DISCLAIMER: My copy of Assassin’s Creed Unity was made with hugs and positive energy.
Alright! Assassin’s Creed Unity. The wait is over! With two new offerings this year, I can tell you I was conflicted over which game I would play through first. Unity ended up winning out because it is pretty much what I want out of an Assassins Creed game, options!
In prior games, like Assassins Creed 3 and Black Flag, I was not thrilled about the naval combat and I’m getting a little bored of managing assassin lists like excel spreadsheets. BAM! Unity!
The weird thing is, I don’t feel compelled to complain about anything I don’t like about the series or even Unity specifically. I don’t like the microtransactions but other than seeing the prompt inside the companion app, I have no idea how much of an intrusion microtransactions are inside the game. I believe you can buy a special currency with them which you can use to upgrade weapons, but I’ll get to that later. There are chests that can only be unlocked by using the companion app. Sure it is a little frustrating… if you’re a dirty completionist but there are a lot of chests in general and some of them will be locked beyond your lockpick level. Meh. I’m not opening every box in the game anyways, just the ones I can at the time I see them.
Anyways, you play as a guy named Arno.
Here he is contemplating serving justice burgers. But forget about him for a minute.
That’s Elise and she’s amazing. She’s a redhead so obviously she has to be feisty and boy is she ever! She is, hands down, the most interesting character in the entire game. She is most definitely your romantic interest but also happens to be your character’s step-sister via adoption. So it is only weird if your mind makes it weird. She is quick witted and very much in control of many situations. In fact she is the only character that does not lose control. I’ll use a spoiler free situation to explain what I mean. Very late in the story, things are not going very well on the quest and Arno gets drunk. He decides to go on a “Hangover-esque” journey that is quite fun.
Complete with drunken parkour moves and Eagle Vision, Arno hits rock bottom. But Elise is the one who comes along, with her bouncy hair and… Parisian British accent, and tells him to get his crap together because revenge needs to happen. You see, Arno and Elise’s trip of revenge is kickstarted by the murder of his step-father and her real-father, Francois. These two are in it together and Elise’s dedication to revenge never waivers. There is a moment where you would swear she’s going to have a “love conquers all” moment but no, revenge is what drives her. Elise is a very rare find as a character. A romantic interest to the protagonist who wields the balance of power in the relationship. Elise needs her own game.
Getting lost in the crowd is a lot of fun at first, then you probably wont use the ability to do it much. In fact, you might forget you can do it and kick yourself when it becomes the obvious choice for infiltration. Look at the screenshot above. All those people are real and even though you can’t tell, there are quite a few guards down there as well. Using that crowd and blending in becomes essential. It is a little regrettable that the crowd manipulation options are not as deep as Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, but the crowd feels no different than something like a bush. The experience of blending into a crowd with or without a disguise is deeper immersion than the series is used to. Not that any games really give you a chance to forget you are playing a game that is a computer simulation, with its constants pop up reminder windows. You can shut these HUD prompts off but, by now you might be use to them. The HUD prompts are always good for a laugh actually. They can be more confusing than they are helpful at times.
There are several mission types, most of them have fancy names but are all either mysteries, fetch quests or assassinations. The developers are creative with the ways they use history as a backdrop and motivation for the story though. You’ll be collecting heads to be replicated in wax, solving labor disputes, and becoming a fortune teller’s hired hand. They real shining stars are the murder mystery cases. Using your Eagle vision, you investigate areas for clues and accuse a suspect when you’re ready. These cases are great because you actually have to use your brain instead of following map markers and hitting checkpoints.
Traversing the environment is much more fluid than ever. It is very infrequent that you will lose momentum once you start moving because of the way parkour has been implemented. Using a similar system to Mirror’s Edge, there is a [Parkour Up] button and a [Parkour Down] button. Now, as you move you have more options at your disposal. For instance, in prior games, when sprinting towards the edge of a roof and wishing to drop down carefully, this used to involve coming to a stop and carefully timing pressing the [Grab] button. Now it is no more difficult than scaling the side of the building but in most cases, quite faster when gravity is working against you. Aside from it being more visually pleasing to traverse the environment, the new controls make it much more practical as well. It is much more practical and a lot easier to tell the moment you have exited an enemy’s field of view because a ghost image of you is generated in the last space you were seen. You can then use the ghost image as a lure to trap enemies into assassinations.
I know what you’re thinking; If the visuals are sweet, the characters are interesting, the controls are fixed and there are a ton of options, why all the hate for it?
Well, not all the characters are interesting. Some of them simply exist in the world, delivering lines and then you’ll forget them. The idea of microtransactions inside the world of Assassin’s Creed does seem forced. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for them to even be there other than a cheap fundraiser attempt. Then the ending, although not terrible at all, it is actually solid but the context of it is nothing more than “Nope, we’re good. Thanks for checking that out”. The stakes were so high, for everything to end on a sorta “Oh, Nevermind, we’re good.” just makes me think that the Justice League of Assassins have a terrible intelligence division.
There is a lot of complaints about the framerate and screen tearing. I can say that my Xbox One copy of the game must have been dipped in hugs and good feelings because even though the framerate is not always consistent, it does not drop out or tear up as much as any review I have read. Most of the time the game experienced visual problems it was because Arno was in a tight space and I was whipping the camera around frantically. The game did freeze once during my marathon but at this point, what game doesn’t freeze?
I do think the game has lost some sort of content. In previous games there were options such managing assassins and sending them on missions (which is now the Unity Companion App), Previously the player could either buy businesses or build a real estate and manage it. This is almost entirely absent. In its place is playing “Dress-Up” with Arno. There is quite a bit of gear to mix and match as well as upgrade with Arno. Each piece of gear has strengths and you’ll probably want to mix and match for stats rather than for visual appearance. But having a bunch of weapons and gear to swap hardly feels worth replacing a series staple in building/managing an empire.
The Co-op missions can be done alone, but definitely require people who have a basic understanding of the game. Surprisingly, these missions are a great deal of fun. The whole map remains open in co-op so you could just traverse Paris with a friend if you want to. Additionally, the co-op missions are not to be taken lightly. Each mission is made with the same care as a single-player story caliber mission. Every co-op mission I’ve played was preempted by a decent intro to the context and people I’d be assisting/robbing/escorting/murdering etc. with my friends. I can say unequivocally that I have enjoyed Co-Op Assassin’s Creed way more than Multiplayer Assassin’s Creed. If only they could make this concept an MMO and then every annual update would just be content packs.
By now I can understand that a lot of fans may be exhausted on the series because this is either Assassin’s Creed 7 or 8 (even 9) depending on your point of view on things. Even now as I write this through my enthusiasm, I am very aware that this is Assassin’s Creed… AGAIN! In that spirit, I rate this game a..
1 and 6 tenths of a thumb.
PS. If you think Assassin’s Creed should take a year off, then don’t play it this year, or next year. Remember, the power to play these games is in your hands. Don’t hate this game for existing.
The Jaded Gamer (IamFN2K@gmail.com)