For those interested in the non-spoiler review, please go here.
Okay, if you're reading this then hopefully you've finished the game or you don't care about being spoiled.
So, what do I think about Assassin's Creed: Unity?
I find it to be an extremely fun game which is brought down by a terribly handled story, awful history, and some serious missteps in pacing. There's plenty of good elements to the game but they're countered by decisions which leave the entire thing a disjointed mess. I still recommend gamers pick up Assassin's Creed: Unity, especially fans of the series, but it is not the best example of the franchise.
Unity follows the adventures of Arno Dorian, a young boy orphaned by Shay Cormac (who kills his father in the post-credit sequence of Rogue), as he is raised by Templar Grandmaster Francois de le Cerre. Arno falls in love with Francois' daughter Elise and the two are happy together for about a minute before the Grandmaster is killed.
|Arno discovers his father is an Assassin and there's a bunch of mysterious messages scattered throughout Paris. Neither of these qualities ever come up again.|
It's a nice Count of Monte Cristo-esque plot.
Except, not really.
Arno has often been accused of being a rip-off of Assassin's Creed signature character, Ezio Auditore, but this is unfair. They have some similarities but the biggest problem is they're both, essentially, plays on the Count of Monte Cristo. We've already seen a protagonist lose everything and then rise up to dismantle his oppressor's organization. Ezio's family, however, is a constant presence in his life while Elise is gone for large portions of the game. Plus, I never spent enough time with Francois that I should care about his death.
|Paris is alive in the game, very often surprising me with its color and vibrancy.|
Then there's the bad history element. The French Revolution was a violent, tumultuous period in history but it wasn't a one-sided display of savagery either. The Revolutionaries outlawed slavery and attempted to impose a rule of law which would make all races equal in French territories. They also struck at the brutality and corruption of French aristocratic culture and privileges. In other words, you can't reduce the French Revolution to the Terror and nothing else.
Having the Templars responsible for the French Revolution is something the game treats as purely evil. However, the contrast for those who know anything more than an elementary school summation of the French Revolution, it actually depicts the Templars in a very favorable light. Having Arno express no interest in the Revolution in light of the complicated, direly important issues involved seems a trifle ridiculous. As one reviewer said, "A French person with no interest in the Revolution at this time is like a New Yorker with no opinion on 9/11."
|At one point you get to climb the Eiffel Tower and shoot down Nazi planes. That buys Unity a HUGE amount of slack.|
Which brings another problem to the forefront in the game kills its darlings far too early. Mirabeau and Bellec both die at the mid-point of the game while Elise's death robs the game of a lot of its emotional strength. She's willing to die to avenge her father, sacrificing her future with Arno for it, and that's not a bad thing.
However, Elise's vengeance-related death keeps the story squarely focused on Francois de le Cerre and he didn't make enough of an impression that I cared about Arno's devoting a decade of his life to hunting down his killers, let alone Elise. The story is left with no real sense of justice or triumph with even the modern-day story turning out to have been a wild goose chase. Unity robs its player, essentially, of any reason to have paid attention to the narrative.
|Poor Elise. You were a wasted character.|
Past Assassins have been accused of not understanding the Creed but I'm not even sure Arno cares. He's a member of the Assassins because it's something to do when he's kicked out of his family home. I *LIKE* Arno, don't get me wrong but he's as good an Assassin as Homer Simpson is a safety inspector. Shay Cormac may top out Arno due to the whole "treason on par with Darth Vader" thing but Arno certainly is down there.
The gameplay is entertaining, as mentioned, and the graphics are superb. There's also some truly out-there moments I love like a sequence where Arno "time-travels" via the Animus to climb the Eiffel tower and shoot down Nazi biplanes. My only regret is there weren't a bunch of Nazi guards to stab but this is quibbling over pure awesome. The fact you ALSO get to climb around the Statue of Liberty is another sign this game is fun--and that's something that earns it a lot of forgiveness.
|If the game had been more hot-air balloon chases and Nazi stabbings, I might have given this a 10 out of 10.|