Ubisoft had a very busy end of 2014 with 2 new massive releases, and a lot riding on their shoulders as Assassin’s Creed: Unity tries to live up to it’s high flying, swashbuckling, younger brother Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. Assassin’s Creed: Unity (ACU) has a lot of positive points as well as negative, there is still a lot of work to be done on the series to bring it up to the standard of the current market. ACU lets you control the witty heartthrob Arno Dorian as he tries to uncover the secrets of the French Revolution, which will have you climbing some of the most famous landmarks across Paris and uncovering secret mysteries that lie beneath the city of love.
I will begin my review with a quick look at the graphics that are on display in this game, the reason that I say a quick look is because not much has changed. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great I couldn’t really say it had poor graphics but it just didn’t stand out for me in any way. Bare in mind that this is the first Assassin’s Creed game that has been released on PS4 I feel a little but let down, it seems weird to me because when I play it I doesn’t look bad at all, but when you synchronize on top of a building my breath isn’t taken away. This upsets me because before this game there has always been something about it that makes me sit back and appreciate all the work that went into the graphics and design but in this game it just doesn’t feel the same. Maybe after all this time the Assassin’s Creed graphics have desensitised me, or maybe the developers are concentrating on other aspects of the game to bring it up to par? Who knows? Maybe Ubisoft needed to get more acquainted with better technology and they might stun us next game with amazing graphics, only time will tell.
I can’t tell you how glad it makes me to see changes in the map that make the free roaming enjoyable, when I played Assassin’s Creed 3, I felt the urban parts of the map weren’t very well done it was hard to jump from building to building, there wasn’t very many places to hide and plan your method of approach and it made the game very stodgy. This is something that is hard to get right as the way a game flows isn’t really something you can measure and even I’m having a hard time describing it but you can feel it when you play . After they had lost that flow in AC3 they managed to find it again in AC:BF and it is still amazing in AC:U, I feel like Ubisoft have tried very hard with the level design of the maps so that the game has a beautiful flow to it and is very enjoyable to play. You can easily jump from building to building, you can get great vantage points from certain buildings and you can see your assassination attempt unfold right before your eyes and it makes for some very exciting missions.
Most of what I have described so far has been mainly negative and unfortunately that seems to be the theme with this game. I mean every game has little problems here and there, you expect that with but some problems can make the game very difficult to play. Let me start with the biggest problem, the free running, this is one of the staple aspects of the Assassin’s Creed series and it has so many bugs and issues with it I don’t even know where to begin. The only thing I can say about it is that the have added some new animations to the free running that actually look pretty slick, however this is hard to do as most of the time you glitch into a wall or jump the complete opposite way that you want. I don’t know what they changed from AC:BF but they need to change it back the free running was excellent in that game and I couldn’t really fault it. When playing this I have been stuck so many times that it actually is starting to get frustrating and the whole experience has been pretty jagged and hard to use, a lot of the time when you are running through the street trying to either evade or catch someone the game will lock you on to a ledge and make you make a grab for it. So many criminals have escaped my hand of justice this way and I am not impressed!
Another little thing that I want to mention and, I’m not 100% sure why Ubisoft have included it, when you are fighting, the enemies now have a bar above them which shows their health. Now so far nothing sounds terrible and I actually like the health bar it is good, it means that if you get an attack off you don’t just one shot people unless you have good equipment and you can visually see how much damage your current sword does. However under this bar is a little bar which I call the counter bar and basically it glows yellow when you have to counter which is what I have a problem with. Let me put a little backstory on this and say that the combat has improved a lot over the years and I think in AC:BF it has been the best it’s ever been, before this, in the earlier games, it has just been stand press counter as much as you can and you will just instawin a lot of fights, especially in the first few games. Now you have to time counters and you have to use a variety of moves to beat the enemies or you’ll end up being skewered by a big guy with a halberd, but the best part about it is that you have to use the animations of the enemies as your cues to counter. I have always thought this was great you have to be intuitive and learn what animations can be countered and at what time it made the combat interesting and difficult. With the addition of this new “counter bar” you eliminate the whole aspect of learning about the combat yourself and it just feels a lot less fulfilling and makes it a little bit easier.
On the other hand they have put more emphasis on dodging and rolling past certain attacks to mix up the combat which is good but I feel like if they had the aforementioned counter bar removed the combat would be great and very exhilarating. Before everyone jumps down my throat about this saying that combat would become too difficult with the changes that I have proposed then maybe adding a difficulty level at the start would be good and you could customise it to turn off certain visual aids if you wanted a challenge.
I couldn’t make it through this review without mentioning the fact they have taken out the naval battles and I completely understand why, the main reason is, well… geography. Paris isn’t anywhere near the sea so it would be a huge leap to squeeze in ships and massive naval forts and the second reason is, that they can work on other new gameplay mechanics and not just exhaust the same ones over and over again (although some might say it’s a little late for that).
I just don’t want Ubisoft to forget how brilliant these naval battles were and they have been the most exciting things introduced to the series since Ezio ,and if they don’t want to overuse that aspect of the game they need to introduce something just as good soon to replace it.
Unfortunately there is more ammunition for the complaint cannon but these things need to be said, and this time I’m aiming at the app. There is a companion app that you can get for your respected mobile device that you can do little puzzles and little missions on that aspect of it is fine. On top of this they don’t charge you for it which is also fine. What ISN’T fine is having you required to use the app to fully complete the actual game, this is something that I strongly disagree with and I mean what is the point in it? If I wanted the Assassin’s Creed app I would get it, but I don’t want it, and Ubisoft have obviously not got that much faith in their app as they have to release it off the back of this game to force people into getting it. I don’t even understand the premise, is it supposed to help you complete the game? Does it go hand in hand with the game and interact with each other? I mean it is a companion app after all, but the only thing it is there for is to unlock the Nomad chests inside AC:U. That is pretty much all it does, if they wanted to release an app maybe they should have a premise that can stand alone by itself and not have it linked to the main title. It isn’t even fun to play, you have to tap and find sigils on each building then you can send your assassins on special missions which involves you waiting for hours to complete, you don’t actually do anything. Once you complete 3 of these missions you unlock one chest. Yes, ONE CHEST out of the 30 odd that are in the game. Some of these missions can take days just to do one let alone 3 and they might not even succeed it is just pointless, it isn’t fun and it is a waste of time. When I play it I feel like they have done it to say that the amount of time needed to complete AC:U is so high, even though you end up waiting for like a week just to unlock one chest, that isn’t playing a game it is literally watching paint dry. Maybe Ubisoft will release “Watching Paint Dry: The Game” release an app with it so you have to watch them restock your paint before the game applies it to the wall for you and you then watch until it is dry. #rantover.
One last thing about AC:U that annoyed me and I’m done I promise, is that to complete all the missions you have to play it co-op online, and it is only a small niggle at the game but it is something that is growing with popularity the fact that online is sort of being forced upon us now and we don’t get a choice. Multiplayer is good, after all that is said it is a good idea and what some people don’t understand is that I like multiplayer but I don’t like it being forced on you. The thing that surprises me so much about this is that Far Cry 4 has the choice to play offline or online but AC:U doesn’t, that boggles my mind. Ubisoft giveth with one hand and taketh with the other and if they had done that for AC:U this part of the rant wouldn’t be here and maybe I could keep talking about the positives of the game, but instead I’m talking about things that should be obvious. The fact that you can plan missions out with your friends and can execute them together is fantastic and I love the idea but it should always be a choice, it is such a small change but it makes a huge difference.
Overall I’d give the game a 5/10 and at first I thought it was going to be much higher but there is a lot to work on before they release the next Assassin’s Creed game, and overall I still think that they should take more out of AC:BF then AC:U because everything was pretty much the same except that AC:U just wasn’t as good in almost every aspect. It pains me to say it, because I have been the fan for a series for so long but I think they if they learn from these mistakes then the game can return to being great as it has had before.