Assassin’s Creed: Unity is set after Abstergo commercialises the Animus technology as Helix, a video game system which allows users to relive history for entertainment and education. When you fire the game up for the first time, it presents a series of screens and a menu which contextualise this, putting you, the player, in the role of a Helix user.
You kick off with a tutorial prologue set during King Phillip’s purge of the Templars, but soon after that an agent of the Assassins breaks in, and informs you that Abstergo is using the Helix to highjack your brain’s processing power for its own ends as well as present a false account of history. Rather than continue on, she suggests you work for the Assassins.
If you’re not familiar with the Assassin’s Creed meta-narrative, the Templars eventually became giant evil mega-corporation Abstergo, with plans to rule the world and destroy personal liberty, among other unpleasant goals. One of the ways it tries to do this is by recovering relics of the Precursors, a powerful race that inhabited Earth before human history. The Assassins work to defy Abstergo.
In the end, it turns out it’s super well hidden, and there’s tea, crumpets and medals all round. Even if Abstergo harvests the same memories, they won’t get to the body. It’s a no-score win for the Assassins.In Unity, your job as an Assassins initiate is to help track down the body of a sage, an individual with a lot of precursor DNA which could help Abstergo achieve its end by granting them access to more memories about Precursor technology. The Assassins have no idea where the body is, but one Assassin ancestor, Arno Dorian, might have killed him. You play through Arno’s life, exploring snippets of memory harvested from traces of his DNA, hoping to find the bit where Arno disposes of the body.
In terms of the ongoing plot of the Assassin’s Creed series, this entry is pretty missable. Nothing in particular was achieved. Yes, a Templar threat was disarmed – or rather, discovered to be non-existent – but no points were scored on either side in the ongoing battle between the two factions.
On the one hand, I find this a bit unsatisfying, because I’m interested and invested in the Assassin’s Creed universe. On the other hand, there are a lot of advantages to this approach, and I think Ubisoft would be right to employ it more often than not (but not every time!) when moving forward. Let’s break it down.