After the swashbuckling pirate adventure on the high seas that was Black Flag, the Assassin’s Creed franchise seems to be suffering the effects of enjoying a little too much rum. The latest entry, Unity, brings the rivalry between Templars and Assassins to French Revolution-era Paris. But it’s not always the smoothest of adventures.
Assassin’s Creed Unity stars Arno Dorian, a young man with a personality that’s initially reminiscent of Tangled’s Flynn Rider. He’s somewhat witty, charming, and quick with off-the-cuff remarks. This endearing personality soon takes a back seat as Arno, like many other video game characters before him, is forced to embark on a journey of investigation and revenge.
This journey sees players trek back and forth across the incredibly detailed Parisian setting. While it is often beautiful to look at with stunning vistas to behold, this comes at a cost. We tried the title on PlayStation 4 and found that some graphics would pop-in jarringly, while the frame rate is prone to plummeting when running through a crowd or looking out over the vast expanse of the city.
The city portrays the underlying unrest with crowds growing in size and voice over time. While this is intriguing on first glance, it is worth moving on before you see too much. Characters in the crowd repeat endlessly, and animations replay over and over, unless you interrupt a sequence as we did by bumping into civilians wrestling with guards who then moved on as if nothing had happened.
But it’s unlikely that you will hang around one spot for too long; there is quite a lot to do in Assassin’s Creed Unity. There are plenty of collectibles; a range of side missions, including a series of riddles, murder investigations, and assassinations, of course; viewpoints to climb; and integrated crowd events.
These crowd events are naturally integrated into the world, more like Red Dead Redemption than Watch Dogs. But, like Rockstar’s attempt, these are prone to repeating, so much so that you wonder how this one woman being robbed has anything left to take. There are also a variety of chests to find and open, but these are somewhat soured by the appearance of many that are locked until you use Ubisoft’s “Assassin Initiatives” program on a smartphone.
Of course, all of these are simply distractions from the main task at hand. Arno is seeking vengeance for the murder of his adoptive father. And as a naturally gifted assassin, he is the perfect man for the job. The story does a fine enough job of keeping you interested in finding out what’s going to happen next, but not so great a job that you will be affected by most of it. Following it at times can be taxing, as Arno flits from one assassination to the next, stopping just short of yelling “Rampage” as he takes down another unwitting victim and jaunts through their memories.
Story missions aren’t that much of a leap from what fans of the series have done before. They usually involve breaking into a place, either stealing something or killing someone, and then escaping. Unity’s missions can be approached as you see fit. Players are invited to work out an approach and are given more freedom than in previous games. The only issue with the trial-and-error approach is that reloading can be quite time consuming. A couple of failed attempts at a mission and you may be crying out for some hand-holding.
Unity’s stealth aspects vary in terms of execution. The Phantom Blade, which acts like a crossbow at range, is wonderfully satisfying to use, but highlights issues with the guards. While they will investigate a fallen comrade’s body, little else seems to change. They don’t alert others in the vicinity; they still question if they saw someone sneaking along a rooftop rather than springing to action; and can be snuck up on quite easily even if they know that something is amiss.
Like the city it portrays, Unity looks great on its surface and can wow you at times, but when you look at the finer details, it can leave much to be desired.