The Assassins Creed franchise is in a desperate need of a break, as well as a complete overhaul. With the previous entry in the franchise Black Flag we did begin to see some much needed changes and Unity does continue to bring some of the desperately needed changes. Of course with these changes does come their problems, namely it could be challenging for long-time fan of the franchise to jump into this entry with an overhaul to the combat system among other things, though it also is the changes that put this game on the much needed path the franchise desperately requires.
Unity removes the open seas and expansive wilderness of past entries and instead drops us in a well-made recreation of 18th century Paris and Versailles.
Paris is breathtaking with well-designed churches and palaces littering the city, each one rendered beautifully, with even the interiors exhibiting a lot of care in their detail to true to history or the location as a whole. Likewise Paris is filled with life and goings on in one of the liveliest games I have ever played, it was rare that I was ever surrounded by less than ten people and this made the game feel all the more lively. This is turn was also helped by the French Revolution playing around in the background with people protesting in the streets in huge crowds, and providing a vision of horror and thrill as we see Paris tearing apart at the seams from the chaos and madness.
The story of Unity sees Arno Dorian’s adventures run more alongside the descent into ruin of the French Revolution, with Arno more viewing the Revolution in passing as he journeys around Paris rather than getting actively involved. Instead the story more focuses on Arno’s involvement with the Assassins brotherhood, as well as his confusing relationship with his childhood love Elise. The romance of these two characters really helps to add some power to the second half of the game, adding an honest connection, something that to be perfectly honest I had trouble finding in the first half of the game. Without the connection of the two characters the story would fall flat in the second half.
There is no shortage of things to do in Paris, the world is literally filled with missions to complete. Story missions are paced quite well around Paris and are regularly varied, and for the variety of the missions we are not seeing the same basic activity such as tail the enemy or listen to a conversation. Each mission is cleverly made and even offers a more open approach allowing you to create your own path to success.
Paris Stories and social club missions provide a wide wealth of additional tasks which actually feature real characters who existed in history and even interesting objectives. Meanwhile additional missions such as murder mysteries and the puzzling Nostradamus missions provide a much different experience then past entries in the franchise, each have you using your brain to solve the problem which does make a nice change from the traditional style of the games, something I do hope they bring back in the future.
Another major change mission wise is the rift missions which I won’t spoil the thrill of these little moments, however I can pleasantly say these provide a much needed change to the game ditching the annoying modern day segments in favour of something that is a lot more fun. The rift missions have an arcade feel to them and provide a fun and fast experience, and this too is another feature that I really hope they bring back in future installments.
There is a lot more freedom to Unity then previous entries, missions present little handholding and more often than not rely more on the players own thinking in both forms of creativity as well as changing strategies in a split second. This has in turn created a bit more difficulty then previous Assassins Creed games and can leave you a bit frustrated, this is not helped by the enhanced intelligence presented by guards. Unity may have provided us with an overhaul to stealth allowing us to sneak around by ducking, however guards are more aware then previous games and even with the changes to stealth, which are pretty good, you still will not fool the guards for long. In a sense this helped with the freedom of the game and even occasionally forces you to look into other paths.
Likewise combat has also seen an overhaul, the nature of combat is a lot more thought provoking then past entries. Combat relies much more on observation of your enemies and their tactics and also the expectation that you will use your entire arsenal of deadly toys to your advantage. However there is a definite absence of a decent counter move to long ranged shots which is unbelievably frustrating, this in turn led to more deaths then I can count mainly due to the sometimes overwhelming number of enemies that can appear on screen which can lead to immense confusion, it also isn’t helped you can’t counter twenty enemies shooting at you at one moment.
The new traversal mechanics are a bit on the hit and miss side. I loved being able to use the ascent and descent mechanics of scaling walls which were vastly welcome considering how annoyed I got in past entries by my character just running up walls. Likewise I was glad about the fact my Assassin being able to move off buildings more often than not the way I wanted rather than just randomly making giant leaps. It does take some time to adjust to these changes, with the common issue being to remember to press the button to climb buildings, however once adjusted to this mechanic it quickly became a feature that really outranks the predecessor’s to this game.
Negatively though as good as the changes are I did regularly encounter some really frustrating issues at times. While the mechanics for scaling buildings are good the animations and even the mechanic at times could not keep up with the environment, I often would find myself stuck on a wall for an unknown reason and even regularly found myself unable to enter a window.
Every mission you complete is all prepared towards progression. New skills and equipment unlock quite regularly and each mission rewards a series of benefits which help to provide currency as well as skill points geared towards creating your vision of Arno.
The system for upgrading is quite expansive and sometimes addictive, providing both cosmetic upgrades along with actually game-changing improvements. Long-time fans of the franchise might initially feel underpowered when starting to play Unity, as a good portion of the skills we take for granted from previous entries are not initially available and must be purchased in order to use them. Skills such as the always important lockpicking are just one of these skills that you must buy to use, which is now done by a no skill involved minigame.
There are numerous issues found in Unity which while they do not ruin the game they do cause immense frustration. The always annoying long load times persist in Unity but it isn’t the games worst problem, a fair selection of annoying freezes do plague the game and regularly appear at the worst of times. Add this with constant notification pop ups and it just shows that for all Unity does the bugs have not quite been ironed out. However for all the games issues it does at least counter the problems with a thoroughly engaging amount of content and an absolutely breathtaking Paris to explore.
I have already said it Assassins Creed is definitely in need of an overhaul, and even with the issues I kept finding I couldn’t help but be reasonably satisfied with what I was offered here. This is not quite the overhaul I want from this franchise, but it does do enough to really provide the beginning of those changes. The changes in combat, gameplay and even Paris as a whole do provide a worthy reason to play this game, and fans of the franchise really should give this a go even if their previous idea of the franchise should just be left to the past and expectations should be forgotten.