Posted on November 12, 2014, Mitchell Saltzman Assassin’s Creed Unity Review: Not So Revolutionary
Last year’s Assassin’s Creed 4 was probably the biggest departure the series has taken since Assassin’s Creed 2, which laid the foundation that the series has been building from ever since.
AC4 had a big focus on naval battles, a completely new way of presenting the present-day aspect of the game’s story, and most importantly, it offered a real sense of discovery through the freedom of having your own ship that you could use to sail around the Caribbean. Overall, AC4 felt different from the usual yearly Assassin’s Creed game. I still would have liked to see more changes in the core combat to make it less of a “press counter to win” affair, but it took risks. That in itself was a substantial step in the right direction for the series.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is, in many ways, just as substantial a step back.
AC4′s dramatic change in setting, along with all of the mechanical changes that went along with that setting, helped alleviate the fact that the core of Assassin’s Creed is stagnating. We’ve already seen everything that the series has to offer in an European city-like setting — several times, in fact. There’s a pervasive feeling of deja vu in nearly every moment of Assassin’s Creed Unity, along with a feeling of money being sucked out of your pocket, and none of the new additions — the four player co-op, the breathtaking recreation of Revolutionary France, and the story of Arno Dorian — are enough to overcome them.
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), Playstation 4, PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: Nov. 11, 2014
In a somewhat surprising move, the present-day storyline of Assassin’s Creed Unity is pretty much non-existent. You play as, well, yourself, really, as you take Abstergo’s newest piece of memory diving technology, Helix, out for a spin. Helix appears to be a consumer model of the Animus seen in previous games, which allows users to relive the memories of other people that are stored in Abstergo’s databases. Ubisoft even trolls us a bit by giving the player a selection of 12 time periods, including several that are obvious nods to prior and potentially future Assassin’s Creed games, but locks them all except for 1: The Tragedy of Jacques de Molay.
After playing through the betrayal and execution of the real-life last Grandmaster of the Knights Templar, your feed gets interrupted by a present-day assassin called Bishop who warns you that Abstergo is somehow using you to sift through genetic memory in order to find something to aid in their control of history. So, instead of getting to choose from another memory in Helix, Bishop loads up a new memory sequence involving a young boy named Arno Dorian, which is where the actual story of Assassin’s Creed Unity begins.
And that’s basically it for the present-day storyline. There’s no wandering around Abstergo Entertainment, no waking up in a lab, no bantering with important characters from previous games such as Shaun or Rebecca, and no further development of any of the lingering threads left over after the conclusion of AC3.
Instead, the game focuses its undivided attention on Arno’s story, which is actually a rather nice change of pace for an Assassin’s Creed game. It’s fortunate, too, that Arno is one of the more likable leads of the Assassin’s Creed series, even if he does seem a little bit like a French version of Ezio.
The highlight of Arno’s story, which is otherwise a pretty standard tale of revenge, is the relationship between him and his childhood friend-turned-lover, Elise. Without going too much into spoiler territory, let’s just say that the two have a great chemistry, and the circumstances surrounding their relationship lead to a very interesting dynamic between them, the likes of which hasn’t been explored in an Assassin’s Creed game yet.
Another big plus, just like it always is in Assassin’s Creed, is the world in which you get to play. Ubisoft Montreal did an amazing job at recreating 18th-century France, effectively conveying a beautiful country being torn apart by savage violence in its streets. Men walk around with heads on pikes, angry mobs of hundreds gather outside of landmarks like Notre Dame and the Palais de Justice, riots break out in the street constantly, and it all looks incredible thanks to the added power of the new gen consoles and their ability to put seemingly thousands of characters on the screen at once.