Played on PS4.
Despite a flurry of disappointed reviews and apparent technical hiccups, Assassin’s Creed: Unity is still a fantastic game.
Whether it was good or bad, Assassin’s Creed: Unity had a lot to live up to. To start, it was coming after last years iteration of the series, Black Flag, which introduced and executed a lot of fresh ideas for the series. For many it revitalized the series, and was considered one of the best games of 2013 – for owners of the newly released PS4 and Xbox One, it was quite honestly the best bang for your buck, and probably the best overall game on those systems at launch. Secondly, Unity was the first title developed exclusively for current-gen and PC hardware, meaning limitations set by legacy hardware were no longer an issue – as great as Black Flag was, it was still an “up-rezzed” version of it’s last-gen counterparts.
So did Unity live up to those loft expectations?
Well if you ask the review community, it certainly didn’t. If you ask the internet community, you’ll find a mixed bag of answers – some loved it, some thought it was ok, and others experience such a terrible technical and online experience that they felt they literally had $60 stolen from their pocket.
And what did I think? I loved it. From start to finish, I had a ball with Unity.
I should note that I’ve seen and read almost everything out there about the game. I’m aware that some people were plagued with low framerates, making the game near unplayable. I’ve seen the screenshots of characters with missing visual assets, producing monstrous looking models. And of course I know that Unity was one of the many games this season that launched with a broken online element.
However, even amidst all of that existing, my experience with the game has been fantastic. I had one instance of a horrible framerate, which only lasted for a few seconds, and also only happened during the first 20 minutes of me playing. Outside of the standard pop-in and one time when an NPC was frozen in mid-air, my graphical experience was also very fluid. The game runs around 30fps, with a few dips below, but I never once felt that hindered my enjoyment of the game.
Going online was a similar encounter for me. I never had disconnects, or any trouble finding companions for the co-op missions. I will say that I was bugged, like many others, by the chests existing in the world that require either an AC Initiates account or use of the iOS/Android App to unlock. I don’t want to have to keep my phone on me, or navigate the busted-ass Initiates website just to open a chest. Thankfully they aren’t required for completing the game or trophies, but I wish I could just disable them entirely.
Now, on to why I loved Unity. As soon as you start the game it’s immediately apparent that Unity is gorgeous. I think as an overall package, it’s probably the best looking game currently out. The environments are near photo-realistic, character models are stunning (with the exception for a few goofy faces), and the physics engine is really great, especially when it comes to cloth. Assassin’s Creed games have always been beautiful, but this was the most immersed I’ve been in the series.
Gameplay from a high-level is what you’d expect. Get from A to B, sometimes utilizing stealth, scout out an area or find some evidence, find an enemy, and assassinate. While the world map consists of a small-ish Versailles and a larger Paris, it’s overall smaller than previous games. However, the new addition of many buildings being fully fleshed out on the inside dramatically changes the way I played the game, and made up for the smaller map. Traditionally if an alarm went off, I would run down a street or up a wall until I was safely away from danger – often times I would traverse large chunks of the map just trying to find safety. Now, with the interiors, the game takes on a Jason Bourne approach, when I would quickly jump through a window, run up stairs, leap across an alley from one window to another, and already find myself free from harm. A process like this would take me mere blocks from an objective.
When it comes to gear and items at your disposal, it’s a similar batch as that found in Black Flag, although I really enjoyed that with some skill, you could tackle harder missions on a whim with only middling gear in tow.
Outside of the standard story missions, there are a variety of side missions that prove to be a lot of fun. There are murder mysteries, some bonus assassin missions, a treasure hunt to unlock a unique set of armor, and of course the co-op missions. The co-op missions are surprisingly fun, deep, and challenging. They can be completed alone if you’d like, but it gets intense and often chaotic when you bring others into the mix.
Once you add collectibles into the mix, the world map gets insane with the amount of content available.
The weakest element of Unity definitely comes from the story. While it’s not bad per se, its a little melodramatic. Black Flag was a lot of fun, embracing it’s pirate theme well, whereas Unity falls back into the typical Assassins vs Templars idea. It’s a little unique by inserting a dash of Romeo & Juliet, but still just serves to connect each fun mission. I will, however, give the game huge credit for having the most entertaining “future” moments of any AC game. Instead of having you explore an area in modern times, the game occasionally jumps you around different eras of Paris, from medieval all the way up to WW2. They’re rare and brief, but it was fun to scale the Eiffel Tower, and shoot down some Nazi fighter planes whilst you do so.
I feel bad for Assassin’s Creed: Unity and the team at Ubisoft that worked on it. They’ve gotten a bad rap for the experience a vocal minority of players have had with Unity and it’s a shame. While it doesn’t do a ton of new things for the series, it’s still beautiful and a complete blast to play. I can’t wait to dive into the London-based iteration next year.