BY MICHAEL DANIELL
Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the latest edition in the long running franchise, was sold with the tagline ‘make history’ but it appears that this game’s history may be written down as a game that had great potential but was incredibly flawed in its execution.
One of the main selling points of the first game in the series produced exclusively for next-generation platforms and PC, was that they had introduced a large amount of technical improvements over the predecessors such as: larger crowds; improved building detail; new weather systems; a reworked parkour mechanics and a completely new combat system but the results have generally been bad to mixed at best.
The combat feels broken and underdeveloped with many features that were regarded as core to the series removed, such as the ability to select each weapon manually and the ability to either grab enemies or counter attacks, while the new parkour system feels more cumbersome compared to the old one, although the new ability to easily climb down buildings is helpful in chase sequences.
Despite the fact there are flaws with the new gameplay mechanics the new visuals are stunning with each district having its own distinct visual style, including downtrodden slums, vagrant camps, and elegant aristocratic manors, with streets teeming with Parisians going about their daily lives or engaging in revolutionary behaviour.
New motion captured animations and weather systems, which allow for dynamic rain and cloud cover, further add to the atmosphere of the game and bring the world to life. However these new visuals have clearly caused a significant strain on the console hardware with noticeable frame rate drops when emerging into areas with large crowds or when moving fast in highly detailed environments.
In terms of gameplay, it’s quite easy to see that the team spent most of their energies implementing these new technologies as the missions in the game largely consist of the usual variety such as tailing, breaking and entering, chases, and assassinations.
The new mission types – such as murder mysteries and riddle puzzles – sadly only usually appear as side-quests which is a shame, as the story missions in the franchise are in dire need of fresh content.
Saying this, they have tried to take the best from recent games such as Dishonored and older classics like Hitman by making the assassination missions more open than previous titles by giving you multiple entry points and approaches to the target, but still usually end in the same way with you stabbing them as they haven’t also included the creative methods as seen in the games they’ve taken inspiration from.
Other missions (in particular tailing) don’t appear to have been improved and therefore are still liable to the same problems as before. Ubisoft have also significantly expanded the ability to customise your characters appearance and weapons and each item now has an effect on certain aspects of the game such as stealth, combat, or item capacity. This comes with a major cause of concern in the fact they have added in-game microtransactions to give you early access to items (all can eventually be bought with in-game currency earned while playing) which is a wrong move by Ubisoft in my opinion as they already expect players to pay £40 for the game itself.
As usual the game’s story is set during a major historical period, in this case the French Revolution of the late 1700s, with major historical figures being a central part. Once again, it focuses on a single assassin, this one being Arno Dorian.
While the main story itself is fairly solid, with your usual content of both sides working in the shadows and major figures turning out to be Assassins or Templars, it sadly doesn’t do anything new as it simply rehashes parts of the earlier games.
The cocky nobleman main character from Assassin’s Creed 2, the idea of your own allies being a cause of your problems from Assassin’s Creed 3, and the ‘Sage’ from Black Flag which makes the story rather predictable.
Previous games have suffered from the same issue at times, but they’ve usually had the interesting array of side-characters to flesh it out but in this, many of them simply show up for a mission or two then leave forever.
A key example of this being Napoleon Bonaparte, who shows up for half a mission and never appears again. The final flaw for the storyline however is the decision to also include a romance that ties in alongside the main one, which appears to have been done to liven up the story, but sadly just dilutes the focus of the game and also ends up going nowhere making it seem rather pointless.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned the modern day storyline it’s simply because – apart from a couple of cutscenes and moments of gameplay – this game doesn’t really have one. An exception being the fact it has kept are the sarcastic encyclopaedia entries provided by Shaun Hastings.
Overall despite the game’s major shortcomings and problems, I can’t bring myself to say it’s a bad game. It’s full of content that’s very fun to play. The main issue for me seems to be that it was sold to us as the next Assassin’s Creed 2 but instead we got next original Assassin’s Creed, a test bed of new technologies and ideas that will hopefully be refined and end up with a great sequel.