Assassin’s Creed Unity: Dead Kings Review

When it launched back in November, Assassin’s Creed: Unity was hardly met with the warmest of receptions. Building up to release, it looked as though Ubisoft would genuinely steer the series in a new direction, coinciding with the game’s exclusivity to new consoles. The end result, however, was far from the ravishing display we saw spread throughout Unity’s promotional material.

Wracked by an onslaught of silly glitches and game-breaking bugs, the series’ latest outing soon became somewhat of a laughing stock – at least among those who saw the funny side. Others were duly outraged of course, forcing Ubisoft to issue a number of formal apologies and even discontinue the game’s season pass. Fortunately, those who had already bought into the advance scheme were compensated with a free game.

As further reparation Ubisoft has also stripped the price tag from Dead Kings, Assassin’s Creed: Unity’s first post-launch expansion. Available to anyone to own a copy of the game, this chapter in Arno’s story takes place after the events in Paris, swapping the blood-stained cobbles of the capital for the eerie catacombs of Saint-Denis.

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Despite key art depicting Arno as battle-worn and bedraggled, this change in character never actually materialises when playing through Dead Kings. Although haunted by what transpired in Paris, our protagonist is surprisingly fresh faced and carefree, arriving in Saint-Denis while looking for a way out of the country. However, Arno soon finds himself embroiled in a mystery that leads him below the city and into its cavernous underground necropolis.

It’s a far less complex saga when compared to Unity’s superfluous and often exhausting narrative arc. Instead of drafting in historical figures left, right, and centre, Dead Kings settles for just a few, directing the player’s attention towards Saint-Denis itself and the deathly network of tunnels that lurk beneath.

Down there players can expect a nice change of scenery. Well, we say nice, most of it is actually decaying struts and bat infested tombs. Still, the catacombs add some variety when compared to the imposing spires and endless rooftops of Paris. While underground you will also come across three new gameplay features that are exclusive to the expansion.

The first of these is Arno’s lantern. In truth it plays a fairly minor role in Dead Kings, parting crowds of rats and insects as you bound from one area to the next. The only other function it has is activating the catacombs’ ancient mechanisms in order to raise doors and reveal new pathways. Get the lantern wet, however, and its light will be extinguished, forcing players to navigate each waterlogged cave with due diligence.

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Next up we have raiders, Unity’s new enemy type. There really a lot that needs mentioning here: they’re a ragtag band of cutthroats and criminals looting the tombs of the dead. The only thing that sets them apart from the Templars and Loyalists is their abundance and how they behave in combat. They will usually attack in groups and then disperse whenever one of their leaders is slain, adding a new albeit gimmicky dynamic to the combat.

Finally, we have the guillotine gun which can also be used in the main game. As its name implies, this hybrid weapon combines the range and utility of a mortar with the close combat potency of a two-handed blade. It’s quirky and conveys a grounded sense of weight whenever Arno swings it at his foes. Although players can only carry a handful of mortar shells at a time, these mid-range explosives are lethal and can dispatch entire crowds in a single shot.

Ignoring these minor additions, Dead Kings’ gameplay mirrors that of Unity like for like. With that said, Dead Kings does lean more towards puzzle-solving as well as linear platforming. Still, whenever in closed combat or stealthily picking off enemies one by one, it’s exactly the same, for better or worse.

Unlike Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, which followed in the wake of Black Flag, Dead Kings fails to leave a lasting impression. Not only that, it is tied down to the main game which, after more than two months, is still spewing up errors. Given that the expansion is completely free, perhaps we shouldn’t complain too much. Then again, Dead Kings is another reminder of how Ubisoft has dropped the ball with the series’ latest outing.

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10 Comments

  1. I’m really interested in buying this game because I just finished AC4 and want to move on to the real next-gen Assassin’s Creed game. But is the game still bad even though it’s been patched numerous times?

    • I got the game for christmas, so I didn’t get to experience any of the bugs before then.

      But with the update just before christmas, it seems to have fixed just about everything. I’ve had one problem in a co-op mission once, where the guy we were supposed to be chasing got stuck behind a market stall and wouldn’t move. (Technically, I guess we caught him. But the game wanted us to chase him somewhere else until he disappeared into the next stage of the mission)

      There was also a single incident of a Mysterious Floating Teacup.

      And co-op missions sometimes break if someone leaves before it starts (at least, I think that’s what happens).

      But generally, they’ve killed all the bugs and it’s the best AC game since 2. Well, that trilogy of games before 3.

      • The exact same thing happened with me, the guy got stuck and I couldn’t continue the mission.
        other than that the game is OK, people floating occasionally and appearing out of no where is something that happened in revolutionary france, I believe.

      • You can probably excuse the odd floating person or Mysterious Floating Teacup as a glitch in the Animus.

  2. Freebie or not, this bored the hell out of me to be honest. It was too dark and gloomy and as soon as I ventured down into the catacombs, I wanted to get out rather than explore.
    It took all of about 20secs of being stuck on a puzzle before looking on youtube for a walkthrough as I really couldn’t be bothered to work it out myself.
    Maybe I’m all AC’d out but nothing really compelled me to want to explore further or complete missions to see how the story unfolded. I’m surprised I actually finished it. That little French kid was annoying too.

    • Ah, the annoying puzzles. Too simple to be any real challenge and provide a sense of satisfaction once you figure out the solution. Just seem to be there to slow you down for a bit and drag it out longer. Which is silly, because there’s a fair bit of content in the DLC anyway.

      The kid does need to die though.

      • Yeah, I wanted to shoot him with the Guillotine Gun but couldn’t.

      • Seriously, who decides that a big gun thing that launches explodey stuff is a good thing to introduce to a game at the same time as an annoying child.

        And then denies everyone the chance to explode an annoying child.

        Actually, I can possibly see why you can’t do that. And now have an idea for Exploding Child Simulator 2016. And a lot of complaints.

  3. Only 9.5 more months till the next ones out…lol

  4. I only started playing Unity a week ago and I’ve loved every minute so far.

    I’m currently at sequence 10, I’ve done half of the side missions, collected half of the collectibles and reached ‘Legend’ in the club competitions/co-op and I haven’t encountered a single glitch.

    The story isn’t that great to be honest but 18th century Paris is one of the best locations in the whole series. The detail in the architechture is unreal. They really have gone above and beyond what I expected from any dev when it comes to detail. Notre Dame de Paris in particular is breathtaking.

    I understand why people are giving this game a hard time because Ubi should not be allowed to release games In such a state. But at the same time, now it’s been patched, it’s an amazing game and I feel bad for all the people who worked thier butts off on the project to have something they clearly put a lot of work/passion into, overshadowed by all the launch issues. Ubisoft are to blame, they should have given them more time.

    As someone who played the game post-patch, I love it. But if I had played the game pre-patch, I probably would never bought another AC game again. I learned about three or four games ago that most Ubi games are released a bit too early. It’s just, this one was exceptionally so.

    Really looking forward to the Dead Kings dlc but I’m surprised they’re giving it away to everyone and not just the people who bought the game at launch. Not complaining though.

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