Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher Ubisoft Developer Ubisoft Montreal
Genre Action-Adventure Platform Played PlayStation 4
Assassin’s Creed Unity is the first true current generation title in the franchise. With it comes some of the most gorgeous visuals the series has delivered, as well as the most amazing visual representation of Paris I have ever seen. Once I climbed the historic Notre Dame for the first time, I was overwhelmed and impressed by the sheer size and beauty of the ravaged city of Paris. Visual splendour aside, Unity reminded me of the quote “Beauty is only skin deep”. Assassin’s Creed Unity has some great ideas and some interesting additions, but a bevy technical issues and slow plot make Unity’s best points forgotten, replaced with frustration.
Unity follows the story of Arno Victor Dorian, we pick up his tale when he is a small boy that is faced with the tragic loss of his father. Once Arno is a young man it is conveniently established that his father was an Assassin, which ultimately leads to Arno joining their ranks in hope of seeking revenge for his father’s death. The storyline setup seems all too familiar in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Arno isn’t the weakest Assassin’s Creed lead we have experienced, but he certainly isn’t one of the best. Arno’s personality is bland throughout most of the story, with his character actually starting to become interesting towards the end of the game. But sadly, the credits roll before we get to truly see how certain events effect his personality.
Aside from Arno there are only a handful of side characters introduced, with many of them feeling empty and unexplored. Historic figures like Napoleon Bonaparte only appear in a handful of scenes, which don’t allow time for their character to be developed let alone remembered.
Certain story missions offer a similar structure to that of the original Assassin’s Creed. Instead of small tasks being split between multiple missions, they are found within a single assassination attempt. These assassination missions usually culminate at the end of each sequence and task players with taking down a target, though we are shown hints towards certain tasks that we can complete to make the assassination interesting, it is entirely up to you. These open missions were some of the most fun I have had in an Assassin’s Creed game in years. Bribing a window cleaner in order to keep a window open on my target’s office as an easy means of entrance for my sword of death is completely optional, but it definitely made me feel like an Assassin.
Side missions also felt fresh and meaningful. Assassin contracts are now gone and instead players can receive side missions from the people of Paris, which felt like mini-stories that held significance in the world. In a series of missions, I infiltrated a cult to take down Templar targets, I constructed a device to enter a secret series of tunnels, and even took down an insane murderer. On the other hand, the bite-sized murder mysteries are quite forgettable and even if you accuse the wrong suspect, you are still able to finish the mission regardless. These investigations end abruptly and don’t harness the same personality as the side missions on offer.
Though The French Revolution was touted as one of the main aspects of Unity’s story, it is almost completely forgotten throughout the single player campaign. The French Revolution is more of a backdrop to the Assassin/Templar rivalry that we have become accustomed to. Arno does not have the same beliefs as the other assassins in the order, constantly disobeying the creed to follow his personal vendetta. The assassins introduced in Unity are also completely forgettable and do not seem at all phased by the overarching diabolical plot in play, which felt very odd.
The French Revolution does allow Unity to produce an extensive amount of NPCs on screen, as the French citizens crowd the streets in protest while holding severed heads and burning effigies. The number of NPCs makes the detailed world of Paris feel alive, although they can cause significant framerate drops when combat takes place within these crowded areas. Paris itself looks amazing and it is easy to forget you are playing a game rather than watching a film due to the detailed buildings and fluid animations.
Assassin’s Creed Unity alters our location several times throughout the main story, using “time anomalies” to visit different versions of Paris. As much as I found these instances to be visually appealing and I loved seeing the alternate versions of Paris, they felt bare. These instances are very short and linear, with only one real path to the conclusion. The idea behind these sections were certainly interesting, but what we are given is lacking to say the least. These moments also ripped me out of some pivotal scenes throughout the story, which removed any chance of me investing in these key moments.
Unity also aims to improve the traversal aspects of the series from the realistic animations to the introduction of the ability to climb down buildings with ease. Previously players have had to jump off buildings and hopes to survive when getting down a building, but the new climb down feature removes these problems and allowed me to scale down to the ground with ease. This new addition should now be a main stay in the series and never leave. Though the added features make traversal as easy and appealing as ever, it doesn’t always work out. “Inconsistent” is the best way to describe Unity’s attempt at improving parkour. Climbing is certainly easier than ever due to the fact that Arno can make incredible distance with his jumps, which despite looking absurd does keep the traversal flowing. The problem is the consistent issues that arise too often.
Due to the extensive amount of NPCs on the streets of Paris, traversing the environment quickly became my main means of transportation. Unity also allows players to frequent the interiors of many buildings in Paris in order to make the flow of movement more fluid. Entering open windows is one of the most challenging tasks in Unity. During one of my cooperative online missions which tasked four players to save some important targets, each player became stuck at one instance while attempting to enter a window. It took almost a minute for each of us to make it through, despite the fact there is a button assigned to entering open windows. For the most part this button does not respond or sends Arno scaling the building. Inconsistencies also appear when a small object will stop Arno in his tracks, watching your assassin struggle to remove himself from a bench is an embarrassing sight to behold.
Assassin’s Creed Unity also has an emphasis on combat, due to the removal of being able to reverse each attack into a brutal kill. Sword duels are now more skilled based then ever, with parries and dodges focused on timing. When battling enemies the way Unity intends, the feeling is great and I had many encounters with a single foe that felt like an epic sword battle to the death. When playing as Unity intends, you can get overrun by a group of enemies fast if your timing is not up to scratch. Once again the smoke bomb allows for an easy out to cut down a few enemies when you are about to be murdered.
I did find the camera to be an issue during some battle sequences. Due to camera positioning, there was a struggle to keep each enemy in the battle on screen, making parry and dodge abilities obsolete. I also cannot avoid mentioning the multiple times Arno’s combat controls simply stopped working. Every button press became unresponsive and at times when pressing attack, Arno would insist on showcasing his grenade throwing animation before being cut down. Bad move Arno, bad move.
If you have not been able to tell by now, Assassin’s Creed Unity is full of glitches and bugs that cause a great deal of frustration. The aforementioned framerate and combat issues are merely the tip of the iceberg. During my time I experienced game crashes, Arno falling through the map, map markers not disappearing, broken AI companions during follow missions that forced me to restart multiple times and a ludicrous amount of NPC pop-in that took place throughout the city. Not only are there technical issues but Unity is plagued by poor design choices. When you find information of note a text box appears on screen telling you to press the map button in order to view it. Due to Paris’ size I was constantly on the map screen which meant I constantly had to exit the menu and try again. This text box also blocks information during missions, murder mysteries, and more, which frustrates after waiting for it to slowly vanish after the 50th time.
Another issue that slowly grated on me throughout Assassin’s Creed Unity was the continued reference to second screen or companion applications. I understand Ubisoft wanting to push their outside support of Unity, but the constant pop-up information telling me about Initiates and the Companion App feels obnoxious when I just want to enjoy Unity for what it is.
Unity is the first time players have been able to customise their assassin and it is a welcomed change. I loved being able to earn Assassin Credits (which are given for performing successful acts in the world) to upgrade my outfit and weapons, while also using my money to constantly upgrade Arno with the best items available. The simple decision of choosing the colour of your outfit created a much more personal experience, especially when showcasing your Arno online. Customisation isn’t merely cosmetic, as I was able to choose which skills my assassin could use. If you want to be damaging with long range weapons, you can. If you want to be able to pick every locked chest, you can. Your array of abilities and weapons are up to you, meaning you can avoid items that you never intended to use.
Assassin’s Creed Unity also removes the competitive multiplayer aspects that have been in the series for several years. In its place are cooperative missions and heists. Cooperative missions actually focus on The French Revolution, with each mission statement presented with a cut scene that presents moments from The French Revolution. I loved the fact the cut scenes tied into the time period Unity takes place in, though most missions ended up turning into a slaughterfest rather than focusing on a story.
During missions with 2 – 4 players the intention is to be stealthy, although with so many assassins in play it does not take long before that idea goes out the window. Despite this fact there is some great fun to be had online, and thanks to the customisation aspect, each assassin looks different. Heist missions have players infiltrating a locale to steal an item and then escape, but cooperative missions are certainly the highlight. It is worth noting that problems with the online experience have been stressed by many, but my experience was approximately 90% perfect with only a few instances where other players were kicked out of the match before it begun and a small amount of lag from time to time.
Assassin’s Creed Unity does a lot of interesting things and improves the series in many ways, but there are too many old problems that consistently arise and an insane number of technical issues. Inconsistent, the word I used earlier to explain the traversal systems, is also the best way to describe Unity. Every time something really great happened, a technical issue ruined it. Every time an interesting story moment occurred, a time anomaly interrupted it. When traversal feels grand, an open window will remind you that the system is horribly flawed.
There is a lot to like about Assassin’s Creed Unity and many long time fans may have a great time here, especially once the bevy of technical problems are fixed. However, as it stands, Assassin’s Creed Unity has showcased a disappointing representation of what the first current generation installment of the series can provide.
- Amazing visual representation of Paris.
- Open-ended assassination missions.
- Interesting side missions.
- Assassin Customisation.
- Bland lead, with his most interesting moments left unexplored.
- An obscene amount of technical and design problems.
- Obnoxious emphasis on second screen apps.
- Inconsistent traversal.
The Score: 6.5