Assassins Creed: Unity is an experience much like you’ve come to expect from Ubisoft – high flying, user friendly, and entertaining in its sweeping, loosely historical narrative. On the other hand, it’s unpolished, careless, and somewhat insensitive to veteran players of the series. Although impressed with the wonderful visuals and sprawling recreation of Paris down to every last interesting citizen, I was somewhat perturbed by the heavy handling of the performance, not to mention the presence of a number of bugs that detracted from the overall experience of one of my favourite franchises.
Assassins Creed: Unity was the first AC (Assassins Creed) title that I went into with little knowledge prior to release, which was refreshing. I was able to launch myself into the world and the new character Arno without any bias from articles written by those with early access. This proved fortunate on my behalf, as you will understand if you’ve heard anything regarding the initial launch of the game.
Initially, I found myself in a familiar location – the Palace of Versailles was wonderfully reminiscent of the short time I spent there in 2010, and as usual Ubisoft’s environment artists have done the historical location a beautiful justice in its recreation, as they have with all familiar landmarks throughout the game. The art and level design of the AC games have been reduced to a fine science by this point, as you would expect considering the sheer number of titles under their proverbial belt. I feel that sometimes players tend to forget just how much effort and skill goes into producing a game of this scale, and the positive elements tend to go unnoticed – especially in the face of obvious shortcomings, such as the plethora of minor bugs the game is plagued by.
I personally didn’t experience any terrible, game breaking bugs during my extensive play through as many have reported; however, there were a vast number of glaring visual problems and a few minor technical issues, such as a constantly subpar frame rate and navigational control issues that did affect the way my experience played out. I feel like Unity was lacking many of the features I’d have expected to be present, such as the simple ability to pick up a slain enemy rifle and use it against the remaining assailants, or the rather scaled back cafe/ theatre upgrade system, which allows players to receive a passive income – in my opinion, the system in AC: Brotherhood was much better.
I feel that most of the features in Unity were slightly disappointing in their execution, especially the way the player traverses the environment. What was a pleasure in prior titles, became a difficult, glitchy, and unbelievable chore when Arno continuously became what can only be described as magnetically attracted to the nearest wall or door frame while attempting to scale a building. There are some improvements, though, as the downwards traversal system quickened the descent from rooftop perches drastically, and the ability to move through buildings sometimes more quickly than I could climb over them was a welcome addition to the otherwise familiar equation.
In regards to the narrative, I cared less about AC: Unity and its protagonist Arno Dorian than I have any other AC title. This may be my personal engagement with the series becoming more distanced, or that Arno and his immediate story was not as well executed as it has been previously with protagonists such as Ezio or Altair. I will say that the story and its setting was infinitely better handled than that of AC: 3, but if you’re familiar with that release, that really isn’t saying much.
If you’re yet to play Unity, I have a few suggestions that will enhance your experience. I recommend changing the language options to French and enabling English subtitles. This makes for a much more authentic experience, as English voice acting in a French-themed game made little sense to me. Secondly, you’re able to turn off certain HUD elements (or all of them) if you’re interested in learning your way around Paris without the use of the mini map. The HUD in Unity was by far the most disruptive I’ve experienced in the AC franchise, with a number of elements constantly attempting to remind me of the online multiplayer mode. As someone who enjoys a solitary narrative experience without interruption, I’d rather not have multiplayer forced upon me, especially in a game where arguably most players would not be interested. Blocking areas and chests to players unwilling to go online seems rather unfair, too. I’m all for multiplayer integration, but keep it out of my single player experience unless I want to include it.
My experience of Assassins Creed: Unity was one of great highs and deep lows, at all times surrounded by beautiful environment set pieces and buggy eyesores. It’s a shame for a product so refined in most areas to be so impacted by a few easily mended issues/design flaws, which I hope isn’t reflective of AC titles to come. Here’s hoping Ubisoft can tighten all the screws for Assassins Creed: Victory coming later in 2015 and restore the Assassins Creed series to its former glory.