Assassin’s Creed Unity was meant to be Ubisoft’s big splash into the next generation world. It is the first game they have released that is exclusive to the next generation consoles, it is one of the largest and most beautiful games they have ever released, and it is a part of their most popular franchise. Saying that expectations were high for Unity would probably be an understatement.

Unity follows the recruitment and maturation of Arno Dorian, son of the French Assassin Charles Dorian. Arno’s life as a youngster was simple, until his father was mysteriously murdered during a business meeting in Versailles. After the death of his father, Arno was taken in by Francois De La Serre, Grand Master of the Templar Order and father to Elise De La Serre. During his upbringing, Arno grew close to Elise and indulged in a secret relationship with her, but unbeknownst to him, Elise was being trained in the ways of the Templar Order by associates of her father. Although Francois was the Grand Master of the Templar Order, he chose not to expose Arno to the Order out of respect for his father.

All in all, Arno’s life after the death of his father was going very well, until Francois De La Serre was murdered. Due to his proximity to the crime, Arno was immediately accused and incarcerated for the murder of De La Serre, and all hope of a relationship with Elise was dashed. Upon his arrival in prison, Arno met an inmate who is a part of the Assassin Order and knew his father. Arno began to train as much as he could with the man, anxiously awaiting the day he would escape prison. When that time finally came, Arno decided to join the Assassin Order and track down the men who killed Francois De La Serre and framed him for murder.

If you were not a fan of the thin storyline of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, then you will love the return to form in Unity. The story in this game and the characters present are very reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed II. Arno is an excellent character who, much like Ezio Auditore, has a wealth of personality and wit. His Assassin compatriots also have very unique personalities and Paris itself is alive with conflict due to the ongoing French Revolution. The setting and story in Unity is arguably one of the best of the series.

The French Revolutionary setting not only sets the game up for amazing character arcs, it also allows for tons of new and interesting content. The implementation of murder mysteries, constant crowd events, and the many other side missions available in the game makes Unity feel like one of the most content filled games in the series. There is always something to do in an area, and since it is reported that Unity is the biggest game in the series, even surpassing the open seas of Black Flag, the amazing content will be there for hours to come.

Assassin's Creed® Unity map

This is all of the content available in a very small part of the map at the beginning of the game. Lots to do.

Aside from the story, Assassin’s Creed Unity also excels in its new gear/skills system. Since Arno is not yet a master Assassin, it would make sense that he needs to learn the ropes before he can start jumping off of 200 ft. tall buildings and assassinating 2 targets at the same time. This is where the implementation of skill points comes into play. Like many RPGs, Assassin’s Creed Unity uses skill points to allow the player to unlock new actions Arno can use inside and outside of combat. The skills are broken into 4 categories, Melee, Ranged, Stealth, and Health, and the skills range from passive skills like increased health to active skills like the double assassination. This gives you the ability to build Arno from the ground up. While some may complain that locking actions behind skill points is a step backwards in terms of combat accessibility, I see it as the story of a newly minted Assassin coming through into the game mechanics.

The gear rating/attributes system is also a new addition to the franchise. While upgrading gear to increase your health has been a part of other games in the franchise, Ubisoft added a new level to that simple system. Now, gear can be used to increase your health, stealth, ranged, and melee effectiveness; plus some gear also has passive abilities like increased Eagle Vision range, decreased melee/ranged damage taken, etc. This small change gives you a little more control over the way you want to play Arno. If you would rather get into heavy handed melee fights over sneaky stealth engagements, you can build Arno to suit that desire. Along with the attributes comes a rating system. You can now see exactly how well geared your main character is and use that rating to compare him to in game enemies and the difficulty of missions. It is a good way to figure out if you’re ready to take on a particular threat or not. With these simple changes, the player feels much more in control of the main character than in any other AC game.

There are also subtle changes to the game’s combat system, mainly in the countering/parrying system. In all of the other games, a decently timed parry would result in a devastating counter kill. This system lead most players to simply surround themselves with enemies and individually counter and kill them as they attacked. While this system has worked well for years, it did seem like it needed a bit of an upgrade. The new parry system in Assassin’s Creed Unity is now more dependent on the timing of your parry and the parry level of your weapon. If you parry an enemy strike perfectly, you will execute a parry and punch, leaving the enemy stunned and open to an immediate kill. A slightly off time parry will block the strike from damaging you, but the enemy will also maintain his defensive posture, making an instant kill attack impossible. With this new system, it is important for the player to both attack and defend at the right time to survive an attack against multiple enemies.

Another small and welcome addition was the Free Run Down mechanic. Up until this iteration of Assassin’s Creed, running up buildings and objects was easy enough, but there was always a little problem when it came to getting down. If there was no hay cart or pile of leaves at the bottom of the obstacle, jumping off of it could result in fall damage or even death. Now, the Free Run Down mechanic allows you to easy make your way down from any height.

Ubisoft even went as far as to add in a new co-op mode that allows you and up to 3 friends to complete Assassin contracts that require more than 1 Assassin to complete. These missions are very easy to partake in and are actually pretty fun. While communication with your party can make things more tactical and clean, it is possible to complete the mission without talking to anyone.

Assassin's Creed® Unity skills

The new skills selection screen. As you can see, certain skills are locked until later in the game, and all skills cost points to unlock.

Clearly, Assassin’s Creed Unity has tons to love about it. A solid story, new and useful in game mechanics, and a new gear system make the game as entertaining and accessible as it could be, but the entire Unity experience can be marred, at times, by a disappointing lack of polish. There is no doubt that Ubisoft pushed the envelope when it came to detail in the environment and the amount of people that are in a scene at one time, and while this can make the atmosphere of the game amazing, it definitely causes some significant frame lag in certain areas. For example, one of the centerpieces of the game is the Notre Dame, but whenever I tried to climb the front of the building, the game would experience so much frame lag that I was afraid it was going to crash completely. It seems to me that the frame lag occurs around areas that are filled with both incredible detail and a large amount of NPCs in the area. It is clear that Ubisoft was trying to wow the audience with the fervor of angry crowds and the majesty of 18th century French architecture, but the price they paid to implement those things was just too much.

There are also those inexplicable moments where NPCs can be seen floating in the air, sinking into the ground, and hovering across the screen, and while these moments may be funny to see, it is just another sign of an unpolished game. Add in faces disappearing, characters phasing through walls, and through other people, during cutscenes, and extremely long load times, and you have a complete failure in the Quality Assurance department.

Another frustrating thing about the game is the amount of gated content that is in it. Ubisoft decided to implement 2 different external sources into Unity, a mobile companion app and an online profile builder. These 2 sources find their way into the game via Nomad and Initiate chests. These chests are scattered throughout Paris and are completely inaccessible if you do not complete certain tasks in the app or on your profile. Some of the nicer pieces of in game flare, like legacy Assassin outfits, are gated by these 2 sources. I found it extremely annoying that I was forced to do mundane tasks in a mobile app, or on a completely unnecessary online profile, to unlock content that had previously been available through in game tasks in previous titles.

Assassin's Creed® Unity floating

The infamous hovering Frenchman made an appearance in one of my multiplayer matches.

Ubisoft also decided that Unity was the right time to introduce microtransactions into the Assassin’s Creed series, and while the microtransactions are 100% optional, I can’t help but feel upset by Ubisoft asking for more money in a $60 game that already has serious issues.

Ubisoft has been making top quality AAA games for year, so to see something so marred by glitches and bugs makes me wonder if there were some kind of extenuating circumstances that lead to these issues. There is no excuse for these issues being present, and it is unfair to the consumer to put out a product that needs so many fixes after release.

If Unity had released with the level of polish that was present in many other Assassin’s Creed games, an argument could be made that it might be the best game in the entire series, but since all of these infuriating and immersion breaking issues are present, even up to a week after release, it has to be said that Assassin’s Creed Unity is a missed opportunity for Ubisoft. If you are interested in playing the game, I would definitely suggest waiting until these issues have been addressed. Hopefully upcoming iterations of the game on the Xbox One and PS4 can redeem the franchise for the issues that are plaguing Unity.

Assassin's Creed Unity Review
The Good
  • Tons of Content
  • Great Storyline
  • Great Changes to Combat and Gear Systems
The Bad
  • Horrible Frame Rate Issues
  • Gated Content
  • Complete Lack of Polish
7.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (3 Votes)
7.7

About The Author

Nick C
COO/Podcast Host

I’m Nick, a proud nerd and gamer. I rock my Star Wars tattoos like I’m a real Jedi, and I hope I will be making games first and playing them second in the future!

  • Derek Martin

    Spot on, the gated content really annoyed me since my initiates score still hasn’t updated and ubisoft wants me relogin to activate games I played and traded in years ago.

    • Nick Caminita

      Yea if they are gonna implement the initiates system they should at least make sure that it repopulates all of your progress from the other games. there are alot of frustrating things about the game, but it is still really good.