The first Assassin’s Creed feels very big, even though in terms of pure scale it is probably the smallest out of the main games. All city maps combined are just a fraction of Unity’s Paris, and the crowds are not nearly as large. Of course, being the first game of the series, one that was also made for Xbox 360 and PS3, would put its limitations. But even to this day, even with those limitations, the game feels BIG. Why?
There are two main reasons for that. The first one is the soundscape. I would like you to listen to this environment.
You feel like you’re in a very crowded place, right? Now, take a look at this location. Sure, there are a bunch of people here, but it’s nothing really special. But the ambience we’ve heard is actually from this scene.
[video with sound]
Sound changes everything, and adds so much life. And note that it adds a lot of elements that simply do not exist in the game, like dogs for example, or babies, or people playing musical instruments, depending on the area. This creates the feeling of a lot more things going on than there actually are.
The second reason why the game feels big is the climbing speed. Altair’s climbing is relatively slow and deliberate - and that affects the sense of scale. Even though the Cathedral in Acre is nowhere near as big as the Notre Dame in Unity, it still takes several minutes to climb from the bottom to the top, even when using the fastest possible route. This speed creates the illusion of all buildings being much taller.
So thanks to these two elements, even when there are a dozen people on screen at a time instead of a hundred, even when buildings are 5 meters tall and not 20, Assassin’s Creed transcends its platform and engine limitations and successfully creates the illusion of the game’s scale being much larger than it actually is. Which not only is just smart design, but given how illusions are one of the narrative’s main themes is also very appropriate.
SPECIAL THANK YOU TO
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