Assassin’s Creed: Unity – Xbox One
Platform: Xbox One
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date (NA): November 11, 2014
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Reviewed by Cloud3514
Marred by technical issues and various controversies over the last year, Assassin’s Creed: Unity has had a tough time. It’s been savaged by gamers and even critics haven’t given it much of a pass. But how does Unity really fare? Eh, it’s OK.
After witnessing and being framed for the murder of his adoptive father, Arno Dorian learned of the Assassins and the Templars in prison and found that his father, Charles Dorian, was an Assassin, while Francois de la Serre, who took him in after his father’s murder, was the Grand Master of the Templars. Joining the Assassin Brotherhood, Arno sets out to unravel the conspiracy that lead to de la Serre’s death and stop the plotting of the Templars in hopes to end the French Revolution before it rips Paris apart. Also, his girlfriend, Elise de la Serre, is a Templar.
Arno is boring. There’s not a lot of interesting things to note about his character. In fact, I’ve already stated the most interesting part of his character: The fact that the woman he loves is a Templar. Previous Assassins (namely Altair and Conner) have gotten flak for being overly stoic, while I’ve previously noted Shay’s tendency to complain, but Arno has nothing. The writers were going for a charming rogue like Ezio, but they forgot to give him an actual personality.
And that’s not where the issues with the story and writing end. The modern day plot was just flat out tacked on. The Assassins are recruiting users of the Animus based game system Helix to investigate Arno’s life in hopes of finding the body of a Sage, a person that is described as having a particularly high concentration of First Civilization DNA, before the Templars. Not only is this a weak explanation of why Arno’s memories are being searched, it’s an even weaker explanation for the cooperative multiplayer.
Furthermore, while the idea of a Sage (explained in Assassin’s Creed IV as the reincarnation of Aita, a precursor who died in an experiment to find a way to save his race) having precursor DNA makes sense, precursors are described as having a triple helix DNA structure, which should render them biologically incompatible with humans, despite every playable Assassin being able to use Eagle Vision because of being descended from the precursors. This doesn’t change much of the game, but it is a bit of bad science that stuck with me.
There’s a good story hidden in there. The conspiracy behind the murder mystery is very interesting. There’s a lot going on in the background and the conflicting roles that Arno and Elise play, in theory. make interesting drama. However, the Assassins don’t play much of a role. The game tries to make the role of the Assassins relate to Arno’s character development, but like every other part of Arno’s character, there’s really nothing there.
Arno is so uninteresting that the only thing that kept me going in the story was myself. I’ve probably spent just as much time playing Black Flag since I got the Xbox One, despite having already played the PS3 version.
The gameplay has been overhauled from previous entries. Some of these changes, like moving bombs and ranged weapons to the bumpers, I rather like. Other changes, like the removal of regenerating health (meaning medicine is needed to heal), I don’t like.
Annoyingly, Arno can only take so many enemies at a time. While it may somewhat depend on player skill, I was only able to take up 4 or 5 enemies at once and I can’t imagine most people can handle too many more than that. While this does force the player to focus on stealth, it also means that far, FAR too often would I be forced to restart missions after being overwhelmed by enemies.
The instant killing counters and chain kills are gone. Instead, the combat went back to a similar style as earlier entries in the series. The focus on the combat is on parrying. Parrying with the right timing will open up an opportunity to strike.
At times, the combat is fun to both play and watch. Arno can tear through enemies with ease, cutting them down one by one, blocking and dodging their attacks along the way. However, you then get the enemies with guns. Snipers, even with all health upgrades, can take out upwards of half of Arno’s health. I’m curious if they could have killed me with one shot had I not focused on getting the health upgrades. While other enemies will pull out a pistol and take a shot at times.
There’s no reliable way to deal with getting shot at. Enemies can’t be used as human shields like with earlier entries to the series and dodge rolling mostly relies on luck with it impossible to tell the timing of the shots. Sometimes dodging isn’t even an option as it can only be done in the middle of a fight and if Arno is shot at outside of an outright fight, he’s most likely going to get hit.
Not to mention that sometimes I never even noticed getting shot. I’ve lost count of how many times I would be killed because I didn’t notice getting shot three times.
To the game’s credit, it is easy to see when the player is ready for certain challenges. Every mission and enemy has a difficulty rating. The difficulty rating is represented by a row of diamonds in a mission’s rating or above an enemy’s lifebar. The difficulties range from one diamond to five. Arno also has one of these ratings, getting higher as his equipment is upgraded. Arno’s rating can go one level higher to five gold diamonds.
Arno’s equipment is fully customizable. This changes what he looks like, as well as affects his abilities. Some pieces of equipment increase his health, while others reduce the amount noise he makes while sneaking, though I don’t think it makes really any difference as stealth appears to remain unchanged regardless of equipment.
This is something I rather like. It makes it easier for players to play how they want and gives more options than previous Assassin’s Creed games.
To facilitate stealth, a crouch button and a cover mechanic were added. The crouch button is more or less useless. There’s just as much chance of being seen by enemies regardless of whether or not it’s used, while the cover mechanic just plain sucks.
In theory, Arno will snap behind walls, carts, crates, sofas and so on and so forth. In practice, it’s a total crapshoot on whether or not it will work. It’s very sluggish and hard to tell what can or can’t be used for cover and sometimes seems completely arbitrary when something can’t be used. Arno has a tendency to flail around between cover. It’s really annoying and the contextual version used by Black Flag and Rogue would have been far better.
There are four currencies in the game. The first is Louvres, which is used to buy equipment and consumable items like ammunition and medicine. Then you have sync points and Brotherhood points, which are used to buy skills and upgrade items, respectively. Sync points are rewarded from story and co-op missions, while Brotherhood points are earned through doing things like assassinating or finishing off enemies. The fourth currency is Helix points, which are used to “hack” equipment purchases and upgrades. These are normally purchased with real money, but I was able to build up 420 of them through normal gameplay… and I have no idea how.
Luckily, while the microtransactions are a sleazy attempt to draw more money out of the players’ wallets, they are completely optional. Everything can be found or unlocked without buying any Helix points, even if the strongest equipment takes a hell of a grind to unlock.
Co-op is nothing special. It might be fun to mess around with with friends, but with random players, it’s just more of the same as the singleplayer missions. They don’t add to the story in any way and the only real rewards from them are equipment and sync points.
Other side missions include the Nostradamus Engine, which is Unity’s quest chain to unlock a unique set of equipment, various collectables, murder mysteries, which are actually a lot of fun and rely on a surprising amount of critical thinking and Helix rifts, which tasks the player with gathering data and rescuing another Assassin in various eras of Paris, such as World War II or the late 19th century. Helix rifts are really just there to break up the visual aesthetic of Paris and are pretty uninteresting.
The game’s map is absolute trash, as well. It’s extremely cluttered and the story mission icon tends to blend into other icons (at one point, it was underneath a co-op mission icon) and is needlessly complicated. The camera angle on it can be shifted around and it can be spun to any direction, which is completely pointless. It’s particularly frustrating after Black Flag and Rogue having fantastic maps that are easy to read and navigate.
Visually, the game is gorgeous. There are moments that are almost photo realistic. It’s easily the best looking game I’ve ever played. Which is what makes the technical issues more frustrating.
While most of the issues have been cleared up with the various patches since the game’s release, the framerate is still very inconsistent. While usually it leaves the game with only a slight choppiness, there were a few cases where the framerate dropped to maybe half of the promised 30 FPS. It doesn’t render the game unplayable, but it is pretty inexcusable.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity is not as bad as it’s reputation would suggest, but it’s still not particularly impressive. While some of the changes work, a lot of things don’t. Even the visuals, which are otherwise phenomenal, have serious framerate issues. Hopefully Ubisoft Quebec can fix Unity’s issues with Assassin’s Creed: Victory. And hopefully they can also give everyone the right accents this time.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC.
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