I am a calm and patient gamer. I am not easily angered and I am willing to overlook flaws if the narrative of game keeps me engaged. With this in mind I present to you my review of Assassin’s Creed III, a game that in it’s last few moments had me ready to tear my controller in two.
Many of you will be aware of the concept of the ‘Shit Sandwich’, the process of delivering bad news or criticism (the shit) by flanking it with compliments (the bread). I’m going to go with the lesser known ‘Shit on Toast’ metaphor here, we’ll get all the issues out first and then I’ll tell you all about how fucking amazing it is to hang a guy from a tree with a rope dart.
Once things get going Assassins Creed III is a game that offers you a great deal of freedom. You can choose to progress the story at any time or you can run off and liberate some oppressed colonists or perhaps expand your homestead by setting up trade routes to sell your wares. Unfortunately I found it very hard to work out what tasks lead to specific rewards. Perhaps I missed something but it certainly wasn’t clear. You are left to experiment with or ignore huge sections of the game. You should experiment early on; I left it far too late to be of much use. Another issue raised by the freedom offered by the world is that, while not really very prominent in previous games, there are quite a few moments where the world breaks. Horses and NPCs get stuck on and in the environment far to often for it to just be simply amusing and several times during my playthrough I needed to restart a section due to some kind of scripting error not progressing a mission.
As with all the games in the series you are given the chance to complete a mission with ‘Full Sync’, side objectives or constrains that I always took as showing you what really happened. After all, you are replaying historic events here. In Assassin’s Creed III they are implemented differently, more like a Hard Mode and often having little significance or, in at least one case, contradicting the events being show to you. It feels like a wasted opportunity and I quickly lost any interest in completing the objectives on offer.
These problems are not very serious and can be easily forgiven, or ignored, but they serve to yank you from the rich and engaging game world you will be aching to be a part of, and that is far less forgiveable.
My remaining problem is one that I find hard to quantify here as my memory is so clouded with rage, I worry it will seem petty and that you will think I just lack the skills of a competent assassin. It’s the chase missions. I’ve never been a huge fan of chase mission in the series but here they are just too frequent, too long and too frustrating. Worst of all they are mandatory.
OK, now it’s bread time, delicious bread. Everything new in Assassin’s Creed III is fantastic, every worry I had leading up to release was unfounded. The story is rich and engaging, the characters are the most likeable ever presented in the series and the environments feel varied and new, if a little depressing. Boston is a place I have visited and while its documented history is relatively recent compared to the rest of the world it is rich and being more recent affords the luxury of detail. You meet a great number of significant people as the story unfolds and will find yourself entwined in the most poignant moments of the founding of the United States. While the second city locale of New York might seem like the draw here it actually feels, and no doubt was, very much like Boston during this period. In contrast to the new founding cities of the east coast you have free reign to explore the wild fronter, a huge area to explore and hunt in that provides some spectacular views and is a welcome distraction from the busy cities crammed with guards. I would wager this is not a history taught to any degree outside of the USA and those unfamiliar with it might be wary going in. Thankfully there is no need for concern as it forms the basis of a great story.
The most notable change is the new Assassin. Connor fits perfectly into the world of Assassins and Templars despite being quite different from those we have come to know. He’s brutish and impatient, confused and easily led but he remains likeable throughout. The world has changed and the lines between the good of the Assassins and the evil of the Templars is blurring. This is perfectly reflected by the conflict of the period and forms the core of the narrative.
Connor’s role in the world differs to that of Ezio and Altair’s. He’s not aware of how important he is. He isn’t driven by the goals dictated by the Assassins, he is just trying to make the world a better place; to give people freedom. As such when you choose to take on a side quest to help a bullied man or an injured woman you are doing it because it feels like the right thing to do and this makes Connor very a very endearing presence.
There is so much I’d like to talk about, so many moments of perfection in the story but even alluding to them would give them away so just trust me, stay away from spoilers and play the game. There are many pay-offs to be had. As Connor is manipulated by others you will feel tricked and betrayed yourself. As this is Desmond’s story you will be in control of him from time to time. These sections are kept short and are used as a mechanism for explaining the reason for all that has happened in the series. The sheer amount of real information and answers given left me excited for the next modern day section rather than dreading it. A masterstroke.
It would be remiss of me not to mention some of the new elements and improvements introduced in Assassin’s Creed III. I’ll keep it brief as you will be better rewarded by discovering them yourself. Combat now has more freedom. You are free to run in and out of combat as you see fit; a welcome change. In contrast to that free-running is now more controlled, again for the better. A slight change in control means you are now far less likely to make an accidental leap off a building and fall to your doom, but this doesn’t come at cost to freedom of movement. The much touted sea battles are epic and feel great. They require some investment of both time and money to really blossom but are hugely satisfying and worth while. Multiplayer returns and as tradition now dictates has been expanded yet again, while it is not for everyone, more game modes and the obvious new setting make it the perfect time to dive in. I’m rather partial to it myself.
I nearly forgot to mention the rope darts! Buy them and use them whenever you can. You’ll see what I mean.
While I doubt this is the last Assassin’s Creed game we’ll see, Ubisoft have done a great job of answering questions and making this feel like an end to a story.