Published Nov 11, 2014One of smartest things the Grand Theft Auto and Elder Scrolls series have going for them is the expectation that years will pass between instalments, and even then, there will be release date delays. Ubisoft, however, has given itself no such pressure valve for Assassin's Creed, a franchise the Montreal wing launched in 2007 and has continued pumping out annually ever since.
Though the series as a whole is incredibly successful at over 70 million copies sold, not all have been equally acclaimed, and Unity will likely not be remembered with the affection of the second edition's excursion into renaissance Florence or the swashbuckling sojourn of last year's pirate-themed Assassin's Creed IV. This makes the French Revolution-set Unity something of a missed opportunity, given both Ubisoft's Francophone pedigree and the fact that it's their first now-gen-only edition.
In fact, the game may ultimately be best remembered for the initial bugs and stability issues that caused such an understandable uproar on release, despite subsequent patches. To make it up to fans, they have announced that the upcoming "Dead Kings" DLC will be free for all who bought Unity. People who already bought a "season's pass" will get to pick an additional free Ubisoft game, including their new Far Cry 4.
"Unfortunately, at launch, the overall quality of the game was diminished by bugs and unexpected technical issues," wrote Ubisoft Montreal Head Yannis Mallat. "I want to sincerely apologize on behalf of Ubisoft and the entire Assassin's Creed team. These problems took away from your enjoyment of the game, and kept many of you from experiencing the game at its fullest potential."
The launch snafus notwithstanding, there is much to like about their latest historical adventure. For those of us who enjoy these games mostly for the time travel opportunities, late-1700s Paris proves to be a fantastic metropolis to parkour across. The city itself is beautifully realized, both in its intricate design and its descent into class warfare-fuelled chaos. The civil unrest adds great background drama with its now-gen enabled crowds of thousands of angry Parisians, even if the potential 99-percenter subtext is ignored rather than used to add narrative depth. If you're like me, you'll spend plenty of time just aimlessly wandering the streets as you might if you visited the modern day city of light. It's that immersive.
Which is why the characters' British accents are a strange "artistic choice" for the French company, as it lessens that immersion. I would've preferred French-accented English, especially considering the NPC crowds yammer en francais. Though at least Francophiles can switch the language to French with English subtitles.
As ever, the game's meta-narrative posits a millennia-spanning war between the Assassins and the Templars, though the hopelessly convoluted modern-day sci-fi structure takes a backseat to the virtual reality game-within-a-game historical setting. This is not a bad thing, since the present was never as much fun to play as the past.
This time around you play as Arno Dorian, an orphan Assassin adopted by a Templar Grandmaster. Soon you are taking on Templar conspirators, who naturally turn out to be the powers behind the French Revolution, as you complete the single-player campaign's main missions, side-quests and co-op mode. Between fetching, spying and titular assassinating, you'll also come across historical figures ranging from Robespierre and Napoleon to Marquis de Sade and Marie Antoinette.
Unlike Assassin's Creed III, in which Connor Kenway was a Forest Gump-like hero with his fingers in every major moment of the American Revolution, Unity's plot is primarily a personal story of revenge and star-crossed love. Elise is a strong character, but still, not only does her presence not diminish the controversy over the game's lack of female co-op characters, it makes one wish she were the lead.
But for all of its successes and failures, ultimately your interest in Unity will depend as much, if not more, on your love of the historic Parisian setting rather than your love of the series. (Ubisoft Montreal)