Assassin's Creed III, Not what I expected one year late(r)

Posted by JackColt (89 posts) -

I used to be a huge fan of the AC franchise.

I slogged through the first game, painfully aware -- as everyone else was -- of how limited (and limiting) the gameplay options in that game really were, yet simultaneously excited by all the possibilities available to a franchise with the central conceit that the protagonist can re-live his ancestors' memories. Like many others, I was thrilled to see Ubi give the franchise a sequel, and even more happy still that the game itself had been so greatly improved and expanded: Better gameplay; better writing; better characters; and one of the most mind-blowing endings I've experienced in gaming. The meta-narrative of Desmond and the modern-day Assassin's vs Abstergo (nee Templars) became the draw for me, which takes nothing away from how engaging I found Ezio and his trials.

Brotherhood continued to add improvements -- most notably for me, the Assassin's Guild -- and while the modern-day story started going off the rails it was still fun and interesting science fiction. Revelations was largely forgettable for me, and while I appreciated some more time with Ezio, neither his nor Desmond's experiences in those games had me as engaged as in the previous entries.

I know this reads like many other people's impressions of the franchise; and more often than not, people will go on to say how hopeful they were about a AC3, and a whole new era of history, and the potential to reel them back in to the franchise and redeem the failings of Revelations for its treatment (read: lack of) of the modern narrative. They'll conclude by saying how disappointed they were when AC3 failed to live up to those expectations, a disjointed, shoddily paced, uneven narrative; a too-self-serious, unlikable ancestor character (especially when compared to Ezio); a hyper-ridiculous resolution to the modern story.

From reading through forums and user reviews, this is where I diverge from the masses somewhat. In fact, I was so turned-of by Revelations, that I didn't not even consider buying AC3 when it was released. I'm 36 years old, and at this stage of my life, I'm just not willing to spend dozens & more hours of my life playing a game if I'm not actively enjoying it.The torrent of mediocre reviews and player backlash simply confirmed my suspicions that the AC franchise was lost forever, and I simply took solace in the fact that at least I had great fun with a few of the games before it died a slow, tortured death.

Nearly a year later, on a whim, I end up snagging AC3 on Steam during a sale. And still I did not play. At this point it was no longer necessarily anti-AC sentiment, but par for the course for my Steam buying habits. I believe my games total on Steam crested 325 last month, and I've yet to play easily 65-70% of those. (As an aside, I'm toying with the idea of doing a backlog stream to force myself to at least TRY them.) Again, as I get older I find i have less and less time to spend on gaming, but I still am captivated by the medium, so I'll buy a lot of games cheap but ultimately make time to play very few. The Quick Look (and other preview coverage & trailers) for AC4 made it look like the franchise might be shifting back to being less-serious and more-fun, and although I find the modern-day game-tester-at-Abstergo thread to sound absurd, I was suddenly -- surprisingly! -- excited for an AC game again. Unfortunately as PC is my preferred platform, I had several weeks to kill (har!) before release. Well, I guess I might as well download AC3 finally.

I finally finished the game last night, and I can't really think of any other way to say this, so: I loved it. LOVED IT.

I played the game very differently from how I played the other entries. I have always been more of a completionist than not. I never would go to the extent of searching for all the collectibles, but with the first four AC games, if there was sub-system of any kind, a side mission, anything on the periphery at all, I did it. All of it. But not with AC3. I almost started to, but as soon as I realized I wasn't having fun, I stopped. Examples: The hunting and trading mechanics were there, but ultimately pointless to my progression. So I didn't do it. Expanding the homestead and recording the daily lives of the workers was an option, but it wasn't very interesting. So I didn't do it. The Naval missions were actually a ton of fun, but felt oddly tacked-on and out of tone with the rest of Connor's tale and character. So I didn't do it. I went from one "MAIN MISSION" marker to the next, and that's it. When the game automatically took me out of the Animus to play as Desmond, I'd complete those sections dutifully, go through the dialogues for some added flavor, then hop back in to Connor and check the map for the next exclamation point marking a story mission. What I find most interesting, is that I can see the disappointing game that lurks beneath the surface here

The game is far from perfect. The complaints I've read about the game for the last year are all completely valid. The tonal shifts, the inconsistency in character reactions and writing; the pointless and/or shallow mechanics and systems; the modern-day story going directly up its own ass. All perfectly valid, but when I relieved myself from the urge to see it all, do it all; when I resigned myself to not even paying attention to or trying for 100% sync goals; suddenly this game that has been lambasted became a lot of fun. I ended up feeling quite a lot for Connor and his (often misguided) attempts to secure peace for his tribe. The fact that we KNOW how that story ends before he does anything helped to relieve me of any frustration at his gaffes and follies in the meantime. He is not a perfect hero, but he is not an anti-hero either. He's just a person, making decisions he thinks are best. Sometimes he does well, others he doesn't, but I thought it was intriguing for the main character to NOT fall into a traditional mold. Real people rarely exist so far to one end of the spectrum or the other, and playing a character that hovered more in the middle (especially knowing how doomed his mission is, even when he does not) was refreshing. Many of the post-assassination dialogue moments revolve around perception, and how one man's justness is another's evil. This game exists in the shades of grey between the two. Some of the antagonists are cartoonishly bad, but more often than not I thought the game did a good job at giving a glimpse into their motives. Showing that, at least from their own perspectives, their actions were not motivated by doing evil for the sake of it, but doing what they thought was right for their cause.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the modern-day segments. I won't say much here, not for fear of spoiling a year-old game, but because there is not much to say. That narrative went batshit crazy three games ago, and it has not come back to Earth since. I don' know that this is the ending that was intended when the franchise was conceived many years ago, but I found it satisfying nonetheless. I will say that I was particularly moved by the relationships between fathers and sons -- both Connor and his father, and Desmond with his -- as both sons struggled to find resolution in their relationships, albeit in different ways. Again, the writing could be somewhat uneven, but the emotions conveyed were effective and unusually deft for this kind of game.

So that's that. I WAS a huge fan of the AC franchise. And I am again. I'm still looking forward to AC4, but I think I've permanently adjusted my mindset going into this game away from the sense that I need to see it all. If it's fun, I'll do it; if it's not fun, I won't. And if at some point the even the Main Missions lose their appeal, then I'll stop altogether. Time is short, and I've got 300+ other ways to waste it on Steam. That's no revelation (har!), I understand, but I think what is new for me is not the idea that not playing a poor game is better than suffering through it; but that by playing differently, that game can go from poor to beloved. I can say confidently that if I had played AC3 the way I played Brotherhood, I would have despised it; but by changing my own expectations and my own play style, it ended up being one of my favorites of the last couple years. It makes me wonder how many other times I sabotaged my own experience through habits of play-styles, and how many more games out there I might really like if I tried to play them differently.

#1 Edited by BBAlpert (1476 posts) -

As someone who also only just got around to playing AC3 after hearing that AC4 was actually pretty good, I had a similar experience regarding the AC series' love of side quests and collectibles and systems upon systems. AC has always been bad about that stuff, but until 3 I'd generally just gone along with it. But I feel like this game was so heavy handed with its extraneous nonsense that it unintentionally teaches you to not worry so much about completion.

It's like a dad catching his kid smoking and then making him smoke an entire carton (or pack or whatever) to teach him a lesson, AC3 makes it immediately apparent that you're simply not going to do/get everything. Previous entries in the series at least gave you the impression that maybe you could get all the feathers and get full synch on all the missions and complete all the side missions for the guilds, so you felt compelled to try. But there's so much extra stuff that's unnecessary, poorly designed, unexplained, and/or just plain broken that you simply have to break out of any completionist habits or quit halfway through.

#2 Edited by JackColt (89 posts) -

@bbalpert: I agree 100%. And while it's hardly an admirable thing to say AC3's side quest were so bad they cured me from doing them at all, looking back, I'm starting to feel like I can apply this new perspective to other games as well. I'll probably be the better for it in the long run. Another recent example: I loved GTA5, but by the end of the campaign, I was desperate for it to just finish. As I usually do, I spent countless hours doing every side-mission I could and I was burning out on the world long before the main story was complete. If I had it to do again, I think I'd beeline through the story as fast as possible, and then if I really felt the need to stay in the world, use the side-missions to extend my stay at that time. I've done it backwards to this point.

That's how I'll approach AC4 anyway.

#3 Posted by mercutio123 (471 posts) -

Interesting. AC3 for me has turned me off the series. The ship parts in 3 were the least fun for me, the cities were not great for the free running stuff and the frontier is hideously underused. Glad you enjoyed it though.

#4 Edited by Chuncho_Munos (45 posts) -

I felt Conner was too far on the "good" side of the spectrum for me, he could have done with being less forgiving. And it did try to force the "everyone thinks their on the "good" side" thing down your throat, i feel like it's kinda obvious and doesn't need to be reiterated every time you kill some one. But I also agree, AC3 was pretty fun when it worked and I loved the opening, plus the mechanics was a good improvement over revelations, so overall,

#5 Posted by Tajasaurus (872 posts) -

I just started playing this a couple of days ago (which is crazy considering I bought it the day it was released) and I am up to the start of sequence 6 and I couldn't agree with you more! I'm enjoying it a lot, almost to the point where I can't see where all of the criticism really came from. Sure it takes awhile for Conner to actually become an assassin dude, but it's not like the portions of the game up to that point are boring or at all bad. I actually really liked that they waited that stuff out to give you something different. I also thought the Haytham twist (which was spoiled for me so long ago that I had actually forgotten about it and was surprised all over again) was really great. And the first Desmond mission (the only one I have done) on the skyscraper or whatever was pretty rad as well.

I will probably finish it over the weekend, because I am just powering through it so I can get to ACIV on next gen stuff. I thought kind of blasting through this game would be a chore, but it's been fantastic, tbh.

#6 Edited by Manhattan_Project (2156 posts) -

@jackcolt:

It should be noted that AC3 received several patches. But that doesn't change how annoying/broken parts of that game were when most people played it. Not to mention the story.

Edit: Talking about it has brought back all the stuff I hated about it. From the lack of verticality to the over simplified controls to not explaining mechanics. UGH I HATE THIS GAME.

#7 Posted by PillClinton (3291 posts) -

Hmm, I've also had this sitting in my library for months. I just might actually play it now. I feel like with most things, the zeitgeist of hate for AC3 was probably blown out of proportion.

#8 Edited by JackColt (89 posts) -

@tajasaurus: That's awesome! Glad you're enjoying it as well! It was around the point in the game where you are that I actually sat back and thought to myself, "I wonder when this game gets bad like everyone says." Thankfully it never came. :)
And the Haytham twist was fantastic. I managed to not have that spoiled for me last year, so I had a legit WTF? moment when it came. Good stuff!

@pillclinton: You should! I really was not expecting to like it as much as I did, especially after how disappointed I was with Revelations. I think an extra year off from the franchise helped (devs! ENOUGH with the annual franchises, please!), and again I made a conscious effort to ignore all the superfluous (and poorly implemented) side-missions & systems. Just rolling through the main quests, I thought it was a ton of fun.

@manhattan_project: Actually it did occur to me that playing it one year after release was meant I was potentially playing a somewhat more polished version of what everyone else played at launch. Regardless, I had much more fun with it than I thought I would; I thought they did I good job conveying emotion in the both the ancestral and modern stories & I liked how both stories wrapped up; and I honestly didn't feel that much difference in the controls -- although that may be more a factor of how much time had passed since I played Revelations.

That all said, and I know I'm repeating myself, I can TOTALLY see the rough edges and underlying problems with the game that caused it to be such a disappointment for a lot fans. Hopefully, for everyone's sake, AC4 is a more even experience. I'm really looking forward spending some time with it next week.

#10 Posted by awesomeusername (4187 posts) -

I enjoyed AC3 but some missions were broken when it came out and the ending made me want to punch someone at Ubi.

#11 Posted by Tajasaurus (872 posts) -

So I just finished this and (outside of the Desmond/real world ending) I *really* enjoyed it. I think this is the first AC game where I have cared more for the ancestor story than the Abstergo/Desmond/End of Everything stuff that was going on. A lot of the time during the Ezio trilogy I would be going around killing main character dudes without even knowing who they were or why I was doing it, but Connor's story was a lot of fun. I adored the way that final fight played out.

The actual end end I thought was pretty terrible, especially after having been invested in that storyline for five games and who knows how many hours, but it wasn't bad enough to sour me on the whole experience.

I liked this game. I can see why people don't, but I can't really see why so many people seem to have thrown their arms into the air and said "FUCK ASSASSIN'S CREED FOREVER". But I don't care. Play whatever makes you happy.

#12 Edited by JackColt (89 posts) -

I can't really see why so many people seem to have thrown their arms into the air and said "FUCK ASSASSIN'S CREED FOREVER". But I don't care. Play whatever makes you happy.

Maybe you've noticed, the internet is occasionally prone to hyperbole.

Glad you enjoyed it though!

I've got AC4 downloaded, and I'm waiting for some quiet time this weekend to jump in to it!

#13 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

It's been a year since AC3 was released? Oh god....oh god....*crawls into fetal position, stays there like that*

#14 Posted by MegaLombax (391 posts) -

AC3 was such a pain to finish. Took me 3 long hiatus sessions to finally see the game through to the end. I felt Connor was such a boring protagonist to begin with. I wasn't invested in him as a main character. I particularly loved the naval missions though. And I liked doing the homestead missions, the idea of a growing city kept me moving forward. But that was it. And the ending kinda sucked.

#15 Edited by kishinfoulux (2314 posts) -

When people say ACIII is garbage or trash I want to punch them, because objectively it's not. Kills me whenever Patrick says that. It's fine you don't like it. It really is. Saying those things just makes you look silly though.

#16 Posted by Missacre (566 posts) -

When people say ACIII is garbage or trash I want to punch them, because objectively it's not. Kills me whenever Patrick says that. It's fine you don't like it. It really is. Saying those things just makes you look silly though.

So what you're saying is that people that don't like it look silly saying they don't like it, but the people that do like it don't look silly saying they like it? Double standard much?

#17 Posted by JackColt (89 posts) -

@kishinfoulux said:

When people say ACIII is garbage or trash I want to punch them, because objectively it's not. Kills me whenever Patrick says that. It's fine you don't like it. It really is. Saying those things just makes you look silly though.

I liked it too (obviously), but if someone having a different opinion than you makes you that frustrated or angry, it might be time to take a step back.

#18 Posted by xyzygy (9996 posts) -

Glad to hear some positivity towards this game. I thought 3 was the best AC game - the only thing I actually didn't like was the new UI (the lack of hands/head/feet mapped to XB/Y/A). Connor was a really good character. I hate when people talk shit about his fighting style, he grew up in the damn woods. In a village where they hunt their own food. Of course he's going to have a more brutal and non-Assassin-y fighting style when compared to the graceful Ezio or practiced Altair. I definitely feel like he's the better character than Ezio, who was just a charmer with a lot of one-liners.

#19 Edited by kishinfoulux (2314 posts) -

@missacre said:

@kishinfoulux said:

When people say ACIII is garbage or trash I want to punch them, because objectively it's not. Kills me whenever Patrick says that. It's fine you don't like it. It really is. Saying those things just makes you look silly though.

So what you're saying is that people that don't like it look silly saying they don't like it, but the people that do like it don't look silly saying they like it? Double standard much?

It's like you can't read. I said it's okay if you don't like it. But objectively it's not "trash" or "garbage". Terms like that are reserved for Big Rigs or some shit. The game is totally functional and competent, but gaming media and especially fans are so fucking prone to hyperbole they think nothing of it.

@jackcolt said:

@kishinfoulux said:

When people say ACIII is garbage or trash I want to punch them, because objectively it's not. Kills me whenever Patrick says that. It's fine you don't like it. It really is. Saying those things just makes you look silly though.

I liked it too (obviously), but if someone having a different opinion than you makes you that frustrated or angry, it might be time to take a step back.

Again...read the above.

#20 Posted by Missacre (566 posts) -

@missacre said:

@kishinfoulux said:

When people say ACIII is garbage or trash I want to punch them, because objectively it's not. Kills me whenever Patrick says that. It's fine you don't like it. It really is. Saying those things just makes you look silly though.

So what you're saying is that people that don't like it look silly saying they don't like it, but the people that do like it don't look silly saying they like it? Double standard much?

It's like you can't read. I said it's okay if you don't like it. But objectively it's not "trash" or "garbage". Terms like that are reserved for Big Rigs or some shit. The game is totally functional and competent, but gaming media and especially fans are so fucking prone to hyperbole they think nothing of it.

@jackcolt said:

@kishinfoulux said:

When people say ACIII is garbage or trash I want to punch them, because objectively it's not. Kills me whenever Patrick says that. It's fine you don't like it. It really is. Saying those things just makes you look silly though.

I liked it too (obviously), but if someone having a different opinion than you makes you that frustrated or angry, it might be time to take a step back.

Again...read the above.

You might want to word things a bit better, then. Like jackcolt said, though, what's it to you if someone doesn't like this game? I thought people had the right to voice their opinion, and it's your own fault if things like this make you mad. It's not perfect. FAR from it. It still has the same shitty control scheme the first game had, not to mention the terrible mechanics and the COUNTER TO WIN style of fighting.

#21 Posted by kishinfoulux (2314 posts) -

@missacre said:

@kishinfoulux said:

@missacre said:

@kishinfoulux said:

When people say ACIII is garbage or trash I want to punch them, because objectively it's not. Kills me whenever Patrick says that. It's fine you don't like it. It really is. Saying those things just makes you look silly though.

So what you're saying is that people that don't like it look silly saying they don't like it, but the people that do like it don't look silly saying they like it? Double standard much?

It's like you can't read. I said it's okay if you don't like it. But objectively it's not "trash" or "garbage". Terms like that are reserved for Big Rigs or some shit. The game is totally functional and competent, but gaming media and especially fans are so fucking prone to hyperbole they think nothing of it.

@jackcolt said:

@kishinfoulux said:

When people say ACIII is garbage or trash I want to punch them, because objectively it's not. Kills me whenever Patrick says that. It's fine you don't like it. It really is. Saying those things just makes you look silly though.

I liked it too (obviously), but if someone having a different opinion than you makes you that frustrated or angry, it might be time to take a step back.

Again...read the above.

You might want to word things a bit better, then. Like jackcolt said, though, what's it to you if someone doesn't like this game? I thought people had the right to voice their opinion, and it's your own fault if things like this make you mad. It's not perfect. FAR from it. It still has the same shitty control scheme the first game had, not to mention the terrible mechanics and the COUNTER TO WIN style of fighting.

*head explodes*

Once again...I don't care if someone likes it or not. I just get tired of people throwing around hyperbole because it's fucking lazy. The end.

#22 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -

ACII was the best. It ends there. Garbage is the rest as far as I'm concerned. Such a fucking waste of my time.

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