I play questionable, modern games (Assassin's Creed III)

Posted by ArbitraryWater (12123 posts) -

Hey guys. I played video games once again for your sick pleasures. In this case, I continue my way down the magical path of questionable video games. Sure, I also played some Batman: Arkham Asylum , but you already know that game is good when you played it 4 years ago. I now know firsthand that game is great, and from what I've played of Arkham City it seems to be of a similar quality. But that's it. No one wants to read another write-up about how good the combat flow is in those games, or how they compare against each other (thus far, Asylum is winning out in my mind). Instead, let's talk about another game, one that I'm sure you've been waiting with baited breath for me to give a verbal thrashing. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood Assassin's Creed the Third.

I can now see why AC3 won Giant Bomb's “Most Disappointing” last year instead of Resident Evil 6. Unlike aforementioned RE6, I wouldn't call Assassin's Creed III a bad game. I mostly enjoyed my time with it. But it's also a mess, and that's even in starker contrast when compared to the rather slick open world stylings of AC2 or Brotherhood. It's a victim of its own ambitions; compartmentalized to the point of farce and that's not even getting into the part where the tutorial section is roughly 5-6 hours long. Its portrayal of Colonial America is one that is surprisingly great, far less “America Rah Rah” than I expected, though that is still hampered by the part where it's really all about ancient aliens and is a prime example of the “All-Story” that was so mocked during last year's GOTY deliberation. Deservedly so.

Also you can climb trees now. Because you are a Native American. Racist.

Assassin's Creed III is a game of systems. Climbing, combat, hunting, assassin's guild stuff, taking over forts, liberating cities from Templar control, assassination contracts, catching Benjamin Franklin's almanac pages for no good reason, Boats, exploring underground passages, petting animals that part where you can craft stuff and... I dunno. Desmond. While the previous games had a lot of these ancillary mechanics thrown upon the normal gameplay loop of climbing tall buildings, stabbing people in the face and neck and hiding from guards introduced in the first game... because it's not like that first game had much else. AC3 has all of these, but doesn't quite know what to do with them. When you upgraded your villa to make more money in AC2, you did it to get better armor and weapons, the direct benefits of which were fairly evident, especially where that extra health was concerned. Sure, you didn't really need to upgrade your throwing knife capacity all that much,and you certainly didn't need to be a completionist monster and collect all of those feathers, but extraneous, unnecessary upgrades are sort of part and parcel with what makes an open world game.

I can count the number of times I fought a bear on one finger. Because you have to kill a bear in the main story.

However, that's how everything that isn't the main quest feels in AC3. It's there, if you want to do it, but there isn't necessarily a useful reward for doing so. Take money. You probably will earn most of your money through trade caravans, selling goods that are generated on your homestead, crafting better items to make more money, or just getting rid of whatever Connor has randomly looted from the piles of corpses (or animal corpses) he creates. What can you spend this money on? Better weapons? I did just fine with the tomahawk the game starts you with. Boat Upgrades maybe, but there are like two boat missions as part of Connor's main journey. The boat side quests are quite fun, but they are also quite self-contained and you could very well ignore them. Same goes for city liberation (More Assassin dudes for your guild stuff), fort liberation (More money I guess), almanac pages (achievement points) and the frankly terrible optional objectives during missions (self-satisfaction, but really just self-loathing because you restarted that mission like 8 times to make sure you didn't get detected). Guess what? I'll jump through your video game completionist hoops if you give me a reason, video game. I got all 108 characters in Suikoden III and I enjoyed doing so, even beyond the rather satisfying epilogue story. Assassin's Creed triple fails to give the player a reason. It's not even like any of these systems are bad, or even un-fun (those boat missions are actually some of the best stuff the game has to offer). They just feel so... unnecessary.

Don't worry, Desmond is here to remind you of the dumb, unnecessary narrative justification for why you can go through all of these historical events. But this time he actually does things!

But what I've harped on is icing, or at least the outer layer of this metaphorical video game cake. The core gameplay loop is still fine. The smart climbing button is a good addition. The changes to the combat on the other hand... aren't necessarily explained super well. If the game told me that I had to press an additional button after doing a counter, I must of missed it, because I didn't realize you could vary your counter-attacks until halfway through my merry adventure, or that certain enemies didn't respond well to certain counters. That isn't really the game's problem so much as it was my problem. But don't worry, Air Conditioning 3 has mission design that at its worst makes me wonder if anyone actually play-tested that segment. There's an almost crippling reliance on eavesdropping and chasing guys, neither of which which was fun in the previous titles, and then there's the occasional no-detection stealth sequence, allowing you to discover first hand how poor the sneaking mechanics are in the series as a whole. There are also more than a few set-piece moments, a lot of which are based on something vaguely resembling historical fact, like that time where you help your bro Samuel Adams throw tea in the Boston harbor, or that part where you run through a hail of gunfire during the battle of Bunker Hill (to stab someone, of course). These also suffer from inconsistencies in quality, with the worst easily being that egregiously terrible final chase and the best... I dunno. That part where you ride with Paul Revere is alright. Certainly no “Fistfighting the Pope”, but what is? Oh, and don't forget Desmond getting outside of the Animus, the final instance of which can lightly be considered something of a proof-of-concept if they ever decide to make a game fully set in modern times.

But let's sit back and get real: the modern/sci-fi part of Assassin's Creed is the worst part. I didn't always think that. It was a neat hook in the first game when they kept it all sort of purposefully vague, and that ending twist in the second where the ancient aliens directly address Desmond was a fantastic way to cap it off. But there's a point in 3 where I realized that I didn't like any of the characters and really didn't care for the part where Desmond is the chosen one who has to save the world with the help of “Those who came before”, and given the way that story hastily wraps itself up in a a way that left a bad taste in my mouth, I'm sort of glad that AC4 has reduced it to a sort of hilarious meta-joke about game development.

Drink every time he utters the phrase "WHERE IS CHARLES LEE"

Connor has a much more interesting tale, though it also concludes in a rushed and unsatisfying manner, though his story cannot be mentioned without mentioning his father Haytham, who you play as for the first 4 or so hours of the game. I understand why they did it. It serves as a nice set-up for the primary antagonists of the story, tricks you into rooting for them and then... SURPRISE you were a Templar the whole time. That would've been fine on its own, but when the game transitions over to Connor there is still another two or so hours of tutorializing that could have been streamlined or averted. I feel like a lot of people dropped off there because of that, and I wouldn't blame them. Connor himself is the polar opposite of Ezio: serious, idealistic, and more than a little naïve, something of a wet blanket. However, this allows him to act as an outside observer to the actions of everyone else, and point out the occasional hypocrisies that are usually swept under the rug in elementary school-type history. To its credit, AC3 is a lot less pro-America than I initially thought it would be, especially in its portrayal of George Washington. It also plays devil's advocate with the Templars, first with the return of the “You probably shouldn't have killed me you idiot” speeches that were a longer-winded aspect of the first game that I liked and also the interactions that Connor has with his father once they meet up. It's right when all of these are coming together in a really interesting way that the game decides it needs to end and barrels towards the conclusion with reckless abandon. It hurts the modern side far more than the historical (especially in the way it sets it up as a choice, then proceeds to choose for the player) but both Connor and Desmond feel like they've been cheated out of a satisfying conclusion.

I am morbidly interested in knowing what happens in this Evil George Washington DLC, but I'm sure as heck not paying money for it. If any of you played it, you should tell me how it goes.

All of this makes it sound like I hated this game. I really didn't. Part of that is no doubt in part because I played this game with my brother and didn't have to do every single eavesdrop and whatnot, but there are plenty of individual parts in the game that are well-made and enjoyable, and aside from those last three hours I was quite enjoying my time with the story. The problem is, Assassin's Creed III is less than the sum of these parts, one that feels like it was made by 8 different studios (and it was) and in some ways crushed under the weight of its own ambition. I got Air Conditioning 4: Bigger Blacker Flag as an early birthday present, so you can expect me to tell you exactly how superior pirate fun time adventures are to this. At some point. XCOM Enemy Within comes out on tuesday, I'm getting lasik (!) on thursday and Desktop Dungeons is really hard. Until then, don't shove an electroshock game down your pants.

#1 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Wait, "Native Americans climbing trees" is a stereotype? I thought that was just Assassin's Creed III being really fucking stupid.

#2 Posted by SunBroZak (1377 posts) -

Agree with just about everything you said. Assassin's Creed 3 was a real bummer. Especially the conclusion to Connor's story, like you mentioned. Here's hoping I enjoy my time with Black Flag more, whenever I end up getting it.

#3 Posted by ArbitraryWater (12123 posts) -

Wait, "Native Americans climbing trees" is a stereotype? I thought that was just Assassin's Creed III being really fucking stupid.

The funny thing is, when you play as Haytham you can't climb the trees. So yes, the game is totally implying that Connor can climb through the trees because he is Native American and thus "one with the forest" or something.

#4 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Oh, so it is racism. Add that to the pile of stupid shit I don't like with Assassin's Creed III's story.

#5 Edited by Tennmuerti (8174 posts) -

Well I already said my piece on liking AC3 on other occasions so gonna skip that part. Just to say that I started to see the black hole into which the modern day stuff was heading in Brotherhood and chose to stop caring about that side of the games (which as it turns out was to my benefit) looking at them solely through the historical bits.

Evil Washington DLC is ultimately forgettable and not as well produced as the main AC3 either. You will not be missing anything by not playing it.

And good luck with Lasik. Not with the procedure itself which should be all a-ok if you didn't skimp on the cost. But it takes differently with different people and results are not always 100% perfect. Like my vision did technically get better, but even now after a year and a half my eyes get tired much quicker which temporarily degrades vision.

#6 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6398 posts) -

I could have dealt with everything else in that game, but the mission design was just deplorable. There wasn't a moment in that game's main mission structure that I was having fun, and that really sucks. I've spent enough time badgering the world with my anti-AC3 views, but I'll say this - that game soured me enough on the series that I won't be buying a full-priced AC game again for a very long time. The equivalent of that game this year was Grand Theft Auto V, but at least GTAV let me skip the missions I didn't like by fucking them up often enough.

In any case, congratulations and good luck on the LASIK. I'm not kidding you, outside of family, you don't have anyone else rooting so hard for you to come through it with spectacular shiny new vision as is your legally blind Internet buddy Sparky. I demand an update when possible.

Moderator Online
#7 Edited by ILikePopCans (775 posts) -

The story was fuck and it did not focus on the part I liked, the homestead, kind of at all. Also Connor sucked.

#8 Edited by PerfidiousSinn (771 posts) -

I nominate that crafting system for "The Worst System In Any Videogame Ever" award. It was designed in like 1995.

#9 Edited by Yummylee (22571 posts) -

I still haven't played Assassin's Creed 3, and from everything I've heard about it since release has only further validated my choice to give it a miss. The over-stuffed amount of features that ultimately serve little purpose, to the weak story, to Connor... Plus, it's meant to be rather framey on consoles, so that has also only pushed me further away.

And yet despite everything that's been said about AC3, it was still reviewed so incredibly and consistently high... Because of course it was, I guess. It's exactly that reason as to why I was still a bit guarded when a similar bevy of high praise began spewing for AC4, only this time that appears to have also gained a lot of love from the player base alongside the critics. Though like many, I'm still saving that for when I get a PS4.

Anywhoo, a fine read!

#10 Posted by ArbitraryWater (12123 posts) -

@yummylee:

Much like Dragon Age II, a game I will defend in spite of its many flaws, I am somewhat baffled by the generally high metascore that ACIII has received. You're good not playing it.

@sparky_buzzsaw:

I got IV as a gift because I knew I wouldn't want to pay full price for it (and you know, saving my money for all those hot new games like Zelda.... and.... nothing else because I'm not getting new consoles anytime soon). As for the LASIK, I'm semi-afraid of being horribly blinded in an accident, but the doctor in question happens to be our neighbor and I fully admit to that fear being irrational.

@tennmuerti

:I hadn't played any games in the series since 2, and was in the process of starting up Brotherhood, when my brother suggested that we play AC3 instead. I guess I missed a bit, given the presence of Q Dad and the death of Kristen Bell's character (who apparently was explained away as a traitor in Revelations DLC). It's sort of a bummer, given all the squandered potential, but I'm now of the opinion that the games would probably be better without it entirely.

#11 Posted by Encephalon (1335 posts) -

The most aggravating thing about AC3 for me was that Connor never used contractions during speech. I understand why the voice director might've suggested such a thing--English is not Connor's first language--but it ended up just making an already wooden character even less engaging. But yeah, all that other stuff was bad too, I agree.

#12 Posted by Roger778 (960 posts) -

For me, Assassins Creed 3 was the most disappointing game in the series. I simply didn't find Conner to be a charismatic hero like Ezio was.

I'm really looking forward to AC4, though. From what I've read online, it sounds like it's the best game in the series since AC2, and I think that's the best game out of all of them.

#13 Posted by ILikePopCans (775 posts) -


@tennmuerti

:I hadn't played any games in the series since 2, and was in the process of starting up Brotherhood, when my brother suggested that we play AC3 instead. I guess I missed a bit, given the presence of Q Dad and the death of Kristen Bell's character (who apparently was explained away as a traitor in Revelations DLC). It's sort of a bummer, given all the squandered potential, but I'm now of the opinion that the games would probably be better without it entirely.

Yeah, there weren't many characters in the modern story to begin with and when they took away one of the major characters and relationship in it, I just stopped caring completely. The modern story also just needed more time devoted to it for what they wanted to do with it.

#14 Edited by Hailinel (25205 posts) -

Nice write-up. It's kind of crazy how perception of Assassin's Creed III has changed over time. Prior to release, I remember a lot of people being really pumped for it. And of course, there was the initial excitement and buzz at release and the positive reviews. And then suddenly it seemed as though the entirety of the internet flipped and declared it to be a massive disappointment. It's like I went to bed one night, hearing all this great stuff about the game, and then woke up to begin hearing the exact opposite.

I myself couldn't judge because I haven't played Asssassin's Creed III or any of the previous entries. Assassin's Creed IV will be my first. I'd actually have started it by now, except I put the disc in my Wii U a few minutes ago and the game already has an update to download. A rather large one, it seems, given that the time remaining has fluctuated in the range between thirty and forty minutes.

#15 Posted by Mento (2808 posts) -

Man, if I could summarize how I felt about Assassin's Creed III, it would be... oh wait, I reviewed it! *drops mic and walks away*

All right, I will say I'm slightly curious about IV. The one seemingly unequivocally positive thing about III to be gleaned from its criticism was its naval sequences. There's also the side-quests you mentioned: the treasure map missions. Somehow they're more exciting and better designed than almost all the story missions, despite a lack of any significant story purpose beyond a bit of cash and a fancy new widget. From what I've seen of IV, it's more of that kind of fun swashbuckling nonsense and less taking part in the Boston Tea Party by solemnly throwing boxes off ships, which seems like a step in the right direction.

Seriously, the spooky bayou mansion, flaming island fortress, perilous ship graveyard and frozen arctic shipwreck were amazing set-pieces in both conception and execution. It's so weird that I never bothered with them until hours before the game was due back at the rental store; they're just so out of the way that they're as easy to dismiss as so much of ACIII's unnecessarily dense side-content. (But then Dark Cloud 2 is absolutely packed with side-content too and it's one of my most favorite games ever, so I guess I'm just a big ol' hypocrite.)

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#16 Posted by Fredchuckdave (6158 posts) -

CHARLES LEE aside AC3 is a pretty good game, and the multiplayer is the best in the series for the most part. ACIV blows it out of the water (get it?) in terms of singleplayer though, what an awesome game.

#17 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@hailinel:

That seems to be a trend for games this year. Remember Bioshock Infinite (albeit on a smaller scale)?

#18 Posted by ArbitraryWater (12123 posts) -

@video_game_king: That seems to be the trend with every major release of the last 18 months. The difference is that I still like Bioshock Infinite even after the tumblr carrion had their way with it.

@fredchuckdave:

Good to know that you're liking it. I may actually re-up my Xbox Live Gold to mess around with the multiplayer of IV. I found it to be quite enjoyable from what I played in a friend's copy of Revelations.

@mento:

I read your review, and it seems you and I are mostly on the same page. But really, all of those things were in the boat missions? Crap. I've already uninstalled it. Oh well, I'm sure I'll get my fair share of boat games by the time I'm done with AC4.

@hailinel:

I'll be quite interested in seeing what you think of Black Flag as a newcomer to the franchise. Word of mouth (as opposed to, y'know, critical consensus) says it's the best the series has been in a while, so I'm interested in finding out for myself.

#19 Posted by Mento (2808 posts) -

@arbitrarywater: It's not even that they're in the boat missions, just that you need the Aquila before you can start any of them because they're all on remote islands and such. I believe it's some crazy old sailor that lives in the port at the homestead that starts you off on them.

At this point I really am wondering how many people who played ACIII actually found those missions and did them, considering you missed them and I almost did but for a quick glance at an achievements guide to see which ones I could sweep up before returning the game. I wasn't kidding about how inexplicable it seems to conceal some of the best content in the game so thoroughly.

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#20 Posted by ArbitraryWater (12123 posts) -

@mento: Oh, you mean the Captain Kidd treasure stuff. Yeah, I did one of those where you assault a british fort and burn it the heck down and thought that was cool.

#21 Posted by BBAlpert (1578 posts) -

I started playing AC3 over the weekend, and although it does seem to get better a few sequences into the story, it does NOT make a very good first impression. AC2 was a better game because Ubisoft stripped a lot of AC1's bullshit out. The first third or so of AC3 is almost nothing BUT that exact bullshit. Eavesdropping missions, collection missions, instant-fail stealth missions, and "tail that guy without being seen" missions. It's an absolute mess.

Like I said earlier, it does open up into some of the more entertaining types of missions later on, but even then the story is still- as Vinny put it on one of the recent Bombcasts- "full-on double-blade up-its-own-ass."

#22 Edited by ArtisanBreads (3997 posts) -

I think this was the first Ubisoft game where the fact that it was developed across multiple studios and everything really showed. It is a very disjointed game.

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