Combining open-world and stealth mechanics is really hard and Assassin's Creed Unity is often regarded as the black sheep of the Assassin's Creed series which I do not think that it deserves that because, after all the updates and patches that it received post-launch, it is a genuinely good game.
What really intrigues me about AC Unity is that it is mechanically very different from the previous AC games and even to some extent, the games that came after.
It is a quasi-RPG type of game where later AC games really delved into the RPG genre.
But I think that AC Unity is a good balance between stealth, combat and exploration, especially in the stealth part as it is one of the few AC games that really relies on stealth than the usual RPG where you can play in whatever style that you wish.
This is due to that even though the AC series is supposed to be a series about secret assassins, the gameplay does not really encourage this and the stealth elements and even the combat elements are quite casual.
In previous AC games, you have to bash buttons and you were able to fight large groups of enemies one by one and you are still able to fight even more enemies when you were done. It makes you feel like a very powerful superhuman which does not fit with the theme of being a part of stealthy ghost-like assassin.
In AC Unity, this is quite different.
You are just as human as your enemies and in combat, you really have to pick your battles. The animation is slower but quite realistic and fluid and encourages the more deliberate approach of combat. While this game borrows from previous AC games like the attack and parry buttons, the enemies are just as lethal – they can attack simultaneously and in large numbers and they hit hard an are quite unforgiving when they come after you.
Because of this, a one-on-one fight is a bit more intense than the usual casual street fight of previous AC games, and fighting against large groups is very risky.
So you have two options – either run or be stealthy and the latter is more encouraged because when you get spotted, it is as though the entire French military knows that you are there and it is all after you. If you screw up, it is probably because you were not paying enough attention to your environment.
They literally look everywhere and the "alert" timer often takes a long time to restart so you will have to be sure that you picked a good spot to hide or you have to be on the move all the time to avoid getting spotted.
Even Metal Gear Solid 5 does this mechanic where if you get stopped in one side of the map, the rest of the AI quickly adapts and probably stays alert for the rest of the game and all other parts of the map are also informed of your presence.
So stealth is the best option for you but you have to be careful as well.
That is where the RPG mechanics are involved. Sure, they are not as in-depth and deeply intricate as later AC games but they were enough to leave an impact based on the types of gear that you carry like the amount of stuff that you can carry, the range of your eagle vision, damage, sneakiness and so on.
And the stealth is really encouraged here. So much so that the eagle vision (or the so-called "super easy detective vision") was changed into a pulse that scans the environment to a certain radius and anything that is highlighted will fade away after a few seconds so that it avoids being too easy.
You have to examine your environments, use your tools to distract the guards or avoid vision or to utilise something to your advantage, you are more emphasised to focus on the target only and you are advised to look at other scenarios and so on.
There is a clear Hitman-like vibe in this because guns are loud so you cannot rely on them, combat is difficult and tense so you cannot rely on that, and assassinating everyone means that everyone will know that you are around so cannot rely on that either.
And on top of that, you have a mobility mechanic that is very fluid and encourages player agency.
The parkour mechanic in AC Unity is regarded as one of the best and quite responsive and what's more is that the ability to choose whether you want to go up or down are tiny additions of allowing player agency so that you can use the parkour mechanic to your advantage instead the mechanic working against you which is a common complaint in many AC games.
Later AC games obviously delved into more on the open-world and RPG elements of the series – large maps with lots of exploring and hunts for treasure and side quests, loot and gear that can lead to different playstyles (although some are more powerful than others) and stories that would take hours to complete.
The stealth element is either put in the sidelines or expanded through other means like the hidden cult mechanic in Origins and Odyssey where you are tasked to hunt down the members of the Cult but you have to investigate how they are and what their whereabouts are before you can take them down. This really reinforced the whole "conspiracy" theme that is a main feature in the AC games.
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