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I decided to write my own review on our beloved franchise's new title, Unity, mostly because I am tired of seeing so many people only talking that it is a great game and there is no reason to hate it so much or crucifying it saying it is the worst game in all of history. Also I will be focusing on what is in the game, as I guess everyone is as sick and tired as myself of hearing complaints about how broken and incomplete and buggy the game is, et cetera et cetera...
France and the French
So! We're on the French Revolution now! I must say it is my favourite period in history after the 1400's, and that was something that disappointed me eventually. But let's start with the setting of the game. Paris, late 18th century, the biggest city in the world, and the biggest location ever on an AC game, and this was incredible, I am so glad we are back on a city, I tired quickly of the endless sea roaming with Edward, it was so vast and empty, most of the time I found myself in the middle of the sea with no land on sight and nothing else to do, as the locations were small and had no true interest after just a bit of exploration and colleting stuff, but now, Paris is endless, but there's stuff happening everywhere, and there's stuff everywhere, you can walk around and find so many things to do, a lot of side missions, collectibles, just see the people working or interacting, it is big, it is huge, which sometimes tires of running so much to get to the next goal, but it was inevitable in the way they did it, there was no space to walk around in a horse, the masses would only slow you down even further (and think about all the NPCs on horses as well as the crowds), Ubisoft have put a great deal of effort in delivering details in Paris, it's astonishing, and really well done, but that lot of things to do can be bad as well. The map feels over encumbered with the amount of activities, and it can make it really hard to find what you are looking for at times.
The people of Paris are just as astonishing as the landscape, since I saw the first trailers showing the enormous crowds I was extremely anxious to see it in game, and they are fantastic, at least for me. They have really used everything they could from the new generation. Paris would never feel realistic and accurate if there were not this many people there, how could a revolution take place with some scattered citizens as in AC2, ACB, or even AC3, where a revolution actually took place. The way they delivered the French people was one of the main pieces for the game's immersion, they feel and look like starved and disregarded, as you walk the streets as Arno, you can see the streets life, its movement and flow, something unseen in any previous instalment. In every single previous AC game it was a pain to get through guarded areas when you could not be detected, the blending was painful, the so scripted paths the groups would take, and made to turn around right where we should enter, was frustrating, but now, we are not limited to these scripted paths, there is a legion of revolutionaries standing there and so helpful to get along restricted areas easily undetected. But with the low points, as it is expected from any game, there is a limit to the variety, if you stop and pay attention to the people filling the streets, you will start noticing similarities, you start noticing the repeating models very quickly, just as the interactions among them, and when you are tired of guards yelling at you to come down from the rooftops, you face some small streets crowded with people who will block your path sooner or later, even inside the buildings you will find yourself unable to move forward by a unmovable NPC talking to another right in front of the door, how rude.
Revenge and Revolution
Now let's talk about the main pillar for any Assassin's Creed, story.
Ubisoft took risks this time, great risks, as they decided on making a main story focused on character, avoiding dealing with the French Revolution as much as possible, something never done before, even on Black Flag, that I see as a story driven by Edward's quest for finding reason for his life beyond just becoming the richest man in the Caribbean, it still deals with historical characters and Edward does have influence over some historical moments. But on Unity, the main story is only Arno questing for revenge against the men who killed his step father, and it is just that, he does not participate in any major events, the Revolution is happening around him and he does not seem to be affected by any of it. The one thing I was hoping for since 2012 when I studied the French Revolution was Robespierre, since then I thought, he is a templar, he is a templar, he is a templar, he surely is a templar, and when Ubisoft makes the game I will see what happened with his mouth! And I was not entirely disappointed,<SPOILER> although he was just a minor piece in the Templar scheme, which really disappointed me, he had so much potential for so much secret conspiracy histories, he was just perfect for Assassin's Creed lore, but they almost did not mention him until the last sequence, at least I wasn't disappointed at how he was shot, much like I imagined </SPOILER>. But back to my point, this period of time is just full of opportunities to make conspiracy plots, a perfect setting for an Assassin's Creed, back on 2012 I could think of tons of plots for the French Revolution AC, but none of them were even close to the game's storyline, which was a waste of potential as I see.
But, disconsidering all that I've said, I liked the story, I liked Arno and how he progressed through the game (I will talk about the character itself later), I was moved by Arno’s story throughout the game, even though Arno himself is not so good of a character, but I could have been so much more, the main quest felt like it was short, even though it was rather long, it felt like it was just too much infiltration and less story itself, and the story presented was too plain and predictable, ever since Arno’s first meeting with Germain it was clear that there was something wrong with him, and the assassinations, even though were awesome and diverse, all of them with different elements, still felt like they were just the same but changing where it took place, the characters present on the main quest were just tapped, there was no true involvement with any of the characters, <SPOILER> when Arno killed Bellec it was supposed to weight, to be a hard thing for Arno to do, for the player to do, he was the man who introduced Arno to the Brotherhood and who trained him for two damn months in a small cell, where they would have surely made some kind of bond, but when you play, Arno's interactions with Bellec are minimal, they become no more than Bellec calling him pisspot, and that's it, and when we press the assassinate button, we don't feel sad nor guilty, it was just another guy we had to kill, unlike when Mario dies as an example, Ezio's mentor, as Bellec was Arno's, but when Mario died, I felt sad and enraged, eager to end Cesare, but in Unity this does not happen </SPOILER>, and the entire game is like that, we are not given the time nor opportunity to bond with the characters, the only character we can develop something for is Élise, and that is only because we pass the entire game chasing her, seriously, not even Ezio chased girl so much. But anyway, I enjoyed the history.
But I see the way they approached history a mistake, leaving the matters of the Revolution mainly in the Coop Missions, and leave the single player so isolated from everything, I did like the new take on Arno, he is not God, invincible, nor is he Kratos, taking an army single handed, nor are the upgrades based on improving capacities until you reach the perfect set, combat is difficult, you are not a master assassin, you're a boy who can get his way with a sword, not a warrior with years of training, and there is just no perfect gear, every piece has its pros AND cons. But back to the story, for me it was important not to have the main character the sole reason why certain events happened, the Revolution did not depend on him, like it seemed the American one depended on Connor, or like the Italian Brotherhood depended on Ezio, Arno is just a member, and one of the lowest ranking ones, of the Assassins, and that just shows a totally different side of the Brotherhood (for this I give credit to Ubisoft), how you do not choose your own assignments within the Order, and how you always have to report to the Council, I liked it, but either way, the game felt totally disconnected to the French Revolution, it was like nothing of it mattered, everything would have gone just the same with or without it, and the events that touched on the Revolution were scarce and meaningless, lost within the missions' background, even King Louis' decapitation, which should have mattered, a lot, was left to nothing, just a cutscene while the mission was being explained, every political movements and all the changing in Paris' government were omitted, and neither did the Templars or Assassins had great involvement on them, like they always have interfered with politics in times of crisis.
About Arno Victor Dorian, I thought him a weak character, he is a spoiled brat, and just blames himself for the deaths of his father and step father and then redirects all of this into the persons he finds to be connected to François de la Serre's murder, and that is him, just a teenager who thinks himself capable of taking his own decisions into matters bigger than he comprehends, making a lot of mistakes along the way, and only driven by his revenge. He made me think that Ubisoft were trying to create another Ezio, he is just like Ezio in AC2, Arno looks just like the HD version of Ezio (just look at the costumes and the damn pony tail!), both characters started as teenagers with their families killed by Templar plots, both were nobility, both were spoiled, and both embark on a quest for revenge, but Ezio sees the bigger picture before the end of the game and understands that he is doing is bigger and more meaningful than just his revenge, but I did not feel Arno realized it, in the end it was still just a vendetta, in which he had to lose everything to only later notice the wider world around him. I think Ubisoft tried to appeal to the most beloved character in the franchise in Arno's creation, I feel like they tried to mimic Ezio so players would feel this familiarity with him and like him better, he ended up being no more than just a character, not remarkable, not important to the Order, not important for the present day storyline, he ended up being just "one with the crowd".
And the present day storyline needs to get somewhere. Since Black Flag it's just spinning in circles going nowhere, they feel like they're just filling the gaps needed not to make the game solely playing as an Assassin or Templar from another era, the Sages have overrun the entire plot, and while it could end up being something big, like making a mess in the entire internet with Juno since she's a consciousness inside the Abstergo network, it goes nowhere, nothing about the present day is being explored, there's just nothing in it, we are not getting any understandable detail about what is going on between the Assassins and Templars, they are attacking each other but the consequences are not felt, not seen, it feels like nothing is happening, not even Rogue's present day did really matter, the present day has become just to give something to say you are inside the Animus and not just being the person you are relieving the memories from. I hope that in the next game we will have some meaningful stuff in the present day, as well as in the Animus part.
As I know by now like 99% of people will have already "too long didn't read", I will make my verdict. Overall, it's a good game, I enjoyed it, it is beautiful, it truly used the next-gen's capabilities, it had a lot of detail, the gameplay has been really improved from the last games, I still face some parts where Arno does not do what I wanted him to do, but way less than Ezio, Connor and Edward, the skills system is a fine addition to the series, as well as the new equipment system, but as an Assassin's Creed game, it failed to deliver a good plot, with all the things that make AC games so special and renowned, all the strings Templars and Assassins move on big historic events are missing, all characters felt distant and unexplored, the present day is shorter than ever and with less content than ever. Ubi appears to have focused too much on the details on the city and its structures and side activities and lacked the necessary focus on what matters most in Assassin's Creed, a strong and amusing story.
7/10 for a normal game, 5/10 for an AC game.