Assassin's Creed Unity
|Assassin's Creed Unity|
Cover art, featuring the various forms of protagonist Arno, in reference to the game's cooperative multiplayer.
Assassin's Creed Unity is a 2014 action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It was released in November 2014 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is the eighth major installment in the Assassin's Creed series, and the successor to 2013's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. It also has ties to Assassin's Creed Rogue which was released for the previous generation consoles the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on the same date.
The plot is set in a fictional history of real world events and follows the centuries-old struggle between the Assassins, who fight for peace with free will, and the Templars, who desire peace through control. The story is set in Paris during the French Revolution, the single-player story follows Arno Dorian in his efforts to expose the true powers behind the Revolution. The game retains the series' third-person open world exploration as well as introducing a revamped combat, parkour and stealth system. The game also introduces cooperative multiplayer to the Assassin's Creed series, letting up to four players engage in narrative-driven missions and explore the open-world map.
Assassin's Creed Unity received mixed reviews upon its release. Praise was aimed towards its visual upgrades, improved free-running and combat, customization options, multiplayer-oriented format, complex protagonists and the design of the main missions. The overarching narrative received a positive response overall as well. While it was criticized for being too predictable at times, the emotional heft and the moral intricacy of the story were praised. The largest part of criticism was drawn towards the game's lack of gameplay-innovation, unrefined controls, and numerous graphics issues and other bugs upon release. Because of the high amount of initial bugs, Ubisoft issued an apology, and compensation was offered.
Combat for the game was meant to be rebuilt, with fencing being used as an inspiration for the new system. In addition to returning weapons from previous games, Assassin's Creed Unity introduces the Phantom Blade. The Phantom Blade uses the mechanics of a crossbow to fire a silent projectile at a great distance, while still serving the same role as the Hidden Blade in previous Assassin's Creed games. Navigation for the game was also overhauled: new "Free-run up" and "Free-run down" commands were added to make it easier for the player to scale buildings in either direction. Additionally, Arno learns new parkour moves throughout the game, but the player can also purchase new skills as well. With the updated, larger crowds, new interactions with them are also available. The crowd regularly presents many activities, appearing organically, that the player can then choose to engage in at their leisure. Examples include scaring a group of bullies by pulling out a weapon, "settling" a disagreement between two civilians by killing one of them, which is usually a Templar, or chasing down a thief who has just pick pocketed somebody.
For the first time, the series allows players to customize the characters' abilities, adopting a skill tree that enables players to assign points earned through gameplay to improve their skills in stealth, melee, and ranged combat, and health. Players are also able to customise their weapons, armour and equipment to further complement their individual style of play. Players also have a wider selection of weapons available, including swords, axes, spears, rifles, pistols and throwable items, such as smoke bombs.
Assassin's Creed Unity also introduces cooperative multiplayer to the series. Players can enter taverns, which act as social hubs in the game, where you can see if any friends are playing the game at the current time. If they are currently in a mission, they will appear as a "ghost" version of their player, allowing you to approach it to request to join their mission. If accepted, you are transitioned to their game and both of you reset to the most recent checkpoint, and continue on from there. Up to four players can join together in this fashion. The player will take on the role of Arno, customized within their own game, with other players appearing as their own customized version of Arno in their own sets of equipment, weapons, and armor. Many missions and activities will be available for cooperative play (which the player can also complete on their own), but there are some story missions that are single player only.
There are significant tie-ins with the Assassins Creed Unity Companion App, a "freemium" click app with limited "direct ties to the overall story of Unity". There are a significant number of chests, assassination targets, and other collectibles that are visible to all players but only accessible to those who have completed certain goals within the app. Following an update in February 2015, this requirement is no longer necessary, meaning players who have downloaded the update, can now collect all the chests in the game without having to play the companion app.
The main character of the game is Arno Dorian (Dan Jeannotte), a native Frenchman who was born in Versailles to an Assassin father. After his father is killed by Shay Patrick Cormac at the end of Assassin's Creed Rogue, Arno is adopted, unaware that his new family holds a senior position within the Templar Order, with his new father figure being the Templar Grandmaster. Arno blames himself when his adoptive father is murdered, and so sets out on a quest of redemption that brings him into the Brotherhood of Assassins, where he slowly rises through the ranks, much like Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad and Ezio Auditore da Firenze as seen in previous games. Arno's love interest is a Templar named Elise De LaSerre (Catherine Bérubé), the daughter of the Templar Grandmaster who adopted Arno, who also sets out to investigate more about her father's death and its role in a growing ideological change within the Templar Order that threatens its core values. Additional characters include Marquis de Sade (Alex Ivanovici), Napoleon Bonaparte (Brent Skagford) and Maximilien de Robespierre (Bruce Dinsmore).
Arno's story starts in Versailles as a child, but for most of the story he is in Paris. His adventure in Paris starts on the eve of the French Revolution in 1789, and extends up to the Thermidorian Reaction in 1794. The modern day setting focuses on the Assassins contacting the player and requesting their help to explore Arno in the past, as well as helping in the present. Co-operative multiplayer missions follow the development of the Brotherhood of Assassins during the French Revolution. In addition, "time anomalies" are introduced during the story. Accessing them takes Arno to various points of Parisian history, such as its occupation by Nazi Germany during World War II.
The "Initiate" is a player of Helix, a gaming device produced by Abstergo that allows access to many different genetic memories.
The story begins with the player playing through a memory of the sacking of the Paris Temple, and the capture of Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, in 1307. During the sack, de Molay entrusts another Templar with a sword and a book, which the Templar hides within a French crypt shortly before being killed by an Assassin. The memory then fast forwards to de Molay's death at the stake, and his curse towards King Phillip IV and Pope Clement V.
At this point, Bishop from the Assassin Brotherhood hijacks the memory sequence and implores the player to join them as an initiate. Bishop provides an internal Abstergo video memo, in which Abstergo describes the capture of a Sage who contains precursor DNA (which is in a triple–rather than a double–helix). Abstergo goes into detail regarding the Phoenix Project, whereby Abstergo hopes to use the Sage to compile a whole precursor genome for unclear purposes. Bishop provides access to another memory segment and directs the new initiate to locate another Sage, whose corpse they hope to recover.
The memory then segues to Versailles in 1776, as Arno Dorian, a French nobleman's son, meets Elise De La Serre, daughter of the Templar Grand Master. After his father is murdered at the palace, the Grand Master De La Serre adopts Arno despite knowing his father was an Assassin; information to which Arno is oblivious. The story then skips forward 13 years, to Elise's initiation into the Templar order in 1789. Arno is given a message to deliver to Msr. De La Serre, but puts it in his office in order to sneak into the party to meet with Elise. After meeting her, Arno sneaks out, and finds Msr. De La Serre murdered in a courtyard. Arno, mistaken to be De La Serre's killer, is captured by the gendarmerie and imprisoned in the Bastille. There, he finds apocalyptic writings on the wall and impresses a fellow prisoner, the Assassin Pierre Bellec, with his fighting skills. Bellec invites Arno into the Brotherhood when they escape during the Storming of the Bastille.
Arno returns home first and is turned away by Elise, who reveals that the message Arno was supposed to deliver to her father was a warning of his impending murder, and reveals herself as a Templar. Arno joins the Brotherhood and begs for the opportunity to find and eliminate the other Templars involved in De La Serre's death, including Le Roi des Thunes ("The King of Beggars"). He is granted his request by Mirabeau, who was attempting to broker peace between the Orders with De La Serre. During the course of his investigation, Arno rescues François-Thomas Germain, a silversmith being held hostage by the Templar Grand Master Lafreniere. After killing Lafreniere, who was actually the one trying to warn De La Serre, Arno runs into Elise and realizes that Germain is the Sage, as well as the one who ordered De La Serre's murder. The Brotherhood Council begins to question Arno's loyalty as he acts rashly in his pursuit of De La Serre's killer.
Realizing that Germain's plot is intended to spark a mass revolt against the King of France, Arno assassinates two more central figures, an officer organizing a prisoner revolt (Captain Frederic Rouille) and another who was hoarding food (merchant Marie Levesque) to create the impression that the nobility was squandering resources as France starved. Arno also crosses paths with Napoleon Bonaparte, an artillery officer, while searching the Tuileries Palace for letters from the leader of the Assassins, Mirabeau, to King Louis, which the Templars could use as an excuse to purge the Assassins' agents across France. Bonaparte later helped him in taking down Captain Rouille, who served under his command during the September Massacres of September 1792. During this time, Arno saves Elise and convinces her to parley with the Brotherhood, as she confesses her own faction of the Templars are being killed by a schism led by the Sage. Mirabeau agrees, hoping to gain a massive favor from the potential future Grand Master of the Templars, and is murdered by Bellec, who intends to purge the Assassin leadership for beginning to agree with Templar beliefs. Refusing to join him, Arno kills Bellec, and escapes from the food riots and the assassination of Levesque shortly thereafter with Elise in a hot air balloon, after which Arno confesses to Elise that he still loves her.
With the Revolution in full swing, Arno tracks Germain to the execution of King Louis XVI, but chooses to stay and protect Elise rather than pursue him. Elise rejects him for the decision, and Arno is exiled from the Brotherhood for ignoring orders to pursue his personal vendetta, causing him to fall into a drunken depression. Arno languishes for several months before he is found in Versailles by Elise who convinces him to return as Paris is tearing itself apart during the Reign of Terror. Arno returns to Paris and, with Elise's help, discredits the reputation of Maximilien de Robespierre, whom Germain, now Grand Master of the Templars, had placed in charge of maintaining chaos during the Revolution. After Arno and Elise find Robespierre, who had locked himself in his office in an attempt to avoid arrest, Elise shoots Robespierre in the jaw and makes him write down the location of Germain.
Arno confronts Germain at the top of the Temple, only to find he now has the Sword of Eden. The fight eventually ends in the same Templar crypt in which the game began, where Arno strikes Germain only to have the Sword blow him backwards and trap him under rubble. Elise first attempts to help Arno out of the rubble then goes ahead to take on Germain by herself, but as Arno gets the rubble off of him and runs to protect Elise the Sword explodes, killing Elise and mortally wounding Germain. Arno then kills Germain, who in his memories confirms he is the Sage and that he wanted to purge the Templar Order of all who had forgotten the teachings of de Molay.
The game closes with Arno explaining how his understanding of the Creed has changed, and promising to watch over Paris and keep Elise's memory alive. Years later, Arno, having become a Master Assassin, recovers Germain's skeleton from the Temple and places it in the Catacombs of Paris, much to the relief of the Initiate's Assassin handler Bishop, who is now confident that Abstergo will not be able to find it.
The Dead Kings downloadable content picks up one week after Germain's death. Arno, still feeling devastated over Elise, finds refuge in Saint-Denis (at the time, known as Franciade). He is contacted by the Marquis de Sade at a tavern, who requests his help in finding the manuscript of Nicolas de Condorcet, hidden in the tomb of Louis IX beneath the city, in exchange for a ship that would take Arno to Egypt.
During his search, Arno encounters a group of tomb raiders, led by Captain Philippe Rose, a subordinate of Napoleon Bonaparte, who wishes to retrieve the artifact located within a Precursor temple, buried under the city's church. He also finds that the manuscript has been stolen by a child thief, Léon, who was captured by the raiders. Arno rescues Léon and retrieves the manuscript, but declines to help him stop the raiders. His resolve softens after an encounter with a vision of Elise, as well as hearing Léon's pleas.
After discovering the location of the temple, and retrieving the key from one of Napoleon's officers, Arno finally manages to open the door to the temple. He is then ambushed by Rose, who attempts to take the artifact for himself. Arno survives the ambush, and makes it to the artifact before Rose and his men. After killing Rose, Arno retrieves the artifact, a head-shaped lantern containing a spherical Piece of Eden, and uses it to repel the raiders and escape the temple. He later meets de Sade at the tavern and delivers the manuscript as promised. Finally, Arno decides to stay in France, and contacts the Brotherhood to deliver the Piece of Eden to Egypt, far away from the reach of Bonaparte, who is arrested for desertion and treason.
Development for the game began shortly after the completion of 2010's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, with the core development team splitting off during the early stages of development on Assassin's Creed III. On March 19, 2014, early screenshots of the game were leaked, as well as its title Unity. The leak revealed that Unity would feature a new location and time period, Paris during the French Revolution, a new assassin, and that it would be released in late 2014 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. On March 21, Ubisoft confirmed the game's existence, having been in development for more than three years, by releasing pre-alpha game footage. They also confirmed the game's release date of Q4 2014, and that it would also see a release on Windows. Ubisoft writer Jeffrey Yohalem revealed that the French Revolution setting for the game was deliberately teased, along with Assassin's Creed III's American Revolution setting, in symbols seen at the end of Brotherhood. Ubisoft Montreal is the lead developer for the project, with contributing work from the Ubisoft studios in Toronto, Kiev, Singapore, Shanghai, Annecy, Montpellier, Bucharest, Quebec, and Chengdu.
At E3 2014, trailers were released for the game, demonstrating the game's cooperative multiplayer mode for up to four players, a first for the series. The trailer featured Lorde's cover of Everybody Wants to Rule the World, which was produced by Michael A. Levine and Lucas Cantor. The development team was able to use the new power of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to improve the NPC crowds. Up to 1000 individual AI characters can appear in a crowd, each acting independently and reacting to each other as well as the player's actions. The PC version of the game uses Nvidia's GameWorks technology such as TXAA anti-aliasing, advanced DX11 tessellation and Nvidia PhysX technology, due to a partnership between Ubisoft and Nvidia.
Lead game designer Benjamin Plich has said this game will be more difficult than previous entries thanks to the removal of the counter button and more aggressive guards. Plich also said that the game will feature synchronized Double Assassinations.
On October 6, 2014, Ubisoft announced that they had enlisted the help of academic historians such as Laurent Turcot, professor at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières for daily life of 18th-century Paris and Jean Clement Martin professor at the Sorbonne, to revise the script.
The game was originally intended to be released worldwide on October 28, 2014. However, on August 28, 2014, it was delayed until November 11, 2014 in North America and November 13, 2014 in PAL regions. On the delay, Vincent Pontbriand, senior producer at Ubisoft, said, "As we got close to the finish, we realized we were near the target but still needed a bit more time to hone some of the details to make sure Assassin’s Creed Unity is exceptional.” Additionally, the game received a day one patch with further updates to the game.
Gender options in cooperative mode
After the cooperative multiplayer mode was revealed at E3 2014, additional information about the mode was revealed by creative director Alex Amancio and technical director James Therien. Amancio stated that the mode did not include the ability to play as a female avatar, due to "the reality of production". Amancio added by saying, "It's double the animations, it's double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work," which was echoed by Therien. Level designer Bruno St-André expanded on this by stating that an estimated 8,000 additional animations would have had to be recreated for a female avatar.
This caused dissatisfaction in some video game community outlets. Brenna Hillier of VG247 noted how there were nine development teams working on the game, and said "Ubisoft has here trotted out a tired, stupid, constantly refuted excuse for why it has perpetuated the cycle of sexism and under-representation in the games industry." Tim Clark of PC Gamer made note "that previous Assassin's Creed games have had playable women as part of the multiplayer component, [and] that Brotherhood had you supported by on-call assassins, many of whom were female, so it’s hardly like it can’t be done." Clark also looked to the way Amancio and Therien answered the question and felt how they referenced "how much the team wanted to include playable female characters suggests... that this is probably a decision which hasn’t gone down well internally." Former Assassin's Creed designer Jonathan Cooper responded by saying, "In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two's work. Not a replacement of 8,000 animations." He also revealed that Aveline de Grandpré, the female protagonist of Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, "shares more of Connor Kenway's animations than Edward Kenway does." Fans also created petitions urging Ubisoft to change their stance. Additionally, former Assassin's Creed game designer Patrice Désilets commented that Amancio's reasoning was valid, but that Ubisoft should put in the effort to let players have gender options.
Amancio attempted to clear up any confusion, by stating, "I understand the issue, I understand the cause, and it is a noble one, but I don't think it's relevant in the case of Unity. In Unity you play this character called Arno, and when you're playing co-op you're also playing Arno – everybody is. It's like Aiden Pearce in Watch Dogs... Arno has different skills - you select skill points in the game, there are gear elements that have an impact and all these weapons that make the character you make your own. But you're always playing Arno... The reason we're just changing the face and keeping the bodies is we want people to show off the gear that they pick up in the game through exploration. That's why we kept that."
In October 2014, Ubisoft's senior producer Vincent Pontbriand made a statement that all console versions of the game would be locked at the same resolution of 900p. This was done "...to avoid all the debates and stuff." Many readers took this in reference to how the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are constantly compared in the media for raw power, presuming that the PlayStation 4 version of the game's resolution was lowered to reach parity with the Xbox One's, but Ubisoft later denied that this was the reason.
Instead, Pontbriand stated that the decision for parity came from the limitations of the consoles' CPUs. The number of NPCs and generally amount of AI was paramount to keeping the game locked at 30 frames per second.
Assassin's Creed Unity received mixed reviews from critics upon release. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Microsoft Windows version 73.33% based on 3 reviews and 70/100 based on 10 reviews, the Xbox One version 70.18% based on 45 reviews and 72/100 based on 59 reviews and the PlayStation 4 version 68.11% based on 27 reviews and 70/100 based on 40 reviews. Matt Miller from Game Informer gave the game 8/10, praising the detailed environment and architecture, decent voice acting, strategy-required missions, challenging gameplay and well-paced story missions, but criticizing the controls and balance, as well as game-breaking technical issues. He also stated that both the navigation system and the combat system still needed to be improved. Louise Blain from GamesRadar gave the game 4/5, praising the dense and atmospheric game world, character-focused mission design, overhauled free-running mechanics, in-depth character customization and satisfying combat. However, she criticized the game's framerate and poor enemy AI design.
Chris Carter from Destructoid gave the game 7/10, praising the new movement system, likable lead characters, iconic setting, smooth animation and improved draw distance. New additions such as character customization and huge crowds were also praised. However, he criticized the predictable story, technical issues, and the mission design of co-op multiplayer, as it is impossible to play some missions solo. He stated that "Unity feels like a step back. ... It lacks that grand sense of roaming the uncharted seas in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, or even the open-ended feel of the wilderness in Assassin's Creed III, but it's a journey worth taking if you're already into the series." Tom Bramwell from Eurogamer gave the game 7/10, praised the setting, rich content, inspiring story and interesting side-missions. However, he criticized the over-familiar and unimaginative mission-design, overzealous auto-correct system in the free-running mechanics and the lack of weapon customization. He described the game as a "missed opportunity".
Marty Silva from IGN gave the game 7.8/10, praising the recreation of Paris and ambitious ideas presented in the multiplayer, but criticizing the unrefined stealth, weak story and lack of a strong lead character. He stated that "the true new-gen Assassin’s Creed game is a gorgeous, entertaining, and successful proof of concept for what lies ahead for the series, though it isn’t what I’d call revolutionary."
Tom Senior from PC Gamer gave the game 65/100, saying that "Unity could become a perfectly enjoyable part of the Assassin's Creed canon. It's a solid campaign elevated by quality assassination missions and an extraordinary setting that might just push the big number at the bottom of this review into the 80s, but with a big selling point out of operation, a raft of technical issues, performance problems, microtransactions and stilted combat and freerunning systems, Unity—in its current state—can only be considered a failed revolution." Sam Prell from Joystiq gave the game 2.5/5, saying that "It's hard not to appreciate everything that it [Unity] gets right, and you'll have a good time if you can wrangle some friends for co-op, but it's impossible to ignore where Unity falls tragically short." PC World stated that the game "is a new low for the Assassin's Creed series." The review also criticized Assassin's Creed Unity for its small scale, poor gameplay, and high minimum system requirements. Similarly, CNET stated that "[w]hile it will likely suffice for Assassin's Creed core fans, Unity stumbles throughout and never really finds its footing."
In December 2015, Game Informer ranked the game as the eighth best game in the Assassin's Creed series to date.
Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat apologized on behalf of the studio with regard to the poor launch of Unity, stating that the "overall quality of the game was diminished by bugs and unexpected technical issues", and prevented users from "experiencing the game at its fullest potential". In response to the issues, Ubisoft announced that it would halt sales of the game's season pass and Gold Edition, and offer the game's first DLC campaign, Dead Kings, for free. As compensation, those who bought the season pass received a free digital download of one of six Ubisoft games (Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, The Crew, Far Cry 4, Just Dance 2015, Rayman Legends, or Watch Dogs), and would also "continue to have access to a variety of additional content [for Unity], including Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China". To claim the game, however, users had to forfeit their right to sue Ubisoft with regard to the game and the devaluation of the season pass.
In February 2016 Ubisoft announced that it would not be announcing any additional Assassin's Creed games for the rest of the year, citing the many issues of Unity and stating that, "we’ve learned a lot based on your feedback." In this statement, Ubisoft pledged its commitment to evolve the game's mechanics in order to create "more enjoyable games". This news has possible connections to Ubisoft's third quarter financial report, which was released on the same day, and states that Assassin's Creed Syndicate had a ""slower launch than expected."
Criticism by French Left Party
The French Left Party and its frontman Jean-Luc Mélenchon criticized the historical interpretation the game was conveying about the French Revolution, depicting Robespierre as "a blood-thirsty monster" and Marie Antoinette as "a poor little girl". He has described Ubisoft's version of the historical period as "propaganda" that builds upon the growing sense of self-hatred spreading throughout France. Mélenchon has expressed his criticisms in multiple media appearances, telling the New York Times that, “Smearing the great revolution is dirty work that aims to instill the French with even more self-loathing and talk of decline. If we continue like this, no common identity will remain possible for the French besides religion and skin color.”
Alexis Corbière, national secretary of the Left Party, said that "the game was conveying all the counter-revolutionary clichés that have been forged for two centuries". He added "To everyone who's gonna buy Assassin's Creed Unity, I wish you a nice time. But I also tell you that having fun doesn't prevent you from thinking. Just play it, but don't let yourself be manipulated by the propaganda".
Without mentioning the criticism specifically, in an interview published on October 6, 2014 by Time, the game's creative director Alex Amancio said "What we actually try to do, and I think this is just a personal belief that we have, is to avoid reducing history... We try very hard to portray things as factually as possible." Despite this, game producer Antoine Vimal du Monteil answered that, ultimately, "Assassin's Creed Unity is a mainstream video game, not a history lesson."
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