Monday, November 17, 2014

Why I won't finish Assassin's Creed Unity.

Assassin's Creed Unity is not a bad game, even by Assassin's Creed standards.  It's not as abjectly tedious as the first title, or as rife with inconsiderate design as III - but it's also not one of the good ones.  This isn't II or Brotherhood or IV, which did fantastic things with the worlds they swept you through as they evolved the franchise's grew-old-four-games-ago formula.  And so, Unity is not bad.  It's just very, very stale.

In the same way that Revelations didn't really need to happen, and was a tired, bland affair for the trouble, Unity feels like a re-hash and a re-tread down alleys and across rooftops we've travelled a thousand times before.  It strips the series of what made IV so damned special - the open-sea privateering - and attempts to make a case for the franchise's now-classic exclusively-urban mechanics to be the main and only attraction.

-Penny Arcade-

That could have been fine.  In fact, it could have been brilliant.  With Unity, the first title in the series on the eighth generation of console platforms, Ubisoft had the opportunity (and, I'd suggest, the obligation) to provide the series with a great leap forward in the same way II did, back in 2009.  They did not.

Unity's "next-gen" advancements are purely superficial. Look at how many people are in this crowd, 200 feet below our hooded hero.

That's awesome. The game looks amazing, and is a bit boggling when you stroll through some opulent palace rooms in an early scene, where the details are razor-sharp and the gold filigree glistens with the flicker of candlelight.  Once again, Paris cannot hold a candle to the atmospheric beauty of Brotherhood's Rome, but Unity's absolutely gorgeous, as a general rule (when it's not rendering hair).
A bit like III, though, there are some design hiccups that will leave you questioning just what the heck Ubisoft were thinking.  Why, I wonder, in a mid-game mission to infiltrate a great mansion am I presented with locks to pick that I cannot pick until I unlock a skill three chapters later?  Simple locktease seems too generous a concept to apply, here, as the amount of collectibles and side-missions the game offers are more than a bit staggering - having the game put one right in my face that I can't touch feels downright rude.

Similarly, you'll come across chests that you cannot open until you sign up for some sort of side-thing Ubisoft wants you to sign up for, but that's fine, takes two seconds, and now I can open tan-colored chests.  What's this?  A chest on my minimap that's blue?

...and Ubisoft wants me to download a thing to my phone to play a companion-app game in order to play the actual game I want to be playing.  Well, no, Ubisoft.  Screw that.

Little, iffy design choices like that would be meaningless if the game offered something meaningfully different - something meaningfully "new-gen" compared to what the series has done before, but it doesn't.  Not by a very long shot.  Animations have been a bit re-tooled, and they're lovely, but lovelier animations haven't resulted in a game that manages to be as involving and expressive as Ezio Auditore was back in 16th century Italy.

Your hero-Assassin will still get snagged on world geometry, he'll still hop up on a fence post mid-chase and refuse to get off it.  Try pressing "freerun" and "up" or "freerun" and "down" and he'll just chill there as the barge you're pursuing drifts calmly away.

"Can't catch me," the barge says coyly.  After seven games you still can't reliably and consistently put your faith in the platforming mechanics of this platforming game.

That's unacceptable, Ubisoft.

Similarly, sometimes the combat will work perfectly - cancelling attacks into parries, and wiping the floor with a dozen Templar thugs - but I've also re-tried missions a half-dozen times because, suddenly, my hero will completely refuse to react to the commands I've fired into my dualshock.  When the game robs you of your victories, it feels doubly egregious, here, because this - this often-frustrating but mostly-okay gameplay - should be bloody well fixed, by now.

It should be bloody well fixed, here.  With this game.  Well, no, it should have been fixed at III, but the fact that this was Ubisoft's opportunity to move the franchise meaningfully forward - to provide an experience that perhaps actually matched up with the feeling, speed and agency they showed us in the first trailer for the first Assassin's Creed - and they didn't feels a bit insulting.  You'll climb buildings and alleys here with the exact same geometry you saw in 2007.

They gave us the same game that has remained unchanged and slightly broken for the past decade, again.

The citizens of Paris are very impressive - there's an incredible variety of them,
and I've seen so many performing unique actions it's kind of boggling. 

Assassin's Creed Unity is not a bad game, but I'm having trouble finding something good to say about it.   If Assassin's Creed never grew stale, for you, if you loved III and Revelations, you may well love Unity. 

It's the exact same game.  Without the ship, I mean, and with sharper graphics, cooler animations and some gold filigree.  After everything the series has done before, though, it may leave you longing for the plazas of Rome, or the deck of the Jackdaw.


  1. Unity never really caught my interest. I always thought it was going to be a rushed and inferior product compared to other games in the series. Part of me feels validated for my previous skepticism of the game's quality ("Yeah! The game I thought looked 'meh' turned out to be 'meh.' I was right!").
    Despite that, I mostly feel saddened that I wasn't proven wrong. I wish I WAS proven wrong ("Wow, that game I thought looked 'meh' turned out to be great and everyone loves it!").

    This has also happened to a number of other big AAA games this year, like Destiny, with many people declaring those games as "meh" after I had long prejudged them as "meh."

    It stinks being right sometimes.

    I hope all that made sense.

    (Side note: I'm well aware that there are people that DO enjoy games like Destiny or Unity -- I'm referring to the general consensus from what I've heard from others around me. If anybody enjoyed those games, good for him/her.)

    1. Unity is one of those games that... feeling so negative about it irks me, because I know if I were looking at it from a different perspective - let's say, a kid who's seen AC commercials all their life but never got to play an AC game of their very own - I would absolutely love it, and play the holy hell out of it, ignoring its deficits.

      I cannot.

  2. I've found inquisition to be much better than the critics said. You simply MUST find the time and money, chance. It's the longest and deepest game they've made in decades.

    1. Aaaaaaaugh noooo... well, I do have some vacation time in the bank... but Far Cry first!