A fresh environment, but not a refreshing experience.
I've been a fan of the Assassin's Creed franchise for a while; always looking forward to each release. Although the fatigue was indeed setting in after the previous title Assassin's Creed: Revelations, I still had optimism for this next numbered title. While my experience with the game was good, there were some select issues with the game that need to be addressed and ironed out should they (read: inevitably do) release their next title.
Assassin's Creed 3 delivers on its engaging world and characters in the animus, but falls short in its science fiction delivery of its modern day overarching plot.
Once you get past the beginner tutorials and plot hooks, you finally take control of Connor: a half-and-half Native-British man with a duty to protect his village from the advancement of the colonies. Having grown up in a different environment than Altair or Ezio, Connor has the know-how of traversing the treetops of the large frontier. This is handled better then I would have expected from the somewhat clumsy controls of the franchise. Although this game still has the occasional issue of climbing when you don't intend to.
There is nothing short to do in this title. You can hold off from main missions and accomplish a variety of side tasks or collectables indicated on your map. Even when finished with the story, there are ways to unlock character and environment cheats to play with.
You can sell your bounty to shops for quick money, or you can save your resources and invest them back into your homestead. Similar to Monteriggioni in Assassin's Creed 2, Connor can help his Assassin mentor Achillies build up his land by recruiting people through brief missions and using their services in building and trading. With enough work, you can use the homestead to upgrade yourself with better ammo and weapon capacity. This system while ambitious, is poorly introduced and explained. Even though the character upgrades could be helpful, they are mostly unessential. I've carried the same equipment (like axe and pistol) through the entire game and did not feel the need to change them.
Another poorly introduced feature is a once cherished one: the assassin recruits. Each recruit is character whom you influence to the assassin side by doing liberation side missions in the two cities. Most of these show up on your map, but you must notice a few of the key ones when you pass by an area, which can be annoying. Once full recruits, each new member adds a new recruit skill like having a marksman take out an enemy, or enemy disguised recruits to help escort you into a restricted zone. So while the recruits can come in handy, completing their goals can take a significant chunk of your time.
I have been very interested in Desmond's story over all the Assassin's Creed games, but I wasn't so thrilled with the conclusion to his efforts. The explanation for Desmond's actions are there, but as a player I felt little choice in the matter and over all it seemed rushed.
Connor is an outsider finding himself in the Assassin Order through visions of fate. He has a very personal stake to help his people and kill the ones who oppose him. You see a fair bit of grey area towards the Templars, and it helps show that neither side has a large amount of influence on the new American soil. I found myself confused as to Connor's motivations towards helping other characters, but in a way it makes sense since Connor is just as confused about the situation and who to help as I was.
Its time to breathe more life into the modern setting sections. Missions were a good start, but for being an Assassin, there hasn't been any real modern day assassinations. Also, if the manual for your game has to come on the disc, put more information in it. Explain your systems and menus better, and show the benefits of using them.
With Desmond's efforts having come to a close, I personally felt the ending lacked player involvement. The solutions for the impending doomsday were explained, but once Desmond makes his own choice it all ends rather abruptly. Though there is a way for Assassin's Creed to continue on, the finality of the ending will hopefully bring something refreshing to the modern day side, just like each numbered game has brought a something completely new to the animus side.
Before I forget completely, I should also say that I never really experienced too many technical issues or glitches like some of other reviews. I did have the occasional floating gun or frozen guard, but nothing that really hindered my progress. Also, I was frustrated with the 100% sync options, but I had the same feelings toward that feature in past games too, and it really isn't anything that holds the game back. It's just a mental completionist thing.