Your level in Assassin’s Creed Unity is determined by the one piece of gear you currently have equipped with the lowest rating, meaning you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Considering you have gear slots for your head, torso, arms, legs, waist, and weapon, that’s a lot of gear for which you’ll have to dish out Francs in order to get yourself up to a high enough level to tackle the later story and side missions. Francs, the primary monetary unit in the game, is earned by completing those same missions, building up your base of operations and collecting income at regular intervals, and from various chests scattered throughout the world. Once you’ve earned up enough money, you’re ready to buy some new gear.
But wait! First, you need to unlock it. Gear can be unlocked by completing story and side missions, playing co-op missions, doing missions in the Assassin’s Creed Unity Companion app, ranking up in the AC Initiates program, and completing “crowd” objectives (random mini-events, like tackling a thief or killing some criminals, that happen as you just walk the streets of Paris). Once you’ve unlocked the gear and bought it, now you can upgrade it using Creed points. Creed points are earned by running around doing assassin things, like assassinating people while blended in a crowd, or from a haystack, or using a distraction.
This would work well as an experience system if it was used for both gear levelling and character levelling, but the latter is handled by yet another system: Sync points. Sync points are earned by completing co-op and story missions and are in turn used to unlock certain skills (e.g., a communal Eagle Vision, more health, mastery of weapon types), for your character. So, if you’re really looking to get everything out of Assassin’s Creed Unity, prepare yourself to engage in all of the offshoot and subsystems and spend much of your time “on the grind.”
Of course, a lot of this is entirely optional. You don’t HAVE to go in search of the best gear or even the best middle-of-the road gear. Just playing the regular story missions will earn unlock enough gear and doing a few side things will get you enough Francs to be able to afford it. Being left with only a lukewarm story to play through, however, isn’t much of a consolation. If Assassin’s Creed IV was a great pirate game slightly spoiled by the Assassin’s Creed elements, then Assassin’s Creed Unity is an Assassin’s Creed game spoiled by trying to turn every little piece of it into its own game. The one shining beacon of hope in all of this is that the various systems that undermine the single-player experience actually make the cooperative play that much better.
In many ways, Assassin’s Creed Unity feels like a prototype of a larger scale multiplayer game, sitting at the edge of MMO territory. While many of the story and side missions are solo only, you’re free to invite other players to your game at any time to run around Paris together getting the various collectibles (which aren’t shared among the group, though the crowd objectives are) and engaging in specific co-op missions. These missions vary in the maximum number of players allowed (from two to four) and in their difficulty.
The higher the difficulty of the mission, the better gear you and your teammates should have in order to beat it, but it can be won through sheer tenacity and good strategizing by team. Successfully completing a mission rewards you with some Francs, some Sync points, and one piece of gear from a specific list for that mission. Unlocking a new piece of gear each time you play a mission, along with Francs and Sync points, definitely gives them some replayability, even if the mission is the same each time. It reminds me of the way missions and loot is handled in Payday 2, to a degree.