Finished Assassin’s Creed Unity

Tonight I finished the main story of Assassin’s Creed Unity. All in all, it was pretty good. Not my favorite AC game but still worth playing.

That said, it could have been REALLY good if the team had had more time for polish. Even with all the patching that they did post-launch, there were still more than the usual AC frustrations related to traversal. My favorite example was when I was chasing someone through the streets of Paris and got to close to a fountain and the game decided that what I really wanted to do was jump up on the lip of the fountain (maybe 2 feet high) and run in a circle around that while I frantically tried to get my character to jump off it.

This weird “sticking to random surfaces” thing is an issue in all AC games but it was really bad this time out. There were also more glitches than I like to see. Sometimes quests would get stuck and have to be restarted, and sometimes this kind of thing happened:

When a romantic moment is ruined by your big collar clipping through your face. SO EMBARRASSING!

Otherwise my only real complaint was a personal one: the setting. I’m not a Francophile and the French Revolution isn’t really a time period that interests me very much. Oh! Almost forgot to mention the voice acting. I have no idea why but a lot of the denizens of Paris sounded very British. But not all of them. It was like they recycled canned ‘British background conversations’ or something.

Not that they didn’t do a great job with the design of Paris. It was pretty damned fabulous. The streets were packed with people going about their business (and there’s a day/night cycle that changes the kinds of things you see), buildings could be entered and rummaged around in and there was a TON of stuff to do. So much that, well, forget about ‘clearing’ the game. No one has time for that. But as I’ve discussed before, I like that. The types of side jobs I didn’t like, I ignored.

There’s also a much stronger RPG vibe in this game. You earn Skill Points by doing story missions and co-op missions and spend those to unlock your skills. I wish I could’ve unlocked them doing side missions too. I only did 2 co-op missions, one actually in co-op and the other solo, and I still had enough skills that I was a bad-ass by the end of the game, so I guess the system works. But if I could’ve earned more doing side missions I might have bought some skills that I skipped over, just to play around with them. For instance I never bothered to buy skills related to heavy weapons and instead specialized in 1-handed weapons, because I was worried about running out of skill points.

If you’re brave you can turn off the hud and play like this. I wasn’t that brave

Additionally there were a lot of gear slots to upgrade. Arno (the protagonist) wears a hood, chest piece, leggings, belt and bracers, all of which can be upgraded. You buy new gear with gold and then can upgrade that gear via “Creed Points” that you earn by doing things like execution moves or eluding enemies.

I’ve talked a lot recently about how I enjoy progression so Unity scratched that itch pretty well.

Oddly your hidden blades are only used in automatic assassinations, and in general things like air assassinations seemed harder than they’ve been in early AC games; way too many times I dropped down onto enemies and just knocked them over. They’d get up and start fighting me and calling in friends.

There were no “out of the animus” bits here. In fact technically you’re not in an animus, you’re in a Helix which is the consumer version. You do get spoken to by “Bishop and Deacon” who are pretty definitely Rebecca Crane and Shawn Whatzit from the earlier games, but the whole ‘meta’ story is so flimsy I’ve already forgotten it and the credits are still rolling.

In fact in general the story was pretty meh. Arno, whose father was killed at the end of AC Rogue, is raised by a Templar who is murdered and basically the whole game is Arno and the Templar’s daughter Elise, (also your love interest, sortof) trying to get revenge. Along the way many people are killed, often then revealing that maybe they weren’t as bad as Arno had imagined.

As far as history, we meet the Marquis de Sade, Robespierre and Napolean Bonaparte who is really wedged in there in a way that makes no sense, but I’m pretty sure he nabbed a piece of eden at one point, the scoundrel.

So yeah, it was good. I’m not going to stick around for trophy hunting or anything, and I DO from time to time still fire up AC Rogue to whittle away at those Achievements, so I guess I have to say I preferred AC Rogue and Black Flag to this one. But I’m glad I played it.

And this is twice now I’ve been able to complete a post on an AC game while the credits were still rolling. SO MANY CREDITS.

A couple of times you have to go through rifts to briefly visit other eras

Assassin’s Creed Unity: How I almost missed out on a pretty fun game

The only thing I remember hearing about Assassin’s Creed Unity when it first launched was that it was a buggy mess best avoided. So I avoided it, at least for a year or two at which point it hit a super sale and was offered for $10 or $15. I polled my social circles and was told that Ubi had patched a lot of the issues and it was OK to play, so I bought it, then heard there were still framerate problems on consoles. That got solved (again, according to the hive mind) when Sony introduced Boost Mode for the PS4 Pro.

So with AC Freedom Cry in the books I turned my attention to Unity and oh my goodness does this game make a TERRIBLE first impression. The first thing you see is a menu offering you like 15 different “experiences” to choose from, all but one of them locked. It took me a minute to realize I was playing a game withing a game. Remember how in AC Rogue and AC Black Flag you were working for Abstergo to create historical entertainment products? Well in Unity you start off as a customer, using the Helix, which is the consumer model of the Animus. Your one unlocked experience takes you back to 1307 where you see the Templar Grandmaster Jacques de Molay entrusting a sword and book to one of his underlings before he is arrested and executed (you play the underling). The others experiences listed are just decoration, you don’t get to play all of them as far as I can tell. Tease!

At that point your experience is interrupted by “Bishop,” an assassin who has hacked into your Helix and who sends you off to France in 1776. Remember that last epilogue in AC Rogue where Shay kills an assassin who is looking for his son. There was no real explanation of that mission. Well when you get to France you’re playing the son in that same scene. He’s like 6 or 7 I guess. You’ve been lured away by a little girl who dares you to steal an apple so of course you do (this is the ‘stealth tutorial’) at which point you run away with the apple floating about 2 feet in front of your hand. Nice glitch. Then there’s a cut scene where the boy didn’t render at all so the little girl was talking to empty air.

It’s a short sequence that ends with your father being killed by Shay and you going to live with the little girl’s father as his ward. Flash forward to you as an adult and kind of a troublemaker. I won’t go into the whole story but pretty soon you end up falling in with the assassins (remember your father was one of them) and that’s the next story mission which also glitched out for me. I was supposed to follow an NPC but he was climbing a wall and fell and then he just stood there. Since he needed to open a door I hate to restart the mission to advance. So that’s 3 glitches in the first 2 missions/first 30 minutes or so of play.

At this point you’re just a French citizen with a flimsy rapier and some smoke bombs. You have no assassin skills to speak of. Unity gives both you and missions a star rating. At this point I was 1 star and the next story mission was 2 stars. When I went to do it the game warned me that it would be very difficult and that I should buy skills or improve my gear before attempting it. Problem was I had no currency to buy skills and the shops weren’t selling better gear.

So I decided to do a 1 star side mission that involved recovering 3 severed heads (!) for a woman who was supposed to be making death masks of the victims. I failed that mission HARD about 6 times. One of the heads was in a square surrounded by guards. I couldn’t figure out how to sneak past them and I couldn’t defeat them in combat. Between the glitches and the stupidly hard 1-star quest, I was super frustrated and on the cusp of doing the “Rage Quit flowing into Uninstall Angry Dance” when Angela suggested I look online to see if there were any tips. I did that and no one seemed to be having an issue with this mission BUT all the screenshots and videos I saw showed the player decked out in assassin’s robes. I was wearing a puffy shirt and old breeches.

So I said screw it and went back to 2-star story quest, ignoring the stern warning of the game about its difficulty. And it was a complete cakewalk. At the end of it I became an Assassin, or at least enough of one that I could buy a decent weapon and some armor, as well as unlock some skills. I went back to the severed heads mission and now it too was a cakewalk. I just killed everyone who opposed me out of spite for all those early de-synchs!

And at that point Unity opened up like a flower blooming. I’ve been really enjoying it since then. Yes it still is glitchy and I’ve had to ‘restart from checkpoint’ in a few missions. But when it isn’t being glitchy it is a beauty of a game. Paris is amazing just to roam around. There is so much happening on the streets and in shops. As my reputation grows I go from ignored to feared to cheered (there are little quick street-level events like saving someone being bullied or catching a cutpurse that seems to get the people liking you). The combat is different in a way I can’t quite articulate but once I got used to it I’m really enjoying it. The architecture is super fun to climb around.

The other night I was in my theater (yes my character runs a theater) when a pixelated ghost appeared and beckoned to me. It took me a moment to realize I was being invited into a co-op mission. Me being me I at first ignored it, then said “Oh ‘eck” and gave it a try. I found myself running through Paris with three other assassins. When everything was working it was really cool — I might go so far as to say breath-taking — though in other moments the lag would get so bad I’d be getting hit by enemies I couldn’t see (no dedicated servers). Overall it was cool though and I would do it again. I was by far the weakest member of the team, having just started, but I could circle the outskirts of battles and assassinate enemies so could still pull my weight.

I’ve been so busy exploring and doing side quests that I can’t really comment on the story yet, but overall I’ve gone from “Screw this game I’m going to uninstall it and I wish I had a disk so I could snap it in half.” to “Holy heck this is AMAZING.”

I share this just in case you decide to try AC Unity. Don’t judge it by it’s first hour or so, and don’t let the game decide what is and isn’t too hard for you. There’s a flawed gem to be found if you can get past those two issues.