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[AC Unity] No Upgrades/Leveling | Full Commentated Playthrough

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Leo K's picture
Leo K
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PLAYLIST LINK: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL36oulzyfYiPAFzJTlpfvypv3Gj3hN1tU

I decided to make all of the missions in Assassin's Creed Unity more interesting for myself, not just the Main Assassinations, by willingly deciding to play by the following Rules:

  • No Cutscenes, though very few are left in if I judge them important, or like them
  • No Upgrades
  • No Leveling
  • No Weapon Purchases / Equipping
  • No Armor Purchases / Equipping
  • Main Missions Only
  • Buying Ammo (Smoke Bombs, Phantom Blades, etc) is allowed.
  • Not pure Stealth, but Stealth is always attempted.

I have a bit to talk about with regards to this playthrough. We won't get an Assassin's Creed game for a while, so over the next year I'll be doing several such playthroughs and discussing what things I learned about the games while playing them.
Something that may be a point of some irony (and also some disagreement) is that I found AC Unity - a game I truly did not enjoy very much during my first run - is actually much more enjoyable without upgrading anything at all, and without doing any content except the critical path through the main game. This, to me, was very odd indeed because all of the other Assassin's Creed games have always felt to be the exact opposite. Perhaps in Unity there was simply too much to do.

Another point I'd like to make is that, all of the missions in AC Unity are able to be beaten without any Upgrades. While this sounds like a Captain Obvious moment, I want to take a moment to explain the implications of this fact: AC Unity is Designed to be able to be beaten as the weakest possible Arno a player can wield. It is not easy to do so, nor is it optimal, but the developers expected that a player might, because every single mission has little alternate entrances and exits for an Arno that doesn't have Lockpicks, or has very weak weapons and armor, for example. Throughout this playthrough, I was forced to play certain missions very differently from how I played them in my Non-Lethal/Kill Target Only playlist.

I am open to any and all reactions, and as far as I know, a run like this has never been uploaded to YouTube, which is precisely why I wanted to do it: this was content the community did not previously have. Though, you could consider Fed's speedrun of Unity to be similar enough, since the nature of a speedrun forces a player to have less upgrades than they might normally have. Still, this one completely forgoes them.

Indeed, if you search "AC Unity No Upgrades" on YouTube right now, this playlist's videos will be the top results.

The next game I will do this for will be Syndicate, and the game after it will be Shadow of Mordor -- both Creedlikes that I can play on PS4 to tide me over until AC2017.

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charlotte
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Nice that you're making some content that hasn't been attempted before! Considering how brutal Unity's combat is (apparently) was the lack of upgrades more of a hindrance than a challenge for you?

Leo K's picture
Leo K
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I enjoyed playing the game this way much more than I did playing it normally. With this playthrough my goal was to make Unity actually fun for myself when the base game is not so enjoyable for me. I succeeded. The increased difficulty and tension that resulted from that were really cool. Not going for any Upgrades or Leveling also means I don't need to play anything except the Main Story, which is good because Unity has too much Side Content, and all of the Side Content feels the same.

At times it was both a hindrance and a challenge, it felt like a true test of my ability to understand the game and how it works. On a very basic level, the interplay between the mechanics of Movement, Phantom Blades, Headshots, Smoke Bombs, Stealth Assassinations, Looting, Medicine, Cherry Bombs and Melee all work together in a way that can only be described as very Pure.

This Purity is lost from Assassin's Creed Unity once players start to upgrade more stuff. It's like Ubisoft designed every encounter to be most satisfying when the player is in an un-upgraded state, and then getting upgrades throws off that careful balance.

Basically, when I play Unity with Upgrades/making Arno way stronger, the game only has two feelings for me; either I just shove through entire missions and entire squads of people very quickly, or in my impatience I just get destroyed and it feels UNFAIR simply because a few moments ago I was blowing through entire squads of people very quickly. There's an inconsistency there.

When I'm playing with No Upgrades, however, that inconsistency disappears. Enemies are always dangerous and the only way to eliminate entire squads is to use the Smoke Bomb, Phantom Blade and Berserk Blade in the limited quantities that I'm given.

The enemies become their own economy.

It starts to feel very practical, and more of the gameplay starts to feel like it Matters.

An example is that Looting becomes an actually useful mechanic. After clearing an entire room of guards, actually going to Loot each of them feels like a meaningful reward and a calming breather because you can't buy items in the middle of a mission.

While playing with Upgrades, that feels boring and irritating because with Upgrades you don't need to do that; you can just get a Belt that has mass quantities of stuff, and refill all of it at any store in the city.

Playing with No Upgrades is an experience with Stops and Starts, Ebb and Flow. Some moments you flow through an area like water, killing and moving through enemies with ease. Then you stop, methodically walk to each corpse and search them for what they might have before moving onto the next area.

It's hard to explain but this playthrough was legitimately one of the coolest gaming experiences I ever had, and all out of a game that I previously hated mechanically! (I still hate it mechanically, I think Unity's a pretty bad game, it just becomes incredibly well-balanced and tightly designed if a player willingly decides NOT to experience most of it; only playing the Main Story with No Upgrades.)

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Double McStab w...
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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
This, to me, was very odd indeed because all of the other Assassin's Creed games have always felt to be the exact opposite. Perhaps in Unity there was simply too much to do.

Nailed it.

“To have peace there must be strife; both are part of the structure of the world and requirements.” - Ancient Egyptian Proverb

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charlotte
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That's some really interesting insight. Unity always struck me as a game that just tries to hard to blend in with the typical style of a AAA game. Upgrades for literally everything, over-customization, unnecessary "missions," etc. It falls into the same trap many open world games fall into: Too much content, and not enough substance. Not gonna lie, I'm not really looking forward to playing it. Avoiding upgrades seems like it would add, like you said, an amount of genuine challenge, rather than a false sense of difficulty. What I mean by that is you said with the upgrades, sometimes missions would be too easy, and sometimes they would feel difficult, like you're being punished for getting upgrades which kind of defeats the purpose of upgrading. Sounds like they really struggled with balance in this game.