In Defense: Assassin’s Creed Unity

The Assassin’s Creed franchise gets a hard time these days. What was once a beloved game series has become a running joke. What real reason do people have for their problems with this mostly enjoyable franchise? Yearly fatigue? Many buy Call of Duty every year, so that can’t be the case. Is it Assassin’s Creed Unity? Wait, that can’t be right. What justification do people have to hate this particular installment and by extension the entire franchise? Unity was never a bad game.

Assassin’s Creed Unity held a whole lot of promise when it was first revealed in early 2014, and it excited us when the first proper gameplay was shown from the final build. Unity was the first Assassin’s Creed game to arrive for current-generation systems exclusively. It had a lot to prove, and Ubisoft was trying to pull it off. The game focused heavily on crowd physics and its attempt to recreate most of the French Revolution time period within a huge gaming landscape. Despite the franchise shining in the previous year with Black Flag, Unity attempted to truly show what it could do.

Attention to detail excited people, with the bustling Paris streets feeling alive. But after seeing what Ubisoft was promising, what could they possibly do to curb people’s expectations? A massive adventure was promised, and many dreamed of this incredible game and what paths it could take them down. But high expectations are often the biggest problem a game may have. We let our minds get away from us and expect a flawless project to greet us. This is possibly Unity’s and Ubisoft’s biggest sin.

Glitches galore is what we received upon release in one of the worst cases of an unpolished game from a AAA developer to date. It was deemed by many to be unplayable. All the promise and potential was forgotten and the jokes were all that remained. Despite this I can’t help but feel people made a mistake. Do glitches decide a game? Sure it could have used more time in the developer’s oven, and a finer coat of paint would have helped, but people failed to see what Unity was really offering.

Despite numerous frame rate drops, instances of getting stuck on walls or ledges that don’t exist, and moments where the game froze for minutes at a time — all of which are infuriating — Unity is not actually a bad game. This is an example where we need to look beyond the flaws in presentation and look at the game for what it offers. For an Assassin’s Creed fan, this game offered everything one could want, even refining many of the core mechanics for key assassinations.

If you like a franchise you should not let the small problems change your perspective. In the grand scheme of Unity’s accomplishments, considering world design and realizing the French Revolution within its game world, the glitches are minimal. Nearly every game that releases these days is flawed in some way, so why should we claim that a game is bad because of such minuscule problems? The technical flaws do not destroy the technical achievements or undermine the core gaming experience. They may be annoying, which is undeniable, but if you look behind the problems, the game’s design can shine. Unity has more than enough of this to be an incredible game.

With a story that embodies so many wonderful themes — love and loss, loyalty, making tough decisions — there was always something to grab your interest. People simply looked at Unity’s flaws and backed away, but the narrative alone was more than enough to pull those who are willing through the chaotic experience. The story of love and revenge that sat at the forefront of the experience was extremely engrossing. It was this strength that more than made up for the shortcomings.

Looking beyond the glitches, there was still one point that has been barely addressed: how this game evolved. While many missions followed the tried-and-tested formula of following a target or a set path, others were open-ended, such as the previously mentioned assassination missions. In all these instances there was a sense of freedom which put the power in your hands. Developing a methodical approach to completing a goal, even with the game working against you at times, is still a great experience, and the level of fun ushered through most moments truly overshadows all technical problems.

You should not hate a game simply because of a lack of refinement or technical issues. Dishonored 2 suffers from some technical problems, and I never hear anyone complain about it. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim could be considered broken, yet people love it and it is a quality game. Assassin’s Creed Unity is similar. Yes, technical problems hinder the experience, but you work around the problems and find the quality experience that is waiting to be enjoyed. Don’t hate a game because of how it looks. It does not matter whether people’s faces vanish, the game freezes, or you fall off invisible ledges. If you are willing to keep playing despite these problems, the good elements will shine.

I consider Unity to be one of the best Assassin’s Creed games to date because I overlooked its problems and just played it. Unity is an allegory for perseverance. Even the most technically glitch-ridden game can be a diamond in the rough, and Unity is just like all those other games that suffered from similar problems. The only reason people spread hate is because it is a well-established franchise.

Perhaps we should take a step back and appreciate Unity for what it accomplishes rather than criticize it for its shortcomings. Next time you see a game that seems broken, just keep playing because there might be something incredible hidden beneath the technical difficulties.

Sometimes you need to look beyond what everyone else says and play the game for yourself. I am betting many of you who picked on Assassin’s Creed Unity did not even play it and just went with the trend. Maybe if you play it, you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised.

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