Another year, another Assassins Creed. After playing Assassins Creed Black flag last year I felt that I had, had my fill of Assassins Creed games. It is not that I don’t enjoy playing them it was just that the formula used by the series of games became stale and the stories told were mostly not that interesting to begin with, and became so convoluted that I struggled to keep up.
Would Unity be the Assassins Creed game that would entice me back to the series?
Well the answer is a bit more complicated than a pure yes or no.
Unity tells the tale of Arno as he discovers the truth behind his father’s murder and the conflict between the Assassins and the Templars. It is your classic cut and paste tale of revenge; add to that a bit of romance and you have Unity’s story. Don’t get me wrong there were just enough twists to keep me invested in the tale. It was just nothing special and serviceable at best. Interestingly there was very little of the complex Abstergo story line previously found in Assassins Creed games, and never was I pulled out of the historical game world except for some great set pieces, which I wouldn’t spoil for you.
Although the story kept me relatively interested I found myself (time and time again) being distracted by the many side quests, which littered my mini-ma, to complete in Paris. Never did I feel I was wandering aimlessly thought the city. From discovering chests to random accruing events I was continually distracted off the main story path.
Graphically Unity is beautiful to behold. 18th Century Paris is a huge city and oozes with character, from the blood stained alleys to the ornate palaces. Paris is thriving with life and it is here where the power of the “next gen” consoles is experienced. I found myself wandering the city only to stumble into crowds that numbered sometimes in the thousands. It is an amazing site to behold as you sit perched on a roof top and look down at the rioting masses of Paris.
Gameplay is where Unity shone for me. Gone are the awkward free run animations and are instead replaced with fantastic fluid ones. The addition of a downwards free run button is the icing on the cake as I no longer need to jump off a roof in hope that I would survive the fall, instead with the press of a button I can now get down quickly and easily. I found myself running around on the rooftops not only because the large amount of crowds make it harder to travel quickly at street level, but because the free running is just so much fun. There are still times when Arno fell off a roof or went into the wrong window, but when the controls worked it worked great.
Adding to the free experience is the ability to enter some of the buildings and windows in Paris. This makes escaping from guards more interesting as you can now jump into a window, run through the building, and out of the other window. This adds another level of depth to not only your assassination missions, but escaping as well.
I felt previous Assassins Creed games tended to be quite easy. Unity has a steep learning curve in and it felt a lot more difficult than the previous games. For starters you do not have all your abilities unlocked at the beginning of the game and have to purchase them using points earned by completing missions. You can also purchase armour and weapons each with different buffs for stealth, range, health and melee. This means that you can customize your assassin to suit your gaming style, be he a sneaky assassin or a skull cracking soldier, the choice is yours. These upgrades and buffs are a necessity in Unity as fighting has changed quite drastically.
Instead of being able to fight ten guards – killing them off one by one – you now have to press a doge or parry button at the right time (similar to the Batman Arkham series) to get out of their way or to block their attacks. Guards also tend to attack you more than one at a time making it very difficult to survive when more than four or five guards attack you. This meant that I had to think more like an assassin and less like an invincible warrior. I learnt the value in running to live and fight another day.
The missions are very open giving you more than one way to complete the assassinations. It reminded me a lot of the Hitman games in that you kept asking yourself what if I did it differently. A few times I found myself restarting a mission to see how I could complete the assassination in a more effective way.
I did, however, encounter the classic Assassins Creed bugs. There was a few times when the audio would disappear or where I would get stuck and would need to fast travel to get unstuck. These bugs are all the more obvious, because Unity tries so hard (and in most cases succeeds) to pull you into the world it creates. When you encounter one of these bugs it pulls you out of the experience.
Unity also introduces changes in its multiplayer. Instead of team based multiplayer you are now able to – anytime during the game – complete co-op missions with up to four friends (or strangers). Rewards are dependent on how well you played as an individual. This creates interesting situations in which you have to figure out if you should for instance, help one of your buddies or let them fend for themselves just a little longer, while you hide in the shadows thereby growing your own potential reward.
To answer the initial question, does Unity entice me to get back into the series?Well, I would say yes, but (there is always a but) there is still a lot that needs to be fixed in the next installments that we can surely expect to come. From the controls that sometimes still tend to not do what you want to, the mediocre story to, and the bugs that pull you out of the experience.
Taking all of this into consideration I enjoyed my time running through Paris. The game is beautiful, the new free running mechanics are a step in the right direction. I enjoyed the upped difficulty and the vast amount of things to do kept me coming back to Paris time and again. If Ubisoft builds on what they started in Unity I look forward to what the next installment holds.