Assassin’s Creed: Unity

AC Unity 1a

Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
Published by: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia and PC

Released in February 2014, Assassin’s Creed: Unity is the first title of the franchise designed specifically for next-gen consoles such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and upon booting it up for the first time, the leap in graphical capabilities was immediately clear. The streets of 18th century Paris are bustling with hundreds of NPCs on-screen at once; some waving flags, others holding severed heads on a pike – this is revolutionary France, after all. It is absolutely gorgeous to look at, and I felt utterly immersed in the virtual world that the Animus had created, blurring the lines between the game’s fictitious plot of an Assassin Initiate using the Helix technology and my own experience as a player playing the game.

With the current-day storyline reduced to expositionary voice-over, the focus on the game is on the story of Arno Dorian; a roguish Assassin who happens to be in love with a Templar. The French Revolution setting conjures up comparisons to swashbuckler adventures such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, and Arno is suitably charming as a lead protagonist – giving fan-favourite Ezio a run for his money. After a couple of bland leads in Connor and Shay, it’s nice to play as a fun character again. The love story between Arno and Elise is quite affecting, and while it feels somewhat derivative of Assassin’s Creed II at times with its revenge-led plot, it managed to engage me throughout and made me care about the characters.

After the grand scale and nautical activity of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, Assassin’s Creed: Unity streamlines its focus back to a single city open-world; it also removes the familiar resource management simulations to concentrate on an array of side-quests (or “Paris Stories”) for the player to investigate. One new addition is the Murder Mysteries, which feels akin to the detective mode from the Batman: Arkham series, inviting players to find clues using Eagle Sense and accuse suspects of murder. Unity definitely feels influenced by the Rocksteady Studios series, borrowing elements from the combat system also. There is also a notable increase in difficulty compared to the previous Assassin Creed titles, with health requiring medicine to heal (as opposed to regeneration over time) and equipment having an actual impact on stats. In previous games, I often felt overpowered towards the end of the story, but with Unity, I never felt invincible and would still get a blade in the ribs if I was too careless.

AC Unity 1b

On its initial release in 2014, Unity had a number of bugs and glitches, resulting in Ubisoft giving away DLC as compensation. As of now, the game works well, although I was unable to enjoy the Co-op elements because of server issues. This was particularly frustrating as two of the game’s achievements were directly tied to the Co-op missions, and I relished the idea of teaming up with other Assassins to complete a story mission. Luckily, the missions can all be played in single-player mode (although with more difficulty) so I didn’t lose out on the whole experience. Hopefully, this issue can be rectified soon so I can enjoy this unique multiplayer aspect of the game.

Throughout the game, the player is thrown into ‘Helix Rifts’ which take place in different time periods such as the Belle Époque, World War II or Medieval France. It was very refreshing to see these alternate time periods, again demonstrating the increased graphical power of the current-gen systems. Climbing the Eiffel Tower during the Blitz was an incredible set-piece and had a real sense of spectacle about it. Once completed as part of the narrative, these Helix Rifts then serve as a mini-game to test the player’s parkour abilities as they must collect data points within a set time limit.

As with all Assassin Creed games, there are plenty of collectables to find in the world map, but I have to admit that it got slightly tedious having to perform the lock-pick action on most of the game’s 294 chests. The game also had some functionality with a supporting app, which seems to have been discontinued now, making most of that content available in-game without earning it properly, which is a shame as it could have added a different dimension to the experience. The game has an expansive set of equipment to earn and collect, allowing players to visually customise Arno’s look and enhance qualities such as the number of accessories he can carry, or the amount of HP he has. I really enjoyed the level of customisation available, often switching up the outfits for a specific mission. Unlike most of the previous titles, I never became so rich with the in-game currency to afford every item, so I had to pick and choose which weapons and armour I wanted to purchase.

AC Unity 1c

The ‘apology DLC’ Dead Kings acts as an epilogue to the main storyline and is set in a separate world map, much like how the game starts with a prologue in Versailles. Enlisted by the Marquis de Sade to find a lost manuscript in a tomb, Arno embarks on one final mission in Franciade in order to secure passage out of France. The DLC introduces some new weaponry, in the form of a guillotine gun that fires explosive mortars, and focuses more on the subterranean tunnels beneath France. It also introduces a new enemy dynamic with leaders to be assassinated to weaken the morale of their followers; these additions add a slightly different vibe to the gameplay, but ultimately it serves as an additional 4-5 hours content after completion of the core title.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a beautiful game that succeeds in utterly immersing the player into 18th Century Paris; the attention to detail of the buildings and the realism of the crowds are beyond brilliant and it is a true experience to step into Arno’s shoes and parkour your way through the streets and rooftops. While it is a leap forward graphically, the narrative does feel like an attempt to recapture past glories as it echoes the plot of Assassin’s Creed II at times and Arno feels like an attempt to copy what was popular about Ezio. That said, I did enjoy the storyline immensely and really liked the relationship between Arno & Elise. By removing some of the superfluous elements that had overshadowed past titles and restoring the focus to assassinations and its central characters, Assassin’s Creed: Unity feels like a return to form for Ubisoft and another 5-star entry in the franchise.

Score – ★★★★★

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia and PC from Amazon UK.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.