The bittersweet taste of Assassin's Creed Unity
ATA Team, February 8, 2015
Translated by: Stefania

SPOILER ALERT: While this is an opinion article, it contains several spoiler elements about Assassin's Creed Unity and its DLC Dead Kings.

We’re back, a bit late, with our first article of 2015 dedicated to Assassin's Creed Unity. Usually, we would have started with an analysis of the plot and the potential repercussions on the future of the saga, but this time we feel the need, as “hardcore" fans, to give voice to our opinions. Unity was presented in the past months as a game with a very high potential, but its final version didn’t completely fulfill the expectations. The reasons behind this dissatisfaction must not be sought exclusively in the several bugs that were found on day one (which, in various cases, prevented the gamers from enjoying the game), but also in other situations that, in our opinion, penalized this year’s main title.

However, we’ll try to analyze this chapter in an orderly manner and in the cold light of the day, organizing the article around the main elements that characterize it, highlighting the several strengths and weaknesses.

Ready to attack if needed

Both a blessing and a curse for the game, the gameplay suffered from the bugs that compromised the fans’ immersion and gaming experience but at the same time it introduced the biggest changes compared to what was shown in the past. Specifically, these changes affected the three main pillars of the saga, in other words navigation (intended as navigation in the game world), stealth and fighting. For example, the character’s fluidity of movement during navigation is considerably increased, both on the ground and on the rooves, and the same happens during the climbing sessions and the controlled descent. Parkour is very enjoyable, even though, in terms of controls, a bit of time is needed so that the player gets used to them and it requires additional refinements to adequately respond to the user’s intents. In fact, for instance, it happens that, near windows, climbing is recognized as a command to enter and vice versa, or that Arno stays still for some seconds during climbing “hesitating” before going moving upwards.

On the other hand, fighting is the most improved aspect, compared to the past titles of the franchise and, especially at the beginning of the game, is more challenging than we were used to. As the game and the equipment advance, the difficulty becomes more balanced, but, anyway, is never easy or unbalanced in favour of the player. Besides, as promised, counter kills have been removed, leaving only the parry, which allows a counterattack with traditional hits.

The Stealth mode
Lastly, stealth has been indeed upgraded thanks to the addition of a "stealth mode" and the cover system, which added a new strategic dimension to the approach to missions. However in some cases, it seems to us that this system didn’t always work adequately. In fact the cover didn’t always prove to be functional (in some cases Arno can’t take cover against walls that may be “strategic”) and, unfortunately, there isn’t the possibility to keep the cover while turning at the corners. Lastly, something that we have missed is the “initiative” of the guards: the last known position system works and is realistic, but the guards’ actions once reached that position seem limited. In effect the pursuers move in the area without searching in the nearby zones (behind the various walls) and especially without investigating the various hiding places (haystack carts or curtains).

Game modes / Mission types
The various mission modes and types are the core of the game, so much so that we decided to dedicate them their own chapter, even if they are part of the gameplay section. So, let’s examine them in detail.

Thomas de Carneillon's outfit
(Source: AC Wiki)
Nostradamus Enigmas seem well planned and quite hard. As promised, their solution often depends on the information in the database but, at the same time, a minimum knowledge of the city is necessary. They are, therefore, very interesting in terms of playability and, at least in part, are supported by a justification in terms of plot. In fact, by solving them the player can obtain the outfit of Thomas de Carneillon, the Assassin who led the assault that allowed the capture of Jacques de Molay. However, the presence of Nostradamus can't be felt very much in the game, which made us ask ourselves which correlation there was between de Carneillon and him, and why he created the puzzles to hide the outfit of the French Master Assassin.

Murder Mysteries not only are well designed but also very funny to complete. The solution isn’t always obvious, even though there’s always a small or big detail that leads to the one and only culprit. Also, some of these missions contain historical and artistic references (like the one dedicated to the assassination of Marat).

The Paris Stories are missions about the historical events and legends of the revolutionary Paris and probably are the less remarkable contents in terms of gameplay because these missions are mainly linear (in which, however, the promised Adaptive Mission Mechanics seem to be efficiently implemented): moreover, it seemed to us that some interesting occasions have been wasted, as in the case of the missions dedicated to Nicolas Flamel, which could have used the information already found in Project Legacy.

The missions of the Social Clubs (the other cafés connected with the Café Théatre) are similar to the Paris Stories, but lead to the liberation of the various districts of the city. Also, by renovating the Clubs, the player can notice a considerable increase of Arno’s income. Speaking of income, we use this occasion to comment on the economic system in Unity. Concerning this matter, our team members have conflicting opinions. For some of us, the system to gain money is badly calibrated and facilitated because, unlocking immediately all the social clubs, and and making regular trips to go and empty the chest in the Café Theatre, the income is always too high and readily available, making it all too easy to become "millionaire" (taking into account that the Arno's pockets are unlimited). In addition to this, the chests, except the ones that need the lockpick skill, do not contain large amounts of money and are really too many. The consequence is that their research seems too forced and visibly designed to extend the gaming experience.

Sivert assassination in the confessional
Although they are part of the main story, we’d like to briefly talk about the Black Box missions. Despite being very satisfying and representing a big step for the return to the origins of the saga, they aren’t, though, flawless. For instance, the additional opportunities are useful to ensure that not all the missions are similar but are numerically limited (around two or three per mission) and rarely allow a kill that is “typical” of the mission (like the confessional kill Sivert, the only one, by the way, that has a dedicated cinematic sequence, contrary to what seemed during the marketing campaign).
We also noticed that, with regard to the approach to the Black Box missions (and not only to them), the game mostly leads the players to access the buildings from the top, due to the presence of snipers, who in Unity have a way more extended sight compared with the other guards and inflict greater damage. In this case, this has been a very appreciated addition since it increases difficulty and realism and, moreover, leads to plan a strategy to avoid detection during the infiltration (a fundamental element in missions like the Black Box ones).

Focus on: Coop missions
The Co-op missions are an unexplored path for the series and have been the element on which the maketing by Ubisoft focused the most during the campaign.
In this case the experiment seems to be successful with regard to the gameplay: the missions are fun, complex and extremely satisfying (particularly if completed improperly solo). Also, not only they satisfy one of the old desires of the community, but they aim to recreate that “Brotherhood” feeling among the players.

The "Brotherhood" feeling

On the other hand, we didn’t like the fact that they are set in different years and months, with some of them taking place after the last sequence of the main story. This unorganized distribution causes the player to play missions that take place after the end of the main story, finding him/herself up against not only a different historical context, but also small and big spoilers about Arno’s story (the co-op missions dedicated to Mirabeau and Robespierre are a clear example). To aggravate the situation even further, the difficulty level and rewards (equipment/clothes) aren’t well calibrated and it’s possible that an “easy” co-op mission, which can be completed at the beginning of the game, takes place in the year when the events of Unity come to an end. Vice versa, it’s also possible that a hard co-op mission takes place during the first years of the French
An example of “spoiler”(even
though it's a real historical event)
Revolution, coinciding with the first stages of the game. Consequently, the player is forced to follow two paths that are incoherent with each other: the player can decide to linearly match the events of the main plot with the co-op missions, waiting to be “ready” to play the missions that take place in the first years of the Revolution (and so completing later the easy ones that take place during the last years, obtaining medium-low rewards, which then will be useless), or he/she can choose to follow the difficulty level bouncing back and forth in time while linearly proceeding with the main story, aware of the risk of spoilers about parts of the events of the plot.

Another, more technical, problem, which is connected with the economic system, is the concept of the "Heist" missions. As mentioned before, the Café Theatre income let the players gain money rapidly, and so seeking the "perfect score" to obtain the additional reward seems, in some cases, unnecessary, a pure habit of the player.
The plot of the co-op missions has some problems, too: in fact the majority of the missions (7 out of 11), which Arno carries out for the Assassins, happen when our protagonist has been expelled from the Brotherhood (from the Spring of 1793, after the beheading of the king, to September 12th, 1794, as confirmed by the Unity novel), quite a huge mistake that could be avoided making the co-op missions available contextually to the development of Arno’s story.

Lastly, as a personal opinion, we didn’t particularly appreciate that the historical events connected to the French Revolution took place in the co-op missions and not in the main ones. Although this was the original intent of the developers, moving the historical events in the co-op missions causes the player to experience only a small part of the French Revolution and to see it reflected in the main story, to a much lesser extent compared to past games. Moreover, this situation makes the understanding of the specific historical context (year per year) in which the plot unfolds more difficult, especially considering the problems we have already highlighted. In our opinion, in the next titles the problem may be solved by making the co-op missions available progressively and simultaneously to the plot (however, this would limit the immediate possibility to play all the co-op missions). Alternately, co-op missions could have their own plot, based on lesser events of the historical period in question.

Focus on: Connectivity (Initiates and Companion App)
As for Initiates, who followed its evolution surely noticed the radical change of direction during the last year. Before its closing
Memories of past times
(around the beginning of 2014), Assassin’s Creed Initiates was a platform updated almost every day with in-depth additions about the present and past plots of Assassin’s Creed. The forums were lively and populated by a community of enthusiasts who confronted each other every day and, furthermore, in the dedicated sections, the platform offered direct interaction with the various games of the franchise. Instead, the current version of Assassin’s Creed Initiates is a simple website with statistics and information on the users’ playstyle. It’s a significant change and we can’t help but being a bit disappointed, especially because we are very fond of the plot and, during the last year, we dedicated a big portion of our efforts to analyze the events appeared on Initiates.

Also this year, some in-game contents like, for example, the "Legacy Outfits", in other words the outfits of the past Assassins, can be unlocked through the platform, but unfortunately, since the launch of Unity and during the following weeks, Initiates never actually and completely worked, both in terms of access and, especially in terms of accuracy of the recorded data (the platform did not always attribute the correct points and so did not unlock the in-game content).
In fact the most annoying problem was the impossibility to use Initiates, further worsened by the tight connection with the game, not to mention that last year the same type of problems (although with a completely different platform) also afflicted the launch of Assassin’s Creed 4.

The same can be said of the Companion App, which wasn’t available at launch in every country and needed several, sometimes big, updates, to increase the stability (in some cases some users lost all their progresses after the updates).

As for the app, we appreciated the possibility to customize the character, like in the game, even though we rarely used it. Maybe this is due to the fact that it lacks a preview of the character with the chosen clothes or, more logically, to the fact that often the player accesses the customization menus shortly before a mission and so not “externally” through the Companion App.

Also the Heat Maps, namely the maps of the most “popular” paths among the players, seemed a bit useless, because, in our opinion, looking at them before a mission
The Assassins of the Companion
App missions
may wipe out the joy of finding how approaching it, while looking at them after the mission seemed of little interest. Nonetheless it’s a useful tool for the less expert players, which works as a sort of “mini-guide”.
Lastly, the Brotherhood missions are similar, conceptually, to the Fleet missions in Assassin's Creed IV and Assassin's Creed Rogue. These missions engaged us in a lesser way than those of the previous games due to the continuous movements app-game and game-app needed to achieve the ultimate reward. Some fans, in this regard, have also complained because the acquisition of certain content otherwise not available in-game depended on these missions (and therefore on the Companion App) - an example is Altaïr’s outfit, which in addition to the completion of the companion app missions lso requires an extensive search of the artifacts in the Rifts).

Graphics and game world
The graphics of Unity is, obviously, one of the strong points of the Ubisoft title. Since the beginning of the marketing campaign, the interviewed developers pointed out the effort in making Paris a diversified city able to recreate the contrast between the nobility’s palaces and the streets where the Revolution takes place. In this regard the promises have been fulfilled: the districts are, actually, visually diversified, both in terms of graphics and buildings structure, and in terms of clothes, behaviour and animation of the characters.

The diversifiction of the districts

Besides, we have to mention the excellent light effects, the presence of the perfectly recreated building interiors (which are diversified too depending on the district) and especially the extremely accurate reconstruction of the monuments and historical places of the Revolutionary Paris.

The attention to detail is clear in every two-dimensional and tridimensional graphics objects and greatly contributes to the immersion of the player. However, the downside is that this caused very long loading times and various problems (from simple bugs to the pop-up effect and frame rate drops) that required four patches, for a total of 10 GB.

Character customization
This is another one of the elements the Unity marketing campaign was mainly based on and also in this case we can say it’s one of the most solid parts of the game, although with some small and big flaws that we hope will be corrected in the future titles of the franchise.

As promised during the pre-launch marketing campaign, the customization of Arno is definitely wide and allows to choose color schemes, weapons (swords, maces, halberds, axes, pistols, rifles etc…), equipment (hoods, coats, bracers, belts, breeches) and skills, namely the Assassin abilities both for the social stealth and the assassination techniques and the various tools that Arno will use.

Example of the character
In particular, weapons and equipment now have statistics, an RPG change that gave the players an ample choice concerning not only the aesthetic customization of the character but also the approach to the missions. This way the player can play any type of mission supported by an appropriate equipment that boosts the necessary characteristics to complete it (Stealth, Health, Melee, Ranged).

Moreover the skills positively impressed us. The smoke bombs, money pouches, berserk blades, already appeared in the past, have been improved and are now more effective. As for the cherry bombs (the alternative to the whistle of Assassin’s Creed 4 and Assassin’s Creed Rogue to attract guards), the opinions of our team clashed: for some of us this skill seemed of little use because the bomb isn’t always able to attract guards where it is thrown, while for other members its use proved to be fruitful, especially to attract guards outside packed rooms or keep them away from zones of interest. Also the phantom blade has been well implemented and the same goes for the improved phantom blade, which lets the player fire twice without reloading.
Lastly, the inclusion of mechanics from the multiplayer of the past games has been very appreciated: in Unity the Disguise ability is extremely useful both during the infiltration and the escapes.
On the other hand, an element we really didn’t appreciate is that, because of the character customization, not all the missions can be 100% completed during their first playthrough. In fact some of them require the use of certain skills (like the poison gas bombs) that depend on the player’s choices about the customization. It’s not a big flaw because the player can simply replay the mission later, once he/she obtains the skill but, anyway, it’s a pity not being able to 100% complete the mission immediately, when the immersion in the game world is absolute.
Lastly, we noticed that, for some years now, the character customization menu have had names and previews of all the locked weapons and equipment, secret outfits and strongest weapons included. Although these previews are useful to let the player decide what to buy, the same doesn’t go for the unlockable objects because they may ruin the surprise and the waiting (the armour of Thomas de Carneillon is a perfect example). In some cases, there are even spoilers (we didn’t check if it happens since the beginning of the game, but before completing the main story the player can already see the Sword of Eden in the menus).

We were really impressed by the sound effects. The ambient sound effects, noises of people intent on their daily activities, gunshots, the echo of the voices inside the churches, the revolutionary chants, the enraged crowd buzz etc… greatly facilitate the immersion in the Revolutionary Paris, especially considering that their intensity changes based on the distance of the source.

Cover of the game
official soundtrack
As for the soundtrack, in this case too the impression is positive: the tracks are well made and appropriate for the various situations in which they are being used. Also, the majority of them helps the players to get inside the game reality and the historical setting.
However, it seems to us that many tracks haven’t been used enough to engrave them in the player’s mind and the same can be said of the main theme (we’re still wondering why it recalls "Ezio's family" both in Unity and Rogue).
The English dub is very good: Dan Jeannotte has been able to portray Arno well and the same can be said of Catherine Bérubé for Élise (bearing in mind the time granted her in the game). Also Anthony Lemke, voice of Pierre Bellec, deserves a special mention for the extraordinary work on this character, from the beginning to the end.

Marketing promises
Often fans discuss in retrospect of what was cut from the game compared to what was shown in the promotional material. So how much has been promised and how much has been kept in Unity?
As mentioned before, some features have been kept as, for instance, the removal of the counter kill (and we can’t help but be very happy) or the modified gas bombs so that the player can disappear limiting the "Benny Hill moments", using the words of Creative Director Alex Amancio.

Other promises kept concern, for example, the Nostradamus Enigmas, the solution of which is hidden for real in the information of the database, or the Paris Stories, which help the player to be absorbed in the Revolutionary Paris, learning about some of its legends.
The Black Box missions (although not adequately distributed during the main story) and the Adaptive Mission Mechanics have been able to add an new note of realism leaving to the player a very ample choice among the ways of approaching a mission.
However, there are many situations in which other promises haven’t been kept - for example the transformation of the Eagle Vision in a skill in three levels, the most mentioned of which was the “famous” Eagle Pulse, which in the end didn't appear in the game -but, in our opinion, these mainly concern the plot (leaving aside the implied promise of a game with as few bugs as possible and with all the connected services working since day one).
In fact, the plot in Unity is almost surely the most disappointing aspect of the title, from the fact that Unity doesn’t represent a good starting point for the new fans of the saga to the fact that key elements like Arno’s visions don’t have the explanation that was previously announced.

So let’s complete this analysis - review of Unity with the subject that excites us the most, something we were really looking forward to in this chapter of the franchise.

Plot in the past (Arno’s story)
In this part we’re going to analyze the plot dedicated to the past, in other words the prologue about Jacques de Molay and Arno’s story.

The trolling initial
screenshot of the game
The prologue is a good start and an unexpected dive into the past that, considering the content, definitely satisfied the fans of the story of the franchise. It’s presented as the last chapter of the Abstergo series “Fallen Heroes” and, consequently, doesn’t represent a “direct” experience but rather a modified memory of the Entertainment branch and that, according to Darby McDevitt (writer of the present day plot of Unity), was supposed to end with "Written and Directed by L.P. Garneau". Also, the prologue is an intense introduction to the plot, also for the old fans, considering that it includes Jacques de Molay (the last “official” Templar Grand Master), a book (which always draws the attention), no less than the Sword of Eden (a great reference to file 0.06\Hst_VoxInExcelso
Jacques de Molay
without heterochromia
of the multiplayer of Revelations in which a Sword - with capital S - was mentioned), a hidden crypt, a medieval Assassin and also the famous curse of de Molay against King Philip le Bel and Pope Clement V.

A great introduction, blemished by a serious mistake. As confirmed by McDevitt, de Molay was a Sage and he had to look like one and have, in particular, the heterochromia. However, due to a oversight during the development,
De Molay's advisor
with heterochromia
that characteristic was forgotten. Also, as if that weren’t enough, recently fans also noticed that, while de Molay doesn’t have heterochromia, his advisor (whom the player impersonates during the prologue) appears to be affected by it, although, as far as we know, he isn’t a Sage.

After the prologue we can dedicate ourselves to the story of Arno.
Arno’s story, according to the promises of the marketing, should have been a story about love, redemption and extremism, matched with an interesting and historically significant supporting cast. All of that, unfortunately, hasn’t been completely fulfilled and there are many, sometimes important, gaps.

Surely the clearest example is Arno himself.
As often pointed out during the marketing campaign, Arno’s path had to be characterized by a desire for redemption born by the burden of the unaware responsibility for the murder of de la Serre.
Our protagonist
in a promotional art
The beginning of this path is positive: the introduction of a young Arno, scarred, when he was eight, by the death of the Assassin father, and raised like a son by the Templar Grand Master, is a preamble that surely provides the basis for a good story. With regard to this aspect, we’re sorry that the memory of his father (symbolized by the famous watch) appeared only at the beginning and at the end, and, anyway, never significantly. In fact the essence of Arno’s thoughts revolves around the search for the murderer of Élise’s father and practically never for the murderer of his own parent.
Also, the concept of redemption on which the evolution of the character should be based is not clearly shown through he game and often Arno’s behaviour seems to be rather guided by a desire for revenge. We can see that at the end, during the killing of Germain, when the assassination is slow, "heart-felt", almost savoured. A typical behaviour of who, after years of sufferings, enjoys the long awaited revenge. The legitimate objection is that this feeling is guided by the anger for Élise’s death, but, unfortunately, we’re at the end of the game and at this point the game has to take stock of all the things that have been built up to it. If the redemption path in this phase isn’t clear, it means that the evolution unfortunately has not been well constructed.
In addition to that, there are other two situations that mask this evolution: our protagonist, when faced with problems (especially if they’re caused by a quarrel with Élise), falls apart, and drowns his sorrows in alcohol twice. In the first case (when Élise blames him for her father’s death) his fall can be a good narrative solution providing “the bottom” from where Arno will pick up again thanks to the Assassins. However, when the same situation occurs again towards the end of the story (sequence 11), one more time Arno appears weak and his evolution regresses instead of advancing.

Another important element of Arno’s story is, surely, his relationship with the Assassins, born from the meeting with Bellec inside the Bastille.
About the Bastille, we’d like to make a little digression concerning the glyphs that much drew the attention during the last days of the marketing campaign. Bellec explains that these symbols and equations are “messages from the past" and got himself thrown in half of the jails of Paris to find them and... nothing else. Unfortunately this is the maximum we hear of them, because Bellec doesn’t explain either what they are or how they have been made. Since it’s an element that the fans were looking forward to, especially considering the link with the present day plot and TWCB, the lack of an explanation left a bad taste in their mouth.
In any case, the relationship with the Brotherhood is conflictual and difficult, especially because of the aptitude of Arno, who, more than once, acts against the rules, the Creed and the Council itself, showing that he doesn’t follow the Assassins for their ideals, but only for his personal path of redemption. The consequence of this situation is that Arno is expelled from the order cutting off all the contacts, although the Master Assassin outfit obtained at the end of the game and some co-op missions hint that he’ll become part of it again. However how this happens isn’t shown in the game, and just minimally in Dead Kings, but is narrated in the novel.

The other important element of the story concerning Arno is obviously the love story with Élise. In this case too, the introduction prepares a solid ground with their encounter at Versailles when they were children and with a successful relationship in the first memories of Arno as an adult. The evolution of their relationship is shown intermittently
The self confident girl
during the single-player campaign with, in the first part of the game, occasional encounters and references to past events like that “that time in Marseille”, about which the player knows nothing, and that, so, don’t have any meaning for him/her. From this point of view, it seemed to us that the game didn’t show enough how Arno and Élise met and how their relationship developed and, for this reason, also the involvement in the events that concerned them has been fluctuating.
That said, Élise seems a new step of the Assassin's Creed series in the right direction with regards to the presence and the “treatment” of the female characters. In effect the girl is self-confident, ironic just enough, determined, trusting in her own resources, and especially her look and behaviour haven’t been created to be a sort of “fan service" for the male audience. So much for of all the criticisms, way before the release of the game, about the lack of important female characters in Unity.
Her confidence is one of the elements that her relationship with Arno revolves around, because this characteristic is set against the constant desire of our protagonist to protect her. If we add Élise’s thirst for revenge towards the murderer of her father’s murder, we get the perfect premises to create misunderstandings between the two lovers. However the big danger is that such conditions, if badly managed, can make one, if not both, of the characters unlikeable and, in our opinion, in Unity this becomes clear mainly in three episodes.
The first episode happens during the mission in which Arno and Élise find Germain, the day before the beheading of King Louis XVI: Arno decides to protect Élise (the mission makes it almost mandatory) instead of following the target and, when Germain escapes, the girl gets angry. However, during their “quarrel”, it seems the characters don’t perfectly work: in fact Élise, at the beginning, tells Arno she doesn’t need his help, but then diverts the conversation on revenge as the main motivation, something that considerably diminishes the importance of the love story the game should talk about. As for Arno, he seems almost unable to confront the girl and points out the sentimental / emotional meaning behind his choice.

Shortly after, Arno is expelled from the Brotherhood, and, when the world comes crashing down on him, as we said, he drown his sorrows in alcohol again and this leads to the second episode. Near the end of his in-game path, Arno falls again into the same error of the first part of the game and for the same reason: his inability to react during a quarrel with Élise. In this sense, what could be a heartbreaking sequence in which Arno comes back in a Versailles hit by the Revolution and filled with memories of his childhood, is contaminated both by his falling into the same past errors, and the final quarrel with Élise. The girl (who came out of thin air in Versailles), after leaving roughly in the previous sequence, asks him why he disappeared (?) and Arno seems strongly subjugated, and only later - finally - makes himself heard, leaving her partially speechless.

"I'm sorry..."
The third episode in which the couple doesn’t work well is, obviously, in the final stages of the battle against Germain. When Arno is trapped under rubble, Élise is coherent with what happened before and she’s confident she can deal with Germain… However, that “I’m sorry” she tells Arno before getting away highlights, again, that killing Germain is more important than saving the young man. Also, while during the previous scenes she criticized Arno because he didn’t trust her and her ability to look after herself, in this case Élise does the same, not trusting Arno’s words (“Wait… I’m almost free”) and surrendering to her obsession to kill Germain. For the third time, the importance of their relationship is diminished, and not meaningful.
So, ultimately, the love story has been, in our opinion, a positive addition but, despite having a good potential, hasn’t been completely developed, especially considering the premises of the marketing campaign.

Before going on, we’d like to make a digression about the various characters. Not considering Élise, the cast is extremely rich and heterogeneous: the characters have various origins and ideologies, and each of them has his/her own objectives and intents. Unfortunately, also in this case not everyone is well developed: if, for instance, characters like François de La Serre, Bellec and Germain appear in the main story long enough to become important figures, other characters, like Napoleon or the Marquis de Sade, are used only on a few occasions (one or two memories) only to disappear and reappear in the optional side missions. This choice, although valuable from a gameplay point of view, allows the player to complete these missions even after finishing the main story, making these characters secondary during the story.

Lastly, and finally, we can talk about the plot in general. In our opinion the game can be split into two parts: before and after Bellec’s death.

In the first part the game shows, since the beginning, directly and almost in a hidden way, the forces at play: Mirabeau and de la Serre who, in line with the truce between the Assassins and the Templars, talk about the future during the meeting of the Estates-General; the Templars affiliated with Germain and Germain himself are in Versailles for the realization of the conspiracy at the expense of Élise’s father; the letter written by Lafrenière to de la Serre to warn him against the plot. Those are all elements that, since the beginning, show a complex but fascinating story, once seen in its entirety.
Here Arno plays the role of a naive boy who reaches the Assassins partly by chance and partly to follow his path of redemption. Therefore he starts tracking down the various Templars involved in the murder of de la Serre, starting from Charles Gabriel Sivert. As mentioned before, each assassination mission is a "Black Box” mission, in which the player can take advantage of the opportunities around him to reach his target. Unfortunately, in terms of plot, the analysis of these opportunities isn’t explained in detail.
An example of Arno's visions
Specifically, Bellec, in the mission dedicated to Sivert, tells Arno to study the surroundings, but it’s not explained how the young man is able to see and hear people and sounds, even if they are far away (theoretically during the marketing campaign it has been said that Arno had the Eagle Sense, which, as shown in Revelations, increases the senses of the users, but there isn’t any mention of that in the game and in the interface the dedicated button simply says “Eagle Vision").
However, the negative aspect of these missions is the ending. Whenever Arno, as we already know, kills a target, he sees a small part of his/her memories and this skill is never explained, even though, during the marketing campaign, a justification had been promised (watch this video at 10:30). In general, when such explanations are missing, we try to hypothesize some explanations / theories that can justify them. In this case, though, we are talking about a key element of the plot, essential for the development of the game (it’s thanks to his visions that Arno knows where to go and who to look for) and, unfortunately, being so important, the game should have explained how it works.
Apart from this, as we said, the plot is well developed in the first parts of the game with a steady crescendo until the fight against Bellec that, in terms of quality of narration, is maybe the climax of the game.

From here on, the quality of the story progressively decreases. The Assassin Council (absolutely not shocked by the death of Bellec and Mirabeau) sends Arno to the study of the king at the Tuileries, where he meets a young, but already ambitious, Napoleon, who has confidence in himself and in what he is looking for. The meeting is very short but lays the foundation so that Napoleon will get the Apple that we see in the glyphs of AC2, although, as we’ll see in the Dead Kings DLC, it’s not so easy.
As the story advances, the game keeps losing narrative substance and assumes (with a few exceptions) this shape: memory --> black box mission --> vision --> memory --> black box mission --> vision --> memory etc.
Arno meets Napoleon again to get information about Captain Rouille and he leaves for his mission shortly after. In the memories of Rouille Arno sees Marie Levesque and, so, talks about her to Élise. After a short memory to find the area where she’s hiding, the Black Box mission starts. In the memories of Marie Levesque we see Le Pelletier and once we find him, we can go on with the assassination mission dedicated to him. In Le Pelletier’s memory we discover that Germain will attend the King’s beheading... and shortly after a new Black Box mission starts.

Unfortunately, this structure suggests that some intermediate elements dedicated to the analysis of the target have been cut or badly conceived because, following the events in this way, the player has just a few information about the assassinated character, and, especially, isn’t very involved in the mission.

But... how...
In any case, as the story advances, we pass Arno’s second emotional breakdown and follow him while he decides to come back in Paris with Élise. However, before leaving, he confronts La Touche, whose presence in Versailles is almost never explained, and wears (without any sort of explanation) again the Assassin clothes and, especially, equipment, like the hidden blade and the phantom blade, although he’s been expelled from the Order.

The following sequence proceeds quite positively and thanks to the game we have an explanation to Robespierre’s lower jaw wound and Élise states that she had to realize earlier that Germain was in the Temple (a common sentiment among many players, considering that it’s the stronghold of the Templars in Paris that is almost never touched by the main story). Arno’s story is almost over and the final battle occurs in an epic setting like de Molay's vault where Arno, in the vision of his last target, for, once again, unexplained reasons (apart from an intercession of the Father of Understanding), speaks and interacts with Germain. The man explains he (like other Sages) had had some visions too that were driving him crazy and had found his purpose in the “reform” of the Templar Order thanks to the discovery of the vault and the book written by Jacques de Molay. In effect that book guided him to know his “connection” through the centuries with de Molay (this would have had a stronger meaning if the game had shown in the beginning that de Molay was a Sage). Here we’d like to make a digression about the book, the Codex Pater Intellectus: as Darby McDevitt stated, originally a “De Molay Relic" collectible had been planned. If this had happened and the pages of the Codex had been the collectibles, the text would have probably offered a retrospective on the concept and abilities of the Sage for the new players (something that does not appear in Unity) and would have explained some aspects left with more than one "hole" in the final dialogue with Germain.

It is, then, a pretty particular ending, in which Germain vaguely explains his reasons to Arno, who is unaware of what he has stumbled upon (contrary to when he’ll come back to the vault, years later), and who is actually, and quite normally, suffering the loss of Élise. Lastly, dressed as Master Assassin (although in the game he never rejoined the Brotherhood), he meditates on the war between the Assassins and the Templars, in which the participants see themselves as avengers (like Élise), prophets (Germain) or saviors (Arno himself) who dream of leaving their mark on the world, but whose essence, actually, in a war that doesn’t leave any trace in the history books, will have a meaning only during their lives.

Present day plot + Rift
..... Debating this subject, we’ll try to be cautious, as it got many members of the community angry.

Welcome to the present day, Initiate. Now go back to the past.

The present day in the game is, sadly, missing. Not considering the introductory scenes, the rifts, the videos and files, which, although included in the game, are secondary elements, Unity is the first main titles of the franchise without a section set in the present day. Therefore, for the first time, the present day doesn’t have a real narrative arc and so, it’s clear why the developers always tried to talk about it vaguely during the marketing campaign.
It’s banal to point it out, considering that in the past we dedicated ourselves to the analysis of the modern plot, but this aspect shocked us and left us upset.
But why doesn't the present of Unity work well? And is all the content really badly presented or is there something positive and interesting for the fans?

First of all, let’s start from the classic question that many fans and journalists asked the development team during the marketing campaign: who is the main character? The answer was that the player himself is the main character of the present day. In theory this is a good answer, but it also has negative consequences. For example, if the main character is the player, does it make sense that the Assassins put the search for Arno Dorian’s memories in the hands of just an ordinary “Helix user” considering the importance it has for them? Furthermore this problem goes hand in hand with the fact that, more than once, it has been said that Unity could have been a good starting point for new fans of the franchise. Bishop’s words about the nature of Abstergo and the fact that it’s using the Helix users are meagre and especially too fast for those players who never followed the plot of AC, proving to be of little use to understand what’s happening in the present day. In this sense, then, contrary to what was announced during the marketing campaign, Unity appears as perhaps the worst chapter of the franchise in terms of introducing the brand to new fans. The game, in fact, in addition to the few data on the present day does not provide the background information needed to understand other important elements of its plot like the aforementioned Sages and also the Pieces of Eden or the First Civilization.

"By pressing play,
you'll be joining the Assassins"
That said, through the sequences in which Arno joins the Brotherhood, Bishop hints that she’s a member of the Assassins and asks the protagonist if he/she wants to join them (taking for granted that the war between Assassins and Templars is still going on). Another element of the introduction of the player to the Order that struck us is the way this happens: in Unity (and so in the modern day) the induction to the Brotherhood depends on watching a video, whose content is unknown, or not and so it doesn't seem very believable that the Assassins so easily show an important video such as the one about the Phoenix Project, the consequences of which are greatly significant, to a person who just joined the Brotherhood. This choice, which actually isn’t a choice since there is only a forced alternative, reminds the problem of the use of a first-person protagonist, which appeared in three games (Black Flag, Unity and Rogue). Unfortunately this personification, which in theory has been created to increase the immersion in the game, sometimes can puzzle the player, who takes control of a different character in each game and can’t really make a choice (even if in this case this can be justified by the fact that Assassin’s Creed is strongly based on the plot and the alternative versions of the same story may be a problem).

In any case, the shown video is, obviously, one of the climaxes of the present day part of Unity and one of the few elements that drive forward the plot of the franchise in this era. The new objectives of Precursor DNA sequencing, translation of TWCB’s ancient language and acquisition of the technology behind the Pieces of Eden (elements that, however, haven’t been introduced to the new fans in the game), show the new course of the Abstergo research that has its roots in the information obtained from Initiates the last April and that soon we will analyze in our articles.

Following the video Bishop briefly explains what the Sages are and what the Assassins did to limit the Templars’ search for them. She then reveals her role and, unfortunately, in this case too not everything goes smoothly: Bishop states that the Initiate (called like that since when he/she accepted to join the Assassins) must discover when and where Arno met the Sage of interest but, at the same time, she is showing exactly the moment of the encounter between Arno and Germain, the day of the beheading of Louis XVI. It seems, then, that the Assassins already have the answer to this question, although don’t know where the remains of Germain are. Everything is confirmed by the fact that Bishop already let Deacon / Shaun wander around Arno’s memories in advance, something that makes the mission a bit less meaningful.

From this moment on (Sequence 2, memory 2) the video intervals in the present, unfortunately, are already over. In their place, there are audio communications (from Bishop), time anomalies and the 21 written files that can be obtained completing the anomalies themselves.
During the audio communications Bishop updates the Initiate on the current status of his/her missions, informing him/her, for instance, of the fact that, thanks to a deep analysis, they discovered that the Sage was a Templar Grand Master (with regard to this specific situation, it seems that at this point the Assassins still haven’t identified the Sage despite seeing Germain with the heterochromia in Arno’s memories and after showing him at the beginning of the game during the the beheading of Louis XVI). It's thanks to one of these interludes, at the end of the game, that the majority of the fans got angry. As Bishop stated, Germain’s bones are too damaged and deteriorated to drive Abstergo to search for them and so the Initiate’s quest is useless for the Assassins too. Nothing, then, came of the research (and in this case the player himself/herself is the protagonist of the useless research) and the plot of the franchise didn’t even move forward. Exactly for these reasons, in this sense, the great potential of Unity seems to have been wasted.

Also the "Rifts", although essentially they are “extra” missions and mini-games, in terms of plot are ascribable to the part of the present day. Substantially the Initiate can
Artwork of the Rifts
by Ludovic Ribardière
access another historical age, keeping the Arno avatar, which characterizes him/her. In fact the simulation makes use of the Helix servers and in some occasions the Abstergo Server Scan (also mentioned in file 12) locates his/her presence and tries to “terminate” him/her. However soon the intrusion in the rift is detected by Abstergo and, thanks to Bishop and Deacon, the Initiate is able to escape, returning to the simulation of the Revolutionary Paris.
Per se the idea is fascinating because it can justify the access to short sequences in other historical ages (an element that always arouses the interest of fans) but, unfortunately, in this case also is badly used. In effect those aren’t exploration sequences but action sequences that hardly let the players freely enjoy the setting and, moreover, almost never include any element dedicated to Assassins, Templars and TWCB in that age. Because of this they are “simple” extra settings of Paris that are useful to add some small dialogue dedicated to the present day and some additional mini-games, but don’t go deeper either into the Unity plot or into the plot of the franchise in general - and there are many preexisting elements of the plot that could be used, first of all, Joan of Arc and the already mentioned Nicolas Flamel. We'd also like to make a digression about Joan of Arc: as seen in the AC2 glyph puzzles, she came in possession of a Sword identical to the one left by de Molay in the vault of the Temple and remained there until Germain rediscovered it: the fact that two identical Pieces of Eden could be located in the same period and in the same country seemed to us, therefore, an extremely fortuitous coincidence, considering the rarity of the Pieces of Eden shown in the past games.

Lastly, there are the files that can be obtained completing the mini-games dedicated to the Rifts and archived in the “Assassin Intel” section of the Database. As usual the documents in Assassin's Creed are extremely interesting and the same happens in Unity. In particular, out of the 21 files available, although they’re all very interesting for the hardcore fans attracted by the development of the plot in the present, only five or six are really shocking and drive the plot forward, although retroactively. Lastly, this thing struck us: considering that the various games of the franchise are annual and, in terms of plot, are connected with the real flow of time, the present day of the last three games was mainly (and completely in Unity) dedicated to narrating what had happened during the past year. Our hope is that the course of the present day isn’t - only - this one, because what always attracted us of the modern plot, beside the files, has been how the events occurred in-game, something that led to epic moments like the endings of Brotherhood and AC3.

Ultimately, the present day of Unity is extremely exiguous both from the content point of view and also with regard to the way this has been shown: only two videos (without any sort of interaction) and some audio communications and written files aren’t enough and surely - in our opinion - don’t recreate the appeal that this part of the plot always had since the first game.

Dead Kings
This year’s DLC, Dead Kings, has been able to fill some of the gaps of Unity, but nonetheless it isn’t flawless.

In terms of setting and graphics, we’re, once again, amazed by what we find: it’s not only the level of detail that we are astonished by, but also the dark atmosphere that reflects Arno’s mood, a week after the events of Unity.

This dark atmosphere, supported by an effective soundtrack created by Cris Velasco, matches a plot that succeeded where Unity failed, in other words showing the conclusion of Arno’s path of redemption. Also, the DLC shows other elements that almost weren’t present in the main title, the lack of which was felt: in the story the events perfectly match the gameplay and everything works as for the general narration. The side missions, for instance, often mention Abbot Suger, who never appears in the story but is essential for the creation of a background plot that better explains the events of the DLC. In this situation, also, the Pieces of Eden and the TWCB technology finally regain importance, without overshadowing the protagonist’s path during the DLC. Also the supporting cast perfectly fits the narration and the character of Leon, a self-confident kid full of resources who acts as a catalyst of Arno’s path of redemption, deserves a mention.

The Guillotine Gun and the lantern
In terms of gameplay, Dead Kings introduces some, very appreciated, changes in Unity. The most clear ones are the "Guillotine Gun" and the lantern. The gun is a simple grenade launcher that allows Arno to deal with many enemies at once and that maybe isn’t the most suitable weapon in the catacombs. The lantern has many uses: it obviously lights the path in the dark (but also makes Arno more visible, if there are guards around) and can repel rats, cockroaches and bats. Also, it’s useful to solve the enigmas in the catacombs. Additionally now the guards have a “leader”, namely a more important guard, who, when killed, causes the enemies to flee: it’s an appreciated and realistic mechanic (although sometimes it makes the access to the various areas way too easy) that is partially based on those guards who ran away in the past installments of the saga. Another improvement, if we can call it so, is the nature of the "Black Box" missions in the DLC: in effect, in this case, not all of them have, as objective, the assassination of the target, but have various objectives like the access to a certain area or the acquisition of important objects for the plot.

So the DLC is good, but, as mentioned before, it has some flaws. In fact,
It seems like the PoE is not
an Apple, according to the DLC
writer Jeffrey Yohalem
although, the DLC was released in January instead of December, the DLC for some fans contained several important graphical bugs, such as the presence of slowly loaded textures and in some cases the presence of frame rate drops.
Another negative element is the fact that the DLC is called “Sequence 13". This nomenclature caused several discussions: in fact Dead Kings may have been conceived as a sequence that originally had to be part of the original game. Also, although the DLC is way more cohesive than Unity, it raises even more doubts (like when Arno mistakes for Élise a girl dressed in a similar fashion, a scene which
A Sage or just
an other oversight?
appears too "forced" to symbolize Arno's suffering) instead of clarifying the previous ones. These doubts concern the nature of the Piece of Eden found by Arno in the Temple, the Assassin to whom the Piece is handed over (is he really a Sage or this is another oversight?) and especially, considering the period in which the DLC and the events of Unity are set, the true relationship between Arno and Napoleon, considering that they’re allies in the missions of Unity before the ending, then are “enemies” in the DLC, and then are once again allies in the missions of Unity after the DLC.

We’re at the end of our analysis of the content of Unity and its DLC. We have waited until the release of Dead Kings to expose our thoughts about the game and we really wanted to have our say on the game experience of the last months. In general we were VERY unhappy with the overall management of the title. Despite the progress in some areas, the final product came out very penalized by all other faults that we have listed: as hardcore fans we have to admit that this is the game that has disappointed our expectations the most, especially taking into account the potential that it had. Nevertheless, we still hope that the next chapter will be able to make a positive change of direction and to fix the possible mistakes arising from Unity (a bit like what happened with Black Flag).

And about you? Do you agree with us or do you think otherwise? What did you like and what did you dislike about Unity and its DLC? Let us know in the comments below!

That said, although slowly, the hunt for the hidden meanings of the plot of this year is now open and we can’t wait to discuss them with you all!

comments powered by Disqus




ACUnity: behind close doors of GC14

ACUnity: E3 2014