It's the thing.

6 December 2014

Assassin's Creed: Unity - Or, How not to make a game.

If you've been following me on twitter the last few days, you might have noticed the colourful language I have been applying to my playthrough of Assassin's Creed: Unity.

I've been a fan of the series since the original came out, but started noticing the serious decline of the release quality around the time Revelations and AC3 came out.

The release of Unity though, is something special. Something truly, truly special.

It's broken. It's broken and in my opinion - designed fucking horribly. I'm sat here like "Surely they're not serious?"



My first and most obvious gripe with the game is the seemingly never ending stream of bugs.

  • Arno teleports across a building while he's climbing it. 
  • Instead of jumping to the next ledge despite not holding "Freerun Down", Arno will inexplicably leap off the building to his death. 
  • And the most infuriating of all (I nearly broke a controller):  Randomly dropping through the floor.

When I say I nearly broke a controller - is because of the precise moment I fell through the floor. I'd been setting up a very in depth assassination. I'd cleared about 40-50 guards out of this mansion, I'd disabled all the alarm bells, I'd set the distraction up and freed the prisoners for assistance.

As I closed in on the target, my framerate started seriously tanking. I'm talking about 10fps here. I went into the menu and lowered some setting but to no avail. I just worked through it. I was about 10 feet from the target, and I fell through the floor into a blue abyss.
Upon eventually respawning - I was back at the start.

The start. The start of the mission which was about an hour ago. I'd lost an hour because of some stupid bug. Controller went across the room.



It wasn't just a freak occurrence, either. It had been happening a lot while I was playing. usually while I'm just running from area to area so it wasn't too much of an inconvenience, but still annoying.

Was the game even put through a QA department? I honestly couldn't tell. I'd seen various gameplay issues of day one before the patches and it looked absolutely horrendous. Even now on PC, it's so horribly optimised I can barely deal with it's almost psychotic requirement on my computer.

I've played games with similar reqirements and I've not seen the game chug and shudder as much as AC has.As well as the fps constantly hanging around 30-40 despite having my settings pretty medium-ish, the game will occasionally freeze for a second or two, like it's catching up with itself.

 Hell, even Assassin's Creed Black Flag performed better than this, and that was when I was using an ATI 6950.
I'm using a Nvidia GTX 760 now. A massive upgrade.

Design gripes:

Anyone familiar with the recent Assassin's Creed releases will also know about the Mobile companion app and "Initiates", Ubisoft's web service community thing which I'm not sure what purpose it actually serves.

In AC4, it was optional and a little bit of fun to use, little optional missions to use to upgrade your fleet and play while away from the game.

In unity, however.. It's almost required. At least, that's how it feels. There's about 20 chests scattered across Paris which you have to complete missions using your Brotherhood missions on your mobile app to be able to open.

In order to unlock these missions you have to unlock the viewpoints in Unity, then solve a puzzle in the companion app where you can then use your minions to do missions for you.

Here's the thing. I unlocked a ton of viewpoints in the game, I then synchronised the app with the game - saw I had about 5 puzzled to to to unlock missions, and then closed it "Sweet - something to do when I'm stuck with nothing to do at work" I thought.

Fun fact: even the app is so buggy, when I was sat in the car park 100 miles from home to do these puzzles while waiting for a student to get home, I opened the app.. to find everything I'd unlocked to disappear, the game encouraging me to "Sync with Unity" to play the puzzles.

It wants me to play Unity.. So I can play on my app. Why

It might be a bug, which I'm seriously hoping it is - otherwise it's a absolutely diabolical design idea. It's not like AC:U has moments where your character does something where you have to sit and wait. Unless you count cutscenes, I guess.

In other design gripes:

As you progress through the game, you unlock new skills - lock picking being one of them, to open locked doors and chests, of which there are 3 levels of.

In order to unlock level 3 chests, you need the master lockpicking skill, in which you have to complete up to Sequence 9 (which is about 50-60% of the storyline of the game.)

As I was on a bit of a red-chest hunting spaz, I came across a level 3 chest and unlocked it, to be rewarded with a 3 star hood Nothing wrong with that, right?

Here's the kicker - On completion of sequence 8, you're awarded with a 5 Gold Star hood.

Technically you can open the level 3 chests before you get master lockpicking, but it's so unfeasable, it's not worth trying... Adding to the fact that this particular chest is surrounded by about 18 5 star enemies anyway. Was that really a worthy reward? I felt like I sat there and wasted time picking off enemies and wasting smoke bombs and pistol ammo and phantom blade ammo for a hood that was relatively utter crap.


There's the usual microtransactions rot that some would usually rag on, but I've not used a single boost yet (which are bought for real cash).

The fact that you can buy in game equipment with the helix points (which are also bought with real cash) instead of the in-game money doesn't sit right with me, but everything is possible without resorting to helix points or boosts, so I can't gripe too much on it.

My only positive points to the game are: 

When it isn't bugging the crap out on me, it plays pretty fun, and the new combat system is a bit more difficult than previous games and actually requires a bit more skill than before, and the writing is about as good as the rest of the series.

If Ubisoft had just decided to wait a few more months before release for QA, it would have been a more considerably smoother release, and it would have more focused criticisms on it's design choices rather than the current circlejerk of "LOL LOOK AT THE NO-FACES" macros that are flying around the internet like wildfire.

Right now I'm just struggling to play it because of the slight annoyances I have with it, being exaggerated with the competely unpredictable bugs.

Score: