Hardly a Revolution
As someone who would consider themselves something of an Assassins Creed fan, I looked forward to Assassins Creed 3 more than any other game this year, and while I have enjoyed my time with it, it’s overwhelming similarities to previous entries in the series and the inclusion of some issues that have plagued the series for a number of games now without change has left it feeling underwhelming and a little by the numbers.
The biggest change this game is the setting and characters, after a trilogy of games following Ezio through Italy and beyond, revolutionary America is a welcome breath of fresh air. The inclusion of two cities and the frontier, a large mostly open stretch of land connecting New York, Boston and Connors Homestead is a little hit and miss. Both New York and Boston fail to really show any unique characteristics, something that can probably be associated to the very early days of their existence, however they feel incredibly samey and it’s much harder to find yourself learning the map as in previous entries. The frontier and Connors Homestead on the other hand are a really nice change of pace for the series, with some pretty locations, caves to find and explore and animals to hunt and track. The new inclusion of free running through trees can be exciting but is a lot more restrictive than you might imagine, with some very obviously laid out routes to follow and more trees that can’t be climbed at all than those that can.
The other major new inclusion is Connor, who has the unwelcome job of having to fill the boots of previous series protagonist Ezio and while Ezio was a likable character, Connor comes off as being very bland. He wants to protect his peoples land and spends a lot of time reminding characters (and the player) that, but with that as his real only driving factor he comes across as being very two dimensional. This is thrown into stark contrast when positioned opposite his father, Haytham Kenway, who in spite of his morally questionable conduct throughout the game comes across as a much more interesting person.
The story in Assassins Creed 3 was a major draw for me, the end of the world and Desmond's journey to stop it has always interested me, even if it has felt at times a little silly; however in what is supposedly the concluding chapter of this trilogy of five it almost takes a back seat. The introduction of Connor takes nearly four hours of gameplay to arrive at, while the conclusion of Desmond and friends story at the end of the game is over in no more than 10 minutes, leaving more questions than answers and giving me horrible flash backs to the conclusion of Mass Effect 3.
The main quest isn’t all however as Assassins Creed 3 continues the series tradition of being packed full of side quests and extra content, while some of it feels a little hit and miss a lot of it is also very good. The entire arch of missions taking place at the Homestead felt both enjoyable and mature, giving a reason to be invested in these minor NPC’s who are really only there to increase trading abilities in the new Homestead mini game. The naval combat is also a huge surprise and is a great addition that really adds a lot of the most engaging moments in the game, sadly it seems to be limited to single player as a multiplayer mode of naval combat would be very good fun.
Visually Assassins Creed 3 runs the gambit from being impressive in some aspects to downright ugly in others. It’s very obvious that Ubisoft Montreal wanted to push the PS3 and Xbox 360 further than it could go, leading to some bad draw distances at times and geometry showing in the distance that would make an N64 blush. It also has some serious issues with frame rate that can cause frustration at the first sign of action, and can drop down to single figures more often than it really should.
Overall Assassins Creed 3 is a fun game while it lasts, but anyone expecting something revolutionary or new to the franchise may leave feeling a little sore, as will anyone heavily invested in the story, which falls apart in the last cut scene so badly it can’t help but feel rushed. However if you just want some more Assassins Creed, warts and all it delivers in spades.