A Bad Reputation Deserved in Part
I played Assassin's Creed III for the first time in 2015. Yes, I have access all the next-gen consoles and had much better games I could have been playing. However, I had some investigating to do.
This game has had either a good reception or a reception that indicates it was horrible trash that ruined the franchise. I couldn't glean what exactly made it so bad from those who had such an opinion (on the internet - everybody I know in person who has played it either gave blind praise or had a negative opinion stemming from racism towards the protagonist - both views I wholeheartedly dismiss.) so I had to investigate. I also played all through the other games relatively recently - I had forced myself to play through AC and ACII for similar reasons, and suddenly gained a genuine interest in the series at the end of ACII. I had to see the end of the Desmond saga for myself, and have a more exact understanding of the games reception.
So without further ado, I present to you a list of things that suck about AC3 vs. a list of things that are alright. Apologies for the deviance in review format, if you might happen to have a distaste for such things.
- Horrible garbage frame rate
- Worse climbing system that results in way more unintended jumping in the wrong direction, despite simplification a claim to the contrary in-game
- Renovation/income system removed
- Templar territory system went from go in and kill this one dude to either:
- kill this dude AND light some powder kegs to control a fort which has literally no benefit
- do a string of repetitive/tedious missions before you get to kill the templar leader so you can have a new assassin recruit and the UI will occasionally acknowledge the fact that the area is in Assassin control
- Recruits are set with names and bios, so of course you have to work too hard to obtain them just to see the 2 cutscenes that introduce them
- Instead of choosing to save one of many civilians, customizing them to a degree and having the satisfaction of watching them rise through the ranks and becoming a true assassin; you get a recruit who is presumed to already be a formidable soldier yet starts as a recruit who starts off just as weak as the ones in Brotherhood and Revelations (though they don’t die - they get injured)
- Additions to the combat system consistently break the flow and create frustration.
- The enemy types and their strengths/weaknesses are blown out of proportion; I’m sure the intention was to add complexity through the layer of memorization required, but as a result you will groan every time you see an overweight soldier because he will block your attacks and reverse your counters 9 times out of 10.
- Often times in the midst of combat a “firing squad” will assemble from a distance. Their muskets will bring you close to death if they hit, While the game prompts you when they are about to fire and you are tutorialized to grab a human shield in front of you, this can easily happen when you are in the midst of killing them and can’t cancel out. What’s worse, even when you are on the defense the game often doesn’t recognize the input as grabbing the human shield in the few seconds you have to react. Or sometimes it does, and the only soldiers left are the big guys who headbutt you if you try anything, and that is also their response to this.
- In order to access the equivalent of Assassin’s Tombs (secret missions that are on par with the quality of the main story, which unlock something cool when you complete them all) you have to collect all of Peg Leg's Trinkets, the existence of which seem completely pointless until you talk to an old man outside one specific harbor.
- You would think climbing trees and cliffs would be well suited to this franchise, but they only serve to assert that buildings were the right choice all along. There is nothing but absolute frustration involved. Collectibles that are placed on either are even more of a chore to collect.
- The children all have nightmarish proportions and have the annoying role of deliberately blocking into your path like the minstrels and beggars of past games. As what is a probably unintended consequence they cause you to be creeped out rather than annoyed, which is jarring.
- Killing anything that isn’t a guard or target is nigh impossible, which removes a huge degree of player choice from what is still an open world game. (Probably because there are children now, but there’s no reason this couldn’t be applied solely to them)
- Killing “domestic” animals that contain fur and meat will not allow you to receive said fur and meat, on top of them being difficult to kill in the first place.
- You go all Travis Bickle at the end of the game and shave your hair into a mohawk
- VSync is implemented - no more screen tearing
- I thought the plot twist at the first quarter of the game was pretty cool and well written
- The father/son dynamic between Haytham and Connor is really interesting
- As someone who isn’t American and thus, hasn’t had American history shoved down his throat, I found this to be the most palatable form of media depicting the American revolution I have come across. The game was also pretty good at distinguishing what is fiction and what is actually recorded history through the Animus database
- Charles Lee is changed from a somewhat loathable, minor figure in American history into a very effective, evil villain
- There is only much regression in comparison to the prior 2 games - much has improved objectively over the original AC and ACII
- This is the first game to truly portray Templars as anything other than absolute power hungry, depraved dictatorial villains (though mostly through Haytham, who seems to have an obsessive need to find moral justification in his cause and actions)
- You can hunt a variety of animals, skin them and sell their parts or use them to craft stuff. I beat the game and somehow haven’t unlocked the ability to craft, though.
- They added animals (that aren’t horses) and children for the first time! Animals are well animated and add to the atmosphere. See the above category in regards to the children.
- I found the parts where Desmond was playable to be thoroughly enjoyable. Especially Brazil, where civilians will declare you insane and call for security to no avail a countless amount of times, and where you will climb across the catwalk above a UFC match where two men will do nothing but stare at each other inside the octagon. One of them definitely has a hoodie and jeans on. Truly some of the best dumb stuff in a video game.
So ultimately, I recommend ACIII for those who have interest in the storyline, for those who have a high tolerance for frustrating design choices, and those who are able to laugh at a game for being dumb, whether or not it is intentionally so. If you can't stomach the fictitious thought of a half-British, half-Mohawk assassin secretly being the most pivotal part of the American revolution, then turn away.
I can't say I enjoyed all of my time with Assassin's Creed III, but overall I'm glad to have experienced it.