Here’s the new hotness, folks! Assassin’s Creed: Unity is the latest in the long-running series of stab-’em-up stealth action titles from Ubisoft. You already know that, of course, because it’s at the center of the week’s gaming news. Maybe you’ve already picked it up, even. I did. Played it. I thought it was a decent enough time. Not bad. Probably not for everyone. Definitely not as good as Black Flag. So what’s it like?
Assassin’s Creed: Unity stars French Assassin Arno Dorian, who is framed for the murder of his adoptive father in short order and becomes an Assassin to find redemption. Arno’s a little less gruff than Black Flag’s Edward Kenway and a lot less dour than AC3’s Connor Kenway. He’s a lot like AC2’s Ezio and thus is one of the series’ more likable heroes. Arno’s supporting cast, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. I enjoyed the drama built by star-crossed Templar love interest Elise but could have done without mentor Pierre Bellec, who’s more annoying than anything.
There’s also the usual modern day sci-fi shtick, and while I’ve always enjoyed this aspect of the series I can’t help but feel like it’s lost its way a bit since AC3. You don’t actually play any modern day missions this time, so it’s easily tuned out if you don’t like it. Mysteries arise and are solved as is the norm for the series, you sneak around and stab a bunch of dudes, etcetera. You kind of know what you’re getting here, really, it doesn’t shake the Earth like AC2 or Black Flag did.
Arno’s story is great and all, but what about the game that’s showcasing it? It’s been pretty controversial lately. People aren’t too happy with it. As always, I try to stay away from the hyperbole that runs rife through the work of my contemporaries. I think it’s a little bit good and a little bit bad, personally, as with most games these days.
So the good: It feels pretty good as an Assassin’s Creed game. The animations are solid and everything generally looks better. Unity encourages a more open approach to assassinations where the previous titles scripted them a bit more. I found it to be a little refreshing. You’re offered a variety of ways to get the job done. Stealing a key to get into a secure location would certainly work, but maybe you’d rather just break in? Both options are equally doable and you can decide what you’d prefer.
The combat’s also improved in my eyes. No longer can you kill hundreds of dudes in one go via combo kills, which looked awesome and hilarious but didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Instead you need to time your parries just a bit better and enemies tend to be just a bit tougher. Early on they’re even legitimate threats! It’s still Assassin’s Creed but you have to think about what you’re doing at least a little.
You can customize Arno to a pretty significant degree, particularly his looks, which is always welcome. The XP, er, Creed Point system is an interesting way of rewarding the player and I think it works well enough. The skill tree associated with that system is merely alright, since there’s plenty of abilities you have to unlock that previous Assassins just kind of had from step one. Even with all his skills unlocked, Arno doesn’t bring anything game-changing to the table in terms of Assassin abilities, but that’s not really a make-or-break issue in my mind.
Oh, and co-op is a thing, too. I’m a fan of the series. Most of the friends in my circle aren’t. “Hey, you should get the new Assassin’s Creed with co-op…oh, you’d rather play Halo. Of course.” Instead, I played with random players via matchmaking to try this out. Naturally this included all the caveats of playing with randoms, namely that they tend to be pretty bad at the game and pretty vile in terms of behavior. Still, the idea’s there and I can see it working well if you play with people you know. There’s certainly plenty of co-op content available even if the main story missions are single player only.
I’d go into detail about the bad, but chances are you’ve already heard about it in a much more sensationalized form on any number of other outlets. Here’s the basic rundown: it’s apparently kind of buggy and the framerate tends to drop. I’m playing this on PS4 and, I’ll admit, when I want high performance I play stuff on PC. I actually kind of expected the framerate to be iffy and wasn’t exactly horrified when it was, but it certainly can be poor and I’m not sure if it’s actually better on PC in this case or not. I’ve heard it isn’t. So. As for the setting, Paris is certainly an interesting choice but it feels a lot like you’re playing one of the Colonial-era games because, uh, you kind of are. Unity lacks the “new car” feeling that Black Flag’s setting offered with its vast opportunities for exploration.
As for the bugs, I didn’t run into any myself but if you listen to YouTube the game is supposedly rife with them, so you might want to watch out there. They certainly make for hilarious viewing if you can dig up some excerpts online. Unity also messes with the game’s control scheme in a couple irritating ways, namely changing the way you descend from heights a bit, which can cause problems until you’ve gotten used to it. Unity also adds a sneak button, because, er.
Oh, and here’s the real killer in my mind: it has a link to the DLC store in the main ingame menu, so minus a billion points for that bit of sleaze. Also it’s yet another $60 retail game with an included microtransaction scheme, here in the form of Helix Credits that can be purchased to cheat your way to better gear. That’s the part I’d be outraged about.
I’m a diehard fan of the series, so I’m willing to admit that I’ll probably enjoy the game regardless of any issues. If you’re in the same boat then it’s worthwhile for you to do the same and you probably already have. If you’re the type to flip out over FPS dips or the odd bug – and there’s nothing wrong with that, you’re certainly encouraged to do so with AAA games these days – then you should probably skip it. And, sadly, that’s most of you. So sorry, Assassin’s Creed: Unity. You get a Nay, which would translate to a 7/10 on most gaming sites. Please don’t stab me. Your fans are still going to buy you.
Also, something about review embargoes and releasing reviews on launch day, because people totally buy games on launch these days, instead of paying for them weeks earlier thanks to a broken pre-order paradigm that basically forces them to do so to get a complete game, right? Yeah. Don’t pre-order, kids.