“Assassin’s Creed Unity” is a game among a handful of those “triple-A” titles that were considered a curse at launch. Assassin’s Creed Unity was Ubisoft’s most ambitious of titles since Assassin’s Creed 3. They were stepping into the next-generation of console hardware with Unity. Expectations from this title were sky high because of all this. And also due to the massive success of what the previous title in the series was.
But to the dismay of fans and newcomers alike, all this ambition was too much for the game and the studio to handle. The game came out to be a buggy mess. This made the game perpetually unplayable during the launch window. For an open world game as big as Assassin’s Creed Unity was, graphical bugs related to textures and rendering are expected. But, Unity’s bugs were not limited to just some texture hiccups or some missing artifacts. The game was broken on a fundamental level, driving it unplayable for a large number of players.
Despite all this, I along with a healthy number of players consider Assassin’s Creed Unity a great game. A game that apart from it’s some predecessors is focused on what makes Assassin’s Creed an “Assassin’s Creed”. Read along to find out how a game transformed from total train-wreck to a pretty memorable title in the series.
History Of The Broken Release
Assassin’s Creed Unity was in development right after Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood under Ubisoft Montreal. The game’s development cycle as stated by Ubisoft was three years in total. The development team wanted to introduce a new character along with a setting for the plot. The plan was finalized for a French setting revolving around the French Revolution. They also focused on the game being more grounded as a stealth action game.
Assassin’s Creed Unity released on 11th of November of 2014, and as we all know what a launch it was. Unity was the first true next-gen game in the series. There were several small but evidently noticeable changes made to the overall structure of the game. Ubisoft built the game on AnvilNext 2.0 that is Ubisoft’s proprietary engine that was used for the original Assassin’s Creed albeit being called Scimitar engine at that time.
Assassin’s Creed Unity’s gameplay was very reminiscent of the previous titles since the original game. I personally prefer this type of gameplay for an Assassin’s Creed title rather than what the newer titles go for. Speaking of newer titles, we think you’d like to read our review of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Now coming back to Unity, we for the first time after like 8-9 titles in the franchise get a dedicated crouching system. The parkour system was massively overhauled as well. The ascend in now facilitated by quick movements on rooftops and the descend is done by a new controlled descend mechanic. Also, the verticality of the game is worked on very meticulously for the ease of manoeuvre on the roofs.
The mission structure of Unity is now unlike the previous titles do not hold your hand on doing them in a particular sequence. The highlight is the “Assassination” missions that give the players total freedom of approach and reward them for being observant and sticking to the stealthy approach.
Stealth Gameplay Systems
Though the similarities in gameplay are abound in Unity, there are some major fundamental changes too. For instance, the one we already stated the “crouching” system. This allows the player to enter a crouched stance on the press of a button. Unlike previous games where this “crouch” was only triggered while it physical contact with some high enough foliage. This is very helpful for players like me who prefer the stealthy way around every mission in such sandboxes.
Stealth is also facilitated by a new addition “the phantom blade”. This versatile projectile based weapon allows players to hit enemies with basic or berserk projectiles with causing any noise at all. Super stealthy right. I mean, its better than a big bow and arrow that would have been very out of place for the setting. Right?
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Weapons And Combat Variations
Stealth is the staple for any game called “Assassin’s” Creed but, at the same time, these games are massive historical sandboxes for us players to explore. And having a well fleshed out combat and weaponry arsenal is a must for any such sandbox. In weapons department Assassin’s Creed Unity does not disappoint. On the contrary, it had the best weapons variation until Origins and Odyssey came into the scene.
The combat system was overhauled from the ground up to make it a lot more challenging than before. No more players could just spam the parry button to kill an entire fleet of enemies within seconds. It is now more strategic and relies on defensive play-style more.
An In-Depth Customization System
The combat or stealth system in a game can only do so much if there’s not an equally varied weapons arsenal to accompany that. This is where Assassin’s Creed Unity shines the most among any other title in the series until you know The RPG-ish ACs. The amount of weapons for every category in Unity is just staggering. From maces to swords to heavy blades to rifles, there are several iterations to each category.
Alongside the weaponry, players are also given a good amount of gear customization options. The best part is that this gear and weapon variety allows players to create an assassin of their own liking and play-style. Every armour is segregated into hoods, chest, waist and boots all with their respective perks influencing a certain play-style. Same goes for the weapons.
Along with these gimmicks the game also gives the players a handful of skills to tinker with. Even though the skills are not that elaborate, they do lay down a basic framework for the titles that follow Unity. Personally, my favourite ability is the one that lets you turn into an NPC in the game to get past guards like a pro.
Visuals And Effects
Ubisoft Montreal made some very impressive tweaks to the base AnvilNext engine to allow it to use the full capacity of the next-gen console hardware. For Unity, they implemented an advanced control mechanics with Physically Based Rendering (PBR) which enabling materials, objects and surfaces to look and react more realistically to lighting, shading and shadowing. They also tweaked the Global Illumination system to react more realistically with physics-based particles and the volumetric lighting. All this along with a whole new cloth simulation physics and an advanced character mapping technique.
All these new additions made the game back in 2014 a visual spectacle. The amount of detail in the environment and the characters are just mind-blowing. The most impressive feat of Unity was the special post-processing techniques implemented. This enabled up to 3,000 non-playable characters to be rendered in real time (compared to the few 100s in the previous Anvil engine). This created some very good real-time social stealth scenarios for the player. To make this happen effortlessly, the developers had to rewrite the whole renderer for higher efficiency.
Back in 2014, no other open world game came close to what Assassin’s Creed Unity looked like at its maximum fidelity. It was supposed to be a benchmark in terms of graphical fidelity of how a game should look and feel on next-generation hardware. Even now it holds its own among some the best looking games out there. But alas! it all crumbled down under its own ambitions.
The basic plot of the story follows the same Templar versus Assassins structure, but with some really good revelations along the path. The players experience the story as Arno Victor Dorian, a master assassin in the making. Though the game was released like 5 years ago we still would not like to spoil the beautiful story that it tells. Now more so since Ubisoft’s giving away a free copy of Assassin’s Creed Unity on the Uplay PC client. Though it’s for a limited time only, to be precise until 25th of April. Make sure to secure your copy before that.
Now coming back to the story, one major complaint that players and critics alike had back in 2014 was a lack of personality of the main protagonist. But as I played the game, with every next sequence of the memory segment I found Arno to be more and more interesting. He sure is no Ezio Auditore da Firenze. But most probably the devs were not planning him to be one. Even though the initial few sequences can give you some flashbacks of Ezio. But throughout the story and till the very end, Arno does show a good amount of personality development.
One more character that kept my interest was Elise De LaSerre. She was a love interest of Arno and at the same time a Templar as well. This does make the story very much interesting. isn’t it?
The Modern Day Narrative
The modern-day part of the story is now totally negligible if not absent here. There was no reference to Desmond or Shaun or Rebecca, none. You on certain parts of the story do hear them (Shaun and Rebecca under some disguise) talk to you but that’s all. It’s both good and bad at the same time. Some do not like the occasional pullout from the historical mayhem for some cryptic animus and is jargon. But some die-hard fans did stick to the modern day aspect of the series. And honestly, Assassin’s Creed without its modern day part will totally lose its identity.
Online And Co-op
Assassin’s Creed Unity is called “Unity” for a reason. The Unity stands to represent the four-player co-op system that for the first time was integrated into an Assassin’s Creed. Multiplayer had been a staple for the series from Brotherhood to Black Flag. But Unity’s co-op take on the multiplayer front was a first for the franchise. The game had some particular missions laid out for players to take part in with their friends. Also to facilitate the co-op play, the game gave players a couple of co-op based skills too.
All this makes Assassin’s Creed Unity look like a pretty good game right? It has everything a game in a stealth action genre should have and even more. Then why is it subjected to so much hate? Why is it treated like the worst entry in the whole franchise? Let us explain.
Everything That Went Wrong With Assassin’s Creed Unity
Assassin’s Creed Unity played its every card right, but one thing it missed on that is giving proper time to the development. The yearly cycle of games had taken its sheer amount of toll on the game. The frequent transition made onto the next-gen hardware and the overwhelming amount of ambition took some serious toll on the game. There were glitches of every possible type in the game. From missing textures to floating and missing NPCs. And the worst of them was the infamous “infinitely falling” animation glitch. Also, the very famous facial glitch was there to haunt the ever living crap outta everyone who dared to play the game day one.
The glitches were even more prominent on the highly overrated online co-op feature of the game. Initially, it was completely impossible for most of the player bases to even play co-op due to massive load times and frequent frame rate drops. The consoles were at least able to run the singleplayer part of the game albeit with regular framerate issues and some texture popping issues and yes those occasional crashes to the dashboard as well. But those who made the very bad mistake of getting the game on PC were devastated to “infinity and beyond.”
Technical hiccups aside, the game also garnered some serious controversies as well. These were regarding the game not allowing players to choose a female avatar for the co-op aspect of the game. According to Ubisoft, it was very expensive and cumbersome to create female models for the game. This was countered none other than Ubisoft themselves the following year when they released Assassin’s Creed Syndicate that had the series’s first ever female protagonist.
Issues Regarding The Narrative
The narrative arc was also criticized as being too one dimensional and not having anything to do with the “French Revolution” setting of the game. According to some critics, the plot pacing was very abrupt and was all over the place. Added to this the protagonist Arno’s motives were never clear. Also, the modern day part of the game didn’t help the narrative, rather caused more problems for the same reasons.
The Ever Loved Micro-Transactions
At last, to make everything worse Assassin’s Creed Unity felt the need to include microtransactions into the game for the first time in the franchise” history. These were purchasable resources like in-game currency and currency for upgrading the weapons and gears. Players can completely ignore these as the resources and currency obtained through in-game activities are more than enough to buy and upgrade every single piece of armor and weapon available in the game.
Now since it was 2014 when no single game could come out without an accompanying companion app for smartphones. Unity also came with one. This allowed players to unlock some in-game chests and legacy armor sets by playing and levelling up in the companion app itself. This gated those players who did not use the companion app. This was later fixed by later patches to the game.
How Ubisoft Fixed Things
They started with a 13-gigabyte day-one patch to the game. No seriously, they did roll out a massive 13 GB patch to possibly fix the unplayable framerate and non-existent textures. This was on top of the 40-gigabyte download of the game itself. But the patch size is not what that matters, what does matter is the question that “did it fix anything at all?” Well, the answer would be yes to some extent.
At least on consoles, it did fix the texture popping and T-posing issues. But on PC it took about 2-3 more patches to fix the game to make it playable enough. And some further patches were deployed periodically to fix the online and companion app part of the game.
The best part for players that happened from Ubisoft’s end apart from the patches is the free season pass content being available to everyone who purchased the game. And for those who actually invested in the season pass, got to select one game from a selection of games on Ubisoft’s catalogue. These included FarCry 4, Watch_Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Rayman Legends, The Crew or Just Dance 2015. All-in-all it was a win-win for all.
The Present Of Assassin’s Creed Unity
In the present time, after the release of three mainline entries in the series Assassin’s Creed Unity holds pretty strong on its own. We recently played through the entire game along with the DLC expansion. The game not only is now free of all those game breaking issues but now it feels like a fresh experience that has a definite start and end. I personally think Assassin’s Creed Unity was the last game in the franchise that actually knew what an Assassin’s Creed game should be like.
Now that you know our thoughts on Unity, we’d like to hear from you. Have you played Assassin’s Creed Unity yourself? If not then make sure to grab your free copy on PC via Uplay. And if you’ve already played it do you agree with us? Do you like Unity over the present titles in the series? Let us know in the comments below.