Release Date: November 11th, 2014
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Reviewed On: Xbox One (Review copy provided by publisher)
This review of Assassin’s Creed Unity is meant to be spoiler-free. There are a few items noted here that may be considered spoilers by some, however, they do not take away any of the intrigue from the game and are necessary to include for purposes of giving a full review.
In Assassin’s Creed Unity, the most recent addition to the Assassin’s Creed franchise, you play as Arno Dorian, a suave French assassin as he rises through the ranks of the Brotherhood. The game takes place in France in the late 1700’s, chronicling one of the most turbulent times in French history. To begin the game we are introduced to a young Arno in the region of Versailles, which serves as a way to introduce the player to the journey they are about to embark on. Unity makes large strides in a number of areas, and has been one of the most enjoyable experiences for this reviewer in the series since some of the earliest installments.
Unlike previous installments of Assassin’s Creed, Unity feels much more narrative-driven. Arno is a fully fleshed out character that I grew to care about as the game progressed. Through his journey players come to know him, and in many ways, Arno is much more relatable than previous heroes of the series. In previous games, I always felt as though the focus on character development was split between too many characters other than the protagonist. In Unity it is very apparent who the developers wanted the player to connect with and care about.
The most significant improvement to gameplay from previous titles in the series are the updates to movement throughout the city, specifically with the ability to free run down objects and buildings. Traditionally, the player was required to shimmy down a building or simply jump off. This has been updated in Unity to create a more seamless experience that I feel added a much needed mechanic to a series that prides itself on its free running and maneuverability over the rooftops of the bustling city below.
Regardless of these improvements, the gameplay is far from perfect. The more I play Assassin’s Creed Unity, the more I noticed small bugs that began to take away from the overall experience. At first I noticed the occasional small clipping issue here or there. No big deal — that is going to happen in any sandbox style game, (I’m looking at you Bethesda). However, after getting stuck in the floor a few times, I began to see where others’ frustrations were coming from.
While most of the time the controls work as intended and gameplay runs smoothly, things can get a bit choppy when there is a lot happening on-screen. Occasionally, when too many enemies come into frame, controls can begin to lag slightly, making battle very frustrating. At times, Arno would sheathe his weapon in the momentary lapse between defeating an enemy and engaging another, which led to battles feeling segmented and usually resulted in Arno taking damage at a time where parrying would have otherwise been possible.
In one instance I experienced, Arno is attempting to escape from a burning building full of explosives. This was one of my favorite stealth missions in the game, and I felt very accomplished as I was running toward the exit after sneaking through the guard-filled area below. As I was about to reach the end, an explosion triggered that lodged Arno firmly between the platform he was on and the platform he was jumping to; stuck in mid-air with no possibility of movement. Needless to say, it is moments like this that were the most frustrating. To fix the issue, I had to quit and redo the mission to advance. While situations like this were mostly far and few between, this particular one was not in an obscure area of the map, which may have made the glitch more understandable. This is a main mission midway through the game that every player will encounter. I believe more stringent testing could have prevented this issue from making it to the release version.
Even with the bugs encountered, I still had a ton of fun playing as Arno, running through the streets and up the buildings of Paris. Issues aside, they weren’t frequent enough for me to call them “game-breaking.” I hope in time that Ubisoft releases appropriate patches to fix these faults, on top of the patches they have already released in the first week since it hit shelves. That being said, it is my belief that early adopters of games should not be de facto beta testers. I would like to see Ubisoft take the necessary steps in coming installments to release a more polished product to the market. To be fair, this isn’t just an issue with Ubisoft — it seems to be endemic to gaming at the moment.
Assassin’s Creed Unity offers much in terms of variety when it comes to missions. There are still plenty of objectives based around traveling to a destination, killing a target, and getting away. However, in the same vein the mission types are different enough and scattered throughout the map to keep things interesting, even when faced with similar objectives. The wealth of detailed history makes the side content as fulfilling as the main story.
Early in the game, Arno is given the option to renovate an old social club (and eventually additional clubs across Paris) which leads to a series of missions. Social club missions have you working to expand the influence of your club, offering building expansions as rewards. While building up the social club seems like a waste of precious money in the early game, the payout received over time as you build your influence can be vital to unlocking more expensive items as the game progresses. Eventually, the social clubs can become your primary source of funding, as these rewards far outweigh the money you receive from missions and chests.
Paris Stories are fun and quick missions that take you through a number of different scenarios in 1790’s Paris. While somewhat repetitive in nature, there is enough diversity in these missions to keep things from feeling stale. These missions offer up a variety of interesting narrative points along with small tidbits that might be missed if the player simply powers through the main storyline.
Helix Rifts are mini-games that are fast paced and require the player to collect points of data that are assigned different values. They allow you to visit glitched points within the simulation spanning different time periods, giving players different locales to explore during the time allotted. But while initially fun and fast paced, these missions can quickly become repetitive. Ubisoft did add a competitive element to these missions for multiplayer value, where you compete against other players’ scores every time you enter the rift.
Murder Mysteries are the most unique set of missions in the game, leading players on a Sherlock Holmes-type adventure to solve a murder and find the culprit. While the first few of these missions seemed fairly easy, they get increasingly difficult as the player progresses. Although frustrating at times, these were actually one of my favorite components of Unity, and really helped to shake up the gameplay by offering a much appreciated change of pace.
As with Murder Mysteries, Nostradamus Enigmas offer up a fresh way to break up assassination missions. Nostradamus Enigmas are not your run of the mill puzzles. After completing one of these missions, players should feel very accomplished because of the difficult nature and the intentional lack of hints. You are truly solving difficult riddles and must keep an active eye on the environment throughout the game to master this set of quests. On top of that, the reward for completing these missions is one of the best looking sets of armor in the game. While it does not affect your overall stats, it is a nice addition for those who take the time to work through this twisted line of symbols.
This wouldn’t be a proper review if it didn’t include a breakdown of Unity’s Co-op system. Through these missions, players can advance their skills and loadouts much further than by playing through the single player missions alone. In playing through the various multiplayer types, I believe Ubisoft delivered on the experience they promised when the first trailers were released. While all of my experiences with multiplayer were with random pairings through Xbox Live, these experiences overall have been very positive. I believe playing with a dedicated team could lead to some very interesting ways to complete missions.
Obviously this is completely dependent on the players you are matched with. I have yet to run into an experience where my assassin comrade has gone completely rogue. The users I encountered have all been playing for the objective, and this has led to a number of fun scenarios in the ways that missions played out. It is a very enjoyable experience to enter an estate with another player and break off to take different routes, only to encounter each other a few minutes later in the heat of battle.
While not perfect, the multiplayer experience in Unity feels more complete than in previous iterations, and it will be very interesting to see how Ubisoft continues to build on this component in future games. It is apparent that Ubisoft wants to make multiplayer a more integrated experience than it has been previously.
Graphically, Assassin’s Creed Unity is beautiful. While it may not fully utilize the Xbox One’s power, I could not help but notice the detail on everything in this game. From the streets of Paris to the individual character models, clothing, and items you come across, each is beautifully crafted with proper thought into how I believe things might have actually appeared.
- Beautifully captures France from the architecture to the people, down to the smallest details.
- Unrivaled amount of customization in the series.
- Engaging story that offers a variety of mission types to keep players active and entertained.
- Multiplayer missions are fun and well executed.
- Frustrating clipping issues at times can really take the player out of the experience.
- Requires use of the Unity Companion App to open a set of chests in the game which feels forced and, while good in theory, does not deliver in execution. I lost interest in the Unity Companion App shortly after I began to use it.
- While micro-transactions didn’t feel like a required component to fully enjoy the game, things did feel a bit further drawn out for those using in-game currency than it should have.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is a very fun installment and a significant step forward for the Assassin’s Creed franchise in many ways. There were some limiting factors on Ubisoft’s part, such as the requirement to use the companion app to be able to achieve 100% completion, that detracted from my enjoyment of the overall experience. I think you’ll understand when you’re forced to use the companion app to clear the blue chests from your map.
If you are a fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise as I am, then Unity is a must-play in the battle against Abstergo. For fans of actions games in general, this game will provide an entertaining experience that will keep you hooked throughout the majority of the mission types. Even through its flaws, Unity provides players with enough variety and engaging character development to keep players entertained. While it does not redefine the genre or offer anything truly groundbreaking, Unity does provide enough additions to the series to keep things engaging for longtime fans to take a leap of faith for more.