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Assassin's Creed: Unity review: Let them eat cake

Hayden Dingman | Nov. 18, 2014
Oh boy, there's a lot to talk about here. Most of it isn't good.

Unity, for whatever reason, largely abandons this pretense outside of some minor moments like waltzing through the Estates-General or even meeting Napoleon. The game feels more grounded overall, though, with Arno largely focused on his own story while the Revolution goes on in the background. Ubisoft clearly expects the city itself (and some of the side content) to tell the story of the French Revolution, as it slowly devolves from pristine Paris to an eternal garbage fire.

It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to divorce the story from its Forrest Gump roots, as it allows for more nuance of character, but an unwanted side effect is that this game could just as easily take place in any period of history (say, Renaissance Italy) as in the French Revolution.

The main story of Unity is actually the relationship between Arno and his more-than-friend Elise, a red-haired girl from his childhood who he's grown up and fallen in love with. These two characters and their shifting relations is the heart of Unity, and it's well-executed. There's a lot of depth to the relationship between the two, and it's treated with a seriousness the likes of which most video game romances don't reach. As I said, though, it doesn't do anything to ground the story in the French Revolution, unlike the relationship between Edward Kenway and actual historical figure Mary Read in Black Flag.

And if you were upset with Black Flag because the modern-day storyline was given short shrift, you'll be livid with Unity. The modern-day setting is dismissed almost entirely in this game. They even got rid of Black Flag's first-person exploration sections, which personally I enjoyed. Instead you... watch videos. And once every two or three chapters hear some (brief) voiceover.

To crown it all, the game doesn't play as well as previous entries (and I don't even mean from a technical standpoint). If you asked me what one thing I'd like to see changed with the Assassin's Creed franchise, the free-running would've been pretty low on my list. It needed refinement, for sure, as you occasionally had the "Oh damn I just jumped off this twelve story building by accident" moments. For the most part, though, the free-running was a stand-out feature.

Unity, for whatever reason, overhauls the parkour and splits traversal into two separate Ascend and Descend buttons. The new system sounds great on paper but is horrible at context, and often I got stuck on the side of a wall trying to figure out what combination of buttons to press to get Arno to move again, or stuck on the edge of a two-foot tall box trying in vain to get Arno to jump off it. If anything, the controls now feel less responsive than they used to.


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