Ah, Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR! I wasn’t sure we’d ever see this game arrive! But it did, and it’s finally here! It’s 2000 and something and Ubisoft was working on a sequel for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Instead, they pivoted to creating a game around assassins, more specifically, the Hashashin group led by Hasan El Sabah, the mysterious and feared old man of the mountain, with his famous saying; Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted.
These assassins were the original John Wicks, born long before Keanu ever had his puppy killed by some idiot, and went on to lead a massive franchise.
As a result, Assassin’s Creed was born, and Ubisoft gave us all the beginning of an enduring franchise that’s still going strong.
With its conceit of using the now famous Animus Device to put users into the first-person memories of historical assassins, the meta of the franchise is practically built around VR, so in some sense, we can say that Assassin’s Creed: Nexus was born all the way back in 2007. It was, in a very real sense, inevitable.
And now, long-awaited and eagerly anticipated, it’s finally here for Meta Quest headsets. We were hoping to have a review ready for you right when the game released, but alas, our stealth got the better of us, and we only got it on release, then, after I’d finished eight levels, I managed to run out of battery while it was saving, corrupting my save file and forcing me to start from scratch.
So excuse our delays, and put on your wrist daggers, my friend, we’re going on a grand adventure.
Where Eagles Soar
Assassin’s Creed Nexus puts you in the role of a hacker who’s been recruited by a rogue Abstergo agent who wants to assemble blueprints for a supercomputer of unknown, and possibly alien origin. You do so by, you guessed it, inhabiting the memories of Assassins throughout history and finding artifacts that hide the blueprints to this miraculous device.
Rather than introduce new characters, Ubisoft allows VR gamers to play as some of our favorite characters from the franchise; Ezio Auditore in Renaissance Italy, Kassandra in Ancient Greece, and Connor Kenway in Colonial America. It’s a great mix, and I don’t think there’s an AC fan on the planet who doesn’t love Ezio, even though I can’t help but wish they’d let me also play as Altaïr from the very first game.
The game is spread out over 16 missions and jumps back and forth between these characters and locations to keep things fresh and engaging. It even lets you play in different cities within each period, so there’s quite a lot to see here. It doesn’t skimp.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR, to use its full title accomplished something I did not expect; it largely fulfills the promises that Mirage made, returning the franchise to its roots, with pick-pocketing, social stealth, and almost none of the RPG clutter that the more recent console releases have suffered from – or enjoyed – if you feel that way. Nexus takes AC back to its basics and is all the better for it.
Another thing that AC does well is that it understands – to its core, that we want to feel powerful in VR, but it might have erred a bit too far in that direction, with auto aim practically making it impossible to miss knife throws or archery shots. The parkour is automatic as long as you keep the A button pressed down when you sprint, with you choosing the path, and the game handling all your jumping for you. Climbing however is a manual exercise, unlike the console versions. Ubisoft have clearly tried to marry comfort and accessibility with immersion, and I think that, on the whole, they’ve made some pretty good choices. They may not please everybody, but with so many iterations of the franchise’s mechanics, it’s anybody’s guess as to what people might consider perfect.
So let me destroy the suspense; Assassin’s Creed Nexus isn’t perfect, sometimes it won’t jump when you thought it might, bringing a halt to your parkour flow, sometimes the auto-aim feels cheap, sometimes the melee combat feels a little clumsy, and sometimes you’ll grab a table instead of the object on it..but who cares?
It brings much more to the table, generally fluid gameplay, fantastic environments, more characters on screen (even if many are clones) than I’ve ever seen or thought I’d see on the Meta Quest, real motion captured and nicely expressive character animations, a variety of skills and weapons, an interesting story with you as a hacker caught between Abtergo and the Assassin’s trying to sabotage their efforts.
It also brings a slimmer version of what people have come to dread from Ubisoft titles, an open-world game with maps full of to-do’s. In this case, the maps are open but smaller. Still larger and more detailed than almost anything else we’ve seen on Quest, but thankfully, smaller than those to have to deal with on consoles. There are enough challenges to keep you entertained if you don’t want to just follow the story sequences, but not enough to feel like they just want to stay it takes a few dozen hours to complete. It doesn’t.
It also does something very few games, let alone in VR, manage to achieve; it has moments. I’m a sucker for moments and will forgive a second-rate movie if it pulls off even ONE good solid moment. Nexus accomplished that in one of the first few missions when you find the fabled Bow of Odysseus and bring it to one of your allies. She holds it gently, amazed that it’s real, in awe at its craftsmanship. The soundtrack punctuates this moment wonderfully, and for a few seconds, it feels like something magical has happened.
This is why we like story-driven games, and it reminded me of that one moment in Half-Life: Alyx when the Vortigaunt says “Our paths diverge. But remember: There is no distance between us. We are coterminous.”
The graphics in Assassin’s Creed, which I played on Quest 3, but are not enhanced for Quest 3, are some of the most impressive I’ve seen from Quest, perhaps not in terms of fidelity, as you’d see in Red Matter 2, for example, but certainly in terms of scope and size. The UI/UX is excellent, and the general polish of the game shines through all the design elements. The cities are large, the draw distances are impressive, and they all feature realistic crowds even if you see the same faces way too often. Despite the scale, the baked-in lighting effects and some reflections all work together to create an impressive environment. The only janky thing you’ll really notice is that the legs the game provides you with are sometimes..a bit more contortionist than they should be. The frame rate is generally good, very occasionally stuttering a little, but considering the scale of things, I wouldn’t complain.
As briefly touched upon before, the music in Nexus is fantastic, and changes in style and theme depending on your local, and on events taking place. The sound design is equally satisfying, with everything making appropriate sounds, from the bows you shoot to the steps you take, to the locks you pick. The voice acting ranges from the good to the excellent, all complimented by facial motion captures. The one issue I have is that the lip-syncing is often broken, which can, at times, break immersion.
But the overall package is great.
My general feeling about Assassin’s Creed Nexus is that it does a lot of things very well, and provides an authentic Assassin’s Creed VR experience, something that I’d been very careful not to fully expect because I feared I’d be disappointed once I got my hands on the game. Instead, I’m pleasantly surprised and quite impressed. There are some issues with the game; I once had to restart a level because at some checkpoint the game decided I no longer possessed a sword, and another one because at some point the game lost track of what I was supposed to do next, but those are minor things to complain about, and the scale of what’s been accomplished far overshadows such issues. The occasional frame rate dips are slightly annoying, and I fear that perhaps they might be worse when running the game on a Quest 2, but they were occasional and usually disappeared quickly or were gone on a restart.
And remember the corrupt save file I mentioned earlier? It happened again on my second playthrough after reaching level 12 when I put aside the Quest with the game still running one evening. It seems like going into standby with the game on somehow corrupted my save file. I don’t know if this is a Nexus problem or a Meta Firmware problem, but it’s annoying as hell. It’s taking some willpower for me to ignore this issue, but I don’t want it to impact the score since I’m not sure who’s to blame.
Overall, though – Nexus isn’t absolutely perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s mostly what we wanted, a real Assassin’s Creed game on standalone VR. If you’re a fan of the series, moments like visiting the Villa Auditore in Monteriggioni will make you grin from ear to ear.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus is a fantastic game that, against all odds, succeeds where many others have stumbled. It brings the gameplay of the older titles to the Quest without all the RPG baggage that had left fans clamoring for something like AC Mirage. It gives you air assassinations, leaps of faith, smoke bombs, social stealth, motion-captured acting, an interesting story, great environments at various times and locales, and ample fan service to round it off. If you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan, you will find a lot to enjoy here, and if you’re not, well, it might just make you one. Overall, this is easily one of the best games you can play on Quest, and very easy to recommend as long as you’re a fan of story-based action adventures.
Assassin's Creed Nexus VR
TLDR : Summary
Assassin's Creed Nexus is a fantastic game that, against all odds, succeeds where many others have stumbled. It brings the gameplay of the older titles to the Quest without all the RPG baggage that had left fans clamoring for something like AC Mirage.