Back in 2007, I remember seeing Assassin’s Creed and thinking this was something I would like. I enjoy historical fiction, and mixing it with some mad science-fiction is a surefire way to appeal to me. Assassin’s Creed II, along with its related games (Brotherhood and Revelations) remain some of my favourite games thanks to this, but unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed III took everything I loved about the prior games and essentially threw it to the floor for an awful, never-ending, glitchy game. And Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was returned to Game within a week, so little did piracy and whale fishing appeal to me. Assassin’s Creed: Unity seemed to be a return to what I wanted from this series – actual assassinations in a historically-accurate city – so did it live up to expectations?
Well yes – and no. Unity, while addictive, shoots itself repeatedly in the foot. If you’re familiar with the series’ main thrust, you’ll know what to expect, but if not: Templars and Assassins are two global organisations fighting throughout history to unlock secrets about a pre-human civilisation, and the games put you in the role of an assassin, assassinating people (some of them real-life figures) in period locations (Crusades Middle East, Renaissance Italy), but their main draw has always been a mix of fun action and barmy stories.
Unity carries on this tradition by taking place during the French Revolution, in a remarkably recreated Paris, and the story is woven into history very cleverly at times. You play smarmy, cocky Arno, the most entertaining protagonist since AS2’s Ezio, and his interesting relationship with the Templars offers unique plot points – but towards its end, the story well and truly shits the bed, which is a shame. Ubisoft never seems to be able to completely reconcile historical events with its own plots, and in this case I just felt a lot of stuff was either superfluous or unresolved by the end.
In terms of graphics, it’s not hyperbole to say this game is one of the most amazing I’ve played. Hundreds of Parisians fill the game’s locations; sunshine and real weather effects shine through windows and illuminate ornate interiors; and the character representations are, at times, almost cinematic. I didn’t experience any of the terrifying glitches that many other PS4 gamers experienced, and this is probably the one area of the game that really succeeded for me, giving me an insight into the power of this new console and its potential.
With the actual gameplay, despite the fact I have compulsively attempted to complete side missions, when it comes to the game’s main missions I was pretty bored. I enjoyed running around Paris and undertaking side missions – either solving murders or helping real-life historical individuals with any number of strange undertakings – but the main missions are largely formulaic, with the early novelty of different options for each major assassination the only innovation. I still spent ages on the game, but more than ever I found the main missions to be the least interesting part of the experience.
Having finished the game and actually left it alone, I’ve found (as with Destiny) that I quite honestly don’t have a drive to go back and keep playing – and with Unity, this is definitely not helped by the STUPID addition of extra paid content alongside companion apps. Basically, Ubisoft peppers the game map with treasure chests you can’t open unless you download and use an app with the game. I want to play a game on the PS4 – I couldn’t care less about extra stuff through the iPad or mobile, I want it all onscreen. There’s using modern technology and then there’s this – entirely pointless in my opinion and an infuriating addition.
This pales next to the fact that you can actually buy content for the game in the game – one credit package costs £100, which is INSANE considering the game itself costs half that. If Ubisoft focused on fine-tuning the game’s mechanics and stopping the glitches rather than investing time and money in this nonsense, then nobody would be complaining as much.
This also affects character upgrades, as you now need to purchase them in game using about four different in-game currencies. Abilities your Assassin had in other games by default (double assassinations, hiding in a group) are locked until you buy them, and the fact that I couldn’t finish side missions after the main game because I needed to redo main missions to upgrade my character just indicates how broken Ubisoft’s perception of gamers is.
In summary, for looks, series nostalgia and (some) gameplay, Unity is worth your time – but I wouldn’t say you should buy the game new. This is a game that you should get through trading in or preowned – don’t spend £50 on a game that promises the world and then wants you to work your arse off in-game/pay extra money to enjoy the game to its full potential.