UPDATE: You can find my review here.
Light spoilers may follow…. or not. I’m not entirely sure where information crosses over into spoiler territory. If you’re worried about spoilers, then go away.
DISCLAIMER: I am a fan of Assassin’s Creed. I own most of the books. I’ve played all but one of the games. Up until Assassin’s Creed IV, I pre-ordered my copies. All things considered, I’ve been here day one for every single Assassin’s Creed launch. There are entries into the series I thought were a little boring but people thought they were great (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag). There are other AC games I thought were great but people yawned (Assassin’s Creed III). Long story short; I bought these games with real world money because I want to like them. I do not have high expectations or that I will be let down.
Assassin’s Creed Unity
I shall start with the current generation version of Assassin’s Creed. You may know this version of the franchise as the one that apparently had a bumpy launch and lowered stock prices.
Unity has a very long winded introduction sequence that allows you to get to know the key players in this game’s universe. A few things become immediately apparent. You are going to be spending most of your time inside the Animus once more but without much or any interaction with the outside world. Those sequences are replaced with exposition as far as I can tell. The Animus is still called the Animus, by the way. Somebody over at Kotaku stated the game calls it the Helix. Animus is the name of the machine. Helix is the name of the data stream which the Animus pulls information from. I don’t want to leave any mysteries.
During this introduction, the foundation is laid no different than previous games. The protagonist has their life ripped away from them, they develop daddy issues, join the Assassins and get revenge/redemption. In this case, you assume the role of Arno Dorian, an orphaned boy taken in by the father of a childhood friend. You soon learn that your father was a member of the Assassins and you set off to find out just who killed your father.
Controlling Arno is a giant improvement. For the first time, the series has a sense of control. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at controlling the protagonist but I will still mess up jumps and crash hard. The new controls help negate accidentally messing up your jump or climbing in a direction you did not intend. It is not absolutely perfect but it is a remarkable improvement over previous incarnations of the game. You can climb diagonally as well as almost being Spider-Man. Arno’s climbing abilities are the best the series has seen and are much more forgiving. For instance he leaps further and climbs higher when running at a wall, giving you more room to maneuver and chain moves together. He also ducks and can snap to cover. Snapping to cover is a little useless and is hard transferring around corners so stick to ducking and staying out of sight. Arno can parkour downward so now it is easier to descend a building without losing forward momentum.
Unity handles things a little differently. In previous Assassin’s Creed games it was possible to switch your equipped weapons on the fly. In Unity you have to decide which weapon + pistol you wish to carry. In other words you can equip a rifle as your weapon and enter into melee with it. Though it would probably be more rewarding to use the slew of melee weapons. Most weapons can be upgraded so spend your early hours figuring out whether you would prefer a sword or a heavier weapon like a mace or a sledgehammer.
Armor can and should be purchased whenever you can get something better. A lot of the marketing around Unity focused on dressing your Arno however you want. This is not entirely accurate. Though you do have a lot of choice in how to dress Anro, the goal is to equip him with armor that benefits your style. If you prefer to be more stealthy, you’ll buy the stealth oriented stuff but what if the action or health oriented gear is what appeals to you visually? It doesn’t really matter. Sure you could dress Arno purely for the visual aesthetics of it but it would definitely be more prudent to focus on the stats of the gear to benefit you the most.
This game is dense. I have not uncovered all of the map because every time I visit a waypoint, the district explodes into a sea of activities. Some center around solving murders using Eagle Vision. Solving the murders is similar to Arkham Asylum’s “Detective Mode”. You gather evidence and then accuse somebody of the crime and get bonus points if you do it correctly with no false accusations. The murder mystery stuff is fun and a nice detour from murder, however, in one case, I only had one suspect so solving it was not really two-star difficulty worthy. Most of the missions are fetch quests because tailing and eavesdropping has been reduced and simplified if it does appear. Many missions that are not about assassination are set up for Arno to go somewhere, get something, escape and/or bring it back. There are glyph type puzzles in the game which I have not tackled just yet.
There is no buying and renovating buildings/land in the way you may be familiar with. There are cafes you can purchase as a front but they are few and the renovations are minimal. All or most of the energy you spent building a homestead or rebuilding Rome will be spent upgrading and dressing your Arno and playing the Assassin’s Creed Unity app. The Unity app is how you control your assassin buddies. In previous games you would go into a menu and send assassins you have recruited on missions to upgrade them and have them bring back supplies or money. That is done in the app. The app also unlocks treasure chests inside the game which means those chests stay locked unless you use the app. This game is a completionist nightmare.
I haven’t messed around too much in Co-op because it is better spent with friends or people who know what they are doing. If one person dies, everything goes to hell real fast. Everybody has to know how to defend themselves.
So why is everybody bitching?
I am not entirely sure. I can tell you some of the things I’ve noticed which may anger gamers.
- Screen tearing
- Less than 30 FPS sometimes
- My game froze once
The screen tearing happened early on and is not frequent, unless my eyes have adjusted and I don’t see the tearing any more. The complaint that Unity constantly dips below 30 frames per second is not absolutely false. It is a graphically superior game than previous iterations but it runs at the same frame rate as it always did. . . or it feels that way. Also there is a filter over the camera that hides jagged edges and motion blurring attempts to hide a few warts too.
The microtransactions most reviewers are complaining about are harmless. They are even a little stupid. Comparing EA to Ubisoft is still a bit of a stretch. The microtransactions Ubisoft employs only speeds up your experience and doesn’t really let you cheat to win. I’d argue you’re stupid for spending money in the first place. You’ll likely only notice the microtransactions when you use the Unity App. Every time you click on a button that is “premium” content, you’ll get hit with a prompt to spend $1.99. If that is only $2 for the entirety of the premium content, that isn’t terrible. But if it is $1.99 for each piece, then Ubisoft got a little greedy and overvalues the worth of this franchise.
Final thought on Unity:
So far I am enjoying the gameplay of Unity. The story is such familiar territory, I’ve been tuning it out. I only care about what Juno from the Precursor race is up to. Which is something Black Flag, Unity and Rogue don’t seem to be focusing on.
The Jaded Gamer