It’s been a while since we were introduced to Assassin’s Creed Unity, but the story continues with Ubisoft’s newest free-of-charge expansion Assassin’s Creed Unity: Dead Kings!
Dead Kings takes place after the events of the main game, and places Arno in a position where he wishes to get out of France as soon as possible, but along the way an old ally crosses his path and Arno reluctantly goes searching for an ancient artefact, which is located below the streets of Franciade. As Arno goes out seeking answers he finds that a familiar face has turned to the other side, and he must get to the artefact before it’s put in the wrong hands.
Before the initial release Ubisoft had proposed that Dead Kings would be one of the darker stories in the Assassin’s Creed universe, but after the initial introduction to the story Unity takes a turn for a more lighthearted approach, that is situated in dark locations rather than actually dark in tone. This isn’t necessarily a negative point, but the plot itself isn’t anything that will make you replay its contents. The story is rather forgettable and rushed, with many dynamics left either unexplained or undeveloped, lacking a decent narrative flow that leaves the story hanging on a thread as the campaign goes along.
The player is basically thrown into the story, without any buildup or context behind the events that initiate Dead Kings, which makes getting into the plot that much harder. Due to the time frame there isn’t much character development present, and the length of the storyline isn’t much longer than a single sequence of the main game, which the game actually does refer it to in that aspect. The endgame of Dead Kings contains some interesting twists, but the road before feels rather stale and rushed.
When it comes to the graphical department, Assassin’s Creed Unity: Dead Kings is pretty much identical to the main game on a technical front, which of course should be obvious since the game is an extension of the main title. The key differences ly in the design and visual filters of the new environments, which vary from familiar to completely new to the franchise. Franciade is a pretty massive expansion when it comes to size, but the main level of the city is pretty familiar after the time you’ve spent roaming through Paris. Despite the familiarity, the streets of Franciade are still pretty good looking, though the only major difference may be the soft filter that is applied through the levels of Dead Kings.
The strongest points of the new locations are without a doubt the underground caverns and crypts that you’ll be spending a pretty significant amount of time in. Exploring the caverns with the light of your lantern and discovering new locations underground is very visually appealing. The intricate designs of the locations and the lighting make the underground sequences some of the best material present in Assassin’s Creed Unity.
When it comes to the technical presentation, this goes along with the technical performance of the main game, which has been improved significantly since our initial review. The game is presented at a resolution of 900p and whilst the game doesn’t perform at a locked 30 frames per second, it is significantly more stable than the state the main title was in at release. This is more of a note regarding the main title itself, but it is a relevant one none the less.
At its core Dead Kings is pretty faithful to the gameplay aspects of the main game, though it tends to lean a bit more towards the better aspects of Assassin’s Creed Unity, providing players with tons of fun content . The main story is a lot less combat oriented, and players will be spending a lot of time solving puzzles and exploring their surroundings, which is a nice change of pace. The larger part of the campaign is spent searching through crypts, and uncovering the mysteries which will lead to finding the artefact that Arno seeks. The puzzles and mysteries aren’t excessively challenging, but their level of difficulty is decent enough that you’ll get through them feeling satisfied with your completion, which at the end is what you want out of this type of gameplay.
Another large majority of the game is spent traversing the catacombs under Franciade, which at first glance seems best suited for a stealthy approach, but the fact that I had no problem rushing throughout all of the enemy-riddled sequences made me question wether the game was actually motivating me to make use of its stealth features or not, which felt unneeded because of the Guillotine Gun, a combination of a shotgun and an axe for melee. The Guillotine Gun in question is a very effective and fun weapon to use, but it felt slightly overpowered in some situations, which kind of nerfed the difficulty of the missions in retrospect. Another notable gameplay addition is Arno’s new lantern, which helps Arno navigate and fend off small creatures throughout the catacombs underneath Franciade. Whilst the lantern is part of some clever puzzles, the use of it may become tiresome after a few levels, as it often slows down the pace of gameplay.
Dead Kings also provides players with tons of new side-missions, costumes and collectables, which make Dead Kings a pretty good expansion when it comes to additional content, especially considering the fact that it’s free-of-charge. The main story is quite short, but completing all side objectives and the new co-op missions should give players a few hours of enjoyment.
That being said, I did experience some rather worrisome technical issues that ranged from annoying to game-breaking. The most notable bug had Arno standing completely motionless, with me unable to head back to the menu or any other of the features, which resulted in having to close and restart the entire game, which is pretty annoying due to the initial loading time of the game. Other small bugs concerning enemies and other various NPC’s seemed to pop up more than they did in the main game, though thankfully these weren’t as frustrating as the earlier mentioned technical difficulties.