Welcome To Paris
Assassin’s Creed Unity is not a good game. It’s a buggy, poorly written adventure that received a lot of criticism from the fan-base when it released back in 2014. 6 years later, that criticism is still warranted as Unity remains a buggy, poorly written title that stands out as one of the worst games in the Creed franchise.
Despite the visual step-up from Black Flag and some noticeable improvements with animations, Unity is an uninspired game that feels like the video game equivalent of one step forward, two steps back.
Coming off the back of the excellent swashbuckling adventure in Black Flag, Unity was always going to have a difficult job matching up to the great work done in that game. To try and quell any doubts, Unity throws you head-first into the heart of the French Revolution where tensions are high and crowds hostile and itching for country-wide change. At the heart of this is arrogant Arno Dorian, son to an assassin Father and the man whom you play as throughout the story.
I won’t go into specifics here but the story jumps all over the place as you follow Arno on his quest to clear his name of a murder he’s been accused of. In order to do this, Arno enrolls within the ranks of the Assassin’s while simultaneously engaging in a romance with equally rash and impulsive Templar Elise. Across the 12 different chapters you track down various targets in true Creed fashion before all of this crescendoes into an uninspiring boss fight.
This paves way for the final credits which close things out with a rushed and abrupt ending for all of these characters. Plot-wise Unity is certainly disappointing and unlike games of past, there’s barely any modern-day story here aside from a couple of voice-over narrations and ill-placed “rift” missions that add little other than showing off Paris during important moments in history.
For anyone who’s played an Assassin’s Creed game before, a lot of the mechanics here are largely unchanged with stealth take-downs, traversal and assassinations largely unchanged from games past. On the plus side, Unity does try to take advantage of the vibrant setting of Paris at every turn. There’s a lot of interesting locations and the level design is pretty good overall. The blues and reds that dominate a lot of the colour palette are a great change from the more murky and muted colours seen in Black Flag. Visually, the game does look good but the constant frame-rate issues, pop-in and crowd glitches undermine any of the positives.
And there are positives here, at least conceptually. The revamped skill and weapon options are a nice touch and the ability to choose between heavy and long weapons helps to mix things up a bit from the stale combat of old. Skills are pretty standard from what you’d expect in a Creed game, ranging from air assassinations, health buffs and even blending in better with crowds. Choosing the right combination can be useful going into battle but when you find a set-up that suits your play-style, it’s unlikely you’ll go back in and do much tinkering.
Alongside the main mission are various side quests you can take part in. Murder Mysteries are a nice distraction and see you going around unlocking clues and solving crimes for money. Nostradamus Enigmas are essentially Assassin’s Creed’s version of a wild goose chase while randomized crowd events are a nice distraction while out exploring but soon lose their charm after a while.
On the same subject of positives, Unity introduces some costume and gear load-out options which give further bonuses to bars like stealth and melee power. These can be exchanged for money earned in-game although this also marks the first Creed game that adds in micro-transactions which are evident in most of the menu screens. On top of that there are also gold and blue chests throughout the map which originally required you to play the companion app to unlock. That’s no longer the case though and does make for a slightly less intrusive play.
Although the inclusions of extra weapon types and skills is a welcome one, the poor collision detection and janky combat renders these changes pointless. Numerous times enemies won’t register you near them or induce a 2 or 3 second delay allowing you to stealth kill an enemy looking directly at you. By comparison, when you do engage in a large skirmish with different soldiers, the slight delay between sound effects, your inputted action and enemies making their move makes these feel stilted, unnatural and more awkward than they have any right to be.
This is especially true when you consider the co-op and multiplayer elements included here. For the first time in a Creed game, Unity attempts to include co-operative multiplayer and co-op missions. The latter sees you whisked away to different stand-alone areas where you join several other Assassins to take out certain targets or complete tasks in exchange for money. The former allows you to join your friends in their respective mission but both playing as a different outfitted Arno. It’s a nice idea on paper but given the wealth of issues seen in this game, it’s less than ideal to say the least. Expect pop-in, connection issues and frame-rate stuttering throughout your experience with this.
Although the gameplay enhancements mentioned are a welcome way of trying to spice up the franchise, they offer little to signify Assassin’s Creed has taken a meaningful step forward. Gone are the sea shanties, the large open world and interesting story and in its place a claustrophobic world drowning in collectibles and ideas but little enthusiasm or charisma to make the journey worth taking.
Arno is one of the more unlikable Assassins too which makes this worse and it’s hard to care much about his journey along the way. Despite the exciting setting of France and the visual step-up from Black Flag, Unity is another prime example of why graphical fidelity is nowhere near as important as gameplay. Even now 6 years later, Unity is a buggy, unpolished game that’s best left to gather dust at the back of the Playstation library.
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