Assassins Creed games come round once a year, sometimes more depending on the consoles you own. If like me you’ve been playing them since the initial release back in 2007 you’ve probably also loved and hated some previous titles in the series. If you haven’t read our Assassins Creed: Black Flag review back during the Xbox One launch, now would be the time.
Assassins Creed has become a power house for Ubisoft with each new release bringing in the revenue as fans seem to be as strongly devoted to the series now as they were back in 2008/9. Assassins Creed: Black Flag was developed for both (at the time) current and next gen consoles whereas Unity has been developed purely for new current gen cycle of consoles. Black Flag looked great, Unity looks stunning. Let’s take a dive (from a high view point), and delve into the French Revolution.
Our protagonist is Arno Dorian, a young native Frenchman born in Versailles to an Assassin and his wife. The story begins at the end of Assassins Creed Rogue where Arno’s father is murdered and he himself is adopted, unbeknown to him by The Templar Grandmaster and his family including Elise De LaSerre who from the outset is clearly introduced as Arno’s love interest. During the opening tutorial missions, Arno’s adopted father is murdered and Arno accused of the act and imprisoned. Whilst incarcerated and blaming himself Arno meets an Assassin who eventually helps him escape. Setting out on a quest of redemption, Arno is eventually brought before the Brother of Assassins and like in previous titles, he rise through the ranks is swift.
Characters of note you’ll meet include the famous French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte, Maximilien De Robespierre one of the most influential figures during the French Revolution and Marquis de Sade a French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher and writer who during the French Revolution was elected delegate to the National Convention. Game development, which weaves it way through history right through to the execution of Louis XVI, was carefully over seen by a number of high profile historians recruited by Ubisoft including Laurent Turcot, a professor from Universite du Quebec a Trois-Rivieres. It was this attention to detail and supervision of the script which really makes Assassins Creed Unity stand out in comparison to previous titles in the series.
Speaking of development, it is worth noting that Assassins Creed Unity officially went into development shortly after the release of Assassins Creed: Brotherhood back in 2010. With development teams from both Brotherhood and Assassins Creed III involved, it wasn’t until March 2014 that we got to see Arno for the first time via some leaked screenshots. Development was completed by 10 different Ubisoft studios with the lead team based out of Montreal. These different studios are what I believe have led to a number of technical issues across the game; albeit now mostly resolved through hefty patches and updates.
Assassins Creed: Unity shipped with a host of challenges for Ubisoft. Ranging from technical issues and performance related problems, a stilted and somewhat over stiff combat system, a free running experience with an overly controlling auto-correct system and a story line which although brilliantly detailed can at times introduce characters whom have pointless relationships with what is happening around them. These problems and many more lead to an official apology from Ubisoft Montreal including free DLC (Assassins Creed Unity: Dead Kings) for all players and for those who purchased the Season Pass, a free game from the Ubisoft catalogue including The Crew and Far Cry 4.
Even with all the challenges faced during launch, Assassins Creed: Unity still had a lot to offer players including a vast, vibrant city open to explore right from the get go. Moving around the city will be familiar to all Assassins Creed fans and Arno controls much like the other assassins, although the parkour elements have been modified and changed a little. Now players can control either going up or down when scaling buildings with the push of a button. While the game has a standard set of main missions, taking around 12-15 hours to play through it also contains a truly huge amount and variety of side quests including a new favourite of mine; murder mysteries. But it also includes protection style missions, pulling down propaganda posters and of course renovating and improving Arno’s Head Quarters, the Café Théâtre. This building was once the intelligence gathering front of the Assassin Brotherhood but become a neglected, run down shell. Given over to Arno the building becomes his base of operations in Paris during the game. In it Arno can attend plays, keep his armour and weapons, further train his Assassin skills and complete side missions furthering his influence and wealth. There is seemingly an endless amount of content here. The base also acts as the entrance to the underground Assassin Brotherhood HQ.
Much overdue is the tweaked combat system which now includes a unique way of levelling armour and weapons through upgrades. Everything in the game is rated with diamonds, the more diamonds the harder the challenge whether it be a fight, mission or otherwise. Likewise Arno is rated by diamonds based on his unlocked abilities, armour and weapons equipped. As the diamonds increase, so does the challenge and the ability to tackle them.
One of the biggest gripes with many players when Assassins Creed: Unity was released was the combat system seemed to be slow and clunky. With that comes an added difficulty which although frustrating at first, was very deliberate. Enemies can no longer be countered too easily, and can in turn interrupt your own attacks. Arno can also no longer sustain more than a couple of bullet shots. Players must time parries just right to be able to strike back. The harder the enemy rating, the more they block, throw flash bangs and dodge attacks. This is all a welcome challenge especially considering that sometimes the combat situations you found yourself in during Assassins Creed: Black Flag were overly simplistic.
The scale and scope of Paris is breath-taking and even though the game had it’s share of production challenges, you can’t help but be left admiring how alive the streets of Paris feel. Although the time of day doesn’t change dynamically any more, it does when fast travelling between locations and when entering/leaving various missions. Roaming the rooftops of Paris tells a story of a city in turmoil, as you navigate around landmarks you’ll be constantly greeted with signs of protest and unrest as hundreds of NPC’s on screen gather in public places. The facial features, movements and attention to detail in clothing during the cut scenes are really impressive throughout and it’s safe to say that Assassins Creed: Unity is visually spectacular.
I’ve always been an Assassins Creed fan, always playing the games imagining a more open world style gameplay that Assassins Creed: III and Assassins Creed: Black Flag hinted at. Although yes the game has its challenges with the technical problems that plagued the initial release, Assassins Creed: Unity has hours or gameplay to enjoy, a solid campaign, a beautifully recreated Paris and some superb voice acting. Ubisoft Montreal made some mistakes, but it’s also hard not to appreciate everything they got right.
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