A lot of changes have been made in Assassin’s Creed Unity to make way for some new and interesting additions. The new free flowing co-op missions replace the PvP multiplayer from previous titles, the crafting system disappears for a more extensive character customization and they finally return to the roots from the earlier games with a more city centric world to explore, replacing the vast oceans and wilderness of the last couple of titles. Unity delivers a story boasting a classic revenge tale, a titillating love story and an intriguing murder mystery which is interesting at times yet fairly flat at others.
Unity introduces a new assassin into the mix with Arno Dorian; his character is definitely influenced by the brashness of Edward Kenway from ACIV: Black Flag and the charm and wit of Ezio from ACII, although he doesn’t quite live up to either of the two. Unity is set during the French Revolution and centers mainly on Arno and his love interest Elise. They are both sent on a cliché revenge tale that will ultimately expose those behind the revolution. Arno’s unstable relationship with Elise is definitely a highlight and there is an intriguing murder mystery thrown in as well. Apart from Arno and Elise there aren’t really any other memorable characters throughout the campaign. A forgetful main antagonist, a mentor assassin that says ‘pisspot’ way too often, and the hierarchy of the Parisian Brotherhood of Assassins are present although I never really cared for any of these characters. As the years go on Ubisoft have begun to stray even further away from the present day story that the earlier Assassin’s Creed’s so heavily focused on. Unity offers only a brief glimpse at the present day and the overarching story although the game doesn’t really build it any further.
The recreation of 18th century Paris is easily the most gorgeous city that I have explored in an Assassin’s Creed game so far. The thousands of people that litter the streets are impressive and make the city feel alive while the massive city scale brings back memories of the big beautiful Italian cities we explored in Assassin’s Creed II. There are many buildings throughout Paris that you can actually enter and they are often where many side missions and collectibles are found. The ability to enter buildings adds a new dynamic to the gameplay and I often found myself using them to sprint through and escape my pursuers. Sadly, quite often when there were a large number of characters on screen, the engine took a bit of a hit and the game suffered from terrible texture pop-in which made the game look quite ugly as well as some severe framerate dips. Having said that, after downloading two different patches accumulating to around 10GB, these problems were few and far between.
Despite the huge focus on traversal in the Assassin’s Creed series, Ubisoft have never really gotten it perfect and the ongoing issues that the series has faced plague Unity as well. Arno often got stuck running up a wall when I was telling him to go through a window. There were even times where Arno would just get stuck on a bench that was only a foot off the ground or a fence post that he just couldn’t seem to leap off. A nice addition to the game is the ability to quickly and easily traverse down a building with the new parkour down mode of traversal. This makes scaling the buildings of Paris a lot more technical, having to make the decision of going up, down or through the building. There were some odd occasions while leaping across the rooftops of Paris where Arno felt like a magnet that floated and was drawn to where he was leaping, although more often than not, this new system, with the help of some slick new animations, looked great and made Arno feel like a master of his craft.
The controls are definitely at their weakest during the stealth sections of the game. Stealth is encouraged in Unity with the addition of a crouch button as well as the new feature of when you are spotted by an enemy, a white outline of your character is left where they noticed you which helps when trying to evade your enemies. These are both nice additions to the gameplay however when Arno is unresponsive and doesn’t do exactly what you are trying to make him do, the stealth sections fall down and often lead to a bloody duel.
Just like the titles that came before it, the combat is just as parry heavy as it always has been. Waiting for your opponent to strike is crucial to opening up their weakness and taking them down. Due to the similar mechanics that have been used throughout the series, the combat doesn’t seem to flow as well as some other games that are on the market such as the Batman: Arkham series and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. I was constantly getting hit while trying to parry my attackers or dodge one of their wild swings. The enemies in Unity definitely seem a little more aggressive this time around and in the first few hours, before I had leveled up my assassin, I found the combat a lot harder than it usually is and smoke bombs became my closest friend.
The highlight of Unity is how the assassinations are handled; now you are given a wide-open sandbox with many ways to get to and deal with your target. I know it has kind of always been this way but the addition of special ways to kill your target, creating distractions, and the numerous amount of entry points, each assassination is unique and you can let it play out in your own way. You can chose to sneak in through an open window, rough it through the sewers and come up from below, or go in loud and violent, straight through the front door. This new dynamic adds a wealth of replayability to the game and will have you coming back to try new ways to get to your target.
Paris is absolutely packed with things to see and do, the amount of side missions and collectibles is overwhelming and will have any completionist sinking many hours into the beautiful city. The wide variety of side quests will have you deciphering poems, traveling through different eras of Paris, and performing missions for the Brotherhood. The standout of the side quests is the investigation missions in which Arno searches a room for evidence and questions witnesses and suspects, then pieces it all together to ultimately accuse somebody of the wrongdoing.
For the first time in the series, Ubisoft has introduced a skill tree that allows players to upgrade their assassin and tailor their skills to how they play. Whether that is melee combat, ranged combat or stealth combat focused, you are able to upgrade Arno and become your own ultimate assassin. Players are also able to fully customise Arno’s weapons and gear. There is a litany of one hand, long and heavy weapons as well as pistols and rifles to purchase and upgrade. Changing the gear you wear will not only transform the way your assassin looks it will also upgrade your stats as well.
Ubisoft has ditched the PvP multiplayer from the previous Assassin’s Creed games and introduced a more free flowing co-op multiplayer experience. Certain missions throughout the game can be played with up to three other players which adds a great new dynamic to the gameplay. One assassin can cause a distraction and attract the guards while the other can slip behind enemy lines and take down the target. I really like how the co-op play blends straight into your single player game and the rewards you earn from completing these missions can also be used when playing solo.
Assassin’s Creed Unity delivers a gorgeous Parisian playground that is full of life and has a myriad of things to see and do. The story definitely has its ups and downs as it achieves a somewhat interesting tale while straying away from the confusing present day aspect of the series. The combat and traversal have both improved in some aspects and dipped in others and the ability to customise your assassin for the first time is a welcome addition. Despite the flaws that have plagued the series for some time now and the bugs that the game initially shipped with Ubisoft have delivered a strong first outing on the new generation of consoles.