assassin's creed unity and rogue
Given the general uproar about the bugginess of Assassin's Creed Unity when it first game out, I wasn't necessarily expecting it to be a great experience. But given that the game launched in November 2014 and I didn't get around to playing it until sometime after March 2016 a lot of the issues that surrounded its launch weren't present once I booted it up for the first time.
And as with Assassin's Creed III when the whole system was rebooted which made both combat and free running feel fresh and new (although in the case of ACIII's combat I hated the fact that medicine was gone and I couldn't use that while fighting, although I loved all of the updates to the free running), ACU has likewise had a seemingly "from the ground up" reboot. While the majority of the core gameplay remains the same, a lot of the way you approach the world changed significantly and many familiar things feel very different.
Not least of all was the fact that this was the first AC game I played on the Playstation 4. And while I generally don't get too overexcited when it comes to graphics, ACU is a good looking game (which I feel like I've been saying in one form or another since AC Revelations). Plus the sheer number of people in the crowds makes Paris feel like such a lived-in and full city in a way that Venice, Rome and Istanbul don't by comparison.
I liked ACU's reboot to the free running system with the "free-run up" and "free-run down" options (although the fact that it stopped me from flinging myself off the edge of buildings towards other buildings that I know I could have caught hold of was occasionally a little frustrating... granted that has probably been my number one cause of desynchronisation over the whole AC franchise). But the speed that hero, Arno Dorian, scales the buildings, as well as the little flourishes of parkour animation that he does when he reaches the tops of buildings or the group really add something to the free running.
One of the other things I really liked about the free running this time around was that the buildings seemed to be designed to more easily get from one side of the (very, very, very large) city of Paris to the other. The city is designed with many different kinds of architecture and differing building types, however a lot of the rooftops are flat and wide, and cables/ropes are attached between wider gaps making it really easy to get a decent run across the tops of buildings. In some ways it reminded me of a lot of the building design from Assassin's Creed Revelations.
The story feels fairly standard for an Assassin's Creed game, although there are some nice flourishes and the integration of a number of both historical figures (most notably Napoleon Bonaparte and Maquis de Sade) and events (the storming of the Bastille, the execution of King Louis, etc) in a way that feels more immersive than previous AC games.
The main character of Arno Dorian is possibly the most Ezio-like of all the characters, although overall I will say that he's a little bit forgettable from a personality perspective. But he's definitely up in the top of my favourite AC characters. And after several "non assassin" leads, Arno is a return to form as the fully trained character who is involved in the Order.
The love interest angle to the story is actually neither here nor there... Elise is a nice enough character, there's an interesting dynamic in their relationship, but essentially she's just there to push certain story elements (follow her here, defend her from this, find this thing for her etc).
In both the main game and the Dead Kings downloadable content there were two elements that changed the way I ended up playing the game a little. In the main game you're told that the gangs that are roaming the city (coloured red in Eagle Vision) are harassing the populace and have "no right to be doing what they're doing" or something very similar. These are contrasted with the official guards (coloured blue) who just wander around and will attack or chase you if they see you doing something wrong. But just this one line about the gangs, mentioned once, actually had me going out of my way more than once to take them down. I tried my hardest not to kill the guards, but anybody wearing red needed to die and die quickly.
Contrasting that with previous games, where there's only "innocent bystanders" and "guards/villains" and I didn't have quite as much of an objection to just running past people and letting them live. The fact that many of these gangs are random events that once you'd completed X number the game gives you a bonus of some sort (usually cash) didn't hurt, but it was more my moral objection to them that saw them fall under Arno's blade.
And in Dead Kings there's a little boy who is at the centre of the story, and who I got quite attached to, even over the relatively short play time of the game. Basically by the end of the content in my own personal interpretation of what happened next, Arno adopts him and they go on adventures. It made me wonder about a game where you play a mother or a father of a kid who is integral to the plot (maybe they're a sage or somehow historically relevant... to the Order at least)... and how that would change what you're prepared to do.
The addition of a skill tree for advancing the three areas of stealth, melee and ranged combat felt a little broken... or just that there were never enough points on offer to really do all the things I wanted to. And some of them I feel like I unlocked entirely too late in the game for them to be of much use (although I love the disguise skill). Possibly it was because of the multiplayer element baked into the game and the expectation that you'll be completing those missions which would have, in turn, earned you more points.
One of the things I did like about the redesigned combat was the upgraded Phantom Blade (aka Hidden Blade) which fired projectiles in much the same way as the gun upgrade in either ACII or AC Brotherhood worked. And once the berserker/poison was available, I once again found myself letting characters kill each other off while I watched on from the safety of a rooftop rather than engaging people directly. Likewise, for me, the regular projectiles took the place that daggers have held in previous games. I'm basically a sniper, I'm not going to lie. I'd much rather do the deed from afar then get up close and personal. I mean, Arno's an assassin... why the hell wouldn't he do the deed from a safe distance and live to fight another day.
The range of weapon choices in ACU was pretty amazing too. Swords (regular damage), axes (heavy damage), spears (long reach), pistols and rifles (ranged) are all present, in a range of different skins and damage levels, but I decided quite early on that the spear class was where I felt the most comfortable... once again, all about keeping people at a distance... because why the hell wouldn't you? I also like that the fight animation has become fairly sophisticated and Arno will string hits together in unique ways even though you're essentially button mashing.
It also meant that I relied more on the weapon and not as much on the smoke bombs for close combat. In fact I got through the majority of the fights with the spear alone.
And on top of that Arno's hood, shirt, belt, pants, Phantom Blade and boots were all customisable, with, as always, a range of colours. DRESS UPS! Like seriously, the character creation portion/costumes and accessories are what I love in games.
The problem is that often times the highest powered items that I had access to were kind of ugly or looked ugly when mixed with other items (and the matching ones were only accessible though co-op missions). Thankfully the ability to throw a full costume over the top of those choices (like Ezio or Connor or Edward's outfits from previous games) meant you could keep the stats while still having a decent looking character. I did enjoy the range of things, if not always the specific items, though... and I would really love for them to make a game where you design your own ancestor character a little like the character creation process in something like Fallout 4 (part of me still wants to go back and restart FO4 because I'm really not happy with the final design for his character's wife).
Granted I would be designing that character for about three hours before I was happy with his look.
I feel like ACU was one of the most densely packed games, at least as far as collectibles and side missions and the like. Perhaps that was because the story didn't feel like it was really all that long, but there was still plenty to do. But because of the lockpicking minigame (and it's three difficulty levels) and the slow trickle of points to put into skills, this is also the game where I left the most unopened chests and other assorted side quests just sitting there. Part of that was around the multiplayer element they added, where you could play cooperatively with other people to complete missions (which I never did anything with)... there were at least two different kinds of those, plus all the chests, and the other collectibles. When I finished the game, my map almost looked like I'd never even started.
Speaking of side missions, one of the additions that I did really like was the Murder Mysteries. These mostly relied on using Eagle Vision to look for clue markers/people and then solving whatever grisly murder you're discover. It was a definite change of pace, and although occasionally felt somewhat like busywork running from one location to another and then another and then another, only to usually run back to one of the earlier locations to accuse someone, I enjoyed all of those missions. There was only one of them where I was unsure of the culprit and had to resort to looking it up online. And that was more about a choice of two possible villains, and the one I thought was more likely turned out to be the killer.
Also adding a different element were the Paris Stories, often based on actual historical occurrences (I'm pretty sure the murders were likewise at least historically inspired) or French literature. Essentially these are mini-missions broken into three or four parts, they were closer to normal AC gameplay, but not entwined in the main story.
So even with the small number of flaws and the issues that happened when it launched, I actually really enjoyed my time in Revolutionary Paris.
I tried to like this game, I really, really did. But I just couldn't take any more sailing. Add to that a protagonist who is somewhat unlikeable as he works against everything that players have been taught in all the previous games and it just wasn't working for me.
I actually played this before I started Unity... but given that this is more a short catalogue on why it didn't really work for me than a full description, I figured it made more sense to slot it in under the Unity part.
It feels like Ubisoft have been trying to present a "the Assassin's aren't totally right and the Templars aren't totally wrong" overarching storyline for the last few games. Starting with ACIII and the *spoilers* revelation that the group of men you're been following are actually Templars and not Assassins *end spoilers*, through to a number of deaths in that game where the dying character spreads doubt to Connor that whatever reason he thought he was killing them was essentially flawed in some way. While I appreciate the idea, and especially if they were setting up the idea behind AC Rogue in ACIII (it does share a couple of characters and some locations, so it's possible), but I want my good guys to be good and my bad guys to be bad... none of this wishy washy middle ground.
So at its heart the idea of playing a character from "the other side" was interesting, but may have been more compelling if they'd been a Templar from the start, rather than an assassin switching sides. But then that kind of means you lose a lot of the Assassin's Creed mechanics. Or maybe they started the game as a Templar and you learn about their assassin history as the game progresses.
The gameplay of Rogue is a mix of both ACIII and AC Black Flag (mostly the American cities and a metric ton of sailing from place to place respectively), but as I said, given that I'd just spent the whole of Black Flag sailing from place to place to place, and upgrading my boat and whatnot, I really didn't want to start over from scratch with a completely new character and do more of it. Plus the fact that the setting was a location where you couldn't even swim in the water without freezing to death (I did a lot of swimming around in Black Flag), I just couldn't get that interested.
I got a few hours in and just lost interest. And now that've packed up my PS3, it's highly doubtful I'll even both revisiting it.