Assassin's Creed III review
I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that created so many conflicting opinions in myself that I’m left unsure as to what I actually think of it. Assassin’s Creed III is partially the best game of the series, and is partially a broken, convoluted mess that crumbles under the weight of its own ambitions. But believe me, those are some lofty ambitions that Ubisoft is chasing.
The most obvious change to the game is that after three outings, we finally get a new protagonist and era to explore and slice and stab our way through. The new setting of Revolutionary War era America is perhaps the greatest strength. For once we are seeing the game play out in a setting that feels familiar, with many characters, themes and events that already exist in the player’s knowledge base. Though at the same time, it can be hard to swallow our protagonist, half-English, half-Native Connor, being inserted as a major focal point of events we are all aware of. It is much easier to buy Altair running around Jerusalem doing this and that, because we don’t have such an ingrained idea of the area during that time period. That being said though, this in-Animus story is easily the most elaborate and interesting story told in the series. The twists and turns that come from it make this adventure much easier to care about than any of the Ezio stories.
For what it’s worth though, it is fascinating to traverse the landscape, seeing the new architecture and npc’s go about their lives while ducking out of the way of Loyalists and Patriots alike. The addition of wild frontier in which you can hunt and attack Templar Forts provide a real sense of scale and provide for a lot of side activities that can extend the playtime significantly. In addition we get to see Connor try and balance the line between his heritage and his duties as an Assassin to continue in his fight against the Templar threat. Racial conflict is not a major theme, but it’s nice that they acknowledged it somewhat, even if could perhaps be explored more thoroughly or seriously. An early scene shows Connor trying to blend into Boston under the guise of being a dark skinned Italian, all the while wearing skins and feathers. More thought could have made that conflict much stronger.
From a game play perspective, there are both old and new systems that fill the adventure. Gone is the property investment and god-awful tower defense from the previous entries. New to the series is naval combat, town building and trading and a revamped assassin’s guild. The best of these is the naval combat. The water effects are great, and the handling of the ships, as well as the combat are easy to pick up and control wonderfully. My only wish is that there was more of it, or perhaps worked into the main storyline. The homestead building requires you to do side missions that recruit new people into your town. These range from trappers and miners to carpenters and a seamstress. By doing more missions for these people, they gain the ability to produce or fabricate better items which can then be sold to shopkeepers via convoys you send out. Unfortunately, the methods by which to do all this aren’t explained all that well. And neither is the assassin’s guild. Both of these could have used more detailed tutorials and in-game explanations. For a game that is so heavily tutorialised for the beginning portion, is hard to understand why other areas weren’t given the same treatment.
If I were to stop right here, I would give this game a glowing summary and a high score. However there are nasty problems that creep up during the course of the game. Regardless of a 17 mb, day-one patch, this may be the buggies game I have ever played. I was constantly receiving in-game notifications unrelated to what was going on. While engaging in a conversation with my mentor, I was shown a prompt to stay out of range of my target so as not to get noticed. Town criers were often spawned in pairs, who were attached at the arm. A side quest I was on refused to accept my puzzle inputs, and after shutting down and restarting, upon completing those puzzles, the animal conflicts afterwards would not accept my button inputs. Finally I resorted to shooting the attacking wolves because nothing was working otherwise. When I was done that quest and given a reward, every subsequent load into a new area would notify me of having picked up that quest reward. This went on for half the game. Wanted posters would often be impossible to take down even though I was standing right against them. This game clearly needed a few more months of polish, and if they had it, I’m sure this would have been the game of the year.
The other major knock on this game is the Desmond storyline. While Ubisoft has touted this as the conclusion, by the end of it you can’t help but feel like nobody really had any idea what to do with this. Sure they do come to some sort of ending, but it isn’t satisfying. They had a really great premise in having machines that let you live out the memories of your ancestors, but it went off in weird metaphysical directions. After all this, I still don’t know what Abstergo was doing that made them so bad, or what made the Assassin’s good. The best I can come up with is that they said so. Although I think I can definitely say that if they made an Assassin’s Creed game set entirely in the present time, it probably wouldn’t have been very good.
In the end I remain torn. I absolutely think that anyone who has played the previous entries in the series will do well to continue playing. This is adventure worth having. Just be aware that technical issues about, even though they aren’t necessarily game breaking. It’s too bad that the Desmond storyline doesn’t prove to be all that interesting, because it feels like a lot of wasted potential. Nevertheless, Ubisoft has said that there will be more games in the series, so let’s hope that some time away will let them come up will something truly great, and can make good on the promise that this game has shown