It took a year, but we finally have a fully and exclusively next-gen Assassin’s Creed title. Assassin’s Creed Unity has some moments that by far surpass its predecessors and some that made me wonder what Ubisoft’s definition of a “next-gen” Assassin’s Creed game is. Although it is a spectacle to behold and it offers an abundance of customization options, Unity misses the mark in its frustrating controls and its story that disappointingly never gave me a reason care.
First, I have to say that I love Ubisoft’s choice of Unity’s 18th Century Paris, France setting. As its cobblestone streets ran red with the blood of those courageous, poverty-stricken men and women who stood up to an oppressive aristocracy, I was thrust into the story as the main character Arno Dorian. Arno’s father, an Assassin, is murdered and Arno is raised by a Templar family. Later his adoptive Templar father is also killed and that sets Arno down the path of revenge and discovery – becoming an Assassin to do so. With such tragedy occurring within the 1st hour of the game, it was crucial that Arno be a character that I could feel sympathetic towards, but he simply shrugs his shoulders as his loved ones fall dead around him. He isn’t a one-dimensional character, by any means, but he certainly isn’t a character that I felt I could ever buy into fully. The rest of the story is quite comparable to previous Assassin’s Creed storyline. For example, there’s a mystery within a mystery and unraveling the story is a big part of the game. Overall, it wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but still, there wasn’t anything that has me rolling my eyes or decreased my motivation for playing the game.
There’s plenty to do in Unity’s Paris, but the city itself – although packed with plenty of citizens – often felt lifeless. These people really did not seem to mind me running into their houses and climbing their buildings. Granted, there are some poignant moments where riots are occurring in the middle of the street and the privileged have taken refuge within the Notre-Dame Cathedral. But even in a city in that is in mid-revolution, it can get get lonely. A saving grace of this game are its side-missions that required me to play cooperatively with 1-3 other people (a 4 person party). I thought this added a nice break and change of pace. Honestly, this was probably one of the best “break from the story” concepts in the Assassin’s Creed series, comparable to the kind of fun that Black Flag’s ship battles introduced.
One of my biggest hopes in playing the next-gen Unity was that Ubisoft would have made the controls more precise. Running down an alleyway often times turns into accidentally scaling a wall. Parrying attacks is still a feature that is still surprisingly inconsistent. These issues are extremely frustrating and they’ve been problems that have plagued the series from the beginning. Furthermore, it seem as though the climbing mechanic has taken a step backward. Time after time I would climb a building and my progress would be blocked because certain architectural protrusions were not registered as “climbable.” That’s not to say that every building and structure has this issue, but it was an issue that reared its head more than past titles.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is by no means a bad game or even one that is not fun. Rather, it is a great deal of fun, but because of it’s flaws it seemed like the game constantly kept my interest at an arm’s length. I am however glad that Ubisoft has given players the ability to truly share this experience with other players and that those experiences affected my journey as Arno. If you’re a fan of the series, I still think you’ll like it. But Unity serves as a perfect example to all developers that “next-gen” means more than bigger worlds, better visuals, and new modes. It also means improving upon the past generations mistakes. In the end, Unity takes more steps backwards than forwards.