So, a few months ago I made this big post about how I was going to start doing reviews, and then only did one and stopped. But, a bunch of stuff has come out/is coming out, so I'm going to try to start this up again. Starting with the latest entry to the Assassin's Creed franchise, Assassin's Creed Unity.

First and Foremost, I'm going to respond to something a lot of other reviews have pointed out. This game is derivative. And I acknowledge it. Ubisoft has done little to change the basic formula of this series over it's many iterations. They add in a few new things, they tweak a few mechanics, but largely, it remains the same thing.

Now here's why I think that's okay. First off, Gamers as a whole are impossible to please. If you don't change enough, they'll bitch about "charging us for the same game again". If you change too much, then it's "Oh wow they fucking ruined it". So there's really no winning from a development standpoint. All you can really do is find a focus and stick to it. And for Assassin's Creed, that focus seems to be recreating historical environments as accurately as possible, and using that, and the mechanics they have, to deliver a story.

And that's what they do here with Unity. They have delivered an excellent vehicle for a story, set to a (in my opinion) a truly breathtaking backdrop of Revolution-Era France. I have a bit of a biased reception to this, as a history nerd, but it seems impossible to ignore the fact that this world seems TRULY alive in a way that matches, or even surpasses, GTA V. When you watch a mob of over 200 independent NPC's gathered to watch an execution, and hear them chanting and singing in unison, waving flags and burning effigies, as fights break out between loyalists and revolutionaries on the fringes, it's truly impressive.

Now, this comes at a cost. I think Ubisoft bit off more than they can chew, on the technical side. This game has more stutter and unpleasant slowdowns than any console game I've seen in a long time. The load times are painful. For me, as a gamer who plays games almost solely for the storytelling experience, it's still acceptable. The load times, while long, are not unacceptably so. And the slowdowns, while jarring, and so extreme as to render the game unplayable when they happen, seem to only happen sparingly, when the player crosses some invisible line between wherever Ubisoft determined they should start loading assets.

For some people, this will be unacceptable, however, and I can't really fault them for that.

As for what's really changed? They tweaked the freerunning system in a way that I initially thought broke it, but I have slowly learned actually enabled a great deal more finesse. I had a tendency to throw myself in the wrong direction, because previous installments had ground in the habit of needing to throw the joystick 90 degrees in a given direction to actually get any sort of movement, whereas now a lot more finesse is enabled. The inclusion of a "Freerun Down" option is a godsend, allowing the character to move down just as quickly as he moves up. No more will you scale an entire building in seconds, only to spend a minute slowly picking your way down section by section. Still, it seems as there are still some weird kinks to the freerunning system. I still occasionally find myself glued to a 4 foot high wall, unable to get down without some work. It's an imperfect system.

The combat feels a bit more visceral, adding more timing to the whole parry system and allowing the enemies to get finishing moves on you when you screw up in combat. Overall, I've liked the changes they made in that department.

The side missions are a mix of improved, interesting variety, and mind numbing "Follow" tasks. The "Nostradamus Riddles" and "Murder Mystery" side-missions are a puzzle fans dream, and are genuinely challenging and interesting, providing a welcome break from the (still an issue) monotony of free running. Interspersed with that are some truly dull side-quests that involve you slowly following a character plodding along, and defending them from assailants who squirm out of the woodwork. They last far too long, in my opinion.

The actual, main story assassination missions are much more interesting, hearkening back to the free-form approach of the original game. No more are you given a blatant, "Go jump on that guy and stab his face a bunch" task, but instead are presented with a wide area that the character patrols, with several various opportunities to introduce them to their maker. They've even included sub-missions within the main missions that allow you to find other approaches that would otherwise be unavailable, or provide information on opportunities.

Speaking of the story; The assassin in this game is probably my favorite since Ezio. He is a snark, sarcastic character who occasionally attacks the very tropes of the game itself, but has very clear reasons for being there.

And this ties in with what I said at the start. This is not a game about creating the most technically impressive gaming experience. This is a game for delivering a story, and interesting characters set against fantastic historical backdrops. In that regard, the game delivers. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. It has flaws, many of them (more than I listed here, though, thankfully, the "Out of animus" episodes are much more bearable and still technically take place within the Animus). But, it is good at what it does, and that's crafting and delivering a fascinating story.

So, I recommend it. With an asterisk. It's a good game. It's a great story. It's a fascinating world. But it has flaws.