After years of treading water, Ubisoft finally gives the series an overhaul. It’s a welcome change, thought the results are somewhat mixed.
After six main entries, every gamer pretty much knows what to expect from an Assassin’s Creed game. Get cast in the role of some type of miscreant, don the well known white robes, interact with historical figures and kill them. It has sold well, but the formula had become a bit tiring. Unity finds Ubisoft not just tinkering with that formula, but showing signs of wanting to begin breaking with it. In the role of Arno Victor Dorian, the player is cast into the world of revolutionary Paris, which apparently has been rendered in 1 to 1 scale. The revolution, though, is little more than window dressing. Rather than assassinating important historical figures to paternalistically shape the course of human events, Arno is on a personal quest for revenge. A sort of samurai revenge tale set in revolutionary paris starring an Austrian assassin who speaks english with a british accent.
Many of the pointless and convoluted toys from the last few entries are gone. No double blade, no hook blade, no blowgun, harpoons, etc. The player is given just two active weapons: a gun and a sword. Melee combat is redesigned with the animations being based on fencing. The one hit kill counter attacks have also been removed and are replaced by a parry system. The player must time parries perfectly to stagger opponents and create openings for attack. The missions play out a little differently than in past entries. There is little in the way of hand holding. Instead, players are shown a quick overview of the mission area with target information, locations of distractions, etc., and are then turned loose to complete the mission as they see fit. Some reviewers criticized this as being too difficult, this writer found it to be a welcome challenge.
In addition to the combat, mission structure, and graphical improvements, the stealth mechanic has also been improved. Yes, you can still blend into crowds and duck out in bushes, but Unity also boasts an active sneak system as well as the ability to take cover behind objects and walls. This new ability proves to be extra helpful when tackling missions in Unity’s new indoor environments. All this praise, however, does not come without criticism. Unity does have its fair share of flaws.
Ubisoft can create a beautifully detailed open world, but they seem to have some problems in filling it with things to do. The side missions are still incredibly limited. There are three slightly different flavours of assassination side missions and chasing down Nostradamus riddles. The side assassinations are fun at first, but begin to run together after a while. The murder mystery side jobs were an interesting addition, however. I also experienced some control issues. Most notably the running in place problem that has persisted since at least the second entry. Gamers familiar with the series will know what I am speaking of. When free running, and trying to move between two surfaces, say a rope to a roof or vice versa, instead of making the transition, he will run in place for several seconds. During co-op missions, I also noticed that Arno had a tendency to get stuck waist deep in the ground. There was also a rather annoying problem where everything would be rendered too dark to see after exiting the pause menu. This could usually be fixed by fast traveling, but was slightly vexing nonetheless.
Unity definitely seemed like it could have used some more polish before release, but was mostly an enjoyable experience. From a gameplay perspective, if this is an indication of the direction Ubisoft wants to take the series from here on out, then I applaud them.