Assassin’s Creed: Unity takes all of the elements from previous titles and gives them a fresh gloss of paint in the form of a gorgeous 18th Century Paris in the midst of revolution. While there are a couple of novel ideas and features that push the series in new directions, Unity is just more of the same old stuff.
Arno Dorian is Unity’s somewhat unoriginal protagonist. Starting as a carbon copy of Assassin Creed 2’s Ezio but with less personality and exposition, Arno eventually evolves into character with his own traits and flair. Within the starting moments of Unity, Arno’s family is introduced and whisked away again, making it difficult to sympathise with his journey to become an assassin and, ultimately, redemption. That said, the interplay between him and his Templar star-crossed lover Elise is fascinating although under-utilised in the otherwise commonplace story. Like always, there’s a conspiracy of Templars lurking about for you to barely grow attached to before killing.
Killing the core cast of Templars in sandbox assassination missions is a highlight in Unity, though. Multiple routes to your target are presented with optional objectives to create distractions or assassinate in an alternative manner, such as poison a target’s drink, which all combines to create an ubiquitous assassin experience, oddly reminiscent of Hitman.
The other missions in Unity follow the same old tedium of go from point A to point B and kill everything in between. Fortunately, Paris is a beautiful city to clamber about. Unfortunately, the new and improved climbing mechanics fail to reach Unity’s lofty expectations. The switch-up for Unity is that there are now three different inputs for traversal. Free run, free run upwards, and free run downwards. Multiple times I found Unity confusing my inputs, ending with Arno bumping in to walls or awkwardly getting stuck instead of flowing across rooftops. When it works, it works wonderfully with Arno flipping from pole to plank. For a game that’s built around this mechanic, though, the lack of precise path-finding is inadequate.
This in turn affects Unity’s odd sense of stealth. A great deal of tools are provided – from smoke bombs to disguising as civilians or guards – that should in theory turn Arno in to a badass machine. Strange then that the AI is incredibly astute and the environments are created in an awkward way that rarely offers hiding spots. I found it more efficient to haphazardly run and stab enemies, or engage them in combat, than to complete missions silently.
This is a shame because the environments are grand and varied. Unity offers a large amount of indoor locales to climb through, a first for the series, which exponentially strengthens the freedom of movement throughout Paris while providing insight to its’ citizens homes and lives.
There’s an overwhelming number of sidequests to complete across Paris. While many quests are fluff, some of Unity’s most interesting ideas are found here.
The murder mystery quests stand out. With these you start at the scene of a murder, then you examine clues, speak to witnesses, and finally accuse someone of being guilty. They’re slow-paced, methodical, and well-written. They work as a break from Unity’s otherwise action-focused missions.
A more noteworthy addition is the inclusion of four player co-op missions. These act as separate mini-stories aside from the main game. While they task you to perform the same tedium, working with other assassins can be brilliant. There’s a sensation gained from sweeping parallel rooftops, stabbing foes as you reach them, as a hive-mind murder force that only multiplayer offers.
A miserable change in Unity is the manner in which you obtain the game’s greatest piece of armour; a strange gripe that has plagued my mind throughout the 20 hours I sunk in to Unity. Whereas previous Assassin’s Creed games would have you travelling near and far in search for areas replete with set pieces and grandeur, Unity asks you to solve a series of boring cryptic riddles that lead you from place to place in virtual Paris. The reward is not worth the obtuse journey. I would rather keep my drab gear than earn a mark of honour.
The main problem with Unity is its lack of innovation. While there are new ways to play the same game, Unity is inevitably another Assassin’s Creed game. If you’ve played Assassin’s Creed before then you’ve played Unity, albeit with uglier graphics.
- + Paris is beautiful
- + Killing with friends
- + Sandbox assassination missions
- - Free running doesn't work
- - Story is lackluster