It’s been a whirlwind of emotion with Unity. One minute I’m on a high, the next I’m frustrated. It picks up. It slows down. It climaxes and it plateaus. It isn’t the best Assassin’s Creed game out there, but it will definitely be one of the most memorable ones. Albeit, it is for both the right and wrong reasons.
I’ll start with its strongest points. Unity is one of the most breathtaking games in terms of the size of the open world, and every single visual detail it presents. Yes, it is not as large as many other games, but how they scaled Paris is wonderful. It also progresses and shifts depending on your missions, giving you a visual representation of chaotic Paris as you take on the main narrative.
Coupled with the stunning world are the new mechanics introduced in this game. Controlled descent is brilliant and is a ton of fun to use. No more relying on haystacks and bushes and bodies of water. It’s sheer fun to do wicked hardcore parkour tricks of Arno. In addition to Controlled Descent, we can now seamlessly run through the ins and outs of Paris’ homes and buildings. We can freely explore the nooks and crannies of homes, palaces, and churches without the hassle of transitions. It’s a nice touch and these mechanics, coupled with the wonderful environment really lets you enjoy the beauty and destruction of revolutionary Paris.
The assassination mechanics are pretty nifty too. You have to plan your missions and you have the option to use other methods to help you finish your missions. Instead of giving you the straight path to victory, assassination missions present to you several options to use or not use for your advantage. You can set the pace and make it easier or harder for you whenever you feel like it. I, personally, like to try all avenues when I can. I feel like I’m making the plays instead of the game making it for me.
While I liked the new ways to assassinate, I felt like there could be better ways to improve stealth in the game. Stealth is easier or harder in the game, depending on your situation. With the huge number of guards and their altered sensitivity to your presence, sometimes you will feel the need to exploit the new stealth mechanics of the game. Perhaps if stealth was a little more refined (or the game had fewer bugs), we (the average gamer) would not feel the need to exploit “cheatsy” mechanics.
The Paris Stories also felt like it needed more improvement. Yes, we got to know more of revolutionary Paris and it is merely a supplement to the AC: Unity experience, but I felt like there was not much effort put to some of the stories. What I dislike most about any game is when you feel like you’re merely doing errands without any fulfilling rewards other than extra cash and experience. It is an enhancement that can easily be ignored.
The Co-op games were a bit better. It certainly had more “bells and whistles” than the Paris Stories, and it was indeed more fun to play with a friend. The rewards are better, too. Sadly, major patches and updates were still a thing, and living in a country with terrible wi-fi, we didn’t enjoy it as much as we should have. I ended up playing most of the Co-op games on my own rather than with a friend. But I won’t hold that against Ubisoft.
There are just too many things going on with this game. I think they should have just merged the Paris Stories and Co-op stories. The set of annoying activities that annoy me in every single Assassin’s Creed still exists (collecting unneeded items and what not). In fact, something else was added to that particular set. There are chests that I can’t open until I use the mobile app and chests that need lock-picking. The lock-picking skill isn’t even as responsive as I want it to be, even when I leveled up my skill.
In addition to that, I really disliked the fact that I have to spend real money to unlock the really cool items. Now while usually I would let these issues slide, the way they ask for real currency is too obvious and almost tasteless in my opinion. I understand that I could get these things through hard work, but really Ubisoft, your new “Helix points” system is ridiculous.
Speaking of annoying new introductions, I also didn’t like the addition of the rifts. While it isn’t like the trippy running mini-games of Watch Dogs, I still couldn’t come to terms with why the bit was necessary. It felt like the game needed to be there just because the narrative has changed and Ubisoft wanted to add many different things as possible. It certainly does get you the cash you need immediately though.
I do believe that the rifts would have been a great addition had they somehow tied it with the continuation of the modern-day story from past Assassin’s Creed games. See, I felt like there was much potential for Black Flag’s modern day story and I really wanted it to continue. The conspiracy theories, the sudden disappearance of Abstergo’s president or CEO, the appearance of Shaun and Rebecca, and the sudden “arrival” of Juno, and all that. In Unity, we have no idea who the woman and her side-kick techie are. We, or at least, our character, is given such a short briefing on Templars vs. Assassins and precursors and whatnot. Our character isn’t given as much depth as in the past Assassin’s Creed games.
Which takes me to the final part of this review.
The narrative is perhaps what tore me from loving or hating this game. The pacing felt quite off. It felt as if every new plot twist would lose momentum because what follows is another assassination that isn’t remotely interesting enough for me to do.
That being said, there were points that got me all riled up. Bellec’s assassination, Arno and Elise’s argument, Germain revealed to be the sage, and Arno being taken off the Assassin’s group. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, this felt more of a filler and an exploration of the individual lives of both hidden organizations. I like the introspection and all that, but I would also have liked it if they were able to strike a balance between focusing on the grand plot and exposing the internal struggles of the group. It would be much more rewarding for me and I feel as if it would have kept the story exciting.
Obviously, the ending was what made me feel like the whole game was a filler. It was the most frustrating because the conclusion felt like it did not contribute anything significant for the big picture. The discovery of Germain’s corpse did nothing for the Assassins and the Templars. The only resolution we see is Arno’s turnaround. The player was given nothing in the end and was just given a pat in the back by whichever lady speaking at the other end of the game. There was nothing rewarding about the ending. It was so frustrating because, seriously, that was all Ubisoft can pull off?
They were able to pull in an “elaborate” excuse or story for the rift. They were able to make the trippy “journey” for Arno at the beginning of the story. They were even able to give Arno the ability to retrieve recent memories, for every assassination without any reasonable explanation for that ability. But they couldn’t think of a rewarding way to end the game? Like perhaps the return of Juno? Or maybe the sudden kidnapping of the player because Abstergo found out? Nothing?
Well, with all that being said I still think that Assassin’s Creed Unity was a fairly decent game if we’re talking about the new engine, the mechanics, the graphics and all that. It becomes frustrating though because this is a game which I believe had so much potential wasted through a stupid ending and awful pacing. So many things could have been done to enhance the plot and characterization, and yet I feel like most of the work for this game has been focused on unnecessary features and ways to milk money off of the franchise. So, with a heavy heart, I give this game a 6/10.
P.S. If Ubisoft decides to do a sequel to this story, because it felt unfinished and there are more things to be hashed out for Arno, then I would immediately buy it.
Sadly, it seems that they will be moving on to Assassin’s Creed: Victory.