The Assassins Creed series was in need of some serious change. While the last three games in the series weren’t necessarily getting worse and worse, I think it’s fair to say they were becoming a bit dull. Early this year Ubisoft surprised us all with the announcement that the series would be jumping from it’s renaissance setting to the american revolution. While the fundamental gameplay really hasn’t changed or evolved from the last 3 games, Assassins Creed 3 is worth the trip due it’s fantastic setting.
The main story of Assassin’s Creed 3 follows another one of Desmond’s ansestors, a native american during the colonial period named Connor. After his mother, along with his village is burned to ashes but the Templars, Connor sents out to become part of the Assassin Brotherhood and kill the men responsible. Along the journey Connor will befriend many historical figures including George Washington, John Adams, Paul Revere and many more. You’ll be able play through the boston tea party, the battle of lexington and other historical battles. While Connor sides with the colonists, the game does an excellent job of telling each side of the story, showing the strengths and weaknesses of both. Without spoiling anything, Connor’s quest to bring justice to the Templars is filled with twists and is a joy to see through.
This is all tied to Desmond’s quest to find the key to open an ancient Temple is save Earth from the sun. To put bluntly, Desmond’s side of things is a drag to play and sit through and story is just a throwaway compared to Connors. Luckily, you’ll spend much more time in the past.
When it comes to the presentation side of things, Assassins Creed 3 is truly a mixed bag. The cities of early colonial america are detailed, authentic and feel alive. The open frontier between these large cities is equally as detailed and beautiful. Characters such as Connor and Kenway look impressive with authentic wardrobes and voice acting. The overall world of colonial america looks spectacular despite some frame rate issues here and there. While the past is filled with life and character, it is the present day that really suffers. The enviorments and characters of these present day sequences are bland and boring. Desmond Miles himself looks terrifyingly awkward due to some very stiff facial animation. Assassins Creed 3 also has it’s fair share of technical issues. While riding on horseback, there were multiple times where the horse would clip through objects I was trying to get past. There are some A.I. issues as well. During one mission the enemy A.I. wasn’t triggering a scripted event, causing me to reset the checkpoint multiple times. Despite these technical issues, Assassins Creed 3 still manages to impress visually.
The gameplay of Assassins Creed 3 doesn’t deviate too far from it’s predecessor’s but it still holds some surprises. The gameplay is split between 3 characters, Kenway, Connor and Desmond. Connor is by far the stand out here. While Kenway and Desmond are equally as skilled in free-running and combat as Connor, their sequences are weak in comparison. This is mainly due to Connor’s side of the story being much more exciting but it doesn’t help that Kenway’s and Desmond’s sections are just boring and dragged out. You’ll play the first 4 or 5 hours of the game as Kenway and a good chuck of it takes place on a boat traveling to the colonies. You’re mainly tasked with investigating plots of mutiny which boils down to you just talking to every other sailor aboard. Thankfully, after you crawl over the hump that is the first few hours, you’ll be put into Connor’s shoes. Connor’s free-running and combat abillities are identical to past assassins but the setting really changes how you apply them.
In past Assassin’s Creed games you would spend a majority of your time running from rooftop to rooftop. In Assassin’s Creed 3, however, you will spend a lot more time on the ground due to the very open wilderness of the colonies. There are still plenty of churches and buildings to scale in New York and Boston but while you are in the frontier you’ll have the ability to swing from tree to tree. While the free-running is easy to pull off just by holding down a single button, it doesn’t always work so smoothly. There are still many instantces of running into walls or objects that cannot be scaled, causing Connor to stop dead in his tracks. This is only a minor annoyance during exploration but during the game’s many chase sequences these issues become very frustrating. The last chase scene in particular took me many and many attempts simply because I kept grabbing walls and ledges that would just stop Connor from advancing.
Chase sequences isn’t the only thing you’ll be doing to Assassin’s Creed 3 though, there is also the simple but fun combat. The combat system breaks down to performing quick strikes while countering your enemies. The combat is never particularly challenging but I did come across some odd glitches in which my button inputs weren’t registering with Connor. I would mash on the attack button but Connor would not attack. This only happened maybe once or twice but it was frustrating nevertheless. The tomahawk and hidden blade both serve as satisfying weapons but Kenway’s sword feels floaty and lacks any sense of impact. Along with your up close and personal weapons, Connor also carries a bow and a small hand gun. These both deal devastating blows to enemies but ammunition is scarce so they need to be used sparely.
Assassins Creed 3 also offers multiple naval battles to take part of. While stirring the ship can be a bit stiff, firing off cannons at enemy vessels is satisfyingly devastating. There are also numerous collectibles hidden throughout the world and simple side missions here and there. While the side missions can be a bit drab, the collectibles give players good reason to fully explore the beautiful setting. While each gameplay mechanic of Assassins Creed 3 may have it’s faults, there are all fun to take part in.
When broken down, Assassins Creed 3 really isn’t all the different from its predecessors. The game begins dull and slow and the ending to Desmond’s story is a little too melodramatic. While the free-running and combat still have their issues, it’s still a blast to plow through a group of red coats and then disappear into the forest. The true star of Assassins Creed 3 is it’s setting and how Connor ties in with historical events. If you’re not already an Assassins Creed fan then this game isn’t going to change any minds but, if the Revolutionary War interests you at all, then you’re sure to find something to enjoy from Assassins Creed 3.
OVERALL SCORE 8.0
-Matthew Bruce 2012