So after writing about buying Assassin’s Creed: Unity all the way back in March, I’ve finally gotten around to playing it. As I’ve mentioned I bought this even though I’m pretty burned out on the formula because I couldn’t resist the idea of playing through a map of Paris. As it turned out, I really am very bored of the basic gameplay loop but I enjoyed it anyway due to the map and appreciated most of the mechanics updates.
This game was notorious at the time of its release for its bugs and glitches. I did experience some glitches during gameplay but given they mostly consisted to one or two characters dropping onto a scene filled with seemingly hundreds of extras, this seemed pretty minor. Frankly the sight of how huge the crowds can get is jaw-dropping and definitely something I was very glad to experience. More frustrating is that the controls don’t feel like they’ve been tuned well enough. I actually like the new design of being to parkour up and down but it’s hard to make Arno go exactly where you want because of the variable stickiness of certain objects in the environment and how overloaded the buttons are. For example going through normal windows in buildings is easy but going through ones that lead directly into attics is hard because the usual window entering animations apparently don’t apply to them. This game could have used more testing and polishing, that’s for sure.
I did like that the controls in general are now less binary and more organic. Also, no more instantly killing enemies after parrying an attack. Gameplay feels more skill-based now and it’s no longer possible to be surrounded by a large group of enemies and single-handedly cut them down. If nothing else, snipers can kill you in two shots and officers are a real pain to fight. You actually do have to use your full suite of items such as stun grenades and smoke bombs to win or even to disengage. I also had a lot of fun using the berserk blade to goad the enemies to fight each and the poison bomb to whittle down the health of large groups. Organic blending into crowds is great and yes, I actually like that they are finally embracing the fact that assassins are supposed to be stealthy. The implementation and the tuning might be wonky but the design is fine.
Naturally I adore the map of Paris and being able to recognize all the landmarks and the geography. I suppose the whole thing must be smaller than previous games because the whole thing is just one big map and there’s very little countryside. You can visit Versailles but it’s just a small village. Still it’s plenty big enough for me and the palaces and interiors have lots of color. Each location has all of the right details and events going on as well which add lots to the atmosphere. What’s even better is that there are smaller maps of other versions of Paris because naturally the Eiffel Tower didn’t exist during the French Revolution. These are used for a parkour type activity in which you have to traverse the map to collect points. I don’t much like mini-games like this but it’s far better than the modern-day scenarios in previous Assassin’s Creed games so I’d count this as a win as well.
The worst part of the game is far and away the main plot. All of the original characters are tropey and uninteresting. The story isn’t really tied in with historical events and I’m amused that they’ve totally abandoned any pretence that the Assassins or the Templars actually stand for anything. They just have their private war going on and Arno is an assassin because his father was an assassin. Arno is motivated by vengeance so he spends the whole game finding the killer, discovering that there’s a conspirator behind this killer and rinse and repeat. That’s it. Arno’s relationship with Elise is predictable right to the end and I really hate the final boss battle. I did like the design of the missions, being fairly involved assassinations with special actions for to perform, but the story is pure crap.
There are some interesting historical references in the side missions. I rather enjoyed the investigations, simple as they are, and most of the riddles were too difficult for me but they do make good use of knowledge about Paris. Still, some of the connections are way too frivolous. Fooling around with Napoleon Bonaparte’s love life for example is just too silly. As usual, I stayed away from the co-op missions but from what I can tell they seem well designed and quite fun. I liked that you can indeed attempt to do them solo even if some of them don’t seem very practical for a single player.
So I really enjoyed traipsing around Paris. The mechanics updates are good and the combat is suitably challenging. Unfortunately I am now thoroughly bored with the basic premise of the franchise and so have zero interest in doing the same activities in a map of London so I don’t see myself buying any more iterations of the series for the foreseeable future.