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Assassin’s Creed Unity: What We Learned While Stabbing Our Way Through The New Game

We last left the Assassin’s Creed series on the high seas with the amazing Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but the new entry – Assassin’s Creed Unity – docks the ship combat for a more grounded affair. Taking place during the tumultuous French Revolution, the series struggles a bit to find its footing at times but offers fans enough to keep interested.

When we’re not singing and dancing about it, here’s everything we learned playing the game.

Decoding History
The previous games involved a device that unlocked your DNA, so you can experience the ancestral past of your avatar. Basically, you kinda of time travel into your ancestors’ memory through genetic code. This go around, Abstergo — the company that made the Animus device — has released a public version of their tech for the masses in the form of video game (real life is leaking into the game world!). What dark secrets they hope to unlock by decoding everyone’s DNA is anyone’s guess, but as a recent inductee to the Assassin’s secret club you must find out as you relive your own history.

Oh, there’s also an ancient race of alien-gods that may or may not have created the human species and have left bits of their advanced civilization that the Templars and Assassins fight over.

Boy, “Assassin’s Creed” sure is weird.

It’s A Revolution, Baby!
Developer Ubisoft has tackled so much of history’s most notable and notorious events that it’s a bit surprising it’s taken them so long to get to the French Revolution. Doubly so because they’re a French company. C’est la vie.

As for the story, you can mostly ignore the aliens and bizarre sci-fi stuff as it serves as a framing device for the actual game. You’ll spend most of your time stabbing your way through 1800′s France.

For the bulk of the game, you take on the role as Arno, a man who finds himself embroiled within the mysterious actions of an invisible war between the Templars and Assassins. While both sides have their hands — and blades — in the French Revolution, Arno must discover what it means to become part of something bigger than himself. Overall, the story is well told and you’ll find yourself really getting involved with the workings between Arno and his mission.

The back drop of the Revolution is actually pretty cool, too – and you can really feel the population growing restless as the plight of the poor comes to a head. Soldiers and thugs harass the underclass as the upper crust of society wonders when it’ll be their turn up against the wall. Once again, Ubisoft has done their home work in building a believable world. “Assassin’s Creed Unity” won’t be replacing your history books anytime soon, but it’s still neat to live out their “what-if” scenarios of a history conspiracy.

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Sneaking and Stabbing, Jumping and Grabbing
The bulk of “Assassin’s Creed Unity” should be more than familiar for returning players. You’ll hunt, chase, and ultimately stab a bunch of villains as you unravel the mysterious forces at work behind the Revolution.

Parkour mostly works, as you’ll vault over walls to close in on your prey, though at times the game can work against your flow. It can be frustrating when you’re attempting to make a quick getaway, only to slam face first into a wall. Soon enough, you’ll get around the quirks and will become a vector of swift death for anything in your way.

Missions usually boil down to either gathering info, infiltrating, or straight up assassinating. The story objectives and side missions are fairly linear, but some open up for experimental play. You can always just bust in and start cutting – but sometimes a stealthy approach will work better. Otherwise, you have tons of weapons and gadgets to give you the edge if and when it comes to throwing down after being discovered.

Of course, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Arno has a massive arsenal which will only grow larger as you gain experience and pick up better gear. The classic hidden blade gets an upgrade as well with a super useful ranged attack. Other upgrades include swords, pikes, and rifles.

Rounding out the main objectives are tons of collectibles. Practically every inch of the map has a chest, medallion, or other such thing to pick up. There’s also secret and side missions that you’d do well to try out. There’s enough distractions that it can be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, as you discover new areas these events and collectibles will appear on your map.

Those Who Slay Together…
In this iteration of “Assassin’s Creed,” multiplayer becomes even more important than before. Gone are the days of playing a deadly game of cat and mouse stalking your prey for a stealthy kill… Instead, you’ll team up with other players as you tackle co-op objectives that vary from nabbing documents to eliminating key targets.

While some fans who loved the previous iterations’ competitive modes might feel left out, they should at least give these missions a go. They provide just enough intrigue to break the monotony from the story, and they’re also pretty fun. Plus, you’ll earn more experience and cash that tie back into single player. Definitely grab a friend or three as some the trickier quests will test your assassin skills.

High Society
Along with the multiplayer, there are tons of social hooks to keep you going. Most of it manifests as glitches within the system that prompt you to play a co-op quest. Some act as a leaderboard of sorts for those that just need to be the best. Others tie your account to Ubisoft’s online store, Uplay.

These unlock a few extra customization options and allow for some cool odds and ends if you cash in your Uplay points from other games. Though you are rewarded by playing with friends and spending your points, you won’t miss anything amazing if this is your first time linking your account.

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Keep A Low Profile… In Style!
“Unity” has more costumes than nearly all the other “Assassin’s Creed” games put together. There are so many unlockable and upgradable jackets, pants, and hoods that it’ll give even the most die-hard fashionista pause.

New clothes do more than make you look good, they also increase stats such as health and damage. Of course, the better clothes will cost you a pretty penny, and only the worthy assassins will have access to the best gear. Additionally, you can show off your duds online to envy of others. Really, though, you have more than enough options if you’re looking to be the fanciest lad in all the land.

Beautiful But Buggy
Assassin’s Creed” games, while ambitious, tend to trip up in performance. Frame drops and stuttering cut-scenes occur more than you’d like. This comes with the territory of attempting to draw in hundreds of characters while also attempting to retain a high graphical fidelity.

Furthermore, controlling Arno can be a bit cumbersome at times as he struggles to figure out which way he wants to jump or climb. Vets will know the score and can appropriately curb their expectations, while newcomers might find some of the controls frustrating. After a while you’ll get used to it and will pull of some stunning maneuvers.

We’ve also experienced some other bugs that should hopefully be ironed out for today’s (November 11) launch. Dropped audio, laggy or vanishing menus, and leaping through game walls have plagued our playtime. Still, these bugs don’t happen that much and a day one patch should resolve the issues.

In spite of these problems, “Assassin’s Creed Unity” is a pretty game for your new console. Brilliant views and fluid animations bring history alive once again. It’s disturbing to describe the bloody gurgle from a deftly executed throat stab as gorgeous, yet it has a certain morbid beauty to it. The busy allies and nicely rendered Paris only serve to enrich your experience.

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Final Thoughts
Listen, there are six — and about to be eight — of these titles. This isn’t including the mobile and handheld entries either. “Assassin’s Creed Unity” is a fun, if well tread experience.

Fans who aren’t exhausted from the same chasing, hiding, stabbing, and climbing mechanics will have a ball. New players will find a prettier and more robust version of a series that has learned a lot from its past games.

Ubisoft still shows that they have a good thing going with the series and hopefully they can iron out some of the less desirable bugs, in what is otherwise a pretty solid game.

Assassin’s Creed Unity” is available today (November 11) for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

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