In this new generation of our beloved pastime, video games are released with the expectation that the game will have a number of patches, updates, and DLC. This is particularly the case for big-budget AAA games like those in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. More often than not, patches are well-received modifications to games that players already enjoy. But unfortunately, in the case of Assassin’s Creed Unity, patches are necessary to fix what, at its core, is a good game that happens to be plagued by glitches and bugs.
Assassin’s Creed Unity primarily takes place during the era of the French Revolution and casts players as Arno Dorian, the son of an assassin who is adopted by a Templar Grandmaster. As Arno grows into young adulthood, a series of events take place which set him on the path to becoming a member of the Brotherhood of Assassins and seeking revenge. The story in Assassin’s Creed Unity is one that has a nice number of twists and turns and is more than enough to keep players engaged in-between stalking the next enemy and bringing them to their doom.
Overall, gameplay in AC Unity has some nice improvements to the standard formula. Combat is more challenging than ever before, as the counter-kill format has been replaced by a system that requires players to either dodge or attempt to parry attacks. In previous iterations of the series, failing to navigate through areas using stealth would toss you into a series of easy swordfights, during which your protagonist could easily dispatch a horde of enemies. In AC Unity, players will find themselves being run through with a sword or chopped with an axe far more often than before, particularly when swarmed by enemies. Each enemy’s skill level, which is identified above their head by a number of diamonds, has a big effect on combat, as often times, random soldiers are able to dodge and parry with as much ability as Arno. These changes might seem daunting, but combat in the Assassin’s Creed franchise has been changed for the better, and the need to limit the amount of guards in an area puts a premium on stealth as well as arming Arno with the right weapons and abilities.
Another major improvement to the standard formula is traversal. In AC: Unity, Arno can free jump UP or slide DOWN when making his way across the rooftops or within buildings and movement in the game is better because of it. Chasing a kill or running away from a threat has never felt better, and there is much to enjoy when Arno jumps through an open window and then subsequently slides under a desk and jumps out the opposite window in acrobatic fashion. The changes seem to match Arno’s showboating personality but seem to be a good fit in any Assassin’s Creed title. Additionally, the improved traversal system does a fantastic job of compensating for the player’s movements. In AC Unity, I found myself getting stuck to walls or behind platforms far less often than in previous games in the franchise. Traversal is fun for the first time since the original Assassin’s Creed, when the gameplay was fresh and new; one great example of the fun is a sequence which has Arno running along rooftops to catch a Hot Air Balloon.
Graphically, AC Unity looks better than any title in the franchise, even last year’s superb Black Flag. France is alive, and there is much to see; from lovers making out in a dark corner, to a town square filled with angry citizens. The time is tumultuous to say the least, and there are a number of conflicts taking place dynamically and will go on whether the player gets involved or not. The character models are impressive; Arno and his fellow assassins are particularly well-animated during gameplay, and the cutscenes are masterpieces. There is much to be said about AC Unity’s beauty.
In addition to the standard fare of solo missions comprised of tracking down a person and bringing his/her life to an end, AC Unity brings with it co-op missions and heists for 2 or 4 players. Players can set up brotherhoods of assassins in order to play with their friends and receive rewards similar to clan systems found within First Person Shooters. These co-op missions and heists provide unique challenges, but they are fun even when playing with complete strangers.
Despite all of the positives about AC Unity listed above, these experiences are seriously affected by glitches. There are moments when, inexplicably, random French citizens fall into holes in the ground while screaming, or cutscenes that have characters lose their entire face except for their eyes, or a player’s hair gets stretched across the screen. These moments seem like outtakes from a scary movie, but they are not one-offs. Glitches and bugs similar to these will occur often and seriously alter your gameplay, as well as your opinion of the game. When things are working correctly, AC Unity shines, but when the program inevitably fails, players might themselves removing the game from their Xbox One or PS4 and taking it back to the store.
Beyond the glitches, AC Unity falls into another trap for our new generation of video games. The game has a companion app and other features it almost forces you to use. For example, like other iterations in the franchise, chests are strewn about the landscape, and players can find in-game currency within them. Unfortunately, some chests cannot be opened unless the player sets up a U-Play account, and other items are only available if accessed through the companion app. In order to obtain skills and equipment, you need to have the right type of currency, as there are multiple types. This is confusing at times, and it seems like Ubisoft wants to force players into purchasing the currency through microtransactions. These issues take you out of the game’s historical environment and negatively affect the experience.
It’s disappointing to see a good game be diminished into an unsatisfactory product. While it’s inevitable that Ubisoft gets these issues patched and players will move on, the publisher needs to be made aware that selling a game without fixing these issues prior to its release date is unfair to the consumers, particularly longtime fans of the franchise.
+ Beautiful Graphics
+ Improved Combat
+ Improved Traversal
– Framerate issues in populated areas
– Game breaking bugs and glitches