An appreciated change of scenery for the franchise.
I suppose in the interest of full disclosure I should note that at the time I've writing I've yet to finish the game.
I'm reckoning I'm over the halfway point at least, but I don't feel it matters none.
I'm not scoring the game on it's story. A great game can have a terrible story, a terrible game can have a great story or anything in between and thus far I feel like AC3 is somewhere in between.
But again, it matters not. Because it's pretty fun to play.
That being said though this is an Assassins Creed game and if you've played previous entries in the series this is going to feel incredibly familiar to you, so you'll be frustrated to find out that the game tutorializes to what you could argue is an absurd extent. The slow burn serves the games narrative well, but it also means it'll be some hours before you're in the game proper.
Those of you who for some reason decided to wait until the games fifth iteration before trying at the franchise might well be thankful for the hand-holding, those of us who have been playing from the start will wish there were some option to skip it or at least a toggle so that it'll only cover changes from previous games. But it's a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.
As familiar as the game feels there are at least a few changes to be mindful of.
For instance you no longer hold down A and RT to go into free running mode.
Just RT itself will do it and as long as it's possible for you to make it, as long as you're pointing in a direction you'll run, climb and jump all over everything.
You can manually jump from ledges the game things would be suicide and as long as you're quick to grab onto something on the way down, you might come out unscathed. More often than not though this will allow you to just jump off a building, take some damage as you hit the ground and move on regardless should you be too impatient to look for a proper way down.
All in all the streamlined parkour stuff is makes getting around a lot easier, it's basically point and go which is especially useful now that you'll be climbing and leaping between your fair share of trees.
Less changes have been made in the combat department, it's still pretty much entirely dependant on countering a lot - though I won't deny it still makes you feel like a right badass. Guns are more prevalent though, which can make melee combat a bit of a pain should you be engaged in close quarters combat with some, whilst others stand back and pepper you with shots.
You can grab your enemy to use as shields but in my experience the success rate has been rather hit and miss. I feel like I'm pressing the right buttons, but often times he just doesn't grab the fellow.
Like the last few Assassins Creed games there is an abundance of side missions and collectibles to distract you from the main story, as well as some Naval combat. The ship stuff looks great, though it takes some getting used to. Once you do though it can be great fun and as far as side activities go, this is probably Assassins Creed best yet.
Perhaps the best thing about the game is simply the change of setting.
As much as I liked Ezio I feel like they should've let him lie at the end of Brotherhood and Revelations was anything but. It was still a fine game, but it was just milking a beloved character just a bit more than they probably should've. Conner isn't as likeable a character as Ezio, though he's interesting in his own way and I'd say he has a better sandbox to play Assassin in.
Whether on land or sea the game is visually stunning, especially in the environments though characters aren't too shabby either. Though the game falls short on both regards on the Desmond side of things, as with each passing game he looks increasingly more weasel like. It's quite unfortunate that things are so lopsided.
The game sports other technical issues too.
On at least a few occasions I've hit scripting errors in which missions had to be restarted for me to progress, as well as some physics quirks in which a horse & cart was barrel rolling its way along the road before shooting into the sky. You expect some hiccups in a game of this variety, but I feel like there's more wrong here that can't just be attributed to "open world jank".
As unfortunate as these issues are the core Assassins Creed gameplay is still intact, for better or worse.
It's as fun to clamor about the game environments, stabbing guys in the face and neck as it ever was so if you've enjoyed previous games then this is more of that - though one might hope that they do more to differentiate themselves from previous games in the next one than merely a change of setting.