Don’t bother with Assassin’s Creed: Unity

A disappointing release that left players wanting more

Right off the bat, the sound of an ‘Assassin’s Creed’ game making the jump to next-gen sounds promising. When you hear the game is set during the French Revolution in Paris, it sounds even more solid. However, when the player picks up his/her copy and starts to play it, the game turns into a disappointing mess that, it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those that reach the conclusion.

It is easy to talk about what ‘Unity’ gets right, but it is just as easy as to talk about what it gets wrong. The story centers on Arno Dorian. Arno is the son of an assassin who is suddenly murdered right at the start of the game. Arno is then adopted by a Templar and he falls for his adopted sister, Elise. After a certain amount of time has passed, Arno’s adopted father is murdered, and he is framed for the crime. After being recruited by the Assassin Brotherhood, he attempts to solve the mystery of his adopted father’s murder in order to redeem himself.

Anyone who has followed the ‘AC’ series can immediately identify the similarities in the story as it is very similar to ‘Assassin’s Creed II,’ only told in a more predictable fashion. The story is a massive bowl of potential that is wasted and poorly executed. There were very few characters that players can get attached to as certain characters pop up here and there and don’t have the chance to develop any sense of personality or really stick around long enough for players to even care.

The only interesting character in the game is Arno himself. Throughout the entire game, players get to know Arno and see him develop as a person. In all honesty, Arno is the first truly likeable assassin that matches the charm, wit, and emotional complexity of Exio from ‘AC II.’ One of the main selling points in the game is the romance between Arno and Elise; however, the on-and-off relationship is not as solid and convincing as it should be. The only times when the romance between the two seem realistic is when the player reads letters that she wrote to Arno. It is these letters that demonstrate the love that they feel for one another, but is never truly represented within the game except for a few key moments in the story.

However, there are certain elements in the game that work such as the way this game is able to switch between different genres such as drama, romance, and mystery. Most of these elements, especially the mystery aspect of the game, work well. There are also present day segments within the game that feel like they are added in just for the sake of an ‘AC’ game needing a present day storyline.

When talking about the graphics for the game, this is where ‘Unity’ shines. The French Revolution in Paris serves as a beautifully crafted backdrop for an ‘AC’ game as players can walk amongst the 10,000 NPCs (Non-Player Characters) and feel as if they are walking in a living city. The different areas of the city also stand out as there are certain areas where the streets are littered with filth and corpses, while in nicer areas of Paris, the streets are clean and there is brightness in the upper class part of the city.

There is also the addition of multiple interiors to buildings and no loading screen when entering any of these buildings. The interior of buildings are crafted with amazing detail that it is hard not to admire any of the work that was put into creating this world.

The music is another highlight as it reflects the classical sound of the era and at times, the music stands out amongst the gameplay. The sound design is also top notch and listening to the citizens of Paris crying out for revolution never gets old. The light design is another positive to the game as it helps sell a level of realism and allows deeper immersion into the world.

The gameplay this time around has received a makeover from previous installments. Most notably, the ability to control Arno’s descent from atop buildings is easier than it has ever been in the franchise as players can simply hold down two buttons and watch fluid motions of Arno moving downward in the player’s chosen direction. Combat has also received some remodeling as it is a little more difficult this time around.

Enemies flank Arno’s position, counter his attacks, think on their feet, and often match or are of higher skill than Arno. Combat is not suggested as players will have to think about how they choose to fight their enemies as there is a major focus on stealth. However, watching Arno deliver killing blows by piercing enemies’ throat or stomach with his blade is always fun to see.

There is a new stealth system in the game that allows players to sneak around, crouch, and take cover in order to be undetected. The emphasis is clearly a return to ‘AC’s’ roots and it works for most of the game.

During the game, the player can also come across rifts that transport players to different times in history that range from a late medieval war zone to a WW II setting and allows the players to wield a powerful MG take out incoming Nazi fighter planes. These sections of the game provide unexpected fun-that hopefully alludes to ideas of future installments-and are fun activities to do among the many other events that players can get involved in.

Players can find themselves quite busy in the recreation of the French Revolution as players can stop crimes, solve murder mysteries, find collectibles, unlock more areas of the environment by climbing to synchronization points, and renovate different cafes to earn money and receive new missions. Players can easily get distracted with all the numerous amounts of activities that are presented as well create clubs within the game and compete against other teams and earn points and prizes.

There is also customization available for players to stylize and upgrade Arno as they see fit. There are different outfits-some serve as nods to previous ‘AC’ games-clothing pieces that offer different bonuses such as increased health and stealth, different weapons that could be bought and upgraded, and skills that players can upgrade. There are skill trees for players to upgrade that include melee, stealth, range, and health. While some of these customization options do not always hit the mark, it is fun to create an assassin that suits how the player plays.

The game also features co-op replacing ‘AC’s’ standard multiplayer. The co-op missions are fun and interesting, but do not always hit their marks. There are some missions that require teamwork and there other assignments that see players simply trying to assassinate whoever the target is first without any sort of cooperation. Aside from assassinations, there are also heist missions that require more stealth tactics in order to receive larger scores than simply running and stabbing whoever gets in the way.

As good as ‘Unity’ gets, it ends up short handing itself too with all the glitches and bugs that players can expect to come across. Whether it is lame enemy A.I., texture pop-ins, straight up frame issues that drop from the game’s low 30 frames per second to making it seem like the game is running at five frames per second. There can even be instances when players will have to restart from their last checkpoints during story missions and even quit co-op games as the game can bug out at any moment, rendering the missions unplayable.

The amount of glitches in the game is ridiculous and begs the question as to whether anyone of the developers checked this game out before releasing it in time for the holidays. It is sad to mention to that ‘Assassin’s Creed: Rogue’ appears to be the more polished game of the two and ‘Rogue’ is only available for last-gen systems.

Issues from previous ‘AC’ games bleed into this installment as well. The camera is still troublesome as it often focuses too close on players are fighting enemies inside small buildings, and often works against the player outdoors during conflicts. A lot of deaths can be a result of the camera not focusing where the player wants it too. There is often a battle between the player, the enemy A.I., and the camera.

The controls may still feel “sticky” for players. The controls also feel frustrating as it may appear a struggle to get Arno into open windows as he simply just jumps over them and forces the player to spend unnecessary trying to get inside a building.

The game also features a micro transaction process where players can buy ‘Helix’ points which can be used to ‘hack’ items in the game in order to not spend any in-game money or points. The micro transactions can go as high as 100 dollars for some ‘helix’ points and present the idea of major “cash-cowing.”

Overall, this is an ‘Assassin’s Creed’ installment that should have been better. The story is sadly predictable, the romance is not convincing except for a few unexpected moments, the characters are not all that emotionally complex or intriguing as past ‘AC’ characters go, and there are simply too many bugs and glitches in this game.

An ‘AC’ fan may feel disappointed after they reach the conclusion to perhaps the shortest story mode in the whole franchise as it can be completed between 12-15 hours. This is not the worst ‘AC’ game to ever come out, nor is it the worst game to have ever been released, but this is clearly an example of a “triple A” game that did not meet expectations and failed to deliver. For all the fun that can be had in this game, there are also forces that hold that hold this game back from being a great cinematic experience. ‘Unity’ provides a good direction to be taken for the franchise to go, but it is not the next-gen experience that players are still waiting for.