Assassin’s Creed: Unity is Ubisoft’s next step within the ever-growing Assassin’s Creed franchise. While Ubisoft previously releasedBlack Flag on current gen consoles, this is the first game to fully step onto the new platforms as it does not have any last gen versions. Unity also utilizes the entirely new AnvilNext engine allowing for breathtaking vistas, a deeper level of connectivity between Ubisoft systems, and a range of cooperative experiences. Do these features make Unity the best title in the Assassin’s Creedfranchise or do some of these pieces fall inexorably short on what should have been the best title to date?
Unfortunately, I think Unity falls under the latter category.
Don’t misunderstand me, however, as the game is good when taken as a whole. It has the Assassin’s Creed staple pieces – missions, free-roaming, collectibles, and more. The huge map of Paris is littered with a ridiculous amount of activities to complete. There are assassin missions that progress the story, collectible medals, and a smattering of side missions that range from the odd all the way to the inquisitive. Ubisoft has done an excellent job of opening the world of Paris up and making it more than just a “go here, do this” type game. The side quests include figures like Madame Tussaud or detective stories. It’s a much more lively environment and I applaud Ubisoft’s ability to create such a vibrant world.
Speaking of vibrant, Unity’s engine is a powerhouse and allows for some serious crowds. I’m talking what looks like hundreds of people on screen at once. These crowds block Arno’s progress while on the ground, but also make for excellent hiding spots for the young assassin. On top of the enormous crowds within the game, everything looks gorgeous. Climbing to the synchronization points and using them to map out an area provides some breathtaking views of a painstakingly recreated revolutionary Paris.
Aside from Unity’s complete visual overhaul, the game has also gone through some major updates just in terms of the Assassin’s Creed gameplay. Combat is much like previous titles, but the difficult has ramped up. Before, it was possible take on up to 20+ enemies at once and come out completely unscathed. With Unity, combat with more than three enemies at once is almost a guaranteed death. The same abilities to parry and counter are there, but it’s now completely timing based and quite difficult to pull off when multiple enemies are attacking. And forget about dodging enemies shooting at you.
Another new piece to the game is the upgrade system. Previously, players had to either purchase upgrades or craft them from pelts and other items. Choices were limited overall with only your armor, pistol(s), and sword/dagger open for upgrades. Now, every piece of Arno’s equipment can be replaced, affecting his stats. Each piece of his outfit is customizable, as are his weapons, but these must all be purchased with in-game currency. They can be further upgraded by using a different, special currency or by hacking an item with yet another “currency.” It’s a bit complicated, but hey, if you’re up for it, feel free to purchase Ubisoft’s money packs and go crazy with this stuff.
Arno himself has a series of abilities and upgrades you can buy with Synch Points as well. These are earned from completing certain mission parameters or by finding Synch Points on the map, especially during missions themselves. Without them, don’t expect to use a gun or other abilities right off the bat, like double assassinations. I don’t understand the change in this regard as it is completely ridiculous that Arno doesn’t know how to use a firearm. He does go through assassin training, so why wouldn’t he be able to use them?
One of my favorite pieces new to the series is the actual cooperative gameplay. Now, you can experience Paris and being an assassin with up to three additional friends. The four of you are able to run around Paris and experience everything together, but you’re also able to complete a series of co-op specific missions. These range from a max of 2-4 players, but completing them can grant additional bonuses to use in the single-player aspect. Some of these missions can be quite difficult and a challenge to complete, but they can be pretty damn exciting as well. For those that want to take your cooperative aspects a bit further, it is possible to create an assassin’s guild to invite friends to. This plays into Ubisoft’s perfect idea of an interconnected world, however, and I’m not entirely sure just how important a piece this is within the game.
One of my biggest complaints with the game is the level of connectivity Ubisoft forced into the game. Two pieces come to mind – the Initiates, a new webpage that tracks your in-game stats and the Unity Companion App. Initiates is a tracking system for Unity players as it gauges your playstyle and ranks you up as the game progresses. Higher ranks let you open certain chests throughout the game, and if Ubisoft follows through on their promises, Initiates will be a critical piece in future updates. The other “connected” piece is theAssassin’s Creed: Unity Companion App available on Smartphones and tablets. This app contains aspects of the assassin’s guild from previous Assassin’s Creed titles and must be synchronized with your Uplay account and Unity itself. As of this writing, I have not managed to connect it once, meaning I am barred from opening a number of chests across the map. This kind of forced connectivity that Ubisoft wants to leverage on its players is a terrifying thought of what may be in a possible future: all game developers will have their own apps, accounts, and multiple tie-ins that are necessary to even complete a portion of a game. Locking content away that I can openly see and almost interact with is just insulting on many levels, especially when it’s locked away through no fault of my own.
Many have complained about the number of glitches within Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and while I have experienced some myself, the game is still playable and fun at that. It’s got a solid core and I’ve enjoyed the story, but I feel like Ubisoft completely dropped the ball with some aspects. The connectivity they’ve forced upon players is just a major drag on the game and I feel cheated that because of their broken systems, I am unable to participate in every piece of Unity. If you can get past that, however, you’ll certainly enjoy the game.Note: Assassin's Creed: Unity was reviewed on Xbox One. A physical copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.