Welcome to yet another edition into the ranking of the Assassin’s Creed series. For this tenth edition, we jump into the next generation, as well as one of the biggest disaster releases for Assassin’s Creed, with Unity. As always, you can find the rank itself here. So, let’s get into it.
Taking place during the French Revolution, you play as Arno Dorian, a new Assassin who joins up to find out what happened to his adoptive father despite being a Templar. You also work with your adoptive father’s daughter who you are in love with, despite also being a Templar. Meanwhile in the modern time, you find out that an Assassin has hacked your game and is feeding you the Arno story so that they can find out when and where he killed a Sage so that they can stop Abstergo from picking up the body and using his DNA to find a Piece of Eden.
I have been through this song-and-dance enough times to know what’s going to happen. You play as a wickedly athletic person whose relative was a secret Assassin, which eventually gets you to join the Brotherhood, and as soon as you join you start to get stuff done. While that is the case for this game as well, there is a bit more complexity to the story compared to previous titles. The story twists and turns a bit more, and there is a greater emphasis on betrayal. One downside to the story is the cheesy Romeo and Juliet story line that exists between you and your father’s daughter, but one good thing I will say about the story are the interesting set of characters and villains along the way. Whether it be the clever Napoleon Bonaparte or the eccentric Marquis De Sade, the characters in this game are fun to be around. While I still don’t think it reaches the heights of Assassin’s Creed 2, I think this game does a good job at creating enjoyable characters and an interesting plot.
The plot and the characters would be nowhere (literally) without a location, which is where Paris comes along. In terms of size alone, AC Unity has the least to offer. There is a main map, a small map, and a small DLC map. It’s strange coming off of Rogue and Black Flag’s huge sailing maps, but at the same time I knew that couldn’t last forever. Despite its size, Unity does a good job at doing something other AC games fail to do: bring the world to life. The world of Rogue and Black Flag feels strangely barren, whereas this game compacts that experience. Even in previous AC titles with singular maps, the NPCs feel programmed. In Unity, you can see way more NPCs in a single place, and they can be doing a slew of different actions. A pattern does eventually show, but Unity does a good job at bringing Paris to life.
Assassin’s Creed, of course, takes place in the modern time, and over time I wish more and more they would just ditch the modern parts altogether. Fortunately, the modern segments in this game are not that intrusive. You don’t have to walk around in a giant building with a tablet in the bottom corner of your screen or anything like that. Instead, some modern Assassins will occasionally intrude and ask you to throw yourself into a portal. With these missions, you enter Paris but in a different time period. You can be dodging catapults in medieval Paris or shooting down planes on top of the Eiffel Tower in World War 2 Paris, but by far my favorite mission is running around a small area picking up points in 1898 Paris. I really enjoy that time period, and the one thing I would’ve loved out of this game is if the game was set in that time period. Overall, I actually enjoyed the “modern Assassin” parts, which is quite something considering I usually try to endure them more than anything.
Assassin’s Creed has changed and improved over the years, but it has mostly felt like a new coat of paint on the same car. This game, however, feels more like a new car frame on the same engine. This is the first “next-gen” Assassin’s Creed, with a lot of new things and a lot of the same at the same time. While the core experience is here, the game takes a different tone to how it is played, for better and for worse. Before I get into that though, I want to get this out of the way: the technical issues. This game was bogged down at launch for its myriad of technical issues. While the game felt like it could break down at any moment, I never had any serious issues. I had some texture pop-in with NPCs, and some enemies would stick to the environment, but overall it’s nothing I haven’t experienced in previous titles. So if you came into this blog hoping I would roast it for its technical issues, then just know that they have been fixed.
There are many things to talk about in terms of how the game feels “next-gen,” but the thing I want to talk about the most is the thing I have disliked in every single AC game up to this point: the combat. Throughout this series, I have complained about the combat being too easy as well as the ways it affects other aspects of the game. In the previous titles, you can chain kills and be done with combat within seconds, making both combat and the need to buy new weapons useless. After all of these titles, this game finally fixes that issue. Combat has a complete overhaul in this game, and in large part for the better. Enemies now have levels, and your gear level ultimately chooses how tough or weak enemies are. While there have been weapon types in previous games, this game leans harder into it with one-handed weapons, two-handed weapons, long arms, and even a combination between a gun and a melee. Also, there are a ton of weapons in this game, each with varying stats. As a result, the combat does feel clunkier, but I would rather have clunky good combat than smooth bad combat. Combat has finally been changed for the better, and that alone makes the experience a lot better.
Something else the combat systems of previous games affected was the economy. What’s the point of buying expensive gear when you can easily get by on cheap gear? Now that there is an incentive to spend, I am spending like crazy. Unfortunately, the developers knew that would happen, and they brought along the thing that makes the “next-gen” shift not so positive: dirty microtransactions. Microtransactions in full-priced games are usually light, but I wouldn’t say that is the case here. Late-game equipment in this game is incredibly expensive, and it can take a lot of grind (or some cash) to unlock items. The DLC for this game addresses that with chests giving out a lot of money, but the fact that it hasn’t really changed is still bothersome. Also, the game has skill boosts and other temporary boosts, and all of this makes the game feel like a free-to-play Assassin’s Creed but with better balancing because it was at one point a full-priced title.
Parkour has been changed as well, but the changes aren’t as stellar. While the combat of previous games needed changing, I don’t think the parkour needed changing as well. There are some good new additions like descending parkour, but it ultimately comes off as tacking too many new systems to something that was fine as is and making the experience feel clunky. Another set of movements made clunky are some new stealth mechanics like cover and crouch. While the ideas are good, the execution is poor, as for connecting to a wall felt spotty at best. Speaking of stealth, the game took out the ability to move bodies or whistle, which is confusing to me.
Another new aspect to this game are skills and skill point. Main missions dish out skill points, which unlock various skills around health, stealth, range, and melee. While some of the skills, like being able to blend into a bench with others, feels like things that should be offered by default, but there are some new skills that are neat. Some of the late-game skills include being able to temporarily turn into an enemy to blend in and re-supply on some consumables. It’s weird to think that there hasn’t been a skill tree in an AC game for this long, but I think it is a good improvement into the series.
Speaking of main missions, they also have a new feature: small side objectives. These small side missions help create an opportunity. For example, I followed some small side objectives which eventually got me keys to a cell next to the guillotine. I got into the cell and acted like a prisoner just so then I could get closer to my target. These mini missions offer cool little cinematic moments that brings more creativity to the kill.
I guess now would be as good a time as any to talk about the big new feature of this game that isn’t in any of the others: co-op. Co-op missions are littered throughout the world, and consist of either stealing something or helping a key figure in the Revolution. Surprisingly enough, I actually got into matches with a few random people, and I found the experience to be pretty fun. I can imagine it being a lot of fun with friends, but what is nice about these missions is the ability to play solo. The co-op missions are a nice addition to the series, and I wonder what the series would be like if they stayed.
In conclusion, Assassin’s Creed Unity offers a pretty decent AC experience. This game is infamous for its terrible launch, but the game I played is a different game. This feels like a tighter experience that is the first to really bring in the changes I have been looking for. It is a pretty clunky game compared to the others, but it is still a fun experience worth playing. Because of that, I am putting this game into the number five position, in between the first game and Rogue. This isn’t the most memorable AC experience to-date, but it is still a good experience with a relatively low amount of frustration tied to it. And I am guessing it is going to stay in the middle of the road by the time I hit Odyssey.