If any of your local escape rooms or VR cafes offer “VR escape rooms”, there’s a chance you’ll have spotted a game or two by the video game developer, Ubisoft. Well known in our industry for creating the (fantastic) Beyond Medusa’s Gate, The Dagger of Time and Escape the Lost Pyramid, Ubisoft have a reputation for high quality, cinematic escape experiences set in the video game universe(s) of Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia. Which is why when they announced last month that their newest VR escape room experience was set in present day France, we were surprised! Surprised, but still excited.
Save Notre Dame on Fire
In 2019 the Notre Dame cathedral in the centre of Paris, France caught fire and was almost destroyed by the blaze that lasted 15 hours. In their latest adventure, Save Notre Dame on Fire, Ubisoft have created a virtual reality puzzle experience that puts players in the shoes of the first responders and firefighters who were sent to the scene to put out the flames and save the historic building.
The player’s mission (should they choose to accept it), is to venture into the building and recover the “crown of thorns”, an incredibly precious relic stored within.
Where previous games in the Ubisoft VR experience were based on video games, this one is based on the film “Notre-Dame On Fire” by Jean-Jacques Annaud. The experience is supported by first hand accounts of the firefighters on the scene, and experts on the building’s architecture, history, and the events that unfolded in 2019.
After extensively researching the Notre Dame’s structure in order to recreate the building in Assassin’s Creed Unity, the video game developer had been actively involved in the reconstruction effort. After hearing of this, the film’s director Jean-Jacques Annaud contacted Ubisoft with a proposal to use their vast library on Notre Dame to create a new kind of virtual reality experience.
In an interview, Ubisoft’s Senior Vice President Deborah Papiernik explained that the company made the choice to create the game as an escape room VR experience rather than an at-home VR experience as a move to bring the game to the general public. She explained,
“Home VR is still growing, and we wanted to do something for the larger public… The social aspect is central to the experience”.
This also ensures that players who don’t have at-home VR equipment can still head to their local escape room and experience the game.
On Ubisoft’s website, they indicate that part of the profits will be contributed to the Notre Dame’s reconstruction:
“Part of the benefits will be donated to the organization in charge or reconstructing Notre-Dame de Paris, giving everyone a chance to contribute to its rebirth.”
Solve Puzzles, Escape the Building
Save Notre Dame on Fire is a virtual reality experience for 2 – 4 players and will last up to 1 hour long. Unlike traditional escape rooms however, there’s no timer. No big clock looming over the team. Instead players will be forced to work fast on their feet as the building quite literally collapses around them. Players will not only solve puzzles to rescue the crown of thorns, but they’ll also need to work together to extinguish the flames and escape the building once they’ve recovered the precious relic.
Throughout the game payers will explore the choir with the altar, the transept, the gallery of Chimeras, and the bell tower. Players will be expected to climb, run, jump, toggle switches, and use everything they can find to navigate the space. In deciding where to send the players around the physical experience, Papiernik recounted a story of one of the firefighter’s experience. He had grabbed the crown of thorns where it was exhibited, made it out, and then the cathedral told them “That’s not the real one, that’s the copy”.
“The real [crown of thorns] was hidden in a safe, unknown to most people, and retrieving it proved to be a puzzle worthy of an escape game!”
Where to Play Save Notre Dame on Fire
Presently, it is the intention of Ubisoft that the new game, Save Notre Dame on Fire will be a game available at all existing escape room and VR venues that offer Ubisoft escape games. This roll out has begun with a few companies around the UK already offering the new game, including Chesterfield VR. We expect to see the name pop up at a lot more escape rooms around the company, and if in doubt you can check out the full list on Ubisoft’s website here.