Assassin’s Creed: Unity: Close, but no Ezio

November 19, 2014


Assassin’s Creed: Unity is the closest the series has come yet to making me feel like a true assassin. It provides an incredible open world with missions that can be approached from a variety of different angles, and it rewards creativity while punishing brute force. It falls short of the the best titles in the series, but for a fan that isn’t suffering from yearly franchise fatigue, Arno’s journey in late-eighteenth-century Paris is one that is definitely worth taking.

The highlight of the game is without a doubt the assassination missions that are sprinkled throughout the main campaign. These missions begin with Arno surveying the site where his next victim currently resides and assessing the weak points. From that moment, you are given just one task: assassinate the target. How you choose to do this is entirely up to you. Do you want to create a distraction and attempt to lure your target into the open? Do it. Would you rather locate the guard leader and steal a key to the chambers where your victim is hiding? Go for it. Maybe you think the best strategy is to locate a tray of wine and poising it en route to your target? Sure! Even if you want to try and rush the location and let your sword do the talking, you can, though this is usually harder.

The open world of Assassin’s Creed has always provided a plethora of things to do, and Unity is no exception. There are a ton of side missions available, Nostradamus riddles to solve, facilities to upgrade and things to collect, but most of it is unfortunately forgettable. The bright spots in the side content lie in the murder investigations. Arno is tasked with searching for clues at various crime scenes around Paris and deducing who committed a murder. By piecing together the clues available, you can accuse the guilty person and have them arrested. These missions were something fresh and new for the series, and I had a lot of fun with them when I wasn’t focused on the main plot.


There are four currencies in the game for purchasing skills, equipment and upgrades, and one of them is purchased with real money from the in-game store. This premium currency can be used to “hack” (buy) weapons and armor early or to purchase “boosts” that can temporarily increase your melee strength, stealth or health. Gratefully the game doesn’t push this option heavily, and if you do want to make use of it, you actually need to dig through the menus to find it. The game is entirely beatable without ever spending real money, but the option is there for those that want it.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is one of the harder games in the series, due somewhat to the freedom in its mission design. This game seems tailored for fans of the series that are already comfortable with the mechanics, as you are expected early on to make use of a wide range of Arno’s stealth abilities. The stealth element is pretty forgiving, but if you are detected and forced into combat, things do get rough quickly. The combat is my largest complaint with the game as a whole, as it basically boils down to mashing one button to attack and another at just the right moment to defend. Some of the advancements in combat that previous titles have made are missing in Unity (where are my chain kills?), and when more than four or five enemies would face me at once, I had no chance. While you are engaged in combat with one enemy, the rest will be repeatedly firing guns, which are difficult to dodge reliably and do a ton of damage. Basically… stay hidden to survive.

The plot of Unity is lifted from “Romeo and Juliet,” and doesn’t really push the Assassin’s Creed fiction anywhere interesting. If taken in isolation purely as a love story it works fine, as Arno is a fairly interesting character who does undergo significant development. On the sliding scale from Ezio to Connor he lands firmly on the Ezio side (thankfully), but he isn’t supported with the same world and characters that benefited the Italian assassin, so unfortunately it feels like a lot of his potential is wasted. The much larger issue with the story of the game is a nearly complete disregard for the “present-day” struggle between the assassins and the templars. Since the departure of Desmond, the series has seemed lost on this front. Without the intrigue that the modern day events provide as a backdrop for the historical scenarios, I have found myself a lot less invested, and the series seems much more hollow.


Another take: PS4 woes

My experience with the PS4 build of Unity was rough due to it being plagued with technical issues. Frame rate would drop to the single digits during certain moments of gameplay, glitches would trap Arno in geometry and strange enemy behavior somehow led to instantaneous deaths for no discernible reason. Ubisoft is currently working to fix these problems, but it seems most of it comes from a rushed release that is poorly optimized for consoles. – Andrew Passafiume

Unity has been plagued with technical problems, and I would be remiss to discuss the game without referencing the amount of attention this has received since launch. In my own experience playing the game on Xbox One, I found that while there were definitely some problems, but I didn’t have nearly the bug-riddled experience that many seem to be claiming. There are occasionally some frame rate issues, but for me these were fairly rare and hardly a distraction. The only major issue that I did experience were three freezing moments that required a restart of the game. This was over the course of roughly 20 hours of gameplay, and while this is three more instances than there should be, it was not enough that I felt like it ruined my experience.

The technical aspect of Unity that isn’t getting the attention it deserves is the graphical clarity and the amount of NPCs that Ubisoft managed to get in the game world at once. This is undeniably the best looking Assassin’s Creed, and the moments when Arno climbs up to a viewpoint and “synchronizes” the map are breathtaking. The draw distance feels nearly infinite. There are also people everywhere, and the size of some of the crowds in the game is astounding. It really captures the feel of a mob of people and helps the game’s setting of the French Revolution come alive.


I’m a fan of the Assassin’s Creed universe, and Unity is the best time I’ve had with it since the Assassin’s Creed II trilogy. I don’t know if it will find a target audience, as this game isn’t really geared towards series newcomers and I’m not exactly sure how many more years the core fans will keep playing new entries. Ubisoft needs to recapture the mystery that was present during Desmond’s tenure to give me a reason to play more of these games, or I might soon fall out of that core group too.

Score: 4/5

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