameplay in Black Flag. Unity seems to be a return to a more traditional Assassin's Creed style of play. Why did you make that decision?
Alexandre Amancio: Unity is the first fully new-gen Assassin's Creed and, consequently, we wanted it to be a fresh start for the brand. For this occasion, we felt that a return to our core values was warranted. Using a large, sprawling densely packed city is part of the Assassin's Creed core experience. But I don't say Unity is a traditional Assassin's Creed game. What we were able to do is take the concept of freedom and exploration and inject it into the urban experience. We literally have hundreds of stories, quests and missions you can discover by exploring the streets and buildings of Paris.
• Read more: Game review: Assassin's Creed: Unity
A huge amount of work has gone into making the game's version of Paris beautiful and realistic. How has that work paid off in terms of gameplay?
Immensely. Paris is one of the main characters of the game and we had a lot riding on the fact that it needed to look and feel like a real place instead of a film set. We faithfully reproduced seven iconic districts, built one out of every four interiors and recreated most of the city's dozens of monuments. We then populated the city with huge crowds that often surpass five thousand onscreen characters. This size and variety provides us with a lot of potential for variety in terms of navigations, because of architectural richness, and in terms of mission themes, because of the particular flavour of each district.
You've included iconic structures like the Bastille even though it was destroyed prior to when the game is set. How did you strike a balance between historical accuracy and still including iconic parts of the Paris skyline?
The game actually begins before the Bastille was destroyed. It is true that the structure is very quickly dismantled, but we chose to keep a half-destroyed version of the iconic structure in the game, because we felt that players would appreciate being able to explore it. Our version of Paris is actually quite accurate and those parts where we strayed from history are conscious decisions rather than oversights. Another example where we chose to cheat a bit was keeping the iconic spire of Notre Dame. There was actually a spire in the time of the revolution, but it was made of wood. The stone element visitors of Paris can see today was actually built quite a few years after the events of the game. In this particular case, we again felt that allowing players to climb this iconic structure surpassed the need for accuracy.
With such a huge map, there will be long sections where you're traveling between destinations. How do you keep players interested when they're heading from A to B?
Unity is about the journey as much as the destination. By adding a deep layer of customisation to Arno and then filling the world with hundreds of missions that each contribute to Arno's progression, we're creating a context where exploration becomes an intrinsic part of the experience. You can stumble upon a dead body and solve the crime to obtain an iconic weapon, perform a heist mission and use the loot to purchase a hood that makes you blend 50 per cent faster into a crowd, go on a brotherhood mission and obtain precious skill points that you can then use to make Arno into the deadliest Assassin yet ... Unity is ultimately about carving your own unique path into the city of Paris.
Whose side are you on in the game? Elise is a Templar. You're an assassin. Is your purpose to simply serve up heads for the revolution or is there some deeper purpose to Arno's actions?
The Assassins are merely a means to an end for Arno ... at least at the beginning. What Arno really wants is to solve the murder of his adoptive father, Francois de la Serre, who also happens to be Elise's father.
Why join the Assassins to solve the murder of a Templar?
It so happens that the leadership of the Assassins and Templars were working on a truce in order to prevent the rapidly escalating events of the Revolution from plunging the country into chaos. It was a shadowy element within the Templars that killed De la Serre and usurped the order. Consequently, In this particular case, the Assassins, have a vested interest in identifying the culprit ... especially after they begin to suspect that this same shadowy figure is manipulating the Revolution for some unseen objective.
Can you explain why you put such a huge focus on co-operative play in Unity?
I believe this generation will be a more social generation and the idea of co-op felt in line with this trend. It also happened to be the logical evolution for the franchise: Assassin's Creed Brotherhood introduced the feature of being able to call upon A.I. Assassins to get you out of a tough spot ... Unity makes them real players.