Assassin’s Creed Unity is a welcome return to the gameplay fundamentals of what made AC a great game in the first place – before the pirate ships arrived. I fell out with ACIII because of the ship-related missions and gave Black Flag a wide berth – I did not sign up for a pirate memory game.
Before I started Unity I read the synopsis of ACIIII to make sure I could pick up the story where I left it, but in actual fact I needn’t have bothered because while Unity is based on the same Templars v Assassins premise it is only loosely connected to the Desmond storyline. For me it was a welcome change as well as a return to the rooftop running, wall climbing, death-from-above hi-jinx I thought I had abandoned – and not a mast or rigging in sight – joy!
Unity is based in 18th century France – mostly Paris – around the time of the French Revolution. Much like all the other AC games Unity uses real names from history such as Napoleon, the Marquis de Sade and Robespierre in a fictional mythos.
As ever with AC games the story is engrossing, very well written and voice-acted. The graphics in the cut-scenes are a bit ropey at times but the in-game graphics, especially the hugely detailed city panoramas available to you from the viewpoints atop iconic landmarks such as Notre Dame cathedral are wonderful eye-candy. To say this game is immersive is an understatement. After about five minutes of starting each session I was Arno.
Sure, when it was launched Unity was slammed for being so full of bugs it made an I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here challenge look like fun, but by the time I got around to playing this game (the release of Syndicate nudged me into purchasing Unity when I traded in my Xbox 360 for a PS4) they had all been pretty much exterminated.
I say ‘pretty much’ because I did come across a couple of bloopers where for some reason I was left running with pin-wheeling arms against a wall I was supposed to be climbing up with no way out apart from closing the application. Perhaps as an apology to gamers the Dead Kings DLC was free in the PlayStation store so I added that on too when I had the main game’s main story almost complete.
Despite it being mostly limited to Paris there are lots of things to do and depending on your tolerance for repetition, or level of OCD when it comes to collectibles, you can spend many a fun-packed hour doing nothing more complicated than picking stuff up and getting into random fights.
The AI is as crude as ever but I found the refreshed fight system quite realistic and less prone to glitches than previous iterations of the game. I also think that up to a point it is harder.
Up to a point – once you get some good skills, become accustomed to the timing of how different types of enemy attack, and get some decent weaponry things get a lot easier.
That said there are still some very hard to beat adversaries among the city guards and when you get attacked by a mob of Templars, especially when some of them stand back and shoot at you with their pistols, then make sure you have stocked up on smoke bombs and health potions. I used the Cutter’s Eagle sword for memory sequence 12 having earned it in Dead Kings – the advantage of this one-handed weapon is speed of attack but moreover the blinding light it emits every now and again that stuns all enemies within a certain radius. Very handy!
There’s a certain amount of character customization available beyond choosing the type of weapon you are going to use. Different clothing choices allow you to carry larger amounts of bombs, lock-picks, ammunition, health potions etc. – you can choose what suits your particular style of gameplay.
I tended to want to carry a lot of health potions, lock-picks and my favourite berserk blades. Health potions because I do have a tendency to wade in and try and fight everyone all at once, lock-picks because my hand-eye coordination isn’t what it used to be and berserk blades because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as getting the enemy to fight each other – plus you get points towards your ranking with every berserk kill made.
I made it to a very reasonable 75% complete and Advanced Champion level once I had finished all the missions (but not perfectly) and collected a large amount of the collectibles.
There a 12 single player memory sequences which normally consist of two or three parts. 11 co-op missions which you can play solo if you access them via the progress tracker and will reward you royally with skill points. Seven heist missions which are again multiplayer missions.
Then there are ‘Paris Stories’ of increasing difficulty consisting of:
- Seven helix rifts – where you get to play in glitchy modes of the simulator such as the Eiffel Tower in WWII
- 20 social club missions – straightforward ‘in map’ missions with none of the dressing of the coop mission cut-scenes
- 50 Paris story missions
- 14 murder mysteries – a new one on me for AC and a lot like the Batman Arkham series detective mode missions
- 18 Nostradamus enigmas – for which you will need a lot of patience and the Internet to ‘solve’ to get some funky armour from under your den at the Cafe Theatre where there are five more missions available
- 24 companion missions – mostly focuses on simple assassinations, stealing from or protecting a character.
So there’s plenty of fun stuff to do beside collect cockades and treasure 😜