Today, Matthew finally registers his thoughts on Assassin’s Creed Unity.
So, as you’re all aware I’ve been playing ACU for the last week or so. I’ve logged 25 hours exactly, and powered through to the end of the story. But, like Mike, my review will steer clear of campaign spoilers. Instead, I’ll be focusing mostly on the engine and gameplay.
First things first, the free running. There is a new system at play here, though not so different as to put off long time players. Instead of the standard “hold sprint and dash at a wall,” there is now a dedicated “free run up” and “free run down” button.
This allows for quicker controlled descents of buildings, instead of the literal leap of faith (which exist, though are few and far between) and the figurative leap of faith where one would drop and try to catch back on the way down.
It’s a tight system, and Arno’s movements are fun to watch, especially if the game decides you are just on the edge of what it will allow for a completed jump. In this situation, he essentially swan-dives and then scrambles for a handhold. It’s hilarious and it’ll make your stomach drop as well.
The climb leap and wall eject are back, though the button must be held to execute these moves. This is inconvenient when trying to move quickly, but there are few times where I would say the wall eject is even necessary. It’s just as fast (given the press and hold mechanic) to climb to the top of whatever you’re climbing, turn around and jump.
The climb leap, however, is more efficient than it seems at first blush. Once you press and hold the first time, do not let go and Arno will continue to use the mechanic. This makes scaling some of those rather large towers a breeze. Especially good for getting to synch points.
There is also a new cover system which I am in no way fond of. It’s impossible to tell, if near a set of crates for example, which edge Arno is going to cuddle up to. And sometimes he’ll just ignore your command completely, leaving you crouching behind the crates with no way to assassinate the guard coming around the corner. Cover kills necessitate being in cover.
In addition, there is no way to creep around cover. Example: there are again a set of crates which make a lovely corner you think you could creep around. You have to latch to cover, move to the end, break cover, walk around, and snap back to cover again.
Another loss in this system is the inability to whistle to bring guards over. You must use the cherry bombs to attract attention, and even then, the guards don’t do much looking until you’ve used two or three in a row.
The pieces are all there, Ubisoft just didn’t put them together properly. One only needs to look as far as Mass Effect 3 to see a proper cover system, but I digress.
Other new additions are the talent system and the redesigned weapons and armor system. It seems I can never truly be free of MMOs, no matter how hard I try.
While playing story missions, you are given talent points that you can invest in Arno any way you choose, though they are finite. You can invest in stealth, health, melee or ranged combat, and even these diverge. Stealth has the option of the double assassination (not available by default!) and double air assassination (ditto!). It also controls your skill at lock picking.
And I’ll take a moment to divert here. Lock picking? It never should have been a talent selection. In order to unlock all the chests on the map you will need level three lock picking to even have a hope and a prayer of getting in to them. This takes up 15 of your talent points to unlock all three levels. If it’s a mandatory skill for 100% completion, it shouldn’t be in the talent section.
Your bombs are no longer all by default and must be learned, save the smoke bomb. Other options include flash bangs, distractions and poison gas.
There’s also a new weapon type. No longer do we just have one-handed and heavy, but pole arms can now be your default weapon using the “long” skill. All have their own finishers based on whether the weapon is lethal or not. (As a rule: blades are lethal, blunt are not.)
However, the hidden blade is laregely missing. It’s only used for assassinations and take downs, you can’t use it as a weapon in combat. It does however have an upgrade in the form of the phantom blade which, frankly, is worse version of the blow pipe from previous games. You can’t fire it from cover, and it is incredibly conspicuous to use, and prohibitively expensive to buy ammo for in the early game.
Gear is also different this time around, with many different types depending on the type of Assassin you want. No more are you forced into the archetype of Ezio or Altair (though I still did this). You could, for example, take heavy weapons, and wear the military or Napoleonic gear, which allows you to be a stand-up fighter in the vein of Adewale or Bartolomeo from ACII.
The gear contributes to your health by adding HP or melee and ranged armor, and it also has a large influence on your inventory. By default, as an example, you carry three lock picks. My gear loadout allows me to carry 27.
It also affects how much ammo you carry for your pistol/rifle, the number of phantom blades you can carry and a myriad of other things like Eagle Vision duration and distance, and the noise you make while free running.
But now on to the big topic: does it look good? Yes. It does. Though locking it at 30 FPS was silly. For all I ever see of them, I’d rather have half the NPCs and a higher frame rate. I don’t spend a lot of time looking down from the roof, and more often than not they get in the way while chasing people or ducking into cover.
Some reviewers have claimed Paris feels small and confining, but it seems huge to me. I dispute them when they say it feels smaller than Black Flag. It probably is, but the 1:1 ratio makes up for it in my opinion.
They also have the returning issue of not many voice actors. The woman who played the British beggars in ACI (“I’m poor and sick an ‘ungry”) is back, and she voices essentially every woman who is ever stolen from in Paris EVER.
I do enjoy the murder mysteries. They are a clever addition that really cause you to use your head in some of the later ones, and the Assassination missions are far more complex than “go here, kill him”. They actually have story arcs, voice overs, and impact on the game.
Another quick note, there is a new “important guy” armor. It’s the armor of Thomas de Carellion or some such nonsense. Essentially he’s the Assassin who caused King Phillip the Fair to work with the pope to bring down the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages. It is, in essence, a black and red version of Altair’s armor, and requires doing the most obnoxious MacGuffin hunt I’ve ever suffered through. In fact, I gave up and will likely not finish.
However the Initiate chests (gold) are worth seeking out. They contain gold, as well as the outfits of past playable characters. All of them, in fact, including Shay from Assassin’s Creed: Rogue.
All in all, a worthy addition the series, with one of the best endings I’ve seen. Though a caveat must be added in the form of a warning. If you aren’t invested in the lore of the AC universe, then the ending will seem to have little pay off. You’ll need to have played and accepted all the games that came before save for Rogue.
Before I leave you it must be stressed that though I give this game a positive review, it hasn’t earned it. It is one of the worst launches in video game history, and only now works well because of multiple patches to fix a crippled game. It is entirely inexcusable and, though I do say it is a fun game to play, I also suggest that you not go out of your way to buy it.
The only reason I did being that it came with my Xbox.
Thanks for reading. And take care.
P.S. Updates may become sporadic this week, as we are expecting my wife to go into labour at any time. Either myself or Mike will keep you in the loop.
Also, later today/first thing tomorrow I’ll be adding the link to our YouTube channel. There, you’ll find Mike playing some Hearthstone, me playing Dragon Age: Inquistion, and a vlog where I’ll talk while playing the side missions in ACU, among other things.