SYSTEM: Sony PlayStation 4 (PC, Xbox One)
ESRB RATING: Mature
REVIEW RATING: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
I've deftly crept through the virtual shadows of every "Assassin's Creed" game since the original, and the experience usually gets better with each sequel. However, a few new features and a focus on online coop play isn't enough to keep "Assassin's Creed Unity" from being a backward step for the series.
Let's begin with the lackluster story, which definitely won't be inspiring any novel spin-offs. During the French Revolution, Arno is the son of an assassin who was ... well ... assassinated, so he grows up under the care of a Templar. When his adoptive father is also assassinated, it turns Arno's world on its edge, and now he's out for revenge for the death of both of his fathers.
Fortunately, the wide variety of missions are much more interesting than the story! I enjoy the ability to take on assassinations, track enemies and delve into the main missions at my leisure. One of the coolest new features is the detective-style missions that task players with solving murders in a point-and-click fashion.
Also new are the four-player coop missions that make the story confusing by jumping around in time. Players who ignore this oversight will have a great time if they can get the online portion to work. Not only is it difficult to simply gather a group of players together to enter a mission but some of the objectives don't get trigger so they can't be completed.
Despite these problems, the 18th century Paris is awesome to behold and fun to explore. There are plenty of activities to engage in when not simply standing around viewing the gorgeous visuals. I also love the freedom of customizing my assassin with deadly accouterments to fit my playing style.
"Assassin's Creed Unity" isn't as fun as it's predecessor, but it's still a worthy installment in the series.
DEVELOPER: Upper One Games
PUBLISHER: E-Line Media
SYSTEM: Sony PlayStation 4 (PC, Xbox One)
PRICE: $14.99 Download
ESRB RATING: Teen
REVIEW RATING: 4.0 stars (out of 5)
Countless modern games only provide a storyline because it's expected, and the result can sometimes detract from the overall experience. "Never Alone" is quite the opposite in that it features game play that revolves around an intriguing drama. With just a bit more variety and challenge, it could have been a contender for "game of the year!"
Players take on the role of a young Alaskan native girl named Nuna and her adorable arctic fox. When an eternal blizzard threatens their village, Nuna and Fox set out to unravel the cause of the unusual blizzard and stop it at the source. This difficult task can only be accomplished by successfully navigating the ice floes, ravines and ice caves found in Alaska's frozen tundra.
Nearly 40 Alaska Native elders and storytellers have come together to not only tell an interesting story but also impart the rich heritage of their Inupiat tribe. This is accomplished by incorporating 24 brief history videos that cover important facts such as the importance of percussion instruments as well as the numerous myths of the culture.
It's not surprising that "Never Alone" is a platformer since the main goal is simply surviving the trek through the snow. In addition to jumping, Nuna can hurl her ancestral weapon, called the Bola, and move boxes. On the other hand ... err ... paw, Fox can scale walls and summon ancient spirits to help them access certain areas.
While the adventure can be tackled with one player switching between both characters, it's best played cooperatively. This is mostly due to the glitchy A.I. pathing that frequently sends the non-player character to an icy death via missing a jump or standing still while being damaged by enemies.
Nevertheless, anyone who plays "Never Alone" will enjoy the emotional and virtual journey of Nuna and Fox.
REVIEW SCORING SYSTEM
5 stars = Must Have
4 stars = Very Good
3 stars = Above Average
2 stars = Bargain Bin
1 star = Don't Bother
Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)
E10+: (Everyone 10 and older)
T: Teen (13 and older)
M: Mature (17 and older)
To find out more about Jeb Haught and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.