[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]With December now upon us and Christmas fast approaching, many gamers alike are looking for that one magnificent title to gratify our interactive entertainment spirit for hours on end. One such game that may fullfill your needs is Ubisoft’s latest Assassins Creed installment, Assassins Creed: Unity. Unity is the 8th main installment of the historically set franchise famed for its use of parkour and is exclusive to the new-generation consoles (Xbox One and Playstation 4). The following review looks at both the updated and new mechanics of the game as well as various gameplay elements from the perspective of myself (Velocity) and Tyzer.
As most Assassins Creed fans will know, the franchise focuses on the war between the Assassins and Templars. The tales of Altair and Ezio held true to that ideal, however, it was diminished in Assassin’s Creeds III and IV where you often questioned the validity of the Assassin-Templar war. Luckily, Unity returns to the roots of the franchise. The story walks along a path similar to the tale of Ezio, where the war is a very prominent forefront for the story and the direction you take whilst playing the French assassin, Arno Dorian. Dorian is a very inquisitive character, often verbally scolded for asking too many questions.
The story will take you down memory lane; without giving too much away, someone dear to Arno is murdered by the Templar order for which he is framed for. Dorian is hell bent on seeking revenge on those who spilt the blood of his ally, in his wake he is found by the assassin’s creed (Seem familiar yet?), whom train and teach Dorian the ways of the Creed to enact justice on those who exploit their power.
Unity’s story is one of the best to date, but in saying that, it’s not exactly anything outstanding as far as Assassin’s Creed stories go. For me, Unity ranks above that of AC 3 & 4, alongside AC1, and below the summation of Ezio’s games. Granted, I admit it is completely unfair to rate one game’s story against that of a story crafted by 3 games, but that is what the series has done to itself, sadly. Ideals are set on the solid story crafted around Ezio, but it’s very difficult to recreate that in just one game.
The important thing I look for in Assassin’s Creed games is the focus on and links to the behind-the-scenes Assassin-Templar war. Assassin’s Creeds III & IV were very weak on that, in my opinion. Unity does display very clear distinctions as to who is a Templar and who is an Assassin; there is a heavy focus on the Assassin ideals and ways of operating, and the whole thing feels much more like it used to in terms of story. The less common, more subtle present-day story tie-ins in Unity were a welcome and refreshing change, but I feel this is the limit as to how little present-day you can include in an AC game.
The gameplay feels new and refreshed, like a game built from the ground-up. Planning your kill is a huge part of the mission, no more ‘run in, stab the Templar, avoid as many guards as you can and then hide in a bush,’ you will die. I underestimated the new fighting system and was promptly punished many times; don’t think you can just take on 3 baddies at once. I am pleased with the new combat system; there are dozens of ways to find and kill a target – use your tools, your skills and you imagination to bring enemies to justice. I will let Tyzer take the lead on the details for this section as my views coincide with his.
Unity returns players to the glorious days of AC1, planning your Assassinations and missions like a real Assassin. Recent games have disappointed me in that often “Kill this person in this exact way using this exact route using this exact weapon”. There’s no room for creativity, nor is there any preparation involved. Unity gets you to take advantage of the environment, look for weak spots, set up escape opportunities and then take on the mission. You could just run in there having done none of this, fight your way through everyone, kill the baddie and get out. You’ll likely find issues with the result, in that you’ll probably be killed before you get to the target, and if you’re not killed there, you’ll probably be killed by the target’s guards before you can do the full assassination.
Combat is more challenging than ever before, with a similar structure to previous games but adding new types of enemies, more dangerous attacks and harder countering. It’s no bad thing, however, as it encourages the player to stay out of combat in the first place but maintaining stealth, something long missing from AC. Stealth is key in Unity, with a dedicated sneaking mode and new/returning tools at your disposal, as well as the Splinter Cell signature “last known position” system.
It is by far the easiest to get from A to B in Unity than any other AC game thanks to the improved parkour system. I saw drastically reduced jump-to-my-death mishaps resulting from wonky parkour, and it’s far easier to get up and down buildings, especially with the new downward-parkour feature, allowing you to gracefully descend buildings with the same use of poetic license that we see in previous games.
Customization in Unity is better than ever with a whole array of pieces to create your own Assassin with, including bracers, HOODS, chest gear, HOODS, leg gear, HOODS, belts and… erm… HOODS. The return of the Assassin’s signature hood beak-peak is something that I’m sure I’m not alone in celebrating. If you were a fan of the beak-less hood, that’s there for you too as well as a host of color schemes and unlockable outfits showcasing characters from Unity as well as previous games.
In order to level up Arno, players will have to spend Sync Points to purchase additional skills across the 3 main pillars of Unity: Stealth, Navigation and Combat. As you progress through the story, more and more abilities, skills and weapons become available to you. It is a decent system, but at times has distracted from my experience resulting in quitting the mission. For instance, I was undertaking my first co-operative mission with a friend and I was pleased for the first two thirds of the mission. Ubisoft has done a remarkable job with the new technology available to them. The last third of the mission demanded we take out a dozen or so guards and then proceed through a locked door. Well, we took out the guards in our own unique way but come to the door, we were stopped dead in our tracks. The door needed a locksmithing level of 2 where both of us only had achieved the first level, there was no way around and it was the final challenge to pass to complete the mission. We were quite frustrated and ended up forgetting about the objective and went to explore Paris.
The Skill progression system has its ups and downs; the main issue is that there is never enough sync to unlock said skills. Boosts function in a straightforward manner, you pay and amount of money and are granted a 5-minute enhancement to health, melee or stealth.
There’s a whole range of weapons too, each with their benefits and downfalls including swords, heavy weapons, pistols, rifles, and long weapons. Not to mention a selection of bombs, as well as Arno’s Hidden Blade & Phantom Blade. The single Hidden Blade is a refreshing change, giving way to new and inventive double assassinations, and the Phantom Blade is just plain badass. ‘Nuff said.
Design and Performance
Paris is beautifully crafted in AC: Unity. The city is enormous, diverse, yet easy to navigate. I have only one issue with the design of Paris, and that was the very noticeable frame drops that occur every now and again. It does pull on the experience, and dampen what is such a beautiful game, but it’s made up for by what is likely causing it in the first place – NPC quantities. You can’t have a believable Revolutionary France without a LOT of revolutionaries.
Walking through Paris, players will see crowds of people burning books, protesting, and fighting with guards. There are also new “crowd events” that will randomly and seamlessly appear all over the place. Turn a corner and you might come across a random street killing – kill the thugs responsible and you’ll win the support of the crowd. It’s by far one of my favorite features and helps to make the setting that much more believable.
The open-world experience of Paris makes this game one of a kind. Designed in a one-to-one scale, the Ubisoft team aimed to maintain the freedom that the franchise has come to be known for, whilst also ensuring Unity seamlessly transitions for players between the solo and co-operative parts of the game.
For myself, the performance of Unity is its downfall. Do not be mistaken; it is a beautifully crafted game with a phenomenal open world. But as a new generation game, I expected a little more. Coming from playing AAA titles such as Destiny and Sunset Overdrive where frame rate is a constant 60 FPS, moving to Unity, which has a locked 30 FPS, was quite the jump. On release, Unity was riddled with bugs (Which is becoming a trend nowadays). Ubisoft is making large efforts to rectify the issues but some still remain.
With the new power of Xbox and Playstation, Unity was able to render NPC crowds of up to 5000 people on the streets of Paris. This doesn’t come without a cost; Like Tyzer, I also was experienced to frame rate drops here and there, commonly when in co-operative play.
In summary, Assassin’s Creed Unity has a fantastic story and an amazing world; it definitely refreshes the franchise for me with new mechanics and customization options. However, Ubisoft pushed the limits a bit too far this time around; bugs, glitches and lowered performance distract from the great experience that could have been.
To summarize my Assassin’s Creed Unity experience, it’s not a flawless game, but it’s the most refreshing chapter in the series yet. A glorious return to what it truly means to be an Assassin, adding in navigation aids and immersive features to improve the feel of the game whilst cutting out the repetitive “tail” missions and clear lack of stealth.
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~ Unity is a refreshing addition to the Assassins Creed franchise
~ New and inventive gameplay mechanics make for better experiences
~ A solid story that goes back to the roots of AC
~ Larger NPC numbers gives a better feel of realism to the game[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]
~ There are still glitches here and there months after release
~ Locked 30 FPS
~ Limited abilities when beginning the game can hinder some experiences[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_progress_bar values=”95|Story,80|Gameplay,90|Customisation and Progression,85|Design and Performance” bgcolor=”custom” units=”%” custombgcolor=”#51db1a” el_class=”square-corners”][/vc_column][/vc_row]