|Platform||XB1, PS4, PC|
Sure, Assassin’s Creed has seen revolutions before. But it’s never seen a conflict quite like the French Revolution, whose consequences still reverberate across the world more than 200 years after it brought untold chaos and upheaval to Western Europe—and tens of thousands to the blood-stained slab of the guillotine. As always, though, there’s more to this story than you’ll find on the surface or in the history books, and French-Austrian Assassin Arno Dorian aims to discover the truth behind the revolution here.
Abstergo Entertainment fanboys, like our very own reviews editor, Ray Carsillo, will eat up Arno’s adventures as he prances around iconic Parisian landmarks like Notre-Dame Cathedral. But what about players like me who yearn to embrace the franchise but keep encountering severe gameplay and narrative problems that leave us feeling cold toward the history-hopping, stealth-action series? That’s the challenge I put before Unity mission director Bruno St.-André at E3.
For example, taking to the safety of the rooftops and surveying your surroundings like an eagle used to be a core element of the Assassin’s Creed experience, but later entries ruined these segments, with enemies seemingly calling chimneys their second home. In Unity, St.-André says, rooftop foes will be “limited, only in specific instances where it makes sense.” He admits that introducing that element has caused more problems than it’s solved over time, and the team aims to right that wrong with Unity.
The last time Assassin’s Creed gave us a revolution, the result was, by just about all accounts, the most disappointing entry in the series. Why go back to another, similar time period so soon? Well, for one, thanks to Unity’s massive crowds, this really feels like a revolution. You can almost smell the grit and grime on the desperate peasants that huddle at every street corner, and for the first time, an Assassin’s Creed setting really feels like you can explore just about every building you come across. If you see an open window, you can pop right in and explore side content that illuminates the authentic history seen on the streets of 18th-century Paris. St.-André is also clear that we won’t see a repeat of Assassin’s Creed III’s regrettable Forrest Gump–style take on the American Revolution. “We don’t fall into that trap with Unity,” he says.
After chatting with St.-André, I’m now optimistic when it comes to Unity, but cautiously so. After all, Assassin’s Creed has made big promises that flopped before. And I’m still bitterly disappointed that a female protagonist is nowhere to be found, especially given the fact that this time period is rife with possibilities on that front. Despite a few misgivings, though, it looks like some of my longstanding issues with the franchise will be addressed here, so I’m eager to see whether Ubisoft can finally win me over and deliver an Assassin’s Creed worthy of the real-life history.