One of my favorite activities in the “Assassin’s Creed” games is diving off the top of a tall building into a conveniently placed haystack. I’ve done it hundreds of times over the franchise’s seven-year run, but until now I’ve never gotten stuck in the hay.
No big deal, nothing that can’t be overcome by rebooting the game. But it’s just one of the dozens of glitches I encountered while playing “Assassin’s Creed Unity”. I’m talking about characters getting trapped inside walls, having their legs cut off or left floating in space, so much unintentional comedy that players have been flooding YouTube with videos of their ghastly discoveries.
Many of these glitches are likely to be fixed, but their sheer abundance points to a larger problem with “Assassin’s Creed.” Ubisoft has been releasing these games annually since 2009, and it feels like exhaustion has set in.
For the uninitiated the “AC” saga tells of a centuries-long rivalry between two cultish brotherhoods, the Assassins and the Templar’s. So far, we’ve visited 12th-century Jerusalem, Renaissance Italy, colonial America and the 18th-century Caribbean.
“Unity” brings the action to Paris in the 1790s, with the French Revolution brewing. Arno Dorian is a dashing young Frenchman seeking vengeance for the murder of his adoptive father. Arno’s quest leads him to an alliance with the Assassins, which causes some headaches since Arno’s love interest, Elise, is a Templar through and through.
The chaotic times are convincingly drawn — the Parisian crowds seem like they’re ready to erupt in rage at any second. Troublemakers like Napoleon Bonaparte, Maximilien de Robespierre and the Marquis de Sade make cameo appearances, and there’s an exhilarating balloon race courtesy of the Montgolfier brothers.
Like his Assassin ancestors, Arno is a spectacularly agile creature with the ability to clamber up the sides of tall buildings and leap across rooftops. It’s even more thrilling to scale landmarks like the Bastille and the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
Arno’s primary weapon is his sword, and the swordplay here is as nimble as ever. “Unity” also equips Arno with an effective “phantom blade,” which he can use to kill from a distance. The other major addition is co-operative multiplayer, in which up to four Assassins can team up. It’s not very satisfying, and seems out of place in a game where you’re better served by keeping a low profile.
If you’ve enjoyed the devil-may-care fighting and gravity-defying exploration of previous “Assassin’s Creed” games, “Unity” delivers plenty more of the same. But it doesn’t bring much innovation to the series; indeed, it seems like a step back from last year’s rollicking “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.” Sure, I enjoy cracking open a new adventure every year, but I think the developers would benefit from taking a deep breath and giving the next chapter a little more time. Two-and-a-half stars out of four.