Considering I run a gaming website it’s worrying that it took me so long, but then last Black Friday came along and I could justify it, I bought into the Next Gen. I’m the proud owner of an Xbox One, a black behemoth of a machine that seems to do nothing but spend hours installing games and downloading updates. Still, I couldn’t be happier with my purchase, it comes as a treat for saving a couple hundred quid a month from not smoking anymore and it serves as another console for me to purchase games for that I never get round to playing.
Last November I picked up a copy of Dead Rising 3, got myself in on some late to the party Titanfall action and finally, with my little bundle of joy, I took home Assassin’s Creed: Unity. I read the news, I watch Youtube Channels for games and I listen to gaming podcasts, all of them told me something, Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a broken heap of hot mess. Ubisoft, for the umpteenth time in 2014, have dropped the ball. Also Dogs and Cats are getting married.
As such when I started downloading the game I had slight trepidations, but being a long-term fan and hater of the series I figured ‘what the hell’. The game had been released to an uproar from press and fans alike, the game not only came with a redundant embargo meaning the press couldn’t release reviews until after people had bought the game and also the game was plagued with a myriad of bugs and issues.
Were the problems as bad as people made out? Well yes, and no. If you’re on Twitter you would have seen the same couple of screen shots of faceless people, a horrible visage of terror sent from another dimension to haunt your dreams. When I came to the game a week or two after launch only one patch had been released and already it would seem the brunt of the issues had been fixed.
Others weren’t as lucky as me, others had been through that first week of hell, they’d seen things, ‘you weren’t there man’. Well no, I wasn’t. But this undeniable screw up by Ubisoft has tainted their image and the Assassin’s Creed series for the foreseeable future. As well as the facial skinning issues there were reports of AI just falling over or acting weird and finally there was numerous issues with frame-rates.
My title for this piece is ‘In Defense of Assassin’s Creed: Unity’, and that is my role here, to defend the un-defendable. Like a lawyer having to represent someone clearly guilty I’m looking past the potential guilt of someone for certain allegations, I’m wanting to concentrate on the areas where I know my stuff, the actual game.
Thanks to some very heavy-handed patches that got fired out in the days that followed the tortuous launch of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, my experiences of the game were largely glitch free, I had a couple of experiences of my Arno standing on a ledge only to gently float to the ground and then back up and I saw the atrocious frame-rate that people spoke of. Despite all of this, despite the awful press and despite myself, Assassin’s Creed: Unity is my favourite game in the series so far.
I’ve played all the main Assassin’s Creed releases, more than that, I’ve completed them all. Through thick and thin I’ve stuck with this series, I may not have always bought the game on launch day, but I got there in the end. It’s the design that’s always got me more than the story and even the gameplay. As I write this I realise that I’m still using my Assassin’s Creed wallet that I picked up at Eurogamer a couple of years ago, I own the replica hidden blades that NECA released, and I even picked up the Kenway figure that came with the Black Flag special edition. My point is I’m a reluctant fanboy, because more often that not, I really don’t enjoy these games.
The first Assassin’s Creed was many people’s first experience of parkour and fun time murder, oh and over complicated plots. The second had an arrogant character and the stunning setting of Renaisance Florence. Then something awesome and bad happened, we got Brotherhood (awesome) and Revalations (boring, oh dear god boring). Then Ubisoft took us to America for Assassin’s Creed III, and introduced us to, you know, that guy that wasn’t a native American but was at the same time and who knows or cares, III’s Connor was someone so uninspiring and boring that you end up letting him get offed by Red Coats just to see him suffer. Then the second coming came for most in a new charismatic arrogant womaniser in the form of Kenway and his little boat. There were other dalliances as we went through the series, but the spin offs on the most part never grabbed the gaming masses.
Assassin’s Creed Unity has had a lot of criticism thrown at its technical side, and that is justified, releasing a game that’s 50% broken isn’t a valid PR tactic for success. However it’s the stones thrown at the content of Unity that has me confused. What is it that people think is missing? I’ve heard the words ‘Boring’ and ‘uninspired’ used to describe it, but then, at this stage we’re seven games in, running on roof tops and stabbing is par for the course. Unity not being Assassin’s Creed IV seems to be the main criticism hurled.
Black Flag was impressive, it brought a lot to be liked in an improved fighting system and a world that felt a bit more rich and real, but then it also had boats. Boats were cool in Assassin’s Creed III, a proof of concept showing us that shooting canons is kind of fun, but then we don’t look at Ezio flying around on Da Vinci’s glider and say “wow they should build an entire game with that mechanic”. Fans of Black Flag will praise the boat combat and sailors singing, but really that isn’t enough to tie that game together. There’s too many islands, there’s too much prancing about in trees and there’s too many “Eavesdrop on this conversation” missions.
You can level some fair complaints against Unity, but I think that Unity has the strongest missions to date. No more are you desperately tailing someone trying to hear their conversation whilst jumping into hay bails. No longer are you following someone to find their hideout. Now you’re presented with an area, told that someone needs to die and then given numerous ways to do it. We’re not talking Hitman: Absolution levels of sandbox fun, but within the restrictions of the world and the timeline, we’re getting closer.
With Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate brining its cockney stabbing to us in the coming months we’re running into people’s flashbacks of last years SNAFU. People have been burned by Ubisoft too many times now, they’re unsure and no one is confident in getting excited about Assassin’s Creed anymore. It may be the series has burned people out, there’s one every year and with each one it’s becoming harder and harder to revitalise the series. For me my excitement has been tarnished at the lack of multiplayer as the co-op of the Unity was a high point. Will I pre-order the new one? no, of course not, no one should pre-order any game. But with that in mind, I may be one of the few people who is truly looking forward to the latest release and eagerly awaiting its launch. I just hope the cockney isn’t as bad as Nolan North’s Penguin.