It's time once again for a dual review. This time I'm tackling the two new Assassin's Creed games which saw their debut on the same day, with Unity obviously overshadowing Rogue, but should that have been the case? Well, that's why I'm here, to give you my opinion. Let's get to it.
Assassin's Creed Rogue
Ubisoft's final last generation Assassin's Creed game came out for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with a PC date slated for next year. One would think that the previous generation limitations would hold this game back especially compared to it's next generation counterpart. While this may be true graphically, Rogue still provides an interesting story, fun gameplay and innovative changes that are equal to, if not better than Unity's.
You play as an Irish assassin Shay Cormac who betrays the assassin's and becomes a Templar after they send him on a mission that causes the unspeakable to happen (no spoilers here), in what I found to be one the most fun missions I've played in an Assassin's Creed game.
Shay, upset by what happened, leaves the Assassin's and is later found by the Templars, Whom he sympathizes with and joins them on their quest for World Order.
Both the past and present day stories take place after Black Flag. Shay's story takes place many years after Edward Kenyway's adventure, as Edward's son, Haytham (a familiar face) is now a grown man. Shay's story also proceeds the events of Assassin's Creed III and ends years after the events of Assassin's Creed III, tying directly into the beginning of Unity. Aside from Haytham, Adewale and Achilles both make a return appearance, with the former being older and the later being younger than we remember them.
The present day portions take place directly after the events of Black Flag. You're still an employee of Abstergo Entertainment, helping them research memories so they can shine Templars in a better light and literally rewrite history. However, this time, instead of being instructed by a mysterious IT guy, you're instructed by your insulting mentor to help them fix the computers. Someone has released a virus into Abstergo's network, causing the whole system to crash and reboot, resulting in many computers crashing. This, of course, leads to more hacking minigames and chances to snoop at Abstergo's personal files. If you feel so inclined.
Anyways, back to Shay... Rogue plays very similar to the other games in the Kenway Saga, you run, jump, climb, stab, hide, fall, sail, hunt, counterattack, and sync viewpoints. There are a few changes and additions however. For one thing, they took the detection compass from multiplayer and implemented it into Shay's Eagle Vision. When you're walking around you may start to hear whispers, indicating an assassin is nearby and stalking you. Once Eagle Vision is activated the compass will indicate the direction in which the assassin is hiding. They could be in hay bails, hiding behind walls, behind doors or even above waiting to jump on you. Shay's training and reflexes as a former Assassin prove useful as he is able to counterattack the assassin's sneak attacks. It's a really fun addition and constantly keeps you on your toes.
Remember the forts from the Ezio trilogy? They're back. You can infiltrate Assassin hideouts and loot their treasures. It's very similar in fact. You take out the leader, climb a bit, and cut down the flag, replacing it with a British one in fact.
Now I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that the naval combat and sailing is back. The good news is that it is much more painless now. The naval combat has been vastly improved, making taking down ships easier. It's also significantly easier to upgrade your ship. Upgrades not only require less materials but materials are also easier to comer by, making the frustration of waiting to start missions because your ship isn't strong enough, not as frequent.
Overall, Assassin's Creed: Rouge is a solid farewell to last gen Assassin's Creed. It's a well done game with a surprisingly interesting story. It's only downfall is that, while Rogue does offer a fresh experience, it doesn't really bring anything new to the table. All of it's best aspects are borrowed from previous titles. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. Also, it's fair to say that the North Atlantic is a little more empty than the Caribbean, making travel sometimes bland. I have grown personally weary of the naval elements and seriously hope this is the last we see of them.
My Rating: 8/10
Assassin's Creed Unity
Ubisoft's next-gen Assassin's Creed game that launched alongside Rogue was met with a lot of harsh criticism due to a plethora of launch bugs and glitches. However, I am going to opt out of using those as part of the basis for my review. I am doing this for two reasons. The first reason is because I hardly ran into any of these bugs or glitches during my PS4 playthrough, and any of the ones I did run into were not sufficient enough to warrant a bad review. Secondly, I do not feel it is fair to judge a core game that is otherwise passable by a few bugs that could be easily patched out. With all that being said, there are some non-glitch related things I did not enjoy about this game, but we'll get to that.
In Unity, you play as Arno Dorian, a French-Austrian ladies man with a cocky attitude who takes up the blade after the death of a family member and becomes a reckless Assassin who takes matters into his own hands too much and... wait a minute. Haven't we been here before? Indeed we have. Arno's story is very similar to that of Ezio's. Of course it's not a complete copy-paste. Unity's story also offers childhood friend/love interest that plays a major role in the campaign. Either way, I did find Arno's story to be interesting, to me it felt more like a traditional Assassin's Creed story than the last few games.
The modern day portions are a little bit different now, however. Abstergo Entertainment has now released the Animus to the public under the guise of a Virtual Reality Video Game Console, and they call it "Helix". Much like the previous games YOU are the modern day protagonist. You have purchased this Helix from Abstergo and are now giving it a whirl. You're greeted with a Story Selection screen in which only one option is playable at the moment. This, to me, was obviously Ubisoft's way of making it look like you're actually in a VR Console and each story is a different game. A lot of the options are previous actually existing games, while some appear to be Ubisoft's way of saying "here's a hint towards our next 5 games and/or DLC and standalone titles." Anyways, after you select the only available option you experience the final moments of a famous Templar from the medieval era (skewed to make the Templars look better of course, because this is Abstergo) when your Animus-- sorry, HELIX session is hacked into by assassins with fake names. Tell tell you that Abstergo is using you and then proceed to use you themselves. They want you to relive the memories of Arno and help them find the body of someone known as a "Sage" (a human reincarnation of Juno's husband if you've been paying attention to thew last few games).
This is an interesting concept, it shows that Abstergo is slowly gaining more power, and the assassins are getting desperate. They're now reaching out to random consumers at home to help them with their cause. However, there's a few things that bother me. The first one is that the modern day portions are not playable. The second thing I take issue with is that it's never really clear in the previous two games if you're playing as yourself or a silent protagonist that works for Abstergo. If the former is true then this would cause some confusion. You're obviously not the same "you" that you were in Black Flag and Rogue, so this, in my mind, creates a paradox. Unless you assume your character in Black Flag and Rouge is a silent protagonist, then the modern day section of Unity makes a bit more sense.
Anyways, in terms of gameplay, Unity is vastly different from the more recent games. For one thing, there's no sea travel. Also, the game takes place primarily in one big city, Paris. Also, they brought back the dual button holding for climbing on stuff like in the older games. Lately, just holding the shoulder button was enough, but in Unity they returned to holding the shoulder button and action button. This may sound inconvenient but the reason behind it actually pays off. The game now offers a free run DOWN mechanic. While holding the shoulder button to free run UP stuff, you can now hold the shoulder button and the cancel button to free run DOWN buildings and other such things. This feature comes in very handy when attempting to get down from high places since hay bails for a leap of faith are now scarce outside of right under viewpoints. When using free run down, Arno will automatically determine the best route to the ground and follow it.
The world is now drowning in NPCs. Almost everywhere you go there are people to be found. The game takes place during the French Revolution so you get to experience people rioting in the streets; starting fires or carrying heads around on sticks. There's also a lot of crime, pickpockets and bullies you can put a stop to. Doing this so many times usually nets you with a decent chunk of cash, so it's worth your while. Sometimes this seemingly endlessness bounty of NPCs can be a bit overbearing as they easily get in your way when attempting an escape from guards, or certain areas can be so overstocked with random civilians it can cause them to stack on top of each other or cause the game so start lagging a bit. The game is also littered with side quests and collectibles. The map is now 3D, showing buildings in scale, which makes it easier to tell if the item you're trying to get is on the roof or the ground. If it's inside a building your guess is as good as mine as to how to get to it. Internal building layouts can get cluttered and confusing, especially when the seemingly only open window leads to a room with no stairs and the item is below you. Also, there's so much stuff that the map can be hard to read, and it doesn't help that they don't allow you to fully customize the icons that are displayed, instead opting-in for a virtually useless predetermined subcategory of icons. I just want to be able to see where the viewpoints and social clubs are, why is that so hard? Also, let it be know that if you don't plan on utilizing the Unity companion app on a smartphone or tablet, or the Initiates website, then about half of the chests scattered about are useless to you anyways.
The combat is very similar to the Kenway Saga but it feels a little more clunky and more difficult to manage. Now, instead of obvious alerts when an enemy is about to hit you, their health bar flashes yellow for all of a split second, giving you a very limited window in which to counterattack. On top of that, enemies now have difficulty levels indicated by the number of diamonds above their health bar. The more there are, the harder they are to kill, especially if you difficulty level doesn't match theirs. That's right, if you look above your health bar you will see diamonds as well, indicating your level of preparedness for certain areas of Paris. You can increase this level by purchasing better armor and weapons as the game progress. You can now choose between a one handed, heavy or long weapon and a pistol or a rifle. Also, when purchasing new armor you can now customize each little piece, the hood, the shirt, the pants, the bracers and the boots. Each piece of armor has it's own rating which is critical in determining Arno's rating and how ready he is for certain missions. Each piece of armor also increases or decreases your stats in Health, Stealth, Ranged Attack and Melee Attack. Equipping a certain piece of armor may, for instance, lower your ranged attack but increase your health, and so on. Much like the previous games required ship upgrades before doing certain story missions, Unity encourages you to upgrade Armor before moving on. So they took out the naval combat but somehow managed to squeeze in its inconvenience factor. Here's the crazy part though, the armor can be upgraded which costs more money, but you can also hack an upgrade using Helix credits which you earn apparently randomly in the game over time, but also you can use real life money to purchase extra Helix credits if you're one of those micro-transaction addicts South Park recently made fun of.
Abilities can now be purchased with Sync Points, special points earned from doing missions. The abilities fall under four categories: Health, Stealth, Ranged Attack and Melee Attack. This is an interesting concept that ultimately fails for two reasons. The first being that a lot of the abilities that you can purchase, such as being able to sit on a bench to blend in, are now locked behind this new ability system. I guess the simple task of sitting can elude even the greatest of assassins without a visit to Ye Olde Vending Machine. The other reason this new gimmick fails is because it's impossible to unlock everything without playing co-op missions. So, those who usually shy away from online multiplayer are forced to play it if you want to unlock every ability. While I'm still on this, let me point out how ridiculous it is that Eagle Vision is now limited and has to recharge. Also, your hidden blades are only used when you make sneaky kills, otherwise they're essentially non-existent. You can't even fight with them or select them as an active weapon. Pressing up on the D-Pad now gives way to using medicine to heal yourself, because they brought that back from the Ezio Trilogy. Which isn't a bad thing, auto-healing is just awful. The issue, is that everything is so damn expensive and money is scarce. My advice is to start renovating social clubs and doing side quests ASAP or you may find yourself going for broke most of the game.
A welcome addition to the series are these rifts, or glitches in the animus. At certain points of your session Abstergo will attempt to hack in and the assassins open a glitch in the animus for you to jump through temporarily. These rifts always lead to an alternate Paris from a different time, such as the Medieval Renaissance or World War II. These make up for some of the game's best moments, which isn't saying much, I know, but it's worth playing for those alone. The other welcome addition to the series is the Open Assassination System. Now, when going to Assassinate a target, Arno will scout the area looking for entry points, vantage points, weaknesses and distractions he can use to get to and assassinate his target. It's much more player driven and gives you the ability to chose from one of many different ways to find your target and terminate them. I also like that Unity added more stealthy elements to the games. You can now crouch and hide behind cover, a feature almost as common in stealth games as pushing the Start button but somehow Ubisoft took 12 games to figure it out. There's also lock-picking, which would be more useful if you got better with practice and it wasn't linked to ability upgrades.
I did dabble a little bit in the online co-op, and by dabble I mean I tried it once because every other time the game refused to connect. From what I gathered, unless you're playing with friends with whom you are willing to communicate, the co-op is an organized assassination free for all. You are all given an objective, which would be simple on your own. However, what should be a quick and easy assassination turns into a stabbing ball of blood and confusion. For instance, I was making an attempt to approach the target stealthily, when one of my companions decided they were going to run in like Rambo and slice up anything that moves, causing every guard from here to Italy to come after us. Needless to say he was overwhelmed. Then the second idiot decided the best idea was to try and revive someone who was surrounded by guards, knowing damn well that they respawn eventually. Meanwhile, my third companion was content to sleep in a nearby hay bail the whole time. A mission that should have taken 10 minutes took a half hour and three respawns. Not very efficient.
Overall, Assassin's Creed Unity is a mediocre addition to the series; that offers a bunch of welcome new additions with a bunch of unwelcome ones as well. Is it a bad game? I wouldn't call it that. Naughty Bear is a bad game, Brink is a bad game. I would call Unity more... unpolished, if you will. I would still recommend playing it but only if you're a fan of the series. Newcomers will be severely disappointed. It is worth at least one playthrough, because the game is fun, it just has some setbacks. That being said, I'd suggest Rogue more and tell you to wait on Unity until a few more patches and maybe a price drop.
My Rating: 6/10