Review: Assassin's Creed III
With Assassin’s Creed III being the first properly numbered sequel since 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II, some major changes are to be expected. Assassin’s Creed III finally ditches Europe and hits the shores of colonial America, where the backdrop of the Revolutionary War plays a vital part. Ezio Auditore steps out of the spotlight and Ratohnhaké:ton, or Connor as we’ll call him, takes the role of lead assassin. While these changes were needed for a franchise that was beginning to show its wear, some of these replacements don’t always serve to the game’s benefit. However, the modifications made to the gameplay makes Assassin’s Creed III easily the most fun to play in the series. It’s hard to deny the great moment to moment action of the game, even if the some of the periphery surrounding it isn’t as compelling as prior installments.
For those unacquainted with the story of the Assassin’s Creed, jumping headlong into this one might not be best way to fully comprehend what in the holy hell is happening. Assassin’s Creed III does offer a short video in the beginning summarizing the events of the previous games, but the intricacies of the plot will probably go over anybody’s head not intimately familiar with it. Suffice it to say that Desmond and his crew of modern assassins in the real world are trying to prevent a major catastrophe from happening, and using the Animus to relive Connor’s life is the key to stopping this destruction. While the story of Desmond may be confounding to newer players, the tale of Connor and his struggles is a fresh one that any person will be able to understand right off the bat. Connor is a Native American trying to fend off the incoming pressure from both the colonies and the Brits from taking over his village’s rightfully owned land. Of course, this plot will end up involving the Templars and Assassins, and I’ll let you guess which side of the Revolutionary War the Templars are on. The story ends up being fascinating and the twists and turns it goes through keeps it suspenseful and interesting throughout. I really had only one problem with the story, but it was a somewhat of a big issue: Connor himself.
Connor comes off as a person who has a single motivation, but no personality surrounds that goal. He is so laser focused on his purpose that he becomes a person with absolutely no charm or character. Don’t get me wrong--Connor is a total badass, but having some flavor and personality goes a long way. His voice actor did Connor no favors as well. I can only remember two ranges of his voice: completely monotone or seething anger. It’s a shame because the antagonists and side characters are particularly excellent. The performances of the Redcoats leaders were outstanding, and dry, sarcastic humor laden with British accents will always make me laugh.
That lack of personality and character present in Connor carries its way over to the cities. The two primary towns that you’ll be running around in are mostly lined with rows and rows of similar looking houses with drab, boring rooftops. America’s original 13 colonies aren’t really renowned for their brilliant architecture, so scaling these buildings aren’t as exciting as it was in previous games. One of the most defining aspects for Assassin’s Creed for me personally was the variety of structures that I could climb. The prior Assassin’s Creed games had such settings that you can instantly recognize where you where at any time. Simply put, the cities in Assassin’s Creed III aren’t very thrilling to traverse and they become unmemorable as a result.
Although I’ve only mentioned certain grievances so far, the actual gameplay is fantastic. Ubisoft has perfected the satisfaction of the combat in Assassin’s Creed III and added some deadly new weapons as well. The most apparent addition is the tomahawk that you’ve no doubt seen Connor wield in many previews, but my personal favorite is the rope and dagger. It acts almost like Scorpion’s spear from Mortal Kombat, as you’re able to pull guards in from afar to trip them up, and then finish them off however you please. The new kill animations are particularly brutal, and I would often cringe in delight every time I would witness Connor perform his dastardly deeds.
The gameplay is also more difficult this time around, which is something that I wholeheartedly appreciate. Very often in Assassin’s Creed games your armor would get so ridiculously overpowered near the end that dying was almost impossible unless you dropped your controller down and twiddled your thumbs. Furthermore, anytime you were low on health you would be able to pop some medicine and instantly heal yourself up. In Assassin’s Creed III, medicine is gone and there are no health upgrades to be had. Your health will recharge after you finish a battle, and this made the encounters more rigorous and rewarding. The counter system works a little differently too, as it requires a more finesse and skill on the player’s part. All these are welcome alterations that make the murdering of guards more entertaining and gratifying.
In addition to the main storyline, there’s bevy of side quests you can partake in. The most notable are the naval missions, which has Connor commandeering a ship throughout the Atlantic. The naval missions are a welcome distraction to the standard gameplay of stabbing faces, as blasting opposing ships to smithereens with cannons is always exciting. There are host of other tasks to do as well: you can liberate Templar infested zones in cities, investigate wild stories that frontiersman are telling, upgrade your Homestead (which is your plot of land that you own), and a whole bunch more. Of course, this is an Assassin’s Creed game, so you’ll have all those feathers to collect if you’re into that sort of thing. Basically, there’s no need to be worried about any kind of shortage of content if you plan on playing Assassin’s Creed III for months on end.
Assassin’s Creed III is downright a sensational looking game. Everything from the towns all the way to vast frontier you can explore all looks beautiful. Traversing through the wilderness is what really made me appreciate the visuals. All the rivers, trees, and wildlife combine to make a truly cohesive aesthetic. Assassin’s Creed III is also the first game to implement a weather system, and seeing the sprawling outdoors covered in snow was always a pleasant sight. It’s also somewhat kooky fun to be part of actual historical events of the Revolutionary War. I’m not going to spoil anything, but don’t be surprised to be involved in battles that you’ll remember from your fifth grade history class.
It’s a shame Assassin’s Creed III stumbles on some of its overarching themes because the core action of it is top-notch. A bland protagonist and some lackluster locales may hinder it some, but the gameplay is first in class. The murderous tools you have at your disposal are all satisfying, and with the challenging new tweaks Ubisoft added, the gameplay becomes more compelling than ever. Throw on top of it in an intriguing story with some deliciously evil villains, and you’ve got yourself a supremely enjoyable game.