The Assassin’s Creed series has been to America, Italy and the Caribbean, now it’s time to take on one of the bloodiest periods in modern history: the French Revolution. Some people are getting tired of new Assassin’s Creed games each year but for some of us it has been one of the best history lessons we’ve ever had, although I would check some of your facts before writing an essay based on the life of Ezio, Connor or Edward (I learnt that one the hard way). This year we get a new Assassin, the largest crowds ever seen in video games, and a rag-tag collection of historical characters.
In a first for the series Arno Dorian comes into the Brotherhood at the height of its power and must go through the orders initiation. While many of the assassin’s we have played as before have been struck by tragedy – Ezio’s family executed for treason and Connor’s tribe killed for their land – Arno’s tragedy strikes much earlier in his life.
After Arno finds his father (who is a member of the Brotherhood) murdered while attending a meeting at the Palace of Versailles, Arno is taken in by a family of Templars. While he is unaware of either of the organisations at this point in time, Arno is caught up in Templar assassination plot and sent to the notorious Bastille prison, at least until its liberation at the beginning of the French Revolution. Unfortunately players can only escape the prison and not take part in the liberation like we saw in the fantastic multiplayer reveal trailer.
The modern side of the story deals with the decimated Assassins Brotherhood attempting to stop the Templars/ Abstergo/ Helix sequencing the genome of the forerunners and taking over the world. Unlike previous games Unity breaks up the Paris story line by transferring Arno into other time periods rather than having two or three different characters. These time transfers have Arno climbing famous Parisian landmarks like the Eiffel tower and in the US on a partially build Statue of Liberty.
The major Assassinations now allow players to tackle them how ever they want; Fight your way in through a hundred armed men, you can do that, sneak your way through and only kill your target, you get a reward for that too. Attempting to sneak your way through the mission and getting the perfect kill will have perfectionists replaying these parts time and time again, I guarantee it.
Collectables also make their return in Assassin’s Creed Unity such as chests, Artifacts, Cockades, and social clubs which add up to hours and hours of gameplay. Social Clubs require players to buy, upgrade and complete missions to create safe havens for the Assassin’s order. Collecting each set of collectables unlocks new equipment for Arno to equip.
Assassins Creed Unity adds in a simple RPG improvement system to the game that will allow players to customise their Arno to best fit their play style. There are two major ways in which Arno can be customised, either using equipment that’s found around the map or bought, will offer different states, and synchronisation Points can be redeemed to unlock special skills in four major categories
Each piece of equipment will offer statistics in four categories, Melee, Range, Stealth and Health. While many of the lower-level equipment will increase one area some of the high-level ones can increase two or three. While some of the games higher level items can be bought, many have to be earned by completing side or co-op missions, giving players a lot of reason to play everything. Equipment can also be upgraded using Assassin Points, each upgrade will give players a new tactical advantage like increased eagle vision or more health.
The incredibly large inventory system that is built-in to Assassins Creed Unity will allow players to create any sort of build they can imagine. A stealth player that wants lots of health just in case things go wrong? Thats easy! Want to do a lot of close up damage really quick but also want to be deal with those pesky guards at long-range? You can do that too!
Synchronisation Points are unlocked by completing the Assassin’s missions. As Arno moves his way up the Brotherhood he is able to use the Synchronisation Points to unlock many of the more advance moves some of the other Assassins, Ezio, Connor and Edward are able to pull off with little to no training.
Assassins Creed Unity is also home of to one of the biggest changes the series has ever seen, which may leave a bitter taste in some people’s mouths. The Parkour/ Free running system has been completely revamped allowing plays to finally descend building as easily as ascending has always been. After a few guided missions – none as long as that Assassins Creed 3 epic of a tutorial – players are set free in Versailles to learn the ins and outs. It does take a bit of time to get used to the new three button system, I did find myself holding X/ A while holding R2/ RT instead of just using the trigger to free run. While the system is not quite as intuitive as previous titles it is a step forward for the series.
Unity also introduces a new stealth mode that allows player to use L2/ LT to sneak around levels or use X/ A to stick to cover. Arno can be moved along cover he is stuck to and can jump small gaps but no matter how hard I tried, I could not find a way to move him around corners. While a stealth system is something the series has been crying out for, it has been shown up by the far superior mechanic found in Watch Dogs, another Ubisoft title. Hopefully this is something that will be improved in the next entry.
The rest of the games controls will feel familiar to anyone that has played one of the previous games. Once players come to terms with the Parkour improvements make the gameplay more fluid than ever before although at times it can be a little unwieldy. My only niggle with the control system is that they become much more awkward when trying to navigate your way through buildings like Notre Dame De Paris, but it’s not a game-breaker. It is nice to see the Parkour beginning looking best in its country of origins even if it has played better.
I did come across a few glitches while playing, at one point Arno fell through the streets of Paris and became a tiny version of himself. At other points there was a notable dip below the game’s 30 fps although these never appeared when dealing with one of the stunning crowd scenes. While dealing with some of the games more processor intensive scenes my PlayStation 4 did become incredibly noisy, something that hasn’t been a problem in the past, while this isn’t that much of a big deal it did leave me wondering how the system will deal with games that try to push things even further..
While I do like the Assassin’s Creed Initiates Program because it’s nice to get a bit back for playing the rest of the series, in Assassin’s Creed Unity, Ubisoft is almost punishing you for not signing in/ up, and it’s rather annoying. Players that don’t sign in will have a big notification on the right side of the screen telling them they have levelled up. Fortunately this can be turned off in the options menu but it also removes other important information and narrative which isn’t acceptable.
One of the other main additions to Assassin’s Creed Unity is the games Cooperative mode. Co-op is something the series has been crying out for since the beginning, who hasn’t dreamed of running around stabbing everything that moved with your friends? Assassin’s Creed Unity does a great job of introducing Co-op, but like every other with Co-op it’s best played with friends and not just any Tom, Dick, and Harry. I can’t wait to play through all of the missions with my friends.
It is sad to see Ubisoft placing microtransitions within the game. The microtransitions in Assassin’s Creed Unity allow players to pay to unlock higher level equipment almost immediately with real cash without needing to complete the mission to earn the item yourself, for me it cheapens the achievement of unlocking them in-game, but for those of you who are impatient, there’s the option there for you.. While this is not a first for the series, Black Flag did allow players to buy time-saving packs, hopefully Ubisoft will move away from them (wishful thinking I know).
The French Revolution is a great time period for the bloody battle between the Assassins and Templars. The series overall storyline is still moving along slowly but Arno and Elise’s story is a great way to spend your time and now you can do it with friends.
Assassins Creed Unity offers the best look so far at both sides the conflict and Elise is one of the best Templars we have met so far. The technological behind the scenes is by far the biggest the series has seen making Unity the first truly next-gen game (sorry Black Flag). I can’t wait to see where the series goes next, I just hope my PS4 will be able to deal with it.
This review is based on a PS4 copy of the game provided to us by Ubisoft. Assassins Creed Unity will be available in the US on November 11th and the UK from the 14th of November on PS4, Xbox One and PC. A Season Pass for the game will also be available giving fan 3 major pieces of DLC.
Our review of Assassins Creed Rouge for the PS3 and Xbox 360 is on its way so check back soon.