Reviewing an art book is not an easy task. Provided the pages are of a decent quality and there’s plenty of pretty pictures to look at what more could you really ask for, except perhaps a free copy of the game in question and a cup of tea to go with it? Still, there’s certainly some better than others on the market. Given that the Assassin’s Creed series uses key moments throughout history as the backdrop for its narratives and the vast teams hammering away behind the scenes to craft the games it’s hardly surprising that some wonderful artwork has been created for it. Thus this book ranks among the best, a great addition to any game lovers collection.
So let’s talk basics first: this is a 192-page, hard-bound book that boasts quality pages made of nice stock and gorgeous artwork. And like most artbooks you don’t have to love the videogame it’s focused on in order to appreciate the visual feast laid before your eyes. While fans of Assassin’s Creed: Unity will garner more from perusing the pages of this luscious tome than anybody else, even those who aren’t overly enthused with the game will be able to admire the art presented. I’d even go so far as to say that even those who have never touched one of the Assassin’s Creed games would still be able to appreciate the contents of the book.
Much of the artwork seen in the book barely resembles the actual visuals in the final game, rather they represent ideas about the lighting or use of space or portraying the atmosphere of the French Revolution. A few of the sketches and drawings do more accurately resemble parts of the finished game and its fascinating to look a both those and the looser concept art in order to see how the coders put Unity together, attempting to remain as true to the vision as possible while making an actual playable game.
On most pages you’ll find snippets of text from either the author of the book lavishing praise upon the team, game or art, or from the artists themselves who talk about what they were aiming to do with certain pieces of work. If there’s one complaint I could possibly level at this otherwise beautiful book it’s that the snippets of text never provide much insight into how certain decisions were made, of how artists arrived at finished ideas and the process behind it. How, for example, did the early examples of Arno shown in the book morph into the final, more elegant design? However, it’s a slightly unfair criticism as this isn’t a behind the scenes book. Still, just a tiny bit more insight into the creative process would have been amazing.
When flicking through an art book like this is becomes immediately apparent that we can so easily miss the sheer amount of thought that goes into the visual design of a game when busy stabbing people in the throat and leaping into hay bales. We never notice the symbolism behind certain things or the meaning in the color choice, yet all of it contributes to our enjoyment of the title. Take, for instance, a choice of bright foliage in a scene otherwise filled with the slow destruction of Paris, the vibrant plant life showing that there’s still a bright future. In books like this we get a glimpse, however small, into such symbolism and choices. It’s clear that Ubisoft have a wealth of talented artists at their disposal, and not a single page manages to disappoint. You’ll devour beautiful landscapes, cast your eyes over detailed character designs and admire the many dramatic images of Paris being pulled down into chaos. It was a crazy period in French history, and the artists clearly worked hard to show that.
Still, what’s shown here is obviously a tiny amount of the total art created for Unity. All in all the quality of the chosen work is high with only a few strange choices thrown in that seem to stand out amongst the rest. Again as someone with a deep interest in-game development I did find myself wishing for more early work that more clearly shows the game going through the design process, but as said previously this is an art book, not a behind the scenes look.
What else can be said at this point? There’s little more that I can say ton convince you and the pictures you can find in the slideshow gallery above will tell you much more about the book than I ever could. Let’s keep this review short and sweet, then; The author has put together a beautiful book worthy of Assassin’s Creed: Unity fans and of gamers in general. Its pages are filled with wonderful work that shows how much raw talent the Ubisoft are team have at their disposal and the insane level of detail that goes into creating games. It’s absolutely a recommended purchase for any fan of the series or of videogame art.
+ Beautiful art.
+ Some good insight.
– But sometimes not enough insight.
The Verdict: 5/5 – Awesome
Pretty much flawless and a perfect addition to the collection of any big Assassin’s Creed fans.