Although the Assassin’s Creed franchise tries its best to serve as a time capsule for a specific historical period, it’s still a piece of entertainment at the end of the day. With that comes the freedom to bend history to make it either fit within the confines of a particular story or simply too make it more interesting, and that’s exactly what Ubisoft did with Assassin’s Creed Unity.
While, by and large, the Assassin’s Creed Unity story tries to adhere to the French Revolution’s history as best it can, the development team did take some artistic license in a few places. The design of the Notre Dame cathedral, for example, was altered from its genuine historical look to be both more visually interesting and also more engaging while climbing.
According to Caroline Miousse, Senior Level Artist on AC Unity, the design of the Notre Dame back then wasn’t very “sexy.” As she explains, the original spire was made with wood and its design likely wouldn’t have delivered much fun to the players. But since the Cathedral is such a recognizable part of the Parisian skyline, the team didn’t want to eliminate the edifice. Rather, they made some tweaks to its design and in the process played with historical architecture.
“The spire is one of the big, immediately noticeable changes. We don’t have a ton of information about the original spire because it came down in the 18th century and was later rebuilt into what we know today. It was made with wood and, honestly, it wasn’t very sexy. I don’t think the fans would have had as much fun with it.”
The inside of Notre Dame also saw some key changes, specifically to make the location more dynamic from an exploration perspective. As with the outside, Ubisoft wanted players to “play around” while making their way through the Cathedral, but the historically accurate layout would not have fit that goal. So, changes were made yet again.
“From a gameplay perspective, we had to change the inside a bit just to add several layers of navigation. It’s not enough to simply re-create the monument. People need to be able to have fun when they play around on and in it. We’re making a game. It has to be enjoyable. It was very important for us to adapt a monument like Notre Dame into a positive gameplay experience so the players can have some truly incredible moments.”
Ultimately, though, Ubisoft playing around with Notre Dame’s architecture is unlikely to phase most Assassin’s Creed fans. As we mentioned, the series is at its core a piece of entertainment, so any changes that make a game more entertaining are in the best interest of the developer and the player. That being said, it becomes a little trickier situation when talking about iconic buildings like Notre Dame.
We’re just a few hours from the launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity, the first truly current-gen entry in the franchise and excitement appears to be at a fever pitch. And now that Ubisoft has talked about designing it, we bet that one of the first things gamers do is run to Notre Dame.
How do you feel about Ubisoft altering Notre Dame’s design to make it more interesting for gameplay? Do you prefer a more authentic historical experience?
Assassin’s Creed Unity releases November 11, 2014 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.