Assassin’s Creed: Unity

Hey, guys. For the next review in my bi-monthly review series, I’m covering Assassin’s Creed: Unity.
Released on November 11th, 2014 by Ubisoft, this game is the seventh major instalment in the Assassin’s Creed series, and it centres arounds Assassin Arno Victor Dorian’s efforts to uncover the plot behind the French Revolution and learn the truth and seek revenge alongside Templar love interest Elise de LaSerre about the death of her father and his adoptive father, the Templar Grandmaster.
I’ll just be to-the-point, and I won’t excessively fluff this. I am a die-hard fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, and it’s one of the only game series that could genuinely challenge my passion for The Elder Scrolls. However, this game is simply not up to scratch for the Assassin’s Creed series.
The writing and the opening to the story is weak. It’s essentially a cliche revenge-romance action film, straight from the opening when Arno is playing with Elise as a kid, all the way up to their ageing up and their kiss at Templar initiation, which he breaks into shortly before Grandmaster De La Serre’s death. As the story progresses, I don’t feel like there’s depth or quality to the writing. Unlike Ezio’s three-game story, I am not drawn into Arno’s life, and I can’t find the motivation to push the story forward, because it’s just not there.
I’m all for suspending reality, because it has to happen for a game like this, but how does the Assassin Order tolerate the fact that Arno’s a rouge Assassin with his own agenda straight from the beginning and only release him from the order near the end? It’s evident from his attitude and handling of his jobs that there’s no way at all that he believes in the ideals of the Order. He’s in it for himself and Elise, and he’s been exploiting the Assassin resources for the young couple’s agenda of learning of their father’s killer.
But, I’ll not touch on the story any further. I may hate the story, but I won’t blatantly spoil it for the people who are like me and want to play a game without any idea of what the story is.
Moving onto the gameplay itself, a lot of it has great potential, but it remains so unpolished that it’s at times unplayable. Starting with combat, it felt like a crapshoot on whether or not I could even parry an enemy blow, and once I did, I had nothing to do with it. There are no counter-kills, throwdowns, and so forth (that I could find and employ anywaay), so you have to attempt to parry and then mash the attack button like an old arcade game. There’s no finese to the attacking, despite it being based on fencing.
I remember in Assassin’s Creed III, everything was so dialed down that I could deflect an attack and with a keystroke to choose a follow-up action, I could perform a kill move with the weapon I’m holding (most often my bare hands or hidden blade, since up-close combat is my preferred form in every game), I could disarm the opponent and wield their weapon if unarmed or leave it on the ground, I could use the selected tool slot as a weapon (using the off-hand to put a gun into my enemy’s abdomen or use the hunting snare as a garrote by throwing it over his neck after deflecting the attack and popping him to sidestep him and get it around him, and other creative attacks).
In Unity, combat is effectively restricted to the sword or long melee weapon for combat, with no hand-to-hand or hidden blade use unless you do the initial high or low-profile assassination move against a guard, there aren’t any meaningful ways to use combat, and it’s turned into a button-mash to perform combat. Guns never really found much use with me, since everyone has a health meter, and there’s no guarantee the shot will be a kill if you could get one off. The phantom blade is used almost exclusively for assassinations in this title, for which it’s required during major kills, which is fine, I suppose, but I wish I could use it elsewhere and have a more diverse selection of weapons to use in general combat.
Story and combat are weak, but moving on to things I did like about the game, I was impressed with the detail to the world most of the time, though there were a few buildings that weren’t stuck together right and I was looking into the inside of an unmodeled building because they didn’t set the heights right and that hole was never covered by the building I was standing on. It’s a large one, being a few thousand meters in each direction, and that’s fun, though it makes me not love my need to explore, because it ends up taking several minutes to get anywhere. In short, it’s a wonderful place to explore, with a lot of people in the grounds, lots of recreated historic locations, and plenty of nooks and cranines to get into. I love being able to go free-run with the ability to jump into so many modeled buildings just to explore or evade a fight that’s gone to hell for me.
Another thing I like parts of is the roleplaying elements added to the game, such as the ability to select different pieces and different qualities of outfit that can enhance various aspects of your gameplay, whether that be as a stealthier Assassin or an armoured fighter. There are about 6-ish different styles of clothing, each having boot, pant, chest, hood, and wrist options, so you can mix and match to create different outfits balancing stealth and combat to your liking (with the unpolished combat, I tend to go for armoured myself, though it’s still unhelpful when I’m being messed up by guards).
I don’t like, however, the way that you use these things. You access weapons and outfits off of a menu in-game, rather than returning to a safehouse to change into a different outfit or get a new weapon. To do so, you just have to stand on a flat surface, whether that’s the street a roof, and you just go to that menu and instantly change outfits, colours, and weapons. It feels like cheating knowing I can enter the field lightly armoured and set up for stealth, be told my new objective is to engage a series of targets, and then magically become heavily armoured with a large axe while standing on the rooftop overlooking that series of targets.
Another thing I like in theory, but ended up not liking, is the skill upgrades. You know from the beginning what’s useful, and there’s really no way not to end up having every skill and upgrade except for a small handful, because the gameplay actively encourages a specific set of skills, and there are so few per category that there’s no feeling that there’s actually a choice in the matter. They might as well have just given you all those abilities at set times in the story like the other games have, because it’s not been implemented as a roleplaying thing in any meaningful way.
Free-running’s been improved, and I like the Up-Down buttons after getting used to it, and it certainly makes travelling a bit easier, though I’m disappointed that I am so bad at the game that I can’t do cool dives off things like in the trailer… Except for this one time where I was on the prison hanging off the wall, and I did a back-eject to try and kill myself, and I ended up miraculously catching a ledge several hundred feet below me. I’m all for suspending reality and accepting that some odd jumps and catches happen in the AC series, but the fact of the matter is that was so barely a catch that although it was really damn cool, it shouldn’t have happened.
The cover system I like, and I really feel like an Assassin when I’m sneaking around my targets and using smoke and flash bombs, rather than brazenly walking up to the enemies like in the older games. It just needs a few additional releases in the series to polish it out a bit, since there’s not much to it, aside from in-cover assassinations and moving between covers, which is annoying because it feels too “sticky” at times. Over all, however, this is probably one of my favourite additions to the series.
I won’t touch on how the release went and how buggy the platforms’ releases were, since millions of articles have done so elsewhere, but after over six gigabytes of patching (which took a long time on my slow internet), I was able to play the game with only minor annoyances like him oddly stepping or jerking somewhere, and other things that don’t hinder the game too badly. It’s still a disappointment that a triple-A company released a game in so unfinished a state, and I’m not pleased with Ubisoft’s latest release trends, but that’s something for its own post, and I won’t derail this review by going over business practices. I probably would write about that at all, since there are a plethora of similar gripes on other sites.
I could continue nitpicking about the game itself, but my post has gotten long enough as it is, and while I feel like I could make a part-two for this post, I won’t bother. I’ll just sum it up: From the horrible state of the game’s release, thanks to the stripped features and poorly implemented replacements, and thanks to the generally poor state of the story and the seriously overlooked bugs, errors, and general unpolished state of the game even after gigabytes(!) of updates, this is certainly the weakest link in the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
I can only hope the next entry in the series is in overall better shape all around, because despite the inevitable conclusion that the first game for a new console would have problems since it’s a new system, there’s still enough problems that the game is a step-back for the franchise. I’ve gotten 3/4 of the way through this game, but I never finished it, opting to watch my brother struggle to the end to see how the ending was, and I’ve since returned to the Ezio and Colonial titles to get my fix for Assassin’s Creed and the fluid combat, movement, and writing that I’ve come to expect from the Assassin’s Creed titles.
If I had to give Assassin’s Creed: Unity a rating, on a scale of one to ten, it’s a 5.5. There’s just too much that needs done and too much that was half-assed in development.
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