Beginning in 2007, the Assassin’s Creed series has spent a lot of time building up to this much-anticipated sequel. Assassins’ Creed III (AC3) wraps up the modern-day story of Desmond Miles and introduces a new ancestor, Connor, a man of mixed Native-American and English heritage, who struggles to preserve his tribe while fighting in the Revolutionary War to free the Colonies from British rule.
AC3 starts off slow. The plot foundation laid at the start does pay off in the long run, though the introduction to the game’s mechanics is flawed in just about every way possible. All of the Assassin’s Creed games are guilty of this, so maybe it’s just that I’m tired of going through an extended tutorial after four previous iterations. The game reintroduces the tried and true mechanics of the series and boring players of the previous entries, but leaves out tutorials for some of the new content or does a half-a–ed job of introducing these concepts.
Normally a beautiful set of games which lavishly display the particular era of history from clothes to architecture, AC3 was a let down. Part of it is because there wasn’t as much interesting architecture and landmarks during the late 18th century in the Colonies. What was present at the time feels like you’d imagine, and, to the creators’ credit, the series’ usually colorful tone is made muddier and more rustic to match the feel of the Colonies; however, the game suffers from a number of graphical glitches, breaking textures, and moments where the screen blurs to the point of becoming unwatchable. These glitches don’t stop with the graphics either. Frequently turning a corner will find a character or animal walking in place against a wall or stuck on a piece of setting. To make matters worse, sometimes Connor has this same issue. I once got stuck inside of a rowboat, unable to climb up or swim below, I wound up having to quit the game. Other times, it’s a mission-critical character who is getting stuck on something. This lack of polish for the game was a disappointment and detracted a lot from the Assassin’s Creed experience.
The glitches aren’t the only issues with the game. AC3 has some bad game design elements. There are a lot of chase scenes which are difficult in an annoying and cheap way, rather than relying on any of the strategy the series has been known for. Characters will explain a mission in one manner, but then expect the player to do something completely different. One of my biggest annoyances was that the game liked to take away my consumables. I cursed more times about my quiver being empty than nearly anything else. I never knew when the game was going to take away all the arrows, snares, and mines I had poured Connor’s money into. I began relying on firearms later in the game less out of desire and more because I knew I could always loot cartridges off enemies’ bodies, so I didn’t have to make yet another hike to the general store or the Homestead to restock on supplies I had just a mission before.
That’s not to say all the changes are bad. AC3 introduces several awesome new pieces of gameplay. The first is tree climbing. While it takes some getting used to, the ability to soar through the trees like a Tarzan wannabe is cool and makes all the forest encounters a lot of fun. Building upon the city development of previous games, the Homestead is an incredible addition. Filled with developed characters with rich backgrounds, I found myself almost as addicted to helping these people and hearing their stories as I was to the third new addition, naval battles. These sea-faring sections provided a nice break to the rest of the gameplay and featured a tight set of controls that made controlling a ship and her crew easy to do while maintaining the right feel for naval battles. Broadsiding your foes is satisfying as are boarding actions, which allow Connor to put his tightly honed assassin’s skills to use. The Homestead characters aren’t the only developed side characters; each of the assassin recruits has a story to tell and are fully realized characters. Recruiting them required a lot of repetition and effort, so I saw only a fraction of those available, but the characters I did pick up were cool, though I wish the game had spent a bit more time explaining the new level up and mechanics behind the assassin recruits.
While the mechanics are hit and miss, the plot delivers in some big ways. Desmond has more to do this time around and the modern-day sequences are fun, even if not particularly challenging. Connor lacks the same heart, personality, and decent voice acting of Ezio, but is still a compelling character, a man stuck in between two different worlds who only desires peace. More than any other Assassin’s Creed, AC3 raises interesting moral questions throughout the story and has a resonating theme at its core that made me think a lot and put the entire series into an entirely new context.
Still a must play for fans of the series, Assassin’s Creed III is the least polished of the series but introduces some cool concepts and delivers on the story everyone’s been waiting to see wrapped up.
Presentation: 7.0, Story: 9.0, Gameplay: 8.5, Overall: 8.0