Game Testament: Assassin’s Creed Unity, First Impressions
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
My name is Arno, and I’m chasing Hugo, one of two brothers. He’s got my watch, you see, and I want it back. Where is Victor, the other brother you ask? He is right behind me of course, and if I slow down he’ll tackle me for sure. We run past the crowd of people, my control of Arno unsteady, he weaves diagonally left and right. I try to keep him straight, but something is off. The controls are not as tight as I expect. We Leap through a window and I try to jump over a table, but it doesn’t go as I anticipate and I smack into it as if it was a wall. Undaunted I dash around the table and through the next window after my prey. We race through the crowd and through another building before reaching a shopping bazaar of some type. At least that’s what it appeared to be to me. I keep up the chase, I have to catch him this time. I’ve tried this several times and he keeps getting away. My luck seems to change though, he is gone around the long way and I have taken a shortcut. He’s running in my direction, this is my big chance. Running right after him as he passes me, I press the B button to tackle him and fall through the floor and out of the level completely, clearly I need a new graphics card. Let’s have a look at, Assassin’s Creed Unity, First Impressions.
Assassin’s Creed Unity has an interesting start, continuing the path started by Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. It was hinted in Black Flag, that Abstergo was mining DNA to create so-called games, to help them find lost ancient artifacts. In Unity they have designed a console called Helix, which you are about to play. That’s right, in Unity you play a guy, playing a guy, kind of weird if you think about it, but that was true for Black Flag as well, and in a lot of the other titles to I suppose, but in a slightly different way.
The prologue of the game starts out in Paris France 1307. Here you witness the capture and eventual execution of a prominent Templar leader. Knowing that his capture was imminent, he and another man, that you play, hideaway some important items, which will no doubt become the focus of the game.
Now at the end of the prologue, your console is hacked and you are told what is really going on. They ask you to play a small segment of their choosing, before you decide for yourself if Abstergo is dangerous. This begins sequence one, where you now find yourself to be a little boy named Arno in 1776. His father gives him a watch, telling him what time he’ll return and leaves him, you to explore. Arno begins to wait, but soon meets a young girl named Elyse, who dares you to steal an apple.
This is basically training for the game’s controls. You learn about breaking line of sight and hiding. If breaking line of sight sounds familiar, it is because it’s a mechanic borrowed from the Splinter Cell series. Basically all that’s required of you is to grab an apple from the nearby table and get away before the guards catch you. The table is centered inside a group of hedges and you can break the guards line of sight by simply making at around one of the hedges. There are tents in each corner of the area that you can hide in until things cool down. Finally all that’s left to do, is get back to the girl using the same tactics.
Just after this you find that your father has been murdered. At this point the game jumps ahead to 1789. Arno is now a young man and is apparently stealing back his father’s watch, after losing it in a card game. This is where we came in you might say. As I stated before, I need a new graphics card. I did not realize it at the time, but when I picked this game up my card did not meet the minimum graphics requirements. So I can’t speak too harshly about things in this game, it wouldn’t be fair.
When I first started the game the graphics were horrible. They had a blurry haze to them and I could barely read the on-screen prompts. This was apparently due to the fact that I had not yet updated my graphics driver. I did this immediately after the prologue, and things improved a great deal. Everything was much sharper in easier to read. So be sure your drivers are up to date. Even with my out of date graphics card, I did find the game playable, but frustrating from the underpowered graphics card. While my frame rate was probably close to 30 frames per second, I suspect I was a little under, and this is why when I tried to run straight my character tended to weave just a little bit. I’m certain this will not happen once I upgrade my card. With my graphics settings set low, the game still looks pretty amazing, there is a lot of beautiful detail.
In previous games, you could hide in groups or small crowds. In this game crowds can be much larger. There were two segments in which I had to sneak into buildings, but it is no longer as simple as finding a private wall and climbing up. First of all in earlier games building interiors were a rare thing, if at all. Instead, you now must slip into a line of people, and gently make your way to the front or some other perfect spot. The first time was just a matter of slipping in a line that was broken up here and there. I would slowly make my way through the crowd of people until I reach the end. At this point, you need to take note of where guards are located, are they watching? If all looks good you slip out in the open and make your way to the next crowd. I was spotted a couple times, but it was just before entering another group of people. When this happened, you would get a line of sight warning showing where a guard last saw you. As long as you keep moving deeper into the line of people they will never find you. Once I reach the end of the line, it was just a matter of waiting until the guard had his back turned, and I slipped in through the doorway.
My second experience was much the same, but there were a few different elements involved. This time I made my way through the crowd after jumping over a fence in a cut scene. The things people do to get into a private party. Anyway, once I was close to the building and no one was looking, I slipped out of the crowd and began scaling the wall. For some reason you couldn’t just slide in through the front door this time. After climbing up, a bit, I went in through an open window, no problem.
Once I was through that window, this is where the game decided to teach me about stealth, which is touted to be a new feature in Unity. Hasn’t stealth been a part of Assassin’s Creed from the beginning? If nothing else, I think it’s meant to be more prominent than it ever was before. Stealth is fairly simple, you can hug walls to peer around corners by pressing A, if I remember correctly. By pulling the left trigger you can sneak. I wasn’t very good at it. Apparently the window I had entered was in another part of the house away from the party. So you had to sneak your way through the rooms to get to the party and the girl of your dreams. It is all a matter of waiting until guards backs are turned and sneaking into the next room behind them.
I found the game to be forgiving when it came to being caught. The first time I made it through the window, I got caught in the next room. I was shocked to find myself at the very beginning again just after the cut scene, and wondered if I would have to do the whole thing each time I got caught. Thankfully, I did not. Once I made it past the first guard and was caught by the second, the game would restart me just after I had climbed through the window. So there seems to be lots of checkpoints, which I personally approve of.
Probably one of the biggest things in this game is building interiors. Where past games mainly took place outdoors, leaving cut scenes to show you what happened inside a building, this one allows you to transition in and out of a lot of places at will. One of the cool things that really makes this work is that there are no load times, it’s all part of the same map, or at least the game gives the illusion really well. I was pretty impressed by this. Of course you can’t just enter any building, but there are plenty that you can as far as I can tell, with my short experience. It does seem to add an extra dimension to the game. It makes me wonder if a lot of missions will take place indoors.
Another interesting addition, is the ability to climb down quickly. In previous games you certainly could climb down anything you needed to but it was tedious in the game encouraged you to almost always take a leap of faith into hay bales below. As a certain button combo allows you to climb up quickly and efficiently, the same has now been applied for climbing down. A second button combo now lets you pull the same moves but traveling down the side of a building, hopefully making things much more quicker to get to, without always looking for those hay bales or taking five minutes to make your way down the side of a building slowly.
The story so far is interesting, but not much of course has been revealed. Unfortunately, the beginning feels rehashed and too much like something we’ve seen before. In Assassin’s Creed II, Ezio’s father was also murdered, which led him into learning about the Brotherhood of Assassins and training with them. Now in Unity, our new main character Arno, seems to be faced with the same circumstances. Of course there certainly differences, but you can’t help but notice it really is the same opening just tweaked a bit, and that makes it feel just a little tired. After all, in Assassin’s Creed III, didn’t Connor lose his mother and later trained to be in assassin?
The character of Arno, is a good one. Admittedly I didn’t think much of them as a child, but when we are introduced to him as an adult, he is instantly likable. He has a sense of humor, and doesn’t take things too seriously at least not yet. As I ran through crowds he would toss out one-liners about the person he was chasing to the people we passed. It is good to see after how the last two games main characters were so serious, especially Connor.
I have one friend who has always been turned off by the present day aspects of these games. I think it makes for an interesting extra layer, but I can’t disagree that you could easily make the same game without any need for the present day bits of the story, which can be distracting when you’re just trying to get to that next exciting thing that you know is right around the corner.
The PC version seems to be suffering from a lot of problems, such as missing faces, poor frame rates, and dropping through floors just to name a few. Ubisoft is hard at work to correct some of these problems and I’m sure they will nail it down eventually. I believe some patches have already been released, but I have not bothered to play any further. I can’t imagine they would improve my situation. It is always frustrating for a game to be released with so many flaws, but that is the beauty of PC gaming. Every PC is different unlike a console with its one and only hardware configuration. Though, I understand the console version need some patching too. I was slightly relieved that some of the problems I was suffering from were also happening to people who met the system requirements, but I know that the only way I will be able to play properly is to upgrade.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is looking to be a very interesting game, and I’m excited to play further, once I manage to upgrade my graphics card or rent a console version. It does feel a little stale after seven years, and nine games, but something about this series keeps bringing me back. I can’t say what it is exactly, except that the games are entertaining. The time periods are usually interesting, I usually like the story, though the endings have disappointed me on occasion. And the gameplay always feel solid.
I hope you enjoyed the short read. I thought I would try something new this time. Please feel free to leave comments and feedback.