Assassin’s Creed Unity released in 2014 with high expectations, but vast amounts of game breaking bugs resulted in poorer than expected sales. In this retro review we revisit the game and see whether it holds up, whether it’s worth playing and most importantly… Is Assassins Creed Unity fixed?
As the 8th main entry in the series Assassin’s Creed Unity was something of a landmark, being the first game built from the ground up for the Xbox One and PS4 and the first to feature cooperative missions in the campaign. It also came off the back of 2013’s Black Flag, which introduced new sea faring mechanics and a broader Caribbean setting. Despite the recent success of Black Flag it was hard not to feel like interest in the series was starting to sap away.
Anticipation wasn’t helped by a number of controversies prerelease, such as a stupid argument about console parity when it was found that the game runs at 900p and 30 frames per second on both major consoles. There were also damaging accusations of sexism when it was learned that the game could not be played in co-op with a female avatar.
Unfortunately, if interest was poor before release, things would only get worse. The game released in a completely broken state, with game breaking bugs, dreadful frame rates and mountains of hilarious glitches. These have provided some of the most memorable images of the entire franchise, for all the wrong reasons.
Booting up Assassin’s Creed Unity three years after release I was surprised how unfamiliar everything felt. The controls have only been tweaked but it took me a while to get comfortable with movement. Once I did I appreciated the new “run down” mechanic, that allows quick descents. The fighting system has also been revamped, which is a mixed bag. I appreciated that Arno is more vulnerable than previous entries. This meant more run and hide than stand and fight. The downside of this is that the combat doesn’t feel as intuitive as prior entries.
Story wise, a fairly tedious intro sets up the game’s revenge plot and love interest, but neither hold much interest. Before long our main character Arno is incarcerated in the Bastille and escapes to start his journey towards Assassinhood.
From this point, it is business as usual. Climb towers, synchronise to reveal missions and press X to stab. Scattered throughout is the usual Assassins Creed assortment of story missions, side missions and collectables. However there are some notable omissions. The seafaring segments of Black Flag, which were very well received, are gone. So too is most of the foliage that Connor and Kenway clambered through in Assassins Creed III and Black Flag.
The most notable new feature of the game are the Helix Rifts, which prove to be a highlight. For contrived reasons these Rifts appear to transport, and you to a different period of Parisian history. They are certainly a lot of fun, offering brief glimpses of time periods new to the series. For example, climbing the Eiffel tower during a World War 2 air raid. The downside of the Rifts is that there simply aren’t enough of them, and they all offer a glimpse at more interesting versions of Paris than the one you spend the rest of the game in.
Assassin’s Creed Unity ditches the wide ocean world of Black Flag in favour of a single sprawling metropolis. The city of Paris is impressive, but somehow running around it is fun but devoid of wonder. Being a crowded city the game brings nothing new to the franchise, and even synchronising has really lost the wonder it once conjured. This is mostly due to a lack of variety in the environments, and matters aren’t helped by the fact that many Paris landmarks haven’t been built yet.
The best part of the city are the crowds that inhabit it. Crowd density in Unity is certainly the highest it has ever been. Try starting a fight in a busy street and watch how the crowd scatters – it’s all very impressive. Things improve as both the game and therefore the French Revolution progress, and by the end of the game Paris is a ruined husk of its’ former self. I was surprised in the late game to see someone walk past carrying a head on a pike.
While the crowds are fantastic, the individuals are a different matter. For some reasons the developers took the bizarre decision to give everyone in Paris an English accent. It’s an absolutely baffling decision and breaks a lot of the immersion. The voice acting ranges from excellent (in particular Arno and Elise) to dreadful. There are characters that recall Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins.
Is Assassins Creed Unity Fixed?
In brief: kind of. We played the game on PC via uPlay. There certainly weren’t any of the major bugs that were so hilariously documented at launch. However I did notice a huge number of light leaks glittering through the geometry of Paris, which is quite distracting. Twice I had Arno fall through the floor or a wall, resulting in death and a restart. There is also an odd bug that kept minimising the game back to the desktop, but this was a minor irritation. There is some significant slowdown around your Café Theatre headquarters, but this has been an issue in the series for some time. The frame rate was largely very stable on a GTX 1080 at 1440p60fps, but then it should be with a card that powerful. I’d say the game is still poorly optimised, but certainly playable.
Ubisoft might have fixed the bugs, but that doesn’t mean that Assassins Creed Unity is not still a mess. The game has four (yes FOUR) different types of in game currency – you have money to buy equipment, points to upgrade equipment, points to “hack” equipment and points to upgrade Arno’s skills. What does it mean to “hack” equipment? Simple – you pay to improve your character. It doesn’t take long to realise that the game was built around microtransactions. It even features paid “boosts” that temporarily increase your experience points. All this feels cheap, and really hurts the feeling of progression and upgrading your character.
There are other things in Assassins Creed Unity that will never be fixed. The story will always be forgettable, despite the best effort of its’ leads. The mechanics will always feel shallow. The city will always feel like a disappointment.
The vast majority of the side missions are skippable, although the murder investigations are fun. The co-op missions might have been interesting, but the servers are empty so we haven’t tried them. Assassins Creed has always had collectables but in Unity they have reached new levels of stupidity. The game features chests, nomad chests, initiate chests and locked chests. What’s the difference? No idea.
If you think this is all an exaggeration, take a look at this horror show of a map:
There is still fun to be had with Assassins Creed Unity, with occasional great missions like chasing a hot air balloon over Paris. The new assassinations are also an improvement on previous entries. Despite this, the game is overstuffed with pointless filler and barely driven along by an at best tepid story.
Is Assassins Creed Unity fixed? From a technical standpoint yes it is, but this is still a flawed and ultimately forgettable entry in the series.
Position at the time of writing?
3 – yes, I’d rather be plodding through Yaughton in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture than Paris in Assassin’s Creed Unity.