I’ve decided to try out a new format for video game reviews. Basically, my problem has been that, with school and my job, I can’t sit down and blast through a game like a traditional reviewer would. Now, I’m not trying to keep up with those guys and don’t care if a review comes out a few weeks (or months) after the game has released; however, by stretching my playtime over a few weeks (or months) I inevitably end up forgetting certain details when it comes time to write up my full thoughts on a game.
Therefore, this is going to be the first instance of my “Road to the Review”. I’ll sit down every few days and write up a post of the game I’m currently playing through. This lets me get some thoughts out and gives me something to refer back to when I’m ready to write an actual review. If it’s something people want to read, then that’s great, but mostly I’m just trying to help myself out and not miss anything in the reviews I post. Anyways, on to Assassin’s Creed Unity.
If there’s ever a case to be made for everyone just waiting a few months before playing a brand new Triple A release, then Assassin’ Creed Unity is it. When this game released in November, it was a complete and utter train wreck. The graphics were terribly glitchy and quite a few of the sidequests/collectibles were intrusive, forcing you to use various apps to access all the content. Plus, Ubisoft, in their infinite wisdom, decided it was a good idea to put a plethora of unneeded in-game purchases into a $60 game. Those purchases get you things like three minutes of added health or five minutes of more damage, which seems pointless for a 10-20 hour experience.
Fortunately, quite a bit of that is gone in February.
All the Nomad and Initiate crap that others had to deal with has been patched out and you can access almost everything without ever having to leave the main game. Obviously, it would’ve been better to see that content unlocked from the jump, but it’s possible that the latest changes signify that Ubisoft recognizes they made a mistake and they’ll correct it in the future. Sadly, the game still has in-app purchases, but they’re so buried in menus and are generally not necessary that you probably won’t notice them.
The game also looks much better than it did upon release. Most of the framerate issues seem to be gone. In fact, I’ve only noticed slowdown three or four times in the four hours I’ve played. It’s not perfect, but it’s not the slop we had in November. Which is great because, when it’s working, the game looks pretty incredible. The facial animation, in particular, is stunning. Really, the only problem I’ve had graphically is that video game hair continues to be terrible and Arno, the main character, might have the worst hair on current gen consoles.
From my experience so far, Unity controls much like its predecessors. The parkour mostly works, but when it doesn’t, it’s endlessly frustrating. They’ve added “free-run up” and “free-run down” options, which take a little of the guesswork out; however, I still spent too much trying in vain to get to a specific point in the world.
Combat is supposed to be more difficult, but thus far, I haven’t noticed it being any harder. You’re still parrying attacks and dodging out of the way of heavies. The only major differences (at least four hours in) are that you can’t auto-kill someone after a parry and you can’t take a human shield to protect yourself from bullets. I have yet to experience any of the weapons outside of a one-handed sword, so I can’t speak to how things like polearms and two-handed weapons change up the combat. That said, it doesn’t seem like different weapons would really change the moment-to-moment combat too much.
I’m not too deep into the main campaign, but the story seems intriguing so far. I’ve done the first of the more open-ended assassinations where you’re given a large area and told to go kill a person in whatever way you can. It reminded me a lot of the Hitman games I played on PS2. I stole a key to Notre Dame from a local thief and then killed a man to open an option that let me get into the church’s confessional booth. From there, I snuck into Notre Dame and worked my way through four or five guards before slipping into the confessional booth. When my target joined me in the booth, I let him talk for a minute before reaching through the window and stabbing him in the throat. Then, I snuck out of the church and into a crazy computer simulation that opened up more of the game.
That kind of mission structure is really fun to play through and I’m hopeful that more of the game is like that. The little side quests are a fun diversion (particularly the murder mystery missions), but big, open-ended missions like this one could really energize the franchise. Give me five or six of those missions in between the usual Assassin’s Creed fare, and I’m sold. That said, I could easily see this one being the best the game has to offer and the mission structure taking a massive dive as I move forward.
All in all, Unity is a likeable game in its current state. Obviously, the game had some massive problems when it launched, but I think enough of those have been rectified to make this game worth your time. If you were on the fence or even put the game down the first time through, I’d ask you to go back and give it another look. The controls still leave a bit to be desired, but everything else is greatly improved.