Assassin's Creed Nexus VR Review: Oh. My. God. So. Good.
Assassin's Creed Nexus is a revelation for VR. The graphics, gameplay, and story shine on Quest 3 in a way I hardly thought possible.
This game is the finger that covers your mouth when you're about to rant about mobile VR. It elegantly shuts you up when you start talking about PC VR as the only true VR. It's a pitiful sideways glance at Sony's Playstation VR 2: Look, that could have been you!
You thought, like me, that the hackneyed Assassin's Creed, which has become a soulless grind fest in its latest installments, could only be a failure as a VR game, especially since it releases exclusively for Quest 2, Quest Pro and Quest 3?
After my rather mixed impression of the hands-on event in London, I have to say: all concerns are baseless. At this time, Assassin's Creed Nexus is my VR game of the year, and it sets high new standards for VR games on mobile VR headsets.
Here are my reasons.
Assassin's Creed Nexus VR review in a nutshell
Large, beautiful cities and levels. Great NPCs and an excellent story with several emotional highlights for Assassin's Creed fans as well as ingenious details. Nearly flawless implementation of Assassin's Creed gameplay, with thrilling assassination attacks and wild parkour over the rooftops of the cities.
Assassin's Creed Nexus finally takes the aging franchise to the next level and heralds a technological paradigm shift with its quality: PC and PS5 are no longer the only platforms for premium and expansive VR experiences. With Assassin's Creed Nexus, The Quest 3 has become a Triple-A platform.
Tested on: Quest 3
Assassin's Creed Nexus is suitable for you if you …
- want to experience a real Assassin's Creed in VR,
- want to be Ezio, Cassandra and Connor,
- are looking for a great, large and graphically impressive game world to explore on the Quest headsets,
- want exciting assassination gameplay and
- want to experience a variety of cool story and gameplay details.
Assassin's Creed Nexus is less suitable for you if you …
- want to count every single pixel and criticize some low-resolution environment graphics and
- expect a perfect melee combat system.
A good XR story goes beyond words
I am one of those critics of the Assassin's Creed series who think that the series peaked in the second part. Thereafter, in my opinion, Ubisoft missed the chance for an epic, overarching story in favor of popular settings. Sure, some sequels were good games, some even excellent, like Black Flag. But the last few games in particular are pretty much characterized by constant grind and bland, soulless quest design.
A fresh start is desperately needed — and boy has Ubisoft Red Storm delivered. Assassin's Creed returns to top form with Nexus, finally combining gameplay and story in a unique way again.
The studio has done a magnificent job of bringing everything that made Assassin's Creed great to VR. As Ezio Auditore da Firenze, I go to Montereggioni and even though I haven't played Assassin's Creed 2 for at least ten years, it felt like I was returning home: the city is so familiar, as if I've never been away. But this time, I'm really there, right in the middle of it.
I have to admit, my inner nerd was a bit emotionally overwhelmed.
I would rather not spoil too much because you should experience this for yourself, especially if you're a long-time Assassin's Creed fan. Besides Ezio, you also play Cassandra (Assassin's Creed Odyssey) and Connor (Assassin's Creed 3). So you make some historical leaps, which, among other things, provide a lot of visual variety.
Ubisoft Red Storm also uses a small but ingenious trick to immerse me in the overarching hacker story in the present day: Mixed Reality. I was completely surprised when I suddenly found myself in my room, with the digital 3D menu of a communication panel in front of me, connecting me to my friends from the Brotherhood.
Switching to Mixed Reality means that the story becomes real: I AM this hacker, right now. This is supported by other small details, such as when my virtual contacts in VR cyberspace put their hands in front of their virtual faces to take off the VR headset in “reality” and then consequently disappear in VR.
These details create credibility and immersion. The developers impressively prove that they can not only tell a story with words, but that they have understood VR as a narrative medium with all its facets.
Assassin's Creed Nexus turns Quest 3 into a Triple-A platform
I've seen some VR games. I've seen what developers can do in VR with limited resources if they understand the medium. Some VR games, like Red Matter 2, have great graphics on Quest 2, and, of course, even better on Quest 3 because the new XR headset has more power. But it is also true that such VR games usually take place in, and are optimized for, relatively small spaces and environments.
Now you might think: “A large open world with high graphical quality on a mobile VR headset — that's still years away.”
Ubisoft Red Storm: “Hold my Beer!”
Just as Assassin's Creed 2 helped shape the concept of open worlds in games, Assassin's Creed Nexus is shaping the open world on mobile VR headsets. Of course, these areas are also limited, but they are much larger than anything you can explore on a standalone VR headset.
My own virtual body usually adapts beautifully to the current action, such as crouching or climbing along a wall. More than once, I find myself standing on rooftops or balconies in awe, for example in Venice, with a bustling marketplace full of NPCs below me. Gorgeous city panoramas, reflections on marble or wet surfaces, details on objects, finely crafted weapons. A lot of care has been taken to get the most out of it.
In the so-called Animus Scout, I can see the city from a bird's-eye view. As a tabletop fan, I really appreciate this, especially since the NPCs are still going about their daily business and I can spot and mark patrolling guards. I wish someone would make a Baldur's Gate game in VR with this view.
Even up close, the NPCs are great and well animated. Sure, these are still typical Assassin's Creed animations, sometimes a bit stiff, but that doesn't really bother me. These NPCs make for a believable, living world.
Who would have thought that with a mobile VR headset, I could walk into a piazza in virtual Venice that looks excellent and is full of people?
The areas I can move in are large, sometimes huge. Monteriggioni is small compared to Venice. I can explore all areas horizontally and vertically. When I am sprinting really fast over the rooftops or through the levels, I can see how graphics streaming is managing the graphics load and bringing elements into the scene — but it is mostly unnoticeable. I think this is a masterpiece of VR development.
Don't get me wrong: The Quest 3 is still limited, of course. At close range, I find various blurred 2D textures. But these are almost always areas that are irrelevant to my current focus. Instead, the developers have tried to find a balance between a high level of detail for important elements and a low level of detail or even 2D textures for less important, more peripheral areas.
They achieved an excellent mix.
Fine VR gameplay reinforces the believability of the game world
“Breathtaking” is also the right word to describe the gameplay, as the studio has successfully translated the feel of Assassin's Creed into VR.
I can climb or shimmy almost anywhere. I can swing from one pole to another or leap sideways from ledge to ledge. I can sprint and leap across rooftops and balconies at breakneck speed.
When I successfully mastered the first courses and made my first “Leap of Faith” from a dizzying height into a haystack, I was thrilled.
Almost everything in this VR game shows a great attention to detail and, above all, a respect for both VR and the game world.
I pass items from hand to hand to NPCs. I open and close doors or lids with real hand motions. I pick locks with lock picks in a simple but clever mini-game. I can pick up dice, throw them into a mug, shake them, and toss them back onto the table. Because reasons.
Assassin's Creed Nexus VR: Killing is beautiful!
When I crouch on the edge of a roof, flip up my real wrist to release the hidden virtual blade, jump down on my victim in slow motion and ram the blade into his body with a powerful motion, then Assassin's Creed has finally reached a new level. This is by far my favorite method of assassination because it never gets old.
At range, I use a bow or a crossbow, depending on the character. I load both weapons with realistic hand movements. The throwing daggers, on the other hand, are my life insurance: in one fluid motion, I grab a dagger at my chest and hurl it at my opponent to prevent him from alerting the others.
But I can also fight in melee, for example against elites or bosses. Timing is important for blocking and parrying, but also for counter-attacks. If there's one thing I have to criticize about Assassin's Creed Nexus, it's the melee combat system, which tends to degenerate into frantic weapon wielding, especially against multiple enemies. Enemies block even wild sword swings with ease, and I feel like they hit me too easily. If I don't block, counter, or dodge in time, things quickly turn fatal.
I had some great melee fights where everything went well, but also some frustrating encounters where I struggled with the controls, or maybe just my incompetence, and had to restart several times. I suspect that VR players who only play in VR occasionally will have some trouble with melee combat.
If I'm forced into melee or have to flee, climbing can become a death trap: In the rush, I sometimes miss, or it doesn't work at all. If I'm too slow, the guards will shoot me off the wall like it's a shooting gallery.
In most cases, however, it makes much more sense to either sneak past enemies or take them out strategically and silently. Very cool: I can pull arrows and throwing daggers out of corpses, take them back with me, and just hide the corpse in the nearest haystack or dump it in the harbor.
I would like to end my comments on the combat system with another highlight of my play through. A soldier in full plate stood in my way to the top of a tower. After a throwing dagger — really the game's ultimate weapon — bounced off him with no effect, I had to figure out something else. I observed his patrol route and noticed that he passed near the edge of the wooden walkway at an unsecured spot. So I climbed under that spot, and when the big guy was directly above me, I pulled myself up, grabbed him, and sent him over the edge.
It was incredibly satisfying. However, it's just kind of stupid if you forget to hold on tight.
Comfort & criticism
Fortunately, I don't suffer from motion sickness, so I can play with smooth movement. This is where the game reaches its full potential, especially during parkour or wild escapes across rooftops with sometimes big jumps over gaps. Great fun if you can handle it.
Ubisoft Red Storm has also thought about those who are not so comfortable with smooth movement in VR. Extensive comfort settings allow you to teleport, automatically complete parkour, show grid lines if you suffer from vertigo, and configure turns, both gradually and at speed. The range of comfort features is exemplary.
The developers of Assassin's Creed Nexus have done an impressive job overall. I only had a few bugs. Once the sound was completely gone and I had to restart the game. Another time, I could only pick up a key after killing an entirely different guard. Another time, a freshly stabbed corpse flew through the air like a bouncy ball.
As mentioned above, some details in the animations and NPCs could use some fine-tuning. But this is — in my opinion — a rather high level of complaint considering the overall quality of the game.
Assassin's Creed Nexus VR review: Who wants to go back to the monitor now?
I was recently blown away by Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice on the Quest 3. Assassin's Creed Nexus even ups the ante. I can only recommend that you enjoy this 15+ hour adventure on the Quest 3 because it's where the VR game really excels.
I didn't expect to see such a believable, detailed, beautiful and large game world on the mobile VR headset. Moreover, there is fantastic gameplay that not only translates the essence of Assassin's Creed into VR, but also takes the series to the next level.
In my opinion, Assassin's Creed Nexus is the start of a technological paradigm shift: VR games on standalone VR headsets no longer need to hide behind PC or PS5 games. After all, once you have killed a Redcoat or Templar henchman with a leap from the roof in Assassin's Creed Nexus, who wants to go back to a 2D monitor? It's not about the graphics anymore.
Ubisoft Red Storm proves impressively that Quest 3 is an AAA-capable platform that can display large and good-looking game worlds. I sincerely hope that the game will be a financial success and that there will be a sequel. Ubisoft Red Storm deserves it, and so do all of us VR enthusiasts.
You can buy Assassin's Creed Nexus VR here
- Quest Store — $40