Paris is truly noteworthy at this time of year. Its muddied, bloodied streets are mobbed with revolutionaries. No, they’re not armed with baguettes, but with muskets and swords, for this is the time of the French Revolution. From my rooftop perch, “Assassin’s Creed Unity” is a sight to behold. But this game faces a plethora of problems nearly as troublesome as the French Revolution itself.
Developed by Ubisoft, “Assassin’s Creed Unity” is about climbing things in elaborate ways and killing things in even more elaborate ways. Playing as the swaggering swashbuckler Arno Dorian, you’re thrown into the turmoil between the Assassin Brotherhood and the Templar Order, two secret organizations supposedly dedicated to maintaining peace. Arno is armed with every weapon known to 18th-century man, but the story of his quest for revenge is clichéd and boring. Exposition is dished out to players by omniscient voices speaking from the present day.
I spent hours upon hours launching myself across rooftops trying to create a more interesting plot for Arno. Sadly, the beautiful city of Paris is only a backdrop, never taken advantage of or placed into a synergy that could really shine. Arno is merely a spectator, a ghost who cannot play a role in the historical events.
The game’s setting in Paris proves healthy for it, but admiring the bricks of the street was the best I could do at times, because this latest installment in the franchise lapses in its signature feature: parkour. Jumping through a window has never been so frustrating. Arno will do a salsa, tango, and ballet around it before finally popping through. I found the poor guy nearly always scrambling to climb up any wall I dared gently nudge into, making it a pain to escape from even the most tame of revolutionary extremists.
If “Unity” makes any sort of welcome change to the franchise, it’s in a new and revamped combat system. No longer can you make your protagonist a god simply by spamming a selection of three keys. The combat, inspired by fencing, now feels satisfying, quick, and clean. Even better, it feels more difficult. Scenes where armies of enemies scrambled together to face me instilled a genuine adrenaline rush as I fought alongside revolutionaries in crowds of thousands.
Yes, that’s right, thousands of people. Sadly, one of the game’s greatest technical accomplishments is also a weakness, for no computer is safe from combustion in such massive crowds. The challenge of rendering that many people means individuals sometimes vanish, only to reappear in different attire. Those looking for immersion had best not scrutinize details at street level. It’s not rare to be swallowed by the floor or to become one with the wall adjacent to you.
On the plus side, “Unity” flaunts an incredibly in-depth customization system, allowing you to tailor the Assassin perfectly to your preferred play style and aesthetic. This sounds spectacular, but players will quickly find their fun barred by the death sentence of gaming: microtransactions. Using a currency known as Helix Credits, some items can cost up to $100, though that may seem preferable to dishing out 40 hours to purchase that jaunty hat.
On a side note, this installment also introduces Co-op gameplay, which allows up to four players to join a game and waste their wallets together as they wreak havoc across Paris. Sadly, random Internet blackouts and disconnections are commonplace, so this feature can only shine every once in a millennium.
Ultimately, I found “Assassin’s Creed Unity” a worthy addition to the series, but a flawed one. While it presents a wonderful reimagining of late 18th century Paris, the story and characters are weak and forgettable, and its parkour is mildly competent at best. “Unity” offers a solid amount of content to explore in a fully realized setting; however, it’s nowhere near as revolutionary as many hyped it up to be.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.