Birth of a nation, end of a saga
Back when the original Assassin's Creed came out, it was once lauded yet criticized for being really ambitious yet still not enough things to do. Strange how it turns out to be with Assassin's Creed 3 being really ambitious but give you way more things to do and yet still manage to be just as flawed. Well don't get me wrong, this one is clearly the better game as far as storytelling and more gameplay mechanics to throw at you and yet for all that the game does to entertain and even wow, it still has that franchise problem of feeling like it goes about things the wrong way. There is so much things to do in this it's kind of staggering and yet not everything works and even the things that do work can hit some snags.
Continuing the story set forth by the previous 4(!) installments, Desmond Miles finds himself globetrotting to find power sources that will help them get further into a temple and hopefully stop the impending apocalypse that wiped out a prior civilization many centuries past. In order to so he needs to find a key to open the door so in he goes to the Animus where he now lives the memory of one Ratonhnhaké:ton (otherwise known as Connor), a half-British/half-Iroquois man living during the American Revolutionary War. With the British army attempting to secure this new world for themselves and Templars attempting to force their control, Connor must seek aid of the continental army as well as the Assassin training to fight them off.
As it has been revealed since the game's release, the game's opening is long, perhaps too long as we learn, in typical Assassin's Creed fashion, each gameplay mechanic piece-by-piece to the point where 5 hours in and I'm still learning how certain things work. While this can make for a deeper storytelling play than perhaps some games receive, the sheer length of it is a tad excessive. Once you get going and Connor dons the suit, the game really does open up and it's here where it can shine as well as frustrate a bit. The story missions tell an interesting tale of revenge and being one man caught in a full blown war but like mentioned before, it takes awhile to get going and Connor himself can seem more like a petulant child than a man conflicted and seeing different views. There's also that irritating system brought over from the previous 2 games where missions aren't fully "synchronized" unless you compete certain objectives. These can range from completing it within a certain period, don't get caught or kill a target from the air. For a game offering this much freedom and a "do things your own way" to basically be constantly reminded of failing certain objectives and not truly completing a mission is very annoying to say the least.
However if there's one thing Assassin's Creed 3 isn't is "skimpy"; there is a assload of things to do here that anyone that cares about getting bang for your buck or just extracurricular activities will find plenty to do here. You can hunting wildlife with accompanying challenges, you can upgrade your homestead which you can use their services to sell goods to vendors, the variety of missions within the city has been increased and that's a small chunk of it. There's also missions where you get to play captain pirate as you take on enemies at sea on your very own naval ship, complete with cannons and boarding enemy ships. They're exciting and give that right amount of "set piece" the main campaign maybe doesn't contain and further upgrading your ship can be a big time and money sink.
But then again, all these systems don't really do much to make them feel essential. The hunting missions can be used to gain money which is used to buy upgrades which you use to make money. You're not exactly starved for cash so even without upgrading my homestead, I never felt strapped for cash and buying new weapons isn't entirely necessary since you can do just fine with pistol, hidden blade and tomahawk. Feathers are back in the Skyrim-esque Frontier where you're free to explore and hunt and do non-city missions and you can run after almanac pages on rooftops and even at the end of game they introduce yet another collect-a-thon so to do everything in the game, you'll certainly be busy.
Which is where we come down to Desmond's segments, still the most intriguing parts of these games and still the most frustratingly handled. The levels where you travel around the globe looking for the power sources are aggressively linear with barely any UI whatsoever (which presents more of a challenge compared to the glowing "dodge now" icons Connor gets to use) and running around a big cave doing platforming stuff can make his segments feel like they're just sorta there: vital to the game's storyline yet play like they're not necessary.
Introduced in Brotherhood, the multiplayer in this game can be equal parts exciting yet can cause huge sighs of annoyment as you attempt to kill other players and figure out which one of the many AI characters is actually a player. While the concept and even watching the matches has always been intriguing, playing the different modes ranging from team based objectives like domination or switching between hiding and killing or just straight up free-for-all can also be a divisive experience depending on how often you die. One saving grace though is that it contains a mode called "Wolfpack" in which up to 4 players attempt to kill AI and get more points to move onto the next wave and gain more time on the clock which is always counting down. This is a really fun mode yet almost requires teamwork and communication since most of my games resulted in players going for the quick and point-deficient kills rather than the huge bonuses one can acquire.
The game's presentation is certainly top notch and while I can't speak to how it compares to the console versions, Assassin's Creed 3 can certainly look gorgeous. From the Frontier segments, both in summer and winter seasons, to the animations of Connor in combat as well as doing his parkour thing, game's really nice to behold. Also, being part-Aboriginal myself, the handling of the Native American themes were well-handled and helped make the game more immersive from a story front.It does have the open world jank though such as one instance where horsing into town, AI would either appear out of thin air or straight up phase through the ground. But textures and framerate for me were solid and barely ran into any crashes or huge glitches. One nasty bug that I'm sure will get fixed is turning up the anti-aliasing causes some huge graphical glitches which I'm sure will get patched.
While there is a scope and ambition that makes Assassin's Creed 3 really stand out, the flaws can seemingly rack up and can, like the original, make for a strange experience, albeit a much more realized one. Unlike say games like Dishonored where the flaws were so minimal I felt I'd be almost nitpicking, AC3 is at once the most entertaining, fun, frustrating and disappointing experience all balled up into one.