America! Fuck yeah!
The final game in the trilogy for one of the biggest franchises from this console generation, Assassin’s Creed 3 has been anticipated since the end of Assassin’s Creed 2. The Assassin’s Creed series is known for its strong characters, amazing landscapes and environments, and the rich story and universe which holds many mysteries. So of course fans were understandably excited and yet concerned when it was announced the third installment would leave the sprawling cities of Europe and the Middle East and instead would take place during the American Revolution, a place and time rarely explored in games. Oh and of course, no more Ezio and his bad-ass ways.
I have to give Ubisoft a ton of credit here because they made the American Revolution feel real and interesting. Boston and New York match up well with the cities from previous games, and the addition of the Frontier adds something new and refreshing to the series that was desperately needed. Now not only do you have to fight hordes of guards, but you also have to deal with rabbits, elk, wolves, and bears. In particular you will actually have mini game battles with wolves, bears, cougars, and even elk. These little games are a nice addition which give the hunting mechanics a real feel to them, along with luring animals with bait, setting snares, and stalking them through brush.
While the environments certainly feel detailed and well though out, I have to admit some disappointment in the hero of this game, Connor. See part of the problem is that Ubisoft created such an awesome and deep character in Ezio that it was hard to make someone to live up to him. Connor feels much like Altair did from the first game, though a bit more fleshed out. This isn’t to say Connor is a bad character by any means, but he just feels weaker in comparison to Ezio. There are certainly a few surprises in Connor’s story that make him interesting enough to keep playing through, but he just isn’t as easy to get wrapped up in.
The story of Assassin’s Creed 3 is pretty much what anyone playing the series would expect, and is the finale for series protagonist Desmond Miles. In fact, you get to do a few missions with Desmond which are well done and it feels like he’s actually grown. There are a few things revealed in Desmond’s story which seem to just be thrown in there without explanation which is a bit disappointing, but overall it works well. The addition of a few of the expanded universe characters is nice as well and shows that Ubisoft is paying attention to what the fans want.
Unfortunately, there are some pretty glaring issues I came across in my play through that to me hurt the overall enjoyment of the game. First off, horseback riding sucks in this game. It really really sucks. The horse seems to move barely faster than Connor running, and to me this is a problem. Riding a horse in the Frontier is frustrating, and sometimes I found the horse would stop for no reason and not move until I let go of the analog stick for a second. This is a problem especially on the few missions where you have to ride a horse and there is a timer.
Free running feels good as usual, but there are a few changes in this game that while necessary do cause some confusion at times to people used to the old system. This is explained well in the game, which seems to be a rarity. Assassin’s Creed 3 is not friendly to people who have not played the games before in my opinion. Things are rarely explained the way they were in past games and it is easy to miss a lot of the things that can be done. This is a shame because this game was supposed to be playable even to new people playing the series for the first time.
Combat is a big part of Assassin’s Creed 3 as it has been in the other games. There are a few different types of enemies which require different strategies to defeat, such as the Hessian type soldiers who cannot be counter-killed easily. The combat feels pretty fluid and it is much easier to be more aggressive against enemies, but it is much harder to defend. Connor has no way of blocking outside of countering which leads to taking more damage than necessary at some points, but it doesn’t take away from the fun. Oh, and when two enemies attack at the same time and you counter, Connor does some pretty sweet double-kills that are awesome to see. One flaw though, and perhaps it’s just me not doing it right, seems to be you can’t pick up weapons off the ground while in open combat. Not a huge flaw but still kind of strange. Still, you can steal weapons by disarming foes so that works.
The Assassin Recruits are back, and they are all unique individuals that grant different skills. One recruit allows you to call for assassinations like in the other games, but there are other options from other recruits such as ambushes and bodyguards which add something new to the mechanic. There are still the Assassin’s Guild missions and these work largely the same way as they always have, though it is easy to forget they’re there. Each recruit has their own tasks to be completed in order to gain their allegiance such as defending farmers or destroying smallpox infected blankets.
One huge addition to the series in this game is the naval battles. They are so much fun and really help the feel of the game. Captaining the ship feels natural and is easy to pick up, with steering being fluid and responsive and the battle commands being simple and intuitive. Ubisoft clearly took a lot of time with these and crafted battle scenarios that make you feel like you’re in a Pirates of the Carribean movie, and that isn’t a bad thing. The waves and weather give a real feel to it, and things like rogue winds and rogue waves are nice touches. Even sailing in certain directions puts you into a headwind which slows you down. I have to say, there are few things more satisfying in AC3 than exposing the weak spot on a frigate and blowing it up.
Now with most console generations there comes a point where the developers are pushing the limits of the graphics and physics in games and Assassin’s Creed 3 certainly does this. However pushing like that does come at a price, and there are a plenty of glitches in this game. On one mission in particular I went to hide behind a wheelbarrow full of hay to eavesdrop on some redcoats when suddenly Connor jumped up into the air and got about as high as Felix Baumgartner did a few weeks ago before falling to his death (Connor, not Felix). Rifles will randomly be seen floating in midair or embedded in walls, and sometimes during lock-picking mini-games Connor’s tools will be going through the wood of the chest instead of the keyhole. Those things aside, the graphics are beautiful and really make the world come alive.
Sound is another big thing in this series and Ubisoft does well again. The Frontier sounds like you would hope nature would sound, the animals sound great, and the cities come alive with the noise of dense population. However, there was one odd glitch I came across a few times where in the midst of battle the guards I was fighting sounded like women and children being attacked. In one particular kill animation the guard clearly had the sound for a woman screaming, but it was definitely a man. This isn’t a big deal, but again it’s something that could have been found during testing.
Assassin’s Creed 3 is the culmination of a trilogy of games that brought to life the history of our world in ways we could have never imagined. Tying up the story of Desmond was no small task, and this game does a solid job of delivering a great experience. I just can’t shake the feeling of it being a bit rushed. For all the greatness here there are definitely some disappointing things especially considering the quality of the series since we met Ezio in Assassin’s Creed 2. Still, with tons of content and side missions to do and with how well a difficult setting with the American Revolution came off, Assassin’s Creed 3 is a great game and definitely a must play.
Graphics – 9/10
Sound – 9/10
Story – 8/10
Gameplay – 8/10
Replay Value – 8/10
Final Score – 8/10