Giant Bomb Review


Assassin's Creed III Review

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Assassin’s Creed III’s methodical world-building and wealth of clever gameplay systems are impressive, even if they don’t always confidently click together with all the other moving parts.

Desmond finally gets some answers.
Desmond finally gets some answers.

Assassin’s Creed has always been a pretty complex machine. Right from the start, Ubisoft has played up the deliberately impenetrable premise of modern-day assassins and Templars fighting an ancient secret war, training their agents with technology that allows them to relive their assassinatin’ or Templarin’ ancestors’ experiences by tapping into their genetic memory. Turns out they didn’t need to try and obfuscate; as you head into Assassin’s Creed III--actually the fifth in the “main” Assassin’s Creed story, not even taking into consideration the handful of handheld digressions--the threat of a prophesized global apocalypse, cryptic messages from a highly advanced, long-dead civilization, and the emergence of the protagonist as a Christ figure make the game’s stratospherically high concept seem tame by comparison.

Wrapping up five games worth of dense mystery and complex, wide-reaching gameplay systems while simultaneously establishing an as-yet-unseen historical era and accompanying meta-protagonist, as Assassin’s Creed III attempts, is a staggeringly ambitious undertaking. It’s impressive that the game succeeds as often as it does, particularly with regards to the game’s vision of the American Revolutionary War as seen through the conspiratorial cloak-and-dagger lens of the Assassin’s Creed universe, and the new gameplay systems that are tailored to address both the era and its scattered geography. The game stumbles a bit, though, when it comes to linking all of these systems together in a meaningful way, leaving you with an overabundance of side activities that, while often interesting on their own, feel inessential to the narrative progression. Assassin’s Creed III has pacing issues, too, spending hours upon hours up front before you even meet the game’s main protagonist, then rushing at a dead sprint towards the end, hastily and underwhelmingly wrapping up story threads that the series has spent years laying out.

Connor Kenway, in his natural environment.
Connor Kenway, in his natural environment.

Assassin’s Creed III would’ve had plenty of heavy lifting to do had it chosen to focus purely on the conclusion of Desmond Miles’ story, the reluctant assassin whose brainpan has served as center stage for the series so far. Having already experienced the highlight reels of ancestors Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad and Ezio Auditore on his quest to at first save the assassins, then eventually the world, the questions about Desmond and the increasingly fantastical world around him have been piling up, and it’s time to make good on those promises. Much of that mythology gets addressed in Assassin’s Creed III, but as is often the case, the mystery is more interesting than the answers. Make no mistake, the fate of Desmond Miles and the immediate cosmic fate of the world at large are answered, though without the sort of finality that would prevent Ubisoft from continuing to move forward with the Assassin’s Creed story.

The sequences where you play as Desmond have been expanded a bit over past games, but his story, which concerns itself with Desmond’s strained relationship with his father as much as it does decrypting the final pieces of the First Civilization puzzle, is still largely told in the margins. While there has always been a disconnect between Desmond and his ancestor, Assassin’s Creed III does a better job of establishing direct thematic connections between Desmond and the real star of the show, Connor Kenway, the son of an English nobleman and a Native American woman living in the American Northeast during the time of the American Revolutionary War. Whereas Altaïr was a bit of a cipher, his character largely defined by his stubborn adherence to the dogma of the assassin’s code, and Ezio was all swagger and swashbuckle, Connor is a naive idealist filled with righteous fury, having been caught in the conflict between both the assassins and the Templars, as well as between the European colonists and his own people, since before he was even born. Connor’s uncompromising sense of honor and justice serve Assassin’s Creed III well as it plunges him right in the middle of the American Revolutionary War. While American history has always lionized the founding fathers, any war is mostly a series of bad compromises, and the game gets some mileage out of good men making bad choices.

Getting up-close and personal with your tomahawk is muderously satisfying.
Getting up-close and personal with your tomahawk is muderously satisfying.

Historical settings are a fundamental part of the Assassin’s Creed experience, but Connor’s story is inextricably interwoven with the course of the war itself in a way that the series has rarely approached. You won’t just bear witness to famous historical events like the Boston Tea Party, The Battle at Lexington and Concord, or Paul Revere’s Ride, you’ll actually take part in them, oftentimes setting them in motion in the first place. It can feel a little silly at times, bordering on Forrest Gump/National Treasure territory, but it’s no small part of Assassin’s Creed III’s effort to give the game a distinct sense of place.

Geography is important to the politics of Assassin’s Creed III, and the ways in which it sets the gameplay here apart from previous games cannot be overstated. Assassin’s Creed has primarily dwelled in dense, ancient cities that have spent thousands of years building upwards towards a dizzying sense of verticality. Such infrastructure doesn’t exist, at least not with the same density, in Boston, New York, and the wilderness in-between during the mid-to-late 1700s, which is when and where Assassin’s Creed III primarily takes place. Other than streamlining the free-running system to make it much harder to accidentally leap to your death--which is a convenience when you’re in-town and an absolute necessity when you’re scampering along tree branches in the new wilderness area--the basic traversal mechanics of Assassin’s Creed remain largely unchanged. Because of the more wide-open geography, as well as a more generous, if somewhat-inconsistent fast-travel system, though, I found myself inherently taking to the rooftops less often to avoid trouble.

Connor contemplates burying his tomahawk into someone's skull.
Connor contemplates burying his tomahawk into someone's skull.

The fast-travel system also plays into the issues with side missions in Assassin’s Creed III. After learning its lesson with the mission monotony of the original Assassin’s Creed, the series has been jam-packed with a variety of distractions, from real estate and empire-building to item-collection and crafting, sometimes to the point of being overstuffed. Assassin’s Creed III rolls back some of the clumsier activities introduced in Revelations, and simplifies others, but it introduces a number of new ones, and there’s still plenty of trouble to get into before taking on the next story mission. You can help frontiersmen in need to build up your homestead, Connor’s base of operations; hunt and collect skins from a variety of skittish animals in the wilderness; take to the open seas as a privateer and battle others in the thrilling and visually stunning naval battles; and intervene in random encounters between villainous Redcoats and innocent civilians, just to name a few.

They’re not all winners, but the real problem is how inessential all of the side activities feel. Being able to more easily fast travel across large swaths of land means it’s easier to simply miss a lot of these activities. In the past, the simple act of getting from Point A to Point B--beyond being one of the simple, fundamental pleasures of playing Assassin’s Creed--would expose you to a lot of this stuff, and it was easy to take a quick detour and buy a building, stab a guy, collect a feather, or whatever. The bigger problem is that, beyond the early missions that initially introduce the different types of side activities, the main story progression gives you little reason to ever engage in any of this stuff. Some of it, like the naval missions, are fun enough on their own, but more often than not, I found my compulsion to see the next story beat unfold far outweighed any of the other distractions presented.

Always a good way to start a fight.
Always a good way to start a fight.

Issues of cohesion aside, I still found Assassin’s Creed III fundamentally enjoyable to play. Story missions that focus on eavesdropping on enemy conversations or chasing enemies through the streets can be unforgiving and frustrating, but there’s generally a good variety to them, and the free-flowing, kinetic combat system, while mostly familiar, is still as brutal and satisfying as ever. As you might expect from the radical change in location, Assassin’s Creed III is a much different-looking game than its predecessors, and while there are frame-rate and pop-in issues, it can be an intermittently gorgeous game, with its heavy weather effects and the open wilderness standing out as particular highlights.

The unique Assassin’s Creed multiplayer first introduced in Brotherhood continues to get refined in Assassin’s Creed III. Previously contextualized as a training simulation to help Templar soldiers fight the assassins on their own terms, Abstergo has brazenly taken its Animus project mainstream, selling it to the public as the next big gaming system through a series of convincingly phony live-action advertisements that you unlock as you level up. Some minor gameplay tweaks have been made, such as adding audio cues to let you know when you’ve got line-of-sight on your target or when your hunter has line-of-sight on you. In addition to the returning suite of high-tension player-versus-player modes, there’s a new co-op mode called Wolf Pack, where four players team up against a series of increasingly wily AI targets while a countdown clock limits your progression to the next target. It’s the Assassin’s Creed version of wave-based survival, and it can be fun, and less stressful than the PvP, though like most Horde modes, you’ll want to assemble a familiar group if you really want to succeed.

Assassin’s Creed III is a step up from last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, which saw Ezio’s story overstay its welcome and made some major miscalculations with its new mechanics, but it’s still not Assassin’s Creed at its finest. It's successful at establishing a whole new world and cast of characters, and tailoring the gameplay to match that setting, which is no small feat, even if the puzzle pieces don’t fit together as well as they could.

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Avatar image for happenstance
Posted By happenstance

I really did enjoy this game, got to get back to the side quests soon

Avatar image for mystyr_e
Posted By Mystyr_E

waiting for PC version. Hope they don't mess that up

Avatar image for zombie2011
Posted By zombie2011

I've had an extremely buggy and disappointing time with this game, plus i just don't think the world or story is as good as that in 2 or Brotherhood. I even like the world of Revelations and 1 to the boring US cities of 3.

Avatar image for dallas_raines
Posted By Dallas_Raines

If not for the boring, boring Haytham segment, the Desmond ending and those AWFUL, nonlethal chase sequences, It'd have been an easy fiver for me, anyway. I was lucky enough to not suffer any bad glitches.(PS3 version.)

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Posted By RAMBO604

Wow great review, guess it was worth the wait. After all the negativity in the press and the lengthy delay on the review wasn't expecting such a positive reaction. Fully agree the main storyline is what you're there for and the chases and eavesdropping missions are only minor missteps. The naval stuff is great too but everything else is fluff.

Avatar image for mems1224
Posted By mems1224

I loved my time with Connor, IMO he is the best character in the series so far. Even though the game was buggy and the voice acting was really bad in some places I loved exploring Boston and New York. The Frontier was great too, I spent a few hours just running through the wilderness and hunting. The Connor story was also really really good. That said, the modern day story was absolutely awful. I feel bad for anyone who was invested in Desmond's story. The ending to the game was absolutely awful, way worse than ME3. The game is still definitely worth checking out, free running is better than ever and the combat is easy but loads of fun.

Avatar image for bbqbram
Posted By BBQBram

So a review after all, eh?

Avatar image for chtasm
Posted By Chtasm

Fall of the Fours

Avatar image for fcdrandy
Posted By FCDRandy

That last star is kind of surprising to me, as the impression I got from the QL was pretty negative.

Avatar image for genocidalkitten
Posted By GenocidalKitten

I really enjoyed this game.


It felt so good to finally stab dudes as Desmond, I thought it was cool that they didn't show any of the hud stuff for those sequences.

Avatar image for granderojo
Posted By granderojo

This review is only further evidence that this is a steam sale game. Sounds like PC will fix a lot of the problems with this game and there's no reason to play it immediately since it's setting the world on fire with anything that it's doing.

Avatar image for damnzig
Posted By Damnzig

I love falling through the map six times!!! That was by far my favorite part. My second favorite part is a six-way tie between pointless cut-scenes, walking 20 ft into another cut scene, random loading screens, five hours worth of tutorials tepid naval combat, horse bugs, and an implausible story. Oh, I meant a 7-way tie, sorry. Man, I like how linear this game is! I was really getting annoyed with playing the AC games how I wanted to play them; PLEASE spoon-feed me more! Needs more chase scenes! OMG I LOVE CHASE SCENES!!! If only they could somehow interweave quick-time events into chase scenes!!! HEAVEN! Watch out, another wolf is jumping at you! Quick, press B!!! OMG I love it. More pressing B please!!! --- I can't believe I wasted my money on this game.

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Edited By MindBullet

I agree pretty much entirely with this review and all of it's points. AC3 is not a bad game, but there are a lot of little things it does that keep it from being perfect. I enjoyed it quite a bit, for what that's worth.

Avatar image for alwaysbeclothing
Posted By AlwaysBeClothing

"the handful of handheld digressions" Oh Ryan, how charmingly garrulous of you! Sounds like a competent Assassin's Creed game. Not quite the rush that AC2 was, similar to Brotherhood in that it brings a new element to the table and a better story than Revelations. All in all, a comprehensive and useful review.

Avatar image for cincaid
Posted By Cincaid

I still haven't played Revelations yet, and I'm confident that I'll play both that and ACIII one day. One of my favorite parts of the earlier games were the giant, tall structures you could climb and just gaze out over the big cities, and it's extremely disappointing to see that feature more or less gone. I'm sure the game is good in its own way, but to me it just doesn't feel like an AC game, not just because of the previously lost feature, but just...small things combined.

Avatar image for jazz_lafayette
Posted By Jazz_Lafayette

It's a shame to hear the Desmond portions are as much of a letdown as the quick look made them seem. The meta-story of Assassin's Creed and the building of the conspiracy they use to link everything together has always been the most fascinating part of the series to me.

Avatar image for video_game_king
Posted By Video_Game_King

What the hell is Beardy looking at in the first picture?

Avatar image for ntm
Posted By NTM

I keep feeling with all of the talk in how Ryan was disappointed in Revelations, it shouldn't have got the four stars he gave it, certainly when you look at what a four star is supposed to mean. It's supposed to be easily recommendable, and yet it was very easy for him to dismiss it. I guess that's off topic though.

Avatar image for spaceyoghurt
Posted By Spaceyoghurt

@Dark_Lord_Spam said:

It's a shame to hear the Desmond portions are as much of a letdown as the quick look made them seem. The meta-story of Assassin's Creed and the building of the conspiracy they use to link everything together has always been the most fascinating part of the series to me.

Yup. I was really into that stuff, was hoping for an epic conclusion. Hell, I wished it was concluded with a whole game dedicated to Desmond, Shane, Rebecca and the other assassin cells present fight against the Templars, solving the mysteries of the first civilization etc. Some would say that it would turn out as a bad game, based on the parts where you play as Desmond in earlier games, but giving the A-team the chance to wrap that stuff up could have, and should have been awesome. Guess I don't need to emphasize how disappointing the end was for me. Oh, video games, you break my heart.

Avatar image for fcdrandy
Posted By FCDRandy


I don't know if it will make it to Steam, since Ubi really wants to push uPlay.

Avatar image for larrydavis
Posted By LarryDavis

Ryan does not know what "high concept" means.

Avatar image for ollyoxenfree
Posted By OllyOxenFree
@Video_Game_King said:

What the hell is Beardy looking at in the first picture?

Anywhere other than the faces that they have fucked up on the Desmond sections.
Avatar image for baal_sagoth
Posted By Baal_Sagoth

This is an excellent review. A joy to read in itself and pretty damn comprehensive as far as covering AC3, I feel. Sad that they really drove the original's excellent premise off a fucking cliff - as least that's how it seems to me. The whole Altair/ 'Nothing's true, everything is permitted' bit is so fascinating even though I probably am projecting a whole lot onto that initial plot setup due to a severe Schopenhauer obsession.

Other than that Brotherhood's glorious MP variants are still great of course but they just don't seem to be a big enough part of that franchise to achieve relevance. When giving the PC version a shot it just wasn't very populated at all (at least not for a reasonable amount of time) and I'm not going to waste time waiting for games even if they're cool when they eventually transpire.

Sadly AC is one of those mainstream franchises that desperately tries to please so many people that it can just feel disappointingly mediocre more often than not. Which is very disturbing when I inevitably think about all the talent and raw money that has to go into these endeavors.

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Posted By interactiveTodd

I'm looking forward to playing it, personally. I like the really obscure things they touch on in the series and just now recently started playing Brotherhood and Revelations soon after I finish Brotherhood. Thankfully, a buddy of mine had them both already and is letting me go through them while he plays through III. Not to mention... assassins, ya know? They're just fun. I like games like this that let you focus greatly on stealth but don't punish you incredibly too much by giving you no fighting abilities when you're found out. Cool to be able to hack people up in sword fights when you wanna take a more brutish approach to things.

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Posted By Bourbon_Warrior

Wished I waited for PC version, graphics arent that great but story and game are fantastic.

Avatar image for extreme_popcorn
Posted By Extreme_Popcorn

I like the game, the parts I've played anyway why there is a severe lack of stabbing dudes in the main quest. It's not so much Assassin's Creed as Jobsworth's creed, run here, escort this guy, ride here, defend this point, do a mini game with these soldiers.

Avatar image for phrosnite
Posted By phrosnite

Called it. Ubisoft needs to take a break from AC and focus on making not shitty Prince of Persia games now.

Avatar image for crosstheatlantic
Posted By CrossTheAtlantic

@LarryDavis said:

Ryan does not know what "high concept" means.

I mean, in a way the game is high-concept: "what if assassin's and templar's were always stabbing each other?"

But yeah, I don't think it's used in the way it normally is here.

Avatar image for arbitrarywater
Posted By ArbitraryWater

For as late as it is, this is a surprisingly well-written and informative review. I still want to play this game, but maybe I'll just buy Brotherhood whenever it's on another steam sale first?

Avatar image for ghostiet
Posted By Ghostiet


Avatar image for coldwolven
Posted By Cold_Wolven

I guess I'll pick this game up after I'm finished with Halo 4 and if the game only takes a week to finish then I can squeeze it before Hitman Absolution and the Wii U launch.

Avatar image for algertman
Posted By algertman


Half joking. GBs 4 seems to cover way too much ground. But this was a well written review so good on Ryan.

Avatar image for alkusanagi
Posted By AlKusanagi

Just finished it today and it's by far my favorite in the series. Conner is by far my favorite character in the games (well, maybe other than mack-daddy Benjy F.).

Avatar image for terrents
Posted By Terrents

Nice review ryan. I agree with everything in it. I really enjoyed it though even for its flaws. I would give it a 5 stars. But im also going for a S rank so im a crazy person

Avatar image for sooty
Posted By Sooty

Ezio didn't overstay his welcome, the series did.

Avatar image for geraltitude

Great review! Really even handed and fair to the series. Also, TYPO: second last paragraph, second last sentence, you got a double the in this sucker. "In addition the the returning..."

Only problem with the review was I was laughing non-stop because I just can't divorce ACIII from "stab people like Uh Uh Uh Uh Uh". Seriously, just laughing like crazy at work right now. No one walk into my office dammit!

Avatar image for wsowen02
Posted By wsowen02

I would have gone lower with that score. I loved the past AC games but this one has been really disappointing.

Avatar image for cjduke
Posted By CJduke

Good review. I'm only about 4 hours in and I keep having these moments of "This is awesome! This game is great!" immediately followed by moments of "This is dragged out, why am I doing this? This doesn't work well" Which fits a very common theme this year of games I was super excited for being, not bad at all, but disappointing to me in various ways, like ME 3, Darksiders 2, and Diablo III. All games that are amazing yet at the same time do a bunch of things I don't like

Avatar image for wsowen02
Posted By wsowen02

@phrosnite said:

Called it. Ubisoft needs to take a break from AC and focus on making not shitty Prince of Persia games now.

Fucking A! They ended PoP 2008 with that fat cliffhanger and haven't said shit about it since then.

Avatar image for jasonefmonk
Posted By jasonefmonk

@wsowen02 said:

@phrosnite said:

Called it. Ubisoft needs to take a break from AC and focus on making not shitty Prince of Persia games now.

Fucking A! They ended PoP 2008 with that fat cliffhanger and haven't said shit about it since then.

I'm pretty sure there was DLC. I never bought it because it's still expensive.

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Edited By AnEternalEnigma

I am shocked that, after leaving this review in the oven to bake for a week, Ryan mentioned NOTHING about the smorgas board of bugs and glitches in this game. This is one of the glitchiest AAA games I've seen this gen. It has made me regret the day one purchase.

Avatar image for meatball

I've been loving this game a lot, I even think it may be my favourite in the series. I seem to be in the minority, though. Enjoyed reading this review, I wish Ryan wrote reviews more often.

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Edited By TorMasturba

I feel like maybe Ryan's personal choice to overly depend on the fast travel was translated, for him, as the game was badly designed in this aspect?

I mean he didn't have to use the fast travel and it also was in previous games, granted you had to go to a certain nearby part of the city to use it but the feature was there to a lesser degree none the less.

Please bare in mind that I'm an AC series nut(outside of handheld games for which I have not had the chance to touch) and have have played and enjoyed all games in the series. I thought AC1 was good, needed polish but I liked it, so maybe my response to Ryan's review is tinted by my own love of the series and world within the games.

Avatar image for strife777
Posted By Strife777

I think this basically says exactly how I feel about the game (Except for the side-missions, but I'm the completionist type). Great review Mr. Davis.

Avatar image for revpeters
Posted By revpeters

I think 4 stars is being a bit generous...

If the game was nothing but the combat and the tree traversal that would make some kind of sense. how the hell can you get past the pointless gd chase sequences without just stabbing yourself in the face? The name of the game is "Assassin's" Creed and you're in the street chasing people in the middle of the's all kinds of stupid

Avatar image for mormonwarrior
Posted By MormonWarrior

I still think II is way, way better than Brotherhood (though Brotherhood did have some cool things in it), and I'm kind of disappointed to hear the mostly lukewarm to mildly positive response from reviewers and players alike. I thought this'd be a shoe-in for GOTY, but the best games this year are original properties or revamps of old series (XCOM, for example). Kind of nuts.

Avatar image for ghost_cat
Posted By Ghost_Cat

I can hear gasps of those who impatiently awaited this review.

Avatar image for beard_of_zeus
Posted By beard_of_zeus

Thanks for the review, Ryan. I think this will be a Black Friday pickup for me.

The issue with the bevy of side activities in the game not meshing together or being interesting (with some exceptions here and there) has plagued this series since AC2; it was something I hoped they would have fixed by now, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

On the other hand, the new characters/story/setting sounds like it was the shake-up this series needed after the Ezio games dragged on for so long. Sounds like I'll need to turn off the completionist part of my brain when I get around to playing this, and just barrel through the story (+ the always awesome multiplayer). I'm interested to see what this horde mode they cooked up is like.

Avatar image for dan_citi
Posted By Dan_CiTi

Sounds about right. Definitely a good game, but still doesn't hit all the notes it could, and some spots get muddy. Also, what the fuuuck is up with the modern day peoples' faces in this series. Like good fucking lord they just get weirdly deformed in different ways every game.

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Edited By whitespider

I like how giantbomb's comments are less... how do I put it - Influenced - than the more 'mainstream' outlets. For example, users are mentioning "ryan has a certain perspective on something, I might have another perspective" Compared to say, ign. That is a revelation of the human spirit.

A lot of users are now judging everything on a score, and the few that are not are suggesting that a site should become score free. I think both are extreme reactions to a simple problem. Reviews and scores are held is some godlike regard. These people in which we trust, are just people. Just because they would give something 8.8/10 or 4/5, that does not mean that our views are invalidated.

If every single game reviewer was introspective (and they probably are not), I would almost suggest a review system that has two scores. The objective one and the subjective one. I personally don't like the game for 'this' reason, however objectively it get's a lot of things right.For example, dishonoured I LOVE this kind of game. So the shade of my glasses is 'positive'. The subjective part of my gives the game a 10/10. The objective part of me notices the AI flaws, short game length, etc. Which is more in line with a 8/10.

Recently jeff reviewed Forza horizon and need for speed most wanted. He liked both games, however his subjective slant was leaning towards hot pursuit and it's crazy multiplayer action. He gave into the objective 'reviewer' requirement and gave horizon a deserved 5/5. Although that's probably not the game that brought the biggest smile to his face.Similar story with halo 4, his subjective self would probably give it a 2/5 or 3/5, however he gave it a 4 based on the greater majority of the audience being people who would want 'more halo' and not something innovative.

If jeff split that score into a Halo fan's 5/5 and his 3/5. That would tell two groups something more specific. It would tell the halo fans that they have a great halo game, and it would tell people who share gaming tastebuds with jeff that it's a shiny new coat of paint on the same warthog.

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