The Assassin’s Creed series had a colourful journey. After the first Creed, which introduced an alive and open world, with the ability to climb on basically anything ( and with some history lessons) the series took a boost in the right direction with Assassin’s Creed 2 and after that the annual releases were okay, but the boredom and the lack of innovations began to shine. Now it’s time for the third installment, Assassin’s Creed III, which had a long development time and takes a new turn for the series in Civil War America.
The story follows a half British, half native american protagonist named Ratonhnháke:ton, but assumes the name of Connor to hide his native roots. You follow Connor’s journey from his teens to when he finally becomes an Assassin and begins his battle against the Templar’s in the American Revolution from 1753-1783. The story starts up really slow by playing hide and seek with your peers, going deer hunting etc. living your teens. At first it’s annoying when the game begins with a surprising twist which for spoilers won’t be revealed, and when you finally get the hang of the story and start going forward, you are catapulted back to square one to having another slow start, but after finishing the story, you appreciate the beginning and how it bonds the emotions and sets the mood for the future. Connor is not as a charismatic protagonist as Ezio. He rarely shows his emotions and his voice is mostly very monotone, almost robot-like. His native roots show in many occasions, e.g. when he tries to make peace instead of fighting with others and by his thoughts on saving the sacred land on which his tribe is living, but on the whole Connor stays blank as a character. There’s also Desmond of course , who tries to stop the world from ending. Ubisoft really tried to make Desmond a likeable and memorable character, but his sections are not creative, but feel dull and boring. The climax of the whole series, the big plan that Desmond was working on all along, was a huge letdown, personally.
But onto the good stuff. First of, the game looks good. From the structure of houses, to the forests all the way to the animation of the people. It looks good. It doesn’t have the “Wow” -effect anymore, but you can’t by any means knock the game by its presentation. But you have to mention that the framerate has some dramatic losses at certain points, especially in the new mass battles, in where over 50 NPC’s can fight simultaneously. The tech behind that is impressive, but you shouldn’t sacrifice frame rate for quantity. The draw distance is low in some parts too. In the end, wandering in America doesn’t have the same effect as it had walking on the streets of Italy. There are no eye-catching sights or memorable buildings, that is why I preferred the design of previous games.
The fighting has gone significantly through improvements. It is no more the “Counter-one-hit-kill” like in previous titles. Now you can either just block enemy attacks, without a chance to strike back, or you can try to time the block right, which gives you a window to strike the foe down. Addition you can hold enemies, disarm them from weapons or even use them as a human shield against gunfire. These additions make the combat more fun and diverse and thanks to the brutal finishing moves each weapon has, it also looks damn fine. Also, there are a larger variety of enemy types this time around, each with individual fighting styles. The basic foes can be dealt with pretty easily, but the bigger they are, the more sneaky you will have to be e.g. dodge and wait for him to lose balance or use the environment to your advantage.
The single player of Assassin’s Creed III doesn’t really have any game breaking issues, but the amount of small flaws, combined with some still present faults from previous games, make this a game that will annoy you. Firstly, the climbing and parkouring. It looks great and you feel like Spiderman climbing everything you set your eyes on and the addition of Connor being able to climb trees and ninja he’s way across is an accomplishment… when it works. Too many times I fell to my death, when Connor decided to jump in the wrong direction or a target escaped when I wanted to chase him, but Connor just humped the wooden gate, and after a brief moment, climbed on top it and scouted the area, in other words, seeing my target get away and failing the mission. And since we are speaking about controlling issues, F*ck the horse. Just f*ck it. When you have the best road available to you, it does its job, but when there’s even a little rock in front of you, the horse hesitates and won’t go there, where you want it… Or maybe it will. Sometimes the Horse will eventually jump on the rock, but won’t jump down again, so you’re forced to leave the horse and continue travelling alone, though the ability to call your horse anywhere is a nice touch. Other flaws can be humorous like seeing a dead enemy in a position, that is impossible even for the best of acrobats in mid-air, or seeing weapons floating in mid-air, but when the suspect you’re tailing suddenly falls under the ground and you get desynchronized, that’s no fun. And the next points are a little more subjective, but on a whole I think I’m on the majority. Trading is a financial way to earn money in the game, as is training your fellow assassins and sending them on missions to gain XP and money, but because of the menus in which they are, are so poorly designed you really have no motivation on doing the said tasks. Ubisoft need to streamline the menus to being easy accessible for future titles.
There’s a lot to do in Assassin’s Creed III. After you have finished the main story, which will take you roughly 10+ hours you can go on adventure and help the townsfolk of New York and Boston with their fight against the invading Brits, renovate your home estate with entrepreneurs, go hunting, find various collectibles such as Trinkets, Feathers or Almanac pages from Benjamin Franklin or take on the sea in the new Naval games. Basically, you will be spending a lot of time with Connor.
At this point I need to mention the Naval missions. They’re mission in which you either protect your allies from enemy ships or go on a rampage to destroy a whole enemy fleet. Either way, you’re going to sink a lot of ships. And it’s FUN! Unlike the boring and tedious Tower Defense -mode from Revelations, this feels like it could be its own game. Taking your ship to the sea, commanding your crew to put on full sail and rain cannonball fire over the enemy in the middle of the ocean in a raging thunderstorm surrounded by killer waves waiting to hit you. Those are the moments that define this mode. You can upgrade your ship with various extras too. More effective cannonballs, different projectiles or more robust ship. It’s a shame this mode isn’t featured in multiplayer.
Ah, yes multiplayer. It started with Brotherhood, had some tweaks with Revelations and now its third iteration is even better? The answer is yes. Not much has changed, though. You still have your basic modes that you’re familiar with the addition of a co-op based mode called “Wolfpack”. In Wolfpack you can get a party up to 4 people and work as a team assassinating NPC’s and going up the increasingly difficult sequences, waves, all the way up till wave 25. The tweaks this time around to the gameplay are subtle. You no longer have a radar indicating your target’s direction. Instead your target’s face will light up when you have eye contact with him. After that you will need to identify the real target and go for the kill. Therefore the maps are scaled down a lot from previous titles, so you won’t be spending half of the match looking for your target. The smaller maps give the game a much faster pace, which is welcomed and with discreet cues eg. hearing whispering when your pursuer is near you, make for an heart beating experience. The main complaints I have with the multiplayer are, that there’s still a lot of waiting before I can get into the match. I understand that AC is considered mainly an single player game, but there can’t be so few players online, so the matchmaking needs to be improved. The other thing are the menus. They’re just FUBAR. The layout is confusing and most things are behind many sub-menus, which is annoying.
Because of the enormous scale and freedom you have in Assassin’s Creed III, it’s no surprise it’s riddled with animation glitches and with still present control issues. The amount of content and gameplay bundled with the beautiful landscapes and flourish scenery make for an good package. And the reliable multiplayer make this a great game. Ubisoft should have just used a couple of more months to do the finishing touches to Connor’s story to make it amazing.
Note: at the time writing the review, Ubisoft has announced releasing a patch to ACIII fixing hundreds of the reported glitches.
Pictures Courtesy of Ubisoft PR
Review Copy Purchased by Reviewer
Review is for the PS3 version of the title