“I was wrong”. The most elusive statement on the internet. A sentence so rarely seen online that many refuse to believe it exists. Many Youtube commentators have even removed the letter keys required for this phrase from their keyboard. To mark such an occasion, I’ll say it again: I. Was. Wrong.
A while back I wrote an opinion piece on Assassin’s Creed: Unity, criticising it’s choice of the French Revolution instead of an Far East Asian theme that had been rumoured for some time. I declared the setting of Paris to be boring, and that this game would lead to further stagnation of the yearly franchise.
Well, from what I’ve seen since then, I am gloriously incorrect. Since that E3 demo, Unity has been firmly on my radar, and is now edging into ‘day-one purchase’ status. Every single update is showing that their initial, seemingly impossible promises are being delivered.
It’s been a long time since graphics have truly stood out to me. We’re in an age where games all look incredible, and it’s often easy to overlook just how pretty even smaller budget games look. We’ve become spoilt brats, squabbling over 900p resolutions (It honestly doesn’t matter guys) and the difference 2 frames-per-second makes. Games have become so great-looking, and the improvements have become so gradual, that we don’t often notice graphics in a game.
Unity, for me, looks like it’s about to make a giant leap forward. Watching videos of the new Anvil engine in action, It’s hard to believe the level of detail and intricacy the buildings are now showing. Rusted pipes, fully textured brickwork, Incredible torn fabrics. Assassin’s Creed looks properly next-gen. Ryse took the initial steps towards this, but it did so by placing the player in a guided corridor. With this kind of sandbox game, to achieve the level of graphical polish that we are seeing, it’s looking a new benchmark in gaming graphics is about to be set.
The narrative trailer recently released also shows us the potential strength the game’s story has. Notorious for it’s complex and often drawn-out storytelling, in the past it felt as if Ubisoft perhaps weren’t ready for the runaway success of the franchise. Trying to tell the plot over so many games took it’s toll, and made a mess of a once interesting approach. After numerous mis-steps with the sub-plots between 2 and 3, I’m interested to see if Ubisoft will pull it back.
And they have the perfect place to start. The French Revolution seems almost made for this franchise. Riots and chaos in the streets making for a perfect distraction for you to create havoc, and the themes of uprising and power shift have been told countless times throughout the franchise already. If Ubisoft can deliver a game that tells it’s story clearly and concisely, the setting and powerful drama that actually unfolded for real will take care of the rest.
If I have any reservations, one would definitely be the extent of the series mini-games. When I played AC4, it felt a bit bloated with the level of side-quests and bits and pieces I had to mess around with. I’d be on a way to a mission, when all of a sudden there’d be an island to explore, or a fortress to conquer, or a shark to hunt, or a treasure to find. The list went on. This kind of gameplay can be done well (See the Fallout series), but Black Flag felt more of a chore. Like Grand Theft Auto 4, the side missions felt like work, dragging down the thrust and adventurous aspect of the game. If Ubisoft can concentrate more on the story and game itself, rather than making it a do-everything sim game, the series will get back to it’s glory days of Assassin’s Creed 2, undoubtedly the series’ finest hour.
We wait and see if Assassin’s Creed Unity can deliver the gameplay and action to match it’s undoubtedly incredible visuals, but I’m optimistic. And if this is the kind of game I get to look forward to and gawp at until that Ninja/Samurai instalment comes along, it’s looking like it’ll at least be an enjoyable wait.