Also On: PS4, PC
Assassin?s Creed Unity comes hot on the heels of last year?s excellent Assassin?s Creed IV: Black Flag. Dropping the swashbuckling for some good old fashioned revolution, Unity puts players in control of Arno Dorian, navigating the turbulent roads and back alleys of late 1700?s Paris, France, in the build-up and execution of the French Revolution. While the setting certainly has the potential for some interesting conflict, there?s a number of things that make this iteration of Assassin?s Creed underwhelming.
This is very much a traditional Assassin?s Creed experience. Single-player focused, with competitive multiplayer removed in favor of 4-player co-op missions. As Arno, you?ll run through sequence after sequence, propelling forward weeks and months at a time. You?ll start off as a young boy who loses his father, transition into a lovable, care-free rogue, and eventually become a battle-wearied, wisened Assassins. There?s some small twists on this well-tread formula, the subtitle of Unity certainly plays a part. But by and large you?ll find the broad strokes of Unity?s plot covers a lot previously charted territory for the series.
There?s also, as you might expect, some ?real-world? development by way of a handful of cutscenes featuring Abstergo, Templars, Assassins and so on. However, as the final credits woefully reveal, much of that is inconsequential. I?m assuming the reason there was no number attached to the tail end of the title is because this was meant to be a side-story as opposed to an important entry lore-wise. But when you see the final ?reveal?, you?ll be left wondering why this entry was even necessary, as it doesn?t appear to advance the overall plot of the series one bit.
While the majority of time spent playing Unity will see you climbing up and down high structures, dropping from above for air assassinations, tailing enemies just out of sight, and tracking down what feels like thousands of different collectibles, there?s a few core changes worth mentioning. The ?parkour? traversal system the series is so well-known for has changed a bit. There?s more of an emphasis on making it easier to climb and descend objects. You?ll still hold in the right trigger to initiate flat-out runs, but you?ll find yourself getting a little less frustrated when climbing with the A and B or X and O buttons. Descending, in particular, feels much improved, making it easier to either hold down B or tap B when climbing down. You?re certainly less likely to fall or unexpectedly leap from high heights to your death, which is a definite plus.
But Unity also seems to have a number of technical issues. There?s certain city sections that bog down the framerate, you?ll see frequent enough pop-in for the larger crowds Unity?s streets contain, and a number of other bugs seem pretty persistent. Unity hardlocked my Xbox One on more than one occasion, and I?ve had scripted events bug out in a way that required me to force Arno to his death, or restart the mission checkpoint. Checkpointing is frequent enough that this didn?t cause a huge issue, but the load times on the Xbox One version of Unity can feel downright ridiculous. It takes between 40 to 50 seconds to load into the game world from a fresh start screen, and around 20 seconds or so when using fast travel or restarting from death. I?ve even had cutscene loading cause stalls or force game restarts, enough so that I?ve started to subconsciously cross my fingers when I see the loading screen animation begin. And this is with the 900mb day one patch installed. I?d be scared to see how Unity performed prior to that patch.
Assassin?s Creed Unity?s approach to combat and stealth seems largely unchanged. Combat flows a bit differently, and in my opinion, was a bit tougher than I remember. Enemies are more likely to parry or deflect attacks, and can be pretty aggressive at full alert. In previous AC titles I generally felt like I could hold my own against larger groups, but in Unity I?d start to get into trouble with four or more. This in turn caused me to rely heavily on tools like Smoke Bombs and other familiar items.
Stealth is generally worthwhile and easy enough to perform, outside of the occasional geometry hang-ups that can certainly be annoying. There?s not much to the stealth this time around, outside of a simple cover mechanic that only allows you to transition from one piece of cover to the next, with no options to easily round corners on a single piece of cover. However, enemy A.I. is dumb enough that screwing up while attempting to be stealthy is rarely an issue. There?s a lot of leeway for downing foes, even when they stand right next to each other. Sometimes you?ll see no reaction, which can lead to some unintentionally hilarious scenarios. Even when the panicking crowd nearby should give you away, there might be little to no reaction from enemies.
As I mentioned earlier, Unity also loves its collectibles. That?s not necessarily odd for an AC title, but I found myself pretty overwhelmed at the incredible number of map icons unveiled when synchronizing a viewpoint. There?s standard chests, locked chests, chests tied into what I assume is an app companion, chests tied into the Initiates UPlay thing that never worked for me, shops to purchase, hidden symbols to uncover, some other Initiates/app related collectible I never used, and many more. Seriously, it borders on self parody at this point.
I?d love for every iteration of Assassin?s Creed to be great, as I genuinely enjoy the series. Assassin?s Creed 2, Brotherhood, Black Flag…these are all fantastic games to me. But Unity doesn?t compare favorably at all to the better entries we?ve already seen. I enjoyed the setting, even if it feels underutilized, and I thought Arno was at least a likable character, but there?s little else of merit here. The crowd sizes are impressive, yes, but the number of bugs and technical issues I encountered weren?t. Overall, I?d say there are better titles to occupy your time this month than Assassin?s Creed Unity.