Assassin’s Creed: Unity comes out just in time for the holidays, but this may be one stocking stuffer you want to give back.
The seventh installment in the Creed franchise is plagued with technical glitches that ultimately diminish the franchise’s reputation for spacious open worlds, creative new stealth techniques, and seamless fighting sequences.
Let’s set aside the myriad of technical issues for a moment—don’t worry, we’ll come back to them later—and begin where Unity does. The game gets off to a slow and inauspicious start. Its protagonist, Arno Dorian, pales in comparison to Ezio and Edward Kenway, and even the lesser-liked Altair and Connor. His flimsy motivation for revenge barely keeps the story moving above a glacial pace. His childhood friend Elise is actually a much more interesting character, and prompts the question of why Ubisoft doesn’t have the nerve to build an entire Creed game around a female protagonist. (We’re not counting Liberation‘s Aveline, since that game was initially only released on Vita and was secondary to Creed III.)
Though Creed once again swings for the fences with a stunning open world, the landscape feels very repetitive, especially compared to Black Flag. Sure, sometimes Black Flag was a little too open—the expansive map of various islands could be daunting—but at least once you got tired of a particular island or plundered its riches, you could move on. This is not the case with Unity. You are stuck in 18th century Paris, with its monotonous blue rooftops and seemingly endless array of objects connecting each building. The backdrop soon feels claustrophobic. The only really memorable landmark is Notre Dame, which gets less screen time than you’d imagine.
The only thing worse than running atop the buildings is attempting to navigate Unity‘s overly crowded streets. Ubisoft has touted the game’s ability to generate crowds upward of 5,000; unfortunately, this element ends up doing a disservice to the Creed franchise. Instead of being able to run through the streets with ease, Arno is constantly impeded, which makes the game’s treasure map elements that much harder to explore.
The game also prides itself on giving players the option to take different approaches to the main missions, like earning the favor of a worker who can later set off fireworks as a distraction after you stealthily assassinate a foe. But it’s easier and more likely that you’ll go the route of running in guns blazing, and hoping you have enough medicine reserves to survive the onslaught. That’s because, more often than not, the stealthier options usually fail, attracting more guards than you can handle and sending you all the way back to the first checkpoint.
On the plus side, gone are the days where your assassin would inexplicably stand like a fool as he slowly reloaded his gun. But much like climbing up the side of a building, fighting has now become a button-mashing free-for-all, especially in light of glitches that have caused Arno to sometimes not even draw his weapon or suddenly pause to get stabbed.
The most interesting part of a game about the French Revolution by far is when you’re shooting down Nazi planes from atop the Eiffel Tower. Seriously. This all connects to the outside-the-Animus storyline, which is very thin. It involves having to jump through (purposefully?) glitchy-looking portals that briefly take the character to different time periods to keep Arno’s memories from collapsing at various points throughout the game. Confused much? I thoroughly enjoyed that portion of the game only because the WWII era segment was reminiscent of the superb EA/Pandemic Studios game Saboteur.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: Unity is also one of the glitchiest games in recent history, so much so that I’m surprised the game has not been recalled. Arriving about 13 months after Black Flag, Unity feels beyond rushed. Arno may have some new parkour moves, but more than likely, he’s never quite doing what you had hoped he would, which makes stealthy assassination attempts much less stealthy—like when I attempted to take cover behind a couch and instead jumped on top of it like a drunk college student pronouncing my intention to kill some random bad guy.
Add that to errors with face generation, characters falling through floors, guards walking through you, and Arno being unable to jump over a chair—looking, instead, like a mime attempting to find his way out of a box—and Unity gets so increasingly frustrating that it’s beyond tempting to set down the controller and go experience the real world for a while.
When it comes to the co-op missions, Unity is much ado about nothing. If paired with friends, maybe you can actually experience the open-world missions as intended; try your hand with online randoms, and you’ll end up racing each other to get there first, busting in strong—which will likely result in the death of a team member, sending you back to a check point.
Hopefully, Ubisoft will learn the error of its ways and take its time before releasing the next Creed. Until then, I’m bidding adieu to the Creed franchise.