Assassin’s Creed Unity will be 10 years old in the next couple of years and for many fans today, it’s mostly regarded as the last “true” Assassin’s Creed game. With the focus firmly rooted in assassinations, stealth and a dense sandbox to parkour around, it’s no wonder why players are eagerly anticipating the series’ return to form with the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Mirage.
Assassin’s Creed Unity released in November 2014 for the freshly released PS4 and Xbox One (as well as PC), making it the first next-gen Assassin’s Creed game for its time. Naturally, it had plenty of hype leading up to it, namely the French Revolution, which was one of the most requested historical periods from fans. One look at reviews today tells a much different story to what initially happened at the game’s launch, though.
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When Assassin’s Creed Unity released, it was lambasted for being unfished and buggy. Ubisoft’s reputation was already on thin ice after its infamous E3 showing of Watch Dogs and the company’s desire to push more monetisation opportunities into its AAA titles. Unity was hurt by its unpolished nature: numerous technical issues, framerate drops, bugs (including those meme-worthy scary faces) and more polluted what was, at its core, a generally solid experience.
Quickly running through the story, players assume the role of the assassin Arno Dorian who finds himself caught in the political upheaval of the French Revolution in Paris in 1789. Arno pursues an unfolding plot that digs into the tensions between the Assassins and Templars, as well as the true powers behind the Revolution.
The story will be kept vague for those who are still willing to give Unity a chance today, but it’s well-structured, well-paced and has some terrific dialogue. Furthermore, Arno is a personal favourite series protagonist who, like Ezio, stacks charisma while keeping a stoic persona during the worst of times. It’s not quite up to scratch with some of the best narratives in the franchise, but Unity has a lot to offer that fans, especially those who loved the more complex stories of the older games, might find engaging and enjoyable.
Gameplay in Assassin’s Creed Unity is almost night and day when compared to its most recent offering, Valhalla. The core gameplay loop still revolves around performing assassinations and using stealth to evade guard detection. Arno comes equipped with plenty of tools to carry out these high-profile kills fitting of a master assassin, from smoke bombs to the trusty hidden blade. In 2022, after plenty of updates, the gameplay is the smoothest it’s ever been and you certainly get to appreciate the game’s freeflowing combat without bugs getting in the way.
Developer Ubisoft Montreal should be given praise for some of Unity‘s technical achievements. Paris is a sprawling, dense and beautiful city with some of the most impressive lighting in the series to date. Ubisoft also managed to squeeze an absurd amount of NPCs as crowds onto the screen with barely a hiccup in framerates (at least today), giving the city its lived-in and vibrant feeling. The Revolution has naturally left a lot of citizens feeling restless and panicked, making them react fittingly to extreme bursts of violence whenever you initiate fights in broad daylight.
Unity also features some of the best parkour in the series to date and that’s no easy feat considering how great it felt in previous games. It almost feels effortless as you glide up buildings and across rooftops, allowing you to position yourself for some incredible takedowns from the air. Hand-to-hand combat still feels a bit floaty and clunky but that’s a minor criticism in the scheme of things.
Of course, you’ll still run into plenty of historical figures during “Paris Stories” side quests that has Arno meeting artists, politicians and more to carry out tasks like assassinating targets or retrieving items. It’s all par for the course as an Assassin’s Creed game – at least the ones of the past that weren’t 100-hour RPG epics. We really miss those days…
The added feature to customise your character’s abilities through a robust skill tree meant players, for the first time in the series, had agency over what they wanted to specialise in, be it melee, stealth or ranged combat (even Arno’s health). Players could also change Arno’s equipment and weapons. It was a simple but effective system that carried over to all Assassin’s Creed games after Unity, even being drastically expanded upon in Odyssey and Valhalla.
Unity also introduced the co-op multiplayer element into the series, allowing for up to four players to tackle quests together. Unfortunately, Ubisoft didn’t allow players to complete the entire main story together as many quests were single-player only, which remains one of the game’s greatest missed opportunities today. However, the co-op works pretty well and for the few quests players can do together, it’s still highly enjoyable.
In 2022, players can choose to ignore some of Unity‘s uglier elements. For example, monetisation is still bizarrely convoluted and in some ways, completely pay-to-win. Players can purchase credits that can then be used to unlock high-level gear like weapons and armor. Fortunately, the game is decently balanced meaning you’re never forced into buying better gear with real-world money at any given point.
Even while playing the game on PS5 today (fully updated), it’s worth noting that some bugs still persist. I had a couple of game crashes and a bug that clipped a target through a building that I couldn’t reach. This was remedied after resetting the game, but beware of some glitches that are still floating around now. For the most part, though, it’s a far more polished experience than what it was and honestly runs smoother than even the newer Assassin’s Creed games in some areas.
Revisiting Assassin’s Creed Unity today and its astounding how far the game come since its divisive launch. The updates certainly helped but at its core is a rock-solid Assassin’s Creed experience that still keeps the “assassin” part of the title at the forefront. It’s great to see Ubisoft revisiting the series’ roots with Mirage, but Unity truly felt like the last in the old era of AC games and you should absolutely play it in 2022.