The First Few Hours: Assassin’s Creed Unity

Yeah, so.  I made it to Paris, did one side mission (which tasked me with – for real – finding 3 severed heads for Madame Tussaud), opened up a few trunks, and called it a night.   I am going to stick with it until Tuesday, when GTA V HD and Dragon Age Inquisition come out, and at that point I’ll either decide to stick with it or send it back.

Let’s leave aside the horrendous frame rate, the glitches, and the ridiculous story for the moment – these are all known issues, widely discussed and documented, and I couldn’t possibly claim to have seen enough of the game to comment with any sort of authority (even if I have run into some really bad frame rate issues and some amusing but non-game-breaking glitches).

For me, personally, of all the frustrating things about the AC franchise and Unity in particular, perhaps the most annoying is the UI.  I really wanted to take some screenshots last night, because when the framerate is stable and there aren’t NPCs randomly floating through a room (God, how I wish I’d taken video of that), the game can look quite stunning.

Except that there’s all this stupid bullshit cluttering the screen – maps, waypoint icons, mission reminders, currency counters, inventory numbers, eagle vision timers… I mean, I get it; I understand the point of the meta-story, where Ubisoft (er, Abstergo) is constantly trying to reinforce the idea that you’re in some sort of memory Matrix and that none of “the game” is real; but didn’t I already agree to that conceit when I sat down on my living room couch with a PS4 controller in my hand?  It’s impossible to be fully immersed in the world when there’s so much extraneous shit on the screen.

Of all the stuff I’ve read about Assassin’s Creed Unity thus far, I think it’s this Rock Paper Shotgun review that most closely resembles both my initial impressions about AssUnit and also about the franchise as a whole.  When these games are good, they’re really good (AC:Brotherhood, AC4); when they’re bad, they’re among the most frustrating things I’ve ever played (AC:Revelations, AC3).  It’s obviously too soon for me to know where Unity will lie on that scale, and yet I already feel overwhelmed by the extreme over-abundance of side activities, the crowded UI, and the game constantly reminding me at every opportunity that it’s a game.

I am hopeful that a patch can come out (soon) that will iron out some of the more glaring technical issues, but the problems with AC at this point – and with Ubisoft’s open-world philosophy as a whole, really – are much deeper than unstable frame rates.  Ubi’s big 3 – Watch Dogs, AC, and Far Cry – all feel very much alike, even as they aim towards different ends; and the homogeneity of their experiences coupled with their ubiquity starts to get suffocating after a while.  It’s already exhausting to go through a new AC every year, and Far Cry 3 was a handful in and of itself; I can’t do this same thing every 6 months.

Anyway.  I’ll have more to say about it after the weekend, I suppose, but it could very well be more of what you’ve already heard.

Author: Jeremy Voss

Musician, wanna-be writer, suburban husband and father. I'll occasionally tweet from @couchshouts. You can find me on XBL, PSN and Steam as JervoNYC.

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